The Most Controversial Award Show Winners of All Time

Controversy marks every award show in one way or another. It’s maddening to see your favorite singer, actor, movie, or TV show get robbed of well-deserved recognition. These are the most upsetting Grammy, Emmy, and Oscar award winners of all time.

Oscar Best Picture: ‘Crash’ (2006)

The cast of "Crash" celebrate winning the Best Motion Picture of the Year
The Crash team celebrate the Oscar win. | Michael Caulfield/WireImage

Other nominees: Brokeback Mountain; Good Night, and Good Luck; Capote; and Munich

Starring Don Cheadle, Sandra Bullock, and Matt Dillon, Crash visibly stunned Best Picture presenter Jack Nicholson — and viewers everywhere — when it won Best Picture. Expecting Brokeback to win by a landslide, critics thought Crash stereotyped people of color, reports The Telegraph. Even Paul Haggis, the director of Crash, agreed the win didn’t make sense.

Grammy Best New Artist: Milli Vanilli (1990)

Milli Vanilli holds their awards at the 1990 Grammys
Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan of Milli Vanilli at the 1990 Grammy Awards | Ron Galella/WireImage

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Other nominees: Indigo Girls, Soul II Soul, Tone Loc, and Neneh Cherry

In 1989, Milli Vanilli won the Grammy for Best New Artist. Soon after, the German R&B pop duo gave an uncomfortable, lip-synced performance live on TV. A year later, Milli Vanilli admitted their debut album was a sham; they hadn’t sung any of it and had faked performances all along. They returned the award. None of the other nominees would accept it.

Emmy Best Actor in a Drama Series: Jeff Daniels (2013)

Actor Jeff Daniels holds his trophy at the 2013 Emmy Awards
Jeff Daniels at the 2013 Emmy Awards | Dan MacMedan/WireImage

Other nominees: Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey), Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Jon Hamm (Mad Men), Damian Lewis (Homeland), and Kevin Spacey (House of Cards)

Not only was The Newsroom a polarizing TV show — people either loved or hated it — but Jeff Daniels faced some huge hitters in this category. After all, reports IGN, Mad Men and Breaking Bad are considered two of the best shows in modern television — a feat The Newsroom never achieved. Sorry, Jeff.

Oscar Best Picture: ‘Moonlight’ (2017)

La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz speaks into the microphone as Oscar host Jimmy Kimmel attempts clarify the mixup for Best Picture
La La Land‘s Jordan Horowitz (L) announces actual Best Picture winner, Moonlight | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Other nominees: La La Land, Hidden Figures, Manchester by the Sea, Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, and Lion

Perhaps the most awkward Oscar debacle ever, La La Land mistakenly won “Best Picture,” after presenter Warren Beatty received the wrong card, details Forbes. The entire La La Land cast and crew gathered on stage before the error was announced by the film’s producer, Jordan Horowitz, who said, “I’m sorry, there’s a mistake. Moonlight, you guys won best picture.”

Grammy Album of the Year: ‘Two Against Nature,’ Steely Dan (2001)

Donald Fagen (R) and Walter Becker accept the Grammy at the 2001 Grammy Awards.
Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen (R) and Walter Becker accept the Grammy at the 2001 Grammy Awards. | Kirk McKoy/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

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Other nominees: The Marshall Mathers EP, Eminem; Midnite Vultures, Beck; Kid A, Radiohead, and You’re the One, Paul Simon

Critics loved Steely Dan, which may explain why the band won four Grammys in 2001. Shockingly, the duo’s “Two Against Nature” beat Eminem and Radiohead for Album of the Year, reports the New York Times. This accompanied two other crazy wins for Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group, beating the Backstreet Boys, Madonna, NSYNC, and Britney Spears.

Emmy Best Actor in a Comedy Series: Jim Parsons (2011)

Jim Parsons accepts his Emmy Award for Best Actor in a Comedy Series
Jim Parsons accepts the Outstanding Lead Actor in 2011. | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Other nominees: Steve Carell (The Office), Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Alec Baldwin (30 Rock), Louis C.K. (Louis), Matt LeBlanc (Episodes), and Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory)

The Big Bang Theory has a loyal fan following. However, most viewers weren’t happy to see Parsons beat Carell for Best Comedy Actor for the second year in a row. The real zinger: This was the last time Carell was nominated for The Office — and he never won the award.

Oscar Best Actor: Casey Affleck (2017)

Backstage, Casey Affleck smiles and holds his Oscar award for best actor in 'Manchester By The Sea'
Casey Affleck (L) with his award for best actor | Jerod Harris/Getty Images

Other nominees: Ryan Gosling, Denzel Washington, Viggo Mortensen, and Andrew Garfield

When Brie Larson announced the “Best Actor” winner, she stated Casey Affleck’s name but refused to clap for him, explains Vanity Fair. Viewers expressed support for Larson’s actions, as the Manchester by the Sea lead won despite facing sexual harassment suits from two women. Many actresses expressed their disappointment in his win afterward.

Grammy Best Rock Song: ‘Layla (Unplugged),’ Eric Clapton (1992)

Eric Clapton cradles his six Grammy Awards and poses for a picture
Rock star Eric Clapton poses with his six Grammys. | STR/AFP/Getty Images

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Other nominees: “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Nirvana; “Human Touch,” Bruce Springsteen; “Digging in the Dirt,” Peter Gabriel; and “Jeremy,” Eddie Vedder and Jeff Ament

No disrespect to Eric Clapton; “Layla” is an incredible song. However, it beat out Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” arguably one of the most iconic rock songs ever, details Cherokee Tribune & Ledger News. (Nirvana wasn’t nominated for Best Song or Album either.)

Oscar Best Picture: ‘Shakespeare in Love’ (1998)

Miramax Films executive Harvey Weinstein and actress Gwyneth Paltrow holds their trophies with Shakespeare in Love producers and Oscar award winners
Harvey Weinstein (3rd L) and Gwyneth Paltrow (3R) with Shakespeare in Love producers | Mirek Towski/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

Other nominees: Saving Private Ryan, Elizabeth, Life Is Beautiful, and The Thin Red Line

Sexual assault charges make this Harvey Weinstein-produced film even more controversial. However, far before Weinstein faced the music, Shakespeare in Love beat out Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan for “Best Picture” at the 1999 Academy Awards. Viewers were relieved to see Spielberg win “Best Director” later that night. However, this didn’t change the fact that a romantic comedy beat the wartime epic, details Vanity Fair.

Grammy Best New Artist: Esperanza Spalding (2011)

Musical artist Esperanza Spalding lifts her Grammy award and smiles for the cameras
Esperanza Spalding at the 2011 Grammy Awards | Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

Other nominees: Drake, Justin Bieber, Florence and the Machine, and Mumford & Sons

The Best New Artist category may yield more success for losers than winners. As Vox explains, losers include Sonny & Cher, Led Zeppelin, Elton John, John Mayer, and Taylor Swift. However, Esperanza Spalding’s 2011 win upset many. As a jazz bassist and singer, she didn’t get the exposure of the other nominees. “I really wasn’t expecting that at all,” Spalding said backstage.

Emmy Best Comedy Series: ‘Modern Family’ (2014)

Modern Family cast laughs and smiles after winning Outstanding Comedy Series at the 2014 Emmys
The Modern Family cast at the 2014 Emmys | Dan MacMedan/WireImage

Other nominees: Veep, The Big Bang Theory, Orange is the New Black, and Silicon Valley

Modern Family is funny, yes. But the series has won 21 Emmys, beating out acclaimed shows like Orange is the New Black, Veep, and Silicon Valley. Many people were ready to see new winners in 2014, as Mic reports. And outcries online believed the show was past its prime.

Grammy Album of the Year: ’24,’ Adele (2017)

Singer Adele breaks the top off of her award and waves to the audience at the 2017 Grammy Awards
Adele at the 2017 GRAMMY Awards | Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Other nominees: Lemonade, Beyonce; Views, Drake; Purpose, Justin Bieber, and A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, Sturgill Simpson

When Beyoncé released Lemonade, everyone lost their minds. The other nominees received praise for their work, too. But Beyoncé … well, many assumed she’d win. When Adele won Album of the Year, Record of the Year, and Song of the Year — beating Beyoncé in all three categories — even the singer was surprised, according to Vox, saying she thought Beyoncé should’ve won.

Oscar Best Picture: ‘Out of Africa’ (1985)

Meryl Streep and Robert Redford sit and talk together on the set of Out of Africa.
Robert Redford and Meryl Streep during production for 1985’s Out of Africa. | Hemdale/Getty Images

Other nominees: The Color Purple, Witness, Kiss of the Spider Woman, and Prizzi’s Honor

The 1986 Oscars shut out The Color Purple even with 11 nominations. Best Picture may have been the most upsetting loss. The winner, Out Of Africa, was criticized for “vague portraits of tribal blacks who were trotted on-screen for a touch of authenticity,” as Prince.org reports. Starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep, the movie was a stark contrast to Purple, which had an entirely black cast.

Emmy Best Actress in a Comedy Series: Melissa McCarthy (2011)

Melissa McCarthy holds her Emmy award and poses for pictures in 2011
Melissa McCarthy won outstanding lead actress in a comedy series in 2011. | Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Other nominations: Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie), Tina Fey (30 Rock), Laura Linney (The Big C), Martha Plimpton (Raising Hope), and Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation)

Melissa McCarthy is a talented actress — we can all agree on this. However, the nominees in this category were so strong that many felt rewarding Mike & Molly, which has been criticized for regularly capitalizing on plus-size stereotypes, may not have been the best choice. Fey, Poehler, or Falco all seemed like better choices.