Skip to navigationSkip to content
Universal Pictures
The World War I film is earning accolades for its technical achievements.
ENTRENCHED

The Oscar for best picture now has a clear frontrunner

Adam Epstein
By Adam Epstein

Entertainment reporter

The race to win the Academy Award for best picture next month has considerably narrowed.

World War I film 1917 won the award for best picture at the Producers Guild of America (PGA) Awards yesterday, becoming the clear frontrunner to win the same award at the Oscars on Feb. 9. The win continues a hot streak for the film, which earlier this month won the Golden Globe award for best drama film, and followed that up with several big victories at the Critics Choice Awards. Its director, Sam Mendes, is the also favorite to win the top award at next week’s Directors Guild of America Awards.

Established in 1990, the PGA Awards have long been one of the primary bellwethers for the Oscars. Of the 30 films to win its award for best film (prior to 1917 this year), 21 of them went on to win the top prize at the Oscars. The PGA is comprised of more than 7,000 film and television producers from around the world.

And in the 10 years since the Oscars changed to a preferential ballot (the same system the PGA Awards employ), eight of its best picture winners were also that year’s PGA winner. Under that system, voters rank all of the best picture nominees from best to worst. If no film is ranked first on more than 50% of the ballots, the film with the fewest votes for the top spot is removed from consideration, and those ballots are redistributed to the films that they ranked second. This process continues until one film has more than 50% of the ballots on its pile.

Preferential voting tends to reward films that are widely liked—if not necessarily loved—while penalizing the more polarizing films. That’s good news for 1917, and bad news for Joker.

1917 now has the best odds to win the Oscar for best picture, according to nearly every betting site. But Parasite and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood are not out of the race just yet. Parasite—the first South Korean film ever nominated for best picture—is believed to have the best chance of upsetting 1917 at the Oscars, similar to how Moonlight unexpectedly beat La La Land for the big award in 2016 after the latter won the PGA that year.

Inspired by a story told by Mendes’ grandfather, a World War I veteran, 1917 follows two British soldiers as they cross no-man’s-land and trek through enemy territory in order to hand-deliver a message to another battalion. Lauded for its technical prowess, the film was made to look as though it is one continuous shot. It was nominated for 10 Oscars in total, including best cinematography for the work of Roger Deakins, who won the same award two years ago for Blade Runner 2049.

Boosting the film’s Oscars case is its strong box office returns: It earned $37 million in ticket sales in its first weekend in wide release last week, sending Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker to second place.