Great Oscar Snubs Part 1: Top 10 Academy Award Nominated Films that Didn’t Win Anything

Posted by Wade Sheeler February 18, 2013 9 Comments 15775 views

With the 85th Annual Academy Awards just around the corner, I thought it would be fun to go through the Oscar records, dig through the piles of trivia, and create a couple lists culled from my hours of research- actually minutes of research, but hours of crossing titles off, adding titles, and shaking my head in awe at the HUNDREDS of deserving films left as Oscar Snubs.

What are your top Oscar Snubs? Tell us in the comments!

This list is highly subjective, since the massive list I pulled it from has many treasures that I’m sure arguably deserve better treatment than the ones listed here. I await your vitriol and your own lists. Here we go:

Oscar Snubs: Top 10 Academy Award Nominated Films that Didn’t Win Anything

The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

Still image from "The Manchurian Candidate"

The go-to touchstone for political conspiracy and paranoia, this smart and sinister thriller was only nominated for Supporting Actress (Angela Lansbury) and Editing, Time has been extra good for this John Frankenheimer masterpiece, but released at the height of the Cuban missile crisis, and still in release during Kennedy’s assassination, it hit too close to home for most audiences. BEST FILM WINNER: Lawrence of Arabia


The Elephant Man (1980)

Still image from "The Elephant Man"

David Lynch’s most commercial film is a sensitive and powerful story of the famously deformed man, treated from birth as a sideshow freak, all the way through his “rescue” and similarly questionable treatment as a celebrity, this Mel Brooks produced drama was at least nominated for Best Picture. But Elephant Man was also a part of the now famously embarrassing Oscar Year of 1980, when “Raging Bull” also failed to cop the Best Film Oscar. At least DeNiro walked away with Best Actor. BEST FILM WINNER: Ordinary People

Taxi Driver (1976)

Still image from "Taxi Driver"

Speaking of DeNiro, his quintessential role as the “pushed to the edge” cab driver Travis Bickle not only did not garner him a Best Actor win, neither did Supporting Actress Jodie Foster, Director Martin Scorsese or the film itself. BEST FILM WINNER: Rocky, BEST ACTOR WINNER: Peter Finch, Network, BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS WINNER: Beatrice Straight, Network

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Still image from "It's a Wonderful Life"

Part of movie lore, we’ve all heard how this perennial classic only received a lukewarm response upon its release, but it still smarts when you realize actor Jimmy Stewart, Director Frank Capra and Writers Frances Goodrich & Albert Hackett received nada. BEST FILM WINNER: The Best Years of Our Lives

Seven Samurai (1954) – Released in the US: 1957

Still image from "Seven Samurai"

Arguably one of the greatest films of all time, this American western inspired story of tormented farmers hiring a band of Ronin to protect them from feudal bandits, it not only made Director Akira Kurosawa a household name in America, it spawned the inferior The Magnificent Seven, as well as a generation of western imitators. Not even nominated for Best Foreign Film, it didn’t make it to our shores until 1957, and even then was only nominated for Art Direction and Costume Design. It won nothing, but a special place in film lovers’ hearts. BEST FOREIGN FILM WINNER: La Strada, BEST FILM WINNER: Around the World in 80 Days

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Still image from "The Maltese Falcon"

It’s not too surprising this freshman outing by Director John Huston didn’t win Best Picture, although it was nominated. It was too subtle, too talky and without much action to really titillate early 1940s audience, But while this hardboiled Dashiell Hammett inspired vehicle put Humphrey Bogart on the map, the real crime is Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet didn’t take home any Oscars for their subversive turns as gay lovers in their own sub-textual love/hate relationship. Watch it again and prove me wrong! BEST FILM WINNER: How Green Was My Valley

Ace in the Hole (aka The Big Carnival) (1951)

Still image from "Ace in the Hole"

This darker than dark Billy Wilder indictment of the salaciousness of journalism was so far ahead of its time, it hasn’t lost any of its bite, and even today seems to predict the public’s gruesome curiosity of everything from the Sandyhook massacre to the Christopher Dorner manhunt. Kirk Douglas grabs hold of the material with such passion and bloodlust, it is a shock to the system that he didn’t get nominated, let alone win, for Best Actor. As dark as Wilder went, he never went this dark again, and it’s a shame, because the biting satire and whip-smart direction make this one of the most underappreciated films of the 20th century. BEST ACTOR WINNER: Humphrey Bogart, African Queen, BEST FILM WINNER: An American in Paris

Charade (1963)

Still image from "Charade"

Cary Grant was having his third comeback (let’s admit it, he never left) and was reinvented as a sort of pre-James Bond, thanks to both To Catch a Thief and North by Northwest when he landed this solidly written, directed and performed mystery thriller. His teaming with Audrey Hepburn was inspired, and it was his insistence that their wide age difference be addressed, that gave their relationship a real resonance. The bigger mystery was not where Reggie Lampert’s dead husband left the stolen money, it was how this film didn’t get nominated for any Oscars, besides Henry Mancini’s song. BEST FILM WINNER: Tom Jones

Young Frankenstein (1974)

Still image from "Young Frankenstein"

One of our greatest comedies, every performance is genius in its own right, the art direction nails the Universal monster look down to the cobwebs and deep focus shots, and the dialogue such fast & furious Borscht-belt set-up and punch that it could be considered one of the most perfect comedies ever produced. But, as we know, Oscar don’t laugh, and so Young Frankenstein is relegated only to many top 10 fan fave lists; its many iconic lines of dialogue on the tips of all our tongues: “What huge knockers!” “Why thank you, doctor.” BEST FILM WINNER: The Godfather, Part 2 (Ok, well you can’t argue that one)

Three-Way Tie: Rear Window (1954), Strangers on a Train (1951), Lifeboat (1944)

Alfred Hitchcock

Oscar also don’t like Hitchcock. One of history’s greatest film directors never received an Oscar, save for his Irving G. Thalberg Lifetime Achievement Award in 1968. He was nominated 5 times, but always went home empty handed. While Rear Window and Lifeboat were nominated, none of the above trifecta were nominated for Best Picture, and all three are some of the director’s finest. BEST FILM WINNERS: On the Waterfront (1955), An American in Paris (1952), Going My Way (1945)

Next Time: Part 2: No Respect – Top Ten Great Yet Never Nominated Films

What are your top Oscar Snubs? Tell us in the comments!

About Wade Sheeler

TV Producer & Director, Writer, Frustrated lover of film and obscure music. I still make mixed tapes if I like you enough.

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There are 9 Comments

  1. Brandy Dean
    - February 18, 2013
      -   Reply

    Seriously, each and every year I throw a little hissy fit about the Oscar’s based solely on the fact that Alfred Hitchcock never won a statue for Best Direction. I swear, up, down and sideways, that I cannot and will not give credence to an “award” that overlooked the best director EVAH and thus will not watch.

    Of course, I still always get sucked into watching. But still…

  2. wadesheeler
    - February 18, 2013
      -   Reply

    Already getting some great additions from readers. Yes, Ugetsu, Singin’ in the Rain and Vertigo; all got no respect. What others should make the list?

  3. - February 18, 2013
      -   Reply

    I would have to rate “King Kong” as the most inexplicable Oscar snub in history. In a year when the Academy gave its Best Picture prize to the relatively forgotten “Cavalcade,” this influential and perennial classic didn’t receive so much as a nomination in any category. In second place is Chaplin masterpiece “City Lights,” which received no nominations in a year that they named the bloated and racist “Cimarron” as Best Picture.

    • Brandy Dean
      - February 18, 2013
        -   Reply

      See, I learn something new every day! I have to agree on both points, and I would file City Lights in the same travesty as Hitchcock’s career spanning snub. And how you could opt for Cavalcade over Kong is a mystery.

      At least Kong lives on!

  4. Adam
    - July 28, 2013
      -   Reply

    How about The Shawhank Redemption?

  5. hachmom
    - November 4, 2013
      -   Reply

    Thank you for including the Elephant Man on the list, I think its an often overlooked movie. 1980 was one of the great film years of all time, especially that Best Actor Class DeNiro, Hurt, O’Toole, Lemmon and Duvall. With the possible exception of Jack Lemmon all of them were doing some of their very best work.

  6. Ryan
    - February 10, 2014
      -   Reply

    Fight Club, Up in the Air, True Grit (2010), I’m Not There, Into the Wild, The Royal Tenenbaums, Amelie.

  7. - February 10, 2014
      -   Reply

    I can’t say that I’m Not There or Royal Tenenbaums qualify as snubs, as they had pretty mixed reviews throughout their respective years and while Tenenbaums has somewhat gained a cultish following, it’s one of Anderson’s least liked films. I’m Not There has proven no lasting quality and therefore doesn’t stand the test of time like most official “snubs.”

    I personally loved the Coens’ True Grit, but it was so often compared to its weaker original (even though so few have seen it) that the stigma remained.

  8. samsweetsuskind
    - July 23, 2014
      -   Reply

    Julia Roberts won best actress over a Ellen Burstyn. I don’t think so, Academy.

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