Do the Golden Globes Really Predict the Oscars?

Because they’ve been around and on television for so long – before most of the other year-end awards ceremonies and critics honors – the conventional wisdom holds that the Golden Globes are one of the key bellwethers for the Academy Awards. But there are plenty of reasons to believe otherwise. After all, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which gives out the Globes, is a tiny organization comparatively (“about 90 members,” according to their website, vs. the nearly 7,000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences), and with a very different makeup of journalists (and some pretty sketchy at that) rather than the actors, filmmakers, execs, and other craftspeople who vote on the Oscars. So we decided to look back at the six major Oscar categories over the past ten years, to see how often their winners already had a Globe in hand.

Best Director (40%)

The lowest-matching category lined up fairly frequently in the early portion of our polling sample: in 2005 (Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain), 2006 (Martin Scorsese, The Departed), and 2008 (Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire), only parting ways in 2007, when the Globe went to Julian Schnabel for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and the Oscar went to the Coen Brothers for No Country for Old Men. But from 2009 forward, the Best Director awards have only matched up once, in 2013, when Alfonso Cuaron won both prizes for Gravity. They synced up quite a bit more frequently in earlier years (only diverging twice in the ‘90s, for example, with Globes for Oliver Stone’s JFK and Milos Forman’s The People vs. Larry Flynt); this seems to be an area where the shifting voting bodies of the two organizations are embracing different kinds of directorial work.

Eddie Murphy in "Dreamgirls"

Best Supporting Actor (90%)

Supporting Actor tends to be a category where favorites emerge early and stay there, so this, unsurprisingly, is a category where the two ceremonies match up fairly frequently – nine times in the last ten years, for George Clooney in Syriana, Javier Bardem in No Country, Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained, Christian Bale in The Fighter, Christopher Plummer in Beginners, Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club, and J.K. Simmons in Whiplash. Only once have the Globes picked someone who didn’t eventually win the Oscar: Eddie Murphy for Dreamgirls. This year, most awards-watchers are predicting a horse race between Paul Dano and Sylvester Stallone – which means this year’s Golden Globe winner may be the safe bet, mathematically speaking.

Best Supporting Actress (70%)

Back in the ‘90s, thanks to surprise winners like Marisa Tomei and Juliette Binoche, this was said to be the one Oscar category where you could expect the unexpected. But in the last decade, the Globes have correctly predicted the eventual Oscar winner seven out of ten times: Rachel Weisz in The Constant Gardener, Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls, Mo’Nique in Precious, Melissa Leo in The Fighter, Octavia Spencer in The Help, Anne Hathaway in Les Miz, and Patricia Arquette in Boyhood. However, the Globes awarded Cate Blanchett for I’m Not There, Jennifer Lawrence for American Hustle, and Kate Winslet for The Reader – though, to be fair, she did end up winning an Oscar for that performance, albeit for Best Actress (where’s your category fraud now, seeeeee).

Best Actor (90%)

Now we get into the area where the Globes have twice the chance to get it right – because they split their nominees into categories of Drama and Comedy/Musical. So the Oscar went to previous Globe winners Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote, Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland, Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood and Lincoln, Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart, Colin Firth in The King’s Speech, Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club, and Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything (all Drama), plus Jean Dujardin in The Artist (Musical/Comedy). The only time neither Globe winner took the Oscar was in 2008, when the Globes went to Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler) and Colin Farrell for In Bruges, but the Oscar went to Sean Penn for Milk. (Too late to redistribute that one?)

Kate WInslet in "The Reader"

Best Actress (90%*)

Again, the double-category thing helps, but they nail these pretty often too: Helen Mirren for The Queen, Sandra Bullock for The Blind Side, Natalie Portman for Black Swan, Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady, Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine, and Julianne Moore for Still Alice (all Drama), plus Reese Witherspoon for Walk the Line, Marion Cotillard for La Vie en Rose, and Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook. The only divergent year was, again, 2008 – what was going on that year? – when Sally Hawkins won the Comedy/Musical Globe for Happy-Go-Lucky and Kate Winslet won the Drama prize for Revolutionary Road. But the asterisk is necessary because Winslet did win the Best Actress Oscar – as mentioned, for her Supporting Globe-winning turn in The Reader.

So what’s the takeaway on Best Actor and Actress? The Globes predict the Oscars pretty regularly – but, particularly when it comes to Actress, the trick is guessing whether the Oscar will go to the winner of the Comedy/Musical or Drama category. That’s what happened last year (their winners were Michael Keaton and Eddie Redmayne, and many an Oscar pool was lost making that choice), and it could happen again this year, if Matt Damon wins the Comedy/Musical category (snort) for The Martian.

Best Picture (50%)

In recent years, this has become a bit more of a head-to-head, since the Oscar category was ostensibly extended to up to ten nominees in order to include the kind of genre movies and popular favorites that were previously deemed Not Serious Enough for Best Picture. But strangely, this is one where the Oscars and Globes frequently vote differently. They match up five times: Slumdog Millionaire (Globe for Drama, 2008), The King’s Speech (Globe for Drama, 2010), The Artist (Globe for Comedy/Musical, 2011), Argo (Globe for Drama, 2012), and 12 Years a Slave (Globe for Drama, 2013). But the first big spoiler here is the first year of our survey, 2005, when – in a moment that made a generation of film lovers realize that oh, Christ, the Oscars are some bullshit – the Academy Award went not to Globe winners Brokeback Mountain or Walk the Line, but (shiver) Crash. And they continued to part company in 2006 (Globes to Babel and Dreamgirls, Oscar to The Departed), 2007 (Globes to – gulp – Atonement and Sweeney Todd, Oscar to No Country for Old Men), 2009 (Globes to Avatar and The Hangover – seriously! – and Oscar to The Hurt Locker), and last year (Globes to Boyhood and The Grand Budapest Hotel, Oscar to Birdman).

What did we learn from this quickie data crunch? In the acting categories, you can pretty safely take the Globes to the bank – because, as with so many of the secondary awards ceremonies that have joined them in the months leading up to Oscar’s Big Night, they’re less a definitive statement than a barometer of who’s got the buzz. But when it comes to using the Globes to predict directors and pictures, tread very carefully.