Oscar Predictions 2024: The Barbenheimer Showdown Will Be Pretty One-Sided

“Oppenheimer” is likely to win a lot, “Barbie” a little

"Poor Things," "Barbie," "Killers of the Flower Moon," and "Oppenheimer"

On the surface, Sunday’s Oscars seems as if it could be a very predictable show. Lots of “Oppenheimer,” a bit of “Barbie,” some “Holdovers” and “American Fiction,” with the vast majority of the pundits and prognosticators agreeing on at least 18 of the 23 categories.

Sure, Best Actor and Best Actress aren’t as locked as the other major categories, and a couple of the design categories are tossups between “Barbie” and “Poor Things.” Plus the shorts are always a little pesky. But otherwise, maybe we already know what’s going to happen.

Or maybe not. The Academy has gotten much bigger over the past eight years – 9,797 eligible voters this time around, according to official counts – and much more international. The last “typical” Oscar movie to win Best Picture was probably “Green Book” in 2019, and most shows have thrown in a few surprises: the strength of the German-language “All Quiet on the Western Front” last year, Anthony Hopkins beating the late Chadwick Boseman in 2021, Olivia Colman over Glenn Close in 2019 …

So while “Oppenheimer” looks ready to win lots of awards and its Barbenheimer partner “Barbie” may have to settle for two or three, the Oscar gods can be fickle.  Here are our best guesses as to what’ll be in those envelopes when they’re opened at the Dolby Theatre on Sunday evening – or Sunday late afternoon in the Pacific time zone.

Our complete Oscar predictions in all categories.

“Oppenheimer” (Universal)

Best Picture

“American Fiction”
“Anatomy of a Fall”
“The Holdovers”
“Killers of the Flower Moon”
“Past Lives”
“Poor Things”
“The Zone of Interest”

“Oppenheimer” has been the favorite to win Best Picture since shortly after it premiered in July, and none of the big movies that followed have been able to pose a serious threat to Christopher Nolan’s epic. At this point, the closest thing to a real rival is probably Alexander Payne’s “The Holdovers,” based on the number of conversations I’ve had with voters who’ve said, “I’m sure ‘Oppenheimer’ is going to win, but ‘The Holdovers’ is my favorite.” Still, “Oppenheimer” really hasn’t shown any signs of weakness as it has rolled through awards season, making it hard to imagine that Payne’s film could score a huge upset (even though it could be helped by the Academy’s ranked-choice voting system in this category).    

Predicted winner: “Oppenheimer”

Best Director

Justine Triet, “Anatomy of a Fall”
Jonathan Glazer, “The Zone of Interest”
Yorgos Lanthimos, “Poor Things”
Christopher Nolan, “Oppenheimer”
Martin Scorsese, “Killers of the Flower Moon”

Will sentiment and the fact that he’s the only American nominee help Martin Scorsese grab his second Best Director Oscar? No, it won’t. Given how big and bold “Oppenheimer” is, Nolan is as sure a bet as you’ll find on Oscar night.

Predicted winner: Christopher Nolan, “Oppenheimer”

Best Actor

Bradley Cooper, “Maestro”
Colman Domingo, “Rustin”
Paul Giamatti, “The Holdovers”
Cillian Murphy, “Oppenheimer”
Jeffrey Wright, “American Fiction”

This has been a head-to-head battle between Cillian Murphy and Paul Giamatti all season, with Giamatti seemingly surging until losses at BAFTA and the SAG Awards gave the momentum back to Murphy. Giamatti is still the warmer and more emotional performance – but if “Oppenheimer” is going to dominate, it makes sense that its victories will include the guy who is Oppenheimer.

Predicted winner: Cillian Murphy, “Oppenheimer”

Lily Gladstone in “Killers of the Flower Moon” (Apple)

Best Actress

Annette Bening, “Nyad”
Lily Gladstone, “Killers of the Flower Moon”
Sandra Hüller, “Anatomy of a Fall”
Carey Mulligan, “Maestro”
Emma Stone, “Poor Things”

This is another race that seems to have come down to two nominees: Emma Stone, who won the Golden Globe (in the comedy category), the Critics Choice Award and BAFTA for “Poor Things,” and Lily Gladstone, who won the Globe (in drama) and the SAG Award. But the enthusiasm with which everybody (including Stone) greeted Gladstone’s win at SAG suggests that Oscar voters may also want to have that kind of historic moment.

Predicted winner: Lily Gladstone, “Killers of the Flower Moon”

Best Supporting Actor

Sterling K. Brown, “American Fiction”
Robert De Niro, “Killers of the Flower Moon”
Robert Downey Jr., “Oppenheimer”
Ryan Gosling, “Barbie”
Mark Ruffalo, “Poor Things”

There’s not much doubt about the two supporting categories. Sure, “Barbie” fans would love to see Ryan “I’m Just Ken” Gosling shock the world with a win, but Robert Downey Jr. has beaten Gosling (and everybody else) at every awards show except the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards, which isn’t a strong enough precursor to mean anything.

Predicted winner: Robert Downey Jr., “Oppenheimer”

Best Supporting Actress

Emily Blunt, “Oppenheimer”
Danielle Brooks, “The Color Purple”
America Ferrera, “Barbie”
Jodie Foster, “Nyad”
Da’Vine Joy Randolph, “The Holdovers”

Da’Vine Joy Randolph, meanwhile, has won almost every supporting-actress award for “The Holdovers.” She might even be a surer thing than Christopher Nolan for director. 

Predicted winner: Da’Vine Joy Randolph, “The Holdovers”

"American Fiction" (Orion/MGM Studios)
Erika Alexander and Jeffrey Wright in “American Fiction” (Credit: Orion/MGM Studios)

Best Adapted Screenplay

 “American Fiction” (Written for the screen by Cord Jefferson)
“Barbie” (Written by Greta Gerwig & Noah Baumbach)
“Oppenheimer” (Written for the screen by Christopher Nolan)
“Poor Things” (Screenplay by Tony McNamara)
“The Zone of Interest” (Written by Jonathan Glazer)

This is the one major category where “Oppenheimer” is nominated but might not win, with Cord Jefferson’s “American Fiction” screenplay winning at the Critics Choice, BAFTA and Scripter Awards. History says the Best Picture winner will also get a writing award, since that has happened in 16 of the last 20 years, but this might be a year when history is wrong. “Barbie,” which was placed in the original-screenplay category by every other awards group, is the wild card, since this is the only category in which voters can give Greta Gerwig an award of her own.

Predicted winner: “American Fiction”

Best Original Screenplay

 “Anatomy of a Fall” (Screenplay by Justine Triet and Arthur Harari)
“The Holdovers” (Written by David Hemingson)
“Maestro” (Written by Bradley Cooper & Josh Singer)
“May December” (Screenplay by Samy Burch; Story by Samy Burch & Alex Mechanik)
“Past Lives” (Written by Celine Song)

Three of the nominees have a credible chance of winning: “Past Lives,” which is deeply affecting; “The Holdovers,” both funny and touching; and “Anatomy of a Fall,” smart and thorny and the talkiest of the nominees. (Talkiness often appeals to voters in this category.) This is also the likeliest place for the Academy to recognize “Anatomy” co-writer and director Justine Triet, whose film got five nominations.

Predicted winner: “Anatomy of a Fall”

Best Cinematography

“El Conde”
“Killers of the Flower Moon”
“Poor Things”

Four of the nominees mix black-and-white and color footage, and one of those four, Hoyte van Hoytema for “Oppenheimer,” is the clear favorite. His win at the American Society of Cinematographers Awards last weekend likely sealed the deal.

Predicted winner: “Oppenheimer”

“Barbie” (Warner Bros.)

Best Costume Design

“Killers of the Flower Moon”
“Poor Things”

The design categories may well be a battle between the pink paradise that is Barbie Land and the twisted Victorian world of “Poor Things.” The costume Oscar could go either way, but we’ll give the slight edge to the doll and her wardrobe.

Predicted winner: “Barbie”

Best Film Editing

“Anatomy of a Fall”
“The Holdovers”
“Killers of the Flower Moon”
“Poor Things”

“The Holdovers” and “Oppenheimer” won the top film prizes from the American Cinema Editors, but the latter of those has the advantage of a narrative that jumps between different eras and formats.

Predicted winner: “Oppenheimer”

Bradley Cooper in "Maestro" (Netflix)
“Maestro” (Netflix)

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

“Poor Things”
“Society of the Snow”

“Maestro” was the early favorite that seemed to be faltering when it lost makeup awards at the Critics Choice Awards and BAFTA to “Barbie” and “Poor Things,” respectively. But the film, which tackles the Oscar-approved job of making an actor look like a famous historical figure, regained its mojo with wins in two crucial categories at the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Awards.

Predicted winner: “Maestro”

Best Original Score

“American Fiction”
“Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny”
“Killers of the Flower Moon”
“Poor Things”

There are two sentimental choices here, 92-year-old John Williams for “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” and the late Robbie Robertson for “Killers of the Flower Moon.” And there are two bold choices in “American Fiction” composer Laura Karpman, who would become only the second woman to win in this century, and in Jerskin Fendrix for the deliciously off-kilter music in “Poor Things.” But Ludwig Göransson has been winning all season for “Oppenheimer,” and this is one of that film’s likeliest Oscars.

Predicted winner: “Oppenheimer”

Best Original Song

“The Fire Inside” from “Flamin’ Hot”
“I’m Just Ken” from “Barbie”
“It Never Went Away” from “American Symphony”
“Wahzhazhe (A Song for My People)” from “Killers of the Flower Moon”
“What Was I Made For?” from “Barbie”

Could “Barbie” split the vote and open the door for the indigenous song from “Killers of the Flower Moon” or Jon Batiste’s affecting ballad from “American Symphony?” Could Diane Warren finally win a competitive Oscar in her 15th nomination for “The Fire Inside?” Maybe, but it’s more likely that Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell win their second Oscars in three years for their big “Barbie” ballad “What Was I Made For?”

Predicted winner: “What Was I Made For?” from “Barbie”

Emma Stone in "Poor Things"
Emma Stone in “Poor Things” (Searchlight Pictures)

Best Production Design

“Killers of the Flower Moon”
“Poor Things”

Unless “Oppenheimer” goes on a historic sweep, this is another “Barbie” vs. “Poor Things” showdown. And while the world of “Barbie” is detailed and vibrant in crazy ways, the scale of the globetrotting “Poor Things” might give it a boost with voters.

Predicted winner: “Poor Things”

Best Sound

“The Creator”
“Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One”
“The Zone of Interest”

“Oppenheimer” won top film prizes from both of the professional organizations that give out sound awards, which ought to make it the favorite here. But “The Zone of Interest” has done a very good job of pointing out how crucial its sound design is to convey the unseen horrors that take place over the wall of Auschwitz, so it could very well pull off a mild upset.

Predicted winner: “Oppenheimer”

"Godzilla Minus One" (Credit: Emick Media)
“Godzilla Minus One” (Emick Media)

Best Visual Effects

“The Creator”
“Godzilla Minus One”
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3”
“Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One”

If there’s an obvious choice in this category (“Dune,” “Avatar,” “Gravity” …), voters tend to go for it. If there’s not, they will often gravitate toward something that feels lower key: “First Man” over “Avengers” and “Star Wars” movies, “Ex Machina” over “The Martian” and “The Force Awakens.” So this year, while “The Creator” won the top award from the Visual Effects Society, the Academy may well give “Godzilla Minus One” the first-ever Oscar for that long-running franchise, and the first VFX Oscar to a film’s director since Stanley Kubrick won his only Academy Award for “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Predicted winner: “Godzilla Minus One”

Best International Feature Film

Germany: “The Teachers’ Lounge”
Italy: “Io Capitano”
Japan: “Perfect Days”
Spain: “Society of the Snow”
United Kingdom: “The Zone of Interest”

The first eight movies that were nominated for Best Picture and Best International Feature Film (or its predecessor category, Best Foreign Language Film) in the same year all won in the international category. That should give “The Zone of Interest” an insurmountable edge – though “Society of the Snow” was so successful on Netflix that it has an outside chance of breaking the streak.

Predicted winner: “The Zone of Interest”

Across the Spider-Verse
“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” (Sony)

Best Animated Feature Film

“The Boy and the Heron”
“Robot Dreams”
“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse”

Spidey or Miyazaki?  “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” has dominated the guild awards this season, but it’s worth nothing that of the 10 sequels nominated in the first 22 years of this category, two “Toy Story” movies were the only ones to win. If “Spider-Man” runs up against sequel resistance, 83-year-old Japanese legend Hayao Miyazaki could win his second competitive Oscar to go with his Honorary Academy Award from 2014. But it’s hard to ignore all those “Spider-Man” wins.

Predicted winner: “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse”

Best Documentary Feature

“Bobi Wine: The People’s President”
“The Eternal Memory”
“Four Daughters”
“To Kill a Tiger”
“20 Days in Mariupol”

If “Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie” or especially “American Symphony” had been nominated in this category, they might well have won. But the Academy’s Documentary Branch went for a slate of tougher films, where the likeliest winners are the harrowing “20 Days in Mariupol,” the affecting “The Eternal Memory” or the somewhat uplifting “Bobi Wine: The People’s President.” A year after this award went to “Navalny,” the death of that film’s subject may nudge voters toward the new movie about Putin’s transgressions.

Predicted winner: “20 Days in Mariupol”

Best Documentary Short Subject

“The ABCs of Book Banning”
“The Barber of Little Rock”
“Island in Between”
“The Last Repair Shop”
“Nai Nai & Wài Pó”

For the last few years, the common denominator in this category’s winners has been subjects you love, whether they tend to elephants, play basketball or reluctantly revisit their experiences in World War II. This year, that could be good news for the charming character study “Nai Nai & Wài Pó,” though a bevy of fascinating characters are also front-and-center in “The Last Repair Shop.” But then there’s “The ABCs of Book Banning,” which is timely and infuriating and also gives you a classroom full of smart fifth graders to love.  

Predicted winner: “The ABCs of Book Banning”

War is Over
“War Is Over! Inspired by the Music of John & Yoko” (Electroleague)

Best Animated Short

“Letter to a Pig”
”Ninety-Five Senses”
“Our Uniform”
“War Is Over! Inspired by the Music of John & Yoko”

The highest-profile nominee has frequently won ever since voting in this category was opened to everybody, not just the Academy members who’d seen all the nominees in a theater. This year, that would be “War Is Over!,” a charming World War I story co-written by Sean Ono Lennon and featuring the music of his parents and of 15-time Oscar-nominated composer Thomas Newman. But “Letter to a Pig” and “Ninety-Five Senses” are rich enough and disturbing enough to make it a real race.  

Predicted winner: “War Is Over! Inspired by the Music of John & Yoko”

Best Live Action Short

“The After”
“Knight of Fortune”
“Red, White and Blue”
“The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar”

One of these things is not like the others: The nominees in this category are four films of 30 minutes or less by relatively inexperienced directors from Nigeria, Canada, Denmark and the U.K., plus a 40-minute film featuring a whole lot of movie stars and written and directed by eight-time Oscar nominee Wes Anderson. “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar,” a Netflix release, has by far the highest profile, though “The After” also has Netflix, a movie star in David Oyelowo and the most shocking scene in a category that has a few. One of those films is the likely winner, though “Red, White and Blue” packs a real punch.

Predicted winner: “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar”


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