Nomadland Wins Best Picture: Odds For Every Oscar Nominee

Nomadland Wins Best Picture: Odds For Every Oscar Nominee article feature image

Carlo Allegri/Getty Images. Pictured: A display case is seen full of Oscar statues

Update: Nomadland won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Best Picture Nominees & Odds

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%
Odds as of April 24 and via DraftKings.

Best Picture Predictions

The Trial of the Chicago 7+600
Promising Young Woman+1700

Nomadland -670

Collin Whitchurch: Guild awards have historically been a pretty good precursor to Best Picture success.

Going back to 2000, the Producers Guild and Directors Guild have both awarded their top prizes to the film that ultimately won Best Picture on 13 occasions, more than the Screen Actors Guild (10), BAFTA (8) or either Best Picture wing of the Golden Globes (seven for drama and three for comedy). There hasn't been a single year dating back to 2000 when at least one of those earlier awards failed to pick the film that ultimately won Best Picture.

Those guilds have been less successful lately, however. Last year's great Parasite upset meant that only the SAG successfully predicted the winner, and the other notable upset from recent history — Moonlight over La La Land — was correctly predicted by only the Golden Globes.

Excluding the Golden Globes' comedy/musical category — which is only successful when a Best Picture nominee is in contention, which is rare — we have five previous awards to pick from, and 4-of-5 (PGA, DGA, BAFTA, Globes Drama) awarded their top prizes to Nomadland this year. The one outlier was the SAG, which went to The Trial of the Chicago 7 … which mirrors last year's upset, when the SAG went with Parasite and the rest awarded 1917.

Will history repeat itself? The oddsmakers are hedging at least a little bit in making Trial a pretty considerable second favorite, but Nomadland still has a meaningful edge. Given all the indicators pointing in that film's direction, I don't see any value in the six films listed at +1400 or better. If you wanted to throw down a small play on Trial, I wouldn't fault you, but it's tough to see anything other than Nomadland taking it home — whether it's deserving or not.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 +600

Katie Richcreek: Nomadland is the rightful favorite, but at -670, its odds give the film an 87% implied probability of winning Best Picture. And even with historical trends on its side — including nominations for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film Editing, as well as precursor wins such as Best Film at the British Academy Film Awards — an 87% implied probability is too high.

The primary argument is that two key changes to Oscar voting have led to more volatile results over the past 11 years:

  1. The Academy adopted a preferential ballot for Best Picture for the 2009 cycle, meaning that instead of selecting one winner, voters rank nominees. As a result, less polarizing films that don't necessarily garner many first-place results, but are otherwise high on many voters' ballots have an edge.
  2. The body of voters has grown about 50% since 2015 following #OscarsSoWhite (based on numbers reported by Variety), meaning that they've increasingly strayed from historical trends.

According to Oscarmetrics author Ben Zauzmer, between 1933 and 2011 (aka three cycles into preferential voting for Best Picture), 78% of Best Director winners went on to win Best Picture for the same film. Over the past eight years, though, only three (37.5%) of Best Director winners have also taken home Best Picture.

With Chloé Zhao an even heavier favorite to win Best Director at -3335 (97.1% implied probability) for Nomadland, I'm more inclined to believe she's a lock to win that award, and less inclined to believe Nomadland will be the film to buck recent trends in favor of older ones.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 could be the beneficiary of this recent trend, not only because preferential balloting arguably favors films that are more generally liked vs. overwhelming adored, but because it won Best Ensemble at the Screen Actors Guild Awards (SAGs) — a trait shared with past Best Picture winners that upset consensus favorites of their respective years.

Since the SAGs introduced the award in 1995, there have been nine times that Best Director winners at the Oscars haven’t also won Best Picture, and five of those nine upsets were pulled off by films that had previously won Best Ensemble. (Spotlight was the most recent example of this five years ago.)

So, while Nomadland is more likely to win, I see betting value on The Trial of the Chicago 7 at +600 odds.

Promising Young Woman +1400

Collin Wilson: 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. I would bet this down to +1000.

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