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Worst Best Picture Snubs Ever?

by Nathaniel R

This week on Las Culturistas I froze on the question of "Greatest Oscar Snub of All Time?" so with 5 days out until the nominations (we know we know final predictions coming at'cha starting tomorrow), let's answer it! Restricting ourselves to Best Picture here because you gotta keep it tight when answering loose questions. 

SO WHAT WERE THE DOZEN WORST BEST PICTURE SNUBS EVER? Let's group them according to types of injustice...

TYPE 1. PLENTIFUL NOMINATIONS INCLUDING BEST DIRECTOR. SO WHY COULDN'T OSCAR GO THAT ONE SIMPLE HAPPY STEP FURTHER?  My Man Godfrey (1936), Some Like it Hot (1959), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), They Shoot Horses Don't They? (1969) and Thelma and Louise (1991)

In all five of these cases the Best Picture snubs are puzzling. It's not just that the movies are all so grand that you watch them with jaw dropped -- from laughter, cathartic despair, or sheer awe. It's also that the Academy loved them enough to recognize them across multiple branches...

The hilarious screwball My Man Godfrey arrived before Oscar truly developed its 'comedy is lesser than' routine and the largest branch (actors) just loved it, accounting for four of its six nominations. So did the below the line people in Hollywood just not respond to it at all? Another immortal comedy  Some Like It Hotfrom one of Hollywood's most beloved directors, received nominations from six different branches... so were the other branches absolutely immune to its fizzy charm?

2001: A Space Odyssey is the most understandable of these snubs in that it was provocative and challenging and its nominations came mostly in the less heralded tech categories. And yet, it was a big enough hit with moviegoers and critics that you'd think it would have been respected enough at the time to manage the big one. Especially since Oscar likes 'scale,' if you will, in its nominees. 

Thelma and Louise was obviously a 'just-miss' in 1991 given its six nominations and status as one of the zeitgeistiest of that year's crop. But what happened with Sydney Pollack's furious and formidable Depression era dance-a-thon movie They Shoot Horses, Don't They? The Jane Fonda led drama still holds the record all these years later of "Most Nominations without Best Picture" with an incredible nine nods. One more small troubling detail about its fate: it's better than all the actual Picture nominees that year

TYPE 2. MUSICALS ARE NEVER APPRECIATED ENOUGH PART #2,961 Meet Me in St Louis (1944) and Singin' in the Rain (1952)

My love for these classics is well known so click on the links to read past pieces. Real talk: both should have WON Best Picture in their years. Meet Me in St Louis has its devotees (The Film Experience is a frequently cheerleader) but deserves to be more widely cherished these days for its impeccable mix of genres without ever once sacrificing the resonant American family portrait at its center or immensely pleasurable Judy Garland musical numbers. Singin' in the Rain is inarguably beloved today but wasn't back then. It's a pity because pure bliss is not an easy thing to create onscreen. Now imagine having creating it trying to sustaining it for 103 minutes. And Rain does, without ever setting a tap foot wrong! 


All of these horror classics received acting nominations -- Rosemary's Baby even won a well deserved trophy in Supporting Actress. They were so exceptionally made that Academy voters let go of their qualms about the horror genre to honor them. Tis a pity it wasn't in the top category, though. I'd argue, with no hesitation whatsoever, that Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho and Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby are the single best movies of their respective years. If Brian de Palma's Carrie isn't the best film of 1976 it's not for lack of quality. It's just that 1976 was an insane year in which perfection was easy to come by; the masterpieces just kept on coming.

That none of the three best horror films ever made (what? that's just my opinion, man) were nominated for Best Picture is more frightening than any jump scare. They all should have gotten the full Exorcist or Silence of the Lambs treatment from the Academy. The 1973 and 1991 Oscar fates of those films proved, however fleetingly, that Academy voters could look past genre trappings and see the Bestness.  Let's hope they do so with Get Out next week.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) and Carol (2015)

Eternal Sunshine received two well deserved nominations (Actress and Screenplay) which means the Academy saw it. So it still baffles the mind that they couldn't bother to nominate it in the most important category in a year with a decided lack of spark among the top contenders. Finding Neverland and Ray? Really??? Were the Oscar ballots that year created by Lacuna Inc? Were their memories of Sunshine's inspired surrealism, melancholy beauty and insightful humor partially wiped as they sat down to vote? (Hell, it should have even been the first time a female cinematographer was recognized by the Academy but we're still waiting -- at least for 5 more days -- for that one.)

If you haven't yet realized that Todd Haynes's Carol, an exquisitely crafted wintry 1950s romance between an unhappy married lady (Cate Blanchett) and a curious shopgirl/photographer (Rooney Mara) is a complete masterpiece of a romantic drama, please watch it again. And again. And again. Five times at least. Actually make it a Christmas tradition. If you still don't get what the big deal was... well, in the immortal words of Sarah Paulson's Abby Gerhard:

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Reader Comments (64)

I agree with Rob, Dreamgirls is a pretty bad movie. I don't think many people missed that being on the Best Picture list. Jennifer Hudson's win is still one of the great thuds of Oscardom.

Do The Right Thing is a great call, Edwin. Now considered a classic for sure.

Nathaniel, I do think Silence of the Lambs is better than Thelma and Louise, but agreed that it's miles better than the other four nominees that year.

January 18, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEricB

Eric B -- i was actually referreing to They Shoot Horses Dont' They in "better than all the other nominees" though I guess i would give Thelma & Louise best picture that year but silence is fabulous too. I can't believe that when mini-m was giving out prizes just on notebook paper with no witnesses that year, I didn't include Silence of the Lambs in my top 10. I think i had it at #11

January 18, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Mann’s The Last of the Mohicans
Redford’s A River Runs Through It
Mann’s Heat
Kieslowski’s Three Colors: Red
Lynch’s Mulholland Dr
Zwick’s Glory
Anderson’s Magnolia
Ford’s My Darling Clementine
Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter
Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ
Dominik’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Kaufman’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Armstrong’s Little Women
Spielberg’s AI

January 18, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJason Cooper

Alfred Hitchcock was robbed three times;- Psycho, Vertigo and Rear Window all were NOT nominated for Best Pic. And what about foreign language films that missed out eg. Pan's Labyrinth and City of God?

January 18, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBette Streep

Yeah, the 1999 best picture nominees are appalling, considering some of the masterpieces that were released that year. I despise the Miramax awards pushes of 1999/2000 - The Cider House Rules and Chocolat. Two absolutely atrocious films that Harvey shoved down voters’ throats.

January 18, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAaron

Two for the Road

January 19, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Almost Famous.
Won the comedy/musical globe, bafta nom for best film, a few critic awards for best film, 2 oscar nods in supporting actress.... then lost it's best picture nom to CHOCOLAT of all films (which I actually like more than most people, but still)
That's a stinger of a snub.

January 19, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJB

re: Babe (1995). I still think it's the #2 film of the 90s and the best directorial achievement/challenge of that decade. I still use it as an indicator, who actually pays attention to film and knows about art and filmmaking, and who just can't.

My biggest complaint is 2014... there were three absolute essential masterpieces, to my taste... Stranger by the Lake, Snowpiercer and The Lego Movie. They went with Birdman, an interesting project derrailed by Iñarritu's obsession with showing off his obvious directorial skills. They did not find a place for any of threse three... at least they did nominate the 4th film, "The Great Budapest Hotel", but they couldn't go the extra mile and add to its 4 wins, both director and picture (and film editing)

January 19, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJesus Alonso

I agree about Babe. I, too, consider it one of the best films of the 90s.

January 19, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJason Cooper

I cry EVERY time I watch Babe when Fly's puppies are sold and the narrator tells us she was not ready. It's like they directed that dog to ACT!! I am tearing up right now. Good grief.

January 19, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJakey

The worst snub ever was Crash getting best picture instead of Brokeback Mountain.

January 19, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGordon

I don't know if it's the WORST snub ever, but CAROL not being nominated (or awarded) was ridiculous.

I think the snubs are even more revolting in the New system since they can nominate Ten films and always go for eight or nine...

January 22, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterClement_Paris

We could use this new unscrambler scrabble word finder for finding the words.

January 24, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterjeno

The most flagrant snub in recent memory--as yet unmentioned here!--was "Brokeback Mountain." It's even one of the few times a movie won Best Director and lost Best Picture.

February 1, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTom Steele

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