A look at the 92nd Oscars from a betting perspective

Hartley provides his annual betting tips and advice for the Oscars, with predictions for every category.

Preview and predictions for betting on the Oscars

On Sunday bettors will have the opportunity to once again wager on the Oscars, which will be hosted by no one. The lack of a host was a positive last year since the telecast moved along quickly and was devoid of political opinions and inappropriate jokes. Entering 2020, prior to the start of awards season, the movie to beat was The Irishman. It won several early critics’ awards and it was believed the Academy was going to honor the Martin Scorcese mob film. However, after losing the Golden Globe, along with every single awards show afterwards, it is now a longshot. The same holds true for JoJo Rabbit. But there are three other movies that have a legitimate chance which could make this an interesting Oscars telecast.

My record for the Oscar’s last year was impressive as I only missed 6 categories, including both supporting acting awards. I learned quite a bit in the process, including how important the specialty awards given out by societies like the Cinema Audio Society and the Makeup Artists and Hair Styling Guild are in predicting Oscar success.  Most Academy members don’t vote for those categories and leave it to the experts in the field and that often allows for some upset wins. I also learned that the BAFTA awards have a lot of clout with the non-American Academy members. With that in mind here are my predictions with odds from Betonline.ag.

Best Picture

The preferential voting method, introduced only a few years ago, could have more sway than ever this year. As a reminder each voter will rank their favorites from 1 to 9. The first film to have at least 50% of the first place votes will win the award, which is achieved by re-ranking the ballots after a film is eliminated. So, if someone has Joker first on their ballot and Parasite 2nd, then Parasite will become the new first choice pick for that ballot after Joker is eliminated. As a result of the voting format, the most popular choice isn't the film that always wins.

prediction Oscar Best PictureThis was certainly the case in previous years when there was an indication that both The Revenant and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri had the most first place votes prior to the re-ranking, but they had too many low votes which eventually allowed Spotlight and The Shape of Water to win the award. So the key is to have a film that resonates with almost all voters. As mentioned earlier, The Irishman and JoJo Rabbit, along with Little Women, Marriage Story and Ford vs Ferrari have no chance. Joker is starting to garner support but likely will be too far down in most ballots to win. That leaves 1917, Parasite and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood as the only real possibilities.

Academy Awards Predictions

1917 (odds 4/11)
Pros: It's had the most momentum over the last month, winning the Golden Globe for best drama film as well as the Producers Guild Award and the BAFTA award.

Cons: As a war movie, it might not be in the top two choices for those who picked either Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite or even Joker as their first choice. The latter movies are more light-hearted, while 1917 is a war movie, which have generally not done well in the Best Picture category. As well the film is not nominated in a single acting category or in the film editing category and no film has ever won Best Picture that wasn't nominated for editing.

Parasite (odds 3/1)
Pros: It won the SAG award for best cast and it has been widely praised by almost everyone in the industry. That could be crucial in getting 2nd place votes on ballots that choose a different film first. As well the lack of diversity being talked about with this year's Oscars could benefit the film since this will be seen as the exception to the rule.

Cons: No foreign language film has ever won Best Picture and even the heavily favored Roma lost last year. The movie also has no actors nominated even though it won the SAG for best cast. Unfortunately, that win may be immaterial since 1917 wasn't nominated for the SAG.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (odds 6/1)
Pros: The movie won the Golden Globe for best comedy film and it won the Critics Choice Award for best film. It is also the type of movie that the Academy tends to vote for.

Cons: Aside from those two awards it has won little and seems to be losing momentum. The loss at the SAGs to Parasite is also a big negative since most of the actors, which make up the large majority of voters, will likely place Parasite ahead of this film.

Prediction: This will come right down to the end. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood will finish in 3rd place and most of those ballots will go to Parasite. Consequently, Parasite will win Best Picture at good odds.

Best Director

Sam Mendes (odds 1/9) vs Boon Jong Ho (odds 9/2)

There's really no reason to look elsewhere. These two directors seem to be the only ones getting any notice. Ho has been praised as a genius but Mendes won the Golden Globe, BAFTA and most importantly the Directors Guild Award. That should be enough to give Mendes the win.

Prediction: Mendes will take this award at low odds.

Oscar awards predictionsBest Actor

Joaquin Phoenix (odds 1/25)

Phoenix has won absolutely everything for his role as The Joker and he'll win here too.

Prediction: Joaquin Phoenix is as sure a bet as there is.

Best Actress

This looked like a close category until Renee Zelwegger started winning every award starting with the Golden Globes for her role in Judy. That said, Olivia Coleman shocked Glenn Close last year in a similar spot and this is a category where upsets happen.

Renee Zelwegger (odds 1/20)

After winning all the major awards including the SAG Award, Golden Globe and BAFTA it's hard to see Zelwegger losing.

Scarlett Johansson (odds 13/2)

Both Zelwegger and Johansson were winning the early critics awards so they were always seen as the two  to beat and Johansson is loved by the other actors. The one big difference between Johansson this year and Coleman last year is that Coleman won the BAFTA and Zelwegger has all the momentum.

Prediction: Renee Zelwegger should win the category easily at low odds.

Best Supporting Actor

Joe Pesci (8/1) as the gangster in The Irishman and Tom Hanks (25/1) as Fred Rogers in Mr. Rogers Neighborhood were getting a lot of acclaim prior to the awards season. But Brad Pitt (odds 1/25) for his role in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood has been winning absolutely everything of late.

Prediction: The acting categories will prove a disappointment for longshot bettors as Brad Pitt will win the award.

Best Supporting Actress

As was the case in the supporting actor category, Margot Robbie (8/1) and Florence Pugh (14/1) were seen as real contenders prior to the awards season, but Laura Dern (odds 1/22) is winning all the awards for her role in Marriage Story and is hard to oppose.

Prediction: Laura Dern will make it a clean sweep for the favorites in the acting categories.

Make your Oscars picks at one of these top-rated sportsbooks!


Looking at the remaining categories, let's first award the sure things.

Cinematography will go 1917 (odds 1/50), Original Song will go to Love Me Again (odds 1/10) and Best Makeup and Hair will go to Bombshell (odds 1/10).

The one "sure thing" missing from that list is Best International Film. Parasite is such a sure thing that BetOnline doesn't even have odds for it. And looking around one can see odds as low as 1/100 for Parasite. It's unbettable at those odds, but is more of a sure thing than the sun coming out tomorrow.  

That still leaves a lot of competitive categories to bet on.

Best Original Screenplay

The Writers Guild Award is the best predictor in this category of which film will win the Oscar. 14 of 21 winners of this award since 2000 have won the Oscar and most times when a film does not win the Oscar, it is because it wasn't nominated. The films nominated this year are Parasite (1/2), Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (7/5), Marriage Story (8/1), 1917 (40/1) and Knives Out (40/1). The WGA award went to Parasite, but it wouldn't be surprising to see Once Upon a Time in Hollywood take it since most in the Academy will want to award Quentin Tarantino, as it is becoming more clear that the film won't win best picture and Tarantino has no shot in the director category.

Prediction: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood will get the small upset.

Best Adapted Screenplay

This looked like a tight race between Little Women (7/4 odds), The Irishman (7/1 odds) and JoJo Rabbit (4/11 odds) heading into the awards season, but JoJo Rabbit pulled away after winning the WGA Award. For this category the WGA Award is almost a sure predictor of Oscar success with more than 85% accuracy. Since 2010 the only times the Oscar didn’t go to the WGA winner was in 2013, when the Oscar went to Twelve Years a Slave, which wasn’t nominated for the WGA Award and last year when the Oscar went to BlackKlansman despite Can You Forgive Me winning the WGA Award. That said, Spike Lee and BlackKlansman were highly regarded and it was going against an independent film, while this year we have JoJo Rabbit which is nominated in the major categories and is more widely acclaimed than The Irishman and Little Women.

Prediction: With the huge correlation between WGA and Oscar success it’s hard not to bet on JoJo Rabbit.

Best Animated Feature

It appeared this would be a walkover for Toy Story 4 (odds 2/3) after it won most of the early awards and set a record by taking in over a billion dollars in box office receipts. But the movie with all the momentum now is Klaus (odds 1/1), a Christmas movie that provides a different interpretation for the origins of Santa Claus. The movie was produced by Netflix and had a short box office run before finally being shown exclusively on the streaming service. The film also wasn’t nominated at any of the other major awards. The only other film with a shot is Missing Link (odds 9/1), about a Yeti that travels to the Himalayas to meet his family. Missing Link won the Golden Globe Award, but nothing else.

Prediction: The majority of the industry will choose to support Walt Disney over Netflix and will vote for Toy Story 4 to win in a movie they likely saw with their children or grandchildren.

Eddie Award Best film editing predictionBest Film Editing

This award seems a toss-up between Ford vs Ferrari (10/13) and Parasite (1/1). The Irishman has a small shot at 11/2 odds also.

The Film Editing Award (Eddie) is a great predictor of Oscar success and they awarded the prize to Parasite, but the BAFTA Award went to Ford vs Ferrari. The Satellite Award also went to Ford vs Ferrari, while the Critics Choice Award went to 1917, which wasn’t nominated by the Academy.

Prediction: I'll once again go with the Eddie Award and take Parasite to win at even money.

Best Production Design

The best predictor for this category is the Art Directors Guild Awards, which hands out awards for contemporary film and period film. Those awards went to Parasite (7/2 odds) and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2/3 odds) respectively. The BAFTA award went to 1917 (8/5 odds). All three have an excellent shot to win here and none would be a surprise.

Prediction: In a complete toss-up I always go for the longest odds as it represents the most value. For that reason I'll take Parasite at great odds.

Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing

Despite being separate categories the awards is more often than not given to the same film and the Academy relies on the sound industry awards to decide the winner. The Motion Picture Sound Editors awarded Ford vs. Ferrari the main award (odds 7/4), and the Cinema Audio Society awarded Ford vs. Ferrari  (7/4) the award for best mixing.  1917 (odds 1/3) won minor awards for each and Parasite won sound editing for a foreign film. BAFTA awarded 1917 for best sound as the awards are combined there.

Prediction: Ford vs Ferrari will take both awards

Best Documentary Feature

American Factory (odds 5/13), about a Chinese glass company that takes over a closed GM plant in Ohio, seemed like a guaranteed win after taking several awards, including the Directors Guild Award for documentaries. But that favoritism diminished after For Sama (odds 7/4), a movie about a doctor’s struggle for survival in the Syrian civil war, won the International Documentary Association award and then followed it up with a BAFTA win. Honeyland (odds 10/1), about a beekeeper, seems like the only real upset possibility.

Prediction: The award will go to For Sama given its two major wins as well as being about a topic that will resonate more with The Academy.

Best Visual Effects

Usually a walkover category, this year is different. Avengers: Endgame (odds 5/2 ) was the early favorite after winning both the Saturn Award and the Critics Choice Award, but Lion King (odds 9/2 ) won the Visual Effects Society Award. The Irishman (odds 11/2) won best supporting effects at the same awards and 1917 (odds 2/3) won the award at the BAFTAs.

Prediction: In the toughest category of the night I’ll give the award to Lion King to back the VES win at large odds since 1917 will get many awards elsewhere.

Best Costume Design

Little Women (odds 1/3) won the BAFTA award, JoJo Rabbit (odds 5/2)  won the costume design for a period film at the Costume Designers Guild Awards (Knives Out, which won for contemporary film, isn’t nominated for the Oscar), and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (odds 5/1) won a couple of early awards.

Prediction: For these lesser awards I always back the industry guild, so I’'ll take the 5/2 odds on JoJo Rabbit.

Short Films

As usual for these films I turn to my friend who is a self described expert in these things and has a good record. His predictions are Kitbull (7/4 odds) for animated short, Learning to Skateboard in a warzone (1/12 odds) for documentary short and Brotherhood for Live Action Short. Note that BetOnline does not have a line for the latter category, but the film is generally around 2/5 odds elsewhere.

I hope everyone enjoys the Academy Awards and cashes a few bets along the way.

For more complete odds on the Academy Awards, click here.

Read insights from Hartley Henderson every week here at OSGA and check out Hartley's RUMOR MILL!

Sign-up for the OSGA Newsletter!

Every week get news and updates, exclusive offers and betting tips delivered right to you email inbox.