These Are the Movies That Will Win Big on Oscar Night This Year

Parasite, Judy, Harriet, Marriage Story, Joker

Clockwise from top-left: Parasite, Judy, Harriet, Marriage Story, Joker. Collage by Observer

A revisionist Hollywood period piece. A mob saga. A divorce drama. A comic-book origin story. A war epic. A movie about young women, by women. A domestic curio from South Korea. A Nazi satire. And a good, old-fashioned movie about really fast cars. What does the subject matter of this year’s lineup of Oscar-nominated Best Picture nominees tell us about today’s world? The same thing it always does: That everything changes and everything stays the same.

SEE ALSO: The 2020 Oscar Nominees: Full List

Would a South Korean film like Parasite have secured so many nominations 10 years ago? Five years ago? Probably not. But it must comfortably remain in the company of cozy American fare like Ford v. Ferrari. Would a Little Women remake have even been attractive to studio heads before the rise of a filmmaker like Greta Gerwig? Doubtful. But while her movie has recognition in the ceremony’s biggest race, she was snubbed in the Best Director category. The Academy Awards are an annual push and pull of progress and traditionalism, handing Best Picture to Moonlight (a gay, black drama) in 2016, then giving it to Green Book (a dusty, white apologist film) two years later.

We still seem to be a long way from a time when the Oscars truly reflect the wide breadth of lived experiences of the people who watch them on TV. While we patiently wait for that time to come, here’s who we think will be going home with gold this year, in each of the 24 categories.

Laura Dern and Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story

Laura Dern and Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story. Netflix

Best Supporting Actress

The “career Oscar” is one of the most frustrating inevitabilities of awards season, and recently, we’ve seen it bestowed on Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant) and Julianne Moore (Still Alice), both of whom seemed rewarded for their bodies of work as opposed to the work at hand. The same outcome seems all but certain for Laura Dern, whose turn as a cutthroat divorce lawyer in Marriage Story isn’t so much remarkable as it is a show of dogged consistency from the three-time nominee. Far more exciting and deserving of this honor is fresh blood Florence Pugh, the highlight of Little Women, or Scarlett Johansson, the beating heart of Jojo Rabbit. Margot Robbie’s time will come, but not for Bombshell, and Kathy Bates’s presence here for Richard Jewell feels like a bone-throw to a beloved veteran—one who undoubtedly edged out the truly deserving winner: Hustlers star Jennifer Lopez.

Will Win: Laura Dern, Marriage Story
Could Win: Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit
Should Win: Florence Pugh, Little Women

Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Sony Pictures

Best Supporting Actor

With respect to Brad Pitt’s full immersion into his role as stuntman Cliff Booth in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, it’s safe to say the performance wasn’t much of a stretch for the actor. Like Pitt, Booth is the embodiment of cool—an effortlessly handsome smooth operator whose feathers can’t even be ruffled by the Manson family. Pitt deserves the win that’s coming his way, but his most important shout-out will be to QT for his spot-on casting. The only potential foil here is The Irishman‘s Joe Pesci, who, like his nominated co-star Al Pacino, showed a deft and welcome return to the mob genre. Meanwhile, everyone loves Tom Hanks, but the two-time winner will be passed over this year for playing Mr. Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, as will Sir Anthony Hopkins for his role as Pope Benedict in The Two Popes.

Will Win: Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Could Win: Joe Pesci, The Irishman
Should Win: Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

Renee Zellweger in Judy

Renée Zellweger in Judy. LD Entertainment

Best Actress

There’s no sense betting against a sure thing, and Renée Zellweger’s work as Judy Garland in Judy seems pre-ordained for victory here. Aside from Zellweger’s actual singing and eerily spot-on mannerisms, her own career resurgence (which loosely aligns with Garland’s) will seal the envelope for her win. Charlize Theron and Cynthia Erivo are also nominated for playing real people (Megyn Kelly in Bombshell and Harriet Tubman in Harriet, respectively), but neither of their films nor personal narratives have scored enough love for an upset. Saoirse Ronan—whose nod for Little Women has made her the youngest actor in history to score four nominations—has an Oscar in her future, but not this year. And while Scarlett Johansson’s raw, formidable and achingly human work in Marriage Story is ultimately the most deserving, it still won’t be enough to derail Zellweger’s golden stroll to the podium. 

Will Win: Renée Zellweger, Judy
Could Win: Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story
Should Win: Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story

joaquin phoenix joker

Joaquin Phoenix in Joker. Warner Bros.

Best Actor

Adam Driver might be the most exciting actor working today. A Juilliard-trained military vet, he’s hulking yet highly sensitive, seemingly unaware of his unconventional handsomeness, and admirably judicious about his professional choices. His shattering performance in Marriage Story should win him this trophy, but the precursor awards all point to a victory for Joaquin Phoenix, the latest actor to play the Clown Prince of Crime in Joker. Phoenix has been down this road twice before (for Walk the Line and The Master), and his chameleonic work as an unraveling vigilante is virtuoso stuff, even if it pales alongside Driver’s tormented divorcé. Anchoring the movie that boasts more nominations than any other this year (11), it’ll be enough to not only defeat Driver, but also Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood), Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes) and even Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory), who’s more than paid his dues to at last be recognized.

Will Win: Joaquin Phoenix, Joker
Could Win: Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory
Should Win: Adam Driver, Marriage Story

Sam Mendes took home two Golden Globes for 1917

Director Sam Mendes won two Golden Globes for 1917—Best Director and Best Motion Picture (Drama). Paul Drinkwater/NBCUniversal Media, LLC via Getty Images

Best Director

Martin Scorsese changed the landscape of American cinema. Most would agree he’s the greatest living American filmmaker. Still, his sprawling, three-hour-plus mob saga The Irishman is a tough film to get through, even if it’s clear that there’s a master at work. Quentin Tarantino, Hollywood’s enfant terrible, has also earned his reputation for uncompromising mastery, and Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood is his most personal film to date, despite the controversies it wrought. Joker helmer Todd Phillips is the new kid here, and while many claim he co-opted stylistic and thematic touches from Scorsese’s earlier work, he’s being handsomely acknowledged for graduating from The Hangover to a richly dark commentary on society’s ills. With Parasite, Bong Joon Ho cemented himself as a dizzyingly versatile director, navigating a genre-defying class satire through every imaginable emotion and an array of crisp visuals. But none of these men seem poised to topple a win for Sam Mendes, whose wildly ambitious 1917 turns the simple conceit of a rescue mission into that rare thing: a singular war film for the ages.

Will Win: Sam Mendes, 1917
Could Win: Bong Joon Ho, Parasite  
Should Win: Bong Joon Ho, Parasite

George MacKay in 1917.

George MacKay in 1917, directed by Sam Mendes. François Duhamel / Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures

Best Picture

Given how utterly beholden Hollywood has become to the superhero genre, it’s heartening that the Academy didn’t cave and give a Best Picture nod to Marvel’s juggernaut finale Avengers: Endgame. Still, the movie that did rack up the most nominations this year is Joker, a pseudo-spin-off of said genre that just happens to carry a bit more prestige and real-world resonance. Does that mean it will exit stage left with the top prize? Probably not. If the precursor awards are any indication, this race comes down to the WWI epic 1917, Quentin Tarantino’s bloody Tinseltown valentine Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood and Bong Joon Ho’s South Korean masterpiece Parasite. Some might feel that Scorsese still has a dog in the fight with The Irishman, but it’s hard to imagine enough people loving that film to place it at number one on their ballots. The same goes for Jojo Rabbit, Little Women, Ford v. Ferrari, and, sadly, Marriage Story. A perfect film that manages to be thriller, comedy, drama, satire, horror flick, romance, and coming-of-age tale all at once, Parasite is unquestionably the movie of the year. But as it gets relegated to settling for Best International Film, the path is cleared for 1917, a perfectly-timed, late-blooming tour de force that wows viewers with its single-take wizardry while yanking at their heartstrings.

Will Win: 1917
Could Win: Parasite  
Should Win: Parasite

Those are the major categories. Here’s how the rest of the field will shake out…

Best Original Screenplay

Will Win: Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Could Win: Parasite
Should Win: Marriage Story 

Little Women 2019 Review Cast Interviews

L-R: Eliza Scanlen, Saiorse Ronan, Greta Gerwig of Little Women. Carl Timpone/BFA.com

Best Adapted Screenplay

Will Win: Little Women
Could Win: Jojo Rabbit
Should Win: Little Women

Best Film Editing

Will Win: Ford v. Ferrari
Could Win: Parasite
Should Win: Parasite

Best Cinematography

Will Win: 1917
Could Win: Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Should Win: 1917

Best Production Design

Will Win: Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Could Win: 1917
Should Win: Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

Best Costume Design

Will Win: Little Women
Could Win: Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Should Win: Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie in Bombshell.

Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie in Bombshell. Hilary Bronwyn Gayle SMPSP

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Will Win: Bombshell
Could Win: Joker
Should Win: Bombshell

Best Original Score

Will Win: Joker
Could Win: 1917
Should Win: Joker

Cynthia Erivo in Harriet

Cynthia Erivo in Harriet. Focus Features

Best Original Song

Will Win: “I’m Gonna Love Me Again” from Rocketman
Could Win: “Stand Up,” from Harriet
Should Win: “I’m Gonna Love Me Again” from Rocketman

Best Sound Editing

Will Win: 1917
Could Win: Ford v. Ferrari
Should Win: 1917

Best Sound Mixing

Will Win: 1917
Could Win: Ford v. Ferrari
Should Win: 1917

Best Visual Effects

Will Win: 1917
Could Win: Avengers: Endgame
Should Win: 1917

So-dam Park and Woo-sik Choi in Parasite. Neon

Best International Film 

Will Win: Parasite
Could Win: Pain and Glory
Should Win: Parasite

Best Animated Feature

Will Win: Toy Story 4
Could Win: Missing Link
Should Win: I Lost My Body

Best Documentary Feature

Will Win: American Factory
Could Win: For Sama
Should Win: The Cave

Best Animated Short 

Will Win: Hair Love
Could Win: Memorable
Should Win: Memorable

Best Live-Action Short 

Will Win: Brotherhood
Could Win: The Neighbors’ Window
Should Win: Nefta Football Club

Best Documentary Short 

Will Win: Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)
Could Win: St. Louis Superman
Should Win: Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)

For a refresher, see our full list of this year’s Oscar-nominated films.

These Are the Movies That Will Win Big on Oscar Night This Year