Early favorites failing to take home the Academy Awards’ biggest honor is nothing new in recent years, but director Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite winning the coveted Best Picture category could very well be the biggest upset in the ceremony’s history.
The surprise win for Parasite capped off an Oscars ceremony that generally unfolded as pundits expected, but the outcome in two of the night’s biggest categories made the 2020 Academy Awards one for the record books.
In winning the Best Director and Best Picture categories, Bong and Parasite achieved a long list of first-time moments for the Academy Awards. Not only were the wins the first for a South Korean filmmaker and film, but Parasite also holds the honor of being the first non-English film to win the Best Picture category.
Those weren’t the only ways Parasite and its director defied expectations when it came to Academy Awards history.
Going into this year’s ceremony, the winner of the Director’s Guild of America’s award had predicted the winner of the Oscars’ Best Director category with a 90% accuracy, and had heralded the Oscar winner every year since 2012. Sam Mendes, the director of World War I drama 1917, took home the DGA award earlier this year and quickly became the heavy favorite for the Oscars’ respective honor, only to have Bong take home the trophy.
Similarly, the win for Parasite made Mendes’ 1917 the only film to ever win the highest honor at all four major award ceremonies prior to the Oscars — the Golden Globes, the DGA, the Producers Guild of America (PGA), and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) — and not win the Best Picture category at the Oscars.
In the aftermath of the ceremony, some betting oddsmakers labeled the Parasite win as the biggest upset in the Oscars’ history. That’s no small feat, given recent years that saw films such Green Book, The Shape of Water, and Moonlight defy the odds to win the night’s top honor.
Although Parasite and Bong’s wins were certainly the biggest surprises in an otherwise by-the-numbers ceremony, they weren’t the only history-making wins.
Hildur Gudnadottir became the first woman to win in the ceremony’s Best Original Score category, for her work on Joker. The win was another unexpected one, as only seven women have ever been nominated in the ceremony’s score composition categories, and earned her a standing ovation when her name was announced.
Not all of the ceremony’s surprises were cheer-worthy moments, though.
Acclaimed director Martin Scorsese watched his Netflix mob drama The Irishman lose in every one of the 10 categories it was nominated in — including the Best Director race. Netflix entered the ceremony as the studio with the most overall nominations, but the streaming service ended up winning in just two of the 24 categories it had projects nominated in: Best Supporting Actress for Laura Dern’s performance in Marriage Story and Best Documentary for American Factory.
Finally, it was a minor upset, but one of the categories that did earn 1917 an Oscar was as the night’s Best Visual Effects winner. Going into the ceremony, The Lion King was an early favorite after being honored with the Visual Effects Society’s top prize, but 1917‘s innovative use of visual effects in a war drama filmed to make it look like a single shot ended up winning over Oscar voters in the end.
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