There’s a phenomenon that people who pay attention to these kinds of things start whispering about whenever awards season draws near. The Academy Awards are the most prestigious entertainment awards in the country, and as such are highly coveted by everyone and anyone who works in the industry. Finally nabbing an Oscar is a career achievement that confirms in no uncertain terms an industry professional’s quality, whether they’re an actor or a director or a composer or anything else.

The way the Oscars work — or the way they’re supposed to work — every nominee is nominated based on the work they did in the specific thing they’re nominated for, nothing more. You could be nominated 50 times and still not win if the Academy ultimately favored someone else over you. What starts to happen, especially for the people who are nominated again and again with nothing to show for it, is that Academy voters and movie lovers start saying things like “it’s time” for so-and-so to win, regardless of what they’re nominated for.

Which brings us to the phenomenon of the “Consolation Oscar” — the Oscar “finally” awarded to a star we all know and love, in a move that can’t help but feel like a lifetime achievement prize, instead of recognition of a specific role. Usually the movie is only just okay, or their performance in it is only just okay, or not any better than the work they’ve done in previous films. Here we’ve gathered 12 somewhat controversial Oscar wins, not because their honorees are bad, but because they should have been awarded for better stuff, or because their prizes came at the expense of more deserving nominees.

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Gallery Credit: Emma Stefansky