The Film

Nomadland is an American drama film written, produced, edited and directed by Chloé Zhao.

Based on the 2017 nonfiction book 'Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century' by Jessica Bruder, it stars Frances McDormand as a widow who leaves her hometown to travel around the United States in her van as a nomad. David Strathairn also stars in a supporting role.

A number of real-life nomads appear as fictionalized versions of themselves, including Linda May, Swankie and Bob Wells.


Frances McDormand and Peter Spears optioned the film rights to the book in 2017. After seeing Chloé Zhao's film The Rider at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival, McDormand decided to approach her about the project. She and Spears met with Zhao at the 33rd Independent Spirit Awards in March 2018, and Zhao agreed to write and direct the film.

Filming for Nomadland took place over four months in autumn 2018, with writer-director Zhao splitting time between the set and pre-production for Eternals (2021).

McDormand, Zhao, and other crew members lived out of vans over the course of production. David Strathairn, and real-life nomads Linda May, Swankie, and Bob Wells, also star. Many other real-life nomads appear throughout the film. McDormand, Spears, Mollye Asher, Dan Janvey, and Zhao produced the film.


Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports that 93% of critic reviews were positive. The website's critics consensus reads, "A poetic character study on the forgotten and downtrodden, Nomadland beautifully captures the restlessness left in the wake of the Great Recession." According to Metacritic, which assigned it a weighted average score of 93 out of 100, the film received "universal acclaim".

Writing for The Hollywood Reporter, David Rooney called the film a "powerful character study", and added, "Like Zhao's earlier work, Nomadland is an unassuming film, its aptly meandering, unhurried non-narrative layering impressions rather than building a story with the standard markers. But the cumulative effect of its many quiet, seemingly inconsequential encounters and moments of solitary contemplation is a unique portrait of outsider existence."

Adrian Horton of The Guardian gave the film a very positive review, stating, "Nomadland has garnered industry praise as a likely frontrunner for the best picture Oscar ... The word of mouth is warranted." A.O. Scott of The New York Times similarly gave a positive review, writing "It's like discovering a new country, one you may want to visit more than once." Eric Kohn of IndieWire said, "director Chloé Zhao works magic with McDormand's face and the real world around it, delivering a profound rumination on the impulse to leave society in the dust." IndieWire's poll of 231 critics included Nomadland in its Best Movies of 2021.


Nomadland won the Golden Lion upon premiering at the Venice Film Festival, and also won the People's Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival.

At the 93rd Academy Awards, Nomadland won Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress for McDormand, from a total of six nominations. Zhao became the first Asian woman, the first woman of color and the second woman ever to win Best Director. McDormand became the first woman and fourth person to win Academy Awards for both acting and producing, and the first person ever to win Academy Awards as producer and performer for the same film. It is also the first Searchlight release to win Best Picture since The Walt Disney Company acquired the assets of 21st Century Fox.

Nomadland won four awards, including Best Film, at the 74th British Academy Film Awards, and four awards including Best Film at the 36th Independent Spirit Awards.

The film received four nominations at the 78th Golden Globe Awards, winning Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Director; in winning the latter award, Zhao became the second woman and the first East Asian woman to do so. Nomadland received five nominations at the 36th Independent Spirit Awards and six nominations at the 26th Critics’ Choice Awards, winning four awards including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. At the 27th Screen Actors Guild Awards, McDormand received a nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role.



Frances McDormand as Fern
David Strathairn as Dave
Linda May as Linda
Charlene Swankie as Swankie
Bob Wells as Bob Wells
Peter Spears as Peter
Derek Endres as Derek
Tay Strathairn as James
Gay DeForest as Gay
Patricia Grier as Patty
Angela Reyes as Angela
Carl R. Hughes as Carl
Douglas G. Soul as Doug
Ryan Aquino as Ryan
Teresa Buchanan as Teresa
Karie Lynn McDermott Wilder as Karie
Brandy Wilder as Brandy
Makenzie Etcheverry as Makenzie
Annette Webb as Annette
Rachel Bannon as Rachel
Bryce Bedsworth as Bryce
Sherita Deni Coker as Deni
Merle Redwing as Merle
Forrest Bault as Forrest
Suanne Carlson as Suanne
Donnie Miller as Donnie
Roxanne Bay as Roxy
Matt Sfaelos as Noodle
Ronald O. Zimmerman as Ron
Paige Dean as Paige
Paul Winer as Paul
Derrick Janis as Victor
Greg Barber as Greg
Carol Anne Hodge as Carol
Matthew Stinson as Nurse Matt
Terry Phillip as Terry
Bradford Lee Riza as Brad
Cat Clifford as Cat
James R. Taylor Jr. as James
Jeremy Greenman as Jeremy
Ken Greenman as Ken
Melissa Smith as Dolly
Warren Keith as George
Jeff Andrews as Jeff
Paul Cunningham as Paul
Emily Jade Foley as Emily
Mike Sells as Mike
Cheryl Davis as Cheri