• Fri, Feb 7 - 3:59 pm ET

10 Not-So-Good Actors Who You’ll Be Shocked To Learn Actually Won Oscars

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With the 2014 Academy Awards just around the corner, time is just plain old running out. It’s running out for you to see all of the movies that are nominated and it’s running out for you to mentally prepare yourself for one of the most perfect hosting experiences ever. But, more than anything, the hourglass is low on time for you to prepare your Shock Face when other actors steal awards from the actors you thought deserved them most. (Also, will someone tell the Oscars to stop hanging out around that corner? It’s creeping out passersby.)

But before this year’s Oscars take over every news feed, I’d hate for this year’s surprising winners to be thrust upon you before you got a chance to be properly shocked about all of the ones from the past. These 10 actors may have already given their acceptance speeches years ago, but I’ve just re-discovered their wins and my brain is having trouble processing them because they sort of don’t make any sense.

1. Anna Paquin

Anna Paquin West Hollywood California Annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Oscars Viewing Party February 24 2013

(Photo: Thomas Janssen/Pacific Coast News)

The Award: Best Actress in a Supporting Role for The Piano (1993)

Why It’s Shocking: Cross the line if you’ve found yourself trying to explain to someone why True Blood is entertaining and not being able to. Now that we’re all across the line, let’s just call it what it is, which is a ridiculous (albeit sexy) show. And that’s all that I can think of when I think about Anna’s acting career. Paired with the fact that she won it while she was still a child-star so it feels like an entirely different person, and I can totally see why it doesn’t really feel like she ever did.

2. Nicholas Cage

Nicholas Cage Croods Premier eNew York City NY March 10 2013

 (Photo: Darla Khazei/Pacific Coast News)

What For?: Best Actor for Leaving Las Vegas (1995)

Why It’s Shocking: Through magic and the acceptance of every role offered to him, Nic Cage managed to become extremely famous, while only having done a handful of truly good films. You’ve seen The Wicker Man, you know what I’m talking about. And it’s movies like that which make me forget that he’s a real live actor who can produce Oscar-worthy stuff.

3. Reese Witherspoon

Reese Witherspoon Academy Awards Los Angeles California February 24 2013

(Photo: DLM Press/Pacific Coast News)

What For?: Best Actress in a Lead Role for Walk The Line (2005)

Why It’s Shocking: Unless we’re talking matters of the groundbreaking bend-and-snap, then I don’t know in what universe Reese would be Best Actress. Over all of the other actresses, and everything? Like, obviously it’s this universe. But I’m never really blown away by her, so learning about her secret statue for one of the Big Five categories was really weird.

4. Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie Women In The World Summit April 4 2013 New York City

(Photo: Pacific Coast News)

What For?: Best Supporting Actress for Girl, Interrupted (1999)

Why It’s Shocking: Okay, I think the problem with Angelina “Is She Or Isn’t She A Vampire” Jolie is that she’s such a celebrity apart from her acting. So the millions of pictures of the Jolie-Pitts takes away from my memory that she’s even an actress. Every so often, she’s like “hey, remember me!” But mostly, I store her entire career in a manilla folder somewhere in my brain.

5. Jim Rash

Jim Rash The Way Way Back Premiere June 26 2013

(Photo: WMTV/Pacific Coast News)

What For?: Best Adapted Screenplay for The Descendants (2011)

Why It’s Shocking: Wait, what? It’s not even for acting in a movie, but is instead for writing one, you say? Crazy.

6. Kevin Costner

Kevin Costner Cesar Film Awards February 22 2013 Paris France

 (Photo: DLM Press/Pacific Coast News)

What For?: Best Director AND Best Picture for Dances With Wolves (1991)

Why It’s Shocking: Kevin just dominated the Best’s section in 1991, didn’t he? And yet he’s such an under-the-radar actor that I didn’t even know about it. Mr. Costner, the A List two-time Oscar winner? Nah, that’s just Kev, the dude from that one movie with Whitney Houston!

7. Cher

Cher New York City NY September 24 2013

(Photo: Felipe Ramales/PacificCoastNews)

What For?: Best Actress for Moonstruck (1988)

Why It’s Shocking: Is Cher even an actress? Cite your sources and format MLA style, because I need legit proof of this. I was wholly convinced that she was too busy being iconic to have time to memorize a script or wake up at 4 AM to have her hair and makeup done in a trailer. And yet, she won a huge award for doing just that!

8. Marisa Tomei

Marisa Tomei Ides of March New York NY October 5 2011

(Photo: Darla Khazei/Pacific Coast News)

What For?: Best Supporting Actress for My Cousin Vinny (1992)

Why It’s Shocking: Marissa is another one of those actors who seems like they’re really famous but I can’t really figure out why. Maybe it’s her unique last name? No, well, it’s obviously because she’s a kickass supporting actress. But, the last name thing couldn’t have hurt.

9. Ron Howard

Ron Howard Rush Photocall Madrid Spain August 19 2013

(Photo: Alter Photos/Pacific Coast News)

What For?: Best Director for A Beautiful Mind (2001)

Why It’s Shocking: Because who even knew that, before he was our narrative BFF on Arrested Development, he was an actor? And a legit one, too. He even has that shiny hunk of gold to prove it. 

10. Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey SAG Awards January 18 2014 Los Angeles California

(Photo: Pacific Coast News)

What For?: Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award (2011)

Why It’s Shocking: The funny thing is that Oprah did have a career as an actress, but the Academy was like, “yawnnn, we’ll hold onto little Oscar until you do something really awesome.” And so she built a few schools and held a car giveaway here and there and now she’s a winner too. It truly is a rags-to-riches story for the ages.

You can reach this post's author, Olivia Wilson, on twitter.
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  • Elizabeth Aspen

    Whoever wrote this POS and lumped Angelina Jolie in with a bunch of losers needs their head examined. Angelina is one of the greatest actresses this country has ever produced. The Oscar she won was actually not deserved, because she actually should have won Best ACTRESS, not Best Supporting for Girl Interrupted. And I can name a couple of others where she should have won as well, like Salt. If you can’t see that Angelina is a great actress, then I have no reason to finish reading this list past #5.

    • Olivia Wilson

      I’m not out to get an Oscar but if I stumbled upon one, I wouldn’t kick it out of bed in the morning.

      (But really, I just meant that their Oscar wins surprised me because of their bodies of work/the way I think of them as celebrities.)

    • Lindsey Conklin

      I dont think Angelina is a great actress.

    • Olivia Wilson

      This country which produced her, the greatest actress, would DISAGREE, Lindsey.

  • elle

    The crazy thing is I think Oprah Winfrey should have won a real Oscar, not just some humanitarian thing. She most definitely deserved one for The Color Purple, and I was surprised when she didn’t get one for The Butler. Reese Witherspoon has never done it for me either. And while I really like Marisa Tomei when you look at the list of other noms for that year the fact that she won is shocking.

    • Olivia Wilson

      I really agree with the Oprah thing. I haven’t seen The Butler, but The Color Purple is classic.

  • Amanda Lee

    I disagree entirely with this article. Yes, some of them may not be great actors 75% of the time (I’m looking at you Reese Witherspoon) but your examples didn’t line up with your point. THEY WERE AMAZING in the movies that you listed, hence they won.

    Now if Reese Witherspoon won an Oscar for her role in Sweet Home Alabama, I would say you had actual grounds for your assessment. She killed it in Walk the Line. I wish she would take roles like that more often.

    • Olivia Wilson

      I meant that their wins surprised me because they usually don’t have Oscar-worthy stuff, not because what they won for sucked. (Except in the case of Angelina Jolie). I think we’re saying similar things.

    • Amanda Lee

      Oh well that makes sense! Now I get what you’re saying. Sorry for misunderstanding :)

    • Olivia Wilson

      No worries at all!

  • Kathy

    Hey Olivia I’m guessing you must be under 30 – right? I remember these movies and actors very well from the 80′s an 90′s but you don’t seem too familiar with them. OK Cher was great in Moonstruck, and she def deserved a nomination for best actress that year. “Dances With Wolves” shocked everybody the year it came out, because not only was it a great story but Kevin Costner was really good! I’m not sure if he deserved Best Director but he sure deserved something that year. I agree that Anna Paquin was given her Oscar way too young and there should be an age limit on the nominations. But she was good and The Piano was a great movie. Marisa Tomei, Ron Howard, Angelina Jolie, were all deserving of their nominations. Oprah Winfrey deserved to win Best Supporting Actress for The Color Purple, but she didn’t and there have been a lot of deserving people who went home empty-handed over the years. So I think this article is a little unfair. There’s always backstage politics going on before the winners are announced, so I prefer to focus more on the nominations rather than on who wins or doesn’t win.

    • Clever Girl Reviews

      I’m pretty much in agreement with this. I think that Reese was not perhaps as deserving as all these others(though she was great in that role) but you know what, everyone here deserves the accolades. Nic Cage however should have been nominated from Moonstruck as well #AlwaysBeCaging
      http://www.clevergirlreviews.com

    • Olivia Wilson

      I am under 30! And I’m familiar with the movies, and I don’t think they were undeserving of their Oscar wins for the projects here. It’s just all of the other stuff they’ve been in that makes these wins surprising for me. I wasn’t intending to be unfair to anyone!

      Also, you brought up a really interesting point with the nominations thing. I’ll definitely look into it.

  • Lindsey Conklin

    Nick Cage is the worst! haha but I actually thought Reese was good in Walk The Line…though normally I think she’s awful

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  • Itpainsmetosay

    Are you saying you didn’t know about the Andy Griffith Show because that’s all i think about when I hear Ron Howard.

  • CW

    A lot of these had one fluke amazing performance and that’s why they won the Oscar that year. I don’t like anything else Marisa Tomei has done, but she was brilliant in “My Cousin Vinny”. Ditto for Cher in “Moonstruck”, Anna Paquin for “The Piano”, and so on. Angelina Jolie I didn’t actually like in “Girl, Interrupted” but she was outstanding in the TV movie “Gia” and IMHO deserved the Golden Globe she won for that role.

  • Katlyn

    I love Reese Witherspoon