3.3k voters

People Who Won Oscars for the Wrong Film

Updated April 26, 2021 24.6k votes 3.3k voters 330.9k views25 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.
  • Photo: flickr / CC0

    The Film He Won For: As Good as It Gets
    The Films He Should Have Won For: Chinatown, The Shining

    Sure, Jack Nicholson was great in the sugary sweet As Good as It Gets. But that performance pales in comparison to both Chinatown and The Shining, each a cinema classic. He is in literally every scene in Chinatown and Roger Ebert cites his performance as being the thing that keeps it "from becoming just a genre crime picture".
    Did they win for the wrong film?

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  • Photo: flickr / CC0

    The Film He Won For: The Revenant
    The Film He Should Have Won For: Catch Me If You Can, The Departed, The Aviator, Gangs of New York

    Leo has been in so many great films that it was beginning to get awkward when he still didn't have an Oscar in 2016. While The Revenant was a beautiful film, many wondered how much of that was due to Le's actual acting. He has shown far more range and acting chops in other roles - the above mentioned films are just four examples. 

    Photo: Byron Purvis/AdMedia/Corbis
    Did they win for the wrong film?

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  • The Film He Won For: Crazy Heart
    The Films He Should Have Won For: The Big Lebowski, The Contender, The Fisher King

    The entire Crazy Heart Oscar campaign felt like a legacy run. "This is Jeff Bridges! He's been great for decades!" Sure, Crazy Heart was fantastic, but was it better than his other excellent work?
    Did they win for the wrong film?

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  • Photo: Metaweb / CC-BY

    The Film She Won For: Ghost
    The Film She Should Have Won For: The Color Purple

    Ghost serves as the ultimate make up award film. It was somehow nominated for Best Picture, and won for both Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress (for Whoopi). Five years earlier (in her big screen debut) she delivered the performance of her career in The Color Purple, which was nominated for a whopping eleven awards... but didn't win a single one.
    Did they win for the wrong film?

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