Oscars Predictions: Best Production Design – Can ‘Tenet’ Hold On Through Voting?

Variety's Awards Circuit is home to the official predictions for the upcoming Oscars from Film Awards Editor Clayton Davis. Following Academy Awards history, buzz, news, reviews and sources, the Oscar predictions are updated regularly with the current year's contenders in all categories. Variety's Awards Circuit Prediction schedule consists of four phases, running all year long: Draft, Pre-Season, Regular Season and Post Season. Eligibility calendar and dates of awards will determine how long each phase lasts and will be displayed next to revision date.

To see all the latest predictions, of all the categories, in one place, visit THE COLLECTIVE



UPDATED: Mar. 4, 2021

AWARDS PREDICTION COMMENTARY: The Art Directors Guild gave momentum to “Mulan,” “Promising Young Woman” and “The Trial of the Chicago 7” in the production design race. The usual suspects such as “Mank, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and “Tenet” were among the nominees as well. Some interesting inclusions were “Birds of Prey,” “Pinocchio” and “Wonder Woman 1984” in Fantasy Feature, which interestingly didn’t have “Mulan,” which went into Period Feature. Missing out were Oscar contenders “Emma,” “The Personal History of David Copperfield” and “One Night in Miami.”

WATCH RECOMMENDATIONS BEFORE VOTING: Sofia Coppola (“On the Rocks”), Lee Isaac Chung (“Minari”), Kirsten Johnson (“Dick Johnson Is Dead”), Shaka King (“Judas and the Black Messiah”), Chung Mong-Hong (“A Sun”), Harry Macqueen (“Supernova”), Ekwa Msangi (“Farewell Amor”), Leigh Whannell (“The Invisible Man”)

PRECURSORS LEADER: “Mank” (Netflix) – Donald Graham Burt, Jan Pascale
Awards Circuit Winners Chart (2020-2021)
2021 Awards Season Calendar

The Trial of the Chicago 7
Courtesy of Netflix


  1. "Mank" (Netflix)
    Donald Graham Burt (production designer), Jan Pascale (set designer)

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    Burt - 1 nomination, 1 win (2008's "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button")
    Pascale - 1 nomination (2005's "Good Night, and Good Luck.")

    DIRECTOR: David Fincher
    SYNOPSIS: 1930s Hollywood is re-evaluated through the eyes of scathing social critic and alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz as he races to finish the screenplay of Citizen Kane for Orson Welles.
    STARRING: Tom Burke, Lily Collins, Joseph Cross, Charles Dance, Monika Gossman, Ferdinand Kingsley, Jamie McShane, Tuppence Middleton, Toby Leonard Moore, Gary Oldman, Tom Pelphrey, Amanda Seyfried, Sam Troughton

  2. "News of the World" (Universal Pictures)
    David Crank (production designer), Elizabeth Keenan (set designer)

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    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Paul Greengrass
    SYNOPSIS: A Civil War veteran agrees to deliver a girl, taken by the Kiowa people years ago, to her aunt and uncle, against her will. They travel hundreds of miles and face grave dangers as they search for a place that either can call home.
    STARRING: Tom Hanks, Helena Zengel, Elizabeth Marvel, Mare Winningham, Michael Angelo Covino, Ray McKinnon

  3. "Tenet" (Warner Bros.)
    Nathan Crowley (production designer), Kathy Lucas (set designer)

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    Crowley - 5 nominations (most recent for 2018's "First Man")
    Lucas - 1 nomination (2018's "First Man")

    DIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan
    SYNOPSIS: Armed with only one word, Tenet, and fighting for the survival of the entire world, a Protagonist journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real time.
    STARRING: John David Washington, Elizabeth Debicki, Robert Pattinson, Michael Caine, Kenneth Branagh

  4. "Mulan" (Disney Plus)
    Grant Major (production designer), Anne Kuljian (set designer)

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    Major - 4 nominations, 1 win (2004's "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King")

    DIRECTOR: Niki Caro
    SYNOPSIS: A young Chinese maiden disguises herself as a male warrior in order to save her father.
    STARRING: Yifei Liu, Donnie Yen, Gong Li, Tzi Ma, Jet Li, Jason Scott Lee, Yosan An, Rosalind Chao

  5. "The Trial of the Chicago 7" (Netflix)
    Shane Valentino (production designer), Andrew Baseman (set designer)

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    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Aaron Sorkin
    SYNOPSIS: The story of 7 people on trial stemming from various charges surrounding the uprising at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois.
    STARRING: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Sacha Baron Cohen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Keaton, John Carroll Lynch, Eddie Redmayne, Mark Rylance, Alex Sharp, Jeremy Strong

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Carey Mulligan stars as “Cassandra” in director Emerald Fennell’s PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN, a Focus Features release.
Credit: Courtesy of Focus Features

Courtesy of Focus Features


  1. "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" (Netflix)
    Mark Ricker (production designer), Karen O'Hara and Diana Stoughton (set designer)

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    Ricker - Never nominated
    O'Hara - 2 nominations, 1 win (2010's "Alice in Wonderland")
    Stoughton - Never nominated
    DIRECTOR: George C. Wolfe
    SYNOPSIS: Chicago, 1927. A recording session. Tensions rise between Ma Rainey, her ambitious horn player and the white management determined to control the uncontrollable "Mother of the Blues". Based on Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson's play.
    STARRING: Chadwick Boseman, Dusan Brown, Jonny Coyne, Viola Davis, Colman Domingo, Taylour Paige, Michael Potts, Jeremy Shamos, Glynn Turman

  2. "Emma." (Focus Features)
    Kave Quinn (production designer), Stella Fox (set designer)

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    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Autumn de Wilde
    SYNOPSIS: In 1800s England, a well meaning but selfish young woman meddles in the love lives of her friends.
    STARRING: Anya Taylor-Joy, Callum Turner, Mia Goth, Josh O'Connor, Johnny Flynn, Tanya Reynolds, Bill Nighy

  3. "The Midnight Sky" (Netflix)
    Jim Bissell (production designer), John Bush (set designer)

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    Bissell - 1 nomination (2005's "Good Night, and Good Luck.")
    Bush - 1 nomination (1999's "Topsy Turvy")

    DIRECTOR: George Clooney
    SYNOPSIS: This post-apocalyptic tale follows Augustine, a lonely scientist in the Arctic, as he races to stop Sully and her fellow astronauts from returning home to a mysterious global catastrophe.
    STARRING: George Clooney, Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Kyle Chandler, Demián Bichir, Tiffany Boone, Caoilinn Springall

  4. "Promising Young Woman" (Focus Features)
    Michael Perry (production designer), Rae Deslich (set designer)

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    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Emerald Fennell
    SYNOPSIS: A young woman, traumatized by a tragic event in her past, seeks out vengeance against those who cross her path.
    STARRING: Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Laverne Cox, Molly Shannon, Clancy Brown, Jennifer Coolidge, Max Greenfield, Alison Brie, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Connie Britton, Chris Lowell, Adam Brody, Sam Richardson

  5. "The Personal History of David Copperfield" (Searchlight Pictures)
    Cristina Casali (production designer), Charlotte Dirickx (set designer)

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    Casali - Never nominated
    Dirickx - 1 nomination (2014's "Mr. Turner")

    DIRECTOR: Armando Iannucci
    SYNOPSIS: A modern take on Charles Dickens's classic tale of a young orphan who is able to triumph over many obstacles.
    STARRING: Dev Patel, Hugh Laurie, Tilda Swinton, Peter Capaldi, Gwendoline Christie

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ELI GOREE stars in ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI.Photo: Patti Perret .Courtesy of Amazon Studios
Courtesy of Patti Perret/Amazon


  1. "One Night in Miami" (Amazon Studios)
    Page Buckner (production designer), Janessa Hitsman (set designer)

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    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Regina King
    SYNOPSIS: A fictional account of one incredible night in 1964, where four icons of activism, sports and music – Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown and Sam Cooke – gathered, discussing their roles in the civil rights movement and cultural upheaval of the ’60s.
    STARRING: Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, Leslie Odom, Jr., Joaquina Kalukango, Nicolette Robinson

  2. "Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey" (Netflix)
    Gavin Bocquet (production designer), Rob Cameron (set designer)

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    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: David E. Talbert
    SYNOPSIS: Set in the gloriously vibrant town of Cobbleton, the film follows legendary toymaker Jeronicus Jangle whose fanciful inventions burst with whimsy and wonder. But when his trusted apprentice steals his most prized creation, it’s up to his equally bright and inventive granddaughter — and a long-forgotten invention — to heal old wounds and reawaken the magic within.
    STARRING: Forest Whitaker, Madelen Mills, Keegan-Michael Key, Hugh Bonneville, Ricky Martin, Phylicia Rashad, Anika Noni Rose 

  3. "Ammonite" (Neon)
    Sarah Finlay (production designer), Sophie Hervieu (set designer)

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    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Francis Lee
    SYNOPSIS: 1840s England, acclaimed but overlooked fossil hunter Mary Anning and a young woman sent to convalesce by the sea develop an intense relationship, altering both of their lives forever.
    STARRING: Kate Winslet, Saoirse Ronan, Fiona Shaw, Gemma Jones, James McArdle

  4. "The Father" (Sony Pictures Classics)
    Peter Francis, (production designer), Cathy Featherstone (set designer)

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    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Florian Zeller
    SYNOPSIS: A man refuses all assistance from his daughter as he ages. As he tries to make sense of his changing circumstances, he begins to doubt his loved ones, his own mind and even the fabric of his reality.
    STARRING: Olivia Colman, Mark Gatiss, Anthony Hopkins, Imogen Poots, Rufus Sewell, Olivia Williams

  5. "The Prom" (Netflix)
    Jamie Walker McCall (production designer), Gene Serdena (set designer)

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    Walker McCall - Never nominated
    Serdena - 2 nominations (2016's "Passengers" and 2013's "Her")
    DIRECTOR: Ryan Murphy
    SYNOPSIS: A troupe of hilariously self-obsessed theater stars swarm into a small conservative Indiana town in support of a high school girl who wants to take her girlfriend to the prom.
    STARRING: Meryl Streep, Jo Ellen Pellman, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Ariana DeBose, Kerry Washington, Keegan-Michael Key, Andrew Rannells. Tracey Ullman

  6. "The United States vs. Billie Holiday" (Hulu)
    Daniel T. Dorrance (production designer), Pascale Deschênes (set designer)

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    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Lee Daniels
    SYNOPSIS: Follows Holiday during her career as she is targeted by the Federal Department of Narcotics with an undercover sting operation led by black Federal Agent Jimmy Fletcher, with whom she had a tumultuous affair.
    STARRING: Andra Day, Trevante Rhodes, Natasha Lyonne, Garrett Hedlund, Rob Morgan, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Tyler James Williams

  7. "Judas and the Black Messiah" (Warner Bros.)
    Sam Lisenco (production designer), Rebecca Brown (set designer)

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    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Shaka King
    SYNOPSIS: The story of Fred Hampton, Chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, and his fateful betrayal by FBI informant William O'Neal.
    STARRING: Lakeith Stanfield, Daniel Kaluuya, Dominique Fishback, Jesse Plemons, Martin Sheen, Dominique Thorne, Algee Smith, Lil Rel Howery, Jermaine Fowler

  8. "First Cow" (A24)
    Anthony Gasparro (production designer), Vanessa Knoll (set designer)

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    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Kelly Reichardt
    SYNOPSIS: A skilled cook has traveled west and joined a group of fur trappers in Oregon, though he only finds true connection with a Chinese immigrant also seeking his fortune. Soon the two collaborate on a successful business.
    STARRING: John Magaro, Orion Lee

  9. "Greyhound" (Apple TV Plus)
    David Crank (production designer), Leonard R. Spears (set designer)

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    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Aaron Schneider
    SYNOPSIS: Several months after the U.S. entry into World War II, an inexperienced U.S. Navy commander must lead an Allied convoy being stalked by a German submarine wolf pack.
    STARRING:Tom Hanks, Elisabeth Shue, Stephen Graham, Matt Helm, Rob Morgan, Travis Quentin

  10. "Radioactive" (Amazon Studios)
    Michael Carlin (production designer), Robert Wischhusen-Hayes (set designer)

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    Carlin - 1 nomination (2008's "The Duchess")
    Wischhusen-Hayes - Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Marjane Satrapi
    SYNOPSIS: It tells the true story of Marie Curie and her Nobel Prize-winning work that changed the world.
    STARRING: Rosamund Pike, Sam Riley, Katherine Parkinson, Sian Brooke, Aneurin Barnard, Simon Russell Beale, Anya Taylor-Joy

† = no release date scheduled / could be delayed / may not be eligible
†† = could be campaigned in lead or supporting categories / original or adapted screenplay categories


The Academy Awards, better known as the Oscars, is Hollywood’s most prestigious artistic award in the film industry. The most awarded films in Oscar history are “Ben-Hur,” “Titanic” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” at 11 statuettes. The most nominated films in Academy history are “All About Eve,” “Titanic” and “La La Land” at 14. “La La Land” is the only film of the three to have lost best picture. The biggest Oscar “losers,” meaning most nominated and walk away with zero awards, are 1977’s “The Turning Point” and 1985’s “The Color Purple” at 11 each. Cedric Gibbons has the most nominations with 39, winning 11 over his career. The late Roland Anderson has the most nominations without ever winning with 15.

Academy Awards Predictions (All Categories)

2021 Golden Globes Predictions (Film)

2021 SAG Awards Predictions (Film)

About the Academy Awards (Oscars)

The Academy Awards, better known as the Oscars, is Hollywood’s most prestigious artistic award in the film industry. Since 1927, nominees and winners are selected by members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). 17 branches are represented within the near 10,000 person membership. The branches are actors, associates, casting directors, cinematographers, costume designers, directors, documentary, executives, film editors, makeup and hairstylists, marketing and public relations, members-at-large, members-at-large (artists’ representatives), music, producers, production design, short films and feature animation, sound, visual effects and writers.

  • The Oscars are scheduled for Sunday, April 25, 2021.

About the Golden Globes

The Golden Globes Awards, hosted by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, is held annually with 93 members since 1944. The group recognizes excellence in film and television across drama and comedy or musical categories. Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land” holds the record for the most awards won by a single film with seven. Milos Forman’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and Alan Parker’s “Midnight Express” are next in line with six each. Robert Altman’s “Nashville” has the record for most nominations received by a film with 11 while Colin Higgins’ “Foul Play,” Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather Part III” and Mike Nichols’ “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” share the record for receiving the most nominations and not winning a single award at seven.

  • The Golden Globes are scheduled for Feb. 28, 2021.

About the SAG Awards

The Screen Actors Guild Awards, hosted by SAG-AFTRA, is an annual award show that has become one of the most important and key indicators for the Oscars. Four films have won the most SAG awards with three: 1999’s “American Beauty,” 2002’s “Chicago,” 2011’s “The Help” and 2017’s “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Three movies have been nominated for the most SAG awards with five: 1998’s “Shakespeare in Love,” “Chicago” and 2008’s “Doubt.”

  • The SAG Awards are scheduled to take place on Sunday, April 4, 2021

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