Brokeback Mountain Director Believes Discrimination Prevented the Film Winning a Best Picture Oscar


  • Brokeback Mountain
    director Ang Lee believes discrimination played a role in the film losing the Best Picture Oscar to
  • Despite the loss, the film won accolades for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, and Best Director for Lee.
  • Lee recalls the uncertainty at the Oscar ceremony, where even after winning Best Director, the Best Picture was unexpectedly awarded to

Brokeback Mountain director Ang Lee believes his movie lost out on a Best Picture Oscar due to discrimination against the central gay love story of the movie. The film was nominated for several awards back in 2006, and although it won three, it was beaten to the Best Picture award by crime drama Crash.

Brokeback Mountain

Release Date
September 10, 2005


Focus Features

Love is a force of nature

The Academy Awards have always been the subject of controversy, whether through the decisions made around certain awards recipients or for incidents that have happened during the ceremony itself. Although there was nothing to suggest that Brokeback Mountain was a runaway certainty to take the top award in its year, the fact it did not win came as a surprise to many – including its director. In a new interview with IndieWire, Lee looked back on the moment he found out that the Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal movie was beaten to the award. Asked whether he believes that discrimination played a part in the loss, he said:

“I think so, yeah. Back then, [Brokeback Mountain] had a ceiling. We got a lot of support – up to [three Oscar wins]. It has that feeling. I wasn’t holding a grudge or anything. It’s just how they were.”

Brokeback Mountain ended up winning awards for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, and Best Director for Lee. However, as well as missing out on Best Picture, the film saw failure in the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor categories, where Ledger and Gyllenhaal lost out to Philip Seymour Hoffman and George Clooney respectively, and Best Supporting Actress for Michelle Williams, who was beaten by Reese Witherspoon. The film was nominated for Best Cinematography, with that award going to Memoirs of a Geisha.

Ang Lee Says Brokeback Mountain Was Expected to Win

Brokeback Mountain-LAPTOP-OQDKC78P
River Road Entertainment

Although there are no guaranteed winners when it comes to the Oscars, Lee recalled that after his win for Best Director, staffers at the ceremony were so certain that Brokeback Mountain was going to win they told him to stay close to the stage as the Best Picture award was announced. He said:

“I got my award, which was [second to] last to the big one, and I was walking off the stage, they called me down, and said, ‘Stay here. That’s your mark. Everybody assumes you will win, so stay at that mark.’ Right next to the stage was the curtain. The next was Best Picture. ‘Stay here, just stay here.’ I saw Jack Nicholson, his profile, he opened the envelope, and I go, ‘Oh my god, oh my god.’ It took like 10 seconds before he announced, and then he went, Crash.”


Brokeback Mountain: Looking Back at the Groundbreaking LGBTQ+ Movie

Brokeback Mountain was a mainstream LGBTQ+ movie from the 2000s that, in many ways, helped to carve out the queer cinema landscape that exists today.

While Lee believes the gay-centric story of the movie was partly why it did not ultimately succeed at the Academy Awards, there is no way of knowing the actual reason that the film was not deemed worthy of the top award. However, there is no denying that the film was seen as controversial at the time, but for Lee, his affinity with the story was never directly linked to the subject – it was more about the broader sense of being an outsider. He concluded:

“We were outsiders in Taiwan, then outsiders in America, then go back to China, we’re outsiders. I always feel like an outsider. Repressed characters, I suppose, those stories attract me. Brokeback Mountain is just so beautiful. You’ve read the short story. I have nothing in common with Wyoming gay cowboys. But why did I cry? It’s haunting. It’s just a beautiful story.”

Brokeback Mountain
is currently available to stream on Peacock.


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