The Biggest Oscar Snubs and Surprises

Oscar Nominations Reactions Sylvester Stallone
Courtesy of Warner Bros.

For one of the most unpredictable Oscar seasons in memory, there actually ended up being very few surprises overall. As expected, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brie Larson and Alicia Vikander took home acting awards, while DGA winner Alejandro G. Innaritu repeated his best director win.

SURPRISE: “Spotlight,” Best Picture
While not a total shock thanks to its SAG Ensemble win and a slew of critics’ prizes, it was a close race. “The Big Short” took PGA, and this marks the first time since 2006 that the PGA winner didn’t take best picture. “The Revenant” was also coming on strong in the end with DGA and BAFTA wins. But in the end, it was the tale of the journalists who broke the Catholic Church cover-up story that took home the evening’s top prize.

SURPRISE: Mark Rylance, Best Supporting Actor, “Bridge of Spies”
Not unlike his character in “Bridge of Spies,” Rylance was a quiet but powerful force during awards season, racking up SAG, Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations. And while he won the latter, that’s hardly a surprise – he’s practically a god in his native England.


Oscars Academy Awards Placeholder

Oscar Winners 2016: Complete List

SNUB: Sylvester Stallone, Best Supporting Actor, “Creed”

When the SAG Award went to Idris Elba, who wasn’t nominated for an Oscar, many took it as a good sign for Globe winner Sylvester Stallone, who definitely had the nostalgia factor on his side. But in the end it was Rylance who triumphed, making him only the second actor (after Daniel Day-Lewis) to win an acting award for a Steven Spielberg film. Many thought it might finally be Stallone’s time, after he lost in 1976 for “Rocky.”

SNUB: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” Editing, Score, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Visual Effects

It’s only the highest-grossing film of 2015 and the third highest-grossing film in history, but “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was shut out in each of the five categories in which it was nominated. But the Academy has a long history of failing to honor the most successful films.

SURPRISE: “Mad Max: Fury Road” Below-the-Line Sweep
While favored to win in some categories, the futuristic action flick ended up collecting the majority of below-the-line prizes. Margaret Sixel won for editing, an award that often goes to the best picture winner. The film also won makeup/hairstyling, sound editing and sound mixing awards, as expected. But more surprising was costume designer Jenny Beavan’s triumph in over dual nominee Sandy Powell and the production design win for Colin Gibson and Lisa Thompson, as many expected the Academy to go with a more traditional period piece like “The Danish Girl” or “Bridge of Spies.”

SNUB: Roger Deakins, Best Cinematography, “Sicario”
It was an impressive year in the cinematography field; all five nominees are icons. And while Emmanuel Lubezki certainly deserved his third consecutive Oscar for his stunning work on “The Revenant,” it meant that Deakins went home empty-handed for the thirteenth time. But there’s no doubt he’ll be back in the race again soon.

SURPRISE: “Ex Machina” for Best Visual Effects
Up against such high-budget powerhouses as “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “The Revenant,” “The Martian” and “Mad Max: Fury Road,” it was A24’s indie sci-fi pic that took home the prize. A huge achievement, considering its $15 million budget is probably what those other films spent on craft services.


‘Spotlight’ Wins Best Picture in Politically Charged Oscar Ceremony

SURPRISE: “Writing’s on the Wall” for Best Song/SNUB: Lady Gaga and Diane Warren, “Til It Happens to You”
The widely reviled song from James Bond film “Spectre” (one person backstage commented that “it wasn’t even the best song released that week”) pulled an upset. Among others, it beat out “Til It Happens to You” by Lady Gaga and eight-time nominee Diane Warren.

SNUB: “Carol,” “The Martian” and “Brooklyn”
They were three of the most heralded films of the year, with 17 nominations between them, yet all ended up going home empty-handed at the end of the night.

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  1. Tell It says:

    I thought Spotlight was pretty good, but it was also rather pedestrian, sort of a paint-by-numbers movie. I found “The Martian” and “The Big Short” to be by far the most entertaining and enjoyable of the nominees, and really believe The Martian should have won Best Picture. Ten years from now, I think it will be one of those movies about which fans will ask, “Why didn’t THIS movie win the Oscar?”

  2. Jennifer says:

    The fact that the documentary ‘Amy’ was awarded an Oscar shows that the voters didn’t watch the other nominees. ‘Cartel Land’, ‘Winter on Fire’ and ‘The Look of Silence’ captured nearly impossible footage with impeccable storytelling. ‘Amy’ doesn’t even belong in the same category as the other nominees.

    • I’d also throw in the short film “Stutter;” while sweet and well constructed, was not much more than an A+ student film that could not compare with the visceral punch of “Shok” that was based on a true event of two boys and a bicycle during the Kosovo conflict and how it affected their very lives.

  3. Jesse says:


    Repeat after me: Financial success does not equal artistic success.

    I’m not sure why you’d think that Star Wars would win because it made a lot of money. There are no categories called “Highest Grossing Film.” Does the money made somehow improve how well a job those folks did? Should Mad Max have lost because it didn’t make as much money?

    The Academy isn’t there to award the biggest money makers. Otherwise there would be a heck of a lot more superhero films nominated.

  4. Where was Debbie Reynolds? Gena Rowlands was in the audience. I half expected Reynolds to come out and give the best picture award.

  5. Mike says:

    A nomination is by definition not a snub. Idris Elba was a true snub.

  6. CC says:

    Mark Rylance is “like a God” in England? He is a well respected actor in England. His status is no more than Daniel Day-Lewis, or Fassbinder, or Oldman.
    You forgot that we have the internet. We know what goes on in other countries. Rylance’s “God-like” status is you running wild with Hyperbole.

    • Mia says:

      True.He`s well respected but no `God` and not very well known as an actor outside of theater circles, even in England .

      • cadavra says:

        I’ve seen him on Broadway five times, twice in Tony-winning performances, so he’s not famed just in England.

  7. Geri313 says:

    Sylvester Stallone’s not winning was more of an indication that the voters came to their senses. He may be quite popular, but the idea of giving Stallone an award for acting has been laughable all award season. He’s simply not a very good actor. I fully understood and supported his inclusion included in the Best Actor category in 1976. But we’ve all had nearly 40 years to be witness to his lack of range. And Stallone’s inclusion in this category, especially at the exclusion of Idris Elba was a slap in the face of all good actors. Elba, regardless of his race, was simply robbed of a nomination this year.

    • William says:

      Regardless of what you may think of Sly’s acting chops he was nominated for a role he absolutely knocked out of the park. He wasn’t nominated for his past work, he was nominated for this part (even if he played the same character before, he’s never played him like this). So no its not a slap in the face. I agree that Mr. Elba should have been there, he was spectacular as well and probably deserved to win it, but that is more the Netflix factor more then anything.

    • That’s the price Elba and everyone on Beasts of No Nation paid when they got in bed with Netflix.

  8. Noncentz says:

    The “futuristic” Star Wars actually takes place a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

    I was most surprised by Sly’s not winning, since it seemed like a career award, but I thought Ryance was superb. Ex Machina’s VFX award was als a surprise, though I thought it was quite deserved.

  9. How does this writer know the Best Picture voting was close?

  10. PICturePlay says:

    Innaritu and Leo are overrated. George Miller and Fassbender deserved more than them

  11. cadavra says:

    Stallone burned a lot of bridges in his early days, and people have long memories. Like Lauren Bacall 20 years ago, such folks might get a nomination, but not the win.

    • cadavra says:

      The only time in his career Kirk Douglas quit a movie was FIRST BLOOD: “I’m too old to put up with this shit.” Also, Stallone fired directors and took over so many times that the DGA finally passed a rule forbidding a film’s star from replacing the director. Remember that everyone votes in the finals, not just actors, so like Lauren Bacall, he managed a sentimental nomination but was denied the win.

    • Bill says:

      He’s pissed off a lot of people throughout his career, as his lack of a SAG nomination indicated. I, like nearly everyone, predicted he would win, but I thought this was a possibility and I am glad it happened. To going from one of the most ridiculed actors in modern history to winning an Oscar seemed like an awfully big jump. Maybe he’ll get another chance with The Expendables 5 or whatever # we are up to.

    • ps says:

      How exactly has Stallone burned a bridge? Either way, shame on them for not giving him an Oscar.

  12. BIlly Bob says:

    A shame the little boy in room was not nominated. What a performance!

  13. Don Schwartz says:

    Regarding Oscar Snubs and Surprises: The most egregious snub is James Vanderbilt’s “Truth”. Cate Blanchett clearly deserved a Best Actress nomination for her performance in that film.

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