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One Of These 20 Men Will Probably Win Best Actor At The 2015 Oscars

best actor 2015

Welcome to For Your Consideration, HuffPost Entertainment's breakdown of all things Oscar. Between now and Feb. 22, 2015, entertainment managing editor Christopher Rosen and entertainment editor Matthew Jacobs will pore over awards season and discuss which films will make the most noise at the 87th annual Academy Awards.

It's hard to recall a Best Actor race as bloated as this. The sheer number of A-listers vying for the Academy's affection is like a veritable who's-who of Hollywood's most sought-after leading men. We've compiled a list of 20 top contenders, yet there's still a surfeit of tertiary performances that could have made splashes during less crowded years. Will Ben Affleck's naughty bits in "Gone Girl" outperform Channing Tatum's beefy waddle in "Foxcatcher"? Can Miles Teller or Jack O'Connell push out veterans like Bill Murray and John Lithgow? These are the questions we'll be pondering until the nominations are announced on Jan. 15. Until then, let's get to prognosticating.

  • 20 Christoph Waltz, "Big Eyes"
    We've seen conflicting reports as to whether The Weinstein Company will push Christoph Waltz for lead or supporting, but the
    Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
    We've seen conflicting reports as to whether The Weinstein Company will push Christoph Waltz for lead or supporting, but the two-time winner ("Inglourious Basterds," "Django Unchained") seems guaranteed at least a brief mention of Oscar buzz with every film he makes. "Big Eyes" pits Waltz opposite Amy Adams in Tim Burton's portrait of Walter and Margaret Keane. But Burton's movies don't often procure acting accolades, and if anyone from "Big Eyes" will slip into this year's kudos, it'll probably be Adams. -- Matthew Jacobs

    UPDATE: A rep from The Weinstein Company confirmed to HuffPost Entertainment that Waltz will be touted for Best Supporting Actor. That leaves this spot open for a host of other contenders, including Mark Walhberg for "The Gambler," Ellar Coltrane for "Boyhood," Brad Pitt for "Fury," Chris Rock for "Top Five" and many more.
  • 19 John Lithgow, "Love is Strange"
    "Love is Strange" is likelier to garner screenplay recognition for Ira Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias, but the indie dramedy's
    Arthur Mola /Invision/AP
    "Love is Strange" is likelier to garner screenplay recognition for Ira Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias, but the indie dramedy's rapturous reviews may be enough to at least push John Lithgow into the Oscar conversation. Playing one-half of a gay couple that must bunk with relatives while temporary displaced from their New York apartment, Lithgow seemed to have "Oscar-worthy" branded onto his forehead as soon as "Love is Strange" premiered at Sundance this past January. That good fate continued through the Berlin and Tribeca film festivals, and it could find new wind if Sony Pictures Classics puts some weight behind Lithgow, who hasn't been nominated since 1984. -- MJ
  • 18 Oscar Isaac, "A Most Violent Year"
    Word around the Oscars' campfire is that Oscar Isaac's performance in "A Most Violent Year" is reminiscent of Al Pacino in th
    Jon Furniss/Invision/AP
    Word around the Oscars' campfire is that Oscar Isaac's performance in "A Most Violent Year" is reminiscent of Al Pacino in the 1970s. Based on that speculation alone -- Pacino grabbed four Oscar nominations during that decade -- Isaac deserves mention as a serious contender. But when there 20 performances worthy of Best Actor, he may still wind up without a nomination. -- Christopher Rosen
  • 17 Bill Murray, "St. Vincent"
    <a href="http://bigstory.ap.org/article/79802c81e6724962a81b212b34a4c37a/zen-bill-qa-bill-murray" target="_hplink">We'll let
    Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
    We'll let Bill Murray explain his feelings on awards season and just get out of the way: "[T]hat running after prizes stuff, I was involved in that once before. It's like a low-grade virus. It's an infection when you really campaign for it. But it's fun to win the prize because you get the chance to get up on stage and be funny." -- CR
  • 16 Matthew McConaughey, "Interstellar"
    The reigning Best Actor winner is back for one of fall's biggest, most mysterious titles. "Interstellar" has only <a href="ht
    Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP
    The reigning Best Actor winner is back for one of fall's biggest, most mysterious titles. "Interstellar" has only just begun screening, and despite a lengthy Entertainment Weekly cover story, we still don’t know a ton about Christopher Nolan's epic of space and time. That's the problem for Matthew McConaughey at the moment: It's safe to assume he gave rawer, more awards-friendly turns in "Dallas Buyers Club" and "True Detective," but what if "Interstellar" represents his peak? We'll find out soon enough. -- MJ
  • 15 Joaquin Phoenix, "Inherent Vice"
    Because stoners are usually the first thing that comes to mind when Oscar voters are mentioned, here's Joaquin Phoenix as the
    Charles Sykes/Invision/AP
    Because stoners are usually the first thing that comes to mind when Oscar voters are mentioned, here's Joaquin Phoenix as the ultimate stoner detective in "Inherent Vice." As is customary for Phoenix, his performance is wonderful in Paul Thomas Anderson's new film, but the subject matter, confusing plot and often-inaudible dialogue might be a bridge too far for Academy members. (Phoenix is a mumbler in this one.) There's always the Golden Globes. -- CR
  • 14 Miles Teller, "Whiplash"
    Miles Teller is incredible in "Whiplash," but he's a poor man's Jack O'Connell in this year's Oscar race (who, himself, is a
    Grant Pollard/Invision/AP
    Miles Teller is incredible in "Whiplash," but he's a poor man's Jack O'Connell in this year's Oscar race (who, himself, is a poor man's Eddie Redmayne). There's always the Independent Spirit Awards. -- CR
  • 13 Ralph Fiennes, "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
    If voters revisit their scrapbooks from the first half of 2014, they’ll remember that Ralph Fiennes gave one of the few stand
    National Pictures/Invision/AP
    If voters revisit their scrapbooks from the first half of 2014, they’ll remember that Ralph Fiennes gave one of the few standout performances that side of August. Some call "The Grand Budapest Hotel" Wes Anderson's finest achievement yet, but others position it inferiorly to "Moonrise Kingdom" and "The Royal Tenenbaums" -- two movies that collected screenplay nods but failed to factor into any acting contests. "Hotel" has earned its clout as the highest-grossing indie movie of the year, but Fiennes may have to settle for a Golden Globe nod instead. -- MJ
  • 12 Chadwick Boseman, "Get On Up"
    Seven of the 10 most recent Best Actor winners starred in biographical or historical dramas, which is good news for Chadwick
    Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
    Seven of the 10 most recent Best Actor winners starred in biographical or historical dramas, which is good news for Chadwick Boseman; his portrayal of James Brown was just as transformative as Daniel Day-Lewis in "Lincoln" and Jamie Foxx in "Ray." "Get On Up" wasn't a perfect movie, but it is an effective biopic from Tate Taylor ("The Help") that screened well with the Academy when it opened in August. Boseman is contending with a slew of loftier A-listers, and his movie's August opening could help (as we saw with "The Help") or hurt (as we saw with "Lee Daniels' The Butler") this burgeoning movie star. We'll be sitting here hoping for the former. -- MJ
  • 11 Jake Gyllenhaal, "Nightcrawler"
    Jake Gyllenhaal is going to get his Best Actor nomination one of these years, and we'll all say it was a make-up nod for "Nig
    Arthur Mola/Invision/AP
    Jake Gyllenhaal is going to get his Best Actor nomination one of these years, and we'll all say it was a make-up nod for "Nightcrawler." Gyllenhaal excels in Dan Gilroy's creepy nightmare tour through Los Angeles' overnight hours, with a fierce intensity that rivals some coyotes. It's the kind of actor-y stuff that should get nominated without pause. Too bad Gyllenhaal tossed out a career high in 2014. -- CR
  • 10 Channing Tatum, "Foxcatcher"
    Steve Carell's "Foxcatcher" performance seems like more of a goldmine for the Academy's actors branch, partly because it's mo
    Charles Sykes/Invision/AP
    Steve Carell's "Foxcatcher" performance seems like more of a goldmine for the Academy's actors branch, partly because it's more transformative and partly because Channing Tatum is still developing his Serious Actor bona fides. Pitting two stars from the same film against each other in the same category won't help either: The last movie to share two Best Actor nominees was 1984’s "Amadeus." Still, Tatum could have the right star power to become one of this year's surprise nominees, especially if "Foxcatcher" becomes a box-office heavyweight when it opens next month. -- MJ
  • 9 Jack O'Connell, "Unbroken"
    Newcomer Jack O'Connell is poised for big things in the future (<a href="http://hardinthecity.com/2014/09/18/starred-up-for-w
    Dan Steinberg/Invision/AP
    Newcomer Jack O'Connell is poised for big things in the future (he's already being compared to Tom Hardy by some), but he's not lacking in present-day buzz: As Louis Zamperini, Olympic hero-turned-World War II prisoner of war, O'Connell has one of the year's juiciest roles in one of the year's most high-profile awards films, Angelina Jolie's "Unbroken." Unfortunately, the pesky youngster slot that O'Connell could easily occupy may already belong to Eddie Redmayne. -- CR
  • 8 Timothy Spall, "Mr. Turner"
    Timothy Spall was a champion of this year's Cannes Film Festival, taking home the Best Actor prize for playing 19th-century E
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Timothy Spall was a champion of this year's Cannes Film Festival, taking home the Best Actor prize for playing 19th-century English painter J.M.W. Turner in his sixth collaboration with director Mike Leigh. Oscar buzz lit up, but Spall ("Secrets & Lies," "Harry Potter") is likely to play second fiddle to the less stuffy period pieces the other Best Actor contenders represent. Spall does have an unappreciated-actor narrative to work with, but it'll take a boost from critics' groups and guild awards to push him back into the race's top tier. Don't count him out yet. -- MJ
  • 7 Ben Affleck, "Gone Girl"
    Ben Affleck playing Nick Dunne -- the charming, handsome, smug, media-persecuted bro at the center of "Gone Girl" -- was one
    Jim Spellman via Getty Images
    Ben Affleck playing Nick Dunne -- the charming, handsome, smug, media-persecuted bro at the center of "Gone Girl" -- was one of the best casting decisions to come out of Hollywood in years. Watching Nick get outsmarted at every turn -- by both his duplicitous wife (fellow Oscar contender Rosamund Pike) and his own towering ego -- is black comedy at its best, and director David Fincher never tires of putting Affleck through the wringer. In a quieter year, Affleck would be a shoo-in for a nomination. This year, he'll probably just have to settle for giving the performance of his career. -- CR
  • 6 David Oyelowo, "Selma"
    "Selma" skipped the festival circuit, so we still don’t know much about what to expect from December's Martin Luther King bio
    Annie I. Bang/Invision/AP
    "Selma" skipped the festival circuit, so we still don’t know much about what to expect from December's Martin Luther King biopic. But director Ava DuVernay (2012’s acclaimed "Middle of Nowhere") screened five minutes of footage in September, and most of the reactions seemed to zero in on glimpses of a remarkable performance from Oyelowo, who previously appeared in Oscar-friendly fare like "Lincoln" and "Lee Daniels' The Butler." It looks like he and Bradley Cooper will battle for the fifth spot in this category. -- MJ
  • 5 Bradley Cooper, "American Sniper"
    All we know about Clint Eastwood's "American Sniper" at the moment is from its heart-stopping trailer. So take this with a gr
    Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP
    All we know about Clint Eastwood's "American Sniper" at the moment is from its heart-stopping trailer. So take this with a grain of salt, but what if Bradley Cooper becomes one of the favorites for Best Actor? His forthcoming candidacy is full of enticing narratives: Cooper underwent an impressive physical transformation to play Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, and he's been on the cusp of Oscar glory for two years running, following nods for "Silver Linings Playbook" and "American Hustle." As long as "American Sniper" is as good as its initial marketing plan, Cooper has the makings of a real player. -- CR
  • 4 Steve Carell, "Foxcatcher"
    Nicole Kidman ("The Hours") and Robert De Niro ("Raging Bull") took home trophies for donning prosthetic noses while playing
    Fred Duval via Getty Images
    Nicole Kidman ("The Hours") and Robert De Niro ("Raging Bull") took home trophies for donning prosthetic noses while playing historical figures. Steve Carell is facing tough competition, but he could very well snag the gold, too. Playing unstable multimillionaire John du Pont in his most dramatic turn yet, Carell also has the advantage of starring in a Bennett Miller movie, which proved lucrative for Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill ("Moneyball") as well as Philip Seymour Hoffman and Catherine Keener ("Capote"). All four were nominated, and Hoffman won. -- MJ
  • 3 Benedict Cumberbatch, "The Imitation Game"
    Foretold by Tumblr, Benedict Cumberbatch's first Oscar nomination is upon us. As Alan Turing, the tortured genius behind the
    Joel Ryan/Invision/AP
    Foretold by Tumblr, Benedict Cumberbatch's first Oscar nomination is upon us. As Alan Turing, the tortured genius behind the Enigma code-breaking machine who was later prosecuted for being gay, Cumberbatch is maddening and tragic in "The Imitation Game," often within a single scene. It's work that feels like a culmination for Cumberbatch, a mixture of his obsessive Sherlock Holmes on "Sherlock" and his sad loner character in "August: Osage County." Just watching Cumberbatch think in "The Imitation Game" is as exhilarating as any of the year's more showy acting feats of strength. The guess here is that Academy members will agree. -- CR
  • 2 Eddie Redmayne, "The Theory of Everything"
    The only thing preventing Eddie Redmayne from being a runaway Oscar winner for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in "The Theor
    Frazer Harrison via Getty Images
    The only thing preventing Eddie Redmayne from being a runaway Oscar winner for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in "The Theory of Everything" might be his age. Redmayne, who turns 33 in January, would be the eighth youngest Best Actor winner in history (and youngest since Adrien Brody, the youngest winner ever, who won at the 2003 ceremony for "The Pianist"). Not that he can't overcome those historical odds: Redmayne's degree of difficulty is high -- he barely moves more than an eyebrow during the film's later stages -- and the end result is completely remarkable. This performance is as Oscar worthy as they come. -- CR
  • 1 Michael Keaton, "Birdman"
    Michael Keaton has never been nominated, and he hasn't appeared in a movie that's even touched Oscars' radar since "Jackie Br
    Stefania D'Alessandro via Getty Images
    Michael Keaton has never been nominated, and he hasn't appeared in a movie that's even touched Oscars' radar since "Jackie Brown" in 1997. It all makes for a superb comeback narrative, which works in tandem with the washed-up former superhero star he plays with exceptional skill in Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu's "Birdman." Pages from the renaissance playbook were used to great effect for Matthew McConaughey last year, so if "Birdman" distributor Fox Searchlight needs any pointers on how to make Keaton's campaign soar, they know where to look. -- MJ
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