How DGA win could seal Best Picture Oscar for ‘Gravity’ or ’12 Years a Slave’

Last Sunday, “12 Years a Slave” and “Gravity” were both named Best Picture at the Producers Guild Awards in an unprecedented tie. So, if one of them wins the Directors Guild Award on Saturday, is the Oscar race for Best Picture pretty much over?

The PGA has a strong track record predicting Oscar’s Best Picture: they have previewed the champ 17 out of 24 times (71%), including the last six years in a row. The DGA’s record is even better: 52 out of their 65 winners (80%) have gone on to see their films named Best Picture by the acadmy.

And when you combine these two guilds, you have an even better Oscar crystal ball.

PGA and DGA have picked the same film 18 times in the past 24 years and 15 of those went on to win Best Picture at the Oscars. That’s an accuracy rate of 83%. The three outliers were:

1995: “Apollo 13” won DGA and PGA, lost Oscar to “Braveheart”

1998: “Saving Private Ryan” won DGA and PGA, lost Oscar to “Shakespeare in Love”

2005: “Brokeback Mountain” won DGA and PGA, lost Oscar to “Crash”

So, if either Alfonso Cuaron (“Gravity”) or Steve McQueen (“12 Years”) wins at DGA, his film becomes the statistical heavy favorite to win Oscar. Our predictions favor Cuaron, giving him overwhelming 1/5 odds at DGA. However, “Gravity” ranks just third in our Oscar predictions for Best Picture, which is surprisingly low given the history of these precursors.

RELATED: Are we overestimating Alfonso Cuaron (‘Gravity’) at DGA Awards?

That PGA tie complicates matters. Assuming “Gravity” and “12 Years” don’t both win DGA (though maybe we shouldn’t rule out that possibility the way this season has gone), there will still be a split between the two groups. They have disagreed six times before:

1989: PGA to “Driving Miss Daisy”; DGA to “Born on the Fourth of July”

1992: PGA to “The Crying Game”; DGA to “Unforgiven”

2000: PGA to “Gladiator”; DGA to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”

2001: PGA to “Moulin Rouge”; DGA to “A Beautiful Mind”

2004: PGA to “The Aviator”; DGA to “Million Dollar Baby”

2006: PGA to “Little Miss Sunshine”; DGA to “The Departed”

In four of those instances, the DGA winner won the top Oscar (“Unforgiven,” “A Beautiful Mind,” “Million Dollar Baby,” “Departed”), compared to just twice for the PGA pick (“Driving Miss Daisy,” “Gladiator”). So, even with a split, history favors the DGA-winner at the Oscars.

Where does that leave “American Hustle,” which seemed so strong right after the Academy Award nominations were announced? I moved it to my number-one position when it earned its impressive 10 Oscar bids, but then dropped it down to third place after the PGA results. I might move it back up again if it pulls off an upset at DGA – Oscar predictions are a fickle business – but even if it doesn’t, we’d be foolish to write it off for Best Picture.

In two of the three years when the DGA and PGA winner lost the Best Picture race at the Oscars, it was SAG’s Best Ensemble award that predicted the eventual winner: “Shakespeare in Love” over “Saving Private Ryan” (1998); “Crash” over “Brokeback Mountain” (2005). “American Hustle” won that award this year. 

“Shakespeare” and “Crash” also picked up momentum by winning Best Original Screenplay at the WGA Awards, where this year “American Hustle” holds a narrow lead in our racetrack odds against “Her.” So there’s still a path to victory for David O. Russell‘s crime comedy.

Will DGA finally clarify the Oscars, or will there be more surprises to come? Make your DGA predictions below using our easy drag-and-drop menu. 

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