With the 91st Academy Awards around the corner, we’ve been wondering whether first-time nominees or veterans who’ve already won an Oscar – or been nominated – have a better chance of winning. With only four of the 20 nominated actors walking away with an Oscar on Sunday, we wanted to know how the five former winners, six prior nominees, and nine first-time nominees who make up the group of 20 will fair – according to Oscar trends. And so we dove into the data to see if there were any patterns suggesting that vets are favored over newcomers, and vice versa, and applied that to this year’s nominees. To keep the data current, we decided to focus on recent nominees and winners, beginning with the 73rd Academy Awards in 2001. What we found could be crucial info when filling out your Oscar ballot.
(We did go a little further, analyzing the four Academy Award acting categories going back to 1929 and discovered that 1,700 nominations have gone out to only 928 actors. Further, 364 Academy Awards have been won by just 298 actors. Multiple awards have been won by 41 actors, and 257 have only won once. That seems to tell us that, historically, the awards favor first-time winners and it’s more difficult to be a repeat winner with so much competition.)
Here are some key takeaways about the 72 Acting Oscars awarded and the 360 nominations since the 73rd Academy Awards in 2001.
So what does this data tell us about who might win this year?
Nominees since 2001: 26 prior Oscars winners, 30 prior nominees (with no wins), and 34 first-time nominees.
Winners since 2001: 4 Oscar winners, 8 prior nominees, and 6 first-time nominees.
Nominated in 2019: 2 prior nominees (with no wins), and 3 first-time nominees.
Based on recent trends, the advantage in this category goes to seven-time nominee Glenn Close (The Wife) and the twice-nominated Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?). Why? Seven of the last eight winning actresses had been nominated at least twice before winning, and prior nominees in the Best Actress category have the best chance to win (8 winners out of 30 nominations, or 26.6%) among the four acting categories. Also, no Oscar-winning actresses were nominated in 2019; in years when no Oscar winners were nominated (2003, 2008), the Oscar has gone to actresses with prior nominations.
Another factor is that since 1927, only Shirley Booth (Come Back, Little Sheba), Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins), Barbra Streisand (Funny Girl), and Marlee Matlin (Children of a Lesser God) have won a Best Actress Oscar for their first starring roles. This hurts the odds of Lady Gaga (A Star is Born) and Yalitza Aparicio (Roma) winning because of their newcomer status.
Who has the advantage? We’re guessing the seven-time nominated Glenn Close will follow in the footsteps of Julia Roberts, Helen Mirren, Kate Winslet, and Julianne Moore who had at least three nominations and zero wins when they picked up their Oscars.
Nominees since 2001: 24 prior Oscars winners, 34 prior nominees (with no wins), and 32 first-time nominees.
Winners since 2001: 3 Oscar winners, 8 prior nominees, and 7 first-time nominees.
Nominated in 2019: 1 Oscar Winner, 3 prior nominees (with no wins), and 1 first-time nominee.
Statistically speaking, the prior nominees without wins (Bradley Cooper, Willem Dafoe, Viggo Mortensen) and the lone first-timer (Rami Malek) have a better chance of winning than Oscar winner Christian Bale. Prior nominees without wins and first-time nominees have won 15 of the last 18 Oscars, with first-time winners Matthew McConaughey, Eddie Redmayne, Leonardo DiCaprio, Casey Affleck, and Gary Oldman winning in the last five years.
The even distribution of nominations and awards to first-timers and prior nominees has forced us to dig deep to find an advantage between prior nominees (without wins) and those with zero Oscar love. The Academy has awarded 10 of the last 18 Oscars to actors playing real-life characters (more than any category this century). The reason we’re bringing this up is that 4 of the 5 nominees this year played real-life characters – in Vice, Bohemian Rhapsody, At Eternity’s Gate, and Green Book. Right now, Malek seems like the statistical frontrunner because six of the seven first-time nominated winners since 2001 have played real-life characters (Jamie Foxx, Adrien Brody, Forest Whitaker, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Matthew McConaughey, Eddie Redmayne).
Who has the advantage? The competition is fierce, but we think Rami Malek has the advantage because the Academy loves to award first-time nominees for playing real life characters.
Nominees since 2001: 17 prior Oscar winners, 34 prior nominees (with no wins), and 39 first-time nominees.
Winners since 2001: 1 Oscar winner, 5 prior nominees, and 12 first-time nominees.
Nominated in 2019: 2 Oscar winners, and 3 first-time nominees.
This category leans heavily towards first-time nominees and winners with 17 of the last 18 Oscars going to first-time winners. Twelve of those 17 actors, 12 were first-time nominees, with five first-time nominees winning consecutively since 2014 (Jared Leto, J.K. Simmons, Mark Rylance, Mahershala Ali, Sam Rockwell). This statistic will help Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman), Sam Elliott (A Star is Born), and Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?) because they are first-time nominees who are up against prior Oscar winners Mahershala Ali (Green Book) and Sam Rockwell (Vice).
Who has the advantage? Adam Driver, Sam Elliott, and Richard E. Grant are the actors to watch according to the category’s history – even if the pundits have Mahershala Ali as favorite.
Nominees since 2001: 20 prior Oscar winners, 23 prior nominees (with no wins), and 47 first-time nominees.
Winners since 2001: 0 Oscar winners, 6 prior nominees, and 12 first-time nominees.
Nominated in 2019: 2 Oscar winners, 1 prior nominee (with no wins), and 2 first-time nominees.
First-time winners have won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar 18 times since 2001. No other acting category can boast this stat, which gives Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk), Amy Adams (Vice), and Marina de Tavira (Roma) the advantage over Oscar winners and The Favourite co-stars Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz.
King and de Tavira have an advantage over multiple-time nominee Adams, because they’re first-time nominees in a category that has awarded 12 of the last 18 Oscars to first-time nominees. The category is so first-time-nominee–loaded that four of the last five winners (Lupita Nyong’o, Patricia Arquette, Alicia Vikander, Allison Janney) were first-time nominees, with Viola Davis (Fences) being the prior-nominated standout of the group.
Who has the advantage? Regina King is almost a guaranteed lock to win the Oscar. However, based on the data we’ve analyzed, Marina de Tavira has a better probability of winning because Roma was nominated for Best Picture – 11 of the last 18 winning actresses have appeared in movies nominated for Best Picture. Could an upset be brewing? If she wins, you heard it here first.
Who do you think will win this weekend? Let us know in the comments.