An Alternative Oscar History: 1990-Present

***Updated to the present

Whether or not you agree with the considerable power that the Oscars have in the world of film, there is no question that it does. When a movie wins Best Picture, it almost always adds millions to its box office gross. Actors who win their categories are granted instant access to better projects (have you noticed trailers love to tout “Oscar winner” so and so?). I have been tracking the awards closely for quite some time as you may have noticed from my 2013 Oscar predictions… round 4 coming soon!

So – this post focuses on an alternative Oscar history. If the pictures and directors and actors and actresses and supporting actors and supporting actresses in their respective categories hadn’t won that year, who would have? This speculation is based on what was happening during those years prediction wise and who I believe was the likely runner-up. In some cases, the winners truly were surprising over a more obvious candidate. Marisa Tomei was not expected to be awarded Supporting Actress in 1992 for My Cousin Vinny. Neither was Anna Paquin a year later for The Piano. Many were surprised when Crash won Best Picture in 2005.

Of course, there’s also times when the winner seems preordained and nobody really thinks anything or anyone else has a shot. Schindler’s List in 1993 comes to mind. Or Daniel Day-Lewis for Best Actor in Lincoln last year.

We’ll cover the years 1990-2012 and I hope you’ll find it interesting to see what might have been. For each year in the six major categories, I’ll list the “alternate” winner with the real recipient in parentheses.


Picture: GoodFellas (Dances with Wolves)

Director: Martin Scorsese, GoodFellas (Kevin Costner, Dances with Wolves)

Actor: Robert De Niro, Awakenings (Jeremy Irons, Reversal of Fortune)

Actress: Anjelica Huston, The Grifters (Kathy Bates, Misery)

Supporting Actor: Bruce Davison, Longtime Companion (Joe Pesci, GoodFellas)

Supporting Actress: Annette Bening, The Grifters (Whoopi Goldberg, Ghost)


Picture: Bugsy (The Silence of the Lambs)

Director: Barry Levinson, Bugsy (Jonathan Demme, The Silence of the Lambs)

Actor: Nick Nolte, The Prince of Tides (Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs)

Actress: Susan Sarandon, Thelma&Louise (Jodie Foster, The Silence of the Lambs)

Supporting Actor: Harvey Keitel, Bugsy (Jack Palance, City Slickers)

Supporting Actress: Kate Nelligan, The Prince of Tides (Mercedes Ruehl, The Fisher King)


Picture: Howards End (Unforgiven)

Director: James Ivory, Howards End (Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven)

Actor: Denzel Washington, Malcolm X (Al Pacino, Scent of a Woman)

Actress: Susan Sarandon, Lorenzo’s Oil (Emma Thompson, Howards End)

Supporting Actor: Jaye Davidson, The Crying Game (Gene Hackman, Unforgiven)

Supporting Actress: Judy Davis, Husbands and Wives (Maria Tomei, My Cousin Vinny)


Picture: The Piano (Schindler’s List)

Director: Jane Campion, The Piano (Steven Spielberg, Schindler’s List)

Actor: Anthony Hopkins, The Remains of the Day (Tom Hanks, Philadelphia)

Actress: Emma Thompson, The Remains of the Day (Holly Hunter, The Piano)

Supporting Actor: Ralph Fiennes, Schindler’s List (Tommy Lee Jones, The Fugitive)

Supporting Actress: Winona Ryder, The Age of Innocence (Anna Paquin, The Piano)


Picture: Pulp Fiction (Forrest Gump)

Director: Quentin Tarantino, Pulp Fiction (Robert Zemeckis, Forrest Gump)

Actor: Paul Newman, Nobody’s Fool (Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump)

Actress: Jodie Foster, Nell (Jessica Lange, Blue Sky)

Supporting Actor: Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction (Martin Landau, Ed Wood)

Supporting Actress: Rosemary Harris, Tom&Viv (Dianne Wiest, Bullets Over Broadway)


Picture: Sense and Sensibility (Braveheart)

Director: Michael Radford, Il Postino (Mel Gibson, Braveheart)

Actor: Sean Penn, Dead Man Walking (Nicolas Cage, Leaving Las Vegas)

Actress: Elisabeth Shue, Leaving Las Vegas (Susan Sarandon, Dead Man Walking)

Supporting Actor: Ed Harris, Apollo 13 (Kevin Spacey, The Usual Suspects)

Supporting Actress: Joan Allen, Nixon (Mira Sorvino, Mighty Aphrodite)


Picture: Fargo (The English Patient)

Director: Joel Coen, Fargo (Anthony Minghella, The English Patient)

Actor: Tom Cruise, Jerry Maguire (Geoffrey Rush, Shine)

Actress: Brenda Blethyn, Secrets and Lies (Frances McDormand, Fargo)

Supporting Actor: Edward Norton, Primal Fear (Cuba Gooding Jr., Jerry Maguire)

Supporting Actress: Lauren Bacall, The Mirror Has Two Faces (Juliette Binoche, The English Patient)


Picture: L.A. Confidential (Titanic)

Director: Curtis Hanson, L.A. Confidential (James Cameron, Titanic)

Actor: Robert Duvall, The Apostle (Jack Nicholson, As Good As It Gets)

Actress: Julie Christie, Afterglow (Helen Hunt, As Good As It Gets)

Supporting Actor: Burt Reynolds, Boogie Nights (Robin Williams, Good Will Hunting)

Supporting Actress: Joan Cusack, In&Out (Kim Basinger, L.A. Confidential)


Picture: Saving Private Ryan (Shakespeare in Love)

Director: John Madden, Shakespeare in Love (Steven Spielberg, Saving Private Ryan)

Actor: Ian McKellen, Gods and Monsters (Roberto Benigni, Life is Beautiful)

Actress: Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth (Gwyneth Paltrow, Shakespeare in Love)

Supporting Actor: Ed Harris, The Truman Show (James Coburn, Affliction)

Supporting Actress: Lynn Redgrave, Gods and Monsters (Judi Dench, Shakespeare in Love)


Picture: The Insider (American Beauty)

Director: Michael Mann, The Insider (Sam Mendes, American Beauty)

Actor: Denzel Washington, The Hurricane (Kevin Spacey, American Beauty)

Actress: Annette Bening, American Beauty (Hilary Swank, Boys Don’t Cry)

Supporting Actor: Tom Cruise, Magnolia (Michael Caine, The Cider House Rules)

Supporting Actress: Chloe Sevigny, Boys Don’t Cry (Angelina Jolie, Girl, Interrupted)


Picture: Traffic (Gladiator)

Director: Ridley Scott, Gladiator (Steven Soderbergh, Traffic)

Actor: Tom Hanks, Cast Away (Russell Crowe, Gladiator)

Actress: Ellen Burstyn, Requiem for a Dream (Julia Roberts, Erin Brockovich)

Supporting Actor: Willem Dafoe, Shadow of the Vampire (Benicio del Toro, Traffic)

Supporting Actress: Kate Hudson, Almost Famous (Marcia Gay Harden, Pollock)


Picture: Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (A Beautiful Mind)

Director: Peter Jackson, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Ron Howard, A Beautiful Mind)

Actor: Russell Crowe, A Beautiful Mind (Denzel Washington, Training Day)

Actress: Sissy Spacek, In the Bedroom (Halle Berry, Monster’s Ball)

Supporting Actor: Ben Kingsley, Sexy Beast (Jim Broadbent, Moulin Rouge)

Supporting Actress: Helen Mirren, Gosford Park (Jennifer Connelly, A Beautiful Mind)


Picture: The Pianist (Chicago)

Director: Martin Scorsese, Gangs of New York (Roman Polanski, The Pianist)

Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Gangs of New York (Adrien Brody, The Pianist)

Actress: Julianne Moore, Far From Heaven (Nicole Kidman, The Hours)

Supporting Actor: Christopher Walken, Catch Me If You Can (Chris Cooper, Adaptation)

Supporting Actress: Meryl Streep, Adaptation (Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chicago)


Picture: Mystic River (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King)

Director: Clint Eastwood, Mystic River (Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King)

Actor: Bill Murray, Lost in Translation (Sean Penn, Mystic River)

Actress: Diane Keaton, Something’s Gotta Give (Charlize Theron, Monster)

Supporting Actor: Alec Baldwin, The Cooler (Tim Robbins, Mystic River)

Supporting Actress: Holly Hunter, Thirteen (Renee Zellwegger, Cold Mountain)


Picture: The Aviator (Million Dollar Baby)

Director: Martin Scorsese, The Aviator (Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby)

Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Aviator (Jamie Foxx, Ray)

Actress: Annette Bening, Being Julia (Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby)

Supporting Actor: Thomas Haden Church, Sideways (Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby)

Supporting Actress: Natalie Portman, Closer (Cate Blanchett, The Aviator)


Picture: Brokeback Mountain (Crash)

Director: Paul Haggis, Crash (Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain)

Actor: Joaquin Phoenix, Walk the Line (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote)

Actress: Felicity Huffman, Transamerica (Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line)

Supporting Actor: Paul Giamatti, Cinderella Man (George Clooney, Syriana)

Supporting Actress:  Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain (Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardner)


Picture: Babel (The Departed)

Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Babel (Martin Scorsese, The Departed)

Actor: Peter O’Toole, Venus (Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland)

Actress: Kate Winslet, Little Children (Helen Mirren, The Queen)

Supporting Actor: Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls (Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine)

Supporting Actress: Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine (Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls)


Picture: There Will Be Blood (No Country for Old Men)

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood (Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men)

Actor: George Clooney, Michael Clayton (Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood)

Actress: Julie Christie, Away from Her (Marion Cotillard, La Vie En Rose)

Supporting Actor: Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild (Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men)

Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett, I’m Not There (Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton)


Picture: The Reader (Slumdog Millionaire)

Director: David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire)

Actor: Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler (Sean Penn, Milk)

Actress: Meryl Streep, Doubt (Kate Winslet, The Reader)

Supporting Actor: Josh Brolin, Milk (Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight)

Supporting Actress: Viola Davis, Doubt (Penelope Cruz, Vicky Christina Barcelona)


Picture: Avatar (The Hurt Locker)

Director: James Cameron, Avatar (Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker)

Actor: George Clooney, Up in the Air (Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart)

Actress: Gabourey Sidibe, Precious (Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side)

Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, The Last Station (Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds)

Supporting Actress: Maggie Gyllenhall, Crazy Heart (Mo’Nique, Precious)


Picture: The Social Network (The King’s Speech)

Director: David Fincher, The Social Network (Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech)

Actor: James Franco, 127 Hours (Colin Firth, The King’s Speech)

Actress: Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right (Natalie Portman, Black Swan)

Supporting Actor: Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech (Christian Bale, The Fighter)

Supporting Actress: Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit (Melissa Leo, The Fighter)


Picture: The Descendants (The Artist)

Director: Martin Scorsese, Hugo (Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist)

Actor: George Clooney, The Descendants (Jean Dujardin, The Artist)

Actress: Viola Davis, The Help (Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady)

Supporting Actor: Nick Nolte, Warrior (Christopher Plummer, Beginners)

Supporting Actress: Berenice Bejo, The Artist (Octavia Spencer, The Help)


Picture: Life of Pi (Argo)

Director: Steven Spielberg, Lincoln (Ang Lee, Life of Pi)

Actor: Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables (Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln)

Actress: Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty (Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook)

Supporting Actor: Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln (Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained)

Supporting Actress: Sally Field, Lincoln (Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables)


Picture: American Hustle (12 Years a Slave)

Director: David O. Russell, American Hustle (Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity)

Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street (Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club)

Actress: Sandra Bullock, Gravity (Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine)

Supporting Actor: Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave (Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club)

Supporting Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle (Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave)


Picture: Boyhood (Birdman)

Director: Richard Linklater, Boyhood (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Birdman)

Actor: Michael Keaton, Birdman (Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything)

Actress: Reese Witherspoon, Wild (Julianne Moore, Still Alice)

Supporting Actor: Edward Norton, Birdman (J.K. Simmons, Whiplash)

Supporting Actress: Emma Stone, Birdman (Patricia Arquette, Boyhood)


Picture: The Revenant (Spotlight)

Director: George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, The Revenant)

Actor: Bryan Cranston, Trumbo (Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant)

Actress: Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn (Brie Larson, Room)

Supporting Actor: Sylvester Stallone, Creed (Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies)

Supporting Actress: Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs (Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl)


Picture: La La Land (Moonlight)

Director: Barry Jenkins, Moonlight (Damien Chazelle, La La Land)

Actor: Denzel Washington, Fences (Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea)

Actress: Isabelle Huppert, Elle (Emma Stone, La La Land)

Supporting Actor: Dev Patel, Lion (Mahershala Ali, Moonlight)

Supporting Actress: Naomie Harris, Moonlight (Viola Davis, Fences)


Picture: Three Billboards Outside, Ebbing Missouri (The Shape of Water)

Director: Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk (Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water)

Actor: Timothee Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name (Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour)

Actress: Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water (Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Supporting Actor: Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project (Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Supporting Actress: Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird (Allison Janney, I, Tonya)


Picture: Roma (Green Book)

Director: Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman (Alfonso Cuaron, Roma)

Actor: Christian Bale, Vice (Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody)

Actress: Glenn Close, The Wife (Olivia Colman, The Favourite)

Supporting Actor: Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Mahershala Ali, Green Book)

Supporting Actress: Rachel Weisz, The Favourite (Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk)


Picture: 1917 (Parasite)

Director: Sam Mendes, 1917 (Bong Joon-Ho, Parasite)

Actor: Adam Driver, Marriage Story (Joaquin Phoenix, Joker)

Actress: Charlize Theron, Bombshell (Renee Zellweger, Judy)

Supporting Actor: Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)

Supporting Actress: Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit (Laura Dern, Marriage Story)


Picture: The Father (Nomadland)

Director: David Fincher, Mank (Chloe Zhao, Nomadland)

Actor: Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Anthony Hopkins, The Father)

Actress: Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Frances McDormand, Nomadland)

Supporting Actor: Paul Raci, Sound of Metal (Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah)

Supporting Actress: Olivia Colman, The Father (Yuh-jung Youn, Minari)


Picture: The Power of the Dog (CODA)

Director: Steven Spielberg, West Side Story (Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog)

Actor: Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog (Will Smith, King Richard)

Actress: Kristen Stewart, Spencer (Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye)

Supporting Actor: Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Power of the Dog (Troy Kotsur, CODA)

Supporting Actress: Kirsten Dunst, The Power of the Dog (Ariana DeBose, West Side Story)


Picture: All Quiet on the Western Front (Everything Everywhere All at Once)

Director: Steven Spielberg, The Fabelmans (Daniels, Everything Everywhere All at Once)

Actor: Austin Butler, Elvis (Brendan Fraser, The Whale)

Actress: Cate Blanchett, Tár (Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All at Once)

Supporting Actor: Barry Keoghan, The Banshees of Inisherin (Ke Huy Quan, Everything Everywhere All at Once)

Supporting Actress: Angela Bassett, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Jamie Lee Curtis, Everything Everywhere All at Once)

And there you have it! My Alternative Oscar History since 1990!

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