2021 Academy Awards Odds, Betting Picks & Predictions for Best Actor, Best Picture, More

2021 Academy Awards Odds, Betting Picks & Predictions for Best Actor, Best Picture, More article feature image

Getty Images. Pictured: Best Supporting Actor nominee Daniel Kaluuya

As said in Million Dollar Baby, "it's the magic of risking everything for a dream that nobody sees but you."

It is once again time to get money down on the Academy Awards. This is the one award show for which leaks are not possible, unless the Academy itself decides to tweet out the winners.

This has been the most odd year in motion picture history, as the COVID-19 pandemic had movie crowds as absent as the 2020 NBA playoffs. The shift for corporate America to work from home has now taken over the movie industry, as motion picture debuts are on HBO Max and Disney Plus.

Plenty more has changed the industry, which could lead to wild results. For instance, the BAFTA's may not hold as much weight with new eligibility rules. And while Netflix-produced films might've been snubbed in years past because of "at-home" viewing, that's now the path for every movie unless the title of the film is TENET.

Leaning on OSCARmetrics like we did with our 2020 betting predictions, money will go down in the respective categories where there is value in the number. We'll take in all the variables from Rotten Tomatoes, historical trends and the ever-changing voting dynamics of the Academy.

The 1993 Best Picture winner Unforgiven helped bettors learn a hard lesson last year in betting Cynthia Erivo over Renee Zellweger: "Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it." This year of awards betting might more aptly be described as navigating the Nomadland mine field.

Note: All odds are as of April 25 and via DraftKings.

New to betting? Favorites have a minus (-) sign and the number indicates the money you would need to risk to win $100, whereas underdogs have a plus (+) sign while that number indicates the money you would win for every $100 bet.

Example: The Trial of the Chicago 7 is a +650 underdog for Best Picture, which means you would net a $650 profit on a $100 bet if it wins. Learn more here.

Best Picture

NomineeOddsImplied Prob.
The Trial of the Chicago 7+60014.3%
Promising Young Woman+17005.6%
Judas and the Black Messiah+33002.9%
The Sound of Metal+50002.0%
The Father+100001.0%

The formula for calculating Best Picture has historically been a slam dunk: The movie must have more than the average nominations of its peers in the category. Of the movies listed in this category, 6.3 is the average with 51 nominations distributed over 8 movies.

Only the movie Mank has eclipsed that mark with 10 total nominations.

Although Nomadland has just six nominations, it cleaned up in the next set of data for picking Best Picture: The Directors Guild, Producers Guild and BAFTA's each had Nomadland take home the honors for best picture. That does not mean that this category is a slam dunk, as recent history suggests voting has become more volatile.

As a gambler that took a shot on Nomadland back in April of 2020, personally I will be rooting for Frances McDormand to bring it home.

Moonlight won this award in 2016 without a single victory in any of the previous award shows. Crash won in 2005 while only taking screenplay and editing through the show, defeating the odds on favorite Brokeback Mountain. If we are looking for value plays against Nomadland, The Trial of the Chicago 7 won best ensemble cast at the Screen Actors Guild. Promising Young Woman took home the BAFTA for Best Original Screenplay.

If there is one category to put a fade on Nomadland, this is it.

The final element in the handicap are movies nominated in director, editing and screenplay. Promising Young Woman has delivered in all three of those categories.

Keep the volume low, but take a shot on a big dog in a category that continues to produce surprises.

Pick: Promising Young Woman +1400 (down to +1000)  » Bet at DraftKings

Best Director

NomineeOddsImplied Prob.
Chloé Zhao (Nomadland)-333597.1%
David Fincher (Mank)+10009.1%
Lee Isaac Chung (Minari)+17005.6%
Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman)+20004.8%
Thomas Vinterberg (Another Round)+25003.9%

Per OSCARmetrics, the predictor of this category comes from the Directors Guild Award. Furthermore, the winner of this category generally moves on to win Best Picture.

There have not been many historical upsets in this category until Parasite hit the scene last year. With Sam Mendes winning the Directors Guild Award for Best Director, all bettors of the 1917 director needed a drink after Bong Joon Ho's upset win.

"I am ready to drink tonight." #Parasite director Bong Joon Ho is ready to celebrate his best international feature win at the #Oscarshttps://t.co/5SJeshg7fBpic.twitter.com/ktuapd6oeY

— The Hollywood Reporter (@THR) February 10, 2020

Chloe Zhao has universal praise for her work on Nomadland. The award precursors are all present, making this a category you parlay in the betting world and easily circle in sharpie for your Oscar pools.

Pick: Chloe Zhao (Nomadland) -3335 (up to -5000) » Bet at DraftKings

Best Actor

NomineeOddsImplied Prob.
Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey's Black Bottom)-166794.3%
Anthony Hopkins (The Father)+70012.5%
Riz Ahmed (The Sound of Metal)+14006.7%
Steven Yeun (Minari)+25004.8%
Gary Oldman (Mank)+33002.9%

There will be plenty of sentiment for Chadwick Boseman after his untimely passing this past year.

Famous for playing Black Panther, Boseman is the seventh actor with a posthumous nomination. Only Peter Finch for Network in 1976 and Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight in 2009 have won the Academy Award in their respective categories.

That said, there is a clearcut front-runner within the underdogs.

When looking for Best Actor, the BAFTA's must be taken into account. Not just the winner, but especially if the winner is British in a British film. Sir Anthony Hopkins is British while The Father was a co-production of British and French. Per OSCARmetrics, a British Actor in a British film give the Best Actor winning odds of 43%. That is a giant probability edge against the current odds and is deserving of a wager.

Pick: Anthony Hopkins (The Father) +700 (down to +200) » Bet at DraftKings

Best Actress

NomineeOddsImplied Prob.
Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman)+12544.4%
Viola Davis (Ma Rainey's Black Bottom)+20033.3%
Frances McDormand (Nomadland)+40020.0%
Andra Day (The United States vs. Billie Holiday)+60014.3%
Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman)+20004.8%

Still reeling from an Erivo 50-1 bet that closed 12-1 in 2020, we take another crack at predicting Best Actress.

The formula provided a winner in 2020 and is tried and true method to cash a ticket. The two biggest elements in determining a winner in this category is to play a historical character and the age of the nominee. For these five actors, the only historical characters are played by Viola Davis and Andra Day.

The average age of the winner in the Best Actress category is generally lower than 35 and greater than 60. Zellweger was only the third woman to ever win the award between the age of 50 to 59 years old. Davis falls into the neutral territory at 55 years of age, with McDormand at 63 years old and the remaining candidates 36 and under.

In past years when there were two nominees who played historical characters, the expectation is a victory 40% of the time. That actual number is 47% since the award was first given in 1929. The analytics point to an upset here with Andra Day, but splitting a unit with Davis is a solid backup plan.

Pick: Andra Day (The United State vs. Billie Holiday) +600 (down to +150) » Bet at DraftKings

Best Supporting Actor

NomineeOddsImplied Prob.
Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah)-250096.2%
Sacha Baron Cohen (The Trial of the Chicago 7)+120016.7%
Paul Raci (Sound of Metal)+120016.7%
Leslie Odom Jr. (One Night in Miami)+17006.7%
Lakeith Stanfield (Judas and the Black Messiah)+33002.9%

The category of Best Supporting Actor has a simple projection curve: The older the actor, the better the odds are of winning the award. That would point gamblers to Raci at 73 over Cohen at 49 years of age. Stanfield is in his 20s and is pulling up the rear for the powerhouse of the group Kaluuya, who most consumers remember for his Best Actor award in 2018 for Get Out.

When older nominees win the award it is considered a lifetime achievement for an entire body of work. At 72 in 2006, Alan Arkin was the life of the movie Little Miss Sunshine while Christopher Plummer's six decade career took home this award in 2018 at the age of 82.

The issue with Raci is that there is not a true body of work to be awarded, as his best credit may be "Bad Guy" in a 1993 Bruce Lee biography.

Lay it with Kaluuya and take him all the Oscar pools.

Pick: Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah) -2500 (up to -5000) » Bet at DraftKings

Best Supporting Actress

NomineeOddsImplied Prob.
Youn Yuh-jung (Minari)-50083.3%
Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm)+37521.1%
Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy)+10009.1%
Olivia Colman (The Father)+20004.8%
Amanda Seyfried (Mank)+33002.9%

Per OSCARmetrics, the higher the billing in the film credits, the better percentage chance of winning this category.

An actress can makeup for screen time with a powerful performance, such as Hattie McDaniel billed eighth from Gone with the Wind. This puts Yuh-jung at a serious disadvantage with a billing of fifth for Minari, while each of the other nominees are billed second for their respective films.

This is the part where I tell you that I am emotionally connected to this movie and this specific role of Grandma. Minari was filmed in Tulsa, Oklahoma where I currently reside, but the movie is based in Northwest Arkansas where I grew up. Yes, "Chicken Sexing" is a real form of employment in my neck of the woods.

More importantly, the grandmother portrayed by Yuh-jung is much like my own between watching professional wrestling and drinking piss on accident.

This is my favorite film of the year, and Yuh-jung is a big reason for that. She has been in the film industry since 1971 and has won the BAFTA, Screen Actors Guild and multiple other awards for this role.

Swallow the juice and pray the billing of fifth does not doom this excellent performance.

Pick: Youn Yuh-jung (Minari) -500 (up to -1000) » Bet at DraftKings

Best Original Screenplay

NomineeOddsImplied Prob.
Promising Young Woman-45582.0%
The Trial of the Chicago 7+27526.7%
Sound of Metal+33002.9%
Judas and the Black Messiah+33002.9%

This is a tricky category because of the rules that follow the analytics. The Writers Guild winner generally follows up with an Academy Award. That is good news for Promising Young Woman — winner of the Writers Guild Original Screenplay over The Trial or the Chicago 7, Sound of Metal and Judas and the Black Messiah. But the movie missing from that list is Minari.

Due to restrictions, Minari was ineligible to be nominated at the Writers Guild, making the nominee a complete wildcard. The movie did pull six nominations from the BAFTA's and 10 from the Critics Choice Awards. If there is an ace in the hold, it may be Lee Isaac Chung filling the role of writer and director.

Writing from life experiences and directing is what got Almost Famous and Moonlight to the window.

OSCARmetrics predicts a 12% chance for a Writers Guild ineligible entry to defeat other nominees that were up for the WGA, while the favorite is 67%. The correct odds for Minari should be +700 and Promising Young Woman at -200. With those buy prices, Minari is the pick, but keep an eye out for steam and a cheap buy on the clubhouse leader.

Pick: Minari +1400 (down to +700) » Bet at DraftKings

Best Adapted Screenplay

NomineeOddsImplied Prob.
The Father+27526.7%
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm+80011.1%
One Night in Miami+14006.7%
The White Tiger+33002.9%

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm may have been popularized for Rudy Giuliani tucking his shirt, but the flick took home the hardware for this category at the Writers Guild. The film beat The White Tiger and One Night in Miami, which are also listed in this category. Winning an Academy Award will be a bit tougher with The Father and Nomadland in the mix, both of which were ineligible at the Writers Guild Awards.

There are no historical trends to lean on with this category, other than there has been a massive increase in non-fiction films being nominated and subsequently winning.

Although fiction adaptations was the norm for decades, the winning percentage is still very even.

Recent winners of this category are telling stories that are more and more an echo of our current political and system climate. Past winners include JoJo Rabbit, BlacKkKlansman and Moonlight are recent winners that had a social reflection worthy of any audience member. The White Tiger and Nomadland each tackle the subject of the distancing of economic wealth. As a hot topic in present news, these are the two screenplays worth shedding money on.

Take the big number on Nomadland, but back it up with The White Tiger.

Pick: Nomadland -400 (half unit); The White Tiger +3300 (half unit) » Bet at DraftKings

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