The Academy Awards are often quite predictable, with the same people collecting statues that we’ve seen winning at the BAFTAs and Golden Globes. But every now and again, there’s an upset — such as the seven winners listed below — that gets us all talking.
“Moonlight,” Best Picture (2017)
“La La Land” was the favored winner of Best Picture for 2017, with the film sharing many criteria in common with previous victors. For example, over the past 20 years, most Best Pictures were a musical, comedy, or drama, had a cast full of prior Oscar nominees, and had received dozens of other awards that year. “La La Land,” a musical romantic comedy starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, had won over 100 awards by the time the Academy Awards rolled around. But it didn’t claim Best Picture.
“La La Land” was widely tipped to win, and thanks to a mishandling of Oscar envelopes, the film was temporarily and incorrectly announced as the winner at the awards ceremony. “Moonlight,” a drama starring Mahershala Ali, Trevante Rhodes, and Ashton Sanders, defied expectations and trends and won Best Picture for 2017.
“Crash,” Best Picture (2006)
Though “Moonlight” surprised some people in 2017, it was a film that received dozens of accolades, claiming 135 awards and 276 nominations. However, sometimes the films that win Best Picture aren’t quite so officially praised during their run-up to the Academy Awards. One example is the movie “Crash,” which was up against titles like “Munich,” “Good Night, and Good Luck,” “Capote,” and “Brokeback Mountain” for the 2006 title of Best Picture.
All of these movies were critically acclaimed, but “Brokeback Mountain” stood out as the safe bet for which of these five films would win Best Picture. The movie was a cultural phenomenon, and it received far more critical attention than “Crash” — at least before the Oscars. “Brokeback Mountain” was and is a significant film, but “Crash” shocked everyone when it snagged Best Picture of 2006.
“Good Will Hunting,” Best Original Screenplay (1998)
In a year full of heavy-hitting screenplays, writers and actors Ben Affleck and Matt Damon weren’t expecting their original work to receive this award. Either “Boogie Nights,” a drama and comedy written by Paul Thomas Anderson, or “As Good As It Gets,” written by James L. Brooks and Mark Andrus, were expected to win Best Original Screenplay that year. Surprising attendees and even the writers of the screenplay, “Good Will Hunting” received the award.
“Rocky,” Best Picture (1977)
Though “Rocky” is undeniably a classic and it’s not surprising to see that it won Best Picture in 1977, it wasn’t the favored film that year. In fact, many people were shocked to hear its name called over Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver.” Though Martin Scorsese is a world-renowned director, he wouldn’t win a Best Picture Oscar until 2007 for his work on “The Departed.”
“Forrest Gump,” Best Picture (1995)
Like “Rocky,” it’s not shocking to look back and see that a film like “Forrest Gump” won Best Picture. But 1995 was a particularly tightly contended year for this award. “Forrest Gump” wasn’t even a favorite. For many people, the question was whether Frank Darabont’s “The Shawshank Redemption” or Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” would win. The announcement of “Forrest Gump” as the recipient of this prestigious award shocked audiences at the time.
Two Best Actresses Win Oscars in 1969
Whose performance do you prefer — Barbra Streisand for her work in “Funny Girl” or Katharine Hepburn in “The Lion in Winter”? If you think it’s too close to call, you’re not alone. Hundreds of filmmakers and film professionals vote on these awards, but in 1969 there was a tie for Best Actress. Both Streisand and Hepburn won Oscars for their performances.
Adrien Brody, Best Actor (2003)
The cast and crew of “The Pianist” would win more than one Academy Award for their work on this movie. The film was nominated for Best Picture, and leading actor Adrien Brody won Best Actor. Roman Polanski received the Oscar for Best Director that year, and Ronald Harwood received the award for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Brody was up against four cinematic all-stars that year: Nicolas Cage for “Adaptation,” Daniel Day-Lewis for “Gangs of New York,” Jack Nicholson for “About Schmidt,” and Michael Caine for “The Quiet American.” Adding to the suspense, each of these four actors had won Oscars before. Brody, however, had not.
Seeing all these names together, it’s no surprise that people were stunned when Adrien Brody’s name was called. He became the youngest person ever to receive the Best Actor award, which is a record he still holds today.
The Academy Awards are always exciting, but things get really interesting when an Oscar goes to a film or person who isn’t the favored winner. Though some trends help predict the victors, there’s always room for surprise when the envelopes are opened.