Our 22 Oscar experts (journalists from leading publications like Entertainment Weekly and Huffington Post) are divided between Tom McCarthy‘s “Spotlight” and Adam McKay‘s “The Big Short” for Best Picture by a vote of 12 to 6. But neither man is favored to win Best Director by even one expert.
Instead, DGA champ Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (“The Revenant”) is heavily favored to win. He has the backing of 15 of our Oscar pundits; that translates into leading odds of 8/13. George Miller (“Mad Max: Fury Road”) is in second place at 2/1 with eight experts in his corner.
Inarritu won Best Director last year for “Birdman,” which was named Best Picture. If he prevails again this year, he would join a pair of back-to-back helming champs: John Ford (“The Grapes of Wrath,” 1940; “How Green Was My Valley,” 1941) and Joseph L. Mankiewicz (“Letter to Three Wives,” 1949; “All About Eve,” 1950). And he could go them one better as only the latter of each of their two wins was a Best Picture champ. Currently, “The Revenant” is in third place, with five experts predicting it to prevail and odds of 7/2.
Best Picture and Director have lined up for 64 of the 87 years of Oscar. Since the academy went to an expanded Best Picture lineup with the winner decided by preferential ballot six years ago, there have been two instances where these awards split. In 2013, “12 Years a Slave” was named Best Picture but its helmer, Steve McQueen, was bested by Alfonso Cuaron (“Gravity”). And in 2012, Ang Lee won for overseeing the 3-D spectacle “Life of Pi” while “Argo” claimed Best Picture despite director Ben Affleck not being nominated. That marked only the fourth time in Oscar history that the director of the Best Picture was snubbed by the academy. The other instances:
1927/28: “Wings” won Best Picture; William Wellman was snubbed: Frank Borzage won Best Director for “Seventh Heaven”;
1931/32: “Grand Hotel” won Best Picture; Edmund Goulding was snubbed: Frank Borzage won Best Director for “Bad Girl”; and
1989: “Driving Miss Daisy” won Best Picture winner; Bruce Beresford was snubbed; Oliver Stone won Best Director for “Born on the Fourth of July”
Back in 2005, Lee had won Best Director for “Brokeback Mountain,” which lost Best Picture to Paul Haggis‘ “Crash.” There have been 16 other years where Best Picture went to one film and Best Director to another even though the helmer of the academy favorite was nominated.
John Ford won Best Director three times even though his film lost the big prize. He edged out rival nominees in:
1935: Frank Lloyd‘s “Mutiny on the Bounty” won Best Picture; Ford won his first Oscar for “The Informer”;
1940: Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rebecca” won Best Picture; Ford won his second Oscar for “The Grapes of Wrath”;
1952: Cecil B. DeMille‘s “The Greatest Show on Earth” won Best Picture; Ford won his record fourth Oscar for “The Quiet Man” (he had claimed this third in 1941 for helming Best Picture champ “How Green Was My Valley”).
And George Stevens pulled off the same surprise in:
1951: Vincente Minnelli‘s “An American in Paris” won Best Picture; Stevens won Best Director for “A Place in the Sun”; and
1956: Michael Anderson‘s “Around the World in 80 Days” won Best Picture; Stevens won Best Director for “Giant.”
The other 11 times that the prizes split came in:
1930/31: Wesley Ruggles‘ “Cimarron” won Best Picture; Norman Taurog won Best Director for “Skippy”;
1936: Robert Z. Leonard‘s’ “The Great Ziefeld” won Best Picture; Frank Capra won Best Director for “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town”;
1937: William Dieterle‘s “The Life of Emile Zola” won Best Picture; Leo McCarey won Best Director for “The Awful Truth”;
1948: Laurence Olivier‘s “Hamlet” won Best Picture; John Huston won Best Director for “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre”;
1949: Robert Rossen‘s “All the Kings Men” won Best Picture; Joseph L. Mankiewicz won Best Director for “A Letter to Three Wives”;
1967: Norman Jewison‘s “In the Heat of the Night” won Best Picture; Mike Nichols won Best Director for “The Graduate”;
1972: Francis Ford Coppola‘s “The Godfather” won Best Picture; Bob Fosse won Best Director for “Cabaret” which set the record for most Oscars (8) without taking the top prize;
1981: Hugh Hudson‘s “Chariots of Fire” won Best Picture; Warren Beatty won Best Director for “Reds”;
1998: John Madden‘s “Shakespeare in Love” won Best Picture; Steven Spielberg won Best Director for “Saving Private Ryan”;
2000: Ridley Scott‘s “Gladiator” won Best Picture; Steven Soderbergh won Best Director for “Traffic”; and
2002: Rob Marshall‘s “Chicago” won Best Picture; Roman Polanski won Best Director for “The Pianist”;
At the second Oscars (1928/29), Frank Lloyd won Best Director for “The Divine Lady.” That was the only time this race went to the helmer of a film not nominated for Best Picture. “The Broadway Melody” won that award but director Harry Beaumont lost to Lloyd.
Make your own Oscar predictions now beginning with Best Director to the right or below using our easy drag-and-drop menu.
If you reap one of the top three scores forecasting the winners, you can win our top contest prizes: $500, $300 or $200 Amazon gift certificates. See contest rules.
And you could earn a place of honor on our leaderboard and a starring role in next year’s Top 24 Users (the two dozen folks who do the best predicting this year’s Oscar champs).