Oscars 2020: Does Its Historic SAG Win Make ‘Parasite’ a Lock for Best Picture?

Watch out because the Oscars might be taken over by Parasite.

Going into this awards season, we’re willing to bet a lot of casual moviegoers hadn’t even heard of Parasite. The South Korean black comedy-thriller-drama from director/co-writer Bong Joon-ho (Snowpiercer, Okja) isn’t exactly what most would consider mainstream entertainment. Or is it?

At the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards, Parasite made history as the first foreign-language film to win Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. The award is essentially SAG’s equivalent to Best Picture and is often considered a key predictor for who will win at the Oscars.

So, with a SAG Award on its side, is Parasite now the bonafide Best Picture frontrunner? Not exactly.

The cast of 'Parasite' at the Screen Actors Guild Awards
The cast of ‘Parasite’ at the Screen Actors Guild Awards | ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

‘Parasite’ has been a big winner this awards season

Riding a wave of critical buzz — the film is 99 percent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes — Parasite has been a mainstay throughout awards season. However, the film’s combination of genres and tones could have made a successful Oscar bid a challenge. After all, the Academy Awards often overlook films it considers too offbeat for such a prestigious honor.

Moreover, foreign-language films rarely make it into such high-profile contention. More often than not, such releases — no matter how beloved — are relegated to Best Foreign-Language Film, the category just renamed Best International Feature. In the past decade, only 2012’s Amour and 2018’s Roma have made it into the Best Picture race.

So Parasite has already overcome several key obstacles on its way to some major Oscar wins. The film has even earned six nominations and the distinction of being the first South Korean movie nominated in its categories. No wonder HBO is jumping into the Parasite business, with an upcoming series based on the film.

The SAG Award win strengthens its chances at the Oscars

Going into the Oscars, insiders take into account all kinds of precursors. These include awards given out by critics’ groups, highly publicized ceremonies such as the Golden Globes, and the guilds representing actors, directors, producers, and writers from within the industry. That last group of awards-voting bodies, in particular, can often be telling, as the academy’s membership often carries a significant overlap.

In that respect, Parasite could be in excellent shape going into the Oscars. Its cast’s SAG Awards win underscores the film’s growing momentum right now. However, in the last decade, only four of the films that won the SAG cast award went on to claim Best Picture at the Oscars. Support for Parasite is clearly in a groundswell right now, but fans of the movie shouldn’t lock in their Oscar pools just yet.

Oscar’s biggest race could still go several different ways

While Parasite has gained a bit more traction with its SAG win, the race is far from over right now. In fact, GoldDerby.com has Parasite in a dead heat with two other Best Picture favorites. Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is still technically the frontrunner. But aside from Brad Pitt’s inevitable Best Supporting Actor win, the film seems to be losing ground fast.

More and more, it feels like Best Picture could come down to Parasite and Sam Mendes’ war drama 1917. Both Tarantino’s film and 1917 won Golden Globes — for comedy and drama, respectively — but the latter also won Best Director at that ceremony. Moreover, 1917 beat both Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Parasite at the Producer’s Guild of America Awards. Since PGA is the largest guild in the industry, 1917 arguably received a bigger boost than even Parasite‘s SAG win affords.

Plus, since 1917 is by no means an ensemble piece, it makes sense why it wouldn’t take the big SAG prize. In other words, Parasite has solidified its place among the top Best Picture players. But it’s not over yet. Considering how Bong Joon-ho’s movie has exceeded all expectations, we know better than to bet against it though. All eyes will be on what the director’s and writer’s guilds decide at their respective awards ceremonies.