Academy Awards: Movies you probably didn’t know won Oscars

Each year, the Academy Awards come around and the best films of the year go head-to-head. In 2023’s Oscar nominations, blockbusters Top Gun: Maverick, The BatmanAvatar: The Way of Water and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever have multiple noms that may see them join the list of Oscar-winning cinematic masterworks such as Casablanca, Schindler’s List and Suicide Squad.

Hang on, infamous DC disaster Suicide Squad won an Oscar? Yes, though some films are considered obvious Oscar contenders, other winners are more surprising. To celebrate, we’ve compiled a list of films that, for one reason or another, you might not have expected to garner Academy consideration.

Also on the list is a company you probably wouldn’t have known had anything to do with Hollywood: a little outfit called Research In Motion. Yes, you read that right — the Canadian company that used to make BlackBerry phones was handed an Academy Award. Click through the pictures to find out why RIM won.

The Academy leans toward certain films for the big awards, like prestigious dramas tackling worthy subjects or real-life stories. But when that’s the benchmark for cinematic achievement, it can be hard for genre movies, such as sci-fi, comedy and especially horror, to get their due. So this is our tribute to films away from the magnum opuses often considered for best picture or best director. 

Yes, genre movies often deserve recognition for technical breakthroughs like jaw-dropping makeup, eye-popping visual effects or impressive sound editing. They’re a reminder of the skill that goes into even the corniest of popcorn blockbusters and of the sheer imagination found in the unexpected places.

Many of the films on this list are absolute crackers in their own right. To be clear, I’m not suggesting they don’t deserve Oscars. It’s just that Robocop includes a guy melted by toxic waste and then messily splatted across the windshield a speeding car. Hardly the sort of thing you’d expect the oh-so-worthy Academy to appreciate. But win it did — and that’s awesome.

Sometimes, however, an Oscar is a genuine surprise. Some of the movies on this list are just out-and-out, unredeemable stinkers. Hello, Pearl Harbor.

Still, it’s good to know that every now and again the grand poohbahs recognize good, old-fashioned movie magic when they see it — even when it’s a diesel-streaked genre flick like Mad Max: Fury Road, a sci-fi sequel like Blade Runner 2049 or comic book adaptation like Black Panther.

In fairness, the Academy does occasionally consider films that fall into the “popular” category. Comic book movies Joker and Black Panther were major contenders, while in 2018, pulpy sci-fi story The Shape of Water won Best Picture, and Get Out scored a rare win for the horror genre.  

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