When the Academy Award for Best Picture is announced, there's always an air of expectation. The same movies might compete across awards season, but a handful are ever really in contention for winner.
So, when Oscar night comes and everybody's waiting to hear the winner of Best Picture, we know it's going to be either Movie A or Movie B.
But what happens when it's Movie C, Movie D, or Movie E?
On numerous occasions, Hollywood has pulled a fast one and given the Best Picture award to a film that nobody expected to win. Sometimes, the pick is so far out of left field that we question how it was even nominated.
Here are some of the most infamous movies that won the Academy Award for Best Picture when they didn't really deserve to.
5. CODA (2021)
CODA snuck up on awards season in 2021, with the film being nowhere close to winning any major awards—beyond the acting categories, anyway—until the night of the Academy Awards.
The Power of the Dog had been sweeping up wins left and right, all the way up to Hollywood's final event of the awards season. And why wouldn't it? The Power of the Dog proved innovative in its handling of the Western genre, bringing it into the modern age with boldness.
But as Hollywood is want to do, they saw the virtues of Deaf representation in film and used CODA as its vehicle. The industry felt it was time to honor those whom had been marginalized for so long.
The problem? Deaf people themselves didn't wholly agree with the message of the film—that if you are a family of Deaf people plus one child who can hear, then you rely on that child to interact with the world.
All in all, it was a poor effort at representation that came from an angle that left a sour taste in the mouths of many members of Deaf culture. The fact that it won Best Picture only made it more hateful.
4. Crash (2004)
Even Jack Nicholson, who presented the 2006 award for Best Picture, looked utterly shocked when he opened that fateful envelope and learned that Crash had somehow won the award.
If you go back and rewatch that moment, you can see the surprise plain on his face—and he represented the entire industry in that moment as everyone watched the producers head on stage to accept their award.
In fact, director Paul Haggis himself later said that he wouldn't have voted for Crash as best film of the year because he saw the artistry in his competition that year, acknowledging that the other films on that card were all better for the award.
And we're talking Steven Spielberg's Munich, Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain, George Clooney's Goodnight and Good Luck, Bennet Miller's Capote—incredible films that deserve to be remembered.
It's not often that the creator of a film comes out and says the Academy made a mistake, making this a stunning moment of honesty and shame for those who made the decision.
3. Forrest Gump (1994)
First things first: Forrest Gump is far from a terrible film, and it certainly deserved many of its multiple award wins. By including it on this list, we're saying it didn't deserve to win Best Picture, and that's only because it was up against two of the greatest films of all time.
In 1995, the very year that Forrest Gump won its Academy Award for Best Picture, the other nominees included Robert Redford's Quiz Show, Frank Darabont's The Shawshank Redemption, Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, and Mike Newell's Four Weddings and a Funeral.
Now, putting aside Quiz Show and Four Weddings and a Funeral—no offense to those films—we still have The Shawshank Redemption and Pulp Fiction, which both remain as two of the most beautiful examples of filmmaking in the late 20th century.
No matter how much you love Forrest Gump, you have to admit that its win over the other two looks a bit askew by any measure. Was it a fantastic film? Absolutely. Better than Pulp and Shawshank? Most certainly not.
2. Green Book (2018)
Green Book's Best Picture win in 2018 most certainly had to do with its contemporary message, portrayed through the iconic journey of Dr. Don Shirley and his driver/bodyguard Tony Lip as they toured the racially divided Deep South during the 1960s.
And it's not like 2018 was a particularly strong year for cinema. Sure, it gave us plenty of memorable films that we loved, but few of them were films that might live on as legendary.
That said, it also wouldn't take much effort to conjure up some titles that were more deserving of the award. The likes of Black Panther, Roma, and perhaps even A Star Is Born were more convincing movies than Green Book, which itself had several flaws.
Yet, somehow, the award for Best Picture went to Green Book over Black Panther, the latter being a film that arguably had more history and representation in it than Green Book did.
In hindsight, Green Book is somewhat forgettable while Black Panther endures as one of Marvel's most astounding movies.
1. Shakespeare in Love (1998)
It was a funny year for the Academy. To this day, the Academy voters maintain that their pick was the right choice even as the wider film-loving community spits at the mere mention of Shakespeare in Love.
For starters, the film is riddled with historical inaccuracies and creative liberties. This portrayal of the Immortal Bard is seen as a joke by anyone who's familiar with his work, and Gwyneth Paltrow's performance remains the worst to be awarded an Oscar.
You could say that those are all subjective issues, which might be true. But the worst thing about Shakespeare in Love's win is that it came at the expense of Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line—two incredible films with much more substance, much more deserving of the award.
Today, Shakespeare in Love is a forgotten husk of a film, most remembered for its undeserved Oscar than anything in the movie itself. What a truly unfortunate year for those other Best Picture nominees.