The Most Shocking Oscar Upsets


With the Academy Awards coming up in just a few short weeks, we’re taking a look back at some of the moments that may have caught all of us off-guard.

No, we’re not referring to the most memorable moments. But rather the ones that surprised us because the winner announced wasn’t the one that was predominantly thought of as the winner.

Without taking anything away from these Oscar winners, here are the most shocking Oscar upsets from over the years.

5. Rocky

How fitting that a story about an underdog boxer would find its way onto this list of the biggest surprise winners in Academy Awards history.

Going against All the President’s Men, Network and Taxi Driver in 1976, Sylvester Stallone’s famous boxing drama shocked the world by receiving the award for Best Picture.

Shot in just 28 days on a $1 million budget, no one expected the film could stand up its competitors at the awards. Yet, it not only held its own, but it walked away as winner—just like Rocky Balboa did in the film after being overlooked.

4. Geoffrey Fletcher – Precious

After seeing writers Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner win nearly every other major award leading up to the Oscars in 2010 for their film Up in the Air, everyone believed that the two would walk away with the Best Adapted Screenplay award easily.

That wasn’t the case, however, as one of the biggest twists in Oscar history occurred, with writer Geoffrey Fletcher earning the award for his adaptation, Precious.

Fletcher’s movie was heartfelt and very real, making it a favorite of the Academy, and speaking to voters in a way that others appreciated—no matter how shocking the win was.

3. Adrien Brody – The Pianist

Going up against stiff competition and past winners Daniel Day-Lewis and Jack Nicholson, Adrien Brody wasn’t exactly thought of as the favorite for the Best Actor for his role in The Pianist.

Seemingly with the two power players splitting the vote, Brody snuck in through the back door and strutted up on stage to a standing ovation which, in case anyone forgot, he then planted a smooch on presenter Halle Berry.

His performance in the film was powerful and the award was deserving. But it was also one that was definitely not expected.

2. Marisa Tomei – My Cousin Vinny

Is Marisa Tomei talented?

Of course she is—as evidenced by her three Oscar nominations from films like The Wrestler and In the Bedroom.

But when you’re going through the cheap bin at your local video store and can find the movie My Cousin Vinny, you probably aren’t aware that the actress’ lone Oscar victory came from that film, as she scooped the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award in 1992.

Most people didn’t think Tomei stood a semblance of chance to win—thinking Vanessa Redgrave from Howard’s End would be the victor.

She wasn’t. And Tomei surprised everyone in the audience and watching on TV.

1. Crash

For anyone who hasn’t seen the film Crash for some reason, I recommend going out and watching it in the spirit of the Academy Awards this season—even though it’s a decade old.

That’s because it brings together a great story of different characters who, unbeknownst to them, have some sort of connection throughout the entire film.

With a mix of big and small actors, the film delivers a strong message on the culture of American psyche.

It’s that drama that helped win for Best Picture in 2004, beating out major, groundbreaking films like Brokeback Mountain and Munich.

[Photo via Kevin Winter/Getty]

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