Who will win Oscars tonight? Predictions for the 2024 Academy Awards from entertainment industry experts

Who will win Oscars tonight? Predictions for the 2024 Academy Awards from entertainment industry experts

The 96th annual Academy Awards on Sunday will bring together nominees that include box office record-breakers, Hollywood veterans, newcomers and more than one epic drama as big players and even bigger films contend for prestigious recognition. The 2024 Oscar ballot promises to make for an interesting night. So, ahead of the show, entertainment industry experts shared their predictions for the outcomes of some of the top categories.

Who will win the Oscar for best picture?

“Oppenheimer” is the clear frontrunner to win the Oscar for best picture. Christopher Nolan’s epic historical drama about the nuclear physicist known as “the father of the atomic bomb” leads nominations at the Academy Awards this year, with 13 nods.

It has also already taken home every precursor prize at earlier awards shows this season — including in equivalent categories at the Critics Choice and Golden Globe Awards, as well from the Screen Actors Guild, Directors Guild, Producers Guild and British Academy — giving big hints as to how it will fare in Sunday’s best picture race. 

“I think there would be a crazy upset if ‘Oppenheimer’ did not win, simply because it has swept,” said Lilliana Vazquez, a television presenter and lifestyle expert who previously hosted E! News. “That’s always a really big indicator, if all of the individual guilds can come together and anoint a clear winner, then I think you really have to watch out for that specific film, in whatever category, or that particular actor or actress.”

Films rarely earn such broad industry-wide support, and those that have typically go on to receive the Oscars’ top accolade, like “Argo” and “Slumdog Millionaire” in recent decades.

“I’m not sure if we’ve had an overwhelming favorite like ‘Oppenheimer’ in a while, but ‘Oppehnheimer’ really is the favorite to win best picture,” said Erik Davis, the managing editor at Fandango, who praised the film for its achievements on multiple fronts, including its narrative, cast performances, cinematography, editing and score.

Director-writer Christopher Nolan on latest masterpiece “Oppenheimer,” Hollywood strike


“All of the parts of ‘Oppenheimer,’ when it’s assembled, help push it over the line for best picture, because it’s more than just an entertaining film,” Davis added. “Across the board, I think this film achieves at an Oscar-winning level.”

Vazquez echoed that sentiment.

“‘Oppenheimer,’ for me, is a lock,” she said. “I think it hits on so many different levels. That style of film, the script, the acting, is so good. Sometimes, you get these indie darling films and people are like, ‘I don’t understand it.’ This is a topic that everyone can connect to.”

“Oppenheimer” will contend for best picture alongside nine other films: “American Fiction,” “Anatomy of a Fall,” “Barbie,” “The Holdovers,” “Killers of the Flower Moon,” “Maestro,” “Past Lives,” “Poor Things” and “The Zone of Interest.”

Experts doubt any of those titles will manage to beat out Nolan’s movie, and they note that a loss for “Oppenheimer” in this category would probably be the shock of the night.

“I think it’s one of those versatile films that reached everyone. And, you know, we always gravitate towards historical dramas,” said Aramide Tinubu, a TV critic at Variety who is also betting on “Oppenheimer” to win. “As interesting as ‘The Holdovers’ was, and though it is kind of historically set, it’s a much quieter film. We love a good blockbuster here in America.”

But potential underdogs for the best picture prize could still include “The Holdovers,” Alexander Payne’s nostalgic crowd-pleaser, Justine Triet’s multilingual court drama “Anatomy of a Fall” or Yorgos Lanthimos’ offbeat sci-fi comedy “Poor Things,” which follows “Oppenheimer” with 11 Oscar nominations.

“The thing that’s most interesting about the race this year is, you can’t even tell what’s going to be runner-up,” said Joyce Eng, an entertainment journalist and senior editor at Gold Derby, an industry blog site that focuses on Hollywood awards predictions. Alongside Christopher Rosen, the site’s digital director, Eng co-hosts the podcast “Gold Derby Show,” where the two discuss and forecast awards season.

Oppenheimer-Cillian Murphy
This image released by Universal Pictures shows actor Cillian Murphy in a scene from “Oppenheimer.” 

Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures via AP

Rosen pointed out that the projected triumph by “Oppenheimer” in the best picture race is not only due to the fact that it has steamrolled through the awards circuit up to this point, but because it has all the makings of a winner. In addition to being a historical biopic, it was a critical hit and theatrical success, and both Eng and Rosen said the film’s early start as a supposed dark horse probably helped its popularity, too.

“I think it ran second a lot, at least over the summer, to ‘Barbie’ in terms of its box office and coverage. So, it had the sheen of an underdog even though it obviously wasn’t,” said Rosen, calling “Oppenheimer” a “perfect consensus movie on top of being the steamroller.”

“There’s been no fatigue with it being a frontrunner, either,” said Eng. “I think that’s key.”

Who will win the Oscar for best actor?

Similar to the race for best picture, experts are, for the most part, in agreement on the outcome of the best actor competition. Cillian Murphy, who starred as the namesake scientist in “Oppenheimer,” is favored to win this award, they said, owing to the huge success of the movie as well as Murphy’s previous wins at the SAG Awards and the BAFTAs — indicating strong support from industry members who overlap with the Oscars voting pool.

“It’s really hard to go against him [Murphy] with him having these two really important awards,” said Eng. “The only thing Cillian has lost in terms of televised award shows was the Critics Choice to Paul Giamatti, so I think that gave the impression that this race is closer than it might actually be.”

Cillian Murphy on preparing for “Oppenheimer,” potential “Peaky Blinders” film


Eight out of the last 13 best actor prizes at the Academy Awards have gone to someone playing a real-life figure, Vazquez noted, adding that “people love a story that is rooted in reality.”

“Usually playing a real-life person is always a leg up, it seems, for best actor especially,” said Rosen. “And just the fact that ‘Oppenheimer’ is the best picture frontrunner … there’s really no reason why Cillian Murphy would ever have not won this. And the fact that he’s won the precursor awards really bears that out. So, I think it would be pretty surprising if he lost on Oscar night. Not unprecedented, obviously, but certainly surprising.”

Giamatti is nominated alongside Murphy in this category for his leading performance as an embittered boarding school teacher in “The Holdovers,” which has also won praise. Both veterans are first-time Oscar nominees for best actor, and, for Giamatti, the recognition came almost 20 years after what is remembered as an infamous snub in this category for his work in Payne’s 2004 comedy-drama “Sideways.”

Paul Giamatti, 2024 Oscars nominee for “The Holdovers”


That has led some to suggest that a best actor win by Giamatti is overdue, not to mention plausible, since he and Murphy won counterpart awards for comedic and dramatic acting at the Globes before arguably becoming each others’ greatest competition throughout the rest of awards season.

“Both men have won this award at various awards shows, so I think it’s definitely a two-man’s race in this category,” said Davis. “Cillian Murphy has come out on top a little bit more than Paul Giamatti, and I think that’s due to the fact that ‘Oppenheimer’ is a major frontrunner and due to all that it’s achieved this year.”

Also in the running for the Oscar for best actor are Bradley Cooper, for “Maestro;” Colman Domingo, for “Rustin;” and Jeffrey Wright, for “American Fiction.”

Who will win the Oscar for best actress?

How the best actress race will play out on Sunday has shaped up to be perhaps the most debated Oscar competition this year, with Lily Gladstone and Emma Stone pacing neck-and-neck for their respective performances in “Killers of the Flower Moon” and “Poor Things,” each of which was heralded as the gem of those movies.

“Similar to the actor category, both of these performances are very different from one another,” said Davis. “Emma Stone’s is a more physical performance, a more physical transformation, very out-there, very animated … whereas Lily Gladstone’s performance is much quieter. It’s much more internal.”

Both women took home best actress awards at the Golden Globes, in separate categories for comedy and drama, before Stone went on to win at the Critics Choice Awards and the BAFTAs. Gladstone took the prize at the SAG Awards in a historic win, becoming the first indigenous actor to receive the award. She would also be the first Native American actor to receive the Oscar in this category if she wins.

Lily Gladstone poses with the Golden Globe Award
Lily Gladstone poses with her Golden Globe award for Best Performance by a Female Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama, for “Killers of the Flower Moon,” on Jan. 7, 2024.

ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

“I’m torn. I can’t call it between Lily Gladstone and Emma Stone,” said Tinubu. “I thought Lily would take it for a long time, but things have ramped up for Emma as well. I loved ‘Poor Things,’ that’s my film of the year, but I do think both women are very deserving. So that, to me, is a toss-up still.”

“Poor Things” was also Vazquez’s favorite film of 2023. She described Stone’s performance in it as “flawless” but still believes Gladstone will take the best actress prize.

“Would I love to see Emma Stone win another Oscar? One hundred percent,” said Vazquez. “Does she deserve another Oscar for this role? Yes, because the physicality of the role, matched with the emotion and also with the dialogue that she gives in the film is just insane. From that point of view, I would love to see her win it, if Lily Gladstone was not in this race.

“As a woman of color, seeing her be the first indigenous actress winner is incredible, for not just her community but for us as a country,” Vazquez continued. “And I think for her to shine the way that she did when she’s in a Scorsese film, and she’s sharing the screen with Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, that is power. That transcends.”

Overall, the competition is fierce in this category, as Gladstone and Stone contend for the title against Annette Bening, who’s nominated for “Nyad” along with Sandra Hüller, for “Anatomy of a Fall” and Carey Mulligan, for “Maestro.”

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