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The 20 Most Deserving Oscar Winners from the Last 25 Years

By Dustin Rowles | Lists | February 28, 2014 |

By Dustin Rowles | Lists | February 28, 2014 |

You’ll have to trust me on this, but it’s true: The Internet spends 70 percent more time complaining about the Academy Awards than it does in celebrating them. More often than not, the main headline surrounding any Oscar ceremony, or the Oscar nominations, is not who won or was nominated, but which films or actors were overlooked or snubbed. Slights are what drive the bandwidth on the Internet, and in the Academy Awards, there are hundreds of slights from which to choose.

A typical morning-after headline ranges from “How the Oscars got it wrong,” to “How the Oscars no longer matter.” Nobody puts their trust in the process anymore, and why should they? The whole endeavor is ruled by greed, glad-handing, and what drives the best narrative, and that is often evident from the selection of winners and nominees every year.

Still, every once in a while, the Academy will do the unthinkable, and stumble upon a correct choice! Yes, sometimes — though not too often — the Academy gets it right. I took a look back at the last 25 years of Winners and nominees in the five major categories, and compiled a list of the selections the Academy got the most right. That is to say, these wins — like Cate Blanchett’s for Blue Jasmine this year, or Jared Leto’s for Dallas Buyer’s Club — were foregone conclusions. They were so rightfully and overwhelmingly deserving of their Oscars that to deny them would’ve been grounds for imprisonment.

Daniel Day Lewis for Best Actor, There Will Be Blood


Tom Hanks for Best Actor, Philadelphia


Phillip Seymour Hoffman for Best Actor, Capote


Hilary Swank for Best Actress, Boys Don’t Cry


Cate Blanchett for Best Supporting Actress in Aviator


Joe Pesci for Best Supporting Actor in Goodfellas


Kevin Spacey for Best Supporting Actor in Usual Suspects


Heath Ledger for Best Supporting Actor, The Dark Knight


Christoph Waltz for Best Supporting Actor, Inglourious Basterds


Kathy Bates for Best Actress, Misery


Schindler’s List for Best Picture.


Javier Bardem for Best Supporting Actor in No Country for Old Men


Jodie Foster for Best Lead Actress in The Accused


Benicio Del Toro for Best Supporting Actor in Traffic


Susan Sarandon for Best Actress in Dead Man Walking


Anthony Hopkins for Best Actor in the Silence of the Lambs


Charlize Theron for Best Actress, Monster


No Country for Old Men for Best Picture.


Frances McDormand for Best Actress in Fargo


Silence of the Lambs for Best Picture


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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.