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The Academy Got It Wrong: Black Oscar Winners and the Roles They Should Have Won For

by Jai Tiggett
February 28, 2014 10:30 AM
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Denzel Washington           

Won for: Pvt. Trip, Glory (1989)           

Should have won for: Take your pick. Arguably, Washington's Oscar for Glory was well deserved, but during his heyday from the late '80s to mid-90's, he gave a series of Oscar-caliber performances in hard-hitting dramas like A Soldier’s Story (1984), Philadelphia (1993), and Cry Freedom (1987), for which he also received a nomination. 

Cuba Gooding, Jr.

Won for: Rod Tidwell, Jerry Maguire (1996)

Beyond 1991's Boyz n the Hood, which earned director John Singleton nominations for both Best Director and Best Original Screenplay, Jerry Maguire is about as good as it gets for Cuba Gooding, Jr.


Morgan Freeman

Won for: Eddie "Scrap-Iron" Dupris, Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Should have won for: Joe Clark, Lean on Me (1989)                                                      

When Freeman spoke with THR a few years ago, he cited no-nonsense principal Joe Clark as one of a handful of roles that defined his five decade-long career. He was instead nominated for an Oscar in 1989 for his supporting role in Driving Miss Daisy.

Regarding his win for Million Dollar Baby he said, "It actually kinda felt anticlimactic. I guess you just sort of know you can only get so many nominations before they decide, 'Oh, why don't we just give it to him?'"

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  • Albie | March 4, 2014 1:00 PMReply

    Although I agree with the Oscar mistake, I disagree with the comments about Cuba Gooding Jr. I think he is a very talented actor. His dramatic roles are superb but they seem to be overshadowed by his stereotypical comedic roles. His work in "MEN OF HONOR" is worthy of recognition. With performances in films like RADIO, THE TUSKEGEE AIRMEN, and AMERICAN GANGSTER his star shines. It's just too bad he has to many performances in films like CHILL FACTOR, SNOW DOGS, and THE FIGHTING TEMPTATIONS that diminish his film legacy.

  • Movie critic | March 2, 2014 7:34 PMReply

    Morgan Freeman as the pimp Fast Black in "Street Smart", Don Cheadle as Mouse in "Devil In a Blue Dress" (Jeffrey Wright in Basquiat - it is a travesty that none of these timeless, extraordinary performances were even nominated.

  • MOVIE WATCHER | March 29, 2014 9:03 PM

    Morgan Freeman received an Oscar nomination for Street Smart.

  • Troy Johnson | March 2, 2014 6:40 PMReply

    As far as I'm concerned Idris Elba not being nominated for best Actor and "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" deserved to at least be nominated and in my book deserved to win.

  • Moviecritic | March 2, 2014 7:36 PM

    Agreed. And Naomie a harris KILLED as Winnie Mandela.

  • deecreative | March 1, 2014 11:11 AMReply

    as big a crime it is that Malcolm X didn't win any awards 'The Color Purple' not winning ANY awards is probably THE Oscar crime of the 20th century. Everything about that movie and dag gone near all the performances were Oscar worthy and I agree with Denzel's performance in 'A Soldier's Story'. Shoooot Mo' Betta Blues was an Oscar worthy performance.

  • Ignorance Lives | March 4, 2014 4:16 PM

    @ BRUTAL, Gerard, why did you change your name?

  • brutal honesty | March 1, 2014 4:30 PM

    color purple is an important black film directed by an overrated white man
    malcom X is maybe the best film of the 90s directed by a racist
    either way..
    the academy were in no rush to ''award'' those motion pictures

  • Yvette | February 28, 2014 6:32 PMReply

    I would like to add Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne should have won for their roles in What's Love Got To Do With It.

  • Ignorance Lives | March 4, 2014 4:19 PM

    GERARD, kindly stfu.

  • gerard kennelly | March 1, 2014 4:32 PM

    holly hunter was the better performance
    call it racist
    call it the truth
    call it what you want
    hunter was better same as 'The Artist' was superior to other movies the year it won

  • Roberto | February 28, 2014 6:18 PMReply

    I think Halle deserved her Oscar for Monster's but was even better in the film Things we Lost in the Fire, she should have been nominated for that role at least

  • gerard kennelly | March 1, 2014 4:34 PM

    TWLITF also starred alison lohman
    hers was the definition of an oscar worthy performance

  • Syrich | February 28, 2014 11:02 AMReply

    I always felt that Denzel should have won for "Hurricane" and he should get sometype of mention for A soldier's Story.

    And the only thing I have ever seen HB in that I thought she gave a decent performance was Jungle Fever otherwise her acting has never really appealed to me. I just saw "Call" and I kept thinking this movie would be so much better if HB and that little girl were not in it. They both over and under acted.

  • Moviectitic | March 2, 2014 7:27 PM

    Agree re: a Hurricane. Denzel totally got shafted on that

  • Adam Scott Thompson | March 2, 2014 7:04 PM

    Between Washington's and Spacey's performances, it was a dead heat. Both men were in their prime and with access to la crème material. That said, it was probably the controversy regarding the historical accuracy of "The Hurricane" that allowed Spacey to pull ahead.

    The same thing happened the year Denzel won for "Training Day." Although a "Beautiful Mind" ultimately won Best Picture, it too was accused of fudging or omitting facts (Nash was bisexual; he left his first wife [not Jennifer Connelly] and kid and didn't pay child support; schizophrenics' hallucinations are auditory, not visual).

    All it takes sometimes is for a rival studio to initiate a smear campaign, or for the actor to decide they won't lobby that hard.

  • maximus decimus meridius | March 1, 2014 4:37 PM

    @ Sergio


    his ''win'' for training day in 2001 was after the russell crowe BAFTA controversy

  • Sergio | February 28, 2014 5:45 PM

    As I wrote in my piece back last fall when the blu-ray DVD for Hurriance was announced Washington had been a lock to win the Oscar but it was the controversy about the film that could have hurt his chances

    "After the film was released, there was a huge outcry over the inaccuracies in it. Furthermore several people, who had previously worked on proving Carter’s innocence for years, weren’t even mentioned in the film, which gave the impression that the Canadian group did all the work, when, in reality, they came in very late into the game, and used the work by those previous others to prove Carter’s innocence. And being that (director Norman) Jewison is Canadian himself, one can understand his favoritism."

    "In fact, it was speculated by some that the controversy may have cost Washington winning the Oscar, and that his win for Training Day in 2001 was partially a sort of “make up” for The Hurricane loss."

  • Jai | February 28, 2014 4:27 PM

    True, he did get another nomination for 'Hurricane' in 1999 but lost to Kevin Spacey for 'American Beauty." Some think that's the reason they finally gave it to him for 'Training Day' two years later.

  • Rocket | February 28, 2014 1:51 PM

    I agree on "Hurricane". It gets lost in the shuffle when people talk about Denzel's extensive career.

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