Since the academy reintroduced the preferential ballot for Best Picture in 2010, there has been a difference between the winners of that award and Best Director in five of the ensuing dozen years. Prior to this such splits were fairly rare. Why the change? (Scroll down for the most up-to-date 2022 Oscars predictions for Best Director.)
The winner of Best Picture is now determined by a weighted ballot while the other 22 races, including Best Director, are decided by a popular vote. While voters simply check one nominee in those other races, when it comes to Best Picture they are asked to rank all the nominees. If one contender garners more than 50% of the first-place votes, it wins. If, however, no nominee crosses that threshold, the film with the fewest first-place votes is eliminated, with its ballots being reapportioned to the second-place pick. This process continues until one nominee reaches 50% plus one vote. The goal, says the academy, is to award the Best Picture award to a consensus choice.
With two different voting systems, it’s easy to understand how this split happens so often. Indeed, it was a fairly common phenomenon between 1934 and 1945, when the Best Picture winner was first chosen 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 directors lost to John Ford (“The Informer”), Frank Capra (“Mr. Deeds Goes to Town”) Leo McCarey (“The Awful Truth” and Ford (“The Grapes of Wrath”) respectively.
More recently, Alfonso Cuaron won Best Director for “Roma” in 2019 only to see his film eclipsed in the top race by “Green Book.” That had happened to Cuaron in 2014 as well when he won for “Gravity” but Best Picture went to “12 Years a Slave.” And while Ang Lee (“Life of Pi”), Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (“The Revenant”) and Damien Chazelle (“La La Land”) all won the Best Director Oscar, their films lost to “Argo” (2013), “Spotlight” (2016) and “Moonlight” (2017) respectively.
Inarritu also won Best Director for a film that took the top Academy Award: “Birdman” (2015). As with “The Revenant,” this also was a bravura directorial achievement and had strong support throughout the creative categories. Indeed, six of the last nine films 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?
Please note: To read full descriptions of each film, check out our Best Picture predictions.
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Leading Contenders (ranked by likelihood of winning)
Jane Campion, “The Power of the Dog”
Kenneth Branagh, “Belfast”
Steven Spielberg, “West Side Story”
Denis Villeneuve, “Dune”
Ryusuke Hamaguchi, “Drive My Car”
Paul Thomas Anderson, “Licorice Pizza”
Joel Coen, “The Tragedy of Macbeth”
Maggie Gyllenhaal, “The Lost Daughter”
Sian Heder, “CODA”
Adam McKay, “Don’t Look Up”
Ridley Scott, “House of Gucci”
Pedro Almodovar, “Parallel Mothers”
Guillermo del Toro, “Nightmare Alley”
Julia Ducournau, “Titane”
Asghar Farhadi, “A Hero”
Reinaldo Marcus Green, “King Richard”
Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Tick, Tick … Boom!”
Aaron Sorkin, “Being the Ricardos”
Paolo Sorrentino, “The Hand of God”
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