30 Academy Award Winners You Never Saw Coming

8. Best Director 1990

Kevin Costner

Winner: Kevin Costner – Dancing With Wolves

The Sure Thing: Martin Scorsese – GoodFellas

This was to be Scorsese’s year. The powerhouse gangster drama “GoodFellas” was a triumphant film from every angle. NO ONE could’ve predicted this shake up of Kevin Costner, first time director, to beat the immeasurably brilliant Scorsese.


7. Best Supporting Actress 1990

Whoopi Goldberg Ghost

Winner: Whoopi Goldberg – Ghost

The Sure Thing: Lorraine Bracco – GoodFellas

“GoodFellas” got snubbed again in what everyone thought was a sealed deal, when comedic actress Whoopi Goldberg swoops in with her attempt to go legit with her supporting sightseer role in the romance drama “Ghost”.


6. Best Actor 1998


Winner: Roberto Benigni – Life is Beautiful

The Sure Thing: Tom Hanks: Saving Private Ryan

Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg seemed a winning combination for the Oscar’s. A foreign actor being nominated in the main acting category was such a rare instance that it was quite a stretch for a win, especially against a two-time winner.


5. Best Actor 1996

Geoffrey Rush Shine

Winner: Geoffrey Rush – Shine

The Sure Thing: Tom Cruise – Jerry Maguire

Tom Cruise was believed to deserve the honor, considering his dramatic awards roles don’t come by that often. And if it wasn’t Cruise, Ralph of “The English Patient” or Billy Bob for “Sling Blade” would have gladly taken it as well. Unfortunately a then unknown Geoffrey Rush snuck in with his nuanced and bittersweet performance of a genius piano player and indie role that everyone appreciated.


4. Best Picture 2000


Winner: Gladiator

The Sure Thing: Traffic

Soderberg made what some consider being the quintessential film on the modern war against drugs. When everyone thought this to be the lock. After Soderberg winning for best director it seemed even more so. Sand and sandals proved supreme in the end.


3. Best Supporting Actor 1996


Winner: Cuba Gooding Jr. – Jerry Maguire

The Sure Thing: William H. Macy – Fargo

William H. Macy seemed to be the sure choice with his incredible performance of a dim witted husband getting in over his head. But round the corner…CUBA for the touchdown! It turned into one of the most appreciative acceptance speeches in history.


2. Best Picture 1998


Winner: Shakespeare In Love

The Sure Thing: Saving Private Ryan

Now no one really thought this was ever going to happen. The Bard falling in love beating out Spielberg and Tom Hanks doing D-Day and WW2?! Never happen. After Spielberg took the best director, done deal. Well, this broke the long lineage of the best director winner as well as the best picture winner, in an applause mixed with “gasps” and “cheers”.


1. Best Picture 1990


Winner: Dances With Wolves

The Sure Thing: GoodFellas

Costner came out of the blue and beat Scorsese’s day in the sun. It will go down in history as one of the biggest upsets in the awards history among fans.

Author Bio: Michael James Edwards is a California native, he moved to NYC to work in audio before realizing his passion for cinema was too great to ignore. Now he’s living in Los Angeles working in film festival operations and writing about cinema here and on his own blog, forreelsreviews.blogspot.com.