With Oscar nominations for 2017 set to be announced in January, talk has been ramping up about which actors and actresses will be able to clench nominations in the competitive best actor, best actress, supporting actor and supporting actress categories. Although best picture, best director and best screenplay are also up for grabs, the acting categories often provide the most potential for surprises to enter the race, giving first time nominees a chance to shine on the nominations list and potentially even earn a trophy themselves.
This year, there are many films up for contention, with more still to be released. While there are many perennial Oscar nominees who could wind up on their way to the podium once again, there are also many new actors and actresses and frequently overlooked stars who could be on their way to getting their first nomination. Here are 15 Actors And Actresses Who Could Get Their First Oscar Nominations This Year.
15. Dev Patel (Lead Actor, Lion)
Dev Patel could land his first Oscar nomination for his deep role in Lion, which follows Saroo Brierley (Patel), a man who uses Google Maps to try to track down the family who he left in India at age five after being adopted by Australians. The movie, which hits theaters in November, also features two-time Oscar nominee Rooney Mara and Oscar winner Nicole Kidman, both of whom could score further accolades for their parts in the Garth Davis-directed film. Based off the memoir A Long Way Home, written by the real-life Brierley, the film’s nuanced plot should give Patel a chance to flourish, surrounded by the intense visuals and arresting writing that Oscar voters tend to gravitate towards. However, there is a chance that Patel could be snubbed once again while the film picks up a number of other accolades, as happened with 2009’s Slumdog Millionaire—while the film picked up eight Oscar wins and two more nominations, Patel and his co-star Freida Pinto were both left trophy-less.
14. Aja Naomi King (Supporting Actress, The Birth of a Nation)
The Birth of a Nation has been getting a lot of buzz recently: good buzz over its deep storyline and intense acting and bad buzz over the drama surrounding the personal life of director, writer and star Nate Parker. How to Get Away with Murder actress Aja Naomi King has been the focal point of a large amount of the good buzz for her portrayal of Cherry, the wife of slave rebellion leader Nat Turner (Parker) in the film. The young actress shines in a subdued performance in the movie, a great departure from her role as overachiever Michael Pratt on the Viola Davis-starring ABC drama, for which she earned a NAACP Image Award nomination for best supporting actress in 2015. With her strong acting backed up by an intense storyline and beautiful visuals, King is one of many actresses who could help to break the #OscarsSoWhite trend this year.
13. Margo Martindale (Lead Actress, The Hollars)
Margo Martindale has been an Emmy darling for years, earning three wins for her appearances in The Americans and Justified and two more nominations. The actress is able to give herself to every role she plays, which has made her an incredibly popular contender for the TV awards. However, despite a brilliant turn in August: Osage County in 2013, the actress has yet to receive any love from the Academy Awards, making her role in the John Krasinski-starring and directed The Hollars a chance to break in to the tough race. Martindale takes on the role of family matriarch Sally in the film, who reunites with her son after she is diagnosed with a brain tumor. The comedy is sickly sweet at times, often playing too far into its melodramatic plot, but Martindale shines throughout, bringing heart and depth to a role that could easily have become saccharine. Although it’s a long shot and it’s quite possible that Martindale’s performance will get lost among all of the buzzier, big name films this awards season, it would be great to see the TV actress honored by the movie world.
12. Kristen Stewart (Lead Actress, Cafe Society or Supporting Actress, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk)
Kristen Stewart is finally starting to emerge from the awfulness that is the Twilight series, and the actress is proving that she can be much, much more than Bella Swan. After impressive turns in Clouds of Sils Maria and Still Alice, earning herself numerous awards, the actress is set for a breakout year with appearances in Café Society and Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. In Café Society, she plays opposite Oscar nominees Jesse Eisenberg and Steve Carrell in a film penned by four-time Oscar winner Woody Allen, who has proven time and time again that he can write a script and direct a film that can really showcase a strong actor. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk also comes from a multi-Oscar winning director in Ang Lee. It features Stewart as the sister of the titular Billy Lynn, who is desperately trying to find out what happened to her brother while he was fighting in Iraq. From what has been seen of the film so far, its impressive cinematography and meaty subject matter could help to propel a number of its stars into the Oscar spotlight.
11. Miles Teller (Lead Actor, Bleed for This)
Miles Teller may not be earning any Oscar nominations for his appearance in Fantastic Four, but the actor could potentially be in contention after his role in boxing film Bleed For This. Teller could be taking a risk with trying to go for awards with the role, especially after last year’s two big boxing films, Southpaw and Creed, underperformed when it came to awards season. However, his appearance in the film has the grit and intensity that Oscar voters so often go for, which could propel the actor to the podium. Teller has brushed Oscars gold before, with his appearance in 2014’s Whiplash. The film earned three Oscar wins, for sound mixing, film editing, and supporting actor J.K. Simmons, and also earned nominations for best adapted screenplay and best picture. However, Teller, possibly due to his youth and association with dystopian movie franchise Divergent, was left off the shortlist, making Bleed for This his next chance to go for the gold.
10. Mahershala Ali (Supporting Actor, Moonlight)
Mahershala Ali has already earned an Emmy nomination for guest actor in Netflix’s House of Cards, and the actor was also a part of three-time Oscar winning drama (and best picture nominee) The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. However, the multi-talented actor, who can be seen in Marvel’s Luke Cage, has yet to earn his own Oscar nomination. Moonlight, directed by Barry Jenkins, could be his chance. The story follows Ali’s Juan, a young man growing up in a rough neighborhood in Miami who is coming to terms with his sexuality. The film has been getting a lot of buzz, even though it won’t be released until October, with Ali’s performance praised for its intensity and nuance. With Moonlight in contention for other big awards like best picture, best director and best screenplay as well, it’s quite likely that Ali could see his name get thrown into the ring for his performance. (Another award to watch for Ali is a possible Emmy nomination for his Luke Cage role, where he plays fan favorite Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes.)
9. Nick Offerman (Supporting Actor, The Founder)
The Founder star Michael Keaton recently earned his first Oscar nomination for his appearance in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), for which he also won a Golden Globe. However, it’s his co-star, Nick Offerman, who is receiving most of the Oscar buzz for his appearance in the film based around McDonalds founder Ray Kroc (Keaton), who takes over the chain from Offerman’s Dick McDonald and his brother (John Carroll Lynch as Mac McDonald). The film, set for a wide release in January, may seem like a long shot for the prestigious Academy Awards with its subject matter, but the Oscars have shown in the past that they like to honor true stories and actors who truly commit to playing their real-life counterparts. Offerman, already a three-time Critics Choice Television Awards nominee for his appearances in Parks and Recreation and Fargo, could take advantage of a unsure supporting actor field to earn himself an Academy Award nomination.
8. Rebecca Hall (Lead Actress, Christine)
In Christine, Rebecca Hall faced a difficult task: getting into the mind of real life TV reporter Christine Chubbuck, who fatally shot herself on air during a newscast on her Florida morning show in 1974. Chubbuck’s story has been the subject of discussion for a long time, with people questioning what led her to commit suicide and what it means as a commentary on the state of modern media. Although Christine at times struggles to strive amongst its heavy subject matter, Hall is a bright spot, bringing complexity and depth to the character whose actions were difficult to understand by many. The film, which is set to be released in October, received good reviews when it premiered at Sundance, with the directing of Antonio Campos already earning a nomination for the Grand Jury Prize. The Academy loves true stories, and Christine, which gives Hall the opportunity to play the most complicated character she has ever taken on, could be enough to help the actress finally catch their eye.
7. Joe Alwyn (Lead Actor, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk)
Joe Alwyn only has two acting credits aside from the upcoming Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk: the documentary short A Higher Education and the upcoming drama The Sense of an Ending, also featuring Michelle Dockery, Emily Mortimer and Jim Broadbent. However, the actor may be starting his career off with a bang in the leading role in the upcoming war drama, where Alwyn plays Billy Lynn, who is struggling with dealing with the glory and the pain of returning from war. The film, set to be released in November, comes from Oscar-winning director Ang Lee, whose movies are always a hit with the Academy. Alwyn, meanwhile, has proved in the footage released so far that he is able to bring a lot of intensity to the complex role, which should serve him well with voters, who may be willing to reward the young star if he is able to truly show off his abilities. Whether Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is Alwyn’s ticket to the Oscars or not, it looks like the actor has a long career ahead of him.
6. David Oyelowo (Lead Actor, A United Kingdom)
Another film based on a true story, David Oyelowo stars in A United Kingdom opposite Gone Girl Oscar nominee Rosamund Pike. The film, directed by Amm Asante (Belle) based on a screenplay by Guy Hibbert (Eye in the Sky), follows Botswana’s Prince Seretse Khama (Oyelowo) through his interracial marriage with Ruth Williams (Pike). Based on a true story, the film allows Oyelowo to once again show off his strong on screen presence, which grabbed many through his performance in 2014’s Selma, which earned a best picture nomination but left its main star snubbed. The film, which also features Harry Potter star Tom Felton and Pirates of the Caribbean‘s Jack Davenport, delves into the perils of British imperialism while focusing on the more human aspects of the historical era. Both Pike and Oyelowo deliver impressive, moving performances which could land them both in front of the eyes of the Oscar voters.
5. Armie Hammer (Supporting Actor, The Birth of a Nation)
Armie Hammer has been on the verge of an Oscar nomination before for his performances in The Social Network and J. Edgar, but his role in The Birth of a Nation is the closest the actor has come thus far to Academy gold. In the film, Hammer plays Samuel, the master of director and writer Nate Parker’s Nat Turner. Although it is possible that The Birth of a Nation‘s award season success could be marred by increased talk over Parker’s college rape accusations, his actors could still land nominations, and Hammer’s portrayal of the conflicted Samuel could help propel him to the forefront of the discussion. Hammer’s performance, which was praised at Sundance and can be seen by the general public when the film is released in October, may not be flashy enough to land the actor a nomination, but with a loose supporting actor field and nearly no sure inclusions this year, it is possible that he could wind up on the list.
4. Ruth Negga (Lead Actress, Loving)
Loving follows Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton as an interracial couple who take their fight to the Supreme Court after Richard Loving (Edgerton) is sentenced to prison for their marriage. The case, Loving v. Virginia, has incredible historical significance as the decision which made laws prohibiting interracial marriage unconstitutional, and, with the strong backstory and director/screenwriter Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter) behind it, the film should be a hit among Academy Award voters. While both Edgerton and Negga could earn nominations for their portrayals, it is Negga whose recognition seems more inevitable. The actress, who has recently appeared in 12 Years a Slave, delivers a powerful performance which helped earn the film a standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year. Her and Edgerton’s chemistry is impressive, while the intense, true story helps to provide them both the opportunity to stretch their range. Negga, who has been impressing audiences with her appearance in AMC’s Preacher, could see herself on the podium for her deep performance.
3. Oscar Isaac (Lead Actor, The Promise)
Star Wars: The Force Awakens breakout star Oscar Isaac may have his first shot at an Oscar for his appearance in Hotel Rwanda director Terry George’s The Promise, a love story set during the Aermenian genocide. Playing opposite Christian Bale as an Associated Press journalist, Isaac stars as an Armenian medical student who vies for the heart of Ana (Charlotte Le Bon). George, who, in addition to directing worked on the script with Robin Stender Switcord, an Academy Award nominee for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, has already been nominated for two Oscars for screenwriting, and, with the strong writing team behind the film, Isaac should be given a chance to shine in his role. Although the film has premiered to mixed reviews, Isaac has been gaining a lot of buzz recently for his engaging on screen persona, earning a Golden Globe nomination in 2014 for Inside Llewyn Davis and a Golden Globe win in 2016 for Show Me a Hero, which could help to propel him to a nomination.
2. Emily Blunt (Lead Actress, The Girl on the Train)
Emily Blunt has been a star for a long time, impressing audiences with her appearances in comedies like The Devil Wears Prada, dramas like Looper and action films like Edge of Tomorrow. However, although the actress has earned a Golden Globe for her appearance in Gideon’s Daughter and has four other Golden Globe nominations under her belt (most recently for 2014’s Into the Woods), she has yet to catch the eye of the Academy, who has left her unrewarded. The Girl on the Train might be the actress’ remedy to that, following Rachel (Blunt) in a mystery similar to 2014’s Gone Girl, which earned star Rosamund Pike an Oscar nomination. The film comes from The Help and Winter’s Bone director Tate Taylor based on the novel of the same name, which debuted at number one on The New York Times‘ fiction best sellers list. With Blunt’s increasing star power, Taylor’s strong directing and a thrilling storyline, this could be the actress’ chance to earn her first Oscar nom.
1. Andrew Garfield (Lead Actor, Silence and Hacksaw Ridge)
Andrew Garfield has moved on from playing The Amazing Spider-Man, and, this year, he has shown that he has what it takes to play serious, intense roles. The actor could be in contention for lead actor for two films— Silence and Hacksaw Ridge. In Silence, he plays a Jesuit Portugeuse Catholic priest who travels to Japan along with his colleague (Adam Driver) to spread their faith. Directed by Oscar winner and eleven-time Oscar nominee Martin Scorcese, the film, set to be released in December, is sure to be an Oscar favorite, with possible further nominations for best picture, directing and star Liam Neeson. It is also possible that screenwriter Jay Cocks, who has already been nominated for Academy Awards for The Age of Innocence and Gangs of New York, could pick up another nomination. Garfield’s second chance at gold comes via Hacksaw Ridge, directed by Mel Gibson, who won best picture and best director at the Oscars for Braveheart in 1995. The war film follows Garfield as Desmond T. Doss, a conscientious objector and army medic who earned the Medal of Honor for saving more than 75 of his peers during World War II. The film, which also stars Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington and Hugo Weaving, has the potential to be Garfield’s best work thus far, and, between that and Silence, it’s quite likely that Spidey will be swinging over to the podium this year.