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Predicting Which Best Picture Nominee Will Win the Oscar Based on Movie Titles

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Jan 16, 2014 | 6:00pm EST

The Oscar nominations came out on Thursday morning, and as of now, it's anybody's race. Some say 12 Years a Slave has it in the bag, while others think American Hustle will snatch the Best Picture trophy. There's no one way to know for sure — does the Academy weigh emotional impact? Flashy performances? The film's lasting message?

How about titles? Yes, you can tell a lot about a film by its title, and about its Oscar chances, too. We've compiled some handy data about each Best Picture nominee's title and what it says about the film's chances come time to hand out the awards. (You can also head over to BBC America to check out this fantastic infographic that predicts the Best Picture winner!)

AMERICAN HUSTLE

American HustleColumbia Pictures

Movies with the word "America" in their titles...
...to win a Best Picture Oscar:
 2 (An American in ParisAmerican Beauty) 
...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 2 (America, AmericaAmerican Graffiti)

Movies whose titles refers to a crime or act of duplicity...
...to win a Best Picture Oscar:
2 (Mutiny on the Bounty; The Sting)
...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 11 (The Racket; She Done Him Wrong; Imitation of Life; Libeled Lady; Grand Illusion; The Caine MutinyThe Hustler; Mutiny on the BountyThe Killing Fields; The Fugitive; Traffic)

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS

Tom Hanks, Captain PhillipsColumbia Pictures via Everett Collection

Movies with a main character's surname in their titles...
...to win a Best Picture Oscar:
 10 (The Great Ziegfeld; Ben-Hur; Tom Jones; Patton; Annie Hall; Kramer vs. Kramer; Gandhi; Schindler’s List; Forrest Gump; Shakespeare in Love)
...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 45 (Disraeli; Trader Horn; Arrowsmith; The House of Rothschild; Alice Adams; Captain Blood; David Copperfield; Ruggles of Red Gap; Anthony Adverse; Dodsworth; Mr. Deeds Goes to Town; The Story of Louis Pasteur; The Life of Emile Zola; The Adventures of Robin Hood; Goodbye, Mr. Chips; Mr. Smith Goes to Washington; Kitty Foyle; Citizen Kane; Here Comes Mr. Jordan; Sergeant York; Mrs. Miniver; The Magnificent Ambersons; Madame Curie; Wilson; Mildred Pierce; Johnny Belinda; Julius Caesar; Mister Roberts; The Diary of Anne Frank; Elmer Gantry; Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb; Mary Poppins; Doctor Zhivago; Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; Doctor Dolittle; Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid; Barry Lyndon; Prizzi’s Honor; Jerry Maguire; Good Will Hunting; Saving Private Ryan; Erin Brokovich; Capote; Michael Clayton; Lincoln)

Movies whose titles include a military rank...
...to win a Best Picture Oscar:
o
...to get nominated for BP, but not win:
 6 (The Smiling Lieutenant; Captain Blood; Captains Courageous; Sergeant York; Saving Private Ryan; Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World)

DALLAS BUYERS CLUB

Dallas Buyers ClubFocus Features via Everett Collection

Movies with a city name in their titles...
...to win a Best Picture Oscar:
 4 (Cimarron; Casablanca; An American in Paris; Chicago)
...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 18 (Hollywood Revue; Shanghai Express; San Francisco; In Old Chicago; The Philadelphia Story; Mr. Smith Goes to Washington; Casablanca; Roman Holiday; Peyton Place; Judgment and Nuremberg; Chinatown; Nashville; Fargo; L.A. Confidential; Gangs of New York; Munich; Letters from Iwo Jima; Midnight in Paris)

Movies whose titles seem like they should probably have a possessive apostrophe, but don't...
...to win a Best Picture Oscar:
0
...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 4 (Boys Town; Kings Row; Dead Poets Society; Howards End)

GRAVITY

Gravity, Sandra BullockWarner Bros via Everett Collection

Movies whose titles are a single intangible noun...
...to win a Best Picture Oscar:
 1 (Crash)
...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 8 (Alibi; Suspicion; Crossfire; Deliverance; Traffic; Atonement; InceptionMoneyball)

Movies whose titles end in "ity"...
...to win a Best Picture Oscar:
1 (From Here to Eternity)
...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 3 (Double Indemnity; Atlantic City; Sense and Sensibility)

HER

Joaquin Phoenix, HerWarner Bros via Everett Collection

Movies whose titles are made up three letters or fewer...
...to win a Best Picture Oscar:
 0
...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 4 (ZJFKRayUp)

Movies that have the word "her" in their titles...
...to win a Best Picture Oscar:
 1 (Ben-Hur)
...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 1 (Hannah and Her Sisters)

NEBRASKA

Bruce Dern, Will Forte, NebraskaParamount via Everett Collection

Movies with U.S. state names in their titles...
...to win a Best Picture Oscar:
 0
...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 2 (In Old ArizonaMississippi Burning)
*Note: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Gangs of New York both refer to cities, not states, and the "Virginia" in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf is a human woman.

We loved Nebraska, but this is really the only one we could think of for it. Sorry, Alexander Payne. Sorry, everybody.

PHILOMENA

PhilomenaWeinstein Company via Everett Collection

Movies whose titles are just a main character's first name...
...to win a Best Picture Oscar:
 5 (Rebecca; HamletMartyGigiOliver!)
...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 20 (SkippyCleopatraIvanhoeShaneFannyCleopatraAlfieLennyRockyJuliaNorma RaeTessBugsyBabeElizabeth; SeabiscuitRayJunoPrecious; Hugo)

Movies whose titles were mispronounced by Leonardo DiCaprio on live television...
...to win a Best Picture Oscar:
0
...to get nominated for BP, but not win:
 0 (There can be only one Philomania.)

12 YEARS A SLAVE

12 Years a SlaveFox Searchlight

Movies with numbers in their titles...
...to win a Best Picture Oscar:
 6 (It Happened One Night; Around the World in 80 Days; The Godfather Part II; One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; Million Dollar Baby; Slumdog Millionaire)
...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 36 (Seventh Heaven; Five Star Final; One Hour with You; 42nd Street; The Private Life of Henry VIII; One Night of Love; Broadway Melody of 1936; A Tale of Two Cities; Three Smart Girls; One Hundred Men and a Girl; Four Daughters; One Foot in Heaven; 49th Parallel; Henry V; Miracle on 34th Street; A Letter to Three Wives; Twelve O’Clock High; Seven Brides for Seven Brothers; Three Coins in the Fountain; The Ten Commandments; 12 Angry Men; The Defiant Ones; A Thousand Clowns; Anne of the Thousand Days; Five Easy Pieces; Born on the Fourth of July; The Godfather Part III; Four Weddings and a Funeral; Apollo 13; The Sixth Sense; The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers; District 9; 127 Hours; Toy Story 3; Zero Dark Thirty)

Movies that refer to a unit of time in their titles...
...to win a Best Picture Oscar:
2 (The Best Years of Our Lives; Around the World in 80 Days
...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 9 (One Hour with You; Lady for a Day; The Yearling; The Longest Day; Anne of the Thousand Days; Dog Day Afternoon; Remains of the Day; The Hours; 127 Hours)

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

The Wolf of Wall StreetParamount via Everett Collection

Movies whose titles include mention of an animal...
...to win a Best Picture Oscar: 
3 (The Deer Hunter; Dances with Wolves; The Silence of the Lambs)
...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 17 (Of Mice and Men; The Little Foxes; The Maltese Falcon; The Ox-Bow Incident; The Snake Pit; Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; To Kill a Mockingbird; The Lion in Winter; One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; Dog Day Afternoon; The Elephant Man; Raging Bull; Kiss of the Spider Woman; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Black Swan; War Horse)

Movies whose titles include the name of a street...
...to win a Best Picture Oscar:
 1 (The Broadway Melody
...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 5 (42nd Street; The Barretts of Wimpole Street; Broadway Melody of 1936Miracle on 34th Street; Sunset Boulevard)

Cast your bets, folks. Captain Phillips looks like it has this one locked down.

*Special thanks to Hollywood.com writers Julia Emmanuele and Jordan Smith for helping to compile data and entertaining the madness of this post, and to our CTO Greg Zimerman for recovering hours of work after my Word Doc crashed. You're a hero, Greg.

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