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How to Predict Oscar Winners

Some ten years ago I developed a statistical model for predicting Oscar winners. I’ve posted online predictions for the four main categories every year since with an 85% success rate. I provide predictions for just Best Picture, Director, Lead Actor, and Lead Actress, but I’ve used the general approach to win various prizes over the years for Oscar prediction competitions. Read the following to learn how to win your own Oscar Pools.

In a nutshell, the predictions are based on a statistical analysis of past Oscar history. In particular, I identify the influence of factors associated with past winners (such as other Oscar nominations, total number of Oscar nominations, previous Oscar nominations/wins, Golden Globe wins, Guild wins). I then calculate a score for each current nominee based on these factors – nominees with a higher score have more chance of winning. See my Oscar Prediction Website for further details of how the predictions were made.

Here then are predictions for the four main categories for the 2015 Academy Awards, to be presented on Feb 28, 2016. The nominees are presented in order of expected probability of winning according to the statistical model.


This category is the hardest to call of the four major races this year because no single movie dominates across all the important factors. The Revenant has the most nominations, including a traditionally important Best Director nomination, and also won the Golden Globe Drama award. However, Mad Max: Fury Road has nearly as many nominations and The Big Short won the generally more predictive Producer’s Guild award. Spotlight isn’t too far behind, with nominations in many of the more significant categories. The Martian gets some points for winning the Golden Globe Comedy or Musical award (despite being neither), but it would be a shock if it or the remaining three nominated films won here.


Last year’s Best Achievement in Directing winner, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, would seem to be a lock for winning again this year. He has already won the Director’s Guild and Golden Globe Director awards and The Revenant is the most nominated movie this year. This is also Inarritu’s third directing nomination at The Oscars, which works in his favour. Unlike for actors, winning before doesn’t tend to hurt a director’s chance of winning again (19 directors have previously won two or more times). If The Academy were to decide not to go with Inarritu again this year, Tom McCarthy and George Miller may have the best chance of upsetting the odds.

Actor in a Leading Role

Leonardo DiCaprio (with his Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe Drama wins) seems on course for an easy win, but Matt Damon, with a Golden Globe Musical or Comedy win, has an outside chance of upsetting the odds. Previous lead actor nominations tend to help a nominee’s chances too, and DiCaprio has three of those while Damon has one. Were Eddie Redmayne, last year’s winner in this category, to prevail again this year he would match the feats of Spencer Tracy, Fredric March, Gary Cooper, Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman, Tom Hanks, and Sean Penn. Only Daniel Day-Lewis has won for lead actor three times.

Actress in a Leading Role

Brie Larson scores big for Golden Globe (drama) and Screen Actors Guild awards. Saoirse Ronan would seem to have the best chance of the other nominees, having also been nominated in a movie that has been nominated for Best Picture. Jennifer Lawrence and Cate Blanchett are probably not in the running to win this year since both have won before. It wouldn’t be unprecedented if either were to win again, however, as evidenced by Luise Rainer, Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Vivien Leigh, Ingrid Bergman, Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn (four times!), Glenda Jackson, Jane Fonda, Sally Field, Jodie Foster, Hilary Swank, and Meryl Streep.


Iain Pardoe is an online university instructor who enjoys the movies of Hayao Miyazaki even more than the kids and loves rewatching favourites from his youth with his family when he’s not playing soccer or skiing.