The Oscars are often predictable. By the night of the ceremony, the winners of earlier award ceremonies will have already emerged as front-runners. However, occasionally the Oscars voters follow their own path. Here are some of the most surprising Oscars results of all time.
In 1993, pundits thought that Vanessa Redgrave would win the Best Supporting Actress category for her performance in Howard’s End. Instead, Marisa Tomei was the surprising winner for her performance as a tough-talking, New Jersey girlfriend in the comedy My Cousin Vinny. Many thought her performance was too lightweight to even merit a nomination. There were even rumors that presenter Jack Palance accidentally read the wrong name.
Bob Fosse and Cabaret beat Francis Ford Coppola and The Godfather for Best Director in 1973. Fosse’s upset is even more shocking in retrospect: The Godfather has withstood the test of time to become a true classic. It ranks No. 2 on IMDb’s list of the Top 250 movies of all time, but back in the day the voters preferred musicals to gangsters.
1977 was a great year for film. The Best Picture nominees included the critically acclaimed Taxi Driver, Network, and All the President’s Men. Rocky was the surprise winner, paralleling the film’s underdog storyline. The franchise’s Oscar legacy continued in 2016, with Sylvester Stallone contending in the Best Supporting Actor category for reprising the character of Rocky Balboa in Creed.
The rap group Three 6 Mafia is among the most unlikely Oscar winners of all time. At the 2006 Oscars, their song “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” from the hip-hop drama Hustle & Flow beat the heavily-favored Dolly Parton song “Travelin’ Thru” from Transamerica. Host Jon Stewart quipped, “For those of you who are keeping score at home, I just want to make something very clear: Martin Scorsese, zero Oscars; Three 6 Mafia, one.”
(Scorsese eventually won an Oscar a year later…)
Many critics are still upset that the race-relations drama Crash beat gay romance Brokeback Mountain for Best Picture at the 2006 Oscars. Even Crash‘s director Paul Haggis acknowledges that it may not have been the right choice, saying in a 2015 interview, “Was it the best film of the year? I don’t think so.
Many critics think Cate Blanchett gave her best performance ever as Queen Elizabeth I in Elizabeth, but it was Gwyneth Paltrow who won Best Actress at the 1999 Oscars for her performance in Shakespeare in Love. The film’s production company ran an ad campaign that argued Paltrow played multiple roles in the comedy since her character was an actress who disguised herself as a man so she could appear onstage. The Oscar voters were convinced.
In 1994, a quartet of well-known performers were nominated for Best Supporting Actress: Rosie Perez (Fearless), Winona Ryder (The Age of Innocence), Emma Thompson (In The Name of the Father), and Holly Hunter (The Firm). It was a shock when 11-year-old Anna Paquin beat all of them for her turn in The Piano.
Many film scholars regard Citizen Kane as the greatest movie of all time. IMDb users ranked it No. 66 on the list of the Top 250 films. The Oscar voters of 1942 disagreed. They voted Welsh mining drama How Green Was My Valley Best Picture. Orson Welles’ innovative drama won a lone Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
The 89th Academy Awards telecast airs at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT, Sunday, February 26, on ABC, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel. We’ll have live coverage of the event on our homepage, Facebook, and Twitter, including winner updates, photos from the red carpet, and exclusive video interviews.
Nominations for this year’s awards were announced on Jan. 24. Check out the full list.
“We all dream in gold”