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Worst Oscar Nomination Snubs

Movies | By Nicholas for The Top 13 on February 2, 2010

Here at The Top 13, we love the Oscars. However flawed they may be, the Oscars are a celebration of the movies writ large, filled with the infectiously exciting glamour and glitz of Hollywood. Unfortunately, the Academy seems to make mistakes as often as they pick the most deserving winners, and with this year's nominations announced this morning, we'd like to share some of the worst nomination snubs of all time. These are cases where the Academy not only failed to give the award to the right film or performance, but failed to even nominate it.

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North by Northwest (1959)


North by Northwest (1959)

Best Picture/Best Director

The fact that Alfred Hitchcock famously never won an Oscar for Best Director is surprising enough, but the thought that the Academy would fail to nominate North By Northwest, arguably one of Hitchcock's best and one of the best American films of all time, for either Best Picture or Best Director is shocking. Nonetheless, that's precisely what happened, and in so doing the Academy committed the largest of its many missteps.

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)


The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

Best Actress - Renée Jeanne Falconetti (as Joan of Arc)

In the history of cinema, perhaps no other director has demanded as much of his or her star as Dreyer did of Falconetti in The Passion of Joan of Arc. The 110 minutes of the film are almost entirely devoted to extreme close-ups on Falconetti's face as her Joan of Arc is put on trial. What's most remarkable is the fact that, when watched today, this pre-Stanislavski performance remains as heart-wrenching and astounding as the day it was filmed.

Days of Heaven (1978)


Days of Heaven (1978)

Best Director – Terrence Malick

Possibly the most underrated auteur of the twentieth century, Terrence Malick has directed four gorgeous, arrestingly lyrical films, but none are more tightly woven, or more affecting, than his 1978 masterpiece Days of Heaven. Nestor Almendros and Haskell Wexler rightfully won an Oscar for their artful cinematography, but the Academy seemingly glossed over the tremendous input Malick had in crafting this artistic achievement, as well as the beautifully restrained performances he coaxed out of Richard Gere, Brooke Adams and then-newcomer Linda Manz.

City of God (2002)


City of God (2002)

Best Foreign Language Film/Best Picture

When Brazil submitted Cidade de Deus to the Academy as their bid for a nomination, the Academy voters paid this fresh new voice no heed. Fortunately, when the film became eligible for U.S. awards in 2003 it netted four nominations, including Best Director, but not Best Picture, which this spectacular film truly deserved. So City of God, which we (and our readers) picked as the best drama of the 2000s, was actually robbed of the nomination it deserved two years in a row.

Psycho (1960)


Psycho (1960)

Best Actor - Anthony Perkins (as Norman Bates)

Anthony Perkins' turn as the unsettlingly creepy motel owner Norman Bates earned him and the film itself almost universal accolades amongst audiences. However, initial critical reception was shockingly negative. As the year bore on, many critics changed their tune dramatically, and the Academy even ended up nominating the film for four awards. Notably absent, though, was Perkins' performance, which is in many ways the greatest strength of the film.

The Dark Knight (2008)


The Dark Knight (2008)

Best Picture

Presumably a casualty of the Academy's ill-guided sense of self-importance, The Dark Knight's absence from the 2008 Best Picture list is particularly offensive given what was nominated in its place: The Reader, Frost/Nixon, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. With time, though, Christopher Nolan's masterpiece of popcorn fare should hopefully remain revered where those other films will likely fade into memory.

Scenes From A Marriage (1973)


Scenes From A Marriage (1973)

Best Actress - Liv Ullmann

In the latter half of his career, Ingmar Bergman moved away from the silver screen and began producing epically long television mini-series which he would then re-cut into feature length films for distribution abroad. Of course, this entry is not about Bergman; it's about Ullmann, who gave a six-hour tour-de-force performance as the female half of a faltering relationship. Ullmann's performance earned her awards and accolades the world over, (even the Hollywood Foreign Press awarded her the Golden Globe for best actress) but the Academy failed to even nominate her.

There Will Be Blood (2007)


There Will Be Blood (2007)

Best Original Score - Jonny Greenwood

The Original Score and Song categories are particularly prone to misstep due to a set of rules and stipulations confusing enough to rival those governing the selection of Foreign Film nominees. And though many deserving scores have found themselves on the receiving end of a technicality, none were as unfairly robbed as Jonny Greenwood's avant-garde composition, which was disqualified due to a single percussion piece Greenwood borrowed from his earlier work on the film Bodysong.

The Thin Blue Line (1988)


The Thin Blue Line (1988)

Best Documentary Feature

With The Thin Blue Line, Errol Morris both established himself as a filmmaking force to be reckoned with and changed the face of the modern documentary. Cinematic, artful and brimming with journalistic merit, Morris' film is everything a documentary should be; however, thanks to the Academy's resistance to change, the documentary was left nominated. On the other hand, the film resulted in the pardon and release of a wrongfully imprisoned death-row inmate, which is far more fulfilling than a silly gold statuette. Disregard the statement in the video below about this film winning an Academy Award; while it should have, the reporter simply got it wrong.

Wings of Desire (1987)


Wings of Desire (1987)

Best Cinematography - Henri Alekan

As an almost narrativeless mood piece, Wim Wenders' love-letter to Berlin's artistic success or failure was to be determined by the quality of the cinematography. Fortunately, Alekan turned in one of the best shot films of all time – which the Academy completely and inconceivably ignored.

In the Heat of the Night (1967)


In the Heat of the Night (1967)

Best Actor - Sidney Poitier

Filmed today, In The Heat of the Night (and particularly Sidney Poitier's performance) would scream "Oscar bait." But in 1967, with the country still in the midst of civil rights turmoil, the film was a risky move. The Academy did end up awarding the film five different Oscars (including Best Picture), but chose to nominate Rod Steiger for his work in this film over Poitier.

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007/2008)


4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007/2008)

Best Foreign Film

Foreign films are at a giant disadvantage when it comes to the Oscars: They're rarely considered for anything other than the single Foreign Film category. What's more, due to the strange eligibility requirements, the same film may be eligible for different awards in different years (as seen on this list with City of God), which can lead to votes being split between years. That said, none of those factors forgive the fact that one of the best films of the decade, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days received nary a nomination. Of course, seeing as the Academy has completely ignored the renaissance of Romanian film in the past few years, this came as no surprise.

Zodiac (2007)


Zodiac (2007)

Best Picture/Best Director - David Fincher

David Fincher's notorious perfectionism and detail-oriented style have led to one of the most impressive resumes in modern film. But, in one of the most confusing moves in recent memory, the Academy lavished Fincher's biggest misstep, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, with an astounding thirteen nominations, but failed to give his understated masterpiece Zodiac a single one. Perhaps it was the studio's fault for delaying the film into the no man's land of a March release, or perhaps it's simply a testament to what a strong year for film 2007 was, but whatever the case, this is a film that deserved recognition.

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Comments Leave a comment


Just watched NxNW for the umpteenth time Saturday. I've always loved that movie and think it's one of the best. I didn't realize it was snubbed for best pic and director at the Oscars...I thought maybe at least a nomination! Nice list.

8:33 AM   Feb 02, 2010


i'm surprised Sideways wasn't listed... a bunch of people were upset about that.

8:38 AM   Feb 02, 2010


and by that i mean Paul Giamatti.

8:39 AM   Feb 02, 2010

stillathreat ★★

Sideways is so overrated. It's not even a good movie, let along an Oscar worthy movie. The Dark Knight is great, but not remotely Oscar worthy, either.

8:41 AM   Feb 02, 2010

KungFuJay ★★

Man I love Days of Heaven so much.

9:29 AM   Feb 02, 2010

PulpAffliction ★★

It's easily in my all-time Top 5.

4:39 PM   Mar 03, 2010

ajay ★★

Great list. Surprised to see no Eternal Sunshine. Hitchcock was snubbed like mad his whole career... damn shame. At least Rebecca got it...

10:59 AM   Feb 02, 2010


But... The Academy Awards weren't around til the 30s, right? How is Joan of Arc a snub?
Great compilation though.

11:36 AM   Feb 02, 2010


First year was 1927.

11:46 AM   Feb 02, 2010


Karen O was robbed this year for best original score (the Academy disqualified her) and for best new song. Really, 2 (!) more crappy Randy Newman ballads? Ugh.

1:14 PM   Feb 17, 2010


I would also say John Cazale for Godfather Part II and maybe Malcolm Macdowell for Clockwork Orange.

9:50 AM   Feb 18, 2010


into the wild?

5:14 PM   Jul 08, 2010


Good call on Zodiac, one of the 10 best movies of the past decade.

3:39 PM   Dec 18, 2010

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