2020 Oscar Predictions: Best Director (UPDATED: August 6)

One of the big questions about the 2020 Oscars is whether or not there will be a split between the winners of Best Picture and Best Director, as we’ve seen in three of the last four years. Before the academy reintroduced the preferential ballot for Best Picture in 2010, such divides were fairly rare. Now, they are the rule rather than the exception at the Academy Awards. (Scroll down for the most up-to-date 2020 Oscars predictions for Best Director.)

Why is this?

Unlike every other Oscar category, 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. 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.

So while Ang Lee (“Life of Pi”), Alfonso Cuaron (“Gravity”), Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (“The Revenant”), Damien Chazelle (“La La Land”) and Cuaron again (“Roma”), all won the Best Director Oscar, their films lost to “Argo” (2013), “12 Years a Slave” (2014), “Spotlight” (2016), “Moonlight” (2017) and “Green Book” (2019) respectively.

Given the two different voting systems, it’s easy to understand how this can happen. Indeed, this was a fairly common phenomenon between 1934 and 1945, when Best Picture was first determined by a preferential ballot. “Mutiny on the Bounty” (1936), “The Great Ziegfeld” (1937), “The Life of Emile Zola” (1938), and “Rebecca” (1941) all won Best Picture but their helmers lost to “The Informer” (John Ford), “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” (Frank Capra), “The Awful Truth” (Leo McCarey) and “The Grapes of Wrath” (Ford) respectively.

Inarritu also won Best Director for a film that took the top Academy Award: “Birdman” (2015). As with “The Revenant,” this too was a bravura directorial achievement and had strong support throughout the creative categories. Indeed, six of the last sevenfilms that won Oscars for helming also took home the lensing prize. When it comes to Best Director, bigger is better. So, who is making that kind of movie this year?

UPDATED: August 6, 2019

Please note: Only those films with confirmed release dates are listed below. Check back often as new contenders are scheduled while other are dropped due to delays or critical reaction. To read full descriptions of each film, check out our Best Picture predictions.

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Leading Contenders

Pedro Almodóvar, “Pain & Glory” (Sony Pictures Classics – Fall)

John Crowley, “The Goldfinch” (Warner Bros. – October 11)

Michael Engler, “Downton Abbey” (Focus – September 20)

Greta Gerwig, “Little Women” (Sony – December 25)

Marielle Heller, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” (Sony – November 22)

Bong Joon-ho, “Parasite” (Neon – Oct. 11)

Ang Lee, “Gemini Man” (Paramount – October 11)

Kasi Lemmons, “Harriet” (Focus – Fall)

Dee Rees, “The Last Thing He Wanted” (Netflix – Fall)

Jay Roach, “Fair and Balanced” (Lionsgate – December 20)

Quentin Tarantino, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” (Sony – July 26)

Martin Scorsese, “The Irishman” (Netflix – Fall)

Steven Soderbergh, “The Laundromat” (Netflix – Fall)

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Strong Contenders 

Scott Z. Burns, “The Report” (Amazon – Fall)

Bill Condon, “The Good Liar” (Warner Bros. – November 15)

James Gray, “Ad Astra” (20th Century Fox – May 24)

Todd Haynes, “Dry Run” (Focus Features – Fall)

James Mangold, “Ford v. Ferrari” (20th Century Fox – November 15)

Tom Hooper, “Cats” (Universal – December 20)

Terrence Malick, “A Hidden Life” (Fox Searchlight – Dec. 13)

Fernando Meirelles, “The Two Popes” (Netflix – Fall)

Sam Mendes, “1917” (Universal – December 25)

Benh Zeitlin, “Wendy” (Fox Searchlight – Fall)

SEE 2020 Oscar Predictions: Best Picture

Possible Contenders

Noah Baumbach, “Marriage Story” (Netflix – Fall)

Craig Brewer, “Dolemite Is My Name” (Netflix – Fall)

Chinonye Chukwu, “Clemency” (Neon – Dec. 27)

Robert Eggers, “The Lighthouse” (A24 – Oct. 18)

Dexter Fletcher, “Rocketman” (Paramount – May 31)

Nisha Ganatra, “Late Night” (Amazon – June 7)

Noah Hawley, “Lucy in the Sky” (Fox Searchlight – Fall)

Joanna Hogg, “The Souvenir” (A24 – May 17)

Armando Iannucci, “The Personal History of David Copperfield” (Film 4 – Fall)

Sebastian Lelio, “Gloria Bell” (A24 – March 8)

Richard Linklater, “Where’d You Go Bernadette” (United Artists – August 9)

Melina Matsoukas, “Queen & Slim” (Universal – November 27)

Jordan Peele, “Us” (Universal – March 22)

Josh and Benny Safdie, “Uncut Gems” (A24 – Dec. 13)

Taika Waititi, “Jojo Rabbit” (Fox Searchlight – Oct. 18)

Lulu Wang, “The Farewell” (A24 – July 12)

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Click on the linked categories below to read our previews of each of these races.

Best Picture | Best Director

Best Actor | Best Actress | Best Supporting Actor | Best Supporting Actress

Best Adapted Screenplay | Best Original Screenplay

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