Nicolas Cage, Dream Scenario
Cage is at his Cage-iest in this dark comedy, playing a boring husband, father and academic who suddenly starts appearing in the dreams of strangers, making him world famous — for better and worse. The performance evokes memories of his Oscar-nominated turn in Adaptation.
Bradley Cooper, Maestro
Cooper’s portrayal of the sexually conflicted composer Leonard Bernstein is poised to bring him his fifth acting Oscar nom and first since he was nominated for A Star Is Born in 2019. Netflix is campaigning hard for him — but also has Rustin’s Colman Domingo in the category.
Leonardo DiCaprio, Killers of the Flower Moon
Leo is in the running for his sixth performance under the direction of Martin Scorsese, in which he plays a simpleton who becomes part of a scheme to kill and rob the Osage community. It could bring him his seventh acting nom; he won for The Revenant in 2016.
Colman Domingo, Rustin
For the first film assignment that placed him at the top of a call sheet, this Emmy-winning star of Euphoria has won universal raves. He brings heart, mind and soul to the part of Bayard Rustin, a Black and gay civil rights activist who organized the 1963 March on Washington.
Christian Friedel, The Zone of Interest
A German actor best known for the TV series Babylon Berlin, Friedel has wowed critics and audiences around the world with his portrayal of Rudolf Höss, the Nazi commandant of Auschwitz who lived next door to the concentration camp, in Jonathan Glazer’s haunting film.
Paul Giamatti, The Holdovers
This veteran could land a best actor nom 19 years after his prior collaboration with Alexander Payne on indie darling Sideways, for which he was criminally snubbed. He again plays a snob, this time a crusty boarding school instructor forced to stay on campus during Christmas break.
Barry Keoghan, Saltburn
Just a year after his breakthrough in The Banshees of Inisherin,for which he received a supporting actor nom, this 31-year-old is in contention in the lead category, having given a no-holds-barred performance as a young man with a lot of secrets in Emerald Fennell’s sophomore effort.
Cillian Murphy, Oppenheimer
The Irishman best known for the TV series Peaky Blinders has been doing notable work in film for more than 20 years. But never before has he played a part as widely seen or praised as that of J. Robert Oppenheimer in Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster biopic.
Andrew Scott, All of Us Strangers
Fleabag’s “hot priest” has received the strongest reviews of his film career for his quiet work in Andrew Haigh’s supernatural tale about a man who reunites with the parents he lost when he was 12. He has already received a best lead performance Gotham Award nom.
Jeffrey Wright, American Fiction
One of the most revered screen actors who’s never received an Oscar nom, this Emmy winner arguably gives the performance of his career as a cranky college professor who writes books that nobody reads — until he writes one, of a very different sort, under a pen name.
This story first appeared in a November standalone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.