The 15 Biggest Oscar Snubs of All Time

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The 15 Biggest Oscar Snubs of All Time

This morning the Academy Award nominations were revealed, and as usual, they’re bound to inspire debates over who got snubbed.

In light of today’s news (and, ahem, no Best Actor nomination for Jamie Foxx’s work in Django Unchained), we’re looking back at the biggest Oscar snubs of all time. To be clear, we’re not squabbling about nominees who should’ve won their categories—we’re talking about iconic and classic performances or films that were inexplicably overlooked and failed to even receive nominations.

15. Gary Oldman, Sid and Nancy (1986)
Overlooked for: Best Actor
Nominated Instead: Paul Newman (The Color of Money), Dexter Gordon (Round Midnight), William Hurt (Children of a Lesser God), Bob Hoskins (Mona Lisa), James Woods (Salvador)
It’s always tough to play a real person, but to play a punk icon/raging drug addict/probable murderer less than a decade after his high-profile death is a nearly impossible task. Oldman transformed into Sid Vicious for this film, both physically (at one point being hospitalized for losing too much weight for the role) and emotionally, pouring himself into the role.

14. Kathleen Turner, Body Heat (1981)
Overlooked for: Best Actress
Nominated Instead: Katherine Hepburn (On Golden Pond), Diane Keaton (Reds), Marsha Mason (Only When I Laugh), Susan Sarandon (Atlantic City), Meryl Streep (The French Lieutenant’s Woman)
As femme fatale Matty Walker in this neo-noir, Kathleen Turner made her film debut, but her performance makes it seem as though she’s been doing this forever—oozing the style, confidence and sensuality of a bygone era.

13. Steven Spielberg, Jaws (1975)
Overlooked for: Best Director
Nominated Instead: Milos Forman (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), Robert Altman (Nashville), Federico Fellini (Amarcord), Stanley Kubrick (Barry Lyndon), Sidney Lumet (Dog Day Afternoon)
Sure, the directors’ category was pretty stacked in 1975, and it’s tough to decide who we’d bump to make room for him, but with Jaws, Steven Spielberg essentially created the summer blockbuster and forever changed how we see movies while laying the groundwork for the auteur’s impressive career—no small feat.

12. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Overlooked for: Best Picture
Nominated Instead: Oliver!, Funny Girl, The Lion in Winter, Rachel, Rachel, Romeo and Juliet
As we wrote when we declared this one of the slowest (but also greatest) movies of all time, “Straddling the boundary between art film and sci-fi epic, Stanley Kubrick’s space-age fantasia is loaded with arresting images. The legendary opening, with the apes and the bone—would you really want that passage hurried? The scene builds like a symphony, and then hurtles us into space, where the action moves with appropriate gravity. The menace of HAL is partly in the deliberateness with which he operates. If you’re looking for exploding Death Stars and quippy little alien creatures, you’ve come to the wrong place. Kubrick takes interstellar life seriously.” If you’re still not convinced, think about how visually stunning the film remains to this day and consider what it’d be like to watch it in 1968—before we’d even put a man on the moon.

11. Dennis Hopper, Blue Velvet (1986)
Overlooked for: Best Supporting Actor
Nominated Instead: Michael Caine (Hannah and Her Sisters), Tom Berenger (Platoon), Willem Dafoe (Platoon), Denholm Elliot (A Room With A View), Dennis Hopper (Hoosiers)
The Academy chose the wrong 1986 Dennis Hopper performance. He’s great in Hoosiers, but as Frank Booth in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet, he’s positively terrifying. Booth is one of the most memorable movie villains of all time—sometimes funny, frequently disturbing and always riveting. Plus, he was drinking PBR before it was cool.

10. The Dark Knight (2008)
Overlooked for: Best Picture
Nominated Instead: Slumdog Millionaire, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader
The Dark Knight was more than just a movie; it was an event. Christopher Nolan’s sequel to Batman Begins managed to transcend genre and become much more than a simple comic-book movie. It’s a visually stunning morality tale that raises some important questions about good and evil, and Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker—hideous, deranged and yet hugely charismatic—is one for the ages.

9. Bette Davis, Of Human Bondage (1934)
Overlooked for: Best Actress
Nominated Instead: Claudette Colbert (It Happened One Night), Grace Moore (One Night of Love), Norma Shearer (The Barretts of Wimpole Street)
There was such a massive public outcry when Bette Davis was snubbed for her star-making performance in Of Human Bondage that the Academy essentially owned up to their mistake and actually allowed a special write-in campaign to get her on the ballot.

This morning the Academy Award nominations were revealed, and as usual, they’re bound to inspire debates over who got snubbed.

In light of today’s news (and, ahem, no Best Actor nomination for Jamie Foxx’s work in Django Unchained), we’re looking back at the biggest Oscar snubs of all time. To be clear, we’re not squabbling about nominees who should’ve won their categories—we’re talking about iconic and classic performances or films that were inexplicably overlooked and failed to even receive nominations.

8. Alfred Hitchcock, North By Northwest (1959) (but also basically every other film he made)
Overlooked for: Best Director
Nominated Instead: William Wyler (Ben-Hur), Jack Clayton (Room at the Top), Billy Wilder (Some Like It Hot), George Stevens (The Diary of Anne Frank), Fred Zinnerman (The Nun’s Story)
The fact that one of the greatest—if not the greatest—directors of all time never received a Best Director Oscar seems unreal and borderline criminal. Despite making almost 60 films, the lion’s share of which his directorial work is more than worthy of a nomination, Hitch was only nominated for the award five times and never won.

7. The Shining (1980)
Overlooked for: Best Picture
Nominated Instead: Ordinary People, Coal Miner’s Daughter, The Elephant Man, Raging Bull, Tess
Though it’s considered a classic today, The Shining failed to receive the recognition it deserved when it initially came out; in fact, it actually received two Razzie nominations—a Worst Actress nod for Shelley Duvall and a Worst Director nomination for Stanley Kubrick. Thankfully, audiences have since come to their senses and realized what a gem this Stephen King adaptation truly is.

6. Anthony Perkins, Psycho (1960)
Overlooked for: Best Actor
Nominated Instead: Burt Lancaster (Elmer Gantry), Spencer Tracy (Inherit The Wind), Trevor Howard (Sons and Lovers), Jack Lemmon (The Apartment), Laurence Olivier (The Entertainer)
Like the director himself, Alfred Hitchcock’s actors were historically overlooked by the Academy. As the villainous Norman Bates, Perkins played against type and delivered an iconic, creepy, yet wildly sympathetic performance. Norman’s a murderer with his dead mom stuffed in the attic, but he’s also a seemingly sweet, awkward guy who just got pushed to the brink by an unbearable relative. Hey, we all go a little mad sometimes, right?

5. Gene Kelly, Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
Overlooked for: Best Actor
Nominated Instead: Gary Cooper (High Noon), Marlon Brando (Viva Zapata!), Kirk Douglas (The Bad and the Beautiful), Jose Ferrer (Moulin Rouge), Alec Guinness (The Lavender Hill Mob)
The epitome of Old Hollywood glamour—and a triple threat if ever there was one—Gene Kelly received a special Oscar in 1952 (the same year he stunned in An American in Paris) for “his versatility as an actor, singer, director and dancer, and specifically for his brilliant achievements in the art of choreography on film.” That same year, he turned in arguably his most iconic performance in Singin’ In The Rain, but despite his exuding grace and pure joy in the titular number, the Academy rained on his parade at the following ceremony and failed to recognize him.

4. Sidney Poitier, In the Heat of the Night (1967)
Overlooked for: Best Actor
Nominated Instead: Rod Steiger (In the Heat of the Night), Warren Beatty (Bonnie and Clyde), Dustin Hoffman (The Graduate), Paul Newman (Cool Hand Luke), Spencer Tracy (Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner)
In 1967, Sidney Poitier starred in not one, but two extremely important films about race. At a time when Civil Rights tensions were boiling over, Poitier brought a glimpse of the African-American experience to the mainstream. His white co-stars (Rod Steiger for In the Heat of the Night and Spencer Tracy for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner) were both nominated for their portrayals of men who must confront their own prejudices, but Poitier himself wasn’t rewarded for his work. His performance as homicide detective Virgil Tibbs in In the Heat of the Night is especially profound, as he brings a quiet, restrained anger to the performance.

3. Do The Right Thing (1989)
Overlooked for: Best Picture
Nominated Instead: Driving Miss Daisy, Born on the Fourth of July, Dead Poets Society, Field of Dreams, My Left Foot
As Scott Wold wrote when we declared it the third-best movie of the ‘80s, “the violence of Do the Right Thing erupts as an extension of literal and metaphorical long-simmering neighborhood temperatures, and finally boils over as something of a catharsis while never coming off as mawkish, or giving audiences the ability to escape conversation after the credits roll. A remarkable cast sells the complicated relationship with their Brooklyn neighborhood flawlessly.” The titular “right thing” in the film is hazy and thought-provoking, but instead, Driving Miss Daisy—a story about race with a much more upbeat, Hollywood ending in which the two protagonists put aside their differences and share a piece of pie—took home the top prize.

2. Hoop Dreams (1994)
Overlooked for: Best Documentary Feature
Nominated Instead: Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision, Complaints of a Dutiful Daughter, D-Day Remembered, Freedom on My Mind, A Great Day in Harlem
 Hoop Dreams is one of the best films of the ‘90s—documentary or otherwise—and despite appearing on more critics’ Top 10 lists than any other movie in a stacked year that included Pulp Fiction, Forrest Gump and The Shawshank Redemption, it failed to make even the shortlist for the Oscars. There was (justifiable) outrage, and many campaigned for the film to be nominated for Best Picture, but sadly, director Steve James and his team got shafted. History repeated itself last year when James’ The Interrupters was overlooked as well.

1. Vertigo (1958)
Overlooked for: Best Picture, Best Actor (James Stewart), Best Director (Alfred Hitchcock)
Nominated Instead: Best Picture: Gigi, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Auntie Mame, Separate Tables, The Defiant Ones
Vertigo is Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece, and it features frequent collaborator Jimmy Stewart’s finest performance. As we wrote when we declared it to be the best Hitchcock film, “His typically warm everyman on-screen persona is gone, and here he’s neurotic, cold and obsessed—and brilliant. It’s also regarded as Hitchcock’s most personal film; the idea of a man remaking a woman in the image of another he’s lost is often said to reflect the director’s decision to keep casting Grace Kelly-esque blondes after feeling abandoned by Kelly, who retired from acting in 1956.” So, what did Vertigo get at the Oscars? Squat, save for a nod.

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