40 films (and a tech company) you didn't know won Oscars

Whether they're genre pieces, a bit lightweight or just stinkers, these movies all have one thing in common: an Academy Award.

Richard Trenholm
1 of 42 Ullstein Bild via Getty Images


When you think Oscars, you think heavyweight best picture fare like "Casablanca", "Schindler's List" and "12 Years a Slave". You think tearful actors accepting golden statuettes for their dramatic performances. You probably don't think "Harry and the Hendersons".

Yet even as the Academy announces a new category for "popular films", it's worth remembering the Oscars have always recognised more than just those prestigious dramas in the running for best picture. Genre movies may not pick up the big awards but they're often at the cutting edge of technical crafts like makeup, special effects and sound -- so we're saluting the films you might not expect to have won an Oscar.

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.

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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.

3 of 42 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 the second of his seven Academy Awards.

4 of 42 Warner Brothers/Getty Images

"The Great Race"

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

5 of 42 Andrew Cooper SMPSP/Touchstone Pictures/Getty Images

"Pearl Harbor"

It's one of the the worst films ever, 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.

6 of 42 New Line

"The Golden Compass"

Although it failed to kick off a franchise for the popular Philip Pullman novels, "The Golden Compass" did beat Michael Bay's "Transformers" for best visual effects.

7 of 42 Industrial Light & Magic

"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest"

The second film in Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp's free-booting "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise released the kraken, the ghostly Flying Dutchman and the squid-faced Davy Jones. It also won the Academy Award for visual effects thanks to the wizards at Industrial Light & Magic. For "Dead Man's Chest", ILM created Imocap, a new image-based motion-capture system.

8 of 42 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.

9 of 42 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. William Friedkin's "The Exorcist" earned a head-spinning 10 nominations, taking home two statuettes.

10 of 42 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.

11 of 42 Columbia

"Men in Black"

Among makeup artist Rick Baker's wins are "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and the 1997 sci-fi romp "Men in Black".

12 of 42 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.

13 of 42 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 the trio John Dykstra (pictured here), Al Miller and Jerry Jeffress for the development of the motion control Dykstraflex camera system.

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"The Jazz Singer"

It's racially insensitive, 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.

15 of 42 John D. Kisch/Separate Cinema Archive/Getty Images

"Song of the South"

You 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. 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.

16 of 42 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 there wasn't such a category 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.

17 of 42 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.

18 of 42 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.

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"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...

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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.

21 of 42 Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images


"Airport" ushered in both the 1970s disaster movie fad and a string of sequels. Starring Burt Lancaster and Dean Martin, this smash hit was nominated for 10 awards, with best supporting actress Helen Hayes (pictured) claiming a statuette.

22 of 42 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.

23 of 42 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.

24 of 42 Paramount/Getty Images

"Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom"

"Raiders of the Lost Ark" won a fedora-full of Oscars, while "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" also won. In between, 1984's moodier "Temple of Doom" is less fondly remembered, but it still took home an award for best visual effects.

25 of 42 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 the lack of musicals in recent years.

26 of 42 Universal

"Ex Machina"

Not many people saw artificial intelligence drama "Ex Machina", written and directed by Alex Garland, but the design of the eerie robot 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
27 of 42 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.

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

29 of 42 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.

Bell-Textron Jet Pack
30 of 42 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. The Bell-Textron Rocket Belt that appeared in "Thunderball" was actually a real piece of futuristic technology.

31 of 42 Industrial Light & Magic

"Star Trek"

In 2009, JJ Abrams' reboot was the first Trek film to finally win an Oscar (for makeup). Those pointy ears and green-skinned aliens obviously paid off.

32 of 42 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.

33 of 42 Universal Pictures

"Death Becomes Her"

Meryl Streep holds the record for the most acting nominations, but she wasn't impressed by the ILM CGI wizardry that 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.

34 of 42 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 romp its due: With awards for art direction, makeup and best original song, it's the comic book film with the most Oscars, beating even "The Dark Knight".

35 of 42 Warner Bros


Tim Burton's stylish and gothic 1989 "Batman" did take home an Oscar. Anton Furst and Peter Young won for best art direction.

36 of 42 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.

37 of 42 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.

38 of 42 Dan MacMedan/WireImage

"The Wolfman"

Rick Baker's 2011 best makeup Oscar for this critical and commercial flop brought him full circle to his first Academy Award, which he won for "An American Werewolf in London" in 1982. Here we see Baker picking up his "Wolfman" Oscar with fellow makeup artist Dave Elsey (right) and presenter Cate Blanchett.

39 of 42 Warner Bros

"Mad Max: Fury Road"

It may be an adrenaline-fuelled blast of rock-'em sock-'em old-school action, but damn if our return to 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.

40 of 42 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.

41 of 42 Clay Enos

Suicide Squad

From the moment Jared Leto's Joker was revealed, fans scoffed at the nu-metal tattoos and emo stylings of "Suicide Squad". But the design of characters like Killer Croc and the Enchantress was enough to win best makeup and hair design at 2017's Academy Awards.

42 of 42 James Martin/CNET


Yes, the people behind BlackBerry won an Oscar. Research In Motion CEO Mike Lazaridis collected the award from actress Anne Heche at a pre-Oscar ceremony in 1999 for the company's role in developing a digital barcode reader that massively sped up the work of film editors.

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