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Predicting This Year’s Oscars

Predicting this year’s Oscars

his time last year I shared my Oscar predictions for the four main categories: Best Picture, Director, Lead Actor, and Lead Actress. The predictions are based on a statistical model that I developed that uses information on factors associated with past winners (such as other Oscar nominations, total number of Oscar nominations, previous Oscar nominations/wins, Golden Globe wins, Guild wins). See my Oscar Prediction Website for further details of how the predictions are made. Last year I got 3 out of 4 correct, which brought my success rate over the last 11 years down slightly to 84%. Let’s see if I can boost that success rate this year with the following predictions.

Here then are predictions for the four main categories for the 2016 Academy Awards, to be presented on Feb 26, 2017. The nominees are presented in order of expected probability of winning according to the statistical model.


The clear front-runner for this category is La La Land (with a record-tying 14 overall nominations and Producer’s Guild and Golden Globe Comedy or Musical wins). Leading the chase (if the much discussed La La Land backlash were to result in an Oscar upset) is Moonlight, with 8 nominations and a Golden Globe Drama win. The other three movies with a Best Director nomination – Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, and Manchester by the Sea – also have an outside chance of winning, but it would be a major surprise if any of the remaining four films were to win Best Picture.


Even if there were to be a Best Picture upset, it seems less likely that the director of La La Land, Damien Chazelle, would miss out too. He seems a lock for winning, having already won the Director’s Guild and Golden Globe Director awards. His closest rival is probably Hacksaw Ridge director, Mel Gibson, who, having been out of favour in Hollywood for many years, seems to have been accepted back into the fold again. Gibson already has one Best Director Oscar (for 1995’s Braveheart) and there’s a slim chance he could add another this year. Barry Jenkins, director of Moonlight, also has an outside chance of winning, but it is very unlikely that either Kenneth Lonergan or Denis Villeneuve will win (if Villeneuve did win, he would be the second Canadian to win Best Director, after James Cameron for 1997’s Titanic).

Lead Actor

There’s essentially a three-way tie here, making this category the hardest to call of the four major races this year. Ryan Gosling (who would be the first Canadian to win Best Actor were he to win), has the best chance of winning after picking up the Golden Globe for Musical or Comedy Best Actor. His previous nomination for Half Nelson (2006) also helps his chances. However, Casey Affleck runs him a close second since he picked up the Golden Globe for Drama Best Actor, which tends to be more predictive of winning the Lead Actor Oscar. To further muddy the waters, Denzel Washington won the Screen Actors Guild award this year, which generally trumps the Golden Globes in terms of predicting Oscar success. Washington’s chances are lessened because he has won a Lead Actor Oscar previously (for 2001’s Training Day), but nine other actors have previously won more than once, so this doesn’t rule him out from winning again this year.

Lead Actress

Completing the four major category nominations for La La Land, Emma Stone scores big for Golden Globe (musical or comedy) and Screen Actors Guild awards. Golden Globe (drama) winner, Isabelle Huppert, has the best chance of winning of the other nominees, and a win here might indicate that La La Land won’t sweep the board as it did at the Golden Globes. Ruth Negga has an outside chance of upsetting the odds in this category, but previous winners Natalie Portman and Meryl Streep are not really in the running to win again this year.

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.