18 Memorable Oscar Upsets
In fact, the Academy’s 85-year history has been filled with upsets, surprises and moments that have sent our jaws dropping right down to the center of the Earth.
Who could forget the time that Marisa Tomei beat every prestigious actress in Hollywood to win an Oscar for My Cousin Vinny? Or the time that Crash beat Brokeback Mountain for Best Picture, even though it clearly shouldn’t have? (Come on. Crash wasn’t good, no matter what Roger Ebert may have told you.)
Celebuzz took a look back at some of the telecast’s biggest surprises, moments that give us hope that Sunday’s ceremony won’t be a complete snoozefest.
Have a look at them, below.
Try as one might to forget it, Crash pulled off one of the biggest upsets ever when it beat the presumptive favorite, Brokeback Mountain, in 2006. The result led to an immediate online backlash, with some accusing Academy voters of being homophobic.
The Academy shocked everyone in 1990 when it awarded the Best Picture Oscar to Driving Miss Daisy. In doing so, Daisy became the first picture in decades to win Oscar’s top prize without a corresponding nomination for Best Director. Sad news for that year’s favorite, Born on the Fourth of July — but probably good news for 2012’s current frontrunner, Argo.
Despite winning Best Picture, The Godfather mostly took a backseat to Cabaret when the movie-musical won eight prizes at the 1972 Oscars, including one for its director, Bob Fosse. Perhaps realizing their mistake, voters quickly gave Francis Ford Coppola an Oscar two years later, for The Godfather – Part II.
Judy Garland’s last major chance to win a Best Actress Oscar came to a screeching halt in 1955 when voters decided to give the award to Grace Kelly for The Country Girl instead. To this day, some argue that Kelly’s win was given for her stellar year (she was also in High Noon and Rear Window) and overall star-power as opposed to her individual performance.
Beatrice Straight was the first to admit that her Oscar for Network was a surprise — and for good reason. She was in the critically acclaimed drama for a mere five-or-so minutes, making it the shortest performance ever to win an Academy Award.
In a true underdog story, the Sylvester Stallone boxing drama Rocky managed to upset critical heavyweights All the Presidents Men, Network and Taxi Driver in 1976’s jam-packed race for Best Picture. The reason? You tell me.
James Coburn’s surprise nomination for Affliction proved all the more surprising when he actually won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 1999. At the time, Ed Harris was considered the favorite to win for his otherwise award-winning performance in The Truman Show.
In a rare moment, voters decided to go against the grain when they gave the Best Original Song Oscar to rap group Three Six Mafia in 2007. Even frontrunner Dolly Parton couldn’t help but smile after Queen Latifah read the envelope, because, come on. It was awesome.
Brooklyn native Marisa Tomei had the last laugh when she beat three Brits and Australian to win Best Supporting Actress in 1993 — for My Cousin Vinny, of all movies. With only one previous mention leading up to the ceremony — a Most Promising Female award from the Chicago Film Critics — Tomei’s victory became an instant shocker and, later, the subject of rumors that presenter Jack Palance had actually read the wrong name.
The 1993 race for Best Supporting Actress was supposed to come down to Rosie Perez and Winona Ryder. But in the end, Oscar went for the least-likely-to-win nominee instead, 11-year-old Anna Paquin. (Okay, fine. Emma Thompson never stood a chance.) Paquin was understandably shocked by the results, and spent a good portion of her acceptance speech literally speechless.
Although it’s widely considered to be the greatest movie of all time, Citizen Kane still couldn’t manage to win the Oscar for Best Picture in 1941. Instead, it went to How Green Was My Valley, a movie about — oh, who can tell anymore?
After decades in the business, Lauren Bacall was all set to win an Oscar on her first nomination, for The Mirror Has Two Faces. That is, until Juliette Binoche came out of nowhere to win for The English Patient instead. Years later, in her memoir, Bacall blamed her loss on Miramax honcho Harvey Weinstein, who spearheaded The English Patient’s Oscar campaign.
And speaking of Harvey, the man was one of the five producers who took home Oscars when Shakespeare in Love took home 1998’s Best Picture Oscar over Steven Spielberg’s World War II epic, Saving Private Ryan. Fifteen years later, many film critics consider this to be one of Oscar’s most egregious errors.
Adrien Brody pulled off the seemingly impossible when he beat four previous Oscar winners to win Best Actor in 2002. In other words: Jack’s reaction pretty much says it all.
Even though he was a no-show (for, uh, obvious reasons), exiled director Roman Polanski still stole the show at the 2002 Oscars when he won for his work on The Pianist. Previously, Rob Marshall was expected to win for Chicago, with Gangs of New York’s Martin Scorsese at a distant second.
Marcia Gay Harden quashed Kate Hudson’s dreams of becoming the next, well, Goldie Hawn by winning 2000’s Best Supporting Actress Oscar for the then-little-seen Pollock. In her speech, the actress thanked the Academy for taking the time to watch the screeners sent out to every voting member.
The 1981 Oscars was supposed to be all about Reds helmer Warren Beatty — and for awhile, it was. That is, until Chariots of Fire pulled off a Gold medal-winning upset in the race for Best Picture. Still, one can’t feel too bad for Beatty. His film took home three Oscars, including one for his work behind the cameras.
The Academy wasn’t too kind to A Streetcar Named Desire — at least not enough to name it the Best Picture of 1951. That year’s surprise winner? An American in Paris, which nowadays plays out like a pale comparison to Gene Kelly’s true classic, Singin’ in the Rain.