[Note: Every Friday on First Thoughts we host a discussion about some aspect of pop culture. Today’s theme is movies that should have won the Academy Award's Best Picture. Have a suggestion for a topic? Send them to me at email@example.com]
Next Tuesday the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will continue its long history of giving an Oscar for Best Picture to a movie that isn’t quite the Best Picture of the year. Avatar will take beat out nine other nominees for the best prize. And while it’s better than most films (e.g., The Hurt Locker) it is slightly less worthy than the enchanting Up.
Nevertheless, it’s likely that the Academy won’t completely embarrass themselves, as they did with almost all of the following fifteen films (seventeen, really) that lost the Best Picture award to an unworthy contender:
1. Citizen Kane (1941)
What won instead: How Green Was My Valley
Although it regularly tops the list of greatest movies of all time, Citizen Kane lost it’s bid for Best Picture. It took the consolation prize of Best Original Screenplay—the only Oscar director Orson Welles ever won.
2. The Third Man (1949)
What won instead: All About Eve
In any other year, the British noir masterpiece would have handily taken the Oscar. But it was the year for Eve, a picture that won in six of the fourteen categories in which it was nominated.
3. The Searchers (1956)
What won instead: Around the World in Eighty Days
Although I consider The Searchers a great, though overrated, film, there is no doubt that it should have won. Yet it wasn’t even nominated for Best Picture! How did Giant get a nomination and The Searchers did not?
4. The Shawshank Redemption / Pulp Fiction (1994)
What won instead: Forrest Gump
What a year for movies! Gump is a personal favorite, but it can’t match the twin masterpieces of Shawshank and Pulp Fiction, either of which should have taken home the top honors.
5. Star Wars (1977)
What won instead: Annie Hall
Sure it may have been Woody Allen’s best film. But it wasn’t Star Wars.
6. Apocalypse Now (1979)
What won instead: Kramer vs. Kramer
Maybe this made sense in 1979, but it sure doesn’t now.
7. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
What won instead: Chariots of Fire
Do you really think Chariots should have won? Okay, which would your rather watch right now? Be honest. That’s what I thought.
8. Tender Mercies / The Right Stuff (1983)
What won instead: Terms of Endearment
Great year with some tough competition. Any three are worthy but Tender and Right Stuff edge out Terms.
9. Fargo (1996)
What won instead: The English Patient
The Coen brothers’ most human movie really should have beat out the visually sumptuous, but dull work by Anthony Minghella. (Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet would have been an even more worthy choice, but it wasn’t even nominated.)
10. Being John Malkovich (1999)
What won instead: American Beauty
A decade has passed and yet the Academy has still not apologized for this embarrassment. The fact that they passed over—without even nominating—one of the most quirky and creative films ever made to award American Beauty only compounds the outrage.
11. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
What won instead: Shakespeare in Love
Ryan has its flaws, but the first ten minutes is more worthy than the entire 123 minutes of the entertaining, but slight, Shakespeare.
12. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
What won instead: A Beautiful Mind
I’m not even a Rings fan yet I recognize the injustice of this snub.
13. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
What won instead: Chicago
14. Munich (2005)
What won instead: Crash
Crash? Seriously, Academy, what were you thinking?
15. The Dark Knight (2008)
What won instead: Slumdog Millionaire
The greatest superhero movie of all time snubbed to honor a film that no one will remember watching five years from now.
What would you add to the list? What are the greatest snubs that I missed?