The 10 biggest mistakes in Oscar history!

There’s less than a week to go until the Oscars finally roll around, and Hollywood congratulates themselves on all the great work they’ve done over the past year. BUT … do the Oscars always get it right?

No, of course not. This year alone there were devastating snubs for groundbreaking films like WALL-E, The Dark Knight and The Wrestler. In fact, it WOULDN’T be the Oscars if there weren’t some mindblowingly confusing, head-scratching decisions. Here is our tribute to those terrible, terrible mistakes.

10. Down in a Blaze of Glory

The Best Original Song category is more often than not an extended parade of Disney songs penned by Randy Newman. But in 1990, the Oscars dared to dream, and nominated Jon Bon Jovi himself for his stirring theme from Young Guns II, “Blaze of Glory”. The song ended up losing to Stephen Sondheim’s Dick Tracy track ‘Sooner or Later’. Now close your eyes and picture which song is in your head. Who’s the real winner?

9. Norbit’s Nomination

Rick Baker (American Werewolf in London) is a master of make up; no one will ever deny that. However, an Oscar nomination for his work on Norbit was … surprising, to say the least. He didn’t win, but as Oscar host Jon Stewart pointed out, “far too often, the Academy ignores movies that aren’t good.”

8. Costner Gets Made

Has anyone even seen Dances with Wolves? It’s been almost twenty years since DWW won Best Picture over Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas, but the disappointment lives on. Goodfellas reached Godfather heights of excellence, and set the bar for all future mob movies. Dances with Wolves was never spoken about again – except in articles about Oscar’s stupidest decisions.

7. The Underdog FTW

Rocky won Best Picture in 1977, and sure, it’s a great movie. But better than All The President’s Men? Or Network? Or Taxi Driver?! Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for underdogs. I love Cool Runnings as much as the next guy, but I’m not pushing it for Best Pic, you know what I’m saying?

6. A Very Inconvenient Truth

No way in a global-warmed HELL is An Inconvenient Truth worthy of a Best Documentary Academy Award. It doesn’t matter who it was up against; it doesn’t matter that it educated millions of people about Global warming; it certainly doesn’t matter that Melissa Etheridge wrote a song for it (which also inexplicably won an Oscar). This is just a Power Point presentation. I do those all the time!


5. Forrest Trumps Fiction

When Pulp Fiction exploded onto the scene, it broke the rules of narrative storytelling in cinema and spurred thousands of imitators. Never bettered, it remains one of the highlights in film history. Forrest Gump is … pleasant. Guess which one won Best Picture. For the record, it also beat Quiz Show and The Shawshank Redemption. What’s up with that?


4. A Lynchian Twist

David Lynch has been nominated three times for Best Director, yet has never won. The most explicit snub was in 2001, when his mesmerising Mulholland Drive was left out of all categories EXCEPT director. And then he lost. To Ron Howard. For A Beautiful Mind. That actually makes less sense than Mulholland Drive itself.

3. Auteurs Are Lame


Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick and Robert Altman all share two things in common: 1) They have all made brilliant, landmark, culturally defining films, and 2) According to the Academy, are less talented directors then Oscar Winner Kevin Costner. Hitchcock received 5 nominations and 0 wins; Kubrick and Altman went 4 for 0. They may have gotten Lifetime Achievement awards, but everyone knows those are just pity Oscars.

2. Citizen Caned

Oh, hell no. Citizen Kane REDEFINED cinema. It’s a masterful piece of work with breathtaking cinematography that is still studied today, and a narrative structure that is beautiful to watch unfold. And in 1942 they gave Best Picture to How Green Was My Valley. W.T.F! Kane is usually named The Greatest Film of All Time. What do people think of you, How Green Was My Valley? You can eat it How Green Was My Valley!


1. Crash and Burn


There was no worse moment in Oscar history than that fateful announcement in 2005. Jack Nicholson even gave a surprised “whoa” before announcing that Crash had been selected by the Academy as the Best Picture of the Year. Better than Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Munich and Good Night and Good Luck. Whoa indeed. Let’s face it – Crash sucks. It sucks really, really hard. It is a terrible film, with a terrible script, and a terrible concept. It makes Norbit look like a culturally sensitive dissection of race. It makes Norbit only the 2nd worst movie Thandie Newton is in (number 1 is Crash). Hell, it makes Norbit look like a worthy Oscar nominee.

What are your biggest Oscar disappointments? Anyone out there willing to defend Crash? Anyone out there willing to defend Norbit?

58 Responses to “The 10 biggest mistakes in Oscar history!”

  1. Please, please give Kate Winslett an Oscar, the girl deserves one!!Sense & Sensibility, Titanic, Iris, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Finding Neverland, Little Children and I'm certain there are more movies out there demonstrating Kate's brilliant acting ability. I haven't seen Kate's latest movies as yet, but I am hoping she will finally take home an Oscar!

  2. Deeply disappointed. Sleeplessly disappointed. Disturbingly disappointed. I was overwhelmed with a wave of shock and disbelief when Brokeback Mountain was robbed by Crash. You’re right, Simon, This was Oscar’s number one injustice in 80 years.

  3. Although Broke back mountain was acted well and was stunningly beautiful to watch it was boring as hell! crash was a fantastic film with a story that most people find difficult to watch simply because its confronting.

  4. The decision to award Gwyneth Paltrow with Best Actress for her role in Shakespear in Love, rather than Cate Blanchett for her role as Elizabeth is the most disappointing Oscars decision I can think of.

  5. I think on par with the Cate Blanchett snub was Julia Roberts over Ellen Burstyn in Requiem for a Dream and Reese Witherspoon beating Felicity Huffman. Both such weak one note players beating two brilliant actresses.

  6. The Oscars are only a product of Hollywood. Why do we put so much weight behind them? About time that a new world order in good film awards are made. Leave the Oscars for Hollywood with all that goes with Hollywood. By the way, I agree with all you said in your little article.

  7. I lost all interest and faith in any decision made by the Academy when Elephant Man lost out to Raging Bull in best picture and best actor in 1980. An American film against a British one – need I say more?

  8. Shakespeare in Love over Life is Beautiful or Saving Private Ryan was disgraceful.

  9. Titanic winning Best Picture ahead of the brilliant L.A. Confidential is hard to top.

  10. I can’t help but agree that Broke Back mountain was sooooooooooooooo boring. The montage of up the mountain down the mountain up the mountain nearly killed me. Like we didn’t get that they kept going back up the mountain. And the only reason Gwyneth should have taken the Oscar from Cate is for her performance that was her acceptance speach!

  11. Crash was difficult to watch because it sucked not because it was confronting. It tried to be confronting and emotionally manipulative by bombarding the viewer with race cliches and failed miserably. Even worse than Requiem for a Dream.

  12. How could Cuba Gooding Jr (Jerry Maguire) have been given the Oscar over William H. Macy (from Fargo).And while we’re talking Oscar mistakes – ummm…Gwyneth Paltrow’s acceptance speech. Big mistake. Was there anyone she didn’t thank?

  13. Denzel Washington (Training Day) over Russell Crowe (Beautiful Mind)was a very black day for the Oscars. A beautiful mind could not have been more about Russell Crowes brilliant acting, the whole film was him, it also won best picture, best director, best supporting actress for Gods sake, but the Academy decided politics and tokenism over art. Training Day won no other awards, was not even nominated for anything else but for supporting actor for Ethan Hawke.

  14. Why has Robert De Niro only ever won 2 Academy awards? Casino, Heat, Awakenings, Goodfellas…….

  15. With over 1300 members of the academy being fellow actors voting for the nominees and winners, the awards makes as much sense as the AFL players awards where feloow players vote for players in other games they never watch. Most of these voters probably don’t even watch all of the movies worthy of awards! I think http://www.imdb.com gives a more realistic rating – many more people voting and an overall realistic rating given.

  16. The worst part about An Inconvienient Truth was that the truth itself was too inconvient for Al Gpre. That ppt was filled with errors of fact about climate history, esisting climate data and the incorect use of climate models which were incapable of and never intended to be for climate forecasts.

  17. I wish you people would get over Scorsese. He’s a good film-maker but Dances With Wolves was a better movie, and still is. I realise it’s trendy to knock Costner (and he’s never lived up to that promise shown in DWW) and to love gangster movies but let’s keep some perspective.

  18. For me it was Liam Neeson in Schindler’s List….IMO he was Oscar Schindler and deserved the award….not that I don’t appreciate Tom Hanks acting ability but that year it should have gone to Liam…

  19. “I wish you people would get over Scorsese.”what do you mean, “you people”?!

  20. Actors, on the whole, are umm … dense; airheaded, self-absorbed, wierd, out where the buses don’t run.It’s a wonder there have been any deserved Oscars, at all.

  21. What do YOU mean “you people”, Simon??? And I agree with all those people that praise Dances with Wolves. Brilliant movie!! Thoroughly deserving of the Oscar. For once the Academy didn’t look at the actor’s history or credibility and gave the award based on what was in front of them. Kudos.

  22. How about the controvesy of Marissa Tomei’s oscar win in 1993 instead of Vanessa Redgrave because of a drunken presenter!! Loved her in the wrestler – GO MICKEY!

  23. I think you forgot the WORST decision for best actress ever! Gwyneth Paltrow over Cate???? Give me a break.

  24. “out where the buses don’t run”ha ha, love itJames Cameron’s Best Director was just horrible, wince-inducing. Titanic was so bad I remember saying out loud during it “just sink the bloody boat already”…and getting lots of shocked looks from the punters around (who were probably watching it for the 9th time). Popular, yes. Best? Nope. You can follow the same logic for most of the bad decisions listed. Remember, Adolf Hitler was popular too. Can’t explain Crash though.

  25. I agree with all of your entries, plus the inclusion of the Gwyneth Paltrow over Cate Blanchett stupidity. What I find most disappointing is the Academy’s lack of imagination where they will vote for an actor who accurately portrays an existing (or existed) person over an actor creating a character from scratch. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King won 11 awards in 2003 with no nominees for acting, yet Elijah Wood had me convinced that he was an innocent hobbit carrying a gold ring that was slowly killing him! I place more credence on the Actor’s Guild and the specialised industry awards rather than the Oscars – too much back slapping and butt kissing for me to avoid vomiting.

  26. Surely “our” Russ winning for Gladiator but not for The Insider or A Beautiful Mind has to rate as some kind of…perversity?

  27. what! requiem for a dream was a masterpiece! how it wasn’t nominated for editing or sound design is beyond me. dancer in the dark? byork got a golden globe nomination but missed out a spot in the oscars…wtf? even after wearing what she wore!? and brokeback mountain will be remembered FAR longer that Crash. The only reason it didn’t win is because it won EVERY best picture award leading up to it and the academy wanted to be fresh.

  28. Pulp Fiction is one of the worst movies I watched. Maybe unique, and can couldn’t believe it nominated for oscar. Boring and boring. Forrest Gump absolutely deserved the Oscar that Pulp Fiction.

  29. The most disappointing (and dangerously-awarded) award is the propaganda nonsense that was “A very inconvenient truth”. The content Al Gore is spouting is not accurate yet it’s held up to be gospel.

  30. I am still baffled by Tom Hank’s back to back Oscar wins. Philadelphia and Forrest Gump, both pleasant movies nicely acted but Oscar worthy? No.

  31. Not sure why Heath is being tipped everywhere as a ‘cert’ for the Best Supporting Actor. That’s got to be another sympathy vote. His performance as the Joker was only okay, as was the Dark Knight movie.

  32. Disagree with Willo – Heath Ledger's performance was exceptional in The Dark Knight.Easily comparable with classic performances from Nicholson & Pacino.How can you say that!?

  33. When it was released, the New Yorker said of Dances with Wolves: “the Indians called him Dances with Wolves. They should have called him ‘plays with camera'”. Just because some less than interesting Hollywood-type decides that he wants to direct, doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea. Dances with Wolves was not only full of irritating camera angles, it was boring and derivative (e.g. hadn’t Costner ever seen Dustin Hoffman in Little Big Man)? Dances with Wolves, like How Green was my Valley (a nice film) against Citizen Kane, had no claim on Best Picture in the year it was nominated. To the poster who mentioned Life is Beautiful as a film that should have won Best Picture. Yeah, it was a briliant film but I am pretty sure that the present structure of the awards doesn’t allow a foreign language film to win Best Picture. It has to be entered in another section which Life is Beautiful in fact was awarded in. That may be one more failing of the Academy Awards. Another is skipping an actor for a superb performance once year, and then giving it them for a lesser performance the next because it is their “turn”. This was the case with Denzell Washington in Training Day who deserved it for his performance in a film the year before, and much earlier, giving Humphrey Bogart his best actor award for The African Queen when he really deserved it for a film of the year before, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, where he played classic character, Fred C Dobbs. This concept of giving an award because it is their “turn” and not for a meritorious performance in the film that they win for, degrades the Oscars in one more way. Finally, the Irvin Thalberg award is often used as a consolation prize for actors and directors who have never been awarded but get this award almost as an apology by the Academy. If this is going to be ongoing policy, why not do what is done with the Nobel Prize when it is awarded? A person is awarded for a total body of work, when the sub-text is really that they are being awarded for a specific breakthrough which most people recognise. At least then, there would be a kind of honesty in subterfuge!

  34. Drugs and graphic violence do not necessarily equate to good, or enjoyable, film-making. I’m sure there are plenty of people who like gangster films, but allow others to differ in taste. I, for one, not only really loved ‘Dances with Wolves’ and ‘Forrest Gump’, but have my own copies of both. On the other hand, I couldn’t stand ‘Pulp Fiction’ (asassinations and men being raped – classy stuff) and I haven’t seen ‘Goodfellas’ as I didn’t like ‘The Godfather’. Cinema, when all said and done, is about entertainment, and many of us (including, obviously, the Academy voters) just don’t find gratuitous violence entertaining.

  35. Five Oscar mistakes from the past 15 years…1. Russell Crowe and Denzil Washington both got Oscars for the wrong films – Denzil deserved it for The Hurricane and Russell deserved it for A Beautiful Mind over Denzil’s Training Day (definetely a “sorry, we stuffed up by not giving it to you earlier” Oscar for him). 2. Similarly, The Return of the King acheiving its swag of awards was a “sorry” scenario after the first two Lord of the Rings needlessly missed out (amazing that Sir Ian McKellan missed out in Best Supporting Actor for Fellowship).3. Cuba Gooding Jnr winning was a disgrace – he cannot act and has proved it ever since with a cavalcade of rubbish. William H Macy for Fargo or Edward Norton for Primal Fear were far more deserving. 4. Crash was a thoroughly undeserving winner. The excellent Good Night and Good Luck should have easily surpased this weak racial tension piece. A case of giving a film an award for the sake of its idea rather than its excecution.5. The greatest travisty, however, has been the consistent snubbing of the most innovative films of their genres in the past 15 years. These films have changed filmaking for the better and defined the generation. Pulp Fiction, Being John Malcovich, Fight Club, The Shawshank Redemption, The Usual Suspects, Trainspotting and, yes, There’s Something About Mary all deserved much more than they got and deserved their moment in the limelight.

  36. Why isnt anyone mentioning “No Country for old Men”- sure the acting was great- but that does not make a movie- it was basically a strange horror with a crazy man on a killing spree. Best picture should challenged people, move us and leave us feeing something we dont with other movies. I agree with some comments about other best picture winners however unfortunately some years just have amazing nominees such as the year of Pulp fiction and forrest Gump- they were all worthy. SOOO agree about Denzel and our Russell- need to swap their oscars. Training Day????? what the… I put every movie Denzel has done above that movie- not his best work.

  37. Nobody has mentioned "Driving Miss Daisy", surely the worst choice ever for best picture. Just a TV midday movie if I ever saw one. Not a lot of good pictures that year, but surely "Born on the 1st of July" was better. And what about Elizabeth Taylor in "Butterfield 8", & don't get me started on "Kramer vs Kramer"!

  38. Molokai, starring David Wenham directed by Paul Cox (and with Peter O’Toole, Kris Kristofferson, Sam Neill, Leo McKern) is one of the most beautiful films ever made, but not an Oscar to be seen.Meanwhile Dances With Wolves was well deserved; Shakespeare in Love was a great movie and Russel Crowe should have got Oscar for Beautiful Mind rather than Gladiator.

  39. So glad you included Rocky in your assessment of undeserving Oscar winners.The Oscars lost all their credibility to me at the very moment Rocky was announced as a winner.

  40. OK. You had me most of the way through with your 10 mistakes, until the last one> I put Crash on my Top 10 movies of all time. It was brilliant. The sub-text was very thought provoking. Maybe you didn't get it? Just saying…

  41. The Oscars are for people who need awards to tell them whether anything is any good or not. People who trust their own judgement in art look at the Oscars as a curiosity, nothing more. It is unfortunate that they are held in such high regard, but as far as (undeserved) back slapping, butt kissing spectacles go, it surely has no equal. The vast majority of the best films in existence are made everywhere but Hollywood. The Oscars are the US Film Industry’s version of the “World Series” Baseball. Hey, America wins again – they must be the World Champions!

  42. No problem with having Crash on your top 10 – after all, who am I to say “you shouldn’t like Crash”.As for not getting it – I don’t think its possible for someone NOT to get the terrible, message-dripping, sledgehammering that comes from the vile, life-sapping, “everyone’s a racist” script by Paul Haggis.I mean … agree to disagree …

  43. Helen Hunt beating Judi Dench’s Mrs Brown in 1998 was embarrassing for all concerned. The Academy admitted as much when awarding Dench the supporting gong for her 8minutes of screen time in Shakespeare in Love the following year. And on the subject of Shakespeare in Love, one of the worst movies to win best picture. SIL was an inane romp with a script so weak that it shamed the great playwrite’s legacy yet it took best picture ahead of Saving Private Ryan, Elizabth and Life is Beautiful? Hype and Academy lobbying gone mad as it swept 7 awards! And Gweneth Paltry best Actress ahead of Blanchett and Streep? The lunatics took over the awards show that year. Whatever credibility the Oscars had left was snorted up in the bathroom by a seat filler in 1999.

  44. First of all Munich was a average movie. No one even saw Brokeback Mountain being it wasnt a story that appeals to everyone. Capote and Good Night and Good Luck were okay but Crash stood out above the rest. It was different and unique. Pulp Fiction is a all time classic movie. one of my favorite movies but Shawshank redemption is also a classic and forest gump is brilliant. in my oppinion shawshank should have won but really all three had a chance. maybe the better movie won.Martin Scorsese is in the same boat as Denzel Washington.Scorsese should have won maybe 3 or 4 oscars. and he got it for his worst movie. The Departed was terrible and should never be put in the same breath as good fellas or any other gangster movie.Denzel should have one atleast 3 or 4 oscars but they gave it to him for Training Day. He was brilliant in that movie but i think russell crowe deserved it for a beautiful mind. I agree with Cuba gooding jr winning but then again he should have got it for Men of Honor. Denzel SHOULD have got a oscar for malcolm X and hurricane and remember the titans and John Q as well. No Country for old Men deserved it no doubt about it.Theres always mistakes and always will be.But i think this year they will get it right. Kate winslet, heath ledger mickey rourke etc.

  45. I’ve been following Heath’s career since he first appeared on a local children’s TV series here in Perth. He’s done much better work than ‘Dark Knight’. It looks like this will be another Oscar awarded for a body of work rather than a specific role, not to mention this will be the last chance to acknowledge him.

  46. “Popular” shouldn’t enter into it…or it should be it’s own category, like ‘audience choice’. Basically, box office returns will vindicate a film’s popularity, whether it is ‘good’ or not. So the arguments about whether some films had pleasing content or subject matter should not really be part of what the Oscars is about. Regardless of whether you liked ‘Pulp Fiction’ or its content, it broke ground in narrative style and virtually created a new genre…this was innovative filmmaking; although whether it was popular or ‘entertaining’ is a separate argument. Awards given by the Academy of Motion Pictures ought to be for technical and conceptual achievements, not for whether it was an audience favourite or not.Willo.

  47. If Pulp Fiction broke ‘new ground’ in narrative storytelling and created a ‘new genre’, I just hope the style doesn’t become standard. I found it disjointed and confusing. I like to lose myself in a film and, with Pulp Fiction, this was impossible as I kept losing track of the storyline. The diner robbery scene was its only saving grace, and even then we had to wait for a couple of hours to see what happened.

  48. Couldn’t believe Russell Crowe didn’t get it for A Beautiful Mind. Maybe his downfall that year was that he wasn’t born an Aboriginal.How about the Oscars create a new category called Best Stomach Pump and put movies like Pulp Fiction and Casino in it.I’m a big fan of Tom Hanks but I think Philedelphia, like Brokeback Mountain, was more about the academy being seen to be pro-gay.I thought Dances With Wolves was a great movie. It seems that hating Kevin Costner has also become the thing to be seen doing these days.

  49. Celine Dion over Elliot Smith for best song?

  50. It continues… the reader is dismal including Kate Winslett’s performance

  51. One more addition to list – Slumdog Millionaire.

  52. Shawshank Redemption was robbed blind by the hallmark card that is forrest gump – worse decision in Oscar history. Pulp Fiction was more deserving than Forrest but Shawshank shoulda won it.Leonardo DiCaprio in Gilbert Grape should’ve won over Tommy Lee Jones in the fugitive.Denzel Washington (Training Day) over Russell Crowe (Beautiful Mind) – wrong!Moulin Rouge was better than A Beautiful Mind.Finding Neverland nominated over Eternal Sunshine? what the???Return of the King’s swag of awards was a joke.I was pleased Crash won – it was my favourite out of the choices given, though i also loved Capote, but i think Constant Gardener was my favourite film that year and it wasn’t even nominated.And i also feel that Dances with Wolves is one of the most perfect films i have ever seen – i loved it.

  53. and yes, blaze of glory should’ve won best song.

  54. No country for old men was overrated, what a dissapointment.Gotta disagree about Rocky, that was a good movie….”adrieeeeaaaan……ADRIEAAAAN”

  55. Al Pacino – Scent of a WomanWorst performance ever!Embaressing and annoying.His accent changes more than Kylie Minogue's.Made me realise that Pacino was just a clue-less hack who got lucky in 3 or 4 roles, usually he is terrible.

  56. My Oscar dissapointments would have to include:1.Brokeback Mountain not winning Best Picture. Duh? WTF is Crash…I watched it several times and still can't figured out wtf it won the category.2. Denzel winning over Russel Crowe in Re: A Beautiful Mind… I totally respect Denzel as an actor but Russel delivered one of his most powerful performance on this film!!!3. Kate Winslet not winning Best Actress in Little Children. I' happy though that she finally got the award this year for The Reader which she rightfully deserved.

  57. I agree with most people who say Cate Blanchett was better than Gwyneth. I also think that Natalie Portman in "Closer" was better than Blanchett in "The Aviator". And I strongly disagree with Hillary Swank winning for Million Dollar Baby over Anette Benning for "Being Julia" or Kate Winslet for "Eternal Sunshine…". But that's just my opinion. Although I love movies and I do some stuff, I don't think I'm qualified for saying "this person should've won instead of this one" because that's just my opinion. But sometimes the Academy does make some mistakes that are very obvious.

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