Winning an Oscar is the ultimate dream for Hollywood’s elite. Whether you’re an actor, director, writer, or costume designer, getting an Academy Award nomination is the pinnacle of achievement. It doesn’t get much better than that.
With scores of movies vying for the top categories each year, it’s impossible to honor them all, but every now and then a film seems to go unjustly unrecognized. We’ve filtered through the archives to find the best movies that were never nominated. Grab your popcorn, dim the lights and prepare to be surprised as we take a look at some of the greatest films that were totally snubbed at the Oscars.
The Big Lebowski (1998)
This 1998 movie quickly became a fan favorite. Starring some of the biggest names in Hollywood including John Goodman, Jeff Bridges, and Steve Buscemi, the Coen brothers flick was one of the year’s biggest successes — but when it came to the Oscars, it was never even mentioned.
Even hard-to-please critics were impressed, but it didn’t do any good. Instead, the award for Best Picture that year went to Shakespeare in Love, to the dismay of many. Some speculate that the film was snubbed as the Coen’s had just received an Oscar for Fargo. Either way, it’s a travesty.
Chimes at Midnight (1965)
Orson Welles was one of the industries finest all-rounders. Having worked as an actor, director, writer, and producer, Welles knew filmmaking inside and out. While his 1941 film Citizen Kane won the award for Best Original Screenplay, 1965’s Chimes at Midnight got no such luck.
Although now regarded as one of his greatest works, the movie was snubbed on the award’s circuit after winning two awards at Cannes. It’s thought that one scathing review in the New York Times essentially buried it. Orson did receive the Academy Honorary Award in 1971, so it’s not all bad.
Groundhog Day (1993)
Frank Capra and Harold Ramis came up with this comedic masterpiece about a man trapped in a loop, repeating the same day over and over again. Starring the staple funny man of the ’80s and ’90s, Bill Murray, it gained strong reviews and did well at the box office — but it wasn’t enough to sway the Academy.
Why? Some pin it down to the early February release date of the movie, while others believe it’s simply thanks to the Academy’s general dislike of comedy. Instead, the 1993 Best Picture award went to Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven.
You would’ve thought that any movie starring two of the greatest actors of their generation would have at least deserved some sort of recognition. After all, we’re not talking about Keanu Reeves and Zac Efron, we’re talking Al Pacino and Robert De Niro.
The sleek crime movie was the second project the pair had jointly worked on, but the first time that they acted alongside each other. One of the movie’s most infamous scenes where the two characters sit down at a table together wasn’t even rehearsed. The winning award went to another worthy adversary though — Mel Gibson’s Braveheart.
King Kong (1933)
It’s hard to believe that the original concept of the giant ape King Kong was created 85 years ago. It’s a testament to Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack that Kong has continued to appeal to audiences. Last year’s Kong: Skull Island did well, and even Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake of the original got Academy recognition.
Unfortunately, the 1933 OG wasn’t so lucky. With stop-animation still a new concept, the Academy didn’t really know what to do with it. Instead, they gave the award to Calvacade based on the play by Noel Coward.
Mean Streets (1973)
Martin Scorsese is one of the best directors ever known, bringing us the likes of Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas. Mean Streets was the beginning of a life-long partnership between Scorsese and Robert De Niro, who plays “Johnny Boy” Civello.
Critics loved it, one even calling it a “true original” and “dizzyingly sensual.” While making an appearance on Letterman in 2014, Scorsese says he makes the set a “sacred place” so Robert can get in the zone. But, as you may have guessed — not a single nod for his directorial debut. Despite being nominated five times, it wouldn’t be until 2006’s The Departed that Scorsese would win Best Director.
Miller’s Crossing (1990)
These days the Coen brothers are staples on the Oscar circuit, their work often garnering critical praise and plentiful awards. Take it back to 1990 though and they weren’t even on the Academy radar. While 1998’s The Big Lebowski blew the big one in terms of nominations, Miller’s Crossing is even more disappointing.
The neo-noir masterpiece centered on the clash of two rival gangs, in a complex tale of power. Time critic Richard Corliss called the movie “noir with a touch so light, the film seems to float on the breeze like the frisbee of a fedora sailing through the forest.” High praise indeed, so why didn’t it get any recognition? At the time of its release, it was a box office flop and gained little momentum. It’s only been in recent years that it has become somewhat of a cult classic.
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
Western’s can be notoriously hit or miss, often containing too much drama and little that viewers haven’t seen before — but this wasn’t the case with Sergio Leone’s 1968 flick. The movie had all of the right components to be an Oscar shoe-in.
Masterful cinematography, fantastic direction, a grand and iconic soundtrack and a performance by Henry Fonda that was arguably one of his best, but it all fell on deaf ears. Why? Audiences were too preoccupied with Oliver!, the musical about the orphaned boy, which took home both Best Picture and Best Director.
The Shining (1980)
Now widely regarded as one of the best horror films of all time, 1980’s The Shining had a tough time of it. Stanley Kubrick was nominated for a Razzie for the movie starring Jack Nicholson, but not an Oscar.
Not only was the movie based on Stephen King’s work (aka the master of horror himself) but it should’ve been nominated for Nicholson’s performance alone as the crazed Johnny. Unfortunately for everyone involved, the Academy dislike horror just as much as comedy, resulting in a big fat zero nominations for this cult classic. Kubrick was so committed to the movie that it’s thought his directorial tactics contributed to Shelley Duvall’s mental illness.
Three Kings (1999)
This box office success could’ve gone a long way, seeing as it grossed over $107 million dollars. Starring arguably two of the ’90s most successful actors, George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg, the black comedy won over critics too.
It wasn’t an easy road to success either, as Clooney and director David O. Russell notoriously clashed numerous times, even getting into a physical altercation. Even George couldn’t see why Russell wasn’t nominated for an Oscar, despite the differences. “Will I work with David ever again?” He said. “Absolutely not. Never. Do I think he’s tremendously talented and do I think he should be nominated for Oscars? Yeah.”
Directed by David Fincher of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo fame, 2007’s Zodiac had a great screenplay and a great cast. Jake Gyllenhaal was coming off the back of Jarhead, while Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr. were still in full swing.
The mystery-thriller which focused on the true-life Zodiac killings of the ’60s and ’70s did relatively well at the box office, and Entertainment Weekly called it a “procedural thriller for the information age.” It did have hot competition that year though, with Scorsese’s The Departed taking home the Best Picture crown, while other nominees included The Queen and Babel.
Under The Skin (2013)
We don’t blame you if you’ve never heard of it — hardly anyone went to see it. Under The Skin features Scarlett Johansson in what some critics argue is her best role. It tanked at the box office though, making just $5.2 million dollars.
Although it wasn’t commercially successful, it has been hailed for a variety of reasons. Jonathan Glazer’s direction, Mica Levi’s palpable and tense scoring and Scarlett’s performance were all worthy of Academy recognition but didn’t receive it. According to the actress, the audience at the premiere of the movie “cheered and booed at the same time, but with equal gusto.” We can’t say for sure why it wasn’t nominated, but it was a low-budget sci-fi flick set in Scotland, so that might have something to do with it.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)
The name is impressive, but that’s not all that stands out about John Cameron Mitchell’s movie. An East German performer undergoes a sex change after trying to escape from communist Berlin. She then sues her next lover, played by Michael Pitt, after he tries to pass off her work as his own.
The idea started off-screen in an award-winning off-Broadway show, and the movie wasn’t shy of garnering praise on the award’s circuit. It picked up Sundance Film awards, a Gotham award, and a Golden Globe nomination, but nothing from the Academy, who instead focused on the equally brilliant, more mainstream A Beautiful Mind.
Lars Von Trier’s 2011 movie was advertised as a “beautiful movie about the end of the world.” The plot may have been a little too dark for Academy voters, but it shouldn’t have been.
The story focused on two sisters, one of whom was played by Kirsten Dunst who picked up the Best Actress award at Cannes. “I had no hesitation going into it,” said Dunst. “To me, Lars is one of the greats of our time.” Critics were baffled at why the movie didn’t do better, taking only $15 million against a budget of $52 million. Instead, the Oscar buzz went to French comedy-drama The Artist.
Wonder Woman (2017)
Perhaps one of the most baffling Oscar snubs in the last few decades is 2017’s Wonder Woman. Not only was it the first female-focused comic book movie of recent years to hit the big screen, but it was a visual masterpiece. Most accepted that it was never going to win something as prestigious as Best Picture, but a special effects nod would’ve been rightly deserved.
As well as that, the costumes were on another level, combining period work and comic book fantasy. Breakout star Gal Gadot took it all in her stride though. “I was very moved and touched by the people who were disappointed that Wonder Woman wasn’t nominated, but we certainly never did the movie for that,” she told Entertainment Tonight.
The Immigrant (2013)
Back in 2013, Harvey Weinstein was still reigning over Hollywood. He knew how to get a picture nominated, but could also — as we’ve seen — take it down in one fell swoop just because he felt like it. James Gray’s movie starring Marion Cotillard and Joaquin Phoenix was one victim.
When Weinstein tried to get Gray to change the ending of the movie, he wouldn’t budge. In retaliation, the distributor buried the film’s release and refused to back an Oscar campaign, which it rightly deserved thanks to the incredible performances by the leading stars. Another tale of corruption in Hollywood.
Don’t Look Now (1973)
The ’70s has been hailed as one of the Academy’s most diverse years, with movies like The Exorcist up for the Best Picture award. Nicolas Roeg has had a tough go of it when it comes to the awards, never being nominated despite an impressive body of work — none more so than Don’t Look Now.
Starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie as two parents mourning the loss of their child, the thriller had all of the elements to grant a much-deserved nod, from beautifully shot erotic scenes to poignant acting, but it didn’t get a single one. Rumor has it that the sex scene between the two actors was entirely real, according to one producer.
The Searchers (1956)
Sometimes a movie just gets outshone through sheer budgeting. Now hailed as one of the greatest American movies ever created, The Searchers did very well upon release. Director John Ford was an Academy staple, winning seven in total over the course of his career.
So, with that being said, how did his widely-regarded best picture not get a single nod? It was already at a disadvantage as a western, but critics were mostly receptive to it. Variety called it “handsomely mounted, yet somewhat disappointing” due to the sheer length, but audiences still loved it. It just couldn’t compete against the big-budget blockbusters of the year, like The Ten Commandments and The King And I.
Stardust Memories (1980)
Woody Allen is a controversial director, with many stars now refusing to work with him after allegations of child abuse resurfaced following the Weinstein scandal. Over the course of his career, he has been recognized repeatedly by the Academy, having been nominated 20 times and winning four.
Allen stars in the movie as a famous filmmaker who is plagued by fans. Although it was met with a cold reception from critics, it became more highly-thought of as the decades rolled by, with some regarding it as his best work. Considering the movie was about a popular filmmaker by a popular filmmaker it could’ve been seen as an egotistical show. It also introduced audiences to Sharon Stone, who starred in the opening sequence as “Girl on a Train.”
What’s Up Doc? (1972)
Nowadays, movies set in Golden Age Hollywood do very well. Audiences love the glitz and the glamour, while critics appreciate the nod to the roots of the silver screen. Unfortunately, in the ’70s it was just considered sentimental and passe.
The film starred Barbara Streisand, Ryan O’Neal and Madeline Kahn, which was a winning combination. It became a huge success as the third-highest grossing film of 1972, so why didn’t the Academy like it? It could be the aversion to comedy, which was highlighted by one of the greatest dramatic films of all time being released that year, The Godfather, which was nominated for nine and won four.