Oscars 2018 Category Breakdown: Best Picture
So what we do here each year as a warm up for the Oscars is, I break down each of the 24 categories. The idea is to both familiarize everyone with the category and its history. I look at what the major trends are throughout the past bunch of years, how the precursors tend to go, whether they matter or not, that sort of stuff. I look at how the category came to be this year, and just anything else that seems totally pertinent about it. Then I rank each of the nominees and tell you what their likelihood (at this particular moment in time) of winning is.
This is all prelude to my giant Oscar ballot that I’m gonna give you. But I figure, if you have these as the warmup, it’s not as intimidating. You’ll have seen a lot of the pertinent trends here and we’ll all be able to reference these as a sort of cheat sheet. Plus it shows you where my head is at for how I think each of the categories are gonna go, and you can see me working my way up to all the bad decisions I usually make while guessing. Pretty much, with this, you’ll have a pretty good idea of how the category is gonna turn out.
And we finish with Best Picture, as we usually do. A much more interesting race than the last couple have been, that’s for sure.
|Year||Best Picture Winner||Other Nominees|
|1928-1929||The Broadway Melody||Alibi
The Hollywood Revue of 1929
In Old Arizona
|1929-1930||All Quiet on the Western Front||The Big House
The Love Parade
The Front Page
Five Star Final
One Hour with You
The Smiling Lieutenant
|1932-1933||Cavalcade||A Farewell to Arms
I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang
Lady for a Day
The Private Life of Henry VIII
She Done Him Wrong
|1934||It Happened One Night||The Barretts of Wimpole Street
The Gay Divorcee
Here Comes the Navy
The House of Rothschild
Imitation of Life
One Night of Love
The Thin Man
The White Parade
|1935||Mutiny on the Bounty||Alice Adams
Broadway Melody of 1936
The Lives of a Bengal Lancer
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Ruggles of Red Gap
|1936||The Great Ziegfeld||Anthony Adverse
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
Romeo and Juliet
The Story of Louis Pasteur
A Tale of Two Cities
Three Smart Girls
|1937||The Life of Emile Zola||The Awful Truth
The Good Earth
In Old Chicago
One Hundred Men and a Girl
A Star is Born
|1938||You Can’t Take It with You||The Adventures of Robin Hood
Alexander’s Ragtime Band
|1939||Gone With the Wind||Dark Victory
Goodbye Mr. Chips
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Of Mice and Men
The Wizard of Oz
|1940||Rebecca||All This, and Heaven Too
The Grapes of Wrath
The Great Dictator
The Long Voyage Home
The Philadelphia Story
|1941||How Green Was My Valley||Blossoms in the Dust
Here Comes Mr. Jordan
Hold Back the Dawn
The Little Foxes
The Maltese Falcon
One Foot in Heaven
|1942||Mrs. Miniver||49th Parallel
The Magnificent Ambersons
The Pied Piper
The Pride of the Yankees
The Talk of the Town
Yankee Doodle Dandy
|1943||Casablanca||For Whom the Bell Tolls
Heaven Can Wait
The Human Comedy
In Which We Serve
The More the Merrier
The Ox-Bow Incident
The Song of Bernadette
Watch on the Rhine
|1944||Going My Way||Double Indemnity
Since You Went Away
|1945||The Lost Weekend||Anchors Aweigh
The Bells of St. Mary’s
|1946||The Best Years of Our Lives||Henry V It’s a Wonderful Life
The Razor’s Edge
|1947||Gentleman’s Agreement||The Bishop’s Wife
Miracle on 34th Street
The Red Shoe
The Snake Pit
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
|1949||All the King’s Men||Battleground
A Letter to Three Wives
Twelve O’Clock High
|1950||All About Eve||Born Yesterday
Father of the Bride
King Solomon’s Mines
|1951||An American in Paris||Decision Before Dawn
A Place in the Sun
A Streetcar Named Desire
|1952||The Greatest Show on Earth||High Noon
The Quiet Man
|1953||From Here to Eternity||Julius Caesar
|1954||On the Waterfront||The Caine Mutiny
The Country Girl
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Three Coins in the Fountain
|1955||Marty||Love is a Many-Splendored Thing
The Rose Tattoo
|1956||Around the World in 80 Days||Friendly Persuasion
The King and I
The Ten Commandments
|1957||The Bridge on the River Kwai||Peyton Place
12 Angry Men
Witness for Prosecution
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
The Defiant Ones
|1959||Ben-Hur||Anatomy of a Murder
The Diary of Anne Frank
The Nun’s Story
Room at the Top
|1960||The Apartment||The Alamo
Sons and Lovers
|1961||West Side Story||Fanny
The Guns of Navarone
Judgment at Nuremberg
|1962||Lawrence of Arabia||The Longest Day
The Music Man
Mutiny on the Bounty
To Kill a Mockingbird
|1963||Tom Jones||America America
How the West Was Won
Lilies of the Field
|1964||My Fair Lady||Becket
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Zorba the Greek
|1965||The Sound of Music||Darling
Ship of Fools
A Thousand Clowns
|1966||A Man for All Seasons||Alfie
The Russians are Coming the Russians are Coming
The Sand Pebbles
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
|1967||In the Heat of the Night||Bonnie and Clyde
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
The Lion in Winter
lRomeo and Juliet
|1969||Midnight Cowboy||Anne of the Thousand Days
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Five Easy Pieces
|1971||The French Connection||A Clockwork Orange
Fiddler on the Roof
The Last Picture Show
Nicholas and Alexandra
|1973||The Sting||American Graffiti
Cries and Whispers
A Touch of Class
|1974||The Godfather Part II||Chinatown
The Towering Inferno
|1975||One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest||Barry Lyndon
Dog Day Afternoon
|1976||Rocky||All the President’s Men
Bound for Glory
|1977||Annie Hall||The Goodbye Girl
The Turning Point
|1978||The Deer Hunter||Coming Home
Heaven Can Wait
An Unmarried Woman
|1979||Kramer vs. Kramer||All That Jazz
|1980||Ordinary People||Coal Miner’s Daughter
The Elephant Man
|1981||Chariots of Fire||Atlantic City
On Golden Pond
Raiders of the Lost Ark
|1982||Gandhi||E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
|1983||Terms of Endearment||The Big Chill
The Right Stuff
|1984||Amadeus||The Killing Fields
A Passage to India
Places in the Heart
A Soldier’s Story
|1985||Out of Africa||The Color Purple
Kiss of the Spider Woman
|1986||Platoon||Children of a Lesser God
Hannah and Her Sisters
A Room with a View
|1987||The Last Emperor||Broadcast News
Hope and Glory
|1988||Rain Man||The Accidental Tourist
|1989||Driving Miss Daisy||Born on the Fourth of July
Dead Poets Society
Field of Dreams
My Left Foot
|1990||Dances with Wolves||Awakenings
The Godfather Part III
|1991||The Silence of the Lambs||Beauty and the Beast
The Prince of Tides
|1992||Unforgiven||The Crying Game
A Few Good Men
Scent of a Woman
|1993||Schindler’s List||The Fugitive
In the Name of the Father
The Remains of the Day
|1994||Forrest Gump||Four Weddings and a Funeral
The Shawshank Redemption
Sense and Sensibility
|1996||The English Patient||Fargo
Secrets & Lies
|1997||Titanic||As Good as It Gets
The Full Monty
Good Will Hunting
|1998||Shakespeare in Love||Elizabeth
Life is Beautiful
Saving Private Ryan
The Thin Red Line
|1999||American Beauty||The Cider House Rules
The Green Mile
The Sixth Sense
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
|2001||A Beautiful Mind||Gosford Park
In the Bedroom
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
|2002||Chicago||Gangs of New York
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
|2003||The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King||Lost in Translation
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
|2004||Million Dollar Baby||The Aviator
Good Night and Good Luck
Letters from Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
|2007||No Country for Old Men||Atonement
There Will Be Blood
|2008||Slumdog Millionaire||The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
|2009||The Hurt Locker||Avatar
The Blind Side
Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire
A Serious Man
Up in the Air
|2010||The King’s Speech||Black Swan
The Kids Are All Right
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
|2011||The Artist||The Descendants
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Midnight in Paris
The Tree of Life
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty
|2013||12 Years a Slave||American Hustle
Dallas Buyers Club
The Wolf of Wall Street
|2014||Birdman or: (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)||American Sniper
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything
|2015||Spotlight||The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
|2017||The Shape of Water||Call Me By Your Name
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
This is the category that we generally have the most information about going into Oscar night, so it’s really just about looking at the precursors and where the winds are blowing.
The main precursor, of course, is the PGA. They used to be almost a sure-thing, but the past couple of years… not so much.
The PGA has given out awards since 1989, and their winner went on to win Best Picture all but nine times.:
- 1992, The Crying Game wins the PGA, Unforgiven wins the Oscar.
- 1995, Apollo 13 wins the PGA, Braveheart wins the Oscar.
- 1998, Saving Private Ryan wins the PGA, Shakespeare in Love wins the Oscar.
- 2001, Moulin Rouge! wins the PGA, A Beautiful Mind wins the Oscar.
- 2004, The Aviator wins the PGA, Million Dollar Baby wins the Oscar.
- 2005, Brokeback Mountain wins the PGA, Crash wins the Oscar.
- 2006, Little Miss Sunshine wins the PGA, The Departed wins the Oscar.
- 2015, The Big Short wins the PGA, Spotlight wins the Oscar.
- 2016, La La Land wins the PGA, Moonlight wins the Oscar.
(2013 was a tie, where both Gravity and 12 Years a Slave won the PGA, and 12 Years a Slave won Best Picture. Technically they were both right and wrong at the same time, but I’m marking that as being correct.)
If the PGA gets it wrong this year, that would bring their tally down to 20/30, meaning they’re only right 2/3 of the time. And they’ll have missed three of the past four years.
We’ll go now to BFCA, which I feel has been more helpful in picking up the PGA’s slack than BAFTA has been.
Overall, they’ve given out awards since 1995, and they are 14/23, which is worse overall than the PGA. Looking specifically at the nine times the PGA has missed, though:
- They did not give out awards in 1992.
- 1995: BFCA had Sense and Sensibility
- 1998: BFCA had Saving Private Ryan
- 2001: BFCA had A Beautiful Mind
- 2004: BFCA had Sideways
- 2005: BFCA had Brokeback Mountain
- 2006: BFCA had The Departed
- 2015: BFCA had Spotlight
- 2016: BFCA had La La Land
They picked up three of them, 2001, 2006 and 2015. So that’s something. Maybe.
BAFTA, meanwhile, tends to march to the beat of their own drum regardless. Going back to 1989, they are 12/29. Only 41%. Like I said, they do what they want. In the nine years specifically with the PGA misses:
- 1992: BAFTA had Howards End
- 1995: BAFTA had Sense and Sensibility
- 1998: BAFTA had Shakespeare in Love
- 2001: BAFTA had The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
- 2004: BAFTA had The Aviator
- 2005: BAFTA had Brokeback Mountain
- 2006: BAFTA had The Queen
- 2015: BAFTA had The Revenant
- 2016: BAFTA had La La Land
They picked up just one winner, and it was Shakespeare in Love, the quintessential BAFTA movie.
Also, since they are similar awards, we have SAG Ensemble and the Globes to look at as well. I don’t care how SAG Ensemble does historically, so I’ll just look at it versus the the nine PGA misses:
- They did not hand out awards in 1992.
- 1995: SAG had Apollo 13
- 1998: SAG had Shakespeare in Love
- 2001: SAG had Gosford Park
- 2004: SAG had Sideways
- 2005: SAG had Crash
- 2006: SAG had Little Miss Sunshine
- 2015: SAG had Spotlight
- 2016: SAG had Hidden Figures
So that’s three of them.
And the Globes… they have two Best Picture categories, making it easier for them to get Best Picture right. Since 1989, they are 17/29. Not quite PGA, but not bad. Still about 60% though.
In the nine PGA misses specifically:
- 1992: Scent of a Woman won Drama over Unforgiven
- 1995: Sense and Sensibility won Drama over Braveheart
- 1998: Saving Private Ryan won Drama (Shakespeare in Love won Comedy/Musical)
- 2001: A Beautiful Mind won Drama.
- 2004: The Aviator won Drama over Million Dollar Baby
- 2005: Brokeback Mountain won Drama. Crash wasn’t even nominated.
- 2006: Babel won Drama over The Departed
- 2015: The Revenant won for Drama over Spotlight
- 2016: Moonlight won Drama (La La Land won for Comedy/Musical)
So only once did they straight up pick the right winner. Every other year they had the same two winners as everyone else, basically.
Really what it means is the PGA gives you a frontrunner and you have to gauge it among all the other info you have.
One more thing, because I enjoy it. That percentages, numbers thing.
Here are which positions won Best Picture:
#1 — 23 times
#2 — 13 times
#3 — 15 times
#4 — 15 times
#5 — 15 times
#6 — 1 time
#7 — Never
#8 — 4 times
#9 — 2 times
#10 — 2 times
The #6 was The Life of Emile Zola in 1937. The #8s were It Happened One Night, 12 Years a Slave, Spotlight and The Shape of Water. The #9s were Mutiny on the Bounty and Moonlight. The #10s were You Can’t Take It With You and Rebecca.
- The last #1 to win was The Artist.
- The last #2 to win was Birdman.
- The last #3 to win was Crash.
- The last #4 to win was No Country for Old Men.
- The last #5 to win was The King’s Speech.
- The last #6 to win was The Life of Emile Zola.
- #7 has never won.
- The last #8 to win was The Shape of Water
- The last #9 to win was Moonlight
- The last #10 to win was Spotlight.
Obviously it skews more toward 1-5, because we had only five nominees for 65 years.
- #1 — Black Panther
- #3 — (tie) Bohemian Rhapsody
- #4 — (tie) The Favourite
- #5 — (tie) Green Book
- #2 — BlacKkKlansman
- #8 — Vice
- #6 — Roma
- #7 — A Star Is Born
That’s the order of likelihood to win based on the history. Was hoping we might get our first #7, but looks like we could get our second #6, which is cool.
A Star Is Born
This category was the exact same category we got throughout the race. These were the nine most lauded films on all the precursor lists. The only question was whether or not they’d have a ninth nominee. And the major contenders for that were the films that got the most nominations outside of Best Picture — Mary Poppins Returns, First Man and If Beale Street Could Talk. I thought Beale Street was the one with the most likelihood, but instead, we got the 8 we were expecting. No real surprises for a boring season.
And the precursors:
- PGA: Green Book
- BAFTA: Roma
- BFCA: Roma
- SAG Ensemble: Black Panther
- Globe (Drama): Bohemian Rhapsody
- Globe (Comedy): Green Book
Two favorites emerge, with two other films having precursors. Really the question is how we think the voting is gonna shake out. Here are my current thoughts:
8. Black Panther — I know, I know. “But SAG Ensemble!” I gotta tell you… I know this Academy. I’ve seen them do things for so long. They truly only nominated this because they are supporting representation. They don’t like superhero movies. They never have. No one truly thinks this is a good movie. They just voted for it for the message and nothing else. Now, that’s fine, to an extent. The idea that this is somehow going to win is an entirely different matter. I’m gonna die on the hill of “this will never happen” and if it does, then well we’ve crossed a bridge. I’d rather have that bridge be crossed being completely wrong. Forget what the internet says. The internet says a lot of things. Remember the 2016 election? The “silent majority”? The ones who stayed quiet and let their ballots do the talking? That’s this Academy. This will not get enough number one votes to contend. People will vote it either at the bottom or somewhere in the middle because “why not.” It’s not getting the number ones. It just isn’t. They don’t like these movies, they don’t vote for them, and them even nominating it is a mix of Disney having the money and the power to force it through and the fact that they truly didn’t want to seem like dinosaurs. You know how I know? Because if they truly cared about both representation and quality, If Beale Street Could Talk would be on this list. I think this is a huge red herring, and I’m saying it will not truly be a factor for a win. Case and point, everything else has bigger nominations. I don’t think anything has won without both Director or Editing since Grand Hotel. Which is a trick question, since Grand Hotel won before Best Editing was even a category. It’s never happened. So I’ll stick with the devil I know here and say it’s not happening. Just let it win.
7. Vice — This has both Director and Editing, is tied for second most nominations (well, two are tied for first with 10 and this is tied with Star Is Born with 8), and yet… I’m not sure I see the overall love for this. Where are the #1 votes coming from? There’s always one majorly nominated film that doesn’t feel like it has the support for a win. This is it. Granted, I could probably argue this to sixth, but I just don’t see it as winning. So no matter how much I wanna show this more respect, I feel like this could walk away almost nearly empty-handed, winning only Makeup & Hairstyling. I don’t see any particular love for this to the tune of a Best Picture win. So seventh we go.
6. Bohemian Rhapsody — I cannot explain where the love for this film is coming, but it’s there. It got both Sound categories, it got Picture, it got Editing. It didn’t get Director, but I think we all know why. It has everything you’d want to see it get. This is in that Vice category where I’m not sure I see where the #1 votes are all gonna come from, but I think it may get some. I think it could hang around a round or two of voting. I don’t think it gets very far, because some people will think it’s shit and vote it low and a lot of people (myself included, were I to have a vote), will have it in the middle of the ballot. I wouldn’t have it any higher than fifth on my ballot. And I suspect that’ll be the case for most people. Fourth or lower for a lot of them. So I don’t see it winning, but I see it as not being the least likely contender, if that makes sense. Plus, a Globes win for Drama, that’s not nothing, even if it isn’t a huge deal.
5. A Star Is Born — Eight overall nominations. It did miss both Editing and Director, which arguably means I should have it lower. But there’s love for this. I think this hangs around more than it ought to. You know it has Sean Penn’s vote, that’s for sure. I think some people will have this at #1, and it’ll get some support. Some people may have it top four, which will keep it around a bit. Doubt it gets top five in voting. Peaked too early, and like I said for Black Panther, never has something won without both an Editing or Director nomination. It’s hard enough to win without one of those things. Both… it’s never happened since both categories have existed. It’s 10 times ever without Editing and all of those got Director nominations. So it won’t win. But I think it will have more overall support than at least two of the films below it. Fifth or below for this one.
4. BlacKkKlansman — It’s got everything you want it to have. Picture, Director, Editing, an acting nomination and Screenplay. And they gave it Score for good measure. It has been across the board consistently nominated for things. However, the cynic in me wonders how much of that was also thought of as part of the “inclusion” thing I feel about Black Panther. Also, the other part of me basically knows that they’ll look to give Spike his Oscar in Screenplay and feel absolutely no compulsion to vote for this here. I could argue that this is even lower in terms of likelihood of winning, but honestly at this point, everything I’ve seen makes it really difficult not to see this as a two-horse race. I’m sure this will get votes, but in the absence of a precursor win, I’m really just grasping at what categories it’s nominated in and where it seems to be among everything else. This feels consistently like a “#4 nominee,” a term I’ve used many times in my Oscar Quest articles to describe the film that consistently has performed in the nominations stage as a strong nominee, and then once it’s nominated it just sort of there, and lacks any momentum at all for a win. That’s what this is. I’d argue that Star Is Born has more fervent support than this does, even though this has a lot of steady support there. It’s more the film that’ll be #4 and #3 on a lot of ballots, which is not the recipe for a win, even though it will probably hang around a while when they tally the votes. Though I guess an argument could be made for this going even lower than that. I don’t know. Feels like fourth to me right now.
3. The Favourite — It’s tied for most nominations. It got Yorgos a Director nomination. It’s got Editing, it’s got three acting nominations, it’s got Screenplay, and it’s got a bunch of tech nominations. Why is this somehow not being considered one of the top contenders for the win? Probably because it lost to either Roma or Green Book in every single precursor race, including BAFTA, where it only managed to win Best British Film and not Best Film. If it can’t win BAFTA, then where’s the Oscar support coming from? I’m basing this on nothing, but it sure looks like it’s a two-film race. How do you figure what wins if not the main two? Looking back, there’s only on year in the past twenty where something won Best Picture with zero precursor wins, and that’s Million Dollar Baby. And everyone felt that coming on strong. Here, there’s nothing coming on. There’s Crash, but that at least won SAG Ensemble, so someone cared. The Departed won BFCA. Spotlight won BFCA and SAG. Moonlight only had the Globe, but it was clearly a two film race there. So I can’t really figure out what the third choice is absent of precursors. I could put Bohemian Rhapsody or Black Panther here, but I don’t see it. Bohemian maybe, but I I don’t know. We’ll see where I end up on Sunday. I’ll call this the third choice for now, though.
2. Green Book — Normally you win the PGA and you’re the #1 contender. But we live in a new era. The PGA is starting to fall behind rather than set the pace. The Big Short won the PGA. La La Land. This feels like a vote against Netflix rather than a vote for Green Book. Plus, the Producers aren’t the biggest branch of the Academy. So this definitely makes it a top two choice, but I’m not sure it makes it the favorite. Could win, and it’s gotta be considered the second choice, because we’ve never once straight up discounted the PGA winner, but I don’t see this as the most likely winner. Oh, one more thing — I said it the minute I saw this start playing out — do you know the last movie that won Best Picture with only a PGA win, Globe/Comedy win and no Best Director nomination? That’s right, Driving Miss Daisy. I’ll just leave that one right there for you to think about for the next two days.
1. Roma — It won BAFTA. It won BFCA. It would have probably won the Globe for Drama had they been able to nominate it there. The PGA is the only misstep. It’s got ten nominations, is basically guaranteed a minimum of three wins. It’s been the most lauded film of the year, and really, in any other year, this would be the winner. The only knock against it is that it’s Netflix and some people don’t respect that. I see this as the favorite and the only real logical choice for the winner. Seems like it’s this or Green Book at this point. I’m comfortable calling this the favorite going into Oscar night.
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