Oscars 2020: Why the Best Picture Race Is Down to These Movies

The Oscars, the biggest night in movies, are nearly here. The 92nd Academy Awards ceremony takes place on Feb. 9. And now we finally know which films will be contending for the top honors Hollywood has to offer.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has revealed the 2020 Oscar nominations. And though many of the predicted nominees made the cut, the academy — as always — threw in a few surprises. In particular, the Best Picture race is really heating up.

The cast and crew of '1917'
The cast and crew of ‘1917’ | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

The nine films contending for Oscar’s top prize

Best Picture is, of course, the academy’s top prize, as it goes to the film Oscar voters consider the year’s best. Recent winners include Green Book, The Shape of Water, Moonlight, and Spotlight. A decade ago, the academy expanded the Oscars’ biggest category from five slots to as many as 10. The 2020 crop includes nine of 2019’s most acclaimed releases.

In alphabetical order, here’s a quick rundown of the films vying for Best Picture:

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

All of the above movies have multiple nominations, but Joker leads the pack with 11. The Irishman, 1917 and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood all tie for second place with 10 nominations each. And Jojo Rabbit, Little Women, Marriage Story, and Parasite all claimed six nods. However, looking a bit closer at the big picture reveals which films truly have the best shot of taking Best Picture.

Breaking down the next Best Picture

Although we have nine Best Picture nominees, only a few actually have a solid chance at winning. The academy offered solid support for Ford v Ferrari, Jojo Rabbit, Little Women, and Marriage Story. But those films simply don’t have enough nominations across the biggest categories to make a Best Picture win likely.

That leaves five other contenders still in the mix at this year’s Oscars. Both The Irishman and Joker boast nominations in the screenplay, director, and acting categories. Yet, the former feels like it’s lost a bit of momentum, dinged for Robert De Niro’s absence from Best Actor and because it’s a Netflix movie. The streaming service has notoriously come into conflict with the academy, after all.

Joker feels like a very real possibility, given its $1 billion box office gross and inescapable cultural impact. But it’s still a comic book movie, and we’re not sure the academy is ready to take that leap just yet. In some circles within the industry, Joker remains divisive. So while Joaquin Phoenix is the current frontrunner for Best Actor, a Best Picture win feels like a step too far.

The 2020 Best Picture Oscar goes to…

So that leaves just three films as the leading contenders for Best Picture. And according to GoldDerby.com — which focuses exclusively on “predict[ing] Hollywood races” — the odds are in their favor. The movies in question? Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, 1917, and Parasite.

Quentin Tarantino has been an academy favorite since Pulp Fiction. Given how much the Oscars love movies about the movie business, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood has an undisputed edge. Its period 1960s setting and guaranteed Best Supporting Actor win for Brad Pitt only sharpen the case for why a Tarantino movie might finally snag Best Picture.

As for 1917, no one seriously considered the Sam Mendes (American Beauty) movie a threat a month ago. But its Golden Globes victory and box office success has pushed it to the front of the conversation. A war movie stylized to look like one continuous shot, 1917 just might offer the perfect combination of emotion and spectacle to nab the Oscars’ biggest prize.

But the real wild card is South Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite. The film’s unpredictable tone and social commentary have made it one of the biggest critical hits of the year. Moreover, the academy has recognized it in just as many categories as Tarantino’s film, which says a lot about how well-regarded it is. If it does win, Parasite will be the first foreign-language film to win Best Picture.

We’ll find out which of these films will win Best Picture soon enough, as the 92nd Academy Awards air on ABC on Feb. 9, 2020.