The 10 Best Geeky Oscar Winners

*Article has been updated to include Mad Max: Fury Road*

Oscar season is in full swing.  The movies have been released, the nominations are out, and all that’s left is speculation and prediction.  I’m no full fledged film critic so I don’t have much to say in terms of who should win and what not so I’ll table that discussion.  Instead, let’s talk about which geeky films in the past have received some Oscar love.
To be clear, this list is based on which films received the most Academy Award merit, not which film is better than the others.

Honorable Mention

Jurassic Park

3 Noms/Wins: Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing, Best Visual Effects

Notable Snubs: Best picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, Best Original Score

Who doesn’t love dinosaurs?  Apparently the Academy, as I feel Jurassic Park was highly snubbed.  This movie had two things going against it in it’s bid for Oscar recognition.  First, it’s mighty difficult to get accolades as a science fiction film in 1993.  Second, Steven Spielberg released Schindler’s List that same year.  I’m not sure if it’s against Academy rules or if the voters just didn’t like doubling nominations but if Jurassic Park came out today it’d  probably be nominated for all major non-acting awards (especially if you consider the high amount of nominations Mad Max: Fury Road has).  Still, no shame in losing out to a movie like Schindler’s List.

The Incredibles

4 Noms: Best Original Screenplay, Best Sound Mixing
2 Wins: Best Animated Feature, Best Sound Editing

Notable Snubs: Best Original Score

Animated films don’t usually get much recognition outside “Best Animated Feature” but The Incredibles is an exceptional film.  It’s amazing that an animated movie about a super-hero family could even be nominated for “Best Original Screenplay”.  Goes to show how well made it really is.  While it didn’t place in the top 10, this movie is definitely worth mentioning.  P.S. that score is amazing.  Shame on you Academy.

10. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

6 Noms: Best Picture, Best Sound Mixing, Best Art Direction, Best Film Editing
2 Wins: Best Sound Effects Editing, Best Visual Effects

Notable Snubs: Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best original score, Best Cinematography, Best Makeup, Best Costume Design

The second entry in film’s greatest trilogy is by far the most snubbed movie on this list.  The Two Towers was largely overlooked by Academy voters in both nominations and wins.  Many theorize that voters did not like nominating/awarding a film/filmmakers in consecutive years.  As I’ll mention later on, films should be awarded on an individual basis and not by franchise.

Still, it’s amazing that anyone who has seen the film would not nominate it AT LEAST for it’s score, makeup and costume design.  The cinematography is beautiful,  Battle of Helm’s Deep anyone?  Tolkien’s novels are not ideal for translating to film script, a thought that should have awarded an adapted screenplay nod (which Fellowship and RotK received).  And Peter Jackson should have been a shoe-in for a Best Director nomination.  Shame on you Academy; this is a film that should be much higher on this list.

9. Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)

6 Noms: Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing
4 Wins: Best Sound Effects Editing, Best Sound, Best Makeup, Best Visual Effects

During my research for this article I was pleasantly surprised when I stumbled upon the Awards success of Terminator 2.  Neither sci-fi films nor sequels usually do well with the Academy, so it’s rare to see a film that’s both achieve such success.  I guess it’s hard to deny a film it’s accolades when it’s SO FREAKING GOOD.  T2 is the shining example for a Sci-Fi action film.  It’s beautiful effects still hold up today and the Academy did good to recognize that.  Another surprise?  The fact that it got nominated in Cinematography and Film Editing.  You go James Cameron.

8. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

6 Noms: Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Foreign Language Film
3 Wins: Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Makeup

Notable Snub: Best Director Nomination, Best Foreign Language Film Win

Guillermo Del Toro is one of my all time favorite film makers.  His best film?  PACIFIC RIM.  Wait. Oh right, Pac-Rim is my favorite but his true “best film” is Pan’s Labyrinth.  This “Alice in Wonderland”-esque movie is visually magnificent and rightfully recognized by Oscar voters with it’s 3 wins.  It’s amazing that it did not win “Best Foreign Language Film”, losing to some movie no ones ever heard of (okay, my bias might be showing).  An even bigger travesty? The lack of a Best Director nod for Del Toro.  Watch this movie and try to tell me that he’s not a large part of this film’s success.

7. The Dark Knight (2008)

8 Noms: Best Sound Mixing, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Makeup, Best Film Editing, Best Visual Effects
2 Wins: Best Supporting Actor, Best Sound Editing

Notable Snubs: Best Picture, Best Director Nominations

Almost every die-hard geek will claim The Dark Knight as they’re favorite film.  And for good reason!  It’s strong visually, filled with amazing performances, and it’s Batman for crying out loud!  One would be remiss not to mention the most notable Oscar win on this list; Heath Ledger’s role as the Joker.  To my knowledge, Ledger is the only person to win an Academy Award off a comic book role.  Not an easy task.  He is breathtaking as the Joker and while some would say Nicholson’s Joker is better (me, i say that) there is no denying Ledger’s mastery of acting through the Clown Prince of Crime.

Upon further inspection, TDK could have been kept out of some categories (Best Visual Effects and/or Best Makeup) and was snubbed for others (Best Picture, Best Director).  Christopher Nolan is a master film-maker and needs more award recognition for it; especially when you consider our next film is…

6. Inception (2010)

8 Noms: Best Picture, Best Original Score, Best Art Direction, Best Original Screenplay
4 Wins: Best Cinematography, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Visual Effects

Notable Snubs: Best Director Nomination


Inception is generally viewed as one of the best films of the last 10 years or so, and for good reason!  Nolan was at the peak of his powers after coming out with The Dark Knight and this film in a span of a few years.  His creativity really shines through the whole film, which makes his (SECOND) Best Director snub quite remarkable (I would have swapped out the Coen Brothers). 

To no one’s surprise, Inception swept the technical categories and pulled out the Best Cinematography win, although it’s incredible how it didn’t win Best Original Score (how did it lose to The Social Network???)

5. Avatar (2009)

9 Noms: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Score, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Film Editing
3 Wins: Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects

Avatar.  Oh Avatar.  This film has not aged well.  Ultimately, I would dare say it’s not a good movie but it was an experience.  Thankfully, being the highest grossing film ever (globally) does not mean you are the most awarded.  Avatar’s 9 nominations and 3 wins are quite impressive in spite of it’s poor aging.  I’d say it did not deserve some of the nods, specifically Best Picture and Best Original Score but no one can deny it’s visual magnificence.  Avatar’s 3 wins are well deserved despite it’s narrative flaws.  Oddly enough, it surprisingly lost the Sound awards to it’s chief rival, The Hurt Locker. 

4. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

10 Noms: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Song, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing,
4 Wins: Best Foreign Language Film, Best Original Score, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography

There are few films that are as visually stunning as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and thankfully that is acknowledged through it’s Oscar success.  Foreign films usually face an uphill battle in at the Academy Awards, which makes this one all the more impressive; it actually holds the record for most foreign film wins and nominations. 

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is probably the most controversial film on this list in regards to it’s “Geekiness”  but a film that is martial arts focused and counter cultural is geeky enough in my book.  I mean c’mon, they’re walking on tree tops for crying out loud.

3. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

13 Noms: Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Film Editing, Best Picture, Best Original Song, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Sound Mixing,
4 Wins: Best Makeup, Best Original Score, Best Visual Effects, Best Cinematography

Fellowship of the Ring has the distinction of having the most nominations for a movie on this list (one shy short of the Academy record).  While it does not measure up to it’s successor in terms of wins, Fellowship proved that a fantasy film can compete on an Academy Award winning level.  As previously mentioned, there has been controversy regarding Academy voters rewarding the franchise as a whole instead of its individual parts but we’ll finish talking about that later.

2. Mad Max: Fury Road

10 Noms: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects
6 Wins: Best Film Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing

Notable Snubs: Best Visual Effects

Mad Max: Fury Road has rewritten the book on how to make an action film.  It is gloriously shot and crafted.  George Miller wisely choose to do everything he could in real life; relegating CGI to a supporting role.  The Academy rewarded Miller’s boldness with 6 Oscars (Second highest total on this list) as almost every technical aspect of this film was universally recognized.  Mad Max was a dark horse for the major Oscar categories but many believed that it truly had a shot to win one of the big ones.

1. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003)

11 Academy Award Nominations & Wins

Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Original Song, Best Sound Mixing, Best Art Direction, Best Makeup, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Visual Effects

Notable Snubs: Best Actor Nomination for Sean Astin

Could it have been any other film?  Return of the King is not only my choice for Best Geeky Oscar Film but it is arguably the greatest film ever in terms of Oscar recognition.  RotK had a whopping eleven nominations with a matching eleven wins; the record for largest Oscar sweep.  This is without a nomination/win in any of the acting categories, which is a travesty for Sean Astin/Samwise Gamgee who acted his butt off in the final film. 

A look back at the Lord of the Rings movies tells you that the franchise was actually snubbed as a whole.  After the first film was released to incredible critical acclaim it was widely assumed that the following films would be of similar quality.  So instead of recognizing each film individually many theorize that Return of the King won it’s record tying 11 Oscars as “achievement” awards to make up for the Oscar losses of the previous two.  In an ideal world the Lord of the Rings film franchise should have at least double it’s Oscar win total (and Saving Private Ryan should have an Best Picture win over Shakespeare in Love.  Seriously guys?).

Who would have guessed that the most recognized film in all of Academy Award history would feature wizards, orcs, and dear little Hobbits.

Did we miss anything?  Have any suggestions?  Let us know in the comments!


Ariel is your typical 90's kid that realized being a casual fan wasn't enough. Instead of channelling his energy into school or extracurricular activities, it went almost exclusively into all things geek. You can find him dressing up as a Disney Pixar boy scout, obsessing over continuity errors, or complaining about how difficult it is to run a podcast and website.

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One thought on “The 10 Best Geeky Oscar Winners

  1. Sean Penn s biggest rival in that year s Oscars, Bill Murray for Lost in Translation is in my top 10 male performances of all time, so as good as Penn was, I would have preferred Murray to take the statue.

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