2017 Oscar Predictions: Our Picks in Every Category

·Senior Correspondent, Yahoo Entertainment

How many Oscars will La La Land win? Will we see a split between Best Picture and Best Director? Who will win in some tight lead-actor categories?

And for serious Oscar geeks: Will either Kevin O’Connell or Greg P. Russell — soundmen who have a combined record of 0-for-36 at previous ceremonies — finally win an Academy Award?

These are just a few storylines to watch heading into the 89th Academy Awards this Sunday, Feb. 26. Expect La La Land to win a la la lot of trophies, but there could be some surprises in store. We’re calling upsets in Best Director, Best Actor, Best Documentary, and Best Original Song, but who knows what else the night could bring? Here are our 2017 Oscar predictions in every category.


Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea

La La Land tied an Academy Awards record when it scored a whopping 14 nominations, out-Oscaring Gone With the Wind (13) and taking its place in history alongside Titanic and All About Eve. That put to rest any doubt that director Damien Chazelle’s contemporary musical is far and away the Best Picture frontrunner, a status I’ve been sure about since September. There’s plenty else working in its favor beyond nomination domination: It’s an enchanting love letter to Los Angeles, the metropolis where most Oscars voters live and work; it romanticizes the entertainment industry; it reinvigorates a genre long celebrated on the ceremony’s stage; and it features two of Hollywood’s most popular young stars, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling.

Like any film that popular, though, there’s been some inevitable backlash. That leaves open the possibility that something like Moonlight, Barry Jenkins’s quietly stunning coming-of-age drama could squeak out a win. And if there’s any film whose stock has increased since the nominations, it would be the sleeper hit Hidden Figures, which will pass $150 million at the U.S. box office by the time the Oscars air on Sunday and would make a more populist (if conventional) pick. Still, anything topping La La Land would be a major upset.

Will win: La La Land
Don’t be surprised by: Moonlight
Dark horse: Hidden Figures


Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
Denis Villeneuve, Arrival

The five gentlemen nominated for Best Director should be thankful that Alejandro González Iñárritu didn’t make a film last year and is not a threat to three-peat after consecutive wins for Birdman and The Revenant. (PSA: No woman has been nominated in this category since Kathryn Bigelow won in 2010.)

Again, this one comes down to La La Land versus Moonlight. Director’s Guild winner Chazelle is the favorite, no doubt, for his highly stylized, resourceful work. But while Best Picture and Best Director Oscars in most years go to the same film (over a 30-year span from 1983-2012, it’s happened 25 times), splits have been a trend of late, occurring in three of the past four years. I could see Jenkins being rewarded here for his stunning work in Moonlight.

Will win: Barry Jenkins
Don’t be surprised by: Damien Chazelle


Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Ruth Negga, Loving
Natalie Portman, Jackie
Emma Stone, La La Land
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

Of the acting races, this is the category with the most possible winners, at four. (Apologies to Loving’s Ruth Negga.) Stone is the favorite for her emotionally charged performance as Mia, the heart and soul of La La Land. But watch out for Elle’s Isabelle Huppert, who pulled off a surprise win at the Golden Globes and could be a sentimental pick. Streep has to be a contender considering Hollywood wouldn’t mind a repeat of her takedown of Donald Trump at the Globes … and also, she’s Meryl Streep, 20-time nominee. Many critics have called Natalie Portman’s performance in Jackie her career best, but she did win only six years ago for Black Swan. That brings us back to Stone, who you could argue is already “due” at the tender age of 28: She should’ve won two years ago for supporting actress in Birdman.

Will win: Emma Stone
Don’t be surprised by: Isabelle Huppert
Dark horse: Natalie Portman or Meryl Streep


Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington, Fences

It felt like Casey Affleck had this category locked up earlier this awards season for playing the tormented handyman who assumes custody of his wiseacre nephew (Lucas Hedges) in Manchester. But the tide seems to have turned of late. Voters might be hesitant to reward Affleck given attention to sexual harassment allegations lodged against him by female colleagues in 2010. (The cases were settled, and Affleck has denied the claims.) Now a real possibility is Denzel Washington, who won the Screen Actors Guild Award and could win his third Oscar for playing a Pittsburgh sanitation worker in Fences. While Affleck’s performance is understated, Washington’s is explosive. It’s still Affleck’s Oscar to lose, but I’m going with Denzel.

Will win: Denzel Washington
Don’t be surprised by: Casey Affleck


Viola Davis, Fences
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Nicole Kidman, Lion
Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

Of the four acting categories, this one is by far the easiest one to predict. There is next to no doubt Viola Davis will take home her first Academy Award for her fiery performance opposite Washington in Fences. Davis owns the single greatest moment by any actor this year with her tear-soaked “standing with you” rebuttal of her wrongdoing husband. Any other year, and this prize would have to go to Michelle Williams for her gut-wrenching work in Manchester, but the Dawson’s Creek alum will likely be 0-for-4 at the Oscars after Sunday.

Will win: Viola Davis
Dark horse: Michelle Williams


Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
Dev Patel, Lion
Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

This race was probably a lot closer before Jan. 29. That was the night Moonlight breakout Mahershala Ali (who also appears in another Best Picture contender, Hidden Figures) delivered an introspective, heartfelt speech as he accepted his SAG Award. Ali was the presumptive favorite before then for his subtly moving work as an empathetic drug dealer, and that night he likely became a lock. I’ll still hold out hope for the feisty Michael Shannon, who gave one of my favorite performances of the year as a tough-talking, terminally ill sheriff in Nocturnal Animals, but odds are Ali is the champ.

Will win: Mahershala Ali
Dark horse: Michael Shannon

Related: 7 First-Time Oscar Nominees in 2017


Mike Mills, 20th Century Women
Taylor Sheridan, Hell or High Water
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou, The Lobster
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea

Kenneth Lonergan was recruited by Matt Damon to pen an original script after the actor-producer took a shine to his work on Margaret, and the playwright-screenwriter didn’t disappoint. Manchester by the Sea is a masterfully written tragedy that surprises and saddens, yet still leaves room for hope and even some humor. It’s hard to see this award not going to Lonergan, one of the more revered writers in the business today. La La Land is in the running, but it’s incredibly rare for musicals to win screenplay Oscars: The last was Gigi in 1959.

Will win: Manchester by the Sea
Don’t be surprised by: La La Land
Dark horse: Hell or High Water


Eric Heisserer, Arrival
August Wilson, Fences
Theodore Melfi and Allison Schroeder, Hidden Figures
Luke Davies, Lion
Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight

The Writers Guild Awards didn’t make this category any easier to predict: Both Moonlight (written by Barry Jenkins, based on an unpublished play by Tarell McCraney) and Arrival (written by Eric Heisserer, based on a story by Ted Chiang) took home trophies. That’s because the WGA considered Moonlight an original script, while the Academy’s designated it an adaptation. Regardless, this should be smooth sailing for the deeply adored Moonlight.

Will win: Moonlight
Dark horse: Arrival or Hidden Figures

Related: Arrival’s Nominated Screenwriter on Adapting the Surprise Hit and Speaking the Aliens’ Language


Kubo and the Two Strings
My Life as a Zucchini
The Red Turtle

It’s still surprising that in a year in which Disney Animation released a highly anticipated sequel (Finding Dory) and a new heroine adventure (Moana), its crown jewel is Zootopia. It arrived in theaters last spring with decidedly less fanfare than the other two but has proved to be a hilarious crowd-pleaser, with a poignant, nuanced social message about tolerance. Zootopia has become the easy favorite here, and only the artsier Kubo and the Two Strings has a (long) shot of defeating it.

Will win: Zootopia
Dark horse: Kubo and the Two Strings


Fire at Sea
I Am Not Your Negro
Life, Animated
O.J.: Made in America

Wisdom of the crowd says the nonfiction category will go to ESPN Films’ O.J.: Made in America, Ezra Edelman’s captivating, eight-hour odyssey about O.J. Simpson, his trial for murder, and its ripple effect on race relations in America. (At 467 minutes, it would become the film with the longest run time ever to win an Oscar.) But my pick goes to a timelier take on social strife, Ava DuVernay’s 13th, a blistering indictment of mass incarceration and an urgent look at the evolution of racial inequality in the U.S.

Will win: 13th
Don’t be surprised by: O.J.: Made in America
Dark horse: I Am Not Your Negro

Related: The Oscar-Nominated Filmmaker Behind O.J.: Made in America on His Oscars Night Plans and Why O.J. Still Matters


Land of Mine
A Man Called Ove
The Salesman
Toni Erdmann

Toni Erdmann, Germany’s comedy-drama about a goofy middle-aged man who disrupts his corporate daughter’s business dealings has long been considered the movie to beat. But politics matter at the Oscars, and the attention Iran’s The Salesman — about married actors whose relationship unravels as they rehearse for a play — has received in the wake of the Trump administration’s proposed travel ban could give the second seed a bump. (Director Asghar Farhadi announced he was boycotting the ceremony.) And for what it’s worth, The Salesman is the better film.

Will win: The Salesman
Don’t be surprised by: Toni Erdmann
Dark horse: A Man Called Ove



Bradford Young, Arrival
Linus Sandgren, La La Land
Greig Fraser, Lion
James Laxton, Moonlight
Rodrigo Prieto, Silence

It was a stellar year for cinematography. There’s the dreamy urban landscapes of Moonlight, a vibrant spin on the City of Angels in La La Land, and the brooding sci-fi scenery of Arrival. You would assume any of those would be the favorites … and then the American Society of Cinematographers doled out its top honors to the gritty South Asian sights photographed in Lion. This category could be ripe for an upset, but when in doubt, go La La Land.

Will win: La La Land
Don’t be surprised by: Lion
Dark horse: Arrival or Moonlight


Joanna Johnston, Allied
Colleen Atwood, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Consolata Boyle, Florence Foster Jenkins
Madeline Fontaine, Jackie
Mary Zophres, La La Land

This category has a history of going to period wardrobes, and Jackie‘s Madeline Fontaine nailed the former first lady’s iconic looks. But La La Land is the likely frontrunner given how vitally its characters’ colorful duds factor into the film’s aesthetic.

Will win: La La Land
Don’t be surprised by: Jackie
Dark horse: Florence Foster Jenkins


Patrice Vermette and Paul Hotte, Arrival
Stuart Craig and Anna Pinnock, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Jess Gonchor and Nancy Haigh, Hail, Caesar!
David Wasco and Sandy Reynolds-Wasco, La La Land
Guy Hendrix Dyas and Gene Serdena, Passengers

Best Production Design, aka one of two categories where Passengers was nominated. (The big-budget sci-fi bust did look pretty spectacular.) This category has matched up with Best Costume Design over the past three years (Mad Max, Grand Budapest Hotel, and The Great Gatsby). Considering that La La Land was a spectacle that also looked spectacular, I’ll say that trend will continue.

Will win: La La Land
Don’t be surprised by: Arrival
Dark horse: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them


Joe Walker, Arrival
John Gilbert, Hacksaw Ridge
Jake Roberts, Hell or High Water
Joi McMillon and Nat Sanders, Moonlight
Tom Cross, La La Land

Here’s yet another technical award where La La Land should add to its total. Editor Tom Cross won a surprise Oscar two years ago for his work on Chazelle’s breakout film, Whiplash, and once again he helps craft the filmmaker’s work with perfect rhythm. If anything breaks La La Land‘s stride here, it could be Arrival, which won the ACE Eddie Award for drama, while La La took the comedy category.

Will win: La La Land
Don’t be surprised by: Arrival
Dark horse: Moonlight


Eva Von Bahr and Love Larson, A Man Called Ove
Joel Harlow and Richard Alonzo, Star Trek Beyond
Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini and Christopher Allen Nelson, Suicide Squad

Good news: This is the rare Oscar category where you automatically have a 33.3 percent chance of winning on your ballot. As much as we’d all get a kick out of hearing the phrase “the Oscar-winning film Suicide Squad,” you’re probably safe picking Star Trek Beyond for its impressive intergalactic embellishments.

Will win: Star Trek Beyond
Don’t be surprised by: Suicide Squad


Mica Levi, Jackie
Justin Hurwitz, La La Land
Dustin O’Halloran and Volker Berterlmann, Lion
Nicholas Britell, Moonlight
Thomas Newman, Passengers

The musical numbers are infectious in La La Land, but the film’s tunes never stop never stopping, and Justin Hurwitz’s tight, jazz-influenced compositions seamlessly blend one showstopper into the next. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: La La Land is the easy choice.

Will win: La La Land
Dark horse: Lion


“Audition,” La La Land
“Can’t Stop the Feeling,” Trolls
“City of Stars,” La La Land
“The Empty Chair,” Jim: The James Foley Story
“How Far I’ll Go,” Moana

Here’s where I’ll get bold, though. The consensus among pundits is that “City of Stars” is the easy choice, and it might be. But it’s not even the best song in La La Land — that would be “Another Day of Sun,” which wasn’t nominated. And Ryan Gosling’s singing has taken some knocks. So it could go to “Audition” instead … or we could even see those two split the votes, clearing the way for Moana‘s pump-up jam, “How Far I’ll Go,” written by Broadway sensation (and occasional freestyle Disney rapper) Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Will win: “How Far I’ll Go”
Don’t be surprised by: “City of Stars”
Dark horse: “Audition”

Related: Lin-Manuel Miranda on His Oscar-Nominated Moana Song: ‘You Start by Thinking, Don’t Write “Let It Go”


Deepwater Horizon
Doctor Strange
Kubo and the Two Strings
The Jungle Book
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Kubo and the Two Strings became the first animated movie to be nominated in the VFX category since Tim Burton’s stop-motion The Nightmare Before Christmas in 1994. Still, it’ll have to settle for that distinction considering it’s in the same category as The Jungle Book, director Jon Favreau’s visually electrifying creature feature that’s so reliant on FX you could argue it’s an animated film, not live-action. Regardless, it’s hard to see it losing here.

Will win: The Jungle Book
Dark horse: Doctor Strange or Rogue One


Nominees, Best Sound Editing:
Deepwater Horizon
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land

Nominees, Best Sound Mixing:
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

First, your annual primer: Sound editing is the creation of nonmusical sound effects used in films (e.g., sirens, gunshots, doors slamming), while sound mixing is the blending of all sounds in a film to find the proper balance. There are two challenges to predicting these: figuring out if voters will favor the musical entry or an action movie, and then deciding if they’ll choose the same winner for each.

Winners have lined up six of the past 10 years, and three of those four years that they didn’t, it’s because a musical won Best Sound Mixing, while an action movie won Best Sound Editing. History, then, favors La La Land in Sound Mixing, and something like Hacksaw Ridge or Arrival in Sound Editing.

Sound Mixing, by the way, is the category where Kevin O’Connell (previously 0-for-20 and now up for Hacksaw Ridge) or Greg P. Russell (previously 0-for-16 and now up for 13 Hours) will face off. Sadly, I think their winless streaks continue.

Best Sound Editing

Will win: Hacksaw Ridge
Don’t be surprised by: Arrival

Best Sound Mixing

Will win: La La Land
Dark horse: Hacksaw Ridge


Ennemis Intérieurs
La Femme et le TGV
Silent Nights

Call this Best Foreign-Language Film Jr. All five nominees hail from Europe. And four could feasibly win, depending on the mood of voters. Three of those are light: Timecode (a Cannes winner about dancing security guards), Sing (a crowd-pleaser about a kids’ choir, not to be confused with the animated feature-length hit), and La Femme et le TGV (a whimsical Swiss comedy about a middle-aged baker and a passing train). But my money’s on the more somber entry, Ennemis Intérieurs, a gripping, topical drama about a Muslim French-Algerian man being interrogated while applying for citizenship.

Will win: Ennemis Intérieurs
Don’t be surprised by: Timecode
Dark horse: Sing or La Femme et le TGV

Related: A Guide to the Three Short-Film Categories: The Nominees and Ethan Alter’s Picks to Win


4.1 Miles
Joe’s Violin
Watani: My Homeland
The White Helmets

Want a quick bout of depression? Watch all five nominees in this category consecutively. They deal with life amid the devastating warfare in Syria (Watani, The White Helmets), refugees risking their lives near a Greek island (4.1 Miles), and the delicacy of working with life-support machines (Extremis). Only the heartwarming Joe’s Violin — about a Holocaust survivor who donates his instrument to a Bronx schoolgirl — offers some reprieve. They’re all genuinely great, and any one of them could win, but I’m partial to the harrowing White Helmets, about civilian teams of first responders risking their lives during bomb attacks in Syria. (The film’s subjects would likely have been denied U.S. visas to travel to the Oscars under Trump’s travel ban but now plan to be in attendance.)

Will win: The White Helmets
Don’t be surprised by: Joe’s Violin or Extremis
Dark horse: 4.1 Miles


Blind Vaysha
Borrowed Time
Pear Cider and Cigarettes

Let’s end on a lighter note though, shall we? There’s no way in heck this Oscar doesn’t go to Pixar’s Piper, which played prior to Finding Dory. It’s a short about a baby sandpiper birdie breaking the waves and overcoming her fear of water. And it’s freaking adorable.

Will win: Piper
Dark horse: Blind Vaysha

The 89th Academy Awards will be held Sunday, Feb. 26, at 8:30 p.m. ET/ 5:30 p.m. PT.