In a year in which women in Hollywood and throughout the globe have been on a spotlight for denouncing the rampant abuse by men in power, it is an incredibly welcome sight that the Best Actress race for the 2018 Oscars be so lush with amazing talent and dozens of unforgettable performances.
In what is due to be one of the most competitive and thrilling categories in next year’s awards, Best Actress boasts an embarrassment of riches from both seasoned performers and relatively new players alike, all vying for the gold statuette that will announce them as the best in their trade.
Narrowing it down to a handful of nominees is not an enviable job, and with that in mind, we’ve done our best to put a list together of who the frontrunners are to receive a nomination next month, going from least likely to most.
Emma Stone (“Battle of the Sexes”)
The recipient of last year’s award for her work on “La La Land”, Emma Stone is once again subject to speculation about a nod for her performance as tennis champ Billie Jean King in the “Battle of the Sexes”, the retelling to the legendary tennis match between Billie Jean and Bobby Riggs.
While she has already received a nomination for a Golden Globe, it is unlikely that she would manage to repeat consecutive awards; the last time that feat was accomplished being in 1968 by none other than Katherine Hepburn.
Jessica Chastain (“Molly’s Game”)
Red headed beauty Jessica Chastain received two consecutive nominations for her magnificent performances in “Zero Dark Thirty” and “The Help”, but was bested both years by superior performances by Jennifer Lawrence and Octavia Spencer.
This year she has been singled out for her performance in Aaron Sorkin's debut directorial effort, “Molly's Game”. Chastain stars as Molly Bloom, an ex-competitive skier who sees an opportunity with online casinos like Ninjacasino being banned in the United States, and becomes the host of Hollywood’s biggest high-stakes celebrity poker game.
Putting in a strong performance that handles Sorkin’s speedy dialogue with aplomb and nuance, Chastain has a great chance to sneak into the Top 5 – but has difficult competition ahead of her.
Margot Robbie (“I, Tonya”)
Best known for her work as the Duchess of Bay Ridge in Scorsese’s “Wolf of Wall Street” and her explosive turn as Harley Quinn in last year’s disappointing “Suicide Squad”, Margot Robbie has finally announced herself as a serious actress in a highly unlikely vehicle, “I, Tonya”.
Portraying disgraced Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding in this self-aware dark comedy, Robbie exercises great gusto and range as she disappears into her role behind her frizzled hair and caked make up to deliver a hilarious and tragic performance as the ex-Olympic athlete that gets caught up in a scheme to injure her biggest rival, Nancy Kerrigan.
Saoirse Ronan (“Lady Bird”)
At the ripe age of 23 Ronan has already managed to establish herself as an Oscar veteran, boasting previous nominations for “Atonement” and “Brooklyn”. She now looks on track to receive her third nomination for her work on the hugely acclaimed coming of age story “Lady Bird”.
Breaking the record to become the best-reviewed film on Rotten Tomatoes history (before later being ruined by a single critic), Lady Bird tells the heartwarming story of a high school senior in 2002 Sacramento and her struggles with her family, love, and impending adulthood. Ronan’s subtle and yet intricate performance has already earned her a Golden Globe nod, and she is considered one of the frontrunners to take home the award.
Meryl Streep (“The Post”)
Having collected 20 Oscar nominations and 3 statuettes throughout her careers, there is not much we can say about Meryl Streep that has not already been said before. Perhaps the finest actress to ever live looks certain to claim her 21st nomination for her latest role in Spielberg’s latest “The Post”.
Starring alongside Tom Hanks, Streep plays Washington Post publisher Kay Graham, the country's first female newspaper publisher. The film tackles Graham’s tough decision of whether or not to publish the Pentagon Papers - classified documents that would expose the deceptive Vietnam War strategies of the American government.
Sally Hawkins (“The Shape of Water”)
Indie darling Sally Hawkins is probably the least recognizable name on this list, and yet she is one of the frontrunners to take home the award at next year’s ceremony. Having previously been nominated for her supporting role on Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, Hawkins has a strong claim to the main award with her work on Guillermo Del Toro’s fantasy drama “The Shape of Water”.
Delivering a stunning wordless performance, Hawkins stars as Elisa Esposito - a mute janitor working in the 1960s at an American research facility who discovers a creature held in the lab, with whom she forms an unlikely connection. Her performance has been widely praised and is considered one of the top contenders in the race.
Frances McDormand (“Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri”)
A four-time nominee and Oscar winner for her work on “Fargo”, McDormand is expected to clinch her fifth nomination and, most possibly, her second award for performance on “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”.
Delivering an absolute powerhouse performance, McDormand plays Mildred Hayes, a fierce Midwestern mother who, after the rape and murder of her daughter goes unpunished, decides to shake things up and takes on the entire police force and townspeople in her quest for justice. Her performance is being touted by many as her finest work, and the performance to beat for any other contender to the award.