The award for for Best Supporting Actress is one of the most debatable categories going into Oscar night, with any one of the five nominees having a feasible chance of winning.
Of all the acting categories at this year's Oscars, Best Supporting Actress is totally up in the air. While the race has appeared to have narrowed down to two contenders, this category is ripe for a surprise win on Oscar night.
So let's break down the nominees for Best Supporting Actress ranked from least likely to win to most likely to nab Oscar gold:
5. Jennifer Jason Leigh - The Hateful Eight
Despite a prolific career in the '90s that's persisted all the way through today, this is Leigh's first Oscar nomination. As the despicable criminal Daisy Domergue, the actress shines as the only prominent woman in a movie full of men. While she has some of the most memorable moments in the film, she also spends much of her screen time staying silent in the background or being beaten up. This, plus the lack of an Original Screenplay nomination for Quentin Tarantino, suggests that there's not as much support for The Hateful Eight in the Academy, which means she probably won't win.
4. Rachel McAdams - Spotlight
McAdams has by far the subtlest and quietest role in this category. As Boston Globe journalist Sacha Pfeiffer, McAdams is in a similar situation as Leigh in that she is the only prominent female in a male dominated movie. This is also the actress' first Oscar nomination. However, much of McAdams' performance is listening and taking notes. She does not have a big impactful moment or speech that would allow her to flex her acting chops. The only thing that puts McAdams above Leigh is how much the Academy clearly loves Spotlight, so she may pick up a few more votes.
3. Rooney Mara - Carol
Mara picked up her second Oscar nomination for her understated yet complex role as Therese Belivet in Carol (she was previously nominated in 2012 for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). She has been nominated at all the major precursors, but she has yet to pick up a major win over her competitors. Like McAdams, there is a subtlety to Mara's performance that rarely wins Oscars. Carol did receive six nominations, which shows some support, but a lack of precursor wins suggests she probably won't have enough support to win. It is still very possible, though.
2. Kate Winslet - Steve Jobs
Before this year's Golden Globes, Winslet was thought to be a filler nomination that wouldn't pick up any major wins. However, she went on to win both the Golden Globe and the BAFTA. Playing Joanna Hoffman in Steve Jobs, Winslet gets to de-glam, use an accent, spout numerous speeches and generally chew the scenery, so it's no surprise she's picked up some wins along the way. She won an Oscar in 2009 for her role in The Reader and this is her seventh nomination overall, so she's clearly the most well known and respected actress in this category. But that previous win and the lack of support for Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender is the only other nomination) shows that she may not get her second Oscar just yet.
1. Alicia Vikander - The Danish Girl
In her first major year of prominence, Vikander has made a huge first impression. Getting major nominations and wins for her performances in both Ex Machina and The Danish Girl, it's safe to say Vikander is having her moment. In The Danish Girl, Vikander plays Gerda Wegener, the wife of a man (Eddie Redmayne) who wishes to become a woman. It is a typical suffering wife role, but she injects the performance with a lot of sympathy and she gets to show off her acting abilities throughout the film. Vikander has won the SAG Award and the Critics' Choice Award, notably defeating Winslet and the other contenders, so it's looking like it's her time. But don't be surprised if there's a big upset.
The Oscars air Sunday, Feb. 28 at 8:30 p.m. ET / 5:30 p.m. PT on ABC.