This article contains IndieWire’s preliminary Best Actor predictions for the 2023 Oscars. We regularly update our predictions throughout awards season, and republish previous versions (like this one) for readers to track changes in how the Oscar race has changed. For the latest update on the frontrunners for the 95th Academy Awards, see our 2023 Oscars predictions hub.
Nominations voting is from January 12-17, 2023, with official Oscar nominations announced January 24, 2023. Final voting is March 2-7, 2023. And finally, the 95th Oscars telecast will be broadcast on Sunday, March 12 and air live on ABC at 8:00 p.m. ET/ 5:00 p.m. PT. We update predictions through awards season, so keep checking IndieWire for all our 2023 Oscar picks.
Our Awards Editor, TV & Film Marcus Jones is currently filling in for Anne Thompson on Oscars Predictions updates.
The State of the Race
Of all the acting categories, Best Actor is the one where the needle has moved the least coming out of the Venice and Telluride film festivals. Yes, Brendan Fraser in “The Whale” has officially entered the race with raves for the genial actor in the process of making his comeback. And showman Hugh Jackman is not far behind with his performance in “The Son,” Florian Zeller’s follow-up to “The Father,” said to be as devastating as one could expect. However, the category has plenty of high-profile competition making the festival rounds as well: Eddie Redmayne in “The Good Nurse,” Kelvin Harrison Jr. in “Chevalier,” Jeremy Pope in “The Inspection,” and Brad Pitt in “Babylon.”
All that said, the beginning of the fall festival season did solidify that this year will likely see a few frontrunners that have been overdue for their first nomination. In addition to Bill Nighy building momentum for his performance in “Living,” which first screened at the virtual Sundance in January and got a recent boost Telluride, “The Banshees of Inisherin,” led by Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleason, was a major crowdpleaser in Venice. Although the film, which reunites the actors with their “In Bruges” writer-director Martin McDonagh, bounces between the two men, Farrell’s character is really the focus and the heart of the film. If Searchlight decides there is only room for one of the actors to campaign as the lead, Gleason would make the most sense for Best Supporting Actor.
Jonathan Hession/Searchlight Pictures
Among the newer names that have never been nominated, “Elvis” breakout Austin Butler stands out. Still, with Warner Bros. now figuring out the next phase of “Elvis” now that its box office has slowed down a bit, he will need to be reintroduced to the season. Meanwhile, although they are vastly different stories, Mexican actor Daniel Giménez Cacho scratches a similar itch in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s epic “Bardo,” where he too has to carry a visual stunner for nearly three hours, and does so with aplomb.
One performance that Cannes attendees have already seen got a bump from Telluride: Paul Mescal’s soulful turn as a young father trying to give his preteen daughter the best vacation he can provide. The film boasts Oscar-winning producing team Mark Ceryak, Adele Romanski, and Barry Jenkins, who was publicly emotional about the film during a Telluride Q&A.
If there are any contenders that appear to have lost steam, it might be Adam Driver in Netflix’s “White Noise.” The Noah Baumbach adaptation of Don Delillo’s novel, which opened Venice, received mixed reviews. Also, “Empire of Light” centralizes newcomer Michael Ward, not Colin Firth, as the primary romantic lead in the Sam Mendes film, but the film does not quite give enough of his character’s perspective for him to make the jump to potential Oscar nominee.
Contenders are listed in alphabetical order, below. No actor will be deemed a frontrunner until we have seen the film.
Austin Butler (“Elvis”)
Daniel Giménez Cacho (“Bardo (or False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths)”)
Colin Farrell (“The Banshees of Inisherin”)
Paul Mescal (“Aftersun”)
Bill Nighy (“Living”)
Christian Bale (“Amsterdam,” “The Pale Blue Eye”)
Adam Driver (“White Noise”)
Brendan Fraser (“The Whale”)
Brendan Gleeson (“The Banshees of Inisherin”)
Park Hae-il (“Decision to Leave”)
Kelvin Harrison Jr. (“Chevalier”)
Hugh Jackman (“The Son”)
Jeremy Pope (“The Inspection”)
Brad Pitt (“Babylon”)
Eddie Redmayne (“The Good Nurse”)
Song Kang-ho (“Broker”)
Michael Ward (“Empire of Light”)
Timothée Chalamet (“Bones and All”)
Tom Cruise (“Top Gun: Maverick”)
Eden Dambrine (“Close”)
Harris Dickinson (“Triangle of Sadness”)
Zac Efron (“The Greatest Beer Run Ever”)
Jalyn Hall (“Till”)
Daniel Kaluuya (“Nope”)
Jack O’Connell (“Lady Chatterley’s Lover”)
Robert Pattinson (“The Batman”)
Cooper Raiff (“Cha Cha Real Smooth”)
Banks Repeta (“Armageddon Time”)
Adam Sandler (“Hustle”)
Sam Worthington (“Avatar: The Way of Water”)