NPR : News

The Four Biggest Best Picture Oscar Upsets, Statistically Speaking

By the time the curtains rise on the Academy Awards ceremony each year, Oscar-watching prognosticators are already reasonably sure which films are going to take home top prizes.

Their predictions are mostly driven by frenzied intra-industry campaigning, prolific press coverage and the closest approximation of Oscar "polls" — the winners of the dozens of awards that precede the Oscars each year. But of the 16 preceding awards analyzed by The New York Times' political statistician Nate Silver, only two — the Directors Guild Awards and the Producers Guild Awards — have a greater than 50 percent success rate in predicting eventual Oscar winners. (The Directors Guild aligns with Oscar eight out of 10 times.) "Directors and producers are the movers and shakers in Hollywood, and any evidence about their opinions ought to count for a lot," Silver writes.

And their guilds are packed with Academy voters, so it makes sense that major category winners tend to match. In fact, when we analyzed the data, only four times since the Directors and Producers Guild Awards have existed have their top film picks of the year awards not overlapped with the Academy's best picture winner.

That kind of track record makes for stunning upsets on Oscar night.

With the help of film critic Chris Vognar of The Dallas Morning News, we took a look back at the biggest upsets, or to put a more positive spin on it, biggest surprise wins in the best picture category:

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Pack These Pages: Three Must-Reads For Summer

Harriet Logan, owner of Loganberry Books in Shaker Heights, Ohio, recommends a graphic novel about trash, a George Eliot classic and a children's book about a bear pianist.
NPR

Why Does Every New Restaurant Look Like A Factory?

The stripped-down look of exposed brick, poured cement floors, and Edison light bulbs is popular in restaurants across America. One reporter dares to ask, "Seriously, why?"
WAMU 88.5

Why Local Nonprofits Haven't Fixed Poverty

As long as there has been poverty, there have been people trying to end it. We explore the obstacles and inefficiencies local nonprofits run into when trying to solve society's stubborn problem.

WAMU 88.5

Can We Trust Our Cars?

There were more airbag recalls this week, and VW has agreed to pay nearly fifteen billion in its emissions cheating scandal. Meanwhile, cars with driverless technology are becoming available, but whether they will make us safer is up for debate. A look at auto safety and consumer trust.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.