The 95th Academy Awards wrapped up in March 2023, and in a shock to many, a film as bizarre as Everything Everywhere All At Once won Best Picture. A sci-fi genre film won Best Picture, and this has followed a recent trend of some surprising films like Top Gun: Maverick, Black Panther, and Toy Story 3, having earned high-profile Academy Award nominations. The Academy has expanded its horizons on what can be considered an Oscar film.
That having been said, the Academy has a long history of ignoring not just popular movies but generally well-regarded great films. While there are only so many nomination slots in a given year, the history of great films that were ignored by the Academy is just as long as the ones that were celebrated. With that in mind, here are 11 great films that were ignored at the Academy Awards for Oscars.
11 Black Narcissus
Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, based on the book of the same name by Rumer Godden, Black Narcissus, starring Deborah Kerr, is set in a convent perched high on a cliff in the Himalayas. The film follows the lives, passions, and desires of a group of nuns who are constantly visited by travelers.
Cited as one of the most beautiful films of all time due to its Technicolor look and stunning sets, the film was overlooked by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, yet it now enjoys classic status. Part of this is due to the fact that Black Narcissus was shot in the UK, and for a long time the Oscar only benefited American films. The movie did win one Oscar, Best Art Direction though it certainly should have been nominated for more.
10 The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
When the Western began to decline, a movement emerged in Italy to recover the feeling of these films, thanks to directors like Sergio Leone. One of his most important classics was The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, a film that ended the Dollars trilogy starring the unique Clint Eastwood in the role of the Man with No Name.
The film ends up serving as a great tribute to the American Western and still offers us iconic scenes and an unforgettable interpretation by Eastwood. Unfortunately, it was not remembered at that year’s Academy Awards, mainly because it was an Italian film at a time when productions from other countries were restricted to the Foreign Film award. Italies submission that year was The Battle of Algiers.
It is not new that people talk about how the Academy Awards tend to look down on genre films, specifically horror. While there have been some exceptions, like Silence of the Lambs winning Best Picture and Get Out being nominated, the perception is the genre is not typically worthy of awards consideration. However, it is absurd to think that Frankenstein, an absolute classic of cinema, did not garner a nomination.
Directed by James Whale and based on the book of the same name by Mary Shelley, the film tells us about Henry Frankenstein’s experiments, which gave rise to the iconic monster played by Boris Karloff. While Dracula may have kicked off the Universal Monster movies, Frankenstein is arguably the most iconic Universal Monster movie and a landmark film in cinema. Popular culture’s perception of the material owes more to the 1931 film than the original novel, and after almost 100 years still stands stall in the imagination of many.
8 The Shining
Continuing the Academy’s hatred of horror, another very striking example is The Shining, Stanley Kubrick’s film that brought to the screens – with many creative freedoms – Stephen King’s book. The film features astonishing performances by Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall and an impressive production design, even though the film and the book have many differences, generating conflict between Kubrick and King.
When it was released in 1980, the movie garnered mixed reviews from critics and notably received two Razzie nominations, one for Worst Director and another for Worst Actress for Shelley Duvall, which the Razzie has since rescinded. The film is now a landmark horror film and one of the best-regarded in the history of the genre and showcases how the initial reaction to a movie can change over time.
7 The King of Comedy
Released in 1981, The King of Comedy stars Robert De Niro as an aspiring comedian with severe psychological problems who witnesses first-hand disillusionment with the media. Martin Scorsese is far from an Oscar-passed director. He has already been nominated nine times for the Best Director award and has already taken home a statuette for his work on The Departed, a film released in 2006. But it is quite curious that one of his greatest classics was ignored by the award.
In an odd twist of fate, possibly as a way for not nominating this film at the time, years later, Joker would be nominated for Best Picture, with Joaquin Phoenix winning the Best Actor statue. Director Todd Philips had been open about how The King of Comedy was a major inspiration for Joker.
6 Reservoir Dogs
Quentin Tarantino is another great director who has already made history with the Academy, having been nominated three times in the category of Best Director and even received two statuettes for Best Original Screenplay for his work on Pulp Fiction and Django Unchained. However, many complain to this day about how his first film was completely snubbed by the Academy.
Released in 1992, Reservoir Dogstells the story of several jewel thieves whose plans are horribly thwarted. The feature is considered by several Tarantino fans as the best film of his career and, like the other films mentioned, has a sharp and very surprising script. Still, as it was an unknown name, Tarantino was left out of that year’s Academy Awards ceremony.
5 Before Sunrise
Long before winning over the world with Boyhood, Richard Linklater was already making profound and reflective films about human connections and relationships, and perhaps the best example of this is the Before Trilogy, which follows the story of a couple when they meet, meet again and, years later, they experience marital problems.
Starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, the first film in the trilogy wasBefore Sunrise, from 1995. Despite the resounding reception from critics, the film was ignored at the Academy Awards. Thankfully, the Academy learned, and both Before Sunset and Before Midnight secured Best Adapted Screenplay nominations.
4 In the Mood for Love
Speaking of romances, a movie that needs to be cited, and rightfully praised, is In the Mood for Love, a great romantic drama written, directed, and produced by Wong Kar-wai. The film follows a man and his neighbor who suspect their spouses are unfaithful. In love with each other, they decide to start a relationship while trying not to be discovered.
The film is cited as one of the greatest works of all time and a great testament to Wong Kar-wai’s power to tell stories. The film was nominated for the Palm d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2000 and won the Technical Grand Prize and Best Actor for Tony Leung; it was shut out of the Academy Awards that year. Even without an Academy Award nomination, it continues to be a celebrated piece of cinema and was recently placed fifth in Sight & Sound‘s “Greatest Films of All Time” poll by critics.
3 Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Directed by Céline Sciamma, Portrait de la Jeune Fille en Feu – also known as Portrait of a Lady on Fire tells the story of the forbidden love between a painter and her model. The film has been acclaimed since its debut at the Cannes Film Festival in 2019, but surprisingly it was not nominated for a single Oscar category in 2020.
Part of the reason for the film’s snub was that France, the original country of the feature, did not enter it on the list of competitors for Best Foreign Language Film – that year, the chosen feature was Les Misérables. Still, many believed that Sciamma deserved a Best Director nomination and that the film should have been in the running for the top category at the ceremony.
Even a perfect performance doesn’t guarantee an Oscar, especially if you’re in a horror movie. In 2019, the already acclaimed director Jordan Peele released his 2nd feature film, Us, which tells the story of a family that receives a visit from their “evil doubles.” And at the center of the film, Lupita Nyong’o stands out with one of the best performances of her career. Even though Peele won Best Original Screenplay for his work in 2017’s Get Out, his second project was summarily forgotten, and fans criticized Nyong’o’s absence from the Best Actress race.
1 Argentina, 1985
Argentina, 1985 is the most recent film on this list. It was a difficult race that year but was unfairly disregarded by the Academy. The film represented not only Argentina but all of Latin America and deserved the top of the podium.
Losing the Oscar to All Quiet on the Western Front, Argentina, 1985 tells the story of two Argentine prosecutors named Luis Moreno Ocampo and Julio César Strassera in 1985 as they begin to investigate and judge those responsible for the Argentine military dictatorship. In the film, Strassera and Ocampo face the influence of political and military pressure and gather a team of young lawyers to carry out the trial of military agents. A true story of resistance and social justice, Argentina, 1985 is a film that should be recognized for decades.
This story originally appeared on Movieweb