Although Oscars are usually set in stone (or gold-plated britannium, as it were), there have been some very rare instances where the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has revoked or disqualified a nomination. Here are nine of those instances.
1. The Circus (1928)
At the very first Academy Awards ceremony in 1929, Charlie Chaplin was nominated for four awards for The Circus: Best Actor, Best Writer, Best Director for a Comedy, and Outstanding Picture. Believing (or, more appropriately, fearing) that Chaplin would sweep all four categories, the Academy revoked his individual nominations and instead presented him with a special Honorary Award “for writing, acting, directing, and producing The Circus.”
2. Hondo (1953)
In 1954, the John Wayne western Hondo was nominated for Best Story. The film was later disqualified when it was discovered that the script was based on a short story called “The Gift of Cochise,” and not an original work.
3. High Society (1955)
In 1957, writers Edward Bernds and Elwood Ullman were nominated for Best Story for the musical comedy High Society starring Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly. There was only one problem: Bernds and Ullman didn’t write the 1956 musical comedy starring Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly. They wrote the 1955 Bowery Boys comedy of the same name. The Academy confused the two movies, and mistakenly nominated Bernds and Ullman, who very graciously withdrew their names from the final ballot.
4. Young Americans (1967)
The film Young Americans won the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1969. However, a month after it received the Oscar, the award was revoked when it was discovered that the film had played in a theater in October of 1967, making it ineligible for the 1968 movie awards season. The Oscar was given to the first runner-up, Journey Into Self, instead. Young Americans is the only movie in Academy history to receive an Oscar, then have it taken away after the ceremony.
5. The Godfather (1972)
In 1973, Francis Ford Coppola’s mob crime drama The Godfather was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for Marlon Brando (who won, but famously sent a woman named Sacheen Littlefeather to collect the statue, and announce that the actor “very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award. And the reasons for this being are the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry”). Composer Nino Rota was also nominated for Best Original Dramatic Score, but the accolade was later revoked when the Academy learned that Rota used some of his own score from the 1958 Italian comedy Fortunella in The Godfather. Two years later, Rota won an Academy Award for his work on The Godfather: Part II.
6. A Place in the World (1992)
Uruguay submitted A Place in the World as their official selection for the 65th Academy Awards in 1993. It received one of the five nominations for Best Foreign Language Film, but it was later removed from the final voting ballot because it was an Argentine film and Uruguay had insufficient artistic control over its production. It was director Adolfo Aristarain who asked neighboring Uruguay to submit the film on his behalf, as it was partly financed in Uruguay (and several Uruguayan artists contributed to the film). In response, Aristarain sued the Academy.
7. Tuba Atlantic (2010)
Tuba Atlantic is a 25-minute Norwegian short film about a 70-year-old man who only has six days to live and spends that time reconciling with his estranged family. It was nominated for Best Live Action Short Film in 2012, but the nomination was later rescinded after it was discovered that the film aired on Norwegian television before its theatrical release, which goes against the Academy’s rules.
8. ALONE YET NOT ALONE (2013)
In 2014, the title song from the Christian film Alone Yet Not Alone was nominated for Best Original Song, then disqualified two weeks later. The Academy discovered that Bruce Broughton, the song's composer and an executive committee member of the Academy's music branch, “had emailed [some of the other 239] members of the branch to make them aware of his submission during the nominations voting period,” which goes against Academy rules.
“No matter how well-intentioned the communication,” said Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, “using one’s position as a former governor and current executive committee member to personally promote one’s own Oscar submission creates the appearance of an unfair advantage.”
“I’m devastated,” Broughton told The Hollywood Reporter of the Academy's decision. “I indulged in the simplest grassroots campaign and it went against me when the song started getting attention. I got taken down by competition that had months of promotion and advertising behind them. I simply asked people to find the song and consider it."
9. 13 Hours (2016)
In 2017, 13 Hours—a Benghazi action-drama starring John Krasinski and directed by Michael Bay—earned a single Oscar nomination for Best Achievement in Sound Mixing, with four members of the sound team (Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush, Mac Ruth, and Greg P. Russell) singled out for their work. But on February 25, 2017—just one day before the ceremony—the Academy announced that they were rescinding Russell's nomination as a result of "telephone lobbying." The Academy's full statement on the matter read as follows:
Upon recommendation by the Sound Branch Executive Committee, the Academy’s Board of Governors voted Thursday (2/23) to rescind the Sound Mixing nomination for Greg P. Russell from 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi for violation of Academy campaign regulations. The decision was prompted by the discovery that Russell had called his fellow members of the Sound Branch during the nominations phase to make them aware of his work on the film, in direct violation of a campaign regulation that prohibits telephone lobbying. An additional nominee for 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi will not be named in his place. The remaining Sound Mixing nominees for the film are Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Mac Ruth.
In the end, the film lost the award to Mel Gibson's Hacksaw Ridge.
An earlier version of this story ran in 2017.