Living rooms fill up with families, immediate and extend to watch the Academy Awards, and people bet on who will win an Oscar in the top categories; Best Actor and Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Actress, Best Song, among others, and of course, the mother of the Oscars, Best Picture. There are entire issues of weekly magazine publications and websites built around the odds of each of the nominees winning, and after studying them meticulously, you mark your box on the homemade ballot, and hope for the best. But just like in any other environment of a contest or competition, there can always be that outlier, that dark horse, that can ruin your chance to win, that will frustrate and haunt you every year after, or may just have you scratching your head in laughter; yes, the “upset.”
Throughout the Academy Awards 86 years, there have been many upsets, with people at yelling at the TV, “Are you kidding me?”, and some you may not have even realized, because they are classic movies or performances, who lost. Here we relive that frustration and head scratching as we look at the Top 10 biggest Oscar upsets.
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Image: Wikimedia Commons
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Crash beats Brokeback Mountain to win Best Picture (2006)
Crash didn’t even seem like a likely candidate for Oscar, but Oscar always loves a good twist and going up against a revolutionary film Brokeback Mountain, daring to show some man-love between two heartthrobs, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, seemed an impossible feet. Just like a good Hollywood ending, Oscar likes to make the impossible possible.
Gwyneth Paltrow beats Cate Blanchett to win Best Actress (1999)
Two actors acting in period pieces; Cate Blanchett as Queen Elizabeth and Gwyneth Paltrow as Shakespeare’s love Viola. Cate Blanchett’s performance seemed like a slam dunk but Shakespeare in Love went into the Oscars that year with 13 nominations. As Gwyneth received the award, she nearly wept through her entire speech. As a double wammy, Shakespeare in Love also won Best Picture by upset, against favorite Saving Private Ryan.
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Adrien Brody beats four former winners for Best Actor (2002)
The Pianist was a runaway hit, for some reason, and little known actor Adrien Brody went up against four Hollywood heavyweights and former winners for Best Actor; Nicholas Cage, Jack Nicholson, Michael Caine, and the almost-always-winning Daniel Day-Lewis. Brody became household name by the next day, not only being an Oscar winning underdog but giving presenter Halle Berry a very unplanned, intimate kiss as he accepted the award, afterword stating, “I bet they didn’t tell you that was in the gift bag.”
Three 6 Mafia win Best Original Song over Dolly Parton (2005)
Everyone thought, the Best Original song was going to Dolly Parton for her song “Travelin’ Thru” from the Felicity Huffman starring film Transamerica, hands down. Multiple award winning songwriter, performer, actress against a moody song “In The Deep” from Crash and from the overtly sexual and violent (yet brilliant) Hustle & Flow, a fairly unknown rap group Three 6 Mafia with “Hard Out Here for a Pimp”. After Three 6 Mafia members, genuinely surprised and ecstatic, took their Oscar, host Jon Stewart fittingly summed it up stating, “Oscar count: Three 6 Mafia, 1. Martin Scorsese, 0.”
Kathryn Bigelow beats her ex-husband James Cameron to win Best Director (2010)
Now I wouldn’t say it was a battle of good versus evil…OK, maybe I would, but Kathryn Bigelow’s Best Director win was really one for the ages, making her the first woman to win the coveted award for The Hurt Locker beating out one of the most box-office successful films ever made, Avatar. We’re pretty sure Linda Hamilton was pretty happy about that win too.
Rocky beats All The President’s Men and Taxi Driver to win Best Picture (1977)
One of the greatest underdog movie’s ever is Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky, which also provided one of the biggest upsets in Oscar history winning Best Picture, giving the knockout to the Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford starring Watergate drama All The President’s Men and Taxi Driver, where De Niro delivered the iconic line, “You talkin’ to me?”, albeit, “Yo Adrian!” could be just as recognized.
Marisa Tomei beat Miranda Richardson and Vanessa Redgrave to win Best Supporting Actress (1992)
Favorites Miranda Richardson for Damage and Vanessa Redgrave in Howards End seemed like a tough choice for many on which would win Best Supporting Actress, but no one ever thought a young 28 year old playing a sassy, gum-chewing girlfriend opposite Joe Pesci in the comedy My Cousin Vinny would stand a chance. While joining the elite, Tomei did not do too much to step out of the supporting role, but did receive two nominations since for In The Bedroom in 2001 and 2008’s The Wrestler.
Roberto Benigni Over Tom Hanks and Nick Nolte for Best Actor (1998)
The shock and surprise winning over Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan and a critically acclaimed Nick Nolte in Affliction, Roberto Benigni gave one of the most memorable, and broken-English speeches in Oscar history, overcome with joy stating he wished he could be “making love to everybody.” Begnigni also made history becoming the first non-English Best Actor winner for his role in Life Is Beautiful.
Dances With Wolves takes from Scorcsese again (1990)
Martin Scorcsese’s masterpiece Goodfella’s seemed like a shoe-in, even going against the original mob movie genius Francis Ford Coppola for his Godfather: Part III, another genuine epic, and epically long movie, Dances With Wolves created the upset with star and first time director Kevin Costner taking the Oscar.
‘How Green Was My Valley’ Over ‘Citizen Kane’ for Best Picture (1942)
Film enthuesits and film schools all over look at the 1942 masterpiece Citizen Kane for inspiration and guidance, but surprisingly the classic lost the Best Picture award to How Green Was My Valley which took home five of the ten nominations it was up for, including Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor.
So who will win? Will there be an upset? Will you lose the $5 you put in the living-room-betting-pool because of an upset? The 86th Academy Awards airs Sunday March 2 on ABC.