IMDb Polls

Poll: What's Been the Biggest Oscar Shocker of All Time?

According to IMDb, the following are, in no particular order, the most shocking wins in the history of the Academy Awards. Which Oscar moment do you find most surprising?

Discuss the poll here. See IMDb's coverage of and features for the Oscars here. Note: Text below is by IMDb editors.

Make Your Choice

  1. Vote!

    Gwyneth Paltrow at an event for The 71st Annual Academy Awards (1999)

    Many critics think Cate Blanchett gave her best performance ever as Queen Elizabeth I in Elizabeth, but it was Gwyneth Paltrow who won Best Actress at the 1999 Oscars for her performance in Shakespeare in Love. The film's production company ran an ad campaign that argued Paltrow played multiple roles in the comedy since her character was an actress who disguised herself as a man so she could appear onstage. The Oscar voters were convinced.
  2. Vote!


    Shakespeare in Love continued its lucky streak when it beat Saving Private Ryan, which many regard as one of the best war movies of all time, for Best Picture at the 1998 Oscars. IMDb users ranked Saving Private Ryan the No. 30 film of all time. Shakespeare in Love did not make the list.
  3. Vote!

    "Academy Awards: 49th Annual," Jack Nicholson, Sylvester Stallone.

    1977 was a great year for film. The Best Picture nominees included the critically acclaimed Taxi Driver, Network, and All the President's Men. Rocky was the surprise winner, paralleling the film's underdog storyline.
  4. Vote!

    Three 6 Mafia

    The rap group Three 6 Mafia is among the most unlikely Oscar winners of all time. At the 2006 Oscars, their song "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" from the hip-hop drama Hustle & Flow beat the heavily-favored Dolly Parton song "Travelin' Thru" from Transamerica. Host Jon Stewart quipped, "For those of you who are keeping score at home, I just want to make something very clear: Martin Scorsese, zero Oscars; Three 6 Mafia, one." (Scorsese won an Oscar a year later.)
  5. Vote!

    "Academy Awards: 65th Annual," Marisa Tomei (Best Supporting Actor Winner).

    In 1993, pundits thought that Vanessa Redgrave would win the Best Supporting Actress category for her performance in Howard's End. Instead, Marisa Tomei was the surprising winner for her performance as a tough-talking, New Jersey girlfriend in the comedy My Cousin Vinny. Many thought her performance was too lightweight to even merit a nomination. There were even rumors that presenter Jack Palance accidentally read the wrong name.
  6. Vote!

    Bob Fosse

    Bob Fosse and Cabaret beat Francis Ford Coppola and The Godfather for Best Director in 1973. Fosse's upset is even more shocking in retrospect: The Godfather has withstood the test of time to become a true classic. It ranks No. 2 on IMDb's list of the Top 250 movies of all time, but back in the day the voters preferred musicals to gangsters.
  7. Vote!

    Crash (2004)

    Many critics are still upset that the race-relations drama Crash beat gay romance Brokeback Mountain for Best Picture at the 2006 Oscars. Even Crash's director Paul Haggis acknowledges that it may not have been the right choice, saying in a 2015 interview, "Was it the best film of the year? I don’t think so.
  8. Vote!

    "Academy Awards: 41st Annual," Barbra Streisand. 1969.

    In 1969, there were two winners in the Best Actress category: Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl tied with Katharine Hepburn in The Lion in Winter.
  9. Vote!


    Usually, the film that wins Best Director also wins Best Picture. So, when Warren Beatty won that category at the 1982 Oscars, everyone assumed that his film Reds would also win. Minutes later, everyone was shocked when British sports movie Chariots of Fire was named Best Picture.
  10. Vote!

    Holly Hunter, Jane Campion, and Anna Paquin at an event for The 66th Annual Academy Awards (1994)

    In 1994, a quartet of well-known performers were nominated for Best Supporting Actress: Rosie Perez (Fearless), Winona Ryder (The Age of Innocence), Emma Thompson (In The Name of the Father), and Holly Hunter (The Firm). It was a shock when 11-year-old Anna Paquin beat all of them for her turn in The Piano.
  11. Vote!

    How Green Was My Valley (1941)

    Many film scholars regard Citizen Kane as the greatest movie of all time. IMDb users ranked it No. 66 on the list of the Top 250 films. The Oscar voters of 1942 disagreed. They voted Welsh mining drama How Green Was My Valley Best Picture. Orson Welles' innovative drama won a lone Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

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