40 films (and a tech company) you didn’t know won Oscars – CNET


1 of 44 Sony

And the Oscar goes to…

When you think Oscars, you think heavyweight best picture fare like Casablanca, Schindler’s List and 12 Years a Slave, with tearful actors accepting golden statuettes for their dramatic performances.

You probably don’t think Spider-Man.

But in the 2022 Oscars, flicks like Spider-Man: No Way Home, Cruella, Free Guy, Shang-Chi and No Time to Die are proudly nominated alongside the prestigious dramas. Genre movies may not pick up the big awards but they’re usually at the cutting edge of technical crafts like makeup, special effects and sound. So let’s look back through the history of the Acadamy Awards and salute the films you might not expect to have won an Oscar.


2 of 44 Universal

Back to the Future

The timey-wimey Back to the Future trilogy was nominated for five Academy Awards altogether, winning best sound editing for the first movie.


3 of 44 Ullstein Bild via Getty Images


Pop quiz, hotshot: Big dumb action movies rarely get a look-in at the Oscars. But which Keanu Reeves movie sped its way to awards for sound mixing and sound editing? Speed, of course, in 1995. Speaking of Keanu, The Matrix also won four Oscars for its jaw-dropping sound and visual effects.


4 of 44 Sunset Boulevard/Corbis/Getty Images

Harry & The Hendersons

Not only did Harry & The Hendersons inspire a TV show, its hairy sasquatch protagonist earned makeup maestro Rick Baker one of his seven Academy Awards.


5 of 44 FilmMagic/Bill Davila

Spider-Man 2

Tobey Maguire’s second outing as your friendly neighbourhood wall-crawler saw him do battle with Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man 2. With great power came great responsibility — and a best visual effects award (which brings us full circle to 2021’s No Way Home, also nominated in the same category).


6 of 44 Marvel

Black Panther

Black Panther made waves when it was nominated for best picture, a rarity for a Marvel comic book movie. Although it was snubbed in the big categories, it did take home Oscars for costume, music and production design.


7 of 44 Touchstone Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis/Getty Images

Dick Tracy

Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy is basically remembered as the big budget turn-of-the-’90s comic book movie that isn’t Batman. This isn’t entirely fair. It’s more fun than you remember and wasn’t as much of a financial bomb as you think. But at least the Academy gave this colorful romp its due: With awards for art direction, makeup and best original song, it’s tied with Black Panther as the comic book film with the most Oscars, beating even The Dark Knight.


8 of 44 Warner Bros


Tim Burton’s stylish and gothic 1989 Batman took home an Oscar. Anton Furst and Peter Young won for best art direction.


9 of 44 Eon


James Bond has undergone something of a renaissance under the stewardship of director Sam Mendes. Both his 007 films, Skyfall and Spectre, took home Oscars for best song, crooned by Adele and Sam Smith, while Skyfall also won for best sound mixing. In 2022, No Time to Die is also up for best sound, best visual effects and best song (by Billie Eilish & Finneas O’Connell).

Bell-Textron Jet Pack

10 of 44 Eon


Goldfinger, the third Bond film, was the first in the series to win an Academy Award. It won for best sound effects. The following year, Thunderball, also starring Sean Connery, won for best visual effects — although the Bell-Textron Rocket Belt jetpack that appeared in Thunderball was actually real.


11 of 44 Getty Images

Purple Rain

The late, great Prince starred in and created the music for this loosely autobiographical tale. His legendary album Purple Rain won the Oscar for best original song score in 1985, the last time that award was handed out due to a lack of musicals in recent years.


12 of 44 Warner Brothers/Getty Images


Joe Dante’s only film to win an Oscar involved a tiny Dennis Quaid bouncing around inside Martin Short, earning an award for best visual effects in 1988. Fantastic Voyage, the 1966 film that inspired Innerspace, also won for its effects.


13 of 44 Warner Brothers/Getty Images

The Great Race

Supremely silly The Great Race won an Oscar for best sound effects. This all-star wacky race featured a giant pie fight that cost $18,000 just for pastry. 


14 of 44 20th Century Fox

Alien (and Aliens)

Visual effects awards were handed out to both Ridley Scott’s Alien in 1980 and James Cameron’s sequel Aliens in 1987.


15 of 44 Andrew Cooper SMPSP/Touchstone Pictures/Getty Images

Pearl Harbor

It’s one of the the worst films ever made, yet Michael Bay’s WWII weepie Pearl Harbor snagged four Academy Award nominations and won for best sound editing. It was also nominated for six Golden Raspberry Awards, making it the first film to both win an Oscar and earn a nomination for worst picture Razzie.


16 of 44 New Line

The Golden Compass

Although it failed to kick off a franchise for the popular Philip Pullman novels (on the big screen, anyway), The Golden Compass did beat Michael Bay’s Transformers for best visual effects.


17 of 44 Industrial Light & Magic

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

The second film in Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp’s freebooting Pirates of the Caribbean franchise released the monstrous kraken, the ghostly Flying Dutchman and the squid-faced Davy Jones. These bizarre aquatic apparitions earned an Academy Award for visual effects for the wizards at Industrial Light & Magic. For Dead Man’s Chest, ILM created Imocap, a new image-based motion-capture system.


18 of 44 Bettmann Archive

The Exorcist

The Academy has a blind spot for horror movies, but there have been a few spine-chilling wins over the years. Ruth Gordon won best supporting actress for her role in Rosemary’s Baby. The Omen won for its terrifying score. And William Friedkin’s The Exorcist earned a head-spinning 10 nominations, taking home two statuettes.


19 of 44 Dan MacMedan/WireImage

The Wolfman

Rick Baker won his first Academy Award for An American Werewolf in London in 1982, so his 2011 best makeup Oscar for critical and commercial flop The Wolfman brought him full circle (or should that be full moon?). Here we see Baker picking up his Oscar with fellow makeup artist Dave Elsey (right) and presenter Cate Blanchett.


20 of 44 Columbia

Men in Black


21 of 44 20th Century Fox

The Fly

David Cronenberg’s earlier body of horror work seems a million miles from high-minded Oscar bait, but the icky, squicky makeup for 1986’s The Fly was too good to ignore. Oscar-winning makeup artist Chris Walas even directed the sequel in 1989.


22 of 44 Orion Pictures Corporation/Corbis/Getty Images


Paul Verhoeven’s lurid and violent action satire, RoboCop, gave the Academy 20 seconds to comply. I like to think it was the noise of the toxic-waste-melted guy getting splatted by a car that helped it win for best sound editing.


23 of 44 ABC Photo Archives/Getty Images

Star Wars

All three of the original Star Wars movies won Oscars, with A New Hope taking home six. It also earned special awards for sound designer Ben Burtt and special effects trio John Dykstra (pictured), Al Miller and Jerry Jeffress for the development of the motion control Dykstraflex camera system.


24 of 44 Abraham Pisarek/ullstein bild/Getty Images

The Jazz Singer

It’s enormously racially questionable, but The Jazz Singer was the first “talkie” with sound, earning an honorary Academy Award for Warner Bros. studio head Darryl F. Zanuck at the first Oscars ceremony in 1929.


25 of 44 John D. Kisch/Separate Cinema Archive/Getty Images

Song of the South

You probably know the Oscar-winning song “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” from Disney’s 1946 film Song of the South, but you’re less likely to have seen the actual film — because the movie’s dodgy racial attitudes have kept it from being released on home video. However, it did earn the first Oscar for a black male actor: James Baskett won an honorary Academy Award for his role.


26 of 44 Sunset Boulevard/Corbis/Getty Images

Mighty Joe Young

Ape adventure Mighty Joe Young won best visual effects in 1950. The award was handed to stop-motion pioneer Willis O’Brien in recognition for his monkeying around on both this and King Kong, which hadn’t been nominated for a single Oscar because the category didn’t exist in the first decade of the awards.

Incidentally, a young Ray Harryhausen, who would later earn a special achievement Oscar, also worked on this film.


27 of 44 20th Century-Fox/Getty Images


No, not that one. This watery 1953 romance titled Titanic was named the best original screenplay before James Cameron was even born.

While we’re playing the name game, see also Moulin Rouge, which won best art direction — in 1953 — and Up, named best short — in 1985.


28 of 44 Sergio Gaudenti/Sygma/Getty Images

Knighty Knight Bugs

In 1959, this became the only Bugs Bunny cartoon to win an Academy Award. Animation legend Chuck Jones won several more.


29 of 44 Paramount/Getty Images

When Worlds Collide

Referenced in The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, George Pal’s 1951 sci-fi parable When Worlds Collide won for special effects imagining the apocalyptic effects of discovering new Earth-like planets. Hang on… 


30 of 44 Getty Images


Jonathan Mostow’s 2000 underwater war movie U-571 may not have its facts straight about who captured an Enigma machine from the Nazis (Hint: it wasn’t Jon Bon Jovi). But it did have top-notch sound editing, according to the Academy.


31 of 44 Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images


32 of 44 Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

The Towering Inferno

The star-studded but schlocky 1970s disaster movie genre hasn’t stood the test of time, but the Academy members were clearly fans: The Poseidon Adventure won two Oscars, while in 1975 The Towering Inferno and Earthquake claimed 12 nominations and four wins between them.


33 of 44 Paramount/Getty Images

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom


34 of 44 Universal

Ex Machina

Not many people saw artificial intelligence drama Ex Machina, written and directed by Alex Garland, but it’s worth seeking out for its eerie robot, which richly deserved an award for best visual effects.

"Citizenfour" director Laura Poitras at an awards ceremony in Germany last year, with Edward Snowden looking on via live video feed. Poitras' film has won the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Non-Fiction Film and the New York Film Critics C

35 of 44 Adam Berry/Getty Images


It’s a rare film that can be said to have chronicled an era-defining event. Citizenfour, Laura Poitras’ film of her meeting with whistle-blower Edward Snowden, won best documentary feature in 2015.


36 of 44 Warner Bros


Her, a melancholy tale of artificial intelligence, received five nominations including best picture, and won best original screenplay for writer and director Spike Jonze.


37 of 44 Industrial Light & Magic

Star Trek

In 2009, JJ Abrams’ reboot was the first Trek film to finally win an Oscar (for makeup). All those pointy ears and green body paint finally paid off.


38 of 44 Universal Pictures

Death Becomes Her

Meryl Streep holds the record for the most acting nominations, but she wasn’t impressed by the pioneering ILM CGI in her film Death Becomes Her, which beat out Alien 3 and Batman Returns for the visual effects award. “You stand there like a piece of machinery,” she said of the shoot. “It was like being at the dentist.” Pictured is her co-star Goldie Hawn.


39 of 44 Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros.

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them

The period outfits with a fantasy twist of Fantastic Beasts earned veteran costume designer Colleen Atwood her fourth Oscar in 2017, the first win for a Harry Potter-related movie.


40 of 44 Warner Bros


Say his name three times and you’ll see why Beetlejuice won the Academy Award for best makeup, layering the slap on a manic Michael Keaton.


41 of 44 Warner Bros

Mad Max: Fury Road

It may be an adrenaline-fuelled blast of rock-’em sock-’em old-school action, but damn if the third film in the Mad Max universe wasn’t a cinematic tour de force. Fury Road was nominated for best picture and best director for George Miller and won six Oscars — for best costume design, best production design, best makeup and hairstyling, best film editing, best sound editing, and best sound mixing.


42 of 44 Tristar

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Groundbreaking effects helped James Cameron’s Terminator 2 pick up four Oscars. It won for sound, sound effects editing, visual effects and makeup. With armfuls of Oscars for this, The Abyss, Titanic and Avatar, Cameron won’t want for doorstops.


43 of 44 Clay Enos

Suicide Squad


44 of 44 James Martin/CNET


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