Oscars: Oscar winners whose awards have been stolen, destroyed, or simply disappeared

IIt’s a well-worn cliché for an Oscar winner to keep their gong in the bathroom. “The whole point is everyone picks it up and goes ‘I want to thank my son and my dad,'” Kate Winslet said in 2015 after admitting she kept her 2009 Best Actress award in the downstairs loo.

Winslet’s remarks addressed a universal truth: Everyone wants to get their hands on an Oscar. Not always to actually win one, it should be said, for few of us have definite Hollywood aspirations. But who wouldn’t say no after dealing with it for a minute or two?

Some even go a little further. Namely, stealing an Oscar altogether.

For as long as there have been Oscars, there have been Oscar thefts and missing statues. Some have disappeared in transit, others have been snatched from the homes of celebrities. Some even got sucked into the whirlpool hell Jared Leto has in his basement.

Ahead of this year’s Academy Awards on Sunday, March 27th, we recalled 12 incidents where the Academy Awards were misplaced, pocketed or allegedly thrown into a river, never to be seen again.

Jared Leto

In 2021 the Dallas Buyers Club The Oscar winner revealed he hadn’t seen his award in three years and has no idea where it ended up. “Everybody was looking for it everywhere,” they said during an appearance on James Corden’s US chat show. When asked by Corden if someone could have stolen it, Leto agreed with his suspicions. “I think it’s a good possibility. It’s not something that anyone accidentally throws in the trash.” It’s unclear if Leto ever got his Oscar back.

Whoopie Goldberg

A little over a decade after she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress ghost, Goldberg sent her statue back to the Academy to be polished. It arrived in LA safe and sound from New York, but the Academy’s UPS package, which was then sent to a cleaning company in Chicago — with Goldberg’s Oscar inside — arrived empty. Someone had opened it, grabbed the Oscar and locked it again. Days later, the Oscar turned up in a trash can near a California airport and was returned to Goldberg. Exactly what happened has never been proven. “Oscar will never leave my house again,” Goldberg said in a 2002 statement.

Hattie McDaniel

The first black Oscar winner – for Blown by the wind – left her award in her will at Howard University, where she eventually disappeared. While McDaniel’s Oscar was originally placed in a display case, it reportedly disappeared sometime in the 1960s, and speculation as to where it ended up remains rife. Some have suggested it was dumped in a river during the university civil rights protests – and possibly as a statement against McDaniel, who won her Oscar for playing a maid. Others have theorized that whoever moved the award simply didn’t know what it was — McDaniel received a plaque as opposed to the human-shaped award we now recognize as an Oscar. Regardless, the mystery remains unsolved.

Vivien Leigh and Hattie McDaniel in ‘Gone with the Wind’

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Vivien Leigh and Hattie McDaniel in Gone With the Wind


Bing Crosby

Similar to Hattie McDaniel, Bing Crosby bequeathed his Oscar to the university after his death. Something went wrong too. Crosby’s Oscar – for the film I go my way – was presented to Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington and given pride of place in a display case in the school library. One day in 1972, visitors noticed that the Oscar was gone and replaced with a statue of Mickey Mouse. Crosby’s Oscar was found in the university chapel a week later, while the thief anonymously told the campus newspaper it was meant to be a hoax.

Frances McDormand

In 2019, a Los Angeles court dismissed all criminal charges against a self-proclaimed “highly favorite producer, A-list host, entertainment journalist, actor, DJ and superstar” named Terry Bryant. A year earlier, Bryant had been accused of stealing Frances McDormand’s newly won Oscar Three billboards outside of Ebbing, Missouriafter she was spotted holding it during one of the show’s after parties. Although Bryant posted a video on Facebook of him kissing an Oscar statuette and announcing that he had won it, Bryant has always maintained his innocence. As for McDormand, her publicist released a statement saying everything was fine: “After a brief period apart, Frances and her Oscar were happily reunited. They celebrated the reunion with a double cheeseburger from In-N-Out Burger.”

Blown by the wind

Inexplicably, Michael Jackson paid a record $1.5 million (£1.1 million) for the 1999 Best Picture Oscar. Blown by the wind in 1940. And that’s despite the fact that the prize – which Jackson bought from the estate of producer David O. Selznick – was only valued at $300,000 (£228,000). By the time Jackson died exactly a decade later in 2009, however, the award was gone. The executors of his estate could not find the Oscars in any of Jackson’s homes, nor in any of his many storage rooms. Jackson’s children could legally take possession of the Oscar if they wished, if only someone knew where it was. Although it has never been confirmed that it was stolen, the whereabouts of the award are unknown.

Olympia Dukakis

Olympia Dukakis with her (soon to be stolen) Oscar in 1988

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Olympia Dukakis with her (soon to be stolen) Oscar in 1988

(Elisa Leonelli / Shutterstock)

The late actor had her Oscar for moonstruck Stolen in 1988 by a thief with very specific awards preferences. Although Dukakis’ Oscar was on display in her kitchen alongside her Golden Globe and other awards, only her Oscar was stolen. Absolutely nothing else was stolen from Dukakis’ house either. Then there was a twist: the thief called Dukakis’ son and offered the Oscar back in exchange for a bag of cash. An undercover operation involving the police was considered, but the deal never materialized. Instead, Dukakis paid the Academy $78 (£59) to have a replacement Oscar sent to him instead.

Karl Freund

The acclaimed cinematographer won his 1937 Oscar for his work the good earth, only for the prize to be stolen from his son-in-law’s home in a burglary in 1975, six years after Freund’s death. It was not seen for another 15 years when Freund’s son-in-law discovered the Oscar was being offered for sale for $20,000 (£15,000) in a Los Angeles newspaper. Chicago police tracked down the seller, who said the Oscar was given to her by a friend years ago and as collateral for a loan. No one knew how this friend came into possession of the Oscar, and Freund’s burglar was never identified. However, the Oscar was safely returned to the cinematographer’s son-in-law.

Vivien Leigh

The legendary actress failed to collect her Oscar for it End station longing personally in 1952 and left it to her to receive it months later at a smaller ceremony near her home in London. The town was also the scene of a glittering crime soon after, with Leigh’s home being broken into and thieves escaping with clothes, silverware and her Oscar. Her original award was never recovered, but the Academy had replaced her within weeks.

Margaret O’Brien

The former child star was awarded the “Youth Oscar” in 1944 for her work Meet me in St Louis, only to be stolen from her home moments later. O’Brien later said that a housekeeper who worked for her family had taken the Oscar to be cleaned before disappearing with it. O’Brien received a replacement, but the actress was still hoping to be reunited with her original Oscar, going so far as to regularly attend antique fairs and auctions in hopes of spotting him. Then, in 1995, she was notified that her Oscar had been found after her family’s housekeeper gave it to her children, who decades later gave it to an auctioneer themselves. Since the auctioneers could not sell the Oscars without the Academy’s strict approval, they had returned them instead. It was nearly 50 years before O’Brien’s Oscar was finally returned to her.

Margaret O’Brien and Judy Garland in ‘Meet Me in St Louis’

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Margaret O’Brien and Judy Garland in “Meet Me in St. Louis”


Matt Damon

The Oscar Damon won for writing in 1998 goodwill hunt with Ben Affleck ended up in his New York apartment until a flood led to his disappearance. “One of the sprinklers went off when my wife and I were out of town,” they said in 2007. “That was the last I saw of it.” Damon admitted the Oscar may have been stored by someone who helped clean up the apartment, but it may have been taken as well.

Alice Brady

One of the weirder Oscar-stealing stories didn’t actually happen, although decades-old rumors have insisted it did. In 1938 Brady won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress In old Chicago, but was unable to attend the ceremony due to a broken ankle. For years it was alleged that the man who accepted Brady’s Oscar for her was a complete stranger who then took off with her prize, never to be seen again. The story of the alleged theft was repeated in Oscar fan circles for years, along with claims that Brady died in 1939 without receiving a replacement award from the Academy. In truth, this was all an early hoax. Brady’s Oscar was accepted on her behalf by In old Chicago director Henry King, and a few weeks later she received the award in question. So not that funny story.

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