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Landing his third acting nomination for “King Richard,” Will Smith, who is also nominated for best picture as one of the film’s producers, has been the favorite to win the category since its debut at the Telluride Film Festival. However, it’s not a runaway. While previously nominated for “Ali” (2001) and “The Pursuit of Happyness” (2006), Smith’s work has landed all the critical precursors, including BAFTA. Still, his presence on the campaign hasn’t been as pronounced in comparison to his fellow nominees and main competitors, Benedict Cumberbatch for “The Power of the Dog” and Andrew Garfield for “Tick, Tick … Boom!”

Read more: Variety’s Awards Circuit Predictions Hub

Smith, who has won five precursors, including lead actor drama at the Golden Globes, has many industry and consumer audiences rooting for him. Aside from becoming the fifth Black actor to win lead — which would occur in the same year that we lost first winner Sidney Poitier (“Lilies of the Field”) — momentum is on his side, especially when there isn’t a consensus on who the No. 2 in the category is.

Cumberbatch has dominated the regional critics’ prizes for his work as cowboy Phil Burbank, with 24 banked wins this season. Of the nominated leading men, his Netflix counterpart Garfield, who plays composer Jonathan Larson, is the closest with seven. The two Brits dominated movie screens in 2021, with four feature film roles in the Oscars’ eligibility period — even sharing one with “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which is now the third-highest domestic grossing film in history.

Cumberbatch’s film landed 12 noms, but Garfield won the lead actor comedy Globe. It’ll be interesting to see how BAFTA plays out with Cumberbatch and Smith nominated, but Garfield not.

The SAG Award, as always, will be crucial.

The Oscars prediction rankings for Feb. 17 are below. All archived predictions can be found here.

UPDATED: Feb 17, 2022


1 Will Smith “King Richard” Warner Bros
2 Benedict Cumberbatch “The Power of the Dog” Netflix
3 Andrew Garfield “Tick, Tick … Boom!” Netflix
4 Denzel Washington “The Tragedy of Macbeth” Apple Original Films/A24
5 Javier Bardem “Being the Ricardos” Amazon Studios

To see all the latest predictions, of all the categories, in one place, visit THE OSCARS COLLECTIVE
Visit each category, per the individual awards show from THE OSCARS HUB
To see old predictions and commentary, click the OSCARS PREDICTIONS ARCHIVES
Revisit the prediction archive of the 2021 season
Link to television awards is atTHE EMMYS HUB

2022 Academy Awards Predictions