Best Director Oscar predictions by experts: Christopher Nolan still ahead as ‘Dunkirk’ faces challengers for Best Picture

Only seven of our 25 Oscar experts from major media outlets are predicting that “Dunkirk” will win Best Picture. However, a whopping 14 of them expect its helmer, Christopher Nolan, to take home Best Director for this technically innovative epic that details the British retreat from France during the darkest days of World War II.

Eight experts favor a Best Director win by Guillermo Del Toro for his fantasy film “The Shape of Water” but only two think it will take the top Oscar. It won the Golden Lion at Venice and got great reviews, especially for Sally Hawkins‘ star turn as a mute woman who communicates through sign language. Del Toro reaped his only Academy Awards nomination to date for the original screenplay of “Pan’s Labyrinth.”

Conversely five experts are predicting Steven Spielberg‘s docudramaThe Post” will win Best Picture but only one thinks he will win Best Director for the third time. Two other films – Greta Gerwig‘s coming-of-age charmer “Lady Bird” and Jordan Peele‘s social satire “Get Out“– have the backing of four and five experts respectively but neither of these rookie solo helmers has a single 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. Christopher Nolan, “Dunkirk“: 14 experts (23/10 odds)
Thelma Adams (Gold Derby)
Edward Douglas
Bonnie Fuller (Hollywood Life)
Tim Gray (Variety)
Matthew Jacobs (Huffington Post)
Dave Karger (IMDB)
Michael Musto (NewsNowNext)
Christopher Rosen (Entertainment Weekly)
Keith Simanton (IMDB)
Krista Smith (Vanity Fair)
Anne Thompson (Indiewire)
Peter Travers (Rolling Stone)
Sara Vilkomerson (Entertainment Weekly)
Susan Wloszczyna (

2. Guillermo Del Toro, “The Shape of Water”: Eight experts (10/3 odds)
Erik Davis (Fandango)
Tariq Khan (Fox News)
Jack Mathews (Gold Derby)
Tom O’Neil (Gold Derby)
Sasha Stone (Awards Daily)
Brian Truitt (USA Today)
Adnan Virk (ESPN)
Glenn Whipp (Los Angeles Times)

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

4. Steven Spielberg, “The Post”: One expert (7/1 odds)
Andrea Mandell (USA Today)

5. Greta Gerwig, “Lady Bird” (8/1 odds)

6. Jordan Peele, “Get Out” (20/1 odds)

7. Joe Wright, “Darkest Hour”: (22/1 odds)

8. Martin McDonagh, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”: (25/1 odds)

9. Dee Rees, “Mudbound”: One expert (33/1 odds)
Kevin Polowy (Yahoo)

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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