14 people you probably didn't know won an Oscar

AP Photo/Reed Saxon/AP Photo/Lennox McLendon/AP Photo/Reed SaxonNicolas Cage, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Cher all won Oscars for acting.
  • The main acting awards all went to veterans of the industry at the 2020 Oscars.
  • Brad Pitt and Laura Dern won awards for their roles in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and “Marriage Story,” respectively. Joaquin Phoenix won best actor for his leading role in “Joker.”
  • While these actors are all staples, there are plenty of people across the Academy’s 92-year-history that you may be surprised to learn are also holders of the little gold statue.
  • Nicolas Cage, Eminem, and Kevin Costner (twice) are all people you might not expect to be Oscar-winners – but they are.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Stevie Wonder

AP PhotoThis nomination is Wonder’s only ever nomination to date.

Award won: Best music, original song

For: “The Woman in Red,” for the song “I Just Called to Say I Love You”

Year: 1985 – 57th Academy Awards

Everyone knows that Stevie Wonder has won a billion Grammys (well, 25 to be exact), but his Oscar win goes under the radar despite the song he won for being a mega hit. Prince won in the same year, too, for his work on “Purple Rain,” making 1985 the first Oscars where multiple black nominees won their Oscars.

Lionel Richie

AP PhotoLionel Richie has been nominated for three Oscars in total.

Award won: Best music, original song

For: “White Nights,” for the song “Say You, Say Me”

Year: 1986 – 58th Academy Awards

Richie, much like Stevie Wonder, has won a bunch of Grammys (four, significantly less than Wonder), and is famous for his iconic tunes. The Academy recognised one of them in 1986, although this win curiously seems to go under the radar still.


AP Photo/Lennox McLendon‘Moonstruck’ was nominated for six Oscars and won three.

Award won: Best actress

For: “Moonstruck”

Year: 1988 – 60th Academy Awards

Cher is best known for being Cher. The multi-hyphenate is an icon and while her music from the 1980s is still very much remembered today, her film work is less so.

Cher was nominated for best supporting actress for “Silkwood” in 1984. Four years later, she won best actress.

Kevin Costner

AP Photo/Bob GalbraithCostner received three nominations for ‘Dances with Wolves’ and won two.

Award won: Best director and best picture

For: “Dances With Wolves”

Year: 1990 – 63rd Academy Awards

Not only did you probably not know that Kevin Costner has won an Oscar, he’s actually won two.

Costner’s directorial debut “Dances with Wolves” won seven Oscars in total, with Costner taking home two for best director and best picture. He was also nominated for best actor for the film, too, but lost to Jeremy Irons in “Reversal of Fortune.” These three nominations are Costner’s only two nominations.

Whoopi Goldberg

AP Photo/Bob Galbraith‘Ghost’ received five Oscar nominations including best picture and won two.

Award won: Best supporting actress

For: “Ghost”

Year: 1991 – 63rd Academy Awards

Goldberg is another star who is mostly famous for being an icon, but Goldberg was actually nominated for best actress for “The Colour Purple” in 1986 before winning best supporting actress for the classic romance “Ghost.” Goldberg played pretend-psychic Oda Mae Brown.

Plus, Goldberg is also one of the few EGOT winners – she’s won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony.

Marisa Tomei

AP Photo/Bob Galbraith‘My Cousin Vinny’s’ sole Oscar nomination (and subsequent win) was Marisa Tomei’s best-supporting actress Oscar.

Award won: Best supporting actress

For: “My Cousin Vinny”

Year: 1993 -65th Academy Awards

Yep, Aunt May from the MCU has won an Oscar! Aside from nailing the role as Spider-Man’s (Tom Holland) aunt, Tomei is actually a three-time Oscar-nominee, all for best supporting actress.

She was nominated in 2002 for “In the Bedroom” and in 2009 for “The Wrestler” but won on her first nomination in 1993, co-starring with Joe Pesci.

Peter Capaldi

AP Photo/Lois BernsteinCapaldi won as a director but is predominantly known as an actor. The short film starred Richard E. Grant.

Award won: Best short film, live action

For: “Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life”

Year: 1995 – 67th Academy Awards

Capaldi is known internationally as a former Doctor Who, while he’s also appeared in “World War Z,” “The Personal History of David Copperfield,” and will appear in the upcoming DC movie “The Suicide Squad.”

But hardly anyone knows that the former Doctor is an Oscar-winner, too, sharing the award with Ruth Kenley-Letts. “Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life” actually tied for the Oscar with another short film – “Trevor.”


AP Photo/Chris PizzelloEminem wasn’t at the 2003 Oscars to accept his award, but did perform the song he won for at the 2020 Oscars.

Award won: Best music, original song

For: “8 Mile,” for the song “Lose Yourself”

Year: 1996 – 68th Academy Awards

Eminem was so convinced that he wasn’t going to win this award that he stayed at home. Nonetheless, he became the first rapper to win the award and shared it with Jeff Bass and Luis Resto.

Eminem also starred in “8 Mile,” but finally appeared at the Oscars 17 years later, giving a surprise performance of “Lose Yourself” on Sunday’s 2020 Oscars ceremony.

Jim Rash

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)‘The Descendants’ was nominated for five Oscars.

Award won: Best adapted screenplay

For: “The Descendants”

Year: 1996 – 68th Academy Awards

Jim Rash is best known for playing Dean in “Community,” and also make a cameo in “Captain America: Civil War.” But Rash isn’t just an actor, he’s also a writer.

He put his writing skills to good use for “The Descendants,” which starred George Clooney and was nominated for best picture. Rash co-wrote the script with director Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon.

Nicolas Cage

AP Photo/Reed Saxon)Cage has been nominated for two best actor Oscars.

Award won: Best actor

For: “Leaving Las Vegas”

Year: 1996 – 68th Academy Awards

Cage is almost universally known for being that wacky actor from “National Treasure,” and that “Not the Bees” GIF. But he also beat Anthony Hopkins and Sean Penn to win best actor in 1996. He was nominated for the same award in 2003 for “Adaptation.”

Anna Paquin

AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac‘The Piano’ was nominated for eight Oscars and won three.

Award won: Best supporting actress

For: “The Piano”

Year: 1996 – 66th Academy Awards

Yep, Rogue from the “X-Men” movies is an Oscar-winner. In fact, she’s actually the second-youngest Oscar-winner in history, winning at 11-years-old (Tatum O’Neal holds the record at age 10).

“The Piano” was Paquin’s acting debut but while her career got off to a flying start, she hasn’t been nominated since.

Matt Damon

AP Photo/Susan Sterner‘Good Will Hunting’ was nominated for nine Oscars and won two.

Award won: Best original screenplay

For: “Good Will Hunting”

Year: 1998 – 70th Academy Awards

Everyone knows that Ben Affleck won best picture for “Argo,” and everyone knows that Matt Damon has been nominated for a bunch of acting Oscars including best actor for “The Martian.”

But not everyone knows that Damon and Affleck penned a screenplay together, got that made into “Good Will Hunting” and then won an Oscar for that screenplay. Oh, and Robin Williams won best supporting actor for that movie, too.

Gwyneth Paltrow

AP Photo/Reed Saxon‘Shakespeare in Love’ won seven Oscars in total.

Award won: Best actress

For: “Shakespeare in Love”

Year: 1999 – 71st Academy Awards

Paltrow is probably best known for her role in the “Iron Man” saga as Pepper Potts, plus her wellbeing company Goop, but Paltrow actually gave one of the most memorable Oscar speeches ever.

The actress broke down when she won for “Shakespeare in Love,” which went on to win best picture over “Saving Private Ryan.” This win and nomination are the only ones to date for Paltrow, however.

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