The eclectic British director of Irish Catholic descent receives his first Academy Award nomination in the directing category for his sleeper indie hit about a poverty-stricken teenager in Mumbai who goes on a game show. Boyle, 52, won the Golden Globe, British Independent Film and Critics' Choice awards for best director for "Slumdog" and is also nominated for awards from the Directors Guild of America and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.
The British director, 47, who works in theater and film, garners his third nomination as best director for the erotically charged drama about the illicit romance between a German teenager and a former Nazi prison guard. Daldry was nominated for an Academy Award for best director for 2000's "Billy Elliot" and 2002's "The Hours." He was a Golden Globe nominee for "The Reader" and is in contention for a BAFTA award.
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Fincher, who has built a reputation for darkly stylish sci-fi films and thrillers such as "Fight Club," "Se7en" and "Zodiac," earns his first directing Oscar nomination for "Button," adapted from a 1921 F. Scott Fitzgerald short story. The 46-year-old filmmaker, who began his career 25 years ago directing Rick Springfield music videos, was named best director by the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, received Golden Globe and Critics' Choice Award nominations and is in contention for the DGA and BAFTA awards.
The former child star of "The Andy Griffith Show" and Oscar best-film nominees "The Music Man" and "American Graffiti" gets his second Academy Award nomination in this category for the historical drama about David Frost's interviews with former President Richard Nixon. Howard, 54, received the directing Oscar for 2001's "A Beautiful Mind," which also won best picture. Howard was nominated for a Golden Globe and Critics' Choice Award for "Frost/Nixon" and is vying for the DGA Award, as well as a BAFTA.
GUS VAN SANT
The cutting-edge indie filmmaker, 56, receives his second directing Oscar nomination for his poignant biographical drama about San Francisco's slain gay rights activist Harvey Milk. He was previously a best director nominee for his mainstream breakthrough, 1997's "Good Will Hunting." Though mostly overlooked this award season for his direction of "Milk," he was named best director by the Boston Society of Film Critics and is nominated for a DGA award.
The son of actor James Brolin receives his first Oscar nomination for his role as conservative San Francisco Supervisor Dan White, who assassinated gay Supervisor Harvey Milk and the city's mayor, George Moscone, in 1978. Though passed over for a Golden Globe nod, Brolin, 40, was named best supporting actor by the New York Film Critics Circle and National Board of Review of Motion Pictures and is a Screen Actors Guild contender.
ROBERT DOWNEY JR.
The 43-year-old earns an Oscar nomination for his comedic turn as an Australian thespian who takes Method acting a bit too far. He was nominated for an Academy Award for lead actor for 1992's "Chaplin." Downey received a Golden Globe nom for "Thunder" and is in contention for the SAG and BAFTA awards.
PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN
The Oscars have become a habit for the 41-year-old Hoffman. After winning the best actor award for "Capote" (2005), he was nominated for supporting actor for 2007's "Charlie Wilson's War" and now picks up his second supporting nod as a priest suspected of abuse. Nominated for Golden Globe and Critics' Choice awards, Hoffman is also up for SAG and BAFTA awards.
"The Dark Knight"
A year to the day since his death at 28, the Aussie actor earns a nomination for his no-holds-barred turn as Batman's nemesis the Joker. Ledger has won several awards for "Knight," including Los Angeles Film Critics Assn., Critics' Choice and Golden Globe plaudits. He is up for SAG and BAFTA honors. Ledger got a lead actor Oscar nom for 2005's "Brokeback Mountain."
The Chicago theater actor, 34, is nominated for his terrifyingly honest portrayal of a mathematician who suffered a breakdown. Shannon, who has worked with Chicago's Steppenwolf Theater as well as performed on the London stage, has portrayed complex, often dangerous characters in the films "Bug," "Shotgun Stories" and "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead."
Adams, 34, receives her second nomination in this category, this time for her role as a young nun who doesn't believe her superior's assertion that a priest has abused an altar boy. Adams earned a supporting actress nod for her comedic turn in 2005's "Junebug." The former Hooters waitress was nominated for a Golden Globe and is up for the SAG and BAFTA awards.
"Vicky Cristina Barcelona"