1. Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
Fifth nomination (1 win).
After snagging the Globe, SAG, BFCA, and the BAFTA against stiff competition, she's certainly the one to beat. A victory here will give her a bookend Oscar to go with the one she won in this category for 1996's Fargo.
2. Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird)
Though she isn't the youngest to a third nomination (hey, JLaw!), it's certainly quite the feat that she's nearing overdue status at the age of 23. Lady Bird is very well liked, and she won the Golden Globe (Comedy), but Oscar voters might be swayed by flashier work this year.
3. Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water)
As an endearing and empathetic mute woman in Guillermo del Toro's fantasy fairy-tale, Hawkins brings her A game and netted a second Oscar nom to go with her Supporting Actress nomination for Blue Jasmine in 2013.
4. Margot Robbie (I, Tonya)
The film peaked at the right moment + she plays a real-life figure + she's a gorgeous ingenue who hadn't yet been welcomed to "the club" = a sure bet Oscar nomination. Though she won't be able to translate that winning combination to an Oscar this time around with the competition being what it is.
5. Meryl Streep (The Post)
Twenty-first nomination (3 wins).
For a brief moment earlier in the season it looked like Streep might be headed to a fourth Oscar win, but then the buzz faded and the film under-performed with awards groups and she ended up lucky just to secure a (record-extending) 21st acting nomination.