10 Times The Oscars Got It Completely Wrong

The Oscars always gets it right…doesn’t it? The Academy voters know everything there is to know about film so their winning choices must be correct… Er…maybe not…

In light of Ben Affleck not being nominated for best director even though he won the DGA, the BAFTA and the Golden Globe, I have assembled a list of the top 10 greatest Oscar nomination omissions of all time.

It was hard limiting it to just ten as there are literally dozens of candidates if you take into consideration all the deserving actors, directors, writers, editors and composers who should have been nominated over the years. But since this is Top 10 Films here are the ten biggest snubs of all time.

See our picks for the best films to miss out on Best Picture Oscars

10. Henry Thomas not being nominated for E.T. in 1982


E.T. was carried by this young actor. When he cried, you cried. When he was wide eyed and elated flying past the moon, you were there with him. E.T. was nominated for nine Oscars, sadly Thomas’ acting was not among them.

9. Collective Stanley Kubrick snubs

Top 10 Films to be snubbed at the Oscars
Best Picture for The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, 2001: A Space Odyssey; Director for The Shining, Full Metal Jacket and so on. Stanley Kubrick is a genius. He has been heralded as such by great directors including Spielberg, Scorsese, Reiner and many others. There are films that are good in spite of their director, and then there are Stanley Kubrick films. His obsessive compulsive behaviour makes it hard on his actors, but when you achieve the results he gets, it’s hard to argue his method. Any of these films should have garnered a nomination.

8. Angel Heart – Acting, Directing, Screenplay and Best Picture

Top 10 Films to be snubbed at the Oscars
If there was ever a picture that the great Alan Parker should have won something for, it’s this one. He was recognised in 1978 for Midnight Express, but this one is far better. Not a very well known film but brilliant in every way. With Robert De Niro chewing up every scene he’s in and Mickey Rourke with the performance of a lifetime (even better than The Wrestler), it’s sad to see this film all but forgotten from 1987. Michael Douglas was good in Wall Street, but he wasn’t better than Rourke. Wall Street was a good film but not better than this one. It’s a travesty it got overlooked.

7. Psycho not being nominated for Best Picture

Top 10 Films to be snubbed at the Oscars
Psycho not being nominated for best picture even though Hitchcock was for best director in 1960 is a horrible decision by the Academy. Hitchcock wasn’t respected enough in his living years and Psycho certainly wasn’t in 1960. This is a film that is still copied to this day. And that is the sign of a film’s legacy. What footprint has it left? The answer for this one is that it left an enormous one and this is one decision the Academy made that they should be ashamed of.

6. Singin’ in the Rain – 1952

Top 10 Films to be snubbed at the Oscars
It’s considered to be one of the best musicals of all time and yet it received no nomination for Best Picture. Make ‘em Laugh is one of the all time greatest sequences in any motion picture and yet the Academy didn’t even recognise the film with a nomination.

5. The Dark Knight and Christopher Nolan not being nominated in 2008

Top 10 Films to be snubbed at the Oscars
The Dark Knight was more than just a movie; it was an event. It managed to transcend genre and become much more than a simple comic-book movie. Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker is one of the all time greats. The fact that this film got overlooked so other inferior films like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (which not only has the same story as Forrest Gump, it’s done by the same writer) and Frost Nixon and worst of all THE READER, is just plain sad.

4. The collective Spielberg snubs

Top 10 Films to be snubbed at the Oscars
Like Ben Affleck and Argo in 2013, Spielberg was not nominated for Best Director for Jaws in 1975 even though the film was up for Best Picture. Spielberg was not nominated for Best Director for The Color Purple even though it had 11 nominations in 1985. Unfortunately, it lost every single one of them. That it was tied with Out of Africa for most nominations that year and yet Spielberg was not nominated in the director category can only be viewed as a collective middle finger to Spielberg. As many of you might remember, there was a lot of resentment towards him before he did Schindler’s List. How dare this young punk come along and change the way films were made. Spielberg not winning anything until 1993 is just silly.

3. Halloween not being nominated for anything in 1978

Top 10 Films to be snubbed at the Oscars
Horror is not a genre that the Academy appreciates. John Carpenter not only had the best direction in 1978, he also had the best film of 1978. When you look at the films nominated in 1978 and then you place them up against perhaps the greatest horror film ever made, it’s disheartening to know that the Academy completely overlooked this one. I realise horror is something that is very subjective but put Carpenter’s direction in this film up against anything in 1978 and to me there is no contest.

2. The Empire Strikes Back not being nominated for Best Picture, Director or Original Screenplay in 1980

Top 10 Films to be snubbed at the Oscars
Star Wars blew it up. It, along with Jaws, was the dawning of a new era of film-making. But for some reason, the artists who made the films were not taken seriously. A microcosm of that is the blatant snubbing of Empire Strikes Back. 33 years later this is not only considered the best Star Wars film but it is on many people’s list as one of the 50 best films ever made. Superior in ever way to Star Wars, this should have not only been nominated but it should have won Best Picture.

1. Val Kilmer not being nominated for Best Supporting Actor in Tombstone in 1993

Top 10 Films to be snubbed at the Oscars
Tommy Lee Jones was the deserved winner for The Fugitive that year. There were even some very good nominations for Supporting Actor. But none of them gave a career performance like Val Kilmer did in Tombstone. He lost more than 40 pounds to play the gunslinger. He studied his mannerisms, his movements and his speech. Kilmer embodied the very spirit of Doc Holliday. Kurt Russell was so impressed with Kilmer’s interpretation of Holliday that he bought him a small piece of land in Arizona after filming was done. Tombstone wasn’t very well reviewed by the critics in 1993 but it was a very big success at the box office and even bigger on home video. Val Kilmer was often spoken about as one of the bright spots in Tombstone. As mentioned, Jones was a good choice for supporting actor that year. But Kilmer should have at least been nominated and if he had won, no one would have questioned it. He was simply outstanding. “I’m your Huckleberry.”

Honourable mentions:

The Matrix not being nominated for anything significant
Basic Instinct not being nominated in 1992
Judy Garland and Margaret Hamilton not being nominated for acting awards in the Wizard of Oz
The African Queen not being nominated for Best Picture in 1951
Thelma and Louise not being nominated for Best Picture in 1991
Boyz N The Hood not being nominated for Best Picture in 1991
When Harry Met Sally not being nominated for anything except Best Original Screenplay in 1989
First Blood not being mentioned at all in 1982

Discover More: Top 10 Films to be Snubbed for Best Picture at the Oscars

What Oscar snubs did we miss? Which films, directors, writers, composers, editors and actors have been shunned by the Academy?

Written and compiled by Dan Grant

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About the Author
Dan Grant is an author and horror film fan from Canada. His first novel Terrified and Defenseless is now available for e-download from Amazon. Follow Dan on Twitter @baumer72.

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  1. Avatar
    Dan Grant Reply

    Not sure if it is bad etiquette to be the first comment in my own editorial, but a few more I thought of after I sent it in are:

    John Candy not being nominated for best actor or supp for Planes Trains and Automobiles.
    JOHN HUGHES not being nominated for anything. His scripts are simply fantastic.
    Stallone being ignored for Copland
    DePalma, Pacino and Scarface being completely ignored.

    • Avatar
      Kevin M Jones Reply

      Needed Shawshank Redemption in there for sure.

  2. Avatar
    Mark Reply

    Here we go … a few of these (like the first one) are travesties of justice

    Bruce Willis (best supporting actor) in Pulp Fiction

    Samuel Jackson (best actor) in Pulp Fiction

    Spike Lee and his costume designer, cinematographer and set decorator in X

    In Cold Blood (best picture)

    Martin Sheen (best actor) in Apocalypse Now

    Robert Richardson (cinematography)for Nixon

    James Woods (best supporting actor) in Nixon

    Darius Knonjdi (cinematography) in Se7en

    Eli Wallach (best supporting actor) in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

    William Holden (best actor) in The Bridge on the River Kwai

    John Heard (best actor) in Cutter’s Way

    Jorden Cronenweth (cinematographer), set designer and the costume person in Cutter’s Way

    Goodfellas (best adapted screenplay) – did it win?

    Robert De Niro (best actor) in Goodfellas

    Marlon Brando (best actor) in Last Tango in Paris

    Robert Ryan (best supporting actor) in The Wild Bunch

    Angel Heart’s cinematographer

    David Fincher (best director) for Zodiac

    Ben Poolverdet (forgive spelling – best actor) in Man Bites Dog

    De Palma (director) for Carlito’s Way

    12 Monkeys (director, actress, actor, original screenplay, cienmatographer)

  3. Avatar
    Rodney Reply

    What’s interesting about these kinds of snubs, is how well the films that DID make the Oscars have held up in the years since.

    Admittedly, Spielberg’s films (until Schindler’s) might have made a lot of money, but then they weren’t exactly “serious” films in the same way the Academy perceived them…

    James Cameron should have been nominated for an Oscar for Aliens, as should the film, but didn’t get a look in. And compare the films of the time with Aliens, and tell me which ones you actually have seen. Cameron didn’t get onto the Oscar stage until Titanic, and now with his passion for Avatar writ large on the cinema landscape I doubt he’ll be getting there again soon.

    Spielberg, though, constantly puts out Oscar bait (Munich, Lincoln, Amistad… etc) in amongst the blockbusters, although I think he’s a long way off making another Schindler’s or Saving Private Ryan.

    Personally, I think the biggest snub was the lack of The Dark Knight Best Picture nomination back in ’08. That should be number 1, IMO. Otherwise, great list, Dan!!!

  4. Avatar
    Jack Deth Reply

    Hi, Dan and company:

    I cannot disagree with your collected snubs. But Hollywood and the Academy is very set in its way. And you can’t be too powerful (Spielberg). Too popular (Kilmer). Too scary (Hitchcock) or too Sci-Fi (Lucas, Cameron).

    Personally, I side with the late, great George C. Scott. Who likened the
    Academy and its awards show to “A parade of meat!”.

  5. Avatar
    Dan Grant Reply

    Wow! Some really good opinions here. So many films and performances that have been overlooked. I agree that Hollywood is just a good old boys club and many times it is not the best that gets rewarded.

  6. Avatar
    Josh Reply

    Hitchcock having never even won a Best Director award is an absolute travesty. As arguably the greatest director of all time, that’s just wrong.

    Another, which isnt mentioned here, is Lumet never winning Best Director either. I think Lumet should have won Best Director for 12 Angry Men, instead of Lean getting it that year.

  7. Avatar
    Dan Grant Reply

    Josh: great call with Lumet. 12 Angry Men is legendary. Did Fonda even get a nomination for that film? If not he should have. He was fantastic in that film.

    There really are so many you could list here and people have mentioned quite a few so far.

  8. Avatar
    Jack Deth Reply

    Hi, Dan:

    Fonda was nominated for Best Actor. As was Lumet for Best Director.

    Fonda lost out to Alec Guinness. Lumet lost to David Lean for ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’.

  9. Avatar
    Neal Damiano Reply

    Very good list except forgot a big one! There is no way Forrest Gump should of beat out Pulp Fiction for best picture in 1994. Pulp Fiction should be high on this list, it totally got shafted over political correctness.

  10. Avatar
    Dan Grant Reply

    Hi Neal,

    But this isn’t for films that were nominated and lost, this is for non existent nominations. All of these films, actors and so on were no even nominated. 🙂

  11. Avatar
    Mark Reply

    Didn’t Lumet finally get a special mention Oscar towards the end of his life? Sort of like Altman I suppose – better than getting nothing after a swag of films … As for Fonda, he kind of suffered the Paul Newman syndrome – give him nothing for all the good stuff, and then put a statue in his hand for something that was kinda dull (Newman – The Colour of Money; Fonda – On Golden Pond).

    Another I’d add to my shoot-from-the-lip list is Jude Law for AI … film never really recovered after his departure (come to think of it, AI was kinda overlooked as well)

  12. Avatar
    Dan Grant Reply

    @Mark: I love that you also mentioned Angel Heart. Can you tell me when you discovered that film? Did you see it in theater or did you discover it on HV?

  13. Avatar
    Mark Reply

    Hi Dan

    First saw it in the cinema in September/Octoberish 1987. The venue was the Oxford (now Luna) in Western Australia.

    When the video came out a few months later, it was sort of touted as the director’s cut given the sex scene (and possibly something else)was extended. I don’t think it made much difference.

    Incredible cinematography, set design and costume. Rourke was perfect – such a good looking guy in his day.

    One of the few “it-was-me-all-along” times that a director has made it work so well.

    Last time I watched it was on TV circa easter 1996. Might look the the DVD now that you’ve reminded me.

  14. Avatar
    Dan Grant Reply

    Mark:

    Thanks for that. I am always thrilled to find someone else who likes the film as much as I do. I think Alan Parker really is a visionary and AH is his creme de la creme. Some of his shot choices were just shocking. The funny thing is, I finally read the book Fallen Angel, which it was based on and it was good. But not anywhere near as good as the movie. Parker, Rourke, DeNiro and even Bonet all did such a great job making the film so incredible. And yes, the cinematography was oozing with sleaze in every shot….lol

  15. Avatar
    Mark Reply

    Dan (and others) …. Speaking of Kilmer, what about his best actor snub for his part as Jim Morrison in The Doors? He even sang like the Lizard King (Jimmy Fallon does a pretty good voice impersonation as well)

  16. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    @Mark: Good call. Val Kilmer has proven over the years that he can be very diverse in his film choices and character roles. He’s never one to be typecast even though it could have been easy to allow his Iceman Top Gun character – the sort of macho-six-pack-cool-guy-saviour – to dominate his career. Especially in the 1980s with the likes of Sly, Schwarzenegger, JCVD, and Dolph Lungren getting their fair share of action-man outings.

    When he did do the action-man thing at least he had some charm and humour – I’m one of Willow’s biggest fans (we’re a small group I know). He could do full blown slapstick (Top Secret) and he could do deadly serious (Heat). Of course he was great mixing it up a bit in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

    Since then he seems to have done a lot of movies…sadly, the majority I haven’t seen (nor even heard of).

  17. Avatar
    Colin Biggs Reply

    He got nominated plenty, but one of the ultimate snubs is that Mr. O’Toole has never won Oscar.

  18. Avatar
    Dan Grant Reply

    Colin:

    Yep, O’Toole was a big snub as far as not winning. Same with Fonda before On Golden Pond, Nick Nolte, Alfred Hitchcock, I don’t think Jerry Goldsmith ever won an oscar for music composition either, but I’m not 100% sure. This list is enormous and could keep going and going and really, none of the choices would be wrong, unless you chose someone like Arnold for best actor…lol

  19. Avatar
    Dan Grant Reply

    One more thing I just thought of. Unless you are Woody Allen, comedies really don’t get a lot of love from the academy. There are many films that should have been more recognized for their humour and wit. Very unfortunate.

  20. Avatar
    Lights Camera Reaction Reply

    Psycho not being nominated for Best Picture – definitely!

  21. Avatar
    Dan Grant Reply

    Yes, Psycho being snubbed is a very big one. The academy is full of snubs that indicate they must have amnesia.

  22. Avatar
    Dan Grant Reply

    I know it’s a bit of an old topic now, but I’d love to hear other people opinion on this. Especially pre 1970.

  23. Avatar
    jjames36 Reply

    Great list, Dan. Completely agreed on some (especially Kilmer’s omission). Less agreed on others (I don’t think Halloween worthy of awards, as it good as it is).

    But the real point is that this was fun to read!

  24. Avatar
    Chris Reply

    Those Kubrick snubs are outrageous. Just goes to show don’t know when they have a masterpiece on their hands. Academy are too eager to go for polished, safe products, were all the ambiguity, and debatable aspects has been stripped away.

  25. Avatar
    paul Reply

    The 3rd man back in ’51, one of the best British films ever made should of had a best picture nod, Carol Reed got a nod for director though. Still a big miss by the academy .

  26. Avatar
    paul Reply

    Also Heat back in 96 should of had nods for cinematography, sound editing, sound mixing, screenplay, director and best picture. In my opinion anyway!

  27. Avatar
    Dan Grant Reply

    Funny you mention Heat. I was thinking about that film last night. It was powerful in every way and should have at least been nominated for best screenplay. I think you can add Hanks to this list now for his Captain Phillips snub.

  28. Avatar
    Keith Reply

    Very fun read! I did something similar a few days ago. Oscar does get things right sometimes but they also have a history of some pretty obvious blunders.

  29. Avatar
    JFP Reply

    Steve Martin in All of Me?

  30. Avatar
    Aaron O'Brien Reply

    Heath Ledger only got the Oscar bc he died. If they snubbed anyone from a comic book movie, it’s Willem Dafoe in Spider-Man.

    • Avatar
      Dan Grant Reply

      I disagree that Ledger got the Oscar only because of his death. He was absolutely terrific in that film and imo, he gave one of the best performances in film history. In this case, they got it right.

  31. Avatar
    Ken Reply

    I bought and watch Tombstone JUST for Kilmer’s performance! Don’t get me wrong, there is some good acting elsewhere in this movie, but I believe that Kilmer knocked it out of the park in this movie, and should have in my humble opinion WON for his role in this movie! It is such a good part, and so well-acted, that I can watch it over and over…not many movies do that for me.

  32. Avatar
    smith Reply

    Kurt Russell for Miracle.

    He was simply outstanding.

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