Oscars 2020 predictions: Win your Oscar pool with my picks

Oscar 2020 predictions: Parasite for Best Picture
(Image credit: Neon)

Hollywood’s biggest night is almost here, which means your Oscar pool ballot is due soon. My Oscars 2020 predictions will help you fill out all those categories, even sound editing and mixing (seriously, what the hell is the difference?). 

This year’s Oscars race has been building toward an exciting photo finish in the Best Picture race, which has come down to the single-shot World War I epic 1917 and the Korean horror comedy Parasite. But it’s a sign of the strength of the films this year that most of the Best Picture contenders will walk away with at least one award. 

As far as my Oscar predictions bona fides, I’ve won many Oscar pools over the years, including one among friends last year. I also lay out the reasoning behind my picks, which mashes up precursor wins, Oscars history and a bit of instinct. 

So, without further ado, my Oscars 2020 predictions:

Best Picture

  • Parasite
  • 1917
  • Ford v Ferrari
  • The Irishman
  • Jojo Rabbit
  • Joker
  • Little Women
  • Marriage Story
  • Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood

Of the top eight categories, the big prize is the most hotly contested. The Best Picture category has become extremely unpredictable in recent years. The usual precursors (the PGAs, the DGAs, the BAFTAs, SAG, Critics Choice) all have spotty records since 2010, when the preferential ballot was introduced, and particularly after 2016. Last year, only the PGA correctly aligned with the Oscars by choosing Green Book. 

This year, the race is between Parasite and 1917. Sam Mendes’ war movie has collected the PGA, the DGA, the BAFTA and a Golden Globe. But it didn’t get a SAG nomination, while Parasite won the top SAG Ensemble award. Actors make up the largest branch of the Academy.

The other notable factor is that 1917 did not receive an editing nomination. Thirty nine of the past 40 Best Picture winners received an editing nod. But that one outlier was Birdman, which also was shot to look like one seamless take. 

The safer bet is 1917, considering its haul of precursors. But I just have this feeling that the underdog Parasite will triumph, much like Moonlight upset La La Land in 2016.

Best Director

BAFTAs live stream: 1917

(Image credit: Francois Duhamel)
  • Sam Mendes, for 1917
  • Bong Joon Ho, for Parasite
  • Todd Phillips, for Joker
  • Martin Scorsese, for The Irishman
  • Quentin Tarantino, for Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

In this category, the DGA has lined up with the Oscar nine out of the last 10 years (the lone exception is 2013 DGA winner Ben Affleck, who wasn’t even nominated for the Oscar). Mendes won the DGA, so he is a lock. And all credit to him — 1917’s one-shot style is breathtaking and audacious and required a superb level of craft on every level. 

And one of the reasons I’m willing to go against the grain and pick Parasite as Best Picture is that these two categories have been diverging more and more in recent years, as if  the Academy is spreading the wealth.

Best Actor

Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker descending a staircase.

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
  • Joaquin Phoenix, for Joker
  • Antonio Banderas, for Pain and Glory
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, for Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood
  • Adam Driver, for Marriage Story 
  • Jonathan Pryce, for The Two Popes

Phoenix has basically had this award in the bag since Joker premiered at the Venice Film Festival in August. He won the Golden Globe, SAG and BAFTA. He’s also considered one of the finest actors of his generation, and has never won the Oscar.

Best Actress

Judy movie

(Image credit: LD Entertainment)
  • Renée Zellweger, for Judy 
  • Cynthia Erivo, for Harriet 
  • Scarlett Johansson, for Marriage Story 
  • Saoirse Ronan, for Little Women 
  • Charlize Theron, for Bombshell

Like Phoenix, Zellweger has won every precursor award, including a Golden Globe, SAG and BAFTA. She is slightly less of a lock, though, because her movie is not a Best Picture nominee and not widely seen. Last year, Olivia Colman upset Glenn Close for possibly this very reason. However, unlike that situation, there is no natural runner-up behind Zellweger. 

The only possible spoiler could be Scarlett Johansson for Marriage Story, which is a Best Picture nominee (and she is nominated as a supporting actress for Jojo Rabbit, so there’s a lot of goodwill toward her). 

Best Supporting Actor

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood movie

(Image credit: Sony)
  • Brad Pitt, for Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood 
  • Tom Hanks, for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood 
  • Anthony Hopkins, for The Two Popes 
  • Al Pacino, for The Irishman 
  • Joe Pesci, for The Irishman

Pitt has charmed everyone this awards season as he’s collected every precursor trophy. He’s one of the industry’s biggest stars and he’s never won an acting Oscar (he’s won two as a producer). Go ahead and update his Wikipedia page.

Best Supporting Actress

Marriage Story

(Image credit: Netflix)
  • Laura Dern, for Marriage Story 
  • Kathy Bates, for Richard Jewell 
  • Scarlett Johansson, for Jojo Rabbit 
  • Florence Pugh, for Little Women 
  • Margot Robbie, for Bombshell

Like the other probable acting winners, Dern has scooped up every award this season for her fierce turn as a cutthroat divorce attorney. She’s also Hollywood royalty, as the daughter of actors Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd. And she’s had a great year, also appearing in Little Women and HBO’s Big Little Lies. The consensus is that Dern is due.

Best Original Screenplay

  • Parasite, Bong Joon Ho, Han Jin Won 
  • 1917, Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns 
  • Knives Out, Rian Johnson 
  • Marriage Story, Noah Baumbach 
  • Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino

Bong won the WGA award in this category, but Quentin Tarantino was not eligible (he’s been in a feud with the writers guild for years). The two went head to head at the BAFTAs, though, and Parasite emerged triumphant. Still, Tarantino is a two-time screenplay winner, so he’s a real possibility to win. But Parasite’s screenplay is extremely original, smart and incisive. Plus, the Best Picture winner almost always wins a screenplay award and this is the Korean drama’s path to the top prize.

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • Jojo Rabbit, Taika Waititi 
  • The Irishman, Steven Zaillian
  • Joker, Todd Phillips, Scott Silver 
  • Little Women, Greta Gerwig 
  • The Two Popes, Anthony McCarten

Waititi won the WGA and BAFTA awards in this category. Jojo Rabbit has a lot of fans in the Academy and its screenplay pulls off the impossibly difficult task of turning Hitler into a comic figure. As much as I’d like Gerwig to win for her inventive take on a classic story, Jojo Rabbit will hop away with this trophy.

Best International Film

  • Parasite (South Korea) 
  • Corpus Christi (Poland) 
  • Honeyland (North Macedonia) 
  • Les Misérables (France) 
  • Pain and Glory (Spain)

South Korea will almost certainly win its first Oscar. This category is as locked as the acting races. But the big question is, will Academy members feel like this honor is enough and preclude Parasite from winning Best Picture (which is sort of what happened with Roma last year)?

Best Animated Feature Film

2020 Oscar nominated movies including Toy Story 4

(Image credit: Pixar/Disney)
  • Toy Story 4 
  • How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World 
  • I Lost My Body 
  • Klaus 
  • Missing Link

It’s a weird race this year for animated films. Disney’s other blockbuster, Frozen II, wasn’t even nominated. Missing Link won the Golden Globe, while Klaus won the Annie and BAFTA. But Disney/Pixar is such a juggernaut and the Toy Story franchise is beloved that it feels like the most likely winner.

Best Documentary Feature

  • American Factory 
  • The Cave 
  • The Edge of Democracy 
  • For Sama 
  • Honeyland

American Factory, produced by the Obamas, tells an absorbing story about a Chinese company and low-wage American workers. Directors Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert won the DGA, plus it’s probably the most widely seen of the nominees since it’s streaming on Netflix.

Best Film Editing

Ford v Ferrari

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)
  • Ford v Ferrari 
  • The Irishman
  •  Jojo Rabbit 
  • Joker 
  • Parasite

The American Cinema Editors guild honored Parasite and Jojo Rabbit, but their awards only match up with the Oscar about half the time. The Academy tends to reward flashy, fast editing, making this more of a Most Editing trophy. So, I’m going with Ford v Ferrari since there is a lot of cutting in the race scenes.

Best Cinematography

  • 1917, Roger Deakins 
  • The Irishman, Rodrigo Prieto 
  • Joker, Lawrence Sher 
  • The Lighthouse, Jarin Blaschke 
  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Robert Richardson

Once one of Oscar’s most famous bridesmaids, Deakins finally won two years ago for Blade Runner 2049. He won’t have to wait a long time to get his second trophy for his stunning, incredible work on 1917. Some people feel like the single-take style is a gimmick but it’s a very well-done one.

Best Visual Effects

  • 1917 
  • Avengers: Endgame 
  • The Irishman 
  • The Lion King 
  • Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

It’s best to go with a Best Picture contender in this category. Certainly, the Academy prefers to honor them for visual effects rather than blockbuster franchises. This is why First Man triumphed over Avengers: Infinity War last year. So, it comes down to 1917 versus The Irishman, and the latter’s de-aging CGI was widely panned. 

Best Production Design

  • 1917 
  • The Irishman 
  • Jojo Rabbit 
  • Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood 
  • Parasite

This may be the tightest race of the 2020 Oscars. It’s a knife fight among 1917, Parasite and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The latter’s painstaking recreation of 1969 is impressive but the movie has lost momentum. The houses in Parasite were all built on sound stages and are amazing, but Academy members tend to favor period work in this category. And 1917 features incredible details in everything from the trenches to the bombed-out villages.

Best Costume Design

Little Women

(Image credit: Sony)
  • Little Women 
  • The Irishman 
  • Jojo Rabbit 
  • Joker 
  • Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

Jojo Rabbit pulled off a surprise win with the costume designers guild, but Little Women won the BAFTA. When in doubt, though, go with the one with big, poofy dresses.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

  • Bombshell 
  • Joker 
  • Judy 
  • Maleficent: Mistress of Evil 
  • 1917

Academy voters reward the biggest transformations, which this year was turning Charlize Theron into an eerie replica of Megyn Kelly. 

Best Original Score

  • Joker, Hildur Gudnadottir 
  • 1917, Thomas Newman
  • Little Women, Alexandre Desplat 
  • Marriage Story, Randy Newman 
  • Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, John Williams

Poor Thomas Newman, who’s been nominated 15 times, will continue to be a bridesmaid, though his work on 1917 was excellent. But Joker’s score is so memorable and creative that the previously unknown Gudnadottir will take the cake.

Best Original Song

  • (I’m Gonna) Love Me Again, Rocketman 
  • I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away, Toy Story 4 
  • I’m Standing With You, Breakthrough 
  • Into the Unknown, Frozen 2 
  • Stand Up, Harriet

It’s Elton John. Everybody stans.

Best Sound Editing

  • 1917 
  • Ford v Ferrari 
  • Joker 
  • Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood 
  • Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Hopefully, the Academy will combine the sound categories some day, since nobody knows the difference between them. Sound editing is about the creation of sound effects. You can’t go wrong picking the war movie. 

Best Sound Mixing

  • 1917 
  • Ad Astra 
  • Ford v Ferrari 
  • Joker 
  • Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

Sound mixing is about layering the sounds, dialogue, music, etc. Again, go with the war movie. 

Best Live Action Short Film

  • The Neighbors’ Window 
  • Brotherhood 
  • Nefta Football Club 
  • Saria 
  • A Sister

It’s got recognizable actors, is in English and features a memorable and emotional twist.

Best Animated Short Film

  • Hair Love 
  • Dcera 
  • Kitbull 
  • Memorable 
  • Sister

Hair Love, which is about an African-American dad who does his daughter’s hair for the first time, is sweet and heartwarming. The other major contender is Kitbull from Pixar.

Best Documentary Short Subject

  • Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (if You’re a Girl) 
  • In the Absence 
  • Life Overtakes Me 
  • St. Louis Superman 
  • Walk Run Cha-Cha

The title alone would win the short an Oscar, but the subject matter — a girls’ skating school in Afghanistan — is the kind of feel-good, politically significant stuff that the Academy laps up.

Kelly Woo
Streaming Editor

Kelly is the streaming channel editor for Tom’s Guide, so basically, she watches TV for a living. Previously, she was a freelance entertainment writer for Yahoo, Vulture, TV Guide and other outlets. When she’s not watching TV and movies for work, she’s watching them for fun, seeing live music, writing songs, knitting and gardening.