Published on April 13th, 2015 | by Clint Davis
10 times the MTV Movie Awards got it right over the Oscars
For the better part of the past decade, the MTV Movie Awards have been a night to honor the year’s favorite teen films and most tweeted-about actors and actresses — I mean, this is the show that has given as many best actor trophies to Robert Pattinson as the Academy Awards did for Marlon Brando.
But whatever your thoughts of the ceremony are now, there was a time when the voting panel of the MTV Movie Awards were pretty much right on with its picks for the year’s best films and performances. The tastes of Oscar voters have been notoriously at odds with those of the moviegoing public for some time but MTV’s annual show often honored the most popular films which were also really good.
Below were 10 times the MTV Movie Awards got its winners right over the Oscars.
1992 – Best Movie: Terminator 2: Judgement Day
The first ever MTV Movie Awards ceremony established the show’s penchant for honoring badass blockbusters. The 1992 show saw director James Cameron’s innovative T2 showered with golden popcorn statuettes, including the night’s three biggest honors (best male, female performances and best movie). Nearly 30 years after its release, Terminator 2: Judgement Day remains a high watermark for both the action and sci-fi genres and is a masterpiece of special-effects wizardry. T2 did win four Oscars — and I’m not saying it’s better than best picture winner The Silence of the Lambs — but the Academy didn’t even nominate it for best picture, instead giving a nod to the Barbara Streisand snooze-fest The Prince of Tides.
1993 – Best Actor: Denzel Washington in Malcolm X
The 1993 MTV Movie Awards saw several mature films win the big categories, including A Few Good Men and Basic Instinct; but the selection of Denzel Washington as best male performer was the show’s biggest coup over the Oscars. Washington’s take on Malcolm X in Spike Lee’s epic biopic is arguably the best of the storied actor’s career and is so convincing you may forget you’re not watching a documentary. He was nominated for best actor at the Oscars but the Academy gave that honor to Al Pacino for his ham-tastic performance in Scent of a Woman — arguably the worst of his legendary career.
1995 – Best Movie: Pulp Fiction
Perhaps the ultimate example of the MTV Movie Awards nailing it over “Hollywood’s biggest night” happened at the show’s fourth ceremony when Quentin Tarantino’s seminal movie won the top award three months after losing best picture to Forrest Gump. Obviously MTV knew its audience and was catering to a crowd that appreciated edgy filmmaking over sentimental schmaltz but that didn’t make the voters wrong. I hope that golden popcorn trophy sits somewhere on Tarantino’s shelf next to his Palme d’Or.
1996 – Best Movie: Seven
Once again, the MTV Movie Awards voters went with an edgy film that also happened to be a box office smash for their top honor. In general, 1995 was a pretty weak year for mainstream cinema, making the fact that Seven didn’t even get a best picture nomination at the Oscars even more glaring. That year, Mel Gibson’s overblown romantic drama Braveheart collected five Oscars and a family-friendly flick about a talking pig was among the nominees for best picture.
1999 – Best Actor: Jim Carrey in The Truman Show
I’m not going to say Roberto Benigni wasn’t deserving of a best actor Oscar for his performance in Life is Beautiful but Jim Carrey at least deserved a nomination at the Academy Awards. Carrey was a constant face at the MTV Movie Awards, always proving to be a fan favorite, and the voters gave him his second golden popcorn trophy for what was by-far his best work to that point. Oscars voters have long been prejudiced against comedic actors and the omission of Carrey from the nominees list was made more glaring by the fact that The Truman Show picked up three nominations, including one for Ed Harris as best supporting actor. In Oscars history, 1999 is widely known as one of misses as best picture went to Shakespeare in Love over Steven Spielberg’s gritty masterpiece Saving Private Ryan.
2000 – Best Movie: The Matrix
Unlike 1998, the following year was stocked with outstanding dramatic fare that included Academy Award nominees for best picture like The Insider and winner American Beauty, as well as films that weren’t nominated for the big award like Being John Malkovich and Magnolia. MTV’s voters decided to go a difference direction, giving their biggest honor to The Matrix — which was arguably the most copied film of its day. The Matrix won four technical Oscars but wasn’t even nominated for best picture, which once again proves the Academy’s disdain for filmmaking that is loud and innovative.
2002 – Best Movie: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
All major awards shows were kind to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy but the MTV Movie Awards may have given the epic series its most love. Each film of the trilogy won the award for best movie the years in which they were eligible, including The Fellowship of the Ring. Meanwhile, at the Oscars, Ron Howard’s mostly forgettable biopic A Beautiful Mind won best picture over this game-changing trilogy opener.
2005 – Best Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio in The Aviator
The fact that Leonardo DiCaprio has never won an Oscar is mind boggling to many movie fans — present company included — but in 2005 he won his second golden popcorn trophy with an intense, brooding performance as Howard Hughes in The Aviator. The Academy nominated DiCaprio for best actor but ultimately gave that honor to Jamie Foxx for what was essentially a two-hour impression of Ray Charles. This was another case where the MTV Movie Award voters showed up their Oscar colleagues.
2006 – Silver Bucket of Excellence: Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee)
Years after the MTV Movie Awards had resigned itself to solely honoring teen romance flicks, the voters bestowed a legacy award onto one of the greatest movies in recent history. Spike Lee is as polarizing a filmmaker as there’s ever been but when he is dialed in, he’s also one of the best. Lee has never won an Oscar or a Golden Globe, although was nominated for each with his 1989 breakout Do the Right Thing. This is the kind of movie that scares the crap out of Academy voters but that the MTV voters relish honoring. Seventeen years after it shook audiences with a raw look at inner-city race relations, the MTV Movie Awards gave it a retrospective trophy.
2013 – Best Movie: The Avengers
At the 2013 MTV Movie Awards, The Avengers became the last truly great film to win the show’s top award since 2004. I’m not saying it should have topped Argo for best picture at the Oscars but a strong case could be made that it should have at least been among the nominees. At the Oscars that year, nine movies were up for best picture but The Avengers — the third highest-grossing movie of all time — didn’t make the list. Could a single Academy voter honestly tell me they enjoyed Life of Pi or Les Misérables more than The Avengers? If so, that person is an asshole.