Will ‘Three Billboards’ be first female-driven Best Picture Oscar winner since ‘Million Dollar Baby’ 13 years ago?

The past 12 Best Picture Oscar winners all have one thing in common: None starred a woman in the leading role. You have to go all the way back to “Million Dollar Baby” (2004) to find a Best Picture champ told from the perspective of a female character — in that case it was Hilary Swank‘s amateur boxer Maggie Fitzgerald. Might “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” which stars Frances McDormand as bereaved mother Mildred Hayes who shames the police department for not solving her daughter’s murder, follow in “Million Dollar Baby’s” boxing gloves 13 years later by winning Best Picture?

As characters, Mildred and Maggie have a lot in common. They’re both strong-willed, determined, bad-ass women who fight for justice and rage against authority. Since male voters still make up the majority of the academy, that could be a key factor to “Three Billboards'” eventual success, particularly in this year of female empowerment with the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements becoming such important parts of our culture.

“Three Billboards” earned seven Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Actress for McDormand, Best Supporting Actor for Woody Harrelson, Best Supporting Actor for Sam Rockwell, Best Original Screenplay for Martin McDonagh, Best Film Editing and Best Score. Despite McDonagh’s nominations for producing and writing, his snub in the Best Director category is troubling to many awards prognosticators. In the past three decades only two movies have won Best Picture without a corresponding Best Director nomination: “Driving Miss Daisy” (1989) and “Argo” (2012).

McDonagh’s directing snub isn’t dissuading everybody, however. “Three Billboards” still has the support of six Gold Derby Experts, three staff Editors, twelve of our Top 24 Users and six of our All-Star Users. That gives the small-town drama second-place combined odds of 23/10 to win, behind only the current Best Picture frontrunner “The Shape of Water” with leading 10/9 odds.

Speaking of “The Shape of Water,” that film also focuses on a woman in the lead role. In Guillermo del Toro‘s fairy tale for troubled times, Sally Hawkins stars as deaf janitor Elisa Esposito who falls in love with a sea creature. “Three Billboards” and “The Shape of Water” are two of four female-driven Best Picture nominees this year, along with “Lady Bird” (Saoirse Ronan) and “The Post” (Meryl Streep).

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri” has already taken home top prizes at the Golden Globes and SAG Awards, so we’ll see what happens next at the BAFTA Awards on February 18.

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