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Consolation Award

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Sick Boy: All I'm trying to do, Mark, is help you understand that The Name of the Rose was merely a blip on an otherwise uninterrupted downward trajectory.
Renton: What about The Untouchables?
Sick Boy: I don't rate that at all.
Renton: Despite the Academy Award?
Sick Boy: That means fuck all! It's a sympathy vote.
Trainspotting on the subject of Sean Connery

What may happen as a result of someone getting one too many Award Snubs. Basically, someone in the entertainment industry has gone too long without winning a particular award, despite their work being considered some of the best in their field. Eventually, they do end up winning the award... but for something considered pretty inferior to the rest of their work.

Ironically, this ends up continuing the cycle of snubs, since, well, someone better has to lose.


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    Film — Animation 
  • It's pretty much acknowledged that Randy Newman only won the Oscar for Best Song in 2002 ("If I Didn't Have You", from Monsters, Inc.) because it was one of the weakest years for that category and Newman had already lost many times.
  • A common criticism of the Best Animated Feature category in the Oscars is that it was made as a consolation prize for animated films (or, alternately, that it was created after Beauty and the Beast nearly won Best Picture and the Academy wanted to prevent an animated film from winning that award). This came to a head in 2008 when Wall E won the Best Animated Feature award but wasn't nominated for Best Picture, despite being one of the best-reviewed films of the year. Despite this, the Academy said that an animated film can be nominated in both categories. In the years ahead, the amount of films eligible for nomination for Best Picture doubled and Up and Toy Story 3 got nominated consecutively.
    • Also, the award used to be voted upon by Academy members each year. It wasn't until the 2012 ceremony that it became a permanent category.
    • At the 2013 ceremony of both the Academy Awards and Golden Globes, Brave was the winner despite getting weaker critical responses than most of the other animated movies that year (namely fellow Best Animated Picture nominees Frankenweenie, ParaNorman, Wreck-It Ralph, and The Pirates! Band of Misfits). There was big controversy surrounding Brave and the fact that their first female director, Brenda Chapman, got fired from the project. The fact that she went on stage to accept the award with the crew made it too coincidental. Others saw the victory as the Academy was kissing Pixar's asses. The next year, Frozen came out and won both the Globe and the Oscar which some consider a consolation award for Wreck-It Ralph.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Peter O'Toole was nominated eight times for the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, making him the most-nominated actor never to win the award (tied with Glenn Close). In 2003, he instead received an Academy Honorary Award for his entire body of work and his lifelong contribution to film. Well gee, thanks a lot, Academy. O'Toole received another Best Actor nomination afterwards for Venus (2006), only to lose to Forest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland.
  • Jean-Paul Belmondo won the French César Award for Best Actor in 1989 for Itinéraire d'un enfant gâté. He didn't show up at the ceremony, and explained ten years later in an interview: "Awards? You've got to give them when actors are young. It was I-don't-know-how-much years that they didn't give me any award, so I didn't want to earn one. Not out of bitterness, but I think when I was young I would have loved to earn a prize, I didn't get one. I think young actors should be rewarded and not the actors who have made a long career."
  • This trope's Distaff Counterpart to O'Toole is Deborah Kerr, who earned six Academy Award nominations for Best Actress in a Leading Role over a twelve year period from 1950-1961, and lost all six, coming up short on her last try to Elizabeth Taylor's consolation Oscar for Butterfield 8 (see below). She also received four BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) nominations for Best Actress in her native Great Britain and lost all four of those too, making her the most-nominated performer never to win Best Actress in TWO countries. Both the British and American Academies finally and belatedly presented her with Honorary Awards for lifetime achievement in the 1990s, more than two decades after she had effectively retired from acting.
  • Martin Scorsese's The Departed is not widely considered to be one of his best (though it's still considered a very, very good movie). So, one can't help but wonder if this trope was in effect when it won Best Picture and he won Best Director, after decades of Scorsese's work never getting the honor. Arguably, though, it might also because it was the most successful movie out of that year's Best Picture nominees.
    • Its wins for Screenplay and Editing (which some thought might go to ACE award co-winner Babel) also suggest otherwise. Some even expected Babel to win Best Picture and Scorsese to win Best Director, which would have been more indicative of a Consolation Award.
    • An important trend to remember about Scorsese was that his more critically acclaimed movies that many feel he should have previously won for note  were all Vindicated by History. At the time of their releases controversy actually overshadowed the films themselves leading to their snubs year in and out.
  • Cecil B. DeMille's 1952 film The Greatest Show on Earth is considered by many to be one of the worst films to ever win Best Picture. Some suspect the only reason it got the award was because DeMille's films had never won one yet, despite the man's career dating all the way back to the silent era. Ironically, they could have just waited a few years and given it to his last film and one of his best — The Ten Commandments (1956). Instead, it lost Best Picture and DeMille wasn't even nominated as Best Director.
    • And incidentally, one film that wasn't even nominated for Best Picture in 1952? Singin' in the Rain!
  • John Wayne's Best Actor win in 1969 for True Grit is seen as a consolation for him not winning the award for his work in films like Red River, The Quiet Man, The Searchers, and Sands of Iwo Jima (though Wayne was at least nominated for the latter, many including himself felt he should have been nominated for She Wore a Yellow Ribbon). To this day, majority of people strongly feel that Dustin Hoffman should have one his much deserved Best Actor Oscar for his gritty, heartbreaking performance in Midnight Cowboy.
  • Henry Fonda finally won a Best Actor Oscar for On Golden Pond, the last movie he ever made. Notably, this came just a year after he won an Honorary Oscar (like Paul Newman below), but the idea that he was horribly overdue for an award was so strong that no one expected any of his fellow four nomineesnote  to beat him. It softened the blow that the movie was a huge box office hit — the second-biggest of 1981.
  • By the time 2009 rolled around, Kate Winslet had been nominated six times and had yet to win an Oscar. What makes people believe that this occurred is that she won Best Actress for The Reader, even though she won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress for the same role. Interestingly, she also won Best Lead Actress at the Golden Globes that year, but for Revolutionary Road. Many people believed that she deserved to win for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, as well as Revolutionary Road,Titanic, Sense and Sensibility and Little Children.
  • Leonardo DiCaprio has built a solid body of work since Titanic and some would argue that the films he made before winning for The Revenant, had better performances: Catch Me If You Can, The Aviator, The Departed, Shutter Island, Revolutionary Road, Inception and especially The Wolf of Wall Street, which leads them to see The Revenant as a case of consolation award.
  • Al Pacino got a Best Actor Oscar in 1992 for Scent of a Woman, despite the role not being nearly as critically acclaimed as The Godfather, The Godfather Part II or Dog Day Afternoon.
    • Arguably The Godfather was this for Marlon Brando. Pacino was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. It could be argued the nominations should have been reversed as Michael is really the protagonist and has more screen time than Vito who spends a good portion of the movie recovering from multiple gunshots.
  • An example of the cycle continuing: In 2001, Nicole Kidman was nominated for Moulin Rouge!, but lost to Halle Berry. The next year, she won for The Hours, a film that has been all but forgotten.
    • However, in doing so, she beat Renée Zellweger in Chicago, who ended up winning Best Supporting Actress in 2003 for Cold Mountain. A lot of the reviews of Cold Mountain actually contained comments along the lines of "just give Renée the Oscar already" (NOTE: She had been nominated for Best Actress in 2001 as well, for Bridget Jones's Diary.
    • Kidman's win also came at the expense of Julianne Moore's performance in Far from Heaven, which had previously won the Best Actress prize at the Broadcast Film Critics Choice, Los Angeles Film Critics, and National Board of Review Awards and came in second place at the New York Film Critics Circle. Julianne Moore's win for Still Alice in 2014 was seen in large part consolation for not having won for Far from Heaven or Boogie Nights (as she lost the latter prize to Kim Basinger in L.A. Confidential), as many feel Reese Witherspoon should've won for her performance in Wild.
  • One of the more infamous of these was Paul Newman winning for his work in a sequel to The Hustler (1961), The Color of Money, because he'd been snubbed decades earlier for his work in the original. Moreover, he'd just received an Honorary Oscar the previous year!
  • Possibly the most famous (or infamous) of these is that Alfred Hitchcock never won an Oscar as a director (though Rebecca won Best Picture). The Academy gave him a lifetime achievement award, which he deserved anyway, but it was mostly an apology for never giving him an award for Vertigo, Psycho, North By Northwest, The Birds, Rope, Strangers on a Train, The Man Who Knew Too Much, To Catch a Thief, Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, Marnie...
  • The first two installments of The Lord of the Rings trilogy received nothing but technical awards. The final installment received just about every (non-acting) Oscar. The Academy was apparently reluctant to hand out big awards to the early installments for fear of clogging up the awards for the next three years, and decided to treat the last installment as a catch-all summation of the trilogy.
  • Denzel Washington's work in Training Day, after losing for The Hurricane and Malcolm X.
  • Russell Crowe's win for Gladiator might have been a consolation award for not winning for The Insider, which was generally thought to be a stronger performance but like Denzel with The Hurricane, lost to Kevin Spacey in American Beauty (then an even more lauded performance by Crowe in A Beautiful Mind lost to Denzel in Training Day).
  • Elizabeth Taylor's 1960 Oscar for Butterfield 8, a film that's forgotten, and she didn't even want to do (she called it "a piece of garbage"). She was nominated in 1957 for Raintree County, in 1958 for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and in 1959 for Suddenly, Last Summer, of which the latter two are considered classics. It's widely thought that she won by a vote of sympathy, because of her recent near-fatal illness - Taylor herself agreed with this in her book Elizabeth Takes Off.
  • On the subject of Golden Age stars, while Humphrey Bogart gave his usual quality performance in The African Queen opposite fellow screen legend Katharine Hepburn, it is universally agreed that his Oscar for that film was actually for his work in The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca, for which he was ignored.
  • James Baskett, the lead actor of Song of the South, was given an "Honorary Oscar" at that year's Academy Award because at the time, an African American wasn't going to be nominated for a lead role.
  • Although Jimmy Stewart gave a solid performance in The Philadelphia Story, it's commonly accepted that the Best Actor Oscar he won was really for his career-defining work in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington the year before.
  • Within minutes of her 2012 Best Actress win, the general consensus was that Meryl Streep won for The Iron Lady as compensation for... oh, everything she's ever done since Sophie's Choice (her last Oscar win, nearly 30 years and 17 nominations ago). It's been said that Meryl is simply beyond awards, and she's usually excluded simply to give the rest of the gender a chance. Unfortunately, the fact that she won over Viola Davis (who really should have won for Doubt four years earlier) means that many people are crying racism. There were even accusations that Octavia Spencer's win for Best Supporting Actress was a deliberate step by the Academy to stave off such cries, though that may be taking the conspiracy theories a bit too far.
    • It didn't help matters when people looked at the two movies in question. When you look at The Iron Lady, the reviews frequently said that Meryl was the best part of an otherwise lukewarm film, whereas The Help was both a critical and commercial darling.
  • A not inconsiderable number of people thought that Heath Ledger's posthumous Best Supporting Actor win for The Dark Knight was an attempt to make up for not giving him Best Actor for Brokeback Mountain, when he was still alive.
  • Halle Berry's Best Actress win for Monster's Ball is considered by some a consolation towards black actresses - including Angela Bassett, nominated a few years prior for What's Love Got to Do with It (1993).
  • Bette Davis herself said that her Oscar for Dangerous was a consolation prize for Of Human Bondage, for which she was not nominated.
  • Charlie Chaplin, the most influential actor, comedian and film maker of the first half of the 20th century has never won any Oscar for acting or directing. He did win an honorary Oscar for The Circus (1929), but this is generally considered to be one of his less iconic films. In 1972 he won an honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement and one for composing the score to Limelight (1952), a film that was already 20 years old by that time but was never shown in the USA for those 20 years due to accusations of Chaplin being a communist. In the 1970s the film was finally shown in the USA and the jury decided it would be a fine opportunity to give the iconic star an honorary award for his entire career. Limelight, though a fine film, is not generally considered to be one of Chaplin's greatest comedies.
    • Similarly, innovative and influential comedians like Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Stan Laurel and Groucho Marx never won an Oscar for many of the classic films they performed in. All of them did receive honorary Oscars later in their career, though.
    • In this same vein, Jackie Chan who is considered a successor to some of those influential comedians (especially to the more physically oriented ones like Buster Keaton), earning an honorary Oscar in 2016 comes off like this to some people; though for the most part it's taken in a positive light. As his body of work in general is rather unlikely to win a regular Oscar, many fans and supporters were happy that he was actually given recognition at all for his contributions to action-comedy films, stuntwork, choreography, and action scene editing.
  • Despite middling reviews, Jacques Audiard's Dheepan still won the Palme d'Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, largely due to snubs for earlier, much better films such as A Prophet and Rust and Bone. Even moreso, the film beat out acclaimed front runners such as Son of Saul, The Assassin and Carol for this prize.
  • Whoopi Goldberg's win for Ghost (1990) was argued by Agony Booth to have been a consolation award for her snub for The Color Purple.
  • Spike Lee, a director who made some critically acclaimed films based on social commentary about race, such as Do the Right Thing and Malcolm X, received an honorary Oscar in 2016 for his whole body of work, after being nominated multiple times and losing in the past. However, he didn't attend the ceremony that year, and still criticized the institution of Hollywood for its lack of diversity after accepting the award. Though unlike most examples of this trope, he would later win again in 2019 for Best Adapted Screenplay for BlacKkKlansman.
  • The Muppets' 2012 Oscar win for Best Song ("Man or Muppet") is seen by some as this for "The Rainbow Connection", which was nominated in the same category in 1979 but lost to the comparatively more obscure "It Goes Like It Goes" from Norma Rae.
  • When Cher won the 1987 best actress Oscar for her film Moonstruck some commentators felt this award was being given to her to make up for her snub for not winning best actress for Mask a few years earlier. While the film Moonstruck recieved critical praise that year and her performance was also praised, it was not seen as the best of all the nominees that year.
  • Jamie Lee Curtis's 2023 Best Supporting Actress Oscar win for Everything Everywhere All at Once, the first time she'd ever been nominated for an Oscar, was criticised for being a lifetime achievement award, particularly as it snubbed both Angela Bassett and her own co-star, Stephanie Hsu (who many considered to have a more significant role in the film) and thus drew accusations of racism.
  • Christopher Plummer was a respected Canadian actor, with notable roles in films such as The Sound of Music and 12 Monkeys, but he had never been nominated for an Oscar until 2010, when he was 80 years old. Two years later, Plummer finally won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for Beginners, which some considered a lifetime achievement award.

    Live-Action TV 
  • It is quite common for the Gold Logie (an Australian television award) to be awarded to someone who is retiring or at least moving on from a long-term role. A good example is John Wood, who was nominated every year from 1997 until he finally won in 2006 (the year Blue Heelers was cancelled). Similarly, Kate Ritchie won the award shortly after leaving Home and Away.
  • Grant Denyer followed this pattern in 2018, winning the Gold Logie shortly after the announcement that his version of Family Feud was cancelled, with a lot of help from self-appointed campaign manager Tom Gleeson. The following year, Tom was nominated for his hosting of Hard Quiz, and he tried the same tactic of not having a show, by claiming that Hard Quiz wasn't coming back even though they were still holding auditions, as was pointed out more than once in his appearances on The Weekly with Charlie Pickering. His explanation was that he was intending to "bring it back" if he won, which he did.
  • While she didn't win the award, Kate Bell was nominated for the Silver Logie for Best New Female Talent in 2010 for a guest role in Home and Away, seemingly because both TV Week and its readers (she had to be shortlisted by the magazine and then nominated by a reader poll) forgot about her regular role in Blue Water High in 2005 and 2008. Considering the name of the award, it overlaps with Award Category Fraud.
  • Although the Primetime Emmys are known less for consolation awards than other organizations (as decisions were, until 2015, made by select groups of people in panels rather than by the Academy as a whole, unlike with the Oscars), Peter Dinklage's second Emmy win for Game of Thrones was seen by this by some. His work in Season 5, although still considered good, was far less active than it had been in previous years, and several of the other nominees in his category were nominated for much more showy work (notably Jonathan Banks from Better Call Saul, whom Dinklage cited in his acceptance speech). It was theorized by some that he won both for being the most popular actor associated with the show and for losing the award for his performance in Season 4's "The Laws of Gods and Men" the year before.
  • Rupauls Drag Race has often been accused of this regarding the Miss Congeniality award and the All-Stars seasons:
    • On paper, Miss Congeniality is where the viewers are invited to vote online for the nicest contestant of the season, but some years the award goes to the fan-favorite who didn't make it to the finale, whether they were particularly congenial or not. Season 7 Miss Congeniality Katya even admitted that if the vote were up to the contestants themselves like in beauty contests, Jaidynn Dior Fierce would have won. This changed in Season 10 where a snag in the online voting system led to the results getting scrapped and having the queens vote instead. Monet X. Change won and this was largely accepted by fans, so the practice was kept for future seasons.
    • As for All-Stars, the first All-Stars season was seen by many as an excuse to give Chad Michaels a crown, who was bitter about losing Season 4 to Sharon Needles. Later seasons have basically become "Second Chance for the Crown," as season winners are normally not brought back, hence the controversy over whether or not Season 1 winner Bebe Zahara Benet should have been eligible for All-Stars 3. Beside Chad there was also All Stars 2 winner Alaska and All Stars 5 winner Shea Coulee, who were both finalists in their respective original seasons

  • Metallica won a Consolation Grammy Award after losing Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance to (shockingly) Jethro Tull the year before, with drummer Lars Ulrich facetiously thanking Jethro Tull for not putting out an album that year during his acceptance speech. The Grammys finally realized how much Metallica had contributed to heavy metal and decided to give the award for their Self-Titled Album, Metallica. Tull's infamous win was itself a likely attempt at this that backfired on the Recording Academy.
  • Nirvana's only Grammy win could be considered this. After five unsuccessful nominations, the band finally won a Grammy award in 1996 for Best Alternative Music Performance for MTV Unplugged in New York. Seeing as how the band had already broken up by then after Kurt Cobain's suicide in 1994, this was obviously the last chance the Grammys had to award the band.
  • Steely Dan won 3 Grammies for their 2000 album Two Against Nature, which was their first in 20 years. Their 70s work is extremely well regarded, but even the band wasn't totally satisfied with Nature, and noted this trope in action. In particular they said Eminem should have received the 'Album Of The Year' award instead (for The Marshall Mathers LP).
  • Pink Floyd's sole Grammy was awarded in 1994 for Best Rock Instrumental Performance for "Marooned" from The Division Bell, despite being one of the most popular rock bands of all time.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • There's a possible analogue in Professional Wrestling - some performers can work for years, often in a jobber role, but just by ill fortune, injuries or other reasons can go largely unrecognised in terms of championships, so they get a token reign later on. Examples:
    • Hugh Morrus in WCW stands out as one - he was a classic "jobber" for years, making other people look good on the way up, and eventually got a "feel good" US title reign in 2000.
    • Mick Foley stated in his second book that he felt that his title reign in 1999 were granted more as a lifetime achievement award rather than being the "top guy" although some of the fans might have disagreed since he was the top active face at the time (Stone Cold was briefly on the shelf).
    • Another notable example of a "Thank You" rein is when long time Jobber, The Brooklyn Brawler beat (by way of a fluke) WWE golden boy Triple H in a handicap elimination match where he teamed with Kaientai via Chris Jericho's interference. The Brawler is one of those guys that makes anyone look great.
    • Steven Richards and Funaki were jobbers for years before they both got their own consolation gimmicks related to the shows they were on, Stevie Night Heat and Smackdown's Number 1 Ring Announcer. They were kept with the company for many years longer than most other jobbers as they were well liked and loyal to the company, but none of the writing team knew what to do with them.
    • Also, older veterans who were still active like Chris Benoit, Kane, Mark Henry, were given title reigns in their late careers for paying their dues.

  • Albert Einstein never won any awards for Relativity theory. His Nobel Prize was for the photoelectric effect instead (though his explanation was one of the key points leading to the development of quantum mechanics).

  • The BBC's Sports Personality Of The Year award has run into this a couple of times. Steve Redgrave's award in 2000 was clearly for his fifth straight Olympic gold medal (he came second in the vote after his fourth) rather than the individual year's achievements, and Ryan Giggs seemed a little sheepish about his 2009 win after a year where he hadn't done much more than he had in his previous twenty year career.
    • There are similarly a few cases of people not being honoured for long career success on the assumption that they'll continue to sustain it and they can be awarded later, which seems to have stuffed Phil Taylor and Ronnie O'Sullivan. Jess Ennis-Hill, "face" of the 2012 Olympics and one of the three British gold winners on Super Saturday, lost out to Bradley Wiggins; she took silver in 2016 and picked up a lifetime achievement award in 2017 when it became clear her competing days were done.

  • After not being nominated for a Tony for his role as Gabe in Next to Normal, Aaron Tveit finally got a shot at Tony glory ten years later for Best Leading Actor in a Musical for Moulin Rouge!... by default, as the awards' eligibility period was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic and none of the other musicals up for Tonys that year (Tina: The Tina Turner Musical and Jagged Little Pill) had a leading actor, so Tveit was the only nominee. He needed 60% of Tony voters to cast an affirmative vote, which he duly received.

    Western Animation 
  • Despite being one of the most beloved cartoon characters ever, no Bugs Bunny cartoon ever won the Oscar until 1958's "Knighty Knight Bugs". A fine cartoon, but hardly Bugs' finest moment, especially compared to the previous year's "What's Opera, Doc?", which was submitted for nomination but ultimately rejected. (In fact, Bugs wasn't even a nominee for the previous sixteen years.)
    • What's Opera, Doc? would itself get consolation awards by being #1 the list of The 50 Greatest Cartoons, and the very first animated cartoon to be inducted into the National Film Registry.
  • Legendary voice actress June Foray won her first Emmy award for voice acting in 2012. It was for a guest spot on The Garfield Show. According to June herself, and a few other people involved with the Emmy awards, part of the reason why she had gone unrecognized is because she's so legendary that many insiders assumed she had already won several times. There was a lot of shock when it was realized she had never even been nominated prior to her win!note  Many see the Emmy win as a "career award".