While watching the Oscars, most movie fans find themselves in a constant battle between who should win and who will win. After several months of awards shows, the latter starts to seem crystal clear, but the Academy still occasionally breaks expectations, handing an award to an underdog. In most cases, the winners are relatively deserving, but that doesn’t lessen the shock. With that in mind, here are 13 Oscar upsets we still can’t believe.
13 Oscar upsets we still can’t believe
Marisa Tomei beats Miranda Richardson (1993)Miranda Richardson had a banner year in 1992, winning awards all over the place for her performances in The Crying Game and Damage. While Marisa Tomei delivered a star-making performance in My Cousin Vinny, her victory seemed to come out of nowhere, inspiring all kinds of bizarre conspiracy theories.Fox
Anna Paquin beats Rosie Perez (1994)The Academy has always had an unfair prejudice against child actors, but they saw something in The Piano's 11-year-old Anna Paquin that most of the critics' groups and awards bodies missed. The big loser? Fearless co-star Rosie Perez, who was the odds-on favourite for her explosive—and yes, somewhat irritating—performance.Alliance
Adrien Brody beats Jack Nicholson (2003)About Schmidt's title character may be Jack Nicholson's most vulnerable, surprising, and self-effacing performance—he's never been in more compromising positions onscreen—but the Academy surprised everyone by recognizing the subtle power of Adrien Brody's turn in The Pianist.TVA
Crash beats Brokeback Mountain (2006)Even when Crash was making a surprise splash at the box office, nobody seemed to regard it as anything more than a well-intentioned message movie. On Oscar night, it managed to defeat the more deeply felt Brokeback Mountain, if only because many older voters felt the need to boycott those surprisingly intimate camping sequences.Maple
Shakespeare in Love beats Saving Private Ryan (1999)Saving Private Ryan remains the most celebrated movie of 1998, but it wound up splitting the gruesome World War II vote with The Thin Red Line. That opened the door to the more lightweight charms of Shakespeare in Love, which surprised everyone when it walked away with Best Picture.Alliance
Judi Dench beats Kathy Bates (1999)When Judi Dench won the BAFTA for her eight minutes in Shakespeare in Love, some chalked this up to patriotic favouritism—but then this glorified cameo walked away with the Academy Award. By all indications, Kathy Bates's bawdy turn in Primary Colors fell victim to Academy amnesia, as the film was released a full year before the Oscars.Alliance
Beatrice Straight beats Piper Laurie (1977)Believe it or not, Judi Dench's performance in Shakespeare in Love is not the shortest to win an Oscar. Benefiting from the general reverence for Network (recipient of ten nominations), Beatrice Straight needed less than six minutes of screen time to land more votes than Piper Laurie's deranged performance in Carrie.Warner
Rocky beats Taxi Driver (1977)Six sequels later, there's no denying that Rocky is a beloved crowd-pleaser, but it has none of the depth, craft, or cultural significance of Taxi Driver. Of course, the Academy is always going to take tear-jerking boxing matches over brothel bloodbaths, so maybe it wasn't an upset after all.Sony
Kevin Costner beat Martin Scorsese (1991)Between Sylvester Stallone, Robert Redford, and Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese has had many honours snatched away by actors-turned-filmmakers. Instantly recognized as a seismic cinematic breakthrough, Goodfellas (and Scorsese) nonetheless lost out to Kevin Costner's first stab at filmmaking: Dances with Wolves.Fox
Bob Fosse beats Francis Ford Coppola (1973)While many people remember 1973 as the year The Godfather dominated the Oscars, they might be thinking of the six awards won by The Godfather: Part II. The first film won Best Picture, but Cabaret proved far more dominant, winning eight awards that night, including Best Director.Warner
Grace Kelly beats Judy Garland (1955)Remember the last time anyone mentioned The Country Girl? Neither do we. Nonetheless, that's the film that propelled Grace Kelly to victory over Judy Garland's iconic turn in A Star Is Born.Paramount
How Green Was My Valley beats Citizen Kane (1942)More than 70 years after its release, Citizen Kane is still widely regarded as the greatest film of all time. There was no way of knowing that back in 1942, but it's revealing to note that this innovative, forward-looking film was defeated by the timid, old-fashioned How Green Was My Valley.Fox
Marcia Gay Harden beats Kate Hudson (2001)Kate Hudson and Frances McDormand both won major awards for their quotable performances in Almost Famous, but when they were crammed into the Best Supporting Actress category together, the vote was split. As a result, Marcia Gay Harden's transformative take on Lee Krasner in Pollock—complete with baby bangs—landed a well-deserved victory.Sony
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