Every year the 7,000 or so members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences choose their favorite films, actors, directors and technical achievements from the last 12 months. And every year, movie fans try to guess what they’re thinking.
Why and how they make their choices is a secret known only to the members themselves. Artistic inclination? Politics? Favoritism? Coin flip? But every year we can follow a trail of clues leading up to Oscar night. Barring the occasional shocking upset, previous award show handouts and critics society nominations offer a fairly good indication of which direction the winds are blowing. The Golden Globes, for example—handed out every year by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association—hover somewhere in the 50 percent range for predicting Oscar’s Best Picture pick. (The Golden Globes split their Best Picture awards into Comedies and Dramas, which the Oscars don’t, making it a somewhat difficult one-to-one comparison.)
If we wanna dig deeper, it’s a wise idea to hunt up someone who has some skin in the game. Like, for example, bookmakers—who can either win or lose large sums of money based on who wins and who loses a particular contest. Wagering on the Academy Awards has only been legal in the United States since 2019 when the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement gave it the all clear. This year Indiana joins the Garden State in accepting these movie-related bets. (Previous to that, the only way to bet on the Oscars was to hook up with British oddsmakers.)
So, let’s get down to brass tacks. Who should you pick in your office’s Oscar pool? To see how the 92nd Annual Academy Awards are shaping up in the “Top Five” categories, we turn to the various critics organizations who handed out their own golden statues during Award Season and to New Jersey-based sports betting provider DraftKings (odds listed as of 1/31).
This is a tight race. The WWI drama 1917 is given 1/1.67 odds by DraftKings to take home the night’s top honors. (That is to say, for every $1.67 you bet, a win nets you $1 in profit.) The film has also taken home a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Drama. But other accolades are scarce.
The twisty Korean comedy-drama Parasite, on the other hand, only boasts 2.75/1 odds (meaning a winning bet of $1 gets you your buck back, plus $2.75). However, the film took home a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Foreign. It was also awarded Best Foreign Film by the African-American Film Critics Association, Best Picture by the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, Best Foreign Language Film by the Broadcast Film Critics Association and Best Picture from the Online Film Critics Association. Plus, it snagged the Palm d’Or at last year’s Cannes Film Fest. It should be noted that the film is up for both Best Picture and Best International Feature at the Academy Awards, which might account for its average odds. Bookies may be betting it wins Best International Feature and loses Best Picture. That’s probably a smart bet.
Following close on the heels of these frontrunners is Quentin Tarantino’s movie industry meditation Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, which took the Best Motion Picture Comedy award at the Golden Globes and got similar nods from the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the Satellite Awards. DraftKings gives it 4.5/1 odds.
Martin Scorsese’s mob drama The Irishman captured Best Picture Drama from the Internet Film Critic Society and Best Picture from the National Board of Review. DraftKings calls it 25/1.
The other films in the field with seemingly little shot at the night’s big prize include Joker at 14/1, Marriage Story at 66/1, Jojo Rabbit at 66/1, Little Women at 100/1 and Ford v Ferrari dead last at 250/1 (although the auto racing drama did capture Best Motion Picture Drama at the Satellite Awards).
Sam Mendes got a Golden Globe and a Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for his work on 1917. DraftKings thinks he’s a safe bet at 1/2.3. Bong Joon Ho follows close behind for his work on Parasite. He’s locked up accolades from the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the Online Film Critics Society Awards. His DraftKings odds are 2/1. Parasite has more accolades going in, and 1917 has better odds, making this the best category for a minor upset.
Tarantino has earned 10/1 odds, while Scorsese ends up with a 20/1 shot (not to mention Black Film Critics Circle and Internet Film Critics Society awards for Best Director). Todd Phillips brings up the rear with 33/1 odds for his behind-the-camera skills on Joker.
Joaquin Phoenix is probably Oscar night’s biggest lock for his transformative work on Joker. DraftKings gives him 1/25 odds of winning (So 25 bucks will get you a whopping one dollar payout.) He’s already won top acting honors from Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild, Broadcast Film Critics Association and Latino Entertainment Journalists Association. His acceptance speech should be … interesting.
Adam Driver, who starred in the anti-romantic drama Marriage Story, is running a distant second place. He’s racked up Best Actor awards from the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, the Online Film Critics Society and the Women Film Critics Circle. He’s holding at 9/1 odds, but could still be a dark horse winner.
Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon at Time… in Hollywood) is looking at 28/1 odds. Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory) finds himself at 33/1 odds. (Though he can console himself with his Best Actor nod from both the Cannes Film Festival and the National Society of Film Critics). Jonathan Pryce—whose Netflix film, The Two Popes, barely even made it to theaters—trails at 40/1.
Although the Judy Garland biopic Judy didn’t get a ton of box office attention, actress Renée Zellweger garnered significant praise in the title role. She earned Best Actress Awards from Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild, Broadcast Film Critics Association and the National Board of Review. DraftKings favors her with 1/20 odds.
Scarlett Johansson ended up with a Best Actress nod from the Satellite Awards and 10/1 odds of taking home an Oscar for her role in Marriage Story. Cynthia Erivo got a Best Actress accolade from the Women Film Critics Circle and 25/1 odds for the historical drama Harriet. Having taken home no formal critics awards this year, Charlize Theron (Bombshell) and Saoirse Ronan (Little Women) earn 28/1 odds and 33/1 odds, respectively.
Best Supporting Actor
Brad Pitt is more of less a lock to win his second Oscar on the night in question. (Although he has no acting trophies from the Academy, he did get an Oscar in 2014 for producing Best Picture 12 Years a Slave.) After his Best Supporting Actor wins at Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, Alliance of Women Film Journalists, Black Film Critics Circle, Broadcast Film Critics Association, Latino Entertainment Journalists Association, National Board of Review, National Society of Film Critics and Online Film Critics Society, DraftKings puts him down as a 1/25 winner.
Joe Pesci (The Irishman) follows with 10/1. Al Pacino (The Irishman) gets 20/1. Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood) earns 25/1 and Anthony Hopkins (The Two Popes) is a 33/1 longshot. With poor odds and no awards among the other candidates, Pitt might as well start clearing shelf space.
Laura Dern has been nominated three times, but has yet to win an Oscar. She’s likely to do so for her strong supporting role in Marriage Story. She’s already taken home Best Actress at the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild, the Broadcast Film Critics Association and National Society of Film Critics. She also heads into Oscar night with 1/25 odds of winning from DraftKings.
Margot Robbie (Bombshell) sits at 10/1 and Florence Pugh (Little Women) is 12/1 (with a Best Supporting Actress nod from the Alliance of Women Film Journalists under her belt). Scarlett Johansson, already up for a Best Actress Oscar for Marriage Story, earns the rare double nod as Best Supporting Actress in Jojo Rabbit. Her odds of winning here: 25/1. Kathy Bates (who did get a Best Supporting Actress award from the National Board of Review for her role in Richard Jewell) is at the back of the pack with 50/1 odds. Hopefully she’s at least got a comfortable seat.