Which Best Picture 2015 Oscar Nominee Will Win? Let's Predict The Results Based On Past Winners

Since before we even got word which movies from 2014 would be up for the Best Picture Academy Award this time around, we were dedicated to the task of guessing which film would take the top honor. Theories don't stem simply from our own tastes; we all have our ideas of what the Academy likes and loathes. Do biopics like The Imitation Game beat family stories like Boyhood? Do showbiz comedies like Birdman stand a chance against war dramas like American Sniper? It might be hard to tell... but hopefully this makes it a bit easier.

We went back through the line of Best Picture winners, running all the way back to 1927's Wings, hoping to figure out exactly where the Academy's tastes lie in terms of movies' themes, genres, and even settings. Perhaps if we can learn a bit about which sorts of movies that the Academy has been most partial to in the past, we can better predict who'll take home the coveted trophy this year.

As such, we have here a bevy of Best Picture data. Start off with setting (Which time periods and geographic locations are most and least common among Best Picture winners?), then move onto genre (How many adventure films have won? How about romances? Westerns?), and finally theme (Do Best Picture winners usually focus on family? Discrimination? Disease? Showbiz? War?), and pretty soon you'll know far more than you'll need to about what it takes to win the big Oscar.

Time Period

First century AD: 1 (Ben-Hur­)

Second century AD: 1 (Gladiator)

1200s: 1 (Braveheart)

1300s: 1 (Braveheart)

1500s: 1 (Shakespeare in Love)

1600s: 1 (Hamlet)

1700s: 4 (Mutiny on the Bounty, Tom Jones, A Man for All Seasons, Amadeus)

1800-49: 3 (Amadeus, Dances with Wolves, 12 Years a Slave)

1850-99: 11 (Cimarron, The Great Ziegfeld, The Life of Emile Zola, Gone with the Wind, How Green Was My Valley, Around the World in 80 Days, Oliver!, Gandhi, Dances with Wolves, Unforgiven, 12 Years a Slave)

1900-09: 3 (Gigi, My Fair Lady, The Godfather Part II)

1910s: 9 (Wings, All Quiet on the Western Front, Cimarron, Cavalcade, Lawrence of Arabia, The Godfather Part II, Gandhi, Out of Africa, Titanic)

1920s: 8 (Cimarron, Lawrence of Arabia, The Godfather Part II, Gandhi, Out of Africa, The Last Emperor, Chicago, The Artist)

1930s: 10 (Mrs. Miniver, All the King’s Men, The Sound of Music, Gandhi, Out of Africa, The Last Emperor, Schindler’s List, The English Patient, The King’s Speech, The Artist)

1940s: 10 (Casablanca, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Patton, The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, Gandhi, The Last Emperor, Driving Miss Daisy, Schindler’s List, A Beautiful Mind)

1950s: 7 (West Side Story, The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, The Last Emperor, Driving Miss Daisy, Forrest Gump, A Beautiful Mind)

1960s: 6 (The French Connection, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Deer Hunter, Driving Miss Daisy, Forrest Gump, A Beautiful Mind)

1970s: 4 (Driving Miss Daisy, Forrest Gump, A Beautiful Mind, Argo)

1980s: 4 (Forrest Gump, A Beautiful Mind, No Country for Old Men, Argo)

1990s: 2 (A Beautiful Mind, Slumdog Millionaire)

2000s: 1 (The Hurt Locker)

Third Age 3000s: 1 (The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King)

Contemporaneous: 27 (The Broadway MelodyGrand HotelIt Happened One NightYou Can’t Take It with YouRebeccaGoing My WayThe Lost WeekendThe Best Years of Our LivesGentleman’s AgreementAll About EveAn American in ParisThe Greatest Show on EarthOn the WaterfrontMartyThe ApartmentIn the Heat of the NightMidnight CowboyAnnie HallKramer vs. KramerOrdinary PeopleTerms of EndearmentRain ManThe Silence of the LambsAmerican BeautyMillion Dollar BabyCrashThe Departed).

This year's Best Picture nominees bounce around the 20th and 21st centuries, hitting the 1930s (The Grand Budapest Hotel), '40s and '50s (The Imitation Game), '60s (Selma), '70s (The Theory of Everything), 2000s (American Sniper and Boyhood), and the eras contemporaneous with their years of release (Birdman and Whiplash). Relevant data favors for the World War II-era Grand Budapest and Imitation Game, ditto for the effectively "present" Birdman and Whiplash.

Place

The United States of America

In total: 46 (Wings, The Broadway Melody, Cimarron, It Happened One Night, The Great Ziegfeld, You Can’t Take It with You, Gone with the Wind, Going My Way, The Lost Weekend, The Best Years of Our Lives, Gentleman’s Agreement, All the King’s Men, All About Eve, From Here to Eternity, On the Waterfront, Marty, Around the World in 80 Days, The Apartment, West Side Story, In the Heat of the Night, Midnight Cowboy, The French Connection, The Godfather, The Sting, The Godfather Part II, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Rocky, Annie Hall, The Deer Hunter, Kramer vs. Kramer, Ordinary People, Terms of Endearment, Rain Man, Driving Miss Daisy, Dances with Wolves, The Silence of the Lambs, Unforgiven, Forrest Gump, A Beautiful Mind, Chicago, Million Dollar Baby, Crash, The Departed, No Country for Old Men, The Artist, Argo, 12 Years a Slave)

New York City: 18 (The Broadway Melody, It Happened One Night, The Great Ziegfeld, You Can’t Take It with You, Going My Way, The Lost Weekend, Gentleman’s Agreement, All About Eve, Marty, The Apartment, West Side Story, Midnight Cowboy, The French Connection, The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, Annie Hall, Kramer vs. Kramer, 12 Years a Slave)

Southern California: 7 (Around the World in 80 Days, The Godfather, Annie Hall, Rain Man, Million Dollar Baby, Crash, The Artist, Argo)

Las Vegas: 4 (The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, Rain Man, Million Dollar Baby)

Mid-Atlantic — New Jersey and Pennsylvania: 5 (On the Waterfront, Rocky, The Deer Hunter, The Silence of the Lambs, A Beautiful Mind)

New England — Connecticut and Massachusetts: 4 (Gentleman’s Agreement, All About Eve, A Beautiful Mind, The Departed)

South Atlantic/South East — Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington D.C.: 9 (It Happened One Night, Gone with the Wind, In the Heat of the Night, The Godfather Part II, Driving Miss Daisy, The Silence of the Lambs, Forrest Gump, Argo, 12 Years a Slave)

Midwest — Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Ohio, and South Dakota: 9 (The Great Ziegfeld, The Best Years of Our Lives, The Sting, Ordinary People, Terms of Endearment, Rain Man, Dances with Wolves, The Silence of the Lambs, Chicago)

South — New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and “Kanoma County”: 5 (Wings, Cimarron, All the King’s Men, Terms of Endearment, No Country for Old Men)

West — Oregon and Wyoming: 2 (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Unforgiven)

Hawaii: 1 (From Here to Eternity)

Europe

In total: 30 (Wings, All Quiet on the Western Front, Grand Hotel, Cavalcade, The Life of Emile Zola, Rebecca, How Green Was My Valley, Mrs. Miniver, Hamlet, An American in Paris, Around the World in 80 Days, Gigi, Ben-Hur, Tom Jones, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, A Man for All Seasons, Oliver!, Patton, The French Connection, The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, Chariots of Fire, Amadeus, Out of Africa, Schindler’s List, Braveheart, The English Patient, Gladiator, The King’s Speech)

The United Kingdom and Scotland: 14 (Cavalcade, Rebecca, How Green Was My Valley, Mrs. Miniver, Around the World in 80 Days, Tom Jones, My Fair Lady, A Man for All Seasons, Oliver!, Chariots of Fire, Out of Africa, Braveheart, The English Patient, The King’s Speech)

France: 7 (Wings, The Life of Emile Zola, An American in Paris, Around the World in 80 Days, Gigi, Patton, The French Connection)

Italy: 4 (Patton, The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, The English Patient); Ancient Rome: 2 (Ben-Hur, Gladiator)

Germany: 3 (All Quiet on the Western Front, Grand Hotel, Patton)

Austria: 2 (The Sound of Music, Amadeus)

Spain: 2 (Around the World in 80 Days, Patton)

Asia

In total: 15 (Casablanca, Around the World in 80 Days, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Ben-Hur, Lawrence of Arabia, Patton, The Deer Hunter, Out of Africa, Platoon, The Last Emperor, Forrest Gump, The English Patient, Slumdog Millionaire, The Hurt Locker, Argo)

Vietnam: 3 (The Deer Hunter, Platoon, Forrest Gump)

Middle East — Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Iraq, and Israel: 4 (Ben-Hur, Lawrence of Arabia, The Hurt Locker, Argo)

Far East — China, Hong Kong, Japan, and Thailand: 3 (Around the World in 80 Days, The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Last Emperor)

India: 1 (Slumdog Millionaire)

The Underrepresented Parts of the World

Africa — in Algeria, Egypt, Kenya, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia: 4 (Casablanca, Patton, Out of Africa, The English Patient)

Latin America — Cuba and Mexico: 2 (The Godfather Part II, No Country for Old Men)

The sea: 2 (Mutiny on the Bounty, Titanic)

Middle-earth: 1 (The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King)

The cream of 2014's cinematic crop isn't quite as ambitious in terms of its geography. Half of the Best Picture category's nominees stay stateside, laying ground in New York City (Birdman and Whiplash), Alabama (Selma), and Texas (Boyhood).

Across the pond in the United Kingdom, we find The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything, while Grand Budapest makes its home in a fictional country in Central or Eastern Europe. Finally, American Sniper lends most of its screen time to wartorn Iraq.

Naturally, New Yorkers Birdman and Whiplash have the edge here, while the Queen's own Imitation Game and Theory of Everything come in a close second.

Genres

Adventure

In total: 8 (Mutiny on the BountyAround the World in 80 DaysThe Bridge on the River KwaiBen-HurLawrence of ArabiaTom JonesDances with Wolves, The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King)

The fun-loving adventure genre has never exactly stood up to the stuffy tastes of the Academy; the only bona fide adventure this year is The Grand Budapest Hotel, embracing both the old school farce of Around the World in 80 Days and the bone-deep sincerity of some of its war-backlit successors alike.

Biography

In total: 13 (The Great ZiegfeldThe Life of Emile ZolaLawrence of ArabiaThe Sound of MusicA Man for All SeasonsGandhiAmadeusOut of AfricaThe Last EmperorBraveheart, A Beautiful MindThe King's Speech12 Years a Slave)

One genre of film to which the Academy has warmed substantially over the past few decades is the biopic. Since 1982, eight biography movies have won Best Picture, solidifying their form as bona fide "Oscar bait."

And that's good news for half of this year's Best Picture nominees (and by no coincidence, either): American SniperThe Imitation Game, Selma, and The Theory of Everything may all be dubbed biography films (that said, Selma owes less of its focus to Martin Luther King's life and work on the whole than it does to a particular episode in his civil rights endeavors).

Comedy

In total: 13 (It Happened One NightYou Can't Take It with YouGoing My WayAround the World in 80 DaysGigiThe ApartmentTom JonesAnnie HallTerms of EndearmentDriving Miss DaisyForrest GumpChicagoThe Artist)

As should be no surprise, the Oscars favor drama over comedy by a wide margin. Only 13 films marked by a substantial voice of humor (that is to say, including enough of a comic presence to at least qualify as a "dramedy") have ended up winning Best Picture.

Though tempered with a fair share of darkness, Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel are this year's representatives of cinematic comedy.

Fantasy

In total: 1 (The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King)

One again, Lord of the Rings stands alone. No matter; there are no fantasy films up for the award this year anyhow.

Musical

In total: 9 (The Great ZiegfeldGoing My WayAn American in ParisGigiWest Side StoryMy Fair LadyThe Sound of MusicOliver!Chicago)

The big screen musical's Academy favor is all but a thing of the past, having only offered one Best Picture winner in the past 45 years. Curiously, five of the nine musicals to snag the award did so within 10 years of each other, between 1958 and 1968. There's never been a better time for show tunes.

While there aren't any genuine musicals nominated for Best Picture this year, the music-themed Whiplash is the closest thing.

Romance

In total: 27 (WingsThe Broadway Melody, Grand HotelCavalcadeIt Happened One NightYou Can't Take It with YouGone with the WindMrs. MiniverCasablancaThe Best Years of Our LivesGentleman's AgreementAn American in ParisThe Greatest Show on EarthFrom Here to EternityMartyGigiThe ApartmentWest Side StoryAnnie HallOut of AfricaForrest GumpThe English Patient, TitanicShakespeare in LoveAmerican BeautySlumdog MillionaireThe Artist)

The mother lode. Nearly one third of Best Picture winners have been marked by a central romantic thread (and this not including stories about established married couples!). It doesn't matter if they end happily or sadly, involve two parties of three; the Academy can't say no to love stories.

In fact, every movie nominated for Best Picture this year has some degree of romance involved, though only one can truly be called a love story: The Theory of Everything, which details the ascent and decline of the relationship between Stephen and Jane Hawking.

Thriller

In total: 7 (RebeccaIn the Heat of the NightThe Silence of the Lambs, A Beautiful MindThe Departed, No Country for Old MenThe Hurt Locker)

Like the biopic, the thriller has warmed itself up to the Academy over time: five of the seven thriller pictures to win the top award have done so in the last 24 years. The Imitation Game falls in line with the genre, bearing a general character eerily similar to 2001's winner, A Beautiful Mind.

Western

In total: 4 (CimarronDances with WolvesUnforgivenNo Country for Old Men)

Surprisingly, such an "old school" genre has been celebrated principally in its later era; three of the four Best Picture-winning Westerns have released since 1990. The dramatic gap between the first and second Westerns to win stretched 62 years. None represented in the 2014 lineup, however.

Themes

Crime

In total: 20 (Grand HotelThe Life of Emile Zola, RebeccaHamletAll the King's MenOn the WaterfrontWest Side Story, In the Heat of the NightThe French Connection, The GodfatherThe Sting, The Godfather Part IIAmadeusThe Silence of the LambsUnforgivenGladiatorChicagoCrashThe DepartedNo Country for Old Men)

Material and petty crime: 5 (Grand HotelWest Side StoryThe French ConnectionThe StingCrash)

Corruption and organized crime: 8 (The Life of Emile ZolaHamletAll the King's MenOn the WaterfrontThe GodfatherThe Godfather Part IIChicagoThe Departed)

Murder: 13 (RebeccaHamletWest Side StoryIn the Heat of the NightThe GodfatherThe Godfather Part IIAmadeusThe Silence of the LambsUnforgivenGladiatorChicagoThe DepartedNo Country for Old Men)

The collected concepts of criminal activity add to pretty optimal material for the Best Picture race. And clearly, the grimmer and more serious the crime, the better!

While American Sniper may end in a murder, it is not a movie marked with the "crime" label. In fact none of the movies nominated this year can be called crime films; The Grand Budapest Hotel, however, does prominently feature a "heist" plot, which could sate the Academy's ostensible hunger for malfeasance.

Disease and Disability

In total: 14 (Grand HotelThe Best Years of Our LivesMidnight CowboyOne Flew Over the Cuckoo's NestThe Deer Hunter, Terms of EndearmentAmadeusRain ManThe Silence of the LambsForrest GumpThe English PatientA Beautiful MindMillion Dollar BabyThe King's Speech)

Physical impairment or illness: 8 (Grand HotelThe Best Years of Our LivesMidnight CowboyTerms of EndearmentForrest GumpThe English PatientMillion Dollar BabyThe King's Speech)

Psychological or intellectual disability: 8 (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's NestThe Deer HunterAmadeusRain Man, The Silence of the LambsForrest GumpA Beautiful MindThe King's Speech)

Over time, the Academy's appreciation of cinematic depictions of physical impairment has shifted away from those exclusively devoted to war-related disabilities and toward organic disease.

Furthermore, as medical science itself has become more cognizant of and sensitive to the plight of psychological, emotional, and intellectual disorders, so has the Academy. 1975's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest marked the first of the Academy's growing number of nods to the subject matter.

Physical and psychological dilemmas are both represented by this year's platter. The physical (favored slightly higher by the Academy, per the data above) can be seen in The Theory of Everything's portrait of ALS, and the psychological in American Sniper (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder), Birdman (uncategorized delusions and hallucinations), and The Imitation Game (possible Asperger's syndrome).

Family

In total: 18 (It Happened One NightRebeccaHow Green Was My ValleyMrs. MiniverThe Best Years of Our LivesHamletAll the King's MenMartyThe Sound of MusicA Man for All SeasonsThe GodfatherThe Godfather Part IIKramer vs. KramerOrdinary PeopleTerms of Endearment, Rain ManForrest GumpAmerican Beauty)

Parent/child relationships: 15 (It Happened One NightHow Green Was My ValleyMrs. MiniverThe Best Years of Our LivesHamletAll the King's MenMartyThe Sound of MusicThe GodfatherThe Godfather Part IIKramer vs. KramerOrdinary PeopleTerms of EndearmentForrest GumpAmerican Beauty)

Sibling relationships: 5 (How Green Was My ValleyThe Lost WeekendMartyThe Sound of MusicRain Man)

Spousal relationships: 9 (RebeccaHow Green Was My ValleyMrs. MiniverThe Best Years of Our LivesThe Sound of MusicA Man for All SeasonsOrdinary PeopleTerms of EndearmentAmerican Beauty)

Another big one, and for obvious reasons: family stories are about as directly empathetic as any conceivable subject matter can get. As such, they have maintained a pretty solid grasp of the Academy throughout Oscar history.

American SniperSelma, and The Theory of Everything are formidable in their display of marital relationships, as are Birdman and Whiplash in their central father/child dynamics, but when it comes to the family gambit, it'd be mighty tough to top Boyhood.

Music

In total: 4 (The Broadway MelodyGrand HotelAmadeusChicago)

Although it seems tantamount to tradition for actors and actresses to earn nominations for work in musician biopics, the subject matter of music is a lightweight in the Best Picture category. Sorry, Whiplash.

Prejudice and Discrimination

In total: 14 (The Life of Emile ZolaGentleman's AgreementBen-HurIn the Heat of the Night, Midnight CowboyChariots of Fire, GandhiDriving Miss DaisyDances with Wolves, Schindler's ListAmerican BeautyCrash12 Years a Slaves)

Racism: 6 (In the Heat of the NightGandhiDriving Miss DaisyDances with WolvesCrash12 Years a Slaves)

Anti-Semitism: 6 (The Life of Emile ZolaGentleman's AgreementBen-HurChariots of FireDriving Miss DaisySchindler's List)

Homophobia: 2 (Midnight CowboyAmerican Beauty)

The later years especially have shown an appreciation for films devoted to racial injustice (last year's Best Picture winner is a testament to that). Clearly, no 2014 film (nominated or otherwise) better exemplifies the theme than Selma, which channels an expression of racial discrimination not specific to its era, but tragically present today still.

On the side of LGBT discrimination (a subject that has seen a substantially smaller spotlight in the Best Picture community), we actually have two movies on this year's list: the more overt is Imitation Game, which illustrates Alan Turing's persecution for his open homosexuality. The second, and far more subtle, is The Grand Budapest Hotel, whose main character Gustave H., himself assumed by many to be homosexual, forced to feign heterosexuality and assaulted with hateful homophobic language multiple times throughout the movie.

Showbiz

In total: 9 (The Broadway MelodyThe Great ZiegfeldAll About EveThe Greatest Show on Earth, Annie HallShakespeare in LoveChicagoArgoThe Artist)

Film: 3 (Annie HallArgoThe Artist)

Stage and theater: 6 (The Broadway MelodyThe Great ZiegfeldAll About EveThe Greatest Show on EarthShakespeare in LoveChicago)

Apparently, the Academy doesn't cherish movies about movies quite as as much as it claims to cherish... movies. Stage and theater fare a bit better, though this data doesn't exactly bode terrifically well for Birdman (which tampers both in the topics of film and stage).

War

In total: 31 (WingsAll Quiet on the Western FrontGrand HotelCavalcadeMutiny on the BountyThe Life of Emile ZolaGone with the WindMrs. MiniverCasablancaThe Best Years of Our LivesHamletAn American in ParisFrom Here to EternityThe Bridge on the River KwaiLawrence of Arabia, The Sound of MusicPattonThe Deer Hunter, GandhiOut of AfricaPlatoon, Dances with WolvesSchindler's ListForrest GumpBraveheart, The English PatientGladiator, A Beautiful MindThe Hurt Locker, The King's SpeechArgo)

Combat: 12 (WingsAll Quiet on the Western FrontThe Bridge on the River KwaiLawrence of ArabiaPattonThe Deer HunterPlatoonForrest GumpBraveheartGladiatorThe Hurt LockerArgo)

Backdrop or military presence only: 19 (Grand HotelCavalcadeMutiny on the BountyThe Life of Emile ZolaGone with the WindMrs. MiniverCasablancaThe Best Years of Our LivesHamletAn American in ParisFrom Here to EternityThe Sound of MusicGandhiOut of AfricaDances with WolvesSchindler's ListThe English PatientA Beautiful MindThe King's Speech)

And we have a winner! War is by far the most prominent theme we've seen in Best Picture winners, and a consistent element since the very first victor. Be it in the form of visible combat or simply an ominous backdrop, war stands more effective even than romance or familial relationships in winning over the Academy!

Although war is a presence in a number of movies this year (The Grand Budapest HotelThe Imitation Game), one stands clearly above them all in the prominence of the presentation of this theme: American Sniper.

Images: United Artists (6); MGM (2); Columbia Pictures (3); Universal Pictures; New Line Cinema; Fox Searchlight Pictures (2); Warner Bros (2); Orion (3); Paramount Pictures; 20th Century Fox

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