In the last month before the Oscars, you'll race through as many Best Picture nominees as you can, resting assured that you're tackling the best that Hollywood has to offer for the year. Well, not so fast. We put together this list of 50 amazing movies that weren't nominated for Best Picture, and you won't believe some of the films that never even got close to the Academy's highest honor.
Cutting this list down to 50 was a painful task, but we went the extra mile, ranking them in descending order. The truth, of course, is that all of these movies could fit neatly in the top 10. Our writers Laremy Legel, Elisabeth Rappe and Joe Reid make the case for why Oscar was a fool to leave these gems out.
50. "Wall-E" (2008)
I personally consider this the most unconscionable snub of the entire list, and The Academy was clearly embarrassed as well, because they changed the rules to allow ten films right after this debacle. This is likely the Best Animation Pixar will ever make, for it was a silent film about a robot -- the degree of difficulty was off the charts. Only "Spirited Away" is in the conversation against this for Best Animation of the past 25 years. Oh, and the films that received Best Picture nominations ahead of it? "The Reader" and "Frost/Nixon". Get out of town, Academy, and don't call us back. -- Laremy Legel
49."Boogie Nights" (1997)
Paul Thomas Anderson cracked the Best Picture lineup eventually with "There Will Be Blood," but back in 1997, his ode to the big dreamers of 1970s porn could only break into the Supporting Actor/Actress categories (Burt Reynolds and Julianne Moore should have won those trophies, by the way). The underreported virtue of "Boogie Nights" is that, amid the bleak portrait of lives lived on the edge of respectability, it's incredibly funny. Hollywood's best-kept secret is that Mark Wahlberg should only ever play comedic characters. -- Joe Reid
48. “Some Like It Hot” (1959)
Unlike many other entries on this list, “Some Like It Hot” was showered with Oscar nominations. It even scored three of the so-called Big Five nominations, landing Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Screenplay nominations. So how did such a successful and acclaimed comedy get shut out of Best Picture? Well, 1959 was a year of heavy dramatics, and against the likes of “The Diary of Anne Frank,” “Ben-Hur” and “The Nun’s Story,” “Hot” must have seemed like meaningless fluff, though its zany antics have been remembered longer, been more beloved, and had more influence on comedy than the dreariness of “Room at the Top” had on much of anything. But sometimes, there’s just no arguing with what the Academy wants to say about a particular cinematic year. -- Elisabeth Rappe
47. “Bringing Up Baby” (1938)
“Baby” is the perfect example of a film that passed nearly everyone by. While it received good reviews, it was a massive flop at the box office and ultimately led to Katherine Hepburn being labeled “box office poison.” It’s not surprising that it also received the cold shoulder at the Oscars. Sometimes, there’s just no account for popular or Academy taste (come on, it has a cheetah and a dinosaur skeleton!), but “Baby” had the last laugh, being far more beloved than just about everything 1938 deemed a Best Picture. -- E.R.
46. "Reservoir Dogs" (1992)
It took one more movie for Quentin Tarantino to crash the Oscars when "Pulp Fiction" took the universe by storm. You wonder if certain Oscar voters wish they could have gotten in on the ground floor with Tarantino's hyper-violent, hyper-verbal debut. At the very least, if offers career-best performances from Tim Roth and Michael Madsen. -- J.R.
45. “Serpico” (1973)
Make a gritty, true life story about a heroic, maligned cop today, and you’d probably have critics and audiences screaming Oscar bait as it swooped in and scored a ton of nominations. But back in 1973, “Serpico” was anything but. The Academy preferred the light romp of “The Sting, “A Touch of Class” and “American Graffiti.” (To be fair, they did swing wildly existential with “The Exorcist” and “Cries and Whispers,” which just says how confusing the ‘70s were.) “Serpico” screams Best Picture now – it’s an unbelievable story, boasts a terrific performance from Al Pacino before he was AL PACINO, and proves no one did sweaty realism like Sidney Lumet. But to 1973? Forgettable! -- E.R.
44. "Amelie" (2001)
Sure, foreign films have only been nominated for Best Picture nine times, but the number should be ten. "Gosford Park" and "In the Bedroom" certainly weren't better films, and just to complete this capper of idiocy "No Man's Land" won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. Mr. Oscar, I realize this had an innovative color palette, but you're going to have to expand your horizons at some point. -- L.L.
43. "Kill Bill: Vol. 1" (2003)
Zero is the number of Academy Awards that "Kill Bill" was nominated for. Back in reality, there wasn't a better scene in cinema than the garden fight with Lucy Liu and Uma Thurman. Hey, I have an idea, what about replacing The Academy voters with people who like good movies? Just a thought. -- L.L.
42. “The African Queen” (1951)
There are years when there are so many good films, it must have been difficult to narrow it down to just five Best Pictures. 1951 was definitely one of these, yet it’s still shocking “The African Queen” wasn’t one of the contenders. It was a huge hit, it was widely acclaimed, and it scored nominations for Katharine Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart and director John Huston. Somehow, the Academy was seduced into handing the coveted slot to “Quo Vadis,” which certainly was the bigger film, but as the decades have worn on, it’s not the one viewers continue to come back to, or one that all other adventure films aspire to be. -- E.R.
41. “Red River” (1948)
The Academy has had little time for Westerns. Only 16 have ever been nominated for Best Picture, and “Red River” wasn’t one of them. Perhaps the voters saw the description – “The story of the first cattle drive along the Chisholm Trail”—and dismissed it as the usual John Wayne duster, thus missing out on the film’s real story -- the tense, embittered, and terrifying relationship between a cattleman and his adopted son. Now considered a classic, “Red River” has inspired dozens of filmmakers and heaps of critical praise, but in ’48 (admittedly a pretty strong year of contenders), it couldn’t hold a candle to the likes of “Johnny Belinda.” -- E.R.
The Harry Potter franchise spanned a decade, eight films, and an enormous, talented cast and crew that transformed a literary behemoth into a cinematic one. Year after year, the Potter films were shut out of all but technical categories (costume, score, art, visual effects, etc.) with fans assuring one another that the last film would be the one rewarded with Best Picture, and represent the series. Didn't the Academy do just that with “The Return of the King”? But then the last one arrived, and no Best Picture nod was forthcoming. Arguably, splitting the film into two parts did some damage – it can be argued neither part is a complete film – but with ten nominee slots available, it seems like a massive oversight not to at least give it an honorary salute. -- E.R.
39."Pan's Labyrinth" (2006)
With three victories on Oscar night (Best Makeup, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography), "Pan's Labyrinth" was second only to "The Departed" in terms of victories, yet it somehow couldn't crack the Best Picture lineup. (It also lost in Best Foreign Language Film, because the Oscars are weird.) Guillermo Del Toro's world-building really got to take shape with some unbeatable creature work tied to a simple but affecting story about a little girl. -- J.R.
38. "The Wild Bunch" (1969)
Only eight films from the 1960s are in the IMDB.com Top 250, mostly because the Internet has an extremely short attention span. "The Wild Bunch" is one of those, a stirring tribute to the quality of the film. This should have replaced "Hello Dolly" in the Best Picture lineup, but Oscar is always enamored with musicals. They can't get enough of them. -- L.L.
37."25th Hour" (2002)
It's still the best movie about 9/11 ever, approaching it as it does impressionistically and at right angles. Spike Lee's story was nominally about Edward Norton living his last day of freedom before being sent to prison, but it was really about post-WTC angst, about defiant NYC pride, about fathers and sons and the fantasy of a happy ending. Not sure why it wasn't able to get any awards traction (too soon? too oblique?), but when those end-of decade lists came out, "25th Hour" got its due credit at last. -- J.R.
36. “The Outlaw Josey Wales” (1976)
Pop culture would have you believe Clint Eastwood never directed a film worthy of Oscar gold until he tackled “Unforgiven.” That’s simply not true. The sprawling, episodic “Josey Wales” isn’t quite as polished as “Unforgiven,” but it’s every bit as thoughtful and poetic, tackling the thorny issues of men created by war, and who live under -- and must live up to -- their violent reputations. It came up against steep competition in 1976 (another one of cinema’s truly stellar years) and carried massive behind-the-scenes baggage, but it now seems a shame to have enshrined “Bound for Glory” over a more honest piece of Western fiction. -- E.R.
35. "Blade Runner" (1982)
Here's yet another example of The Academy being too busy rewarding people for their past work to recognize the actual best films of the year. In fact, Ridley Scott is currently zero for three where Best Director is concerned, but I'm certain they'll give him the prize once he turns 80, and for an inferior film, allowing them to skip anything modern once again. Dios mio. -- L.L.
34. "The Killing" (1956)
Another in a long line of Stanley Kubrick snubs, in fact the only award nomination of any kind this film received was from a BAFTA, proving once and for all that the Brits generally have better taste than their American voting counterparts. -- L.L.
33. “Rosemary's Baby” (1968)
Horror and the Academy don’t get along. Only two horror films have landed a coveted Best Picture nod: “The Exorcist” in 1973, and “The Sixth Sense” in 1999. (Three if you count “The Silence of the Lambs” but it really isn’t horror in the classical, slashers-ghosts-and-demons sense.) But in 1968, the Oscars weren’t quite ready to glamorize the dread of “Rosemary’s Baby” with a best picture nod, though it did edge its way into the ceremony with a nomination for adapted screenplay, and a win for actress Ruth Gordon. It’s clear from the ’68 roster that the Academy was reluctant to admit a horror film could be a masterful piece of filmmaking, thus the retreat into rewarding safe musicals, historical films, and Shakespearean adaptations. Sadly, it’s a bias they appear to still hold. -- E.R.
32. “Dirty Harry” (1971)
Perhaps it’s not fair to knock the Academy for failing to recognize cultural zeitgeists when they happen. They’re award givers, not fortune tellers. But there’s no doubt “Dirty Harry” deserved a nod. It was a critical and commercial success, instantly sparking controversy, discussion, praise, and emulation. Shove away the sequels and pop culture detritus, and you’ll see the lean, mean, and devastating thriller that every award-bait drama aspires to be. With its tortured antihero and casual violence, “Dirty Harry” was the future, while Best Picture contenders “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Nicholas and Alexandra” suggest Hollywood was still clutching at the musty movie past. -- E.R.
31. "The Manchurian Candidate" (1962)
You could make the case that "The Manchurian Candidate" set the table for all future political paranoia films. You could make that argument, unfortunately The Academy is too busy listening to classical music and marrying trophy wives to hear you out. -- L.L.
30. "Stand By Me" (1986)
Oscar generally has an issue with films that appeal to people under the age of 60. Get off their lawn! "Stand by Me" managed an Adapted Screenplay nomination, but it could't beat out "Children of a Lesser God" for a Best Picture nomination. What was "Children of a Lesser God" about? A school for the deaf, naturally, also known as "Oscar Wheelhouse Central". -- L.L.
29. "Black Narcissus" (1947)
Many films that went unloved at the Oscars were simply ahead of their time, doomed to be released a decades before they would have been lavished with praise and awards. That’s certainly the case with “Black Narcissus,” a seething, sexual melodrama about nuns cloistered in a place they can’t truly understand, fighting prejudice without, and frustration within. (Fast forward to 1987, and it would have probably swept the awards!) While even the Academy couldn’t ignore its stunning art direction and cinematography, they couldn’t quite reward much else about it. While none of the 1947 nominees were bad films (quite the contrary), stuff like “The Bishop’s Wife” seems tame and childish compared to the weird, chilly dread of “Narcissus.”– E.R.
28. "The Usual Suspects" (1995)
Given another few months and maybe "The Usual Suspects" would have cracked that Best Picture list. Cult films don't usually grow that quickly, but Bryan Singer's debut feature managed to catch fire enough to score upset victories in Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor for Kevin Spacey. For a film that hinges so much on a last-minute plot twist, the film is remarkably rewatchable, if only to watch Stephen Baldwin give the worst performance in a good movie ever. -- J.R.
27. “Cinema Paradiso” (1988)
The theme to “Cinema Paradiso” (composed by the legendary Ennio Morricone) is enough to reduce seasoned cinephiles to tears. The film itself is a tribute to the power of cinema, and the effect it can have on a young person’s life. It seems like the perfect film for the Academy to reward, because it could pat itself on the back while doing so. Yet “Cinema Paradiso” only received one polite nod for Best Foreign Language Film, and was knocked out of contention by “Driving Miss Daisy” and “Dead Poet’s Society.” For an industry that adores itself so thoroughly, it can certainly be blind to love letters. -- E.R.
26. "The Dark Knight" (2008)
Here is where the "Academy is out of touch" argument gets its strongest piece of evidence, because here was a film that critics, the box office, and movie-lovers all adored. Still, The Academy couldn't do it, they simply couldn't give a film everyone loved their blessing. Because then how could they be better than everyone?They were far too busy being snooty and lifting their pinky finger as they drank tea. -- L.L.
25. "North by Northwest" (1959)
Now known as the director who invented the modern thriller genre, it's hard to fathom what The Academy had against Alfred Hitchcock. They gave him one Best Picture for "Rebecca" and then completely whiffed on "Psycho," "Rear Window, and "North by Northwest". For shame, Oscar, for shame. -- L.L.
24. "City of God" (2002)
A case study in nature vs. nurture, "City of God" was likely doomed as soon as they set it in Brazil. If the point of The Oscars is selling DVDs (and it basically is) then nominating a film not about America doesn't make much sense. Oh, they do it occasionally, but it's usually by accident. -- L.L.
23. "Children of Men" (2006)
A perfect movie. That's all there is to it. The world-building of a near-future dystopia managed to be chilling and yet completely alive. Alfonso Cuaron, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, Clive Owen, Julianne Moore -- there's nobody in this movie that's on the absolute top of their game. The most maddening thing is that the 2006 Oscar field was remarkably weak. "The Queen" but not this masterpiece? Maybe we all should stop reproducing. -- J.R.
22. "Almost Famous" (2000)
Everything Cameron Crowe's ever attempted to do in his movies comes together, and then some, in "Almost Famous." You can call it indulgent, or overly nostalgic, or overly dependent on its soundtrack if you want to, and you're probably right, but it puts you in the heady emotional space of its young protagonist so expertly, and it got a miraculous career-best performance from Kate Hudson (who should have won Best Supporting Actress that year YEAH THAT'S RIGHT). -- J.R.
21. “Toy Story” (1995)
Pixar forever upended the way the Academy considered animation. While they had happily handed “Beauty and the Beast” a Best Picture nomination in 1991, they weren’t brave enough to repeat it for “Toy Story.” It must have felt strange to nominate animation alongside the likes of “Braveheart” and “Apollo 13,” but the voters (especially voters who were bold enough to put “Babe” in the running for Best Picture) should have realized that CG animation didn’t dilute the heart, warmth, despair, and triumph in “Toy Story,” but only made it more remarkable and worthy of recognition. -- E.R.
20. "The Royal Tenenbaums" (2001)
Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom" probably juuuust missed the Best Picture field this year, but his most worthy non-nominee is "The Royal Tenenbaums," the apex in his studies of arrested development, cloistered privilege, and hyper-self-awareness married to a total lack of self-awareness. 2001 was one of the best we've had in a while, and "Tenenbaums" stands up there with films like "Mulholland Dr." and "The Fellowship of the Ring" as the year's best. -- J.R.
19. "Psycho" (1960)
Alfred Hitchcock's lack of success with Oscar is (pardon the pun) notorious, but he was actually nominated for Best Director five times. "Psycho" was his last competitive nomination, but the film couldn't crack the Best Picture lineup. In the years since, "Psycho" has become shorthand for the industry standard in suspense, misdirection, and violence through editing, and while films like "Vertigo" and "Read Window" might be more highly regarded by critics, "Psycho" will probably always be the film most associated with Hitchcock. -- J.R.
18. “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961)
Yes, it’s true. The film that inspired generations of girls to don little black dresses and oversized sunglasses in the hopes of owning a fraction of Audrey Hepburn’s gamine glamour didn’t get much love at the Oscars that year. Hepburn did, naturally, but otherwise “Breakfast” was considered noteworthy only for its screenplay and score. It’s undoubtedly one the Academy wishes to take back, but hey, they really thought “Sons and Lovers” was going to be one of the cultural behemoths of 1960, not that goofy Hepburn film. -- E.R.
17. "Touch of Evil" (1958)
They eventually gave Orson Welles an honorary Oscar, though this came long after they managed to mess up giving him a Best Director win for "Citizen Kane". "Touch of Evil" was likely too violent for The Academy. They tend to get their knickers in a bunch over anything resembling the real world. -- L.L.
16. "Alien" (1979)
I see no reason why one of the best science fiction films of all time should be nominated for Best Picture, how about you? A science fiction film has never won Best Picture, so it was perfectly acceptable to snub "Alien". Oscar favors movies like "Norma Rae," often leaving comedy and sci-fi at the altar. -- L.L.
15. "O Brother Where Art Thou?" (2000)
This is an absolutely preposterous snub. The Coen Brothers made an Odyssey-inspired epic featuring the best dialogue of the year and yet were completely shut out by The Academy. Taking their place in the Best Picture nominations? "Chocolat," which I'm guessing The Academy threw in there for laughs, and also to appease Harvey Weinstein. -- L.L.
14. “Malcolm X” (1992)
It’s easy to guess why “Malcolm X” didn’t get a Best Picture nomination. The entire production, like its powerful subject, was mired in controversy and politics from day one. Still, one would have hoped the Academy could overlook it all and salute this bristling biopic for its performances, for what it said about America then and now, and for its enormous success with audiences. A respectable roster would have had it right there with “Unforgiven,” but the Academy demurred in favor of highlighting safe, middlebrow fare like “Howard’s End,” making 1992 one of Oscar’s years of shame. -- E.R.
13. “His Girl Friday” (1940)
Before Oscar got all high and mighty and award-baiting, screwball comedies snuck into the Best Picture nominations all the time. Except, of course, for “His Girl Friday” which went absolutely unnoticed by the Academy upon its release. Sure, it was a stellar year of cinema (“The Philadelphia Story, “The Great Dictator,” “Rebecca” and “The Grapes of Wrath” were among the Best Picture nominees) but “Friday” was fast-talking and gender-charged, and an innovation of the way movie dialogue was delivered. Maybe there was just too much of a good thing that year, but in retrospect, “Friday” stood up better than many of the competitors. Frankly, she outstrips many 21st century competitors too. -- E.R.
12. “Rear Window” (1954)
Alfred Hitchcock was nominated five times for Best Director (a number that seems terribly low compared to his output), and one of those nominations was for “Rear Window.” The film was a critical and financial hit, and as Hitchcock thrillers go, was far more mainstream and friendly, so how did it escape a Best Picture nomination? Like the Academy’s reaction to Hitchcock in general, it’s inexplicable. Perhaps they thought “Rear Window” was mere thrills, and stuff like “The Caine Mutiny” and “The Country Girl” was heavier stuff. But then again, that doesn’t explain the silliness of handing “Three Coins in the Fountain.” As with so many other classics, it’s clear Oscar omissions are often a bigger sign of quality than the nominations. –E.R.
11. "The Princess Bride" (1987)
It's hard to recall now, but a film named "Hope and Glory" was nominated for five Academy Awards in 1988, or five times the amount "The Princess Bride" scrounged up. The single nomination they did give them was for Best Song, which is the Academy's way of saying "whatever". One of the most quotable films of the past three decades, Oscar voters probably feel silly now that Fred Savage is actually famous. -- L.L.
10. "Do the Right Thing" (1989)
Incendiary and immediately sensational, this remains Spike Lee's masterpiece. A triumph of mood in more ways than one. People talk about the Oscars in the 1980s being a pretty timid lot, this kind of snub is what they're talking about. But hey, when you've got Kim Basinger going rogue on your behalf at the Oscar ceremony, you've done something very right. -- J.R.
9. "The Shining" (1980)
You could win just about every party trivia game by mentioning "The Shining" wasn't even nominated for Best Picture. Stanley Kubrick ended up going zero for four as Best Director, and that fact alone is enough to ignore The Academy for the foreseeable future. Sure, this film was amazing, but The Academy isn't a fan of scary movies, one of their many blind spots. -- L.L.
8. "Back to the Future" (1985)
A crowd-pleasing blockbuster is almost never going to be appreciated in its own time, at least when it comes to shiny gold trophies. But when you look at the Best Picture field of 1985 ... are you watching "Out of Africa," or are you watching Marty McFly try to not make out with his mother for the eighteenth time? That's what we thought. -- J.R.
7. "Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back" (1980)
"Stars Wars" was a Best Picture nominee in 1977, but "Empire" couldn't pull the "Godfather, Part II" trick, despite the fact that many would say that "Empire" bests the original. "Empire" takes things deeper, darker, putting our heroes into situations we're honestly not sure they'll get out of. Some of them don't. -- J.R.
6. "Memento" (2000)
You'd think Christopher Nolan would have gotten used to Oscar's cold shoulder by the time "The Dark Knight" and "Inception" rolled around, since "Memento" was maybe THE indie find of 2001 and it barely got a token Screenplay nomination. Somehow, not even Guy Pearce's showy, degree-of-difficulty performance as a man with no short-term memory couldn't get any love. God forbid we leave off Sean Penn in "I Am Sam." -- J.R.
5. "Singin' in the Rain" (1952)
Hey, 1952: what happened here? I mean, I guess you could claim some kind of mass psychosis, as this was the year that Cecil B. DeMille's notorious "The Greatest Show on Earth" took Best Picture. The Academy managed to throw a (well-deserved) bone to Jean Hagen in Supporting Actress, but otherwise ignored what many consider to be the best musical film of all time. Moses supposes a lot of people didn't get it. -- J.R.
4. “Full Metal Jacket” (1987)
Perhaps the Academy was burnt out on sprawling Vietnam flicks. “Jacket” came right on the heels of “Platoon,” which won Best Picture the year before, and seemed to borrow much from “The Deer Hunter” and “Apocalypse Now,” both of which had been lavishly rewarded with Oscars. Or maybe they just didn’t like its loose narrative, murky morality, and crude language. (The prostitute scene has gone down into pop culture legend.) Whatever their reasons, “Jacket” stands as a shocking omission from the ’87 nomination roster, but has stood the test of time and relevancy more than that year’s favorite, “The Last Emperor.” -- E.R.
3. "Fight Club" (1999)
Oh "Fight Club," you were far too innovative for the uber-safe Academy. This film, Brad Pitt's best (at least according to IMDB) started The Adademy's love affair with snubbing Brad Pitt ("Seven," "Inglourious Basterds," "Snatch"). Now? Everyone loves "Fight Club" - proving, as a people, we can overcome The Academy's ineptitude. -- L.L.
2. “Vertigo” (1958)
One of cinema’s cruel history lessons is this: Alfred Hitchcock never won a Best Director Oscar, and his best films never even scraped up a Best Picture. Yes, that includes “Vertigo.” Now one of the most acclaimed, worshipped, studied and referenced films of all time, “Vertigo” was weaker in Oscar’s eyes than “Gigi.” While both films will give you nightmares (“Thank Heaven For Little Girls,” anyone?), “Vertigo” remains one of the most chilling, unsettling, and original films of any given year. Whenever you get flustered that a wild and original film dodged “Best Picture,” remember “Vertigo” did too, and how little it all matters. -- E.R.
1. "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" (2004)
Sometimes, the Best Picture category feels like it only has room for one quirky indie, and in 2004, that slot was taken by "Sideways." Which -- nothing against "Sideways" -- is a shame that's going to follow the Oscars around for a while. Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry's film is the love story of our time, full of sad truths and a most touching defense of love even amid the guarantee of heartbreak. -- J.R.