Oscars cliffhanger: Does Best Picture champ have to win an acting award first?

Our recent poll of readers revealed that they believe “Boyhood” has the edge over “Birdmanin the race for Best Picture despite what our experts are predicting (those two dozen Oscarologists break 13-11 in favor of “Birdman”). This difference of opinion may be due to the relative importance each group places on the need for the Best Picture winner to have at least one of its cast claim an Oscar as well. 

Patricia Arquette, who plays the mother in the coming-of-age film “Boyhood,” has swept all the precursor prizes and is far out in front for Best Supporting Actress with jaw-dropping odds of 1/10. Compare that to the odds of the second-place contender, ‘Birdman” ingenue Emma Stone, who is at 33/1. 

And while both films are represented in the Supporting Actor race, neither Ethan Hawke nor Edward Norton is expected to prevail there over J.K. Simmons, the veteran character actor who has been in first place for his performance in “Whiplash” since we launched the prediction center last summer. 

And what of “Birdman” leading man Michael Keaton? He had been in the lead for Best Actor until Eddie Redmayne won at the SAG Awards and seemed to seal the deal at last Sunday’s BAFTAs. However, with his film currently in first place for the top prize, could he ride the “Birdman” coattails to victory as well? 

Oscars poll: Who’s ahead to win Best Actor?

Perhaps, but even if he, Stone and Norton all lose as we are predicting, that does not torpedo the Best Picture hopes of “Birdman.” Indeed, 36 of the 86 Best Picture winners to date (42%) did not win any acting awards, including two of the five films — “The Hurt Locker” (2009) and “Argo” (2012) — decided by preferential ballot under the newly expanded slate of nominees. 

And an even dozen of the Best Picture winners did not even reap any acting nominations. That is welcome news for “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” which does not number an acting bid among its leading nine nominations. However, four of those films that were snubbed by the actors branch date back to the first years of the Oscars, prior to the introduction of the supporting acting categories at the 9th awards in 1936. 

UPDATED: Experts’ Oscars predictions in all 24 categories

Below, a breakdown of the Best Picture winners that went without a performance prize by number of acting nominations. 

Five acting nominations (1 film)
1963: “Tom Jones” (Actor: Albert Finney; Supporting Actor: Hugh Griffiths; Supporting Actress: Diane Cilento, Edith Evans, Joyce Redman)

Four acting nominations (1 film)
1976: “Rocky” (Actor: Sylvester Stallone; Actress: Talia Shire; Supporting Actor: Burgess Meredith, Burt Young)

Three acting nominations (5 films)
1990: “Dances with Wolves” (Actor: Kevin Costner; Supporting Actor: Graham Greene; Supporting Actress: Mary McDonnell)
1969: “Midnight Cowboy” (Actor: Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight; Supporting Actress: Sylvia Miles)
1960: “The Apartment” (Actor: Jack Lemmon; Actress: Shirley MacLaine; Supporting Actor: Jack Kruschen)
1940: “Rebecca” (Actor: Laurence Olivier; Actress: Joan Fontaine; Supporting Actress: Judith Anderson)
1935: “Mutiny on the Bounty” (Actor: Clark Gable, Charles Laughton, Franchot Tone)

Two acting nominations (9 films) 
1998: “Titanic” (Actress: Kate Winslet; Supporting Actress: Gloria Stuart)
1993: “Schindler’s List” (Actor: Liam Neeson; Supporting Actor: Ralph Fiennes)
1986: “Platoon” (Supporting Actor: Tom Berenger, Willem Defoe)
1985: “Out of Africa” (Actress: Meryl Streep; Supporting Actor, Klaus Maria Brandauer)
1968: “Oliver!” (Actor: Ron Moody; Supporting Actor: Jack Wild)
1965: “The Sound of Music” (Actress: Julie Andrews; Supporting Actress: Peggy Wood)
1962: “Lawrence of Arabia” (Actor: Peter O’Toole; Supporting Actor: Omar Sharif)
1943: “Casablanca” (Actor: Humphrey Bogart; Supporting Actor: Claude Rains)
1930/31: “Cimarron” (Actor: Richard Dix; Actress: Irene Dunne)

One acting nomination (8 films) 
2012: “Argo” (Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin)
2009: “The Hurt Locker” (Actor: Jeremy Renner)
2006: “The Departed” (Supporting Actor: Mark Wahlberg)
2005: “Crash” (Supporting Actor: Matt Dillon)
1981: “Chariots of Fire” (Supporting Actor: Ian Holm)
1973: “The Sting” (Actor: Robert Redford)
1938: “You Can’t Take It With You” (Supporting Actress: Spring Byington)
1928/29: “The Broadway Melody” (Actress: Bessie Love)

Zero acting nominations (12 films)
2008: “Slumdog Millionaire”
2003: “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”
1995: “Braveheart”
1988: “The Last Emperor”
1958: “Gigi”
1956: “Around the World in 80 Days”
1952: “The Greatest Show on Earth”
1951: “An American in Paris”
1932/33: “Calvacade”
1931/32: “Grand Hotel”
1929/30: All Quiet on the Western Front”
1927/28: “Wings” 

Make your Oscars picks now — click here — or scroll down to predict the Best Picture winner using our easy drag-and-drop menu. Best predictions will win $1,000 prize. And the 24 Users with the best scores advance to a team to compete against our Experts and Editors next year. See who’s in our current Top 24 and their early Oscar predictions. Meet the guy who won our contest to predict Oscar nominations this year — and learn how he did it and how you can be our next Gold Derby superstar. Register/log in to your account so you can also compete to predict the BAFTAs, Grammys, “The Walking Dead,” “Celebrity Apprentice” and more.

6 thoughts on “Oscars cliffhanger: Does Best Picture champ have to win an acting award first?

  1. Question: Does the best picture champ have to win an acting award first? Answer: Yes,it helps (sometimes) the best picture winner(especially if it’s Birdman).Paul,you’re so stupid,do you want them to announce the acting awards after the announcement of the best picture win?

  2. All About Eve and The Godfather Part II each had five acting nominations ( each winning for supporting actor, script and director) and were best picture winners. In addition The Godfather had four acting nominations and won for best Picture, actor and screenplay.

  3. By Paul’s logic “Boyhood” will win because we already know Patricia Arquette will win and that is way more of a sure thing then Michael Keaton. I am still picking “Boyhood”!!!

  4. I’m quite sure that Boyhood/Birdman will split Picture/Director but I don’t know in which way. The Birdman win at DGA is the biggest tell for me that it has to win one of those two…. Right? And I’m not about to jump off of the Boyhood train completely. It has to win one of the major awards.

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