Hollywood doesn’t really need an excuse to throw a boozy party or spend three hours of handing out self-congratulatory prizes, but the Golden Globe Awards have always been a delightful, slightly strange tradition that combines both. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s annual bash returns Sunday night at 8 p.m. on NBC, in what many see as the official kick-off to Oscar season. Movie and TV stars will crush together around alcohol-stocked tables for an event where, as last year’s co-hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler put it, “the beautiful people of film rub shoulders with the rat-faced people of television.”

Fey and Poehler, the BFFs and NBC comedy stars who drew raves after hosting last year’s show, are back to take their best (but not too mean) shots at the A-listers in the crowd. Last time, zingers targeted Taylor Swift’s love life, Quentin Tarantino’s general creepiness and the Kathryn Bigelow-“Zero Dark Thirty” controversy. (Poehler: “When it comes to torture, I trust the lady who spent three years married to James Cameron.”)

The Globes organization seems to pride itself on being the first to spot a hot new star — such as once crowning Jennifer Garner a winner for “Alias” — or predict which film with take home Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards. Either way, the night is always a little bit weird — though we can’t promise another epic Jodie Foster-style speech.

Here’s a rundown of this year’s major movie categories, where we predict who will win, declare who should win, and speculate on the sneaky nominees that might surprise us all. Plus, a look back at some of the more bizarre winners in Globes history.

Story lines to look out for this Sunday at the Golden Globes. (Emily Yahr, Jason Aldag/The Washington Post)

[Read the predictions for TV winners at The Golden Globe Awards.]


“12 Years a Slave”

“Captain Phillips”




O dds-on favorite: “12 Years a Slave”

Could go down to the wire between this and the lighter “Gravity,” although many think the brutal, compelling nature of the slavery epic will give it the ultimate edge.

Most deserving: “12 Years a Slave”

An unflinching look at an uncomfortable subject, the movie also helped spark many discussions. While Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in space were a gripping ride, the riveting “12 Years” should get the trophy.

Dark horse: “Philomena”

The BBC film is picking up steam in the last few weeks, doing surprisingly strong box-office numbers — and earning Dame Judi Dench much acclaim for her role as a woman searching for her long-lost son.

Most random winner in the past 20 years: “Avatar” in 2010

Yep, blue aliens beat “The Hurt Locker” and “Up in the Air.”


“American Hustle”


“Inside Llewyn Davis”


“The Wolf of Wall Street”

Odds-on favorite: “American Hustle”

The term “comedy” is stretched to its limits in this year’s category, but of all the offerings, “Hustle” was the most fun, thanks to a stellar cast.

Most deserving: “American Hustle”

It’s hard to beat those knockout performances by Christian Bale and Amy Adams, not to mention the many fantastic hairstyles.

Dark horse: “Her”

Spike Jonze’s futuristic love story has gotten increasingly positive word-of-mouth support, while “Wall Street’s” portrayal of gleeful criminals has suffered serious backlash.

Most random winner in the past 20 years: “The Hangover” in 2010

That happened.


Chiwetel Ejiofor, “12 Years a Slave”

Idris Elba, “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”

Tom Hanks, “Captain Phillips”

Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”

Robert Redford, “All Is Lost”

Odds-on favorite: Ejiofor

His exceptional, moving performance of a free man captured into slavery has garnered universal raves.

Most deserving: Ejiofor

It was impossible to take your eyes off him during the film.

Dark horse: McConaughey

Even before the movie was released, he made headlines for his extreme weight loss for a role as an AIDS patient; critics and audience members have been rightfully impressed with his work on screen.

Most random winner in the past 20 years: Jim Carrey, “The Truman Show” in 1999

The movie just doesn’t strike us as typical awards bait.


Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”

Sandra Bullock, “Gravity”

Judi Dench, “Philomena”

Emma Thompson, “Saving Mr. Banks”

Kate Winslet, “Labor Day”

Odds-on favorite: Blanchett

The awards-season favorite received plenty of acclaim playing a disgraced socialite in Woody Allen’s take on the fallout of the Bernie Madoff scandal.

Most deserving: Bullock

She was tasked to entertain the audience all by herself, sometimes in almost complete silence as she took a horrifying journey-gone-wrong through space.

Dark horse: Dench

Would it really be an awards show if it didn’t seem like Dench could win?

Most random winner in the past 20 years: Sharon Stone, “Casino” in 1995

She even beat Meryl Streep.


Christian Bale, “American Hustle”

Bruce Dern, “Nebraska”

Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Wolf of Wall Street”

Oscar Isaac, “Inside Llewyn Davis”

Joaquin Phoenix, “Her”

Odds-on favorite: Dern

He already swept up Best Actor at Cannes for his role in the poignant father-son road trip movie and has critical buzz on his side.

Most deserving: DiCaprio

The movie may be a lengthy spectacle celebrating financial greed, but DiCaprio steals every scene.

Dark horse: Bale

The opening scene where his character carefully arranges his comb-over sets up a strangely fascinating performance as a shifty, insecure con man.

Most random winner in the past 20 years: Sacha Baron Cohen, “Borat” in 2007

Well, that naked fight scene was pretty funny.


Amy Adams, “American Hustle”

Julie Delpy, “Before Midnight”

Greta Gerwig, “Frances Ha”

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Enough Said”

Meryl Streep, “August: Osage County”

Odds-on favorite: Adams

Effortlessly switching in and out of accents; pulling off criminal deceit while remaining vulnerable; holding her own against Bale and company — all tricks that warrant a prize.

Most deserving: Louis-Dreyfus

She could put up a fight here, but we’re pretty sure she’s going to land a win for “Veep” (see below).

Dark horse: Streep

Because if there’s an award up for grabs, there’s at least a moderately good chance she’ll nab it.

Most random winner in the past 20 years: Renee Zellweger, “Nurse Betty” in 2001

Definitely the only Globe win — and nomination — for that movie.


Barkhad Abdi, “Captain Phillips”

Daniel Bruhl, “Rush”

Bradley Cooper, “American Hustle”

Michael Fassbender, “12 Years a Slave”

Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”

Odds-on favorite: Leto

In a strong performance as a transgendered woman with AIDS, Leto seems all but guaranteed to win in this category. Still, there’s a chance that Fassbender’s turn as an evil plantation owner may make voters take notice.

Most deserving: Leto

It’s a hard call, but Leto’s physical transformation was something to behold.

Dark horse: Cooper

He stood out as the squirrelly FBI agent in a talented cast, and he shines in just enough critical scenes to make him memorable.

Most random winner in the past 20 years: Tom Cruise, “Magnolia” in 1999

Man, it’s been awhile since Tom Cruise was at an awards show.


Sally Hawkins, “Blue Jasmine”

Jennifer Lawrence, “American Hustle”

Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”

Julia Roberts, “August: Osage County”

June Squibb, “Nebraska”

Odds-on favorite: Lawrence

J-Law, the reigning America’s/Awards Show Sweetheart, may be on the verge of oversaturation, but her take on the melancholy, unintentionally funny housewife in “Hustle” will probably triumph.

Most deserving: Nyong’o

This newcomer made headlines in a devastating role playing a slave in her film debut, and she may have enough momentum to get the trophy.

Dark horse: Roberts

The former America’s Sweetheart still has lots of fans, many of them HFPA voters.

Most random winner in the past 20 years: Natalie Portman, “Closer” in 2004

Oh, the days when a sexy, depressing love quadrangle could dominate awards season.


Alfonso Cuarón, “Gravity”

Paul Greengrass, “Captain Phillips”

Steve McQueen, “12 Years a Slave”

Alexander Payne, “Nebraska”

David O. Russell, “American Hustle”

Odds-on favorite: Cuarón

This is a tough category, although we think this will be Cuarón’s consolation prize for the film missing out on the other major prizes.

Most deserving: Cuarón

McQueen and Russell are serious contenders, but “Gravity” was unforgettably, visually stunning.

Dark horse: Payne

Hey, voters could split between the aforementioned three.

Most random winner in the past 20 years: Peter Jackson, “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” in 2004

Was that movie even the best in the franchise?