30 Academy Award Winners You Never Saw Coming

23. Best Original Score 1999

The Red Violin movie image

Winner: The Red Violin

The Sure Thing: American Beauty

The “American Beauty” score has come to be considered as one of the greatest scores in film from the last 20 years. Similar to the summer of “Forrest Gump” catch phrases, its subtle but unmistaken bell theme permeated the movie season. Quite an accomplishment for a score that wasn’t action or superhero based. Seemingly out of nowhere, “The Red Violin” comes out with the beautiful classical strings to swoop on the statue.


22. Best Supporting Actress 2005

Rachel Weisz The Constant Gardener

Winner: Rachel Weisz – The Constant Gardener

The Sure Thing: Amy Adams – Junebug

With Amy Adam’s outstanding portrayal of an overly pleasant pregnant wife in the middle of a strange family drama becoming the talk of the season, she seemed to be the surefire win. But sometimes newbies have to go a couple of rounds before being handed the statuette, which instead went to veteran Rachel Weisz for her dramatic role of a murdered wife.


21. Best Director 2002

roman polanski oscar

Winner: Roman Polanski – The Pianist

The Sure Thing: Rob Marshall – Chicago

Few would really expect the Academy to give the exiled Roman Polanski any credit for his extremely personal “The Pianist”. One of the biggest Hollywood scandals on record, it was announced days earlier that he would not be allowed back in the country to accept the award if he did in fact win. It seemed that Rob Marshall would be the obvious choice for his favored film version of “Chicago” that eventually grabbed the top nods.


20. Best Actress 1997

Helen Hunt As Good As It Gets

Winner: Helen Hunt – As Good As It Gets

The Sure Thing: Kate Winslet – TITANIC

TITANIC, a classic Hollywood epic film done in the old school styling of “Gone with The Wind”, wasn’t only a monster at the box office but also in the awards season. It seemed a lock for Winslet considering DiCaprio’s absence of nomination. But Helen Hunt and her handling of the obsessive compulsive Jack Nicholson (who also won) defied all and came out on top.


19. Best Actor 2002

Adrian Brody The Pianist

Winner: Adrian Brody – The Pianist

The Sure Thing: Jack Nicholson – About Schmidt, Daniel Day-Lewis – Gangs of New York

Polanski did end up getting more love than expected with “The Pianist” winning the Best Actor. Any year with either Daniel Day-Lewis or Jack Nicholson on the nomination list is going to be a challenge. With both on the list; it seems impossible for anyone else to have a shot, especially the little-known Brody who was definitely the dark horse of this year.


18. Best Original Score 1995


Winner: Il Postino

The Sure Thing: Braveheart

The simple Italian drama seemed no match for Mel Gibson’s historical action epic as far as the music was concerned, but its score did touch the heart of the jury.


17. Best Supporting Actress 1991


Winner: Mercedes Ruehl – The Fisher King

The Sure Thing: Jessica Tandy – Fried Green Tomatoes

The ever-delightful Jessica Tandy was a hot ticket in the early 90’s and was expected to stand out among other nominees with the reminiscing old lady from the hit drama Fried Green Tomatoes. When Terry Gilliam’s brilliant fantasy drama about guilt and redemption, “The Fisher King”, came through with acting nods, no one believed. But Mercedes beats the low odds and walked away with it.


16. Best Screenplay 1996

Sling Blade

Winner: Billy Bob Thorton – Sling Blade

The Sure Thing: Anthony Minghella – The English Patient

No one thought the game changer of an indie film (when the indie film movement was in full swing) would beat “The English Patient”, the sweeping romantic tragedy. In probably one of the most pleasant surprises from the Academy, Billy Bob got his just golden dessert and was recognized for his tremendous writing.