5 Oscar Wins That Are Equally Controversial as Will Smith’s Oscar Win After the Chris Rock Slap

Looking back at the Oscars over the years, there were many moments that challenged Will Smith’s infamous slap in 2022.

It’s that time of the year again when the coveted golden statuette will be handed out to the best films and performances in Hollywood. The Oscars 2024 will take place on March 10th and as always, a bunch of brilliant films and talented stars are vying for top honors. While the Academy Awards have given audiences many memorable moments over the years, they have been equally known for various controversial incidents.

Will SmithWill Smith slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars 2022
The most recent event in memory happened in 2022 when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock for his comments on Jada Pinkett Smith’s appearance. The actor’s first Oscar win for King Richard following this incident, was sadly overshadowed. Looking back, there have been many other occasions at the Oscars that have sparked controversy.

Here Are 5 Controversial Oscar Wins That Challenged Will Smith’s Slap

1. Marlon Brando Refused The Best Actor Award For The Godfather

Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather was an iconic film not just for the director’s genius, but also for Marlon Brando’s masterful performance as Vito Corleone. Expectedly, it was a no-brainer that the star would dominate the awards including winning the Best Actor Oscar hands down. But what happened at the 45th Academy Awards in 1973 was nothing short of astounding.

Marlon Brando
A scene from The Godfather
As his name was called out as the winner, Brando did not appear on stage but sent Native American actress and activist Sacheen Littlefeather who made a surprising announcement on behalf of the actor. In her statement (via Variety), she said,

“I’m representing Marlon Brando this evening, and he has asked me to tell you in a very long speech which I cannot share with you presently, because of time, but I will be glad to share with the press afterwards, that he very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award.”
Brando who was a supporter of the American Indian Movement (AIM), was concerned about the ill-treatment of Native Americans in Hollywood which prompted him to take this stance at the Oscars. Interestingly, the celebrity received mixed reactions for his decision from his peers.

2. Crash Trumped Brokeback Mountain For Best Picture

In 2006, Ang Lee’s emotional and powerful gay drama Brokeback Mountain was viewed by audiences and critics as one of the best films of the year. Apart from involved performances from Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, Lee’s skilful direction added even more nuance and heft to the narrative.

Naturally, the film was up for all the important awards during the season and dominated the categories at the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs after its critical Golden Lion recognition at the Venice Film Festival.

Brokeback Mountain
Brokeback Mountain lost out to Crash for Best Picture in the Oscars
At this time, Paul Haggis’ Crash featuring a huge cast of actors, started getting recognized and even won the Best Ensemble Cast at the SAG Awards. But the film had polarizing views from fans and critics who believed that its nomination under the Best Film category at the Oscars was undeserved.

To everyone’s shock, Crash trumped Brokeback Mountain that year thereby  sparking a huge controversy and earning the dubious distinction of being named the worst Best Picture winner.

3. Life Of Pi’s Controversial Best Cinematography Win

Ironically, while Ang Lee got tons of empathy for Brokeback Mountain missing out on Best Picture at the Oscars, his other marquee film Life of Pi was at the receiving end of criticism. While Lee finally got his Best Director award with this movie, cinematographer Claudio Miranda’s win was highly debated by audiences.

While Life of Pi had astounding visual effects and graphics that made up majority of the film, many fans questioned the cinematographer’s job in bringing these images to life.

Life of Pi
Ang Lee’s Life Of Pi was criticized for winning Best Cinematography at the Oscars.
In addition, veteran cinematographer Christopher Doyle did not mince any words when he said that this was a completely undeserved award. In an interview with Blouain News (via Screen Crush), the technician was livid and said,
What a total f*****g piece of s**t. Let me be blunt….What the f**k are you talking about cinematography? I think it’s a f*****g insult to cinematography…That’s not cinematography…You’ve lost cinema.”
Despite this debatable win, Life Of Pi was still considered as another one of Ang Lee’s best works which combined technical artistry and storytelling in a seamless manner.

4. Rami Malek Beat Fan Favorite Bradley Cooper

Over the last few years, Bradley Cooper has cemented his place in Hollywood not just as an actor of repute, but also as an imaginative director. In 2018, the Marvel alum wrote, produced, directed, and acted in A Star Is Born, in which he played an alcoholic musician who discovers and falls in love with a talented young singer played by Lady Gaga.

The film and Cooper’s performance absolutely stunned audiences and critics who tipped him to take top acting honors at the 2019 Oscars. His biggest competitor was Rami Malek who also gave an electrifying performance playing the iconic Freddy Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody and ultimately ended up winning the golden statuette.
Bradley Cooper has been extremely unlucky at the Oscars so far
With Cooper also missing out on the Best Director honor to Alfonso Cuaron for Roma, fans believed that the actor had been dealt an unfair hand at the awards. While viewers felt that Malek’s impersonation of the rock icon was spot on, Cooper’s creation of an unforgettable original character was seen as far more challenging and deserving.

5. David Fincher Missed Out For The Social Network

In many ways, David Fincher’s The Social Network was considered the perfect film and one of the best movies of the 21st century. This riveting biopic based on the invention of Facebook (now Meta) and its founding genius Mark Zuckerberg, was masterfully helmed by Fincher in what is considered his best work till date.

Tipped as an overwhelming Oscar favorite, The Social Network lost out to Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech, a beautiful historical biopic with a brilliantly vulnerable performance by Colin Firth as King George VI.

The Social NetworkDavid Fincher lost out on Best Director at the Oscars for The Social Network despite being the favorite
But most viewers who praised the British film also felt that it did not deserve to surpass The Social Network for Best Picture. More significantly, Fincher losing out the Best Director Oscar to Hooper was seen as a much bigger faux pas by the Academy.

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