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People Who Won Oscars for the Wrong Film

Updated June 14, 2019 25.9k votes 3.2k voters 329.6k views23 items

Sometimes, the Academy sets out to right an Oscar mistake, finally giving top awards to the most deserving of actors and directors... but not for their best work. Which stars have won Academy Awards, but a few years too late? For actors and directors who've made it big in Hollywood, there's no award like an Academy Award. No accolade is more prestigious than the Oscar: it is the high water mark of a career and no actor is the same after a win or even a nomination. Unfortunately sometimes the Academy gets it wrong.

This occasionally results in make up Oscars - honoring the great work of top actors or directors, for a film that maybe wasn't their best outing. Other times, the Academy might give a farewell Oscar to an iconic actor who is retiring and hasn't yet won. From Scorsese to Elizabeth Taylor, the Oscars have honored some questionable films and roles, in an effort to make the Oscar dreams of film legends finally come true.

Whatever the case these are the actors and directors who won an Oscar... but for the wrong film. Vote up the directors and actors who should've won Oscars for other films in their bodies of work, but got consolation Oscars instead.
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  • Morgan Freeman
    Photo: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY

    The Film He Won For: Million Dollar Baby
    The Film He Should Have Won For: Shawshank Redemption

    Million Dollar Baby is a wonderful film, but it's not Shawshank Redemption. Shawshank is currently sits atop many a best movies of all time list and Morgan Freeman is the heart of that film. He should have won Best Actor for Shawshank, long before he won Best Supporting Actor for Million Dollar Baby.
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  • Al Pacino
    Photo: Metaweb / CC-BY

    The Film He Won For: Scent of a Woman
    The Film He Should Have Won For: The Godfather

    This almost goes without saying. Scent of a Woman is a great dramedy, but The Godfather is universally agreed upon as nearly perfect. Pacino not winning for that powerhouse performance is one of the worst snubs of all time.
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  • Martin Scorsese
    Photo: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY

    The Film He Won For: The Departed
    The Films He Should Have Won For: Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Casino, Taxi Driver, The Color of Money

    And the legacy Oscar goes to... Sure, The Departed was great. But how is it possible this was Scorsese's first and only Oscar win? This man made many of the greatest films in history, all well before he made The Departed. Martin Scorsese should not be one-time Best Directing award winner.
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  • Paul Newman
    Photo: Metaweb / CC-BY

    The Film He Won For: The Color of Money
    The Films He Should Have Won For: The Hustler, Cat on a Hot Tin RoofButch CassidyHudThe Sting

    In The Hustler Paul Newman delivers a legendary performance as Eddie Felson. 25 years later the Academy gave Paul Newman an Oscar for his supporting role and a reprisal of his role as Eddie Felson in The Color of Money. This felt like more of an award for missing that initial performance.
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