Winning the Best Picture Oscar: IBM Watson and winning predictions

By and Demetre Quartey | 3 minute read | January 25, 2017

Using Watson to predict the Best Picture Oscar winner 2017

It was big news yesterday with the 89th Academy Award nominations announced. And from now until 26th February we will discuss, debate, and review who deserves to win an Oscar, the biggest accolade in the film industry.

But is there a way to win? Can patterns predict? Are there key themes that make an Oscar win more certain? We decided to use IBM’s Watson Personality Insights to see what the key elements of an Oscar winning movie are.

The 2017 Best Picture nominations



‘Hacksaw Ridge’

‘Hell or High Water’

‘Hidden Figures’

‘La la Land’


‘Manchester by the Sea’


The last ten Best Picture Oscar winners

2016: ‘Spotlight’

2015: ‘Birdman’

2014: ’12 Years a Slave’

2013: ‘Argo’

2012: ‘The Artist’

2011: ‘The King’s Speech’

2010: ‘The Hurt Locker’

2009: ‘Slumdog Millionaire’

2008: ‘No Country for Old Men’

2007: ‘The Departed’

Watson Personality Insights

We ran all ten past winning scripts, and the nine 2017 nominees through Watson Personality Insights, following the process below:

  1. Go to Watson Personality Insights:
  2. Click on ‘body of text’
  3. Click on ‘your own text’
  4. Open the copy that you want to analyse (in our case one of the scripts) and copy it paste it into Personality Insights
  5. Click ‘analyze’
  6. A summary is provided
  7. Scroll down and click on ‘view personality traits in sunburst visualization’ that shows all the detail. The categories are industry-standard classifications.

Oscar nominees

The patterns in past winners

Based on the winning patterns the key to an Oscar winning film is a high level of openness, imagination and intellect – with low tradition, and a hint of adventure.

  • 91 – 100% for openness
  • 92 – 100% for imagination
  • 89 – 100% for intellect
  • An average of 27% for adventurousness, if we don’t include ‘The Artist’ which had a low score of 4%
  • A high melancholy score (on average 90%), with the exception of ’12 Years a Slave’ at 73%
  • Sympathy is high with a range between 80 – 100%
  • Consumer need is always around the 50% mark
  • And low tradition between 12 – 5%

So what does that actually mean for a movie?

A film following the characteristics above would use fantasy to create a richer and more interesting world. Would challenge intellectual curiosity using symbols and abstracts. The melancholy score relates to a tendency to be ready to deal with life’s ups and downs. And the low tradition score indicates that tradition is followed to provide a sense of stability, but with compassion coming in from the high sympathy score.

Graph of previous Oscar winners

Watson and the winning prediction

We’d love to say that ‘Hidden Figures‘ comes out top, we did host a panel session related to the film, STEM, diversity, and advocacy at this years’ CES. But alas it just misses out.

A close look at the patterns show that ‘Manchester by the Sea’ is the least likely to win, based on past results. With no matching scores for openness, imagination, intellect or adventurousness.

Clear front runners based on Personality scores are ‘Arrival’ and ‘Hacksaw Ridge’, with ‘Lion’ and ‘Moonlight’ both with an outside chance.

The average percentage score range for the Consumer needs section of past winners is between 14% and 35%.  All nominations fall within these averages, with ‘Arrival’ just outside, and ‘Moonlight’ way off the mark.

This leaves three films, ‘Hell or High Water’, ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ and ‘Hidden Figures’.

In the Values section the average score for past winners is between 12% and 26%. Apart from ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ and ‘Manchester by the Sea’, all nominated films’ average score for Values fall outside of the average range. ‘Arrival’ was just outside of the range with 10%. Of the three films still in the running, only ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ managed to fall within the range.

Overall only Hacksaw Ridge’s averages never fall outside of the ‘past winners average range’ in all of the categories. But ‘Arrival’ could be a contender as its averages only ever miss out by a couple of percent.

With this in mind, our money is on ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ to take the Best Picture Oscar.

Next steps

If you can’t wait until Sunday 26th February to find out the winners, why not run your own report using Watson Personality Insights? From books, scripts, papers and manifestos, you can draw patterns from loads of written data.

And if it’s films that come first for you, take a look at our fun content series IoT Ruins Movies and see how storylines change in a connected world.