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Posterized: Oscar's Well Loved Losing Dozen

"And the Oscar DOESN'T Go To..." The following dozen films are historically the biggest losers in Oscar history. All of them had 8 or more nominations and won zip on Oscar night. But, please to note, "loser" is a tongue-in-cheek title here. If you're well regarded enough to win nearly two handfuls of nominations as "best of the year" you're already a winner, even if you "lose".

How many have you seen?

The Little Foxes (1941) 9 nominations
Quo Vadis (1951) 8 nominations
Peyton Place (1957) 9 nominations 

THE NUNS STORY (59) - 8 noms
THE SAND PEBBLES (66) - 8 noms
THE TURNING POINT (77) 11 noms *tied for most noms without any wins*

THE ELEPHANT MAN (1980) 8 noms
RAGTIME (1981) 8 noms
THE COLOR PURPLE (1985) 11 noms *tied for most noms without any wins*

REMAINS OF THE DAY (1993) 8 noms
GANGS OF NEW YORK (2002) 10 noms
TRUE GRIT (2010) 10 noms

Trivia Puzzle: It happened most often in the 50s (3 films) and 80s (3 films) though I couldn't tell you why!

SPIELBERG NOTE: You'll notice that Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple still shares the title for "biggest loser" (with The Turning Point). Unfortunately, though he has been enormously well rewarded over the years, this weird notion that Oscar doesn't like him continues in the rhetoric you hear online sometimes particular in regards to Saving Private Ryan's loss and Lincoln's probable loss on Oscar night. If you ask me if you are among the ten most nominated directors in history (tied for fifth) and you already have two directing Oscars and a possible third on its way (which would put you in tied for second place of all time with director wins!), there's no chance in hell that they don't like you. (The internet is such a sweaty hysteric sometimes!)

THIS YEAR: If Hathaway (Les Miz) and Day-Lewis (Lincoln) are mortal locks in their respective categories this year than the only films that might break into this top (bottom?) twelve this year are Silver Linings Playbook (8 noms) if Jennifer Lawrence mysteriously fumbles at the finish line for Best Actress which some people think is more possible than others (I personally think she's way out front unfortunately) or The Life of Pi (11 noms) if Lincoln and other films mysteriously dominate in all the technical races which is HIGHLY unlikely. So in other words: this list of 12 Oscar Favorites That Had No Hardware To Show For It is unlikely to change this year. Basically abundantly nominated films that win nothing are rare beautiful creatures. 

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Reader Comments (44)

Wasn't it easier getting more nominations in the 50s with all those split B&W and Color categories?

I've Seen:
The Little Foxes
The Nun's Story
The Turning Point
The Color Purple
Remains of the Day
Gangs of New York
True Grit

Of these The Color Purple & Gangs of New York strikes me as the most surprising how they couldn't win anything. 1985 was a interesting year for movies, sure, but something it at least could have garnered. Also Gangs of New York should sooo have won Best Art Direction

February 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJesper

BECKET is tied with TURNING POINT and COLOR PURPLE as biggest loser, too, but few people remember it. It had 12 nods and won only one. Technically, it is a three-way tie for biggest loser.

February 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGustavo

Hey good ending there "Basically abundantly nominated films that win nothing are rare beautiful creatures"

February 21, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterhonduran

I've seen the last six. "True Grit" should have won for cinematography, "The Remains of the Day" should have won for actor, "The Color Purple" for a bunch including Oprah, and "The Elephant Man" wasn't even nominated for cinematography which it should have won.

February 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRaul

Best posterized ever! I've seen them all. May I say some of them were slightly over appreciated?
I consider The Remains of the Day close to perfection so to me is the biggest loser.

PS Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas are presenting Best Director!

February 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I remember 1985 and The Color Purple was my favourite. I was devastated when it didn't win anything. Unfortunately it was up against Out of Africa which was also nominated for 11 awards, coming away with 7 including best picture. I especially wanted Whoopi to win but in retrospect it was too sentimental. When I studied the novel later at Uni I realised that the movie actually misses the mark somewhat on the Feminist issues. So the Academy got it right especially with adapted screenplay.

February 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoanne

Gustavo -- i only counted movies that didn't win a single Oscar. That was what the criteria was.

February 21, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I've seen all but The Color Purple and The Sand Pebbles although I seen bits of that just not the whole thing from beginning to end. Except for The Remains of the Day which bored me all the others were fine films. I know a lot of people love Remains of the Day and it is a type of film that I usually adore but it just didn't work for me.

February 21, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

I'm surprised. Only 5 I've seen. Peyton Pace, Color Purple, The Elephant Man, The Turning Point, and Ragtime. I remember all the post-Oscar controversy about Hollywood being racist when Purple went 0 for 11. (And whatever did happen to Margaret Avery?) Turning Point was just a soap opera, I liked Ragtime and Elephant, but don't remember much about them.

February 21, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

Seen all of these. ELEPHANT MAN and REMAINS would be my favourites, though FOXES and PEYTON are a lot of fun. I recently read the book of RAGTIME and can appreciate now why the movie, handsome and beautifully scored as it is, is inert compared to Doctorow's beautifully flowing prose.

One of the things about Spielberg being unpopular with the Academy is that he's never directed an Oscar-winning performance. That will likely change in a few days of course, and I agree with your general point that it's silly to argue that AMPAS don't like him given he's won director twice and helmed 8 films nominated for Best Picture.

February 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSteve G

Ashamed to have only seen 4. Catching up time, maybe.

February 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSad man

I've seen them all, and I would say "The Nun's Story" is my favorite (Audrey should have won Best Actress), while "The Turning Point" is easily my least. Love or at least like the rest. Worth noting that "Ragtime" is the only one that wasn't nominated for Best Picture.

February 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMovie Dearest

Peyton Place- I love soapy melodrama and Lana Turner, Hope Lange and Russ Tamblyn. Didn't care for who played Alison.

True Grit- Better than the original and I have a high John Wayne tolerance. Steinfeld should been lead, Bridges probably got ignored because he won the year before in a lesser role (should have been Firth or Renner) so no need to take him seriously, and Deakins' cinematography is just spellbinding. Wally Pfister's acceptance speech where he had his glasses sit on top of his head accepting for Inception's cinematography still angers me just thinking about it.

Elephant Man- Fascinating, depressing, and tragic. So not Lynch but Hurt is beautiful.

The Color Purple- Don't talk to me about that one.

It got THAT MANY nominations??????
The Sand Pebbles- Steve McQueen in Oscar-bait? I had no idea.

The Nun's Story

The Turning Point

Others Watched:
Gangs of New York- DDL was great but Diaz and DiCaprio woefully miscast. It made me pine for Marty's vision realized in the '70s that had DeNiro and Malcolm and McDowell.

Remains of the Day- Meh. Merchant and Ivory have done better.

Little Foxes- Faded from memory. Want to revisit it.

February 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

Sweaty hysterics is right. I saw The Nun's Story after reading Nick's Flick Picks review of Hepburn's performance. Lovely! The Turning Point---ay, what a disaster.

February 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterZig

Peggy Sue -- Hopkins was actually my favorite that year. I think he would have won if he had n't just won for Silence. Thompson & Hopkins were just incredible together (see also: Howard's End which for me is even better than Remains)

Zig -- I've never seeen The Nun's Story! I know i should.

Movie Dearest -- good note on Ragtime. I'm adding that to the post!

February 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

Joanne -- i was huge out of africa fan & witness & kiss of spiderwoman fan that year so i wasn't upset but the color purple but i was all into Purple Rose of Cairo.

February 21, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Didn't Thompson won for "Remains of the Boriiiinnnngggg" ?
or was it "Howards "we do the same movie over & over & over until one of us dieds"?

February 21, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterstjeans

stjeans -- oh no you better don't! I will defend MERCHANT/IVORY to the death ;) great films

February 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

James Ivory is a vastly superior filmmaker to most (all?) of the button-pushing coolcat crowd including Tarantino, Nolan, etc. Anthony Hopkins gives his greatest performance -- and one of the greatest performances in cinema history -- in The Remains of the Day.

February 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJason Cooper

There is NO F8CKING WAY Ivory is better than Tarantino.

Ivory has made some fine movies (I personally love Remains of the Day and Howards End), but, come on, have you seen The Golden Bowl, Surviving Picasso, or all the snoozefest the came before A Room With a View? I think he is rather a bad director who has made some good movies, and not vice-versa.

On The Color Purple, yes, I like the movie very much, but as much as I love Goldberg, Page deserved her Oscar, and so did Anjelica Huston.

What ever happened to Milos Forman? He had such an incredible career, from his Czech movies to Amadeus, Larry Flynt and Man on the Moon and then, Goya's Ghosts? Is he retired? Ragtime is a superb movie.

February 22, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

The fact that Audrey Hepburn didn't win for The Nun's Story - easily the finest, most difficult performance of her career - still upsets me. I need to study the Oscars years more closely, but I wonder, if she hadn't won for Roman Holiday...

February 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Why do I never win an Oscar?

Regards, YTF

February 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterYTF

The Little Foxes (<3) might be the best performance of Bette Davis, she's amazing on it.

February 22, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdan.

The Remains of the Day is my favourite of the lot, I'm still vaguely annoyed (or maybe more than vaguely) that it didn't earn a Cinematography nomination. My Merchant/Ivory loving heart will always settle on Howards End as their magnum opus but The Remains of the Day is probably the best of 1993 for me.

It's a shame that Ivory is so disregarded today, I think he's fantastic and I would agree with Jason that he's better than some of the "button pushing" directors but directors like Ivory whose work don't explicitly endorse the internet's definition of "auteur" who do principally period films aren't generally well remembered for their contributions. But even his period ways he made some risky movies.

(I'm way partial to Russ Tamblyn in Peyton Place. How odd that this was single Oscar nomination.)

February 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew K.

Nun's Story, Elephant Man, and Remains of the Day are my favorites here. (I've seen them all except for Quo Vadis?.) Still, I think Collinge would have been a great choice for Supporting Actress in Little Foxes. I found it a relief when AMPAS got over its overweening love of Turning Point, Gangs, and True Grit somewhere between nomination day and actual voting, though even they probably deserved the odd award, such as Gangs for costumes or art direction.

February 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNick Davis

Nathaniel I agree, Remains of The Day may have won at least one acting category I think had the two leads not been such recent winners. I really want an Emma Thompson revival to happen, I was obsessed with her in the 90s.

February 22, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterrami (ramification)

I've only seen "The Turning Point," "The Color Purple," "Gangs of New York," and "True Grit." I agree with Nick Davis concerning the latter two, which never even touched greatness from my perspective. I'm still dumbfounded at the amount of adoration Hailee Steinfeld received for her merely adequate performance.

February 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

Troy H -- as am i, Troy, as am I. And people wanted her to WIN, too.

February 22, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I've only seen Elephant Man, The Color Purple, GONY and True Grit. I knew about most of these shut outs, but I would have sworn, had my life depended on it, that Elephant Man won at least something. Shocking! Even though its totally atypical for him, it's one of my favorite Lynch movies. Or maybe it's one of my favorites because it's so atypical? Whatever, it's a beautiful heart breaker of a film.

I've been meaning to check out Ragtime, Remains of the Day and Turning Point for ages.

Also, I think I'm the only one who thinks Gangs of New York, obvious flaws and all, is a great movie, but that's ok! :)

February 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

I've only seen 'The Little Foxes' and 'The Turning Point.' I loved the former, particularly Bette's performance.

Anne Bancroft is the one redeeming quality of 'Turning Point,' but she can do no wrong in my eyes. It's a shame that she's not more celebrated.

February 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike M.

Saw Quo Vadis last Sunday on TMC. Woof. Although Peter Ustinov was a hoot as Nero.

February 22, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterzeecube

I've seen all or parts of all except for True Grit. The only really awful ones are Peyton Place, which is still great fun, and Gangs of New York, which is no fun at all. I agree with the comments about Audrey's performance in The Nun's Story, which is sublime. This, along with Two For the Road, are perhaps her greatest triumphs.

I just watched The Little Foxes last weekend, and it's pretty damn great, if the script is a bit thin. But that scene with Bette lounging while her husband's heart slowly crumbles...those eyes! And of course the great line: "I hope you die. I hope you die soon. I'll be waiting for you to die." Collinge and Wright, in her debut, are also fantastic.

I applaud Mike M's comments about Ms. Bancroft. She is so underappreciated--and simply brilliant in The Turning Point. The 77 race for Best Actress was one of the fiercest of all time -- Bancroft, Keaton, Mason, Fonda, MacLaine. I think in a weaker year she might have won an Oscar for her terrific work here.

February 22, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I've seen all of them except for the two that came out during my mission (Elephant Man and Ragtime). (But I've read the book of Ragtime and seen the stage musical).

I have to speak up for The Turning Point which is actually the mostly likely movie on this entire list that I'd happily watch over and over. Maybe that's because it's kind of junky, but not as pulpy as Peyton Place. There is always the phenomenal ballet sequences. And Herbert Ross directed two Best Picture nominees that year. Has that ever happened before in the "only five nominees" era?

I HATED The Color Purple at the time and so I've always been glad it was shut out. And 11 nominations is reward enough.

I have very fond memories of The Nun's Story, Little Foxes, and Remains of the Day. All great actressing.

Quo Vadis and Sand Pebbles are very, very vague memories.

February 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDave in Alamitos Beach

Dave--Soderbergh was nommed for both Erin Brockovich and Traffic, both up for BP. He won for Traffic. I think he was the first director since Michael Curtiz in the 30s to be nommed twice for Best Director. I could never figure out if there was a rule change along the way or what.

February 22, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Funny you did this: I was just wondering today: which films have the most Oscar losses (as in, could have won an award, but lost most everything else)?

February 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

I don't think there was a rule change and writers and directors can still get nominated for more than one movie in a year. Actors don't allow it in the same category, i.e. you can go lead and supporting in the same year and it happens quite a lot.

So yes Soderbergh and Herbert Ross (of all people). Anyone else?

February 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDave in Alamitos Beach

brookesboy -- there was no rule change. The only categories which do not allow mutliple nominations for the same person are the four acting categories.

February 22, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Dave -- that's a great question actually. anyone know or is it only Soderbergh and Ross?

February 22, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Coppola did it in 74...for Godfather II and The Conversation.

February 22, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I've seen them all and most of them deserved at least one Oscar. The Sand Pebbles and The Elephant Man both should have won Best Picture with Quo Vadis and The Color Purple coming in second in their respective years.

How I'd rank them:

1. The Elephant Man (1980)
2. The Sand Pebbles (1966)
3. Quo Vadis (1951)
4. Ragtime (1981)
5. The Color Purple (1985)
6. True Grit (2010)
7. The Remains of the Day (1993)
8. Peyton Place (1957)
9. The Nun's Story (1959)
10. The Turning Point (1977)
11. The Little Foxes (1939)
12. Gangs of New York (2002)

February 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSean Troutman

brookesboy -- omg. how could i forget. THE CONVERSATION is so brilliant.

February 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

Since Sean Troutman has ranked The Little Foxes and Gangs of New York so low, here's my two cents (for the ones I've seen or remember seeing):

The Remains of the Day
The Little Foxes
The Elephant Man
Gangs of New York
True Grit
The Turning Point
The Color Purple
Peyton Place

And I I love Peyton Place.

February 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Peyton Place did not aged well at all.

February 23, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdan.

How can an actresssexual like yourself see Jennifer Lawrence knock that "he's harassing me!" scene out of the freaking park and still be able to use the word "unfortunate" to describe her front runner-dom?

February 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKeelay

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