10 Oscar winners that sparked controversy and backlash | Hollywood - Hindustan Times
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Will Smith to Marlon Brando: 10 Oscar winners that sparked controversy and backlash

ByAchu Krishnan
Jan 25, 2024 07:52 PM IST

Explore the contentious side of Oscar history with a deep dive into some of the Academy Award winners that triggered contoversy and sent shock waves.

While there might not be much consensus on the nominations and winners among Oscar enthusiasts, one thing they can agree on is the rarity of the occasion when an Academy Award winner garners universal approval. While there may be a couple of exceptions, the history of the Oscars abounds with winners that sparked shock, controversy, and backlash.

When Will Smith hit presenter Chris Rock on stage at the Oscars.(AP)
When Will Smith hit presenter Chris Rock on stage at the Oscars.(AP)

So let's take a closer look at 10 of the most provocative and contentious Academy Award victories in history.

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(Also Read: Netflix unveils new trailer for Avatar: The Last Airbender live-action adaptation | Watch)

Will Smith Winning Best Actor

Will Smith's win as best actor for King Richard was intended to be uneventful. However, an unexpected controversy arose with the infamous slap incident. On the Oscars stage, Smith struck Chris Rock across the face while the latter was presenting the Best Documentary category.

Actor Will Smith(AP)
Actor Will Smith(AP)

Shakespeare in Love Wins Best Picture

One of the most contentious upsets in Academy Awards history occurred in 1999 when John Madden's Shakespeare in Love triumphed over Steven Spielberg's war epic Saving Private Ryan for the coveted Best Picture category at the Oscars.

Marisa Tomei Wins Best Supporting Actress

During the 1993 Oscars, Marisa Tomei's unexpected win for Best Supporting Actress took many Oscar pundits by surprise. The aftermath of her shocking victory saw rumours circulating, suggesting that her name was called by mistake, and she didn't actually win the award.

Roman Polanski Wins Best Director

At the 75th Academy Awards, Roman Polanski received the Best Director award for The Pianist. However, the filmmaker was notably absent, having fled the United States decades ago.

In 1977, Polanski was found guilty of engaging in sexual intercourse with a minor, resulting in a 42-day prison term. The award ceremony reignited discussions about Polanski's controversial past and his acknowledgment within the film industry.

Director Roman Polanski(IMDb)
Director Roman Polanski(IMDb)

Marlon Brando Declines Best Actor Award

A highly controversial Oscar moment unfolded at the 45th Academy Awards when Marlon Brando was announced as the best actor winner for his role in The Godfather.

However, Brando chose to decline the award and instead enlisted Apache actress and activist Sacheen Littlefeather to deliver a speech denouncing the mistreatment of Native Americans in the film industry on his behalf.

Kevin Costner Wins Best Director

Kevin Costner's western drama Dances With Wolves asserted its dominance at the 63rd Academy Awards, securing victories for Best Picture and Best Director from a total of 12 nominations. The controversy surrounding Costner's wins in these top categories was amplified by the presence of Martin Scorsese's acclaimed gangster masterpiece, Goodfellas, as another nominee.

George C. Scott Declines Best Actor

At the 43rd Academy Awards, George C. Scott made history by becoming the first actor to decline his Academy Award for Best Actor, an accolade he received for his role in Patton. Scott characterized the Oscars as a staged spectacle.

Actor George C. Scott(IMDb)
Actor George C. Scott(IMDb)

The English Patient Wins Best Picture

Anthony Minghella's romantic epic, The English Patient, emerged as the major victor at the 69th Academy Awards, clinching top honours for Best Picture and Best Director. However, several Oscar analysts believed that the Academy played it safe by choosing The English Patient over the Coen Brothers' Fargo.

Bohemian Rhapsody Wins Best Editing

The triumph triggered significant backlash from both moviegoers and film critics who considered the Queen biopic to be one of the poorly edited films of the year. A viral video essay, released post-Oscars, meticulously outlined the sloppy editing in Bohemian Rhapsody and garnered over 3 million views.

(Also Read: Martin Scorsese makes history with tenth Oscar nomination for Killers of the Flower Moon, surpassing Steven Spielberg )

Green Book Wins Best Picture

Crash had long been regarded as the least favoured Best Picture winner of the 21st century until Peter Farrelly's Green Book secured the top prize at the 91st Academy Awards. Its victory over the acclaimed drama, Roma, which had won several awards raised eyebrows. Alleged opposition among Academy members towards awarding the top Oscar to a Netflix movie reportedly influenced the outcome of the Best Picture race.

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