Best Director Oscar predictions by experts: Guillermo del Toro (‘The Shape of Water’) widens lead after DGA nominations

In the wake of earning a mention in the DGA Awards nominations on Jan. 11, “The Shape of Water” helmer Guillermo del Toro has widened his lead in the race for Best Director at the Oscars according to our 29 experts from major media outlets. He now has the votes of a whopping 18 of these pundits while long-time leader Christopher Nolan (“Dunkirk”) now has the backing of just nine of them; that is half of the support that he enjoyed just two weeks ago. One expert opts for “Lady Bird” writer/director Greta Gerwig while another is for “Call Me By Your Name” director Luca Guadagnino.

But while del Toro has leading odds of 11/5 to win Best Director, only five of our experts expect his fantasy film to take home the top Academy Award. And just three expect Nolan’s technically innovative epic that details the British retreat from France during the darkest days of World War II to be named Best Picture.

In the lead for Best Picture with a half dozen votes each are Martin McDonagh‘s character study “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and Jordan Peele‘s social satire “Get Out.” Gerwig’s coming-of-age charmer has the backing of five pundits while Steven Spielberg‘s docudramaThe Post” has four in its corner. Guadagnino’s romance has one vote.

Before the academy reintroduced the preferential ballot for Best Picture in 2009, such divides between the two top Oscars were fairly rare. Now, they are the rule rather than the exception at the Academy Awards.

Indeed, the winners of Best Picture and Best Director have split at four of the last five Oscars. While Ang Lee (“Life of Pi”), Alfonso Cuaron (“Gravity”), Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (“The Revenant”) and Damien Chazelle (“La La Land”) all took home the Best Director award, their films lost the top prize to “Argo” (2012), “12 Years a Slave” (2013), “Spotlight” (2015) and “Moonlight” (2016) respectively.  Inarritu did win for directing the 2014 Best Picture champ “Birdman.”

Unlike all the other Oscar categories, which are decided by a popular vote, the winner of the Best Picture award is determined by a weighted ballot. Voters rank their choices from first to last, and if one nominee garners more than 50% of the first place vote, it automatically wins. If, however, no nominee can meet that threshold, the film with the fewest first place votes gets eliminated, with its ballot getting reapportioned to the second place choice. This process continues until one nominee reaches 50% plus one vote. The goal, says the academy, is to award the top Oscar to a consensus choice.

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Below we break down the Oscar Best Director predictions by expert and include the most up-to-date odds for each of the top 10 contenders to win. And be sure to check out how our experts rank Oscar contenders in the other races. Use the drop-down menus at the top of each page to see the other categories.

1. Guillermo del Toro, “The Shape of Water”: 18 experts (11/5 odds)
Thelma Adams (Gold Derby)
Erik Davis (Fandango)
Edward Douglas
Joyce Eng (Gold Derby)
Matthew Jacobs (Huffington Post)
Tariq Khan (Fox News)
Andrea Mandell (USA Today)
Jack Mathews (Gold Derby)
Michael Musto (NewsNowNext)
Tom O’Neil (Gold Derby)
Kevin Polowy (Yahoo)
Christopher Rosen (Entertainment Weekly)
Sasha Stone (Awards Daily)
Anne Thompson (Indiewire)
Peter Travers (Rolling Stone)
Brian Truitt (USA Today)
Adnan Virk (ESPN)
Glenn Whipp (Los Angeles Times)

2. Christopher Nolan, “Dunkirk“: 9 experts (3/1 odds)
Grae Drake (Rotten Tomatoes)
Bonnie Fuller (Hollywood Life)
Tim Gray (Variety)
Dave Karger (IMDB)
Scott Mantz (Access Hollywood)
Keith Simanton (IMDB)
Krista Smith (Vanity Fair)
Sara Vilkomerson (Entertainment Weekly)
Susan Wloszczyna (

3. Greta Gerwig, “Lady Bird”: 1 expert (11/2 odds)
Kyle Buchanan (New York)

4. Jordan Peele, “Get Out” (9/1 odds)

5. Martin McDonagh, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”: (11/1 odds)

4. Steven Spielberg, “The Post”: (14/1 odds)

7. Luca Guadagnino, “Call Me by Your Name”: 1 expert (7/1 odds)
Jeffrey Wells (Hollywood-Elsewhere)

8. Dee Rees, “Mudbound”: One expert (33/1 odds)

9. Joe Wright, “Darkest Hour”: (50/1 odds)

10. Paul Thomas Anderson, “Phantom Thread”: (50/1 odds)

2018 Oscars Best Director: Experts Predictions

Be sure to make your Oscar nomination predictions so that Hollywood studio executives can see how their films are faring in our Academy Awards odds. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominees are announced on January 23.

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