A common indicator of what film will take home the Academy Award for Best Picture is the frequently foreshadowing category of Best Director. In the past 20 years of the Academy's history, there have only been five instances where a movie didn't take home both honors: 1998 (Saving Private Ryan for Best Director; Shakespeare in Love for Best Picture), 2000 (Traffic for Best Director; Gladiator for Best Picture), 2002 (The Pianist for Best Director; Chicago for Best Picture), 2005 (Brokeback Mountain for Best Director; Crash for Best Picture), and 2013 (Life of Pi for Best Director; Argo for Best Picture).

Aside from being a huge honor of itself, this year's showdown for Best Director could well determine Oscar night's top award. And we've got some serious heavyweights fighting for the gold. One is an eight-time nominated director and Hollywood icon. Two are unconventional storytellers up for their third Oscar nomination for Best Director. And the final two are foreign-born helmers celebrating their first Academy Award nomination for this particular accolade. But who will win? We break it down below:

Alexander Payne  And Martin Scorsese
DARK HORSES: Alexander Payne And Martin Scorsese
This marks Alexander Payne's third nomination for Best Director at the Academy Awards. His first came in 2005 with his deliciously dark comedy Sideways. The second came in 2012, when he offered up the bittersweet family dramedy The Descendants. But third time won't be a charm for Payne. Nebraska is a tender and poignant comedy that has received heaps of critical praise, but with only 6 nominations its not an especially strong contender on Oscar night in general. Besides that, Payne has earned far less directing honors as his competitors this year, boasting only six while others have over 20 from various critics circles, award shows and film festivals.

Though he is arguably one of America's most legendary living filmmakers, Scorsese hasn't had a great track record with the Academy. Sure, this is his eighth nomination for Best Director, but he has only won once, and that was for The Departed, 26 years after his first nod for Raging Bull. Between the polarizing response Wolf of Wall Street has had among critics and its low count of four Academy Award nominations, this will not be Scorsese's night.

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