At the time of this writing, Natalie Portman’s odds of winning the Academy Award for Best Actress — for her portrayal of a certifiable prima in Black Swan — are hovering somewhere between 1/11 and 1/12. In other words, Portman is so likely to win that to pry a dollar from a bookie on such an outcome, you’ll have to lay down twelve times that amount. If Annette Bening, the 13/2 favorite to upset Natalie Portman, wins Best Actress, the film will go on to double or triple its modest $20M earnings to date, and J. Todd Harris and Focus Features stand to make an unholy sum. Translation: When it comes to Oscar upsets, the stakes are incredibly high.
With that in mind, after the jump, our list of the greatest upsets of the past 20 years. Leave comment on which wins you feel were actually deserved.
Dances with Wolves over Goodfellas and The Godfather Part III
The 1991 Best Picture race featured films from two of the most established directors in modern cinema: Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas and Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather Part III. On the other end of the spectrum you had Kevin Costner’s revisionist Western, Dances with Wolves, which had received mixed reviews from critics (who referred to it as “Kevin’s Gate,” a reference to the 1980 film disaster Heaven’s Gate), but was a smash at the box office. The two big budget gangster films must have canceled each other out, because in the end Wolves took home the trophy, and it is often credited for reviving the Western genre in Hollywood.