The greatest Oscar shocks

We chart some of the most peculiar Oscar decisions in history

There are disagreements over who won and who should have won every year at the Oscars, but every now and then there's a shock decision which leaves everyone baffled. Genuinely, head-scratchingly, what-just-happened baffled. Here we chart some of the most peculiar Oscar decisions in history...

Shockspeare in Love... (Credit: REX)

What won? 'Shakespeare In Love' (1999)
Why was it a shock? Because everyone IN THE WORLD expected 'Saving Private Ryan' to win.
What happened?
To this day, no one really knows why 'Shakespeare In Love' beat 'Saving Private Ryan' to Best Picture glory. Spielberg's stunning war epic had everything; unchecked patriotism, true-life events, redemption, loss and moments of tear-jerking emotion. 'Shakespeare In Love', on the other hand, was a lavishly produced bit of fluff (albeit an entertaining bit of fluff) which won out over genuine gravitas. But it didn't just end there....

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Who won? Roberto Benigni (Best Actor for ‘Life Is Sweet’) (1999)
Why was it a shock? It was yet another snub for 'Saving Private Ryan'.
What happened?
It was the final insult. 'Shakespeare In Love' swept the board, leaving 'Saving Private Ryan' with Best Director and some technical gongs. Hanks was to be a shoo-in for his role as John H. Miller, the unfathomably brave US Army Captain. But it wasn't to be. Instead, total unknown Roberto Benigni was announced as Best Actor for 'Life Is Sweet'. Benigni went on to make a bizarre acceptance speech, thanking Jupiter, his kidneys and saying he wanted to make love to everybody.

Forget about it... Dances With Wolves beat GoodfellasWhat won? 'Dances With Wolves' (1990)
Why was it a shock? One word: 'Goodfellas'.
What happened?
Perhaps it's not so odd that an overwrought tale of forbidden love should win Best Picture over a wildly violent mob drama where people get kicked to death. But to suggest that Kevin Costner's 'Dances With Wolves' is a better film than Scorcese's enduring classic gangster film is madness. Costner won both Best Picture and Best Director (it won a swathe of others too), the only saving grace being a Best Supporting Actor gong for Joe Pesci. But you can't help thinking that 'Goodfellas' violence can't have been that much of an issue if they rewarded Pesci for it...

Who won? Katherine Hepburn and Barbra Streisand (1968)
Why was it a shock? Because it was a tie.
What happened?
Katherine Hepburn already held the Best Actress gong from the 1967 awards for 'Guess Who's Coming To Dinner'. Her role of Eleanor of Aquitaine in historical drama 'The Lion In Winter' the following year was a huge critical and commercial success and she was all set to scoop it again. But then along came Barbra Streisand, a singer of all things, but one who had impressed considerably in her acting debut as Fanny Brice in romantic musical 'Funny Girl'. It would become the first tie for Best Actress in Oscar history.

Who won? Marisa Tomei (Best Actress for ‘My Cousin Vinny’) (1992)
Why was it a shock? Because of the competition.
What happened?
'My Cousin Vinny' was liked. Don't get us wrong. Lots of people liked it. It was fun! But there was not a chance in hell that Marisa Tomei was going to win Best Supporting Actress for her role of Mona Lisa Vito. This was mainly because of the stunning pedigree of her opponents. She was up against some serious acting chops, from Joan Plowright, Vanessa Redgrave, Miranda Richardson and Judy Davis. But against all odds, as Phil Collins once said, she won to some snobbishly raised eyebrows at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

What won? Rocky (1977)
Why was it a shock? Why wasn't it?
What happened?
Like Rocky the person, 'Rocky' the film was the underdog. The blue collar schmo with a dream; a dream of slapping meat and jumping up and down on steps and winning an Oscar. It was up against some stupidly big guns in the form of Scorcese's masterfully bleak 'Taxi Driver', Watergate biopic 'All The President's Men' and 'Network', one of the best films about the power of the media ever made. 'Rocky' was, well, 'Rocky'. But feel-good won once again over gravitas, and not for the first time (or the last).

Knock-out... Rocky beat the competition (Credit: REX)


Who won?
Juliette Binoche (Best Supporting Actress for ‘The English Patient) (1996)
Why was it a shock? Because she pinched it.
What happened?
Well, she didn't really pinch it, but 1996 was the year that everyone thought veteran actress Lauren Bacall would get her due. Some called it a sympathy Oscar for those times she missed out. Sadly, and in a slightly cruel twist, Binoche was too good for her category, and won for her heart-rending portrayal of Ralph Fiennes' nurse in 'The English Patient', a film which hogged the awards that year anyway. Bacall was said to be displeased.

Who won?
'Kramer Vs Kramer' (1980)
Why was it a shock? Because 'Apocalypse Now' won next to nothing
What happened?
It still sticks in the craw of many a critic that the melodramatic divorce weepy 'Kramer Vs Kramer' cleaned up in 1980, while 'Apocalypse Now', a film which defined an era and a genre, skulked home with only the gong for cinematography. The two films went head to head in almost every category, and lost out every time. It almost looked like it was being purposely snubbed, such was the widespread nature of the snubbing. Did we mention it was snubbed?