SAG Awards 2024: Will the winners go on to repeat at the Oscars?

Los Angeles, CA - February 24: Kenneth Branagh and the cast of Oppenheimer photographed during the 30th Screen Actors Guild Awards in Shrine Auditorium and Expo Hall in Los Angeles, CA, Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Kenneth Branagh delivered the acceptance speech for the cast of "Oppenheimer," after winning the top film prize. Look for them to reassemble at the Oscars come March 10. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Pedro Pascal was a little drunk at tonight's Screen Actors Guild Awards, because he thought he could get drunk.

Hey, you and me both, Pedro.

I didn't anticipate that the ceremony, streamed on Netflix — no commercials, plenty of profanity — would boast many surprises. And outside of Pascal prevailing for "The Last of Us" over the "Succession" leads, and Elizabeth Debicki winning for "The Crown" (really?), there weren't.

On the television side, actors we saw win Emmys just a month ago — Jeremy Allen White and Ayo Edebiri for "The Bear," Ali Wong and Steven Yeun for "Beef" — prevailed again. "The Bear" won comedy series cast; "Succession" took drama.

Hey, like Edebiri said, in a nod to James Baldwin, an "act of love is an act of mirroring."

But we don't watch the SAG Awards for the TV prizes. We watch because the SAG Awards are a reliable precursor to the Oscars, and the voting window is open at this very moment. The last two years, all five SAG film category winners have gone on to prevail at the Oscars. Will that happen again? Let's take a closer look.

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Winner: "Oppenheimer"

The past: The winner of this award went on to take the best picture Oscar in 14 of 28 years, making it easily the SAG Awards’ least-trustworthy Oscar precursor. (The ensemble prize wasn’t awarded in 1994, the SAG Awards’ first year.) That said, three of the four past winners — "Parasite," "CODA" and "Everything Everywhere All at Once" prevailed at the Academy Awards too. ("The Trial of the Chicago 7" triumphed three years ago over the Oscar-winning "Nomadland," which featured mostly nonprofessional actors.)

Will history repeat itself? This really was the last chance for any kind of sliver of doubt to creep into the best picture race. SAG voters have gone the populist route in the film ensemble category over the years, rewarding box office hits like "Black Panther," "Hidden Figures" and "The Help" over indie-minded fare. So it wasn’t inconceivable that they might reward the one movie that made more money than “Oppenheimer.” And “Barbie” wasn’t just a commercial hit. It won over most critics, triggered fragile men and launched a thousand think pieces. It checked off more than enough boxes to prevail.

But “Oppenheimer” sported a large ensemble, including Oscar winners Rami Malek and Casey Affleck, and, it would appear, future Oscar winners Cillian Murphy and Robert Downey Jr. The three-hour movie gave all of its characters a memorable moment or two — I know I’ll never go to another nuclear test without slathering on sunscreen first — turning what could have been a Great Man biopic into a fascinating, layered history lesson. After it wins the Producers Guild’s top honor Sunday night, all that’s left is the Oscar.

Read more: ‘Oppenheimer,’ ‘Succession,’ ‘The Bear’ rule 2024 SAG Awards: full winners list


Winner: Lily Gladstone, "Killers of the Flower Moon"

The past: SAG and the academy have matched 21 of 29 years. Notable recent exceptions: Frances McDormand winning her third Oscar for "Nomadland" after Viola Davis ("Ma Rainey's Black Bottom") won SAG, and Olivia Colman ("The Favourite") denying 2019 SAG winner Glenn Close ("The Wife") her first Oscar.

Will history repeat itself? Looks like we have the kind of nail-biter that will give the Oscars a much-needed shot of suspense. Emma Stone won the British Film Academy’s lead actress honor last weekend for her gonzo turn in "Poor Things." If she had taken SAG, the race would effectively be over. Gladstone’s victory — and her moving acceptance speech — might be enough to tip the momentum back to where it was when she received that long, warm ovation when “Killers of the Flower Moon” premiered at Cannes.

Gladstone would make history as the first Native American to win the lead actress Oscar. A lot of people would love to witness that moment. But … there are still a good many voters who aren’t convinced that her screen time — she’s in less than a third of the 3½-hour movie — warrants a lead acting Oscar. I'm starting to suspect they might just have to deal with it.


Winner: Cillian Murphy, "Oppenheimer"

The past: This category has been the most reliable indicator of Oscar victory, with SAG and the academy matching 23 of 29 times. There are exceptions, though, such as when Anthony Hopkins won the Oscar for “The Father,” prevailing over SAG winner Chadwick Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”).

Will history repeat itself? Coming on the heels of his win with the British Film Academy last weekend, Murphy's prize pretty much assures he'll win the Oscar. Voters could have gone with Paul Giamatti for his fine work as the curmudgeonly prep school teacher in "The Holdovers," but there's a precedent for the lead actor honors going to actors playing important historical figures. Lincoln, Churchill, Patton, Ray Charles — I could go on (and on and on). And in "Oppenheimer," Murphy portrays the title character in the film that will win the Academy Award for best picture, feverishly inhabiting the skin of a man at war with himself. Big movie, quiet intensity, three-hour running time. Game, set, match.

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Winner: Da'Vine Joy Randolph, "The Holdovers"

The past: The SAG award winner has gone on to take the Oscar 21 of 28 times, including last year, when Jamie Lee Curtis won for "Everything Everywhere All at Once," a firm indication of the film's strength. (Kate Winslet won this category in 2009 for “The Reader” but was nominated for — and won — the Oscar for lead actress for that performance.)

Will history repeat itself? "The Holdovers" premiered at the Telluride Film Festival on the last day of August. Since then, Randolph has won 36 awards, and I'm sure she'll take the Indie Spirit prize on Sunday. Her moving portrayal of a Black cafeteria manager mourning the loss of a son in Vietnam — and trying to maintain her patience with the two self-involved men she's stuck with at a New England prep school — has been that undeniable. If Oscar voters had embraced (or even watched) "The Color Purple," this could have been a more interesting conversation that included Danielle Brooks' knockout turn as Sofia. As it is, Randolph stands to collect one more prize, the biggest. I don't hear anyone complaining. (You heard that rousing speech, right?)

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Winner: Robert Downey Jr., "Oppenheimer"

The past: The SAG winner has gone on to win the Oscar 18 times in 27 years, including the last seven.

Will history repeat itself? Apparently so. When this awards season began some 100 years ago (at least it feels that way), this category felt like it'd be a fun race between Downey's wily turn as Adm. Lewis Strauss, Oppenheimer’s antagonist, and Ryan Gosling's playful take on Ken, Barbie's lovelorn sidekick questioning the meaning of his existence. Personally, I'd vote — and have — for Gosling, as his open-hearted work and deadpan comic chops helped make "Barbie" such an utter delight. But Downey has the better narrative — apparently, it's his time — and a meaty part in the movie that will win best picture. No disrespect for Downey or the venom he brought to the role. It's just a bit weird how one-sided this race became.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.