Oscars 2023 predictions: 5 Best Actor candidates from Austin Butler to Brendan Fraser

Awards season is starting to kick into gear, and we're anticipating the 95th Academy Awards ceremony. 

The big night gets underway on March 12, 2023, and over the coming months we're presenting our predictions for the key categories, including Best Picture and Best Director.

This week: our five hot tips for the category of Best Actor. Scroll down and see if you agree with our choices.


1. Austin Butler for Elvis

Austin Butler puts on the blue suede shoes for Baz Luhrmann's sprawling Elvis biopic – but this is no mere surface impersonation.

Butler's skill lies in how he takes us on The King's emotional journey, ranging from wide-eyed, crotch-jiggling naif to drugged-out, tragic superstar.

There's also a canny trick pulled with the vocals, the early stages of the film tracked almost exclusively with Butler's impressive imitation, before giving way in the darker years to a complex mixture of Butler and archive Elvis audio.

As a movie, Elvis is somewhat by the numbers and can be accused of mechanically stitching together the highs and lows of Presley's extraordinary career.

However, the pain in Butler's eyes makes for an engrossing experience, cutting through the surface sheen to communicate the isolation that comes with fame.

Come the end, it's genuinely hard to tell if the puffy, barely-with-it rock and roll star behind the piano is actually Butler or stock footage of Elvis himself.

That's how you know it's a physically and emotionally transformative performance. In this year's race for Best Actor, Butler is evidently the frontrunner. 

Remember, Elvis is still on release at selected Cineworld cinemas, so if you've yet to experience Butler's performance, click here to book your tickets.

2. Colin Farrell for The Banshees of Inisherin

No one plumbs the depths of salty language quite like writer/director Martin McDonagh. The British-Irish playwright turned filmmaker is akin to a cinematic Samuel Beckett, asking us to gaze deep into the abyss while also compelling us to hold our sides with laughter.

McDonagh's previous movies, In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths and the Oscar-winning Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, bear this out. Gloriously, his latest movie, The Banshees of Inisherin, reunites McDonagh with the In Bruges double-act of Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson.

From the responses coming out of the Toronto Film Festival, the increasingly impressive Farrell is a lock for a Best Actor nomination. He plays the hapless Padraic, an Irish island-dweller who simply cannot fathom why his best chum Colm (Gleeson) has cut ties with him.

Critics say that McDonagh's latest is typically laced with equal parts nihilism and compassion. However, they're also quick to point out Farrell as the film's bruised, beating heart, assaying a character who speaks for everyone who's seen a friendship founder.

A dullard Padraic may be, he's also set up as a tragic figure forced to go to great lengths to redeem his friendship status. Even the threat of Colm severing his fingers doesn't seem to work, setting in motion another blistering Oscar contender from a filmmaker who revels in provocation.

The Banshees of Inisherin is released at Cineworld on October 21.

3. Bill Nighy for Living

For decades, the hugely likeable Bill Nighy has vacillated between broad comedy (Love Actually) and tender drama (Pride). However, critics are saying that even by Nighy's own standards, his role in Living may well be a career-best, tapping into a rich seam of melancholic loneliness.

Living is an English-language remake of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa's 1952 drama Ikiru. In and of itself, this is a bold gambit: Ikiru is considered one of the defining masterpieces from one of Japan's most esteemed director.

However, consensus indicates that Nighy, director Oliver Hermanus and screenwriter Kazuo Ishiguro (author of the Booker Prize-winning The Remains of the Day) have found fresh impetus in this retelling.

Like Ikiru, Living (which is set in 1950s London) deals with an ailing man who is told that he doesn't have long left on this Earth. This prompts a post-middle-age journey of spiritual discovery and reviews rave about Nighy's ability to explore the central character's philosophical crisis.

The Daily Telegraph's Robbie Collin describes the role as "one of Nighy's finest (not say subtlest) to date", and there's every chance the veteran actor will score his first ever Oscar nomination.

Living is released in the UK on November 4.

4. Paul Dano for The Fabelmans

Director Steven Spielberg offers us a candid and intensely personal look inside his own memory bank in The Fabelmans. The revered director, whose range has run the gamut from Jaws to Schindler's List and beyond, dramatises the spark of cinematic inspiration that set in at an early age.

The Fabelmans spans several years in the life of Spielberg's fictional avatar, Sammy Fabelman, played as a child by Mateo Zoryon and as a teenager by Gabriel LaBelle.

Living an apparently ordinary existence in post-World War II Arizona, Sammy is besotted with making 8MM films for his family to enjoy. Later on, a cinema visit to watch Cecil B. DeMille's circus epic The Greatest Show on Earth opens Sammy's eyes to the wonder of the big-screen experience.

Spielberg's take on his own childhood is equal parts pragmatic and fantastical, relying on diffused lighting and magical exposure from his regular cinematographer Janusz Kaminski.

The heart of the movie is said to lie with the double-act of Michelle Williams and Paul Dano, who play Sammy's loving, if conflicted, parents. The former wholeheartedly supports Sammy's desire to become a filmmaker whereas his father later derides it as a hobby.

As the aforementioned Burt Fabelman, the versatile Paul Dano is said to embody a loving yet steadfast parental figure whose desire to set his son on the right path often results in challenging, robust conversations.

The difficulties of parent-child relationships have always been at the centre of Spielberg's movies, from E.T. to War of the Worlds. The Fabelmans may well be the purest expression of this thesis and Dano is said to excel in the proxy role of Spielberg's father. It's highly like Oscar will come calling for the first time (remarkably, Dano has never been nominated before).

The Fabelmans is released in the UK on January 27, 2023.

5. Brendan Fraser for The Whale

The 'Brenaissance' is upon us. Years after being ostracised by the Hollywood establishment, Brendan Fraser is back in the spotlight, although he's not battling CGI mummies or ancient curses this time.

Instead, Fraser delivers a sensational career comeback for director Darren Aronofsky. The latter performed a similar trick with Mickey Rourke in the intensely moving The Wrestler, and now Fraser gets to shine in his tender role as an obese yet quick-witted man in the midst of an emotional crisis.

Fraser's character Charlie left his family behind in order to start a new life with his gay lover. Upon the latter's death, Charlie took to binge eating, and he realises the importance of reaching out to his estranged, enraged daughter Ellie (Stranger Things' Sadie Sink).

Following its world premiere at the 2022 Venice Film Festival, The Whale (adapted from Samuel D. Hunter's play of the same name) has attracted criticism for its apparently regressive use of a fat suit and prosthetics. However, critics are unanimous in their praise for Fraser whom they say brings an affable lightness and inner joy to Aronofsky's oppressive cinematics.

"Without Brendan Fraser’s innate charm and ability to project gentle sadness through the slightest flicker of his huge blue eyes, The Whale wouldn’t have that much else going for it," writes Leila Latif for Indiewire. "For Fraser, The Whale is a confident leap forward into the movie-star status that he rightfully deserves."

A Best Actor Oscar nomination is surely a lock for a likeable performer who has been out of the spotlight for far too long.

The Whale is currently awaiting a UK release date.


Which of these movies are you tipping for Oscar success? Don't forget that with a Cineworld Unlimited membership, you can enjoy all these movies, and a lot more exciting benefits, from just £9.99 a month.