Raybon: My 2020 Oscars Betting Predictions
Kevin Winter/Getty Images. Pictured: Cynthia Erivo attends the 92nd Oscars.
- Chris Raybon has his selections for every category for this year's Oscars.
- What are the biggest upsets in store and where should you pass? Raybon has all the answers.
The biggest night in Hollywood has finally arrived! Here’s a breakdown of how I’m betting each category for the 92nd Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday, Feb. 9 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
Odds as of Saturday and via DraftKings, where Action Network users get a risk-free bet up to $500.
- 1917 -200
- Parasite +275
- Once Upon a Time in Hollywood +900
- Joker +1000
- The Irishman +5000
- Jojo Rabbit +5000
- Little Women +10000
- Marriage Story +10000
- Ford V. Ferrari +25000
This is a three-horse race.
You have 1917, a technical masterpiece short on dialogue and long on Oscar precursors.
Then you have Parasite, which has everything the Academy could want in a film except for the English language.
Finally, there’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, a Quentin Tarantino flick starring Leonardo Di’Caprio and Brad Pitt set in 1960s Hollywood that seems tailor made to win this award.
The key to predicting the Oscars, or any awards show, for that matter, is having a good basis for 1) process of elimination, and 2) determining “true” odds.
For process of elimination, I use the expert prediction data from GoldDerby.com. Dating back to 2011, the site has tracked 483 instances in which an Oscar nominee wasn’t picked by at least one expert to win its category that year, and only three (0.62%) ended up winning. And for Best Picture, no film outside the expert consensus top two has won (winner The Shape of Water was tied for second with Get Out in 2018).
For true odds, my exact approach varies by category, but in general, I rely on a mix of Gold Derby expert prediction data, category-specific trends, and projections from the model of “Oscarmetrics” author Ben Zauzmer.
In the case of Best Picture, I’ve simply taken the three true contenders and set their combined probability equal to 100% (minus small probability to account for longshots), then weighted each according to their projected odds in Zauzmer’s model.
Here are the projected odds:
- 1917: 50.7% (-105)
- Parasite: 26.8% (+273)
- Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: 21.3% (+369)
Even as the clear frontrunner with nearly double the chances of winning as Parasite, 1917 should be viewed as a coin flip to win Best Picture. It will be polarizing: If you like it, you love it, and will probably rank it No. 1, but if you’re not into its cinematic approach, or you crave more dialogue and character development, you’re likely going to bury it.
And if you vote Parasite in Best International Feature (as most undoubtedly will), do you also feel strongly enough about it to also give it top billing for Best Picture? If you feel the two should be separate, you’re probably going to rank Parasite lower than you otherwise would to ensure it’s not in position to win a tight race.
Parasite’s odds are fair, but the true value here is on Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Unlike the other longshots (and Parasite), it can say that it took down 1917 in a picture race after earning the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Movie. It also matched 1917‘s Globes win for Best Picture – Drama with its own prize in the Globes’ Best Picture — Comedy/Musical category.
But most importantly, can you really picture the Academy not eating this film up? Tarantino. Pitt. DiCaprio. Margot Robbie. Critically acclaimed original screenplay. Award-winning production design. A film about Hollywood. Set in Hollywood. Fairytale ending. If there was ever a film set up to take advantage of the preferential ballot by being least hated, this is it.
A major theme you’ll see throughout is that the odds are overrate 1917 and undervalue Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. I suspect it’s due at least in part to the fact that recency bias from the most recent major awards precursor ceremony is driving the market, and that happens to be the UK-based BAFTAs, which would naturally favor 1917, a British film. But at the Dolby Theater on Sunday night, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood will be back on its home turf.
Given the unique nature of the three legitimate contenders in this race, the best approach is to bet on two of the three. The highest upside bet would be betting against 1917 to win by backing Parasite with a hedge on Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The optimal wager amounts for each side can be computed using our hedging calculator.
Here’s an example of a Parasite-Once Upon a Time in Hollywood hedge:
- Bet $100 on Parasite +275
- Hedge $37.50 on Once Upon a Time in Hollywood +900
- Total bet amount: $137.50
- Payout if either wins: $375.00
The picks: Parasite +275 (down to +273), Once Upon a Time in Hollywood +900 (down to +369)
- Rene Zellweger (Judy) -2500
- Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story) +1000
- Cynthia Erivo (Harriet) +2000
- Charlize Theron (Bombshell) +2500
- Saoirse Ronan (Little Women) +3300
If you like laying $100 to win $3, then you’re gonna love this year’s acting categories…
I want to believe in Erivo, who I thought gave the strongest performance of this group as Harriet Tubman (or maybe it’s just easier to stand out in an otherwise mediocre film), but no backing from Gold Derby experts put her odds below 1%. The same is true of Scarlett Johansson, who also faces stiff competition from Scarlett Johansson, Supporting Actress.
Zellweger swept the acting precursors (Globes, Critics’ Choice, SAG, BAFTA), which all but guarantees an Oscar for anyone not named Russell Crowe. My model conservatively pegs her chances at 97.5%.
The Pick: Renee Zellweger to win, pass on the bet
- Joaquin Phoenix (Joker) -5000
- Adam Driver (Marriage Story) +1000
- Leonardo Di’Caprio (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) +3300
- Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory) +5000
- Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes) +6600
One of the upshots of rushing to bet Oscar lines after the nominations are released: I got this line at -650.
The Pick: Joaquin Phoenix to win, pass on the bet
Best Supporting Actress
- Laura Dern (Marriage Story) -2500
- Margot Robbie (Bombshell) +1200
- Florence Pugh (Little Women) +1400
- Scarlett Johansson (Jojo Rabbit) +2000
- Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell) +5000
Of the four acting frontrunners, Dern was the only one not picked to win by 100% of Gold Derby experts at the time of this writing, with 6.5% picking Johansson to pull off the upset.
That doesn’t translate to quite as much in terms of true odds: Historically, a nominee picked by 5-10% of experts has hit at a 3.9% clip, so you’d still want odds of +2400 or better before betting on Johansson. I still have Dern at 94.2% odds (-1625), so technically, she’s the better value given current odds.
One thing we do know for sure is that Margot Robbie will be getting at least one vote because some guy has a crush on her.
The Pick: Dern to win, Johansson +2400 or better, or pass
Best Supporting Actor
- Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) -5000
- Joe Pesci (The Irishman) +1200
- Al Pacino (The Irishman) +2800
- Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood) +3300
- Anthony Hopkins (The Two Popes) +5000
There will undoubtedly be a Goodfellas nostalgia vote for Pesci here, a Godfather nostalgia vote for Pacino there, with a few Hanks and Hopkins votes thrown in by the Academy’s foremost enthusiasts of Mr. Rogers and Pope Benedict XVI, respectively. Each had won an acting Oscar by 1995 — a year before Pitt’s first nomination (Best Supporting Actor in 12 Monkeys).
My model is 97.5% sure Pitt finally takes home his first Academy Award for acting.
The Pick: Brad Pitt to win, pass on bet
- Sam Mendes (1917) -500
- Bong Joon-ho (Parasite) +300
- Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) +1700
- Martin Scorsese (The Irishman) +5000
- Todd Phillips (Joker) +5000
Mendes bagged top honors at Directors Guild of America, which has failed to align with Best Director at the Oscars just seven times since 1950 — an 89.6% success rate.
If there were only one viable alternative, perhaps Mendes would be at risk. But what will likely happen is that support for Tarantino to get his first directing win will get canceled out by support for Joon-ho to earn the nod, and neither will be enough to buck the DGA trend.
The pick: Sam Mendes -500 (up to -885)
Best Production Design
- Once Upon a Time in Hollywood -167
- 1917 +200
- Parasite +350
- The Irishman +5000
- Jojo Rabbit +5000
At the Art Directors Guild, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood took home the top prize for production design in the period film category while Parasite bagged the same in the contemporary film category. A film that won at the Art Director’s Guild Awards has gone on to win the Oscar for Production Design 16 times in 23 years.
Meanwhile, 1917 took home the BAFTA, but the BAFTAs and Oscars have aligned just eight times in the past 23 years. On years in which they didn’t align, an ADG winner has snagged an Oscar 60% of the time.
Gold Derby experts are ruling out The Irishman and Jojo Rabbit, and after adjusting Zauzmer’s model, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood becomes a commanding frontrunner at 71.2%, followed by 1917 at 16.3% and Parasite at 11.3%.
The pick: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood -167 (up to -245)
Best Makeup & Hairstyling
- Bombshell -835
- Joker +450
- Judy +1400
- 1917 +2000
- Maleficent: Mistress of Evil +4000
Based on past trends, the name of this category should be “Best Makeup & Hairstyling … in the Most Critically Acclaimed Film.” The film with the most Oscar nominations has emerged victorious 26-of-37 times in the category, according to Zauzmer. Joker racked up a leading 11 nominations, which is more than Bombshell (3) Judy (2), 1917 (10), and Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (1).
It’s also worth noting that while Bombshell won the award for Contemporary Makeup at Makeup & Hairstyling Guild Awards, it was Joker that took home the prize for Period/Character Makeup, which has aligned on last six Oscar winners in this category.
It all adds up to multiple historical trends that say Joker should be the favorite here. That means it’s arguably worth a wager down to even money, and is unquestionably a massive value at +450, which equates to an implied probability of just 15.3%.
The Pick: Joker +450 (down to +100)
Best Costume Design
- Little Women -305
- Jojo Rabbit +275
- Once Upon a Time in Hollywood +550
- Joker +2000
- The Irishman +5000
Little Women has been considered a shoo-in for this award, but is overvalued in the market. It didn’t even get nominated at the Costume Designer’s Guild Awards, which is not a good sign given recent trends, as the last five winners in this category have been nominated.
Little Women also lost at the Critics Choice Awards to Dolemite Is My Name, which was not nominated for an Oscar. Thus, its frontrunner status can be solely attributed to its win at the BAFTAs. Historically, though, a BAFTA win has only equated to only a 55% success rate.
Removing the two longshots with no Gold Derby expert votes and re-weighting Zauzmer’s model results in projected odds of 40.6% for Little Women, 30.3% for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and 27.9% for Jojo Rabbit. I already backed Jojo Rabbit earlier in the season, but now I’m not feeling great about it. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood comes out ahead of Jojo Rabbit in Zauzmer’s projections, and also has more expert support at Gold Derby.
That said, figuring out which film to fade Little Women with could all be for naught if its Costume Designer’s Guild snub was simply due to a December release date that didn’t give guild members sufficient time to view the film ahead of the nomination process. And if Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Jojo Rabbit truly do have similar upset chances, they could cancel each other out, which works in favor of Little Women.
The Pick: Pass
Best Adapted Screenplay
- Jojo Rabbit -177
- Little Women +125
- The Irishman +900
- Joker +2500
- The Two Popes +5000
Jojo Rabbit went up against Little Women at the Writer’s Guild Awards and took home Best Adapted Screenplay. The winner of that award has gone on to repeat at the Oscars in 23 of the 33 years in which it was nominated, or 69.7%.
The pick: Jojo Rabbit -200 (up to -230)
Best Sound Mixing
- 1917 -250
- Ferd V. Ferrari +178
- Once Upon a Time in Hollywood +2000
- Joker +2500
- Ad Astra +2800
1917‘s frontrunner status can be traced back to the fact that it’s also the frontrunner for Best Sound Editing, and the same film has won for both editing and mixing in 17 of the 39 ceremonies in which the Academy gave out awards for each separately.
1917 failed to even earn a nomination from the The Cinema Audio Society for its top prize, which has correctly predicted the eventual Oscar winner for Best Sound Mixing in 14 of its 25 years of existence (56.0%). Ford v Ferrari notched the CAS win, and its chances are further boosted by the fact that only one film (Birdman) has gone on to prevail at the Oscars after failing to secure a CAS nomination.
The Pick: Ford v Ferrari +175 (down to +100)
Best Sound Editing
- 1917 -278
- Ferd v Ferrari +150
- Once Upon a Time in Hollywood +2500
- Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker +2500
- Joker +2800
1917 won Best Sound at the BAFTAs, which has aligned with the Oscars 61.5% of the time since the Oscars began the current format of five nominations in this category.
The Pick: Ford v.Ferrari +150 (down to +100)
Best Visual Effects
- 1917 -150
- Avengers: End Game +250
- The Irishman +550
- The Lion King +700
- Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker +2500
1917 won for visual effects at the BAFTAs, and since 2010, when the Academy began nominating five films in this category, the BAFTA winner has aligned in 6-of-9 years. But wait, it’s not that simple: 1917 was snubbed at the Visual Effects Society Awards, which also has a 66.7% success rate at predicting the Oscars.
In the three instances without overlap, a film that was nominated but lost at the BAFTAs took home the Oscar. Two of those three also won a VSE award, while the third (Ex Machina) wasn’t nominated. So absent BAFTA-VSE alignment, the strongest predictors we have are a) BAFTA loss (3-of-8 won Oscars), b) VSE win (2-of-6 won Oscars), (c) BAFTA win (3-of-3 lost at Oscars). This year’s two VSE winners were The Lion King and The Irishman.
1917 is the pick for 60.6% of Gold Derby experts in this category, but that’s actually another signal that 1917 is being overvalued for its BAFTA win: Over the last eight Oscars, the experts’ top choice in this category has only taken home an Oscar half the time. I got 1917 at +700 in mid-January, but now the longshots are the best values.
The Pick: The Irishman +550 (down to +500), The Lion King +700 (down to +500)
Best Original Screenplay
- Parasite -240
- Once Upon a Time in Hollywood +150
- Marriage Story +1200
- 1917 +3300
- Knives Out +4000
Parasite won Best Original Screenplay from the Writer’s Guild, and the winner of that award has gone on to repeat at the Oscars in 22 of the 33 years in which it was nominated (66.7%).
But it gets tricky because Quentin Tarantino was ineligible at the Writer’s Guild, despite nabbing wins for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood at both the Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice Awards and beating out Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite on both occasions. However, Joon-ho won the more prestigious Best Director prize over Tarantino at the latter event, and also beat out Tarantino in this category at the BAFTAs.
Some voters view this category as a consolation prize for Best Picture and/or Best Director. This would seem to favor Joon-ho, whose film trails 1917 in both of those categories, but is favored over Tarantino’s work.
When human decision-making is involved, I like to rely on the experts over computer math, and 71% are siding with Parasite. Luckily, I grabbed Parasite at +450 shortly after Oscar nominations were released, but it remains the best bet.
The Pick: Parasite -240 (up to -250)
Best Film Editing
- Ford v Ferrari -106
- Parasite -110
- The Irishman +900
- Joker +1000
- Jojo Rabbit +3300
A Best Editing win for Ford v Ferrari at the BAFTAs on Feb. 10 is fresher in the mind than Parasite‘s triumph at the American Cinema Editors Awards back on Jan. 17, but the latter has a 62.5% success rate at predicting the Oscar winner since it began splitting out its awards back in 1999.
Of the 13 times they’ve diverged over that span, the Oscar winner has aligned with the ACE winner nine times, the BAFTA winner twice, and neither twice, which puts the odds in favor of Parasite here.
The Pick: Parasite -125 (up to -167)
Best International Feature
- Parasite -10000
- Pain and Glory +1700
- Honeyland +3300
- Les Miserables +3300
- Corpus Christi +5000
The real question isn’t whether or not Parasite will win this, it’s will this be a consolation prize for a Best Picture snub?
The Pick: Parasite -10000
- 1917 -5000
- Once Upon a Time in Hollywood +1700
- The Irishman +2000
- Joker +2500
- The Lighthouse +2500
1917‘s Roger Deakins is set to win his second straight Oscar after taking home and award for Blade Runner 2049 two years ago. 1917 won at the Critics Choice, which has been accurate in predicting the Oscars 90.9% of the time, and a full 100% of Gold Derby experts are backing it to win on Sunday night.
The Pick: 1917 to win, pass on bet
Best Documentary Feature
- American Factory -265
- For Sama +175
- Honeyland +500
- The Cave +6600
- The Edge of Democracy +8000
American Factory, the first film produced by Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Productions, is barely ahead of Honeyland in Zauzmer’s model. This is an extremely well-liked film that also earned a nomination for Best International Feature, and it may get votes here since it’s going to be seen as unlikely to beat out Parasite in the other category.
The pick: Honeyland +500
Best Documentary Short
- Learning to Skateboard in a War Zone -1000
- St. Louis Superman +650
- In the Absence +1000
- Life Overtakes Me +1000
- Walk Run Cha-Cha +3300
Learning to Skateboard in a War Zone is being picked by 81.3% of Gold Derby experts, but its odds imply a 90.9% chance of victory. The experts’ No. 2 choice has won one-quarter of the time in this category, and one-third of the time across all short film categories.
The pick: St. Louis Superman +650 (down to +333)
Best Live-Action Short
- Brotherhood -134
- The Neighbours’ Window +100
- Saria +650
- A Sister +1200
- NEFTA Football Club +2000
At the time Oscar ballots closed, Brotherhood was the top choice among Gold Derby experts, but the The Neighbours’ Window surged ahead over the past few days and is now supported by 57.8% of experts. It seems like sportsbooks haven’t fully adjusted. A win for Neighbours’ Window makes sense, as it’s the only English-language film of the bunch.
The pick: The Neighbours’ Window +100
Best Original Score
- Joker -670
- 1917 +400
- Little Women +1400
- Marriage Story +3300
- Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker +5000
The Joker‘s Hildur Guðnadóttir won the Critics’ Choice award for Best Score, which has aligned with the Oscar in 10 of the 14 years it’s been nominated, but that 71.4% rate falls well short of 87.3% implied odds. ‘
If Joker gets upset, it would probably be due to career achievement nod for Thomas Newman, who has yet to win an Oscar in 13 tries. Per “Oscarmetrics,” winless nominees tend to see a 5.9% career achievement boost.
Still, I worry that the Academy voting body that is attempting to increase youth and diversity may not be as likely to award legacy wins, especially up against a candidate this deserving — the score is up there with Phoenix’s acting in terms of what makes Joker good.
The Pick: Pass
Best Animated Feature
- Toy Story 4 -125
- Klaus -112
- Missing Link +800
- I Lost My Body +3300
- How to Train Your Dragon: Hidden World +5000
This is one experts tend to struggle with. Twice over the past eight years, a film with less than 10% of the expert vote has won this category. Missing Link took home a Golden Globe, then Klaus snagged a BAFTA, leaving the frontrunner Toy Story 4 in a precarious position.
Some voters may be reluctant to give this award to the Toy Story franchise a second time. They gave a prize to Toy Story 3, but that was the first time they had a chance to give the franchise an award since this category was created, and they otherwise tend to shy away from sequels.
The pick: Pass
Best Original Song
- Love Me Again (Rocketman) -715
- Stand Up! (Harriet) +450
- I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away (Toy Story 4) +1200
- Into the Unknown (Frozen II) +1400
- I’m Standing with You (Breakthrough) +5000
This will probably go to Rocketman, a film which didn’t earn any other nominations
The Pick: Pass
Best Animated Short
- Hair Love -305
- Kitbull +225
- Memorable +800
- Sister +1400
- Dcera (Daughter) +2000
Hair Love is a short film about an African-American father tasked with doing his daughter’s hair for the first time. It has the support of 81.8% of Gold Derby experts, but I don’t think I can lay money on a film that a large chunk of the voting demographic may not fully understand, if you catch my drift.
The pick: Pass