16 Biggest Oscar Upsets Of The 21st Century

16. Best Supporting Actor - Benicio Del Toro, Traffic

USA Films

The Rightful Winner: Joaquin Phoenix, Gladiator

There's no disputing Benicio Del Toro's acting ability or the fact that Traffic is a compelling look at the inner workings of Mexican cartels.

Now that's out of the way, it was an absolute travesty that Joaquin Phoenix missed out on the Best Supporting Actor Award for his role as the detestable, scheming Emporer Commodus. There have been few performances before or since that have distilled the very essence of villainy.

It's actually impossible to watch Gladiator without unconditionally hating his character with every fibre of your being. He frequently tops lists of 'best movie villains' to this day illustrating the staying power of what could have easily been a one-note character if tackled by a less capable actor.

Commodus Gladiator
Universal Pictures

Del Toro always has a commanding onscreen presence and it's easy to see why his intense performance as a troubled police officer out to expose corruption would warrant a nomination. Any other year this role may have deserved the win but Phoenix's transformative turn as the creepy antagonist to Russell Crowe's stoic hero should have made Oscar gold a sure thing.

To use a highly unscientific method that nonetheless proves this point, the next time you have a conversation about movie characters, bring up both Commodus and Detective Javier Rodriquez and see who people prefer (or have heard of for that matter).


A pop culture mad writer from the North East who loves films, television and debating them with whoever will listen. Follow me on Twitter @Johno_Patterson