2020 Oscar Predictions: Best Picture, Best Actor & More

8 minute read

By Nick Steinberg (@Nick_Steinberg)

The 92nd Academy Awards take place on February 9, 2020, and the nominations have all been revealed. This year, comic book movies have been recognized in a big way, as Joker leads the pack with an impressive 11 nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor. However, it’s not the only film with a lot of potential awards on the line, as The Irishman, 1917, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood all have ten nominations apiece.

While the ceremony itself can be a tedious, self-indulgent affair, the Oscars are still one of the most buzzed-about awards shows in the entertainment world. Part of the fun each year is trying to predict which nominees will take home the top prize in each category. Below, we’ve made our best guesses at what will win in 10 of the major categories … and some less confident predictions in everything else. Look, do you have a good grasp of what will win Best Documentary Short? Sometimes, you just have to go with your gut.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hand out awards in a total of 24 categories. Here are our predictions for what will win in all of them!

Best Picture

Nominees: Ford v Ferrari; The Irishman; Jojo Rabbit; Joker; Little Women; Marriage Story; 1917; Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood; Parasite

Historically, the most reliable way to guess the Best Picture winner is to look at what takes home the big prizes leading up to the Oscars. However, since this is being written before the Screen Actors Guild Awards (January 19) and Directors Guild of America Awards (January 26), we’ll have to make an educated guess.

Right now, it looks like a two-way race between 1917 and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which took home Best Drama and Comedy/Musical, respectively, at the Golden Globes earlier this month. If we had to place a bet, our money would be in 1917 to take top honors, as its technical achievements and historical setting are prime “Oscar-bait.” Either film is deserving of the award, but it would be nice to see an upset here and have an underdog like Jojo Rabbit, Little Women, or Parasite emerge victoriously.

Source: Screenshot via Sony Pictures Releasing

Best Director

Nominees: Martin Scorsese, The Irishman; Todd Phillips, Joker; Sam Mendes, 1917; Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood; Bong Joon Ho, Parasite

It’s a shame not to see Greta Gerwig among the pack of directing nominees. Then again, the Golden Globes and BAFTAs went will all-male picks this year, so it’s not surprising to see the Academy follow suit. As things stand, this is a strong pack of filmmakers, and it’s difficult to gauge how Oscar voters will swing.

Sam Mendes’ 1917 is the kind of showy auteur work the Academy has lapped up in recent years, as evidenced by Alejandro González Iñárritu’s back-to-back awards for Birdman (2014) and The Revenant (2015). But then we have Quentin Tarantino, whose Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is in many respects the culmination of a career’s work. Mendes may have taken home the Golden Globe in this category, but look for Tarantino to receive the lifetime achievement honors and get his first directing Oscar.

Source: Screenshot via Universal Pictures

Best Actress

Nominees: Cynthia Erivo, Harriet; Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story; Saoirse Ronan, Little Women; Charlize Theron, Bombshell; Renée Zellweger, Judy

Oscar voters love an excellent transformative performance, and combined with her win at the Golden Globes, Renée Zellweger is the early frontrunner to take home the Best Actress trophy. It’s an astonishing performance worthy of the accolades it’s received so far, but we shouldn’t count out Saoirse Ronan beating out Zellweger.

Ronan gives arguably the definitive Jo March performance in Little Women — no small feat given how many times Louisa May Alcott’s famous novel has been adapted for the screen. At just 25, Ronan has established herself as one of the leading actors of her generation, and that pedigree could serve her well come Oscar night.

Source: Screenshot via LD Entertainment

Best Actor

Nominees: Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory; Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood; Adam Driver, Marriage Story; Joaquin Phoenix, Joker; Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes

While Joker is likely to go home empty-handed in most categories, Best Actor isn’t one of them. Joaquin Phoenix is the clear frontrunner in this category, thanks in no small part to his Golden Globe win. While critics were divided on many aspects of Joker. Phoenix’s performance earned near-universal acclaim.

There’s also his legacy to consider, as Phoenix has been nominated four times in the past but never won. Adam Driver could challenge thanks to his outstanding turn as a husband going through a bitter divorce in Marriage Story, but 2020 feels like the year Phoenix finally gets his Oscar.

Source: Screenshot via Warner Bros. Pictures

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees: Kathy Bates, Richard Jewell; Laura Dern, Marriage Story; Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit; Florence Pugh, Little Women; Margot Robbie, Bombshell

In a rare feat, Scarlett Johansson is nominated in both the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories … but we predict she’ll lose both. The competition is just too stiff, and based on the Golden Globe results; this is Laura Dern’s race to lose.

As great as it would be to see Dern win, we’d love it if a newcomer Florence Pugh pulled off an upset. Dern’s Little Women co-star had a breakthrough year in 2019, starring in the horror hit Midsommar and nearly stealing Little Women out from under her co-stars’ thanks to her riveting performance as Amy Marsh.

Source: Screenshot via Netflix

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees: Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood; Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes; Al Pacino, The Irishman; Joe Pesci, The Irishman; Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

This year’s Supporting Actor category is comprised entirely of veteran talent, making it a problematic award to pin down. Joe Pesci seems most likely to come out on top, as he came out of retirement to deliver a quietly menacing performance as crime boss Russell Bufalino.

If not Pesci, expect either Tom Hanks or Brad Pitt to win, with the slight edge given to Pitt, who’s coming off a Best Supporting Actor win at the Golden Globes.

Source: Screenshot via Netflix

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees: Knives Out (Rian Johnson); Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach); 1917 (Sam Mendes & Krysty Wilson-Cairns); Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino); Parasite (Bong Joon Ho, Han Jin Won)

Hollywood loves movies about itself, and considering Tarantino’s past success in this category, his script for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood should be viewed as a frontrunner. But as much as we’re suckers for Tarantino’s unique brand of dialogue, Rian Johnson should get a win here for his delightfully witty Knives Out screenplay. Johnson’s deconstruction of whodunnit tropes is a delight, and given the fact that his film was shut out of other categories, it would be great to see Knives Out get some Oscar love.

Source: Screenshot via Sony Pictures Releasing

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees: The Irishman (Steven Zaillian); Jojo Rabbit (Taikia Waititi); Joker (Todd Phillips & Scott Silver); Little Women (Greta Gerwig); The Two Popes (Anthony McCarten)

This is a severe category to predict, as there doesn’t appear to be a clear frontrunner at this time. It’s likely that The Irishman will get shutout of some of the bigger categories, so a win here would be a way of honoring Scorsese’s film. However, it’s hard to ignore the controversy that has sprung up around The Irishman’s version of events. Steven Zaillian’s screenplay is based on Charles Brandt’s 2004 book I Heard You Paint Houses, which has been characterized as “long on sensational claims and short on credibility.”

If Oscar voters consider this, it could open the door for Little Women to snag a win. By shedding new light on familiar characters and rearranging the story’s timeline, Gerwig’s screenplay offers a fresh perspective on Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel. It has a legitimate shot of winning Best Adapted Screenplay.

Source: Screenshot via Sony Pictures Releasing

Best Animated Feature

Nominees: How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World; I Lost My Body; Klaus; Missing Link; Toy Story 4

This was not a strong year for animated features. Last year’s winner in this category, Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse, was one of 2018’s best films, and there’s nothing in this year’s list of nominees that even comes close. Missing Link won the Golden Globe in this category, and while it’s far from the studio’s best, it’s always lovely to see Laika get recognition for their work. That said, Pixar’s success in this category is undeniable, so we’re going to give the edge to Toy Story 4.

Source: Screenshot via Walt Disney Studios

Best Cinematography

Nominees: The Irishman (Rodrigo Prieto); Joker (Lawrence Sher); The Lighthouse (Jarin Blaschke); 1917 (Roger Deakins); Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Robert Richardson)

Whether or not 1917 has anything new to add to the well-worn war movie genre on a thematic level, its technical achievements are undeniable. Shot in a manner that approximates a single, unbroken take, 1917’s “one-shot” idea is the kind of significant cinematic reach that Oscar voters go gaga for and cinematographer Roger Deakins played an integral role in bringing that idea to the big screen. If Deakins doesn’t win, it will be a real shock.

Source: Screenshot via Universal Pictures

And The Rest …

Here are predictions for the other 14 categories (winners marked in bold).

Best Original Song

Nominees: “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” (Toy Story 4); “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” (Rocketman); “I’m Standing With You” (Breakthrough); “Into The Unknown” (Frozen II); “Stand Up” (Harriet)

Best Film Editing

Nominees: Ford v Ferrari; The Irishman; Jojo Rabbit; Joker; Parasite

Source: Screenshot via 20th Century Fox

Best Production Design

Nominees: The Irishman; Jojo Rabbit; 1917; Once Upon a Time in Hollywood; Parasite

Best International Feature Film

Nominees: Corpus Christi (Poland); Honeyland (North Macedonia); Les Misérables (France); Pain and Glory (Spain); Parasite (South Korea)

Best Documentary Short Subject

Nominees: In The Absence; Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl); Life Overtakes Me; St. Louis Superman; Walk Run Cha-Cha

Source: Screenshot via A+E Networks

Best Documentary Feature

Nominees: American Factory; The Cave; The Edge of Democracy; For Sama; Honeyland

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Nominees: Bombshell; Joker; Judy; Maleficent: Mistress of Evil; 1917

Best Visual Effects

Nominees: Avengers: Endgame; The Irishman; The Lion King; 1917; Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Source: Screenshot via Universal Pictures

Best Live Action Short Film

Nominees: Brotherhood; Nefta Football Club; The Neighbors’ Window; Saria; A Sister

Best Animated Short Film

Nominees: Dcera (Daughter); Hair Love; Kitbull; Memorable; Sister

Best Original Score

Nominees: Joker (Hildur Guðnadóttir); Little Women (Alexandre Desplat); Marriage Story (Randy Newman); 1917 (Thomas Newman); Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (John Williams)

Source: Screenshot via Warner Bros. Pictures

Best Sound Editing

Nominees: Ford V Ferrari; Joker; 1917; Once Upon a Time in Hollywood; Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Best Sound Mixing

Nominees: Ad Astra; Ford v Ferrari; Joker; 1917; Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Costume Design

Nominees: The Irishman; Jojo Rabbit; Joker; Little Women; Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Source: Screenshot via Sony Pictures Releasing

Nick Steinberg (@Nick_Steinberg)