This article contains IndieWire’s preliminary Best Actress 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
During the weekend of Venice and Telluride, there were two actresses dominating the conversation for better or worse.
“TÁR,” Cate Blanchett’s new film with writer/director Todd Fields that is a portrait of a female artistic genius in a downward spiral, had many festival goers declaring that the Best Actress race has already been settled, and Blanchett will surely collect her third Oscar this March. If there is a counter-narrative, it is that her character Lydia Tár quite easily rubs people the wrong way (which some may argue is the point), so the film’s near three-hour runtime may prove to be a difficult experience for viewers who have a distaste for her.
In addition to “TÁR,” the breakout film of Telluride was “Women Talking,” the latest film from writer/director Sarah Polley. Despite the film featuring stunning performances from the likes of Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, and more, it does not exactly have a clear lead. The film tells the story of women in a Mennonite colony who have been raped by their male counterparts, and must together decide whether to stay or leave their home. While it is a vastly different kind of film than “The Help,” that film does provide a bit of a roadmap on how to approach deciding which actresses go where. Like Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain, Foy and Buckley seem destined to be Best Supporting Actress nominees, with one of them even winning, but to clear the way for that, and also highlight another great performance in the film, Rooney Mara could campaign for Best Actress the same way Viola Davis did in 2011. Mara’s soulful turn as the pregnant Ona really evokes the themes of the film, and she is even the main subject of the narration that plays throughout it. Putting her into Best Actress seems like the best possible chance the women of the film can be recognized in the acting categories.
Another actress in the running has two paths forward. Florence Pugh has not only been a Best Actress contender for “The Wonder,” Sebastián Lelio’s stunning Netflix film where she plays a nurse caring for a young girl with a strange condition in 19th century Ireland; she is also the lead of what was once the most anticipated films of the fall: “Don’t Worry Darling.” While she does provide a movie star performance in Olivia Wilde’s sophomore effort, which is the biggest highlight of the psychological thriller that falls flat in its third act, the entire conversation around the film has turned to her relationship with her director. Her performance in “The Wonder” is more subdued, but becomes completely captivating in the second hour. However, the extent to which she will campaign for that performance is unclear given that her future interviews would likely require her to address the presumed turmoil of “Don’t Worry Darling.”
Lastly, Olivia Colman is well on her way to receiving her fourth Oscar nomination in the span of five years. This time, she leads “Empire of Light,” playing Hilary, a lonely movie theater employee at an English beach town during the year 1981, who begins to turn her life around after meeting her young coworker Stephen (newcomer Michael Ward). As prolific an actress as Colman is, writer-director Sam Mendes did provide her a role unlike anything audiences have seen her do before. The film may have divided critics, but her work as Hilary is just heartrending enough to land her a nomination.
That leaves us with two other actresses with lauded performances that were earlier this year: Emma Thompson, who’s work in “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande” will likely be compared to Colman’s in the similarly themed “Empire of Light,” and Michelle Yeoh, who has been collecting every kind of tribute under the sun, which seems to be keeping the momentum going for A24’s “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”
Films like “Till,” “Blonde,” “The Woman King,” “She Said,” and “Babylon” have yet to screen to the public, so despite the significant gains for Blanchett and Colman, there is still a chance for the Best Actress race to experience a full upheaval.
Allyson Riggs, Courtesy of A24
Contenders are listed in alphabetical order, below. No actor will be deemed a frontrunner until we have seen the film.
Cate Blanchett (“TÁR”)
Olivia Colman (“Empire of Light”)
Rooney Mara (“Women Talking”)
Emma Thompson (“Good Luck to You, Leo Grande”)
Michelle Yeoh (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”)
Angela Bassett (“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”)
Jessica Chastain (“The Good Nurse”)
Viola Davis (“The Woman King”)
Ana de Armas (“Blonde”)
Danielle Deadwyler (“Till”)
Greta Gerwig (“White Noise”)
Dakota Johnson (“Cha Cha Real Smooth”)
Vicky Krieps (“Corsage”)
Carey Mulligan (“She Said”)
Keke Palmer (“Nope”)
Florence Pugh (“The Wonder”)
Margot Robbie (“Amsterdam,” “Babylon”)
Tang Wei (“Decision to Leave”)
Naomi Ackie (“I Wanna Dance with Somebody”)
Juliette Binoche (“Both Sides of the Blade”)
Emma Corrin (“Lady Chatterley’s Lover,” “My Policeman”)
Charlbi Dean (“Triangle of Sadness”)
Sally Hawkins (“The Lost King”)
Zoe Kazan (“She Said”)
Jennifer Lawrence (“Causeway”)
Taylor Russell (“Bones and All”)
Zoe Saldana (“Avatar: The Way of Water”)
Lea Seydoux (“One Fine Morning”)
Anya Taylor-Joy (“The Menu”)