Even if we're not directly involved in the movie-making or the voting process, the Academy Awards feel participatory — personal, even. These are movies that we've watched, formed thoughts about, and debated over, these last few months. These are performances we're rooting for. The Academy Awards give us a chance to see how our opinions hold up when compared to the "experts."
As a result of this investment, the Academy Awards are as much a spectacle as the movies themselves are. We mine the show for GIF-worthy reactions. We listen for tear-jerking speeches. And we wait, in anticipation, for Best Picture upsets, should they come. Best Picture sets the tone for what the Academy celebrates in terms of cinematic storytelling. The award is a nod for the movie's art, and for what is being prioritizing in art at the moment.
But sometimes, what the Academy deems the most artful and the best isn't actually the movie that remains relevant and beloved. Often the Best Picture is chosen from the current mood — the war-weary Academy voters in 1942, for example, decided that Citizen Kane was just too depressing, and overlooked it for Best Picture. The absurdity of Citizen Kane's loss became clearer as time went on, and the film was deemed the best movie of all time. Other Best Picture upsets are shocking at the very moment in which they occur, and undermine expectations.
These are the Best Picture upsets that left people wondering, "How? Why?" either the night of the Oscars, or many years later.