Hollywood lore is full of weird legends, and its award ceremonies often bear the brunt of them. On a nearly constant basis, for example, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has faced accusations of corruption, bias and even prejudice. And given some of the ludicrous choices it’s made in the past, it’s hard not to think that something shady is going on behind the scenes.
However, for every plausible rumor in existence about the Academy and its fellow awards organizers, there’s an equally strange conspiracy waiting in the wings. Indeed, these 20 theories stretch fact and believability to their very limits.
20. No love for Lincoln
After seeing 2012 Best Picture nominee Lincoln, congressman Joe Courtney wrote to director Steven Spielberg, disapproving of its supposed inaccuracies. However, commentators alleged that the letter attempted to discredit Lincoln to Oscar voters in favor of eventual winner Argo, directed by Courtney’s friend Ben Affleck. But that was an assertion that the congressman would go on to deny. “I’m not smart enough to know when Oscar voting begins,” Courtney joked to the Los Angeles Times in 2013.
19. An illuminating award ceremony
The Illuminati has been a cornerstone of conspiracy theorists everywhere, and the 85th Academy Awards was allegedly awash with links to the shadowy organization. Following the 2013 ceremony, in fact, YouTubers like AlienContactee and ilbcnya99 uploaded videos detailing their “proof” of the group’s influence on proceedings. And that included actor Daniel Day-Lewis’ reference to a “human pyramid” in his acceptance speech. Apparently, it’s thought that Illuminati members use the pyramid symbol to secretly communicate between themselves.
18. Scent of bribery
It’s no secret that filmmakers regularly try to woo awards voters. But a 1993 The New York Times report alleged that producers of Golden Globe winner Scent of a Woman went too far. According to the story, Universal bribed HFPA members with all-expenses paid trips to NYC, securing the film a win against classics like Unforgiven. If this one’s true, then it really stinks!
17. An accidental winner
In perhaps the most controversial Oscar win of all time, long-shot Marisa Tomei received the Best Supporting Actress in 1993 award for My Cousin Vinny, ahead of respected star Vanessa Redgrave. However, some say the win happened by accident. Indeed, following the ceremony, even The Hollywood Reporter alleged that confused presenter Jack Palance mistakenly read out the wrong name.
16. Love rats love Oscar winners
Many curses are said to haunt Hollywood’s biggest stars, and Best Actress winners are supposedly doomed upon receiving their Oscars. According to the University of Toronto, married actresses are 63 percent more likely to split with their spouse after gaining their awards. Sandra Bullock, for example, divorced cheating Jesse James mere months after her 2010 win for The Blind Side.
15. No Oscars for the LGBTQ community
Throughout its history, the Oscars has received criticism for the supposed lack of diversity in its nominations and awards. And this controversy reached its peak in 2005 when Crash beat gay romantic drama Brokeback Mountain to the Best Picture prize. As a result, then, critics such as Michael Jensen levied accusations of institutional homophobia against the Academy.
14. Reining in the host
Thanks to his insulting jokes, Ricky Gervais quickly became one of the Golden Globes’ most memorable hosts. But some have said that producers weren’t overly keen on his risqué material at the 2011 ceremony. In fact, Twitter followers observed that the English comedian’s humor became more subdued in the show’s second act, sparking theories that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association warned him to soften his edgy material.
13. Victory assured
Much has been said about film producer Harvey Weinstein’s push for Academy Award wins, and some have speculated his tactics haven’t always been ethical. Moreover, as argued by fellow producer Lynda Obst, Weinstein apparently bought out votes for films like Shakespeare in Love and Chicago. And some have even accused him of bullying others to get what he wants.
12. Too many abs from Affleck
Though his film Argo won 2013’s coveted Best Picture Oscar, Ben Affleck strangely didn’t receive a nomination for Best Director. Fox News’ Tariq Khan had a weird theory concerning the snub. Apparently, Affleck didn’t get a nod because the star’s toned abs – which he flaunted while also acting in the film – put voters off. It’s all so plausible!
11. The man who knew too much
It’s not just film award ceremonies that get conspiracy theorists agitated. At the 2016 Grammys, Bruno Mars drew the ire of paranoid peeps everywhere when he yelled “let’s do this” before Beyoncé had announced his Record of the Year win. As a result, commentators immediately alleged that Mars knew of his triumph because the vote had been fixed.
10. Kept in the dark
Though it documented the real-life killing of Osama Bin Laden, Zero Dark Thirty didn’t exactly show the U.S. Military in a positive light. And that led to yet another intriguing awards conspiracy. In particular, critics from the likes of Deadline and Gold Derby theorized that the Kathryn Bigelow-directed film didn’t win anything at the 2013 Oscars because the disapproving American government intervened.
9. Robots in disguise
When EDM titans Daft Punk turned up to the 2014 Grammys, it was a rare public appearance by the famously secretive duo. However, blogs like Spinr argued that all wasn’t as it seemed. In fact, they reasoned that the people in robot suits collecting the group’s awards were actually imposters, and that the real musicians were hiding in plain sight a few rows away.
8. Misery loves company
Thanks to roles in the likes of Misery and Titanic, Kathy Bates is one of America’s most beloved actresses. So it seems all the more surprising that anyone would want to hurt her, especially at the 2015 Golden Globes. According to Us Weekly, however, the actress – who was mysteriously injured during the ceremony – had actually been attacked by some unknown assailant.
7. The greatest story never told
Before his 2016 The Revenant win put it to bed, Leonardo DiCaprio’s lack of Oscar success had been Hollywood’s best-running joke. But imaginative fans were convinced his spate of bad luck was conceived by the actor himself. Apparently, rather than triumph in Oscar glory, DiCaprio planned to shoot a biopic about his absence of awards – a feature that would inevitably win an Oscar itself.
6. Down to the river
While Hattie McDaniel’s Oscar for 1939’s Gone With the Wind remains the first golden statuette for an African American performer, the historic award strangely went missing in the late ’60s. Of all the theories surrounding its absence, though, the most famous alleges that the statuette ended up at the bottom of the Potomac River, thrown there by angry Civil Rights protestors.
5. Falling down
The famously klutzy Jennifer Lawrence won hearts everywhere after she stumbled and fell at the 2013 Academy Awards. However, when she made a similar mistake on the following year’s red carpet, fans on Twitter accused the star’s fall as a deliberate PR tactic. Talk about a fall from grace.
4. Botox bribery
When it comes to award seasons, designers will do anything to have starlets wearing their gowns. To this end, fashionistas reportedly bribe actresses into donning their outfits for the Oscars. And among the things rumored to be gifted out – according to a 2012 New York Post story – are indispensable aids to a film star’s look: Botox vouchers.
3. GOP dismissal
For many years, critics have accused the Academy of overlooking Republican artists – including Clint Eastwood. Inded, despite his movie American Sniper becoming the highest-grossing film of 2014, Eastwood was supposedly snubbed at that year’s Oscars due to his political beliefs. That’s according to sources like Globe magazine, even if this theory doesn’t explain his Oscar wins for Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby.
2. Boo-ling for Columbine
By contrast, liberal directors have also experienced the Academy’s disapproval. During his 2003 acceptance speech for Bowling for Columbine, for example, Michael Moore was booed off stage for criticizing then-president George W. Bush. Nevertheless, in his book Hollywood Myths writer Joe Williams argued that Moore’s speech was actually well-received and that boos were added in post-production for the ceremony’s TV broadcast.
1. A history of violence
Everyone knows that the Oscars pays tribute to Hollywood’s biggest stars; however, many don’t realize the shadowy history behind the ceremony’s organizer. Or, at least, that’s what’s alleged by sites like Alternet, which have claimed that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences reportedly funded to break unions and pro-workers groups in the 1920s. Moreover, the organization allegedly employed gangsters to bribe, intimidate and even kill union members.