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10 Movies That Shouldn’t Have Won Best Picture

09 March 2016 | Features, Film Lists | by Keith LaFountaine

forrestgump-feather

With another Oscars season passed, and another set of winners names, there undoubtedly will now be the year long discussion wherein everyone voices their agreement or disagreements with the choices. Sometimes these choices seem all too obvious, and sometimes there is vehement disagreement, but most of the time many people can see what the Academy saw in the choices that won.

This list is for those films that didn’t deserve to win Best Picture. This does not necessarily mean they are bad films, or even bad contenders. In retrospect, though, many of these films were inferior to the quality of others and seemed to be chosen out of social interest, spectacle, or other unknown reasons.

 

1. Crash (Haggis, 2004)

crash-1

“Crash” has been almost universally panned as the quintessential example of a Best Picture winner that didn’t deserve the award. Even Paul Haggis, in a recent interview, admitted that he wouldn’t have voted for “Crash.” This isn’t necessarily because “Crash” is a bad film – it’s a decent one, certainly, with an important focus on race relations and interpersonal relationships.

However, with that said, “Crash” was not the best film in the lot. Compared to an incredible historical drama – “Good Night and Good Luck”, an explosive drama about the aftermath of Black September – “Munich” – and an incredibly engrossing look at relationships and love – “Brokeback Mountain” – “Crash” really didn’t stand a chance.

“Crash” had plenty of good moments – the scene where Officer Ryan pulls Christine out of her overturned car, for instance – but it ultimately fails to feel cohesive in its entirety. Fleeting moments of brilliance do not make a brilliant film. Especially in comparison to its competition, the film’s story is nowhere near as engrossing or emotionally satisfying to compete for the title of Best Picture.

Moreover, “Crash” even being nominated for the award is odd, as there were plenty of other films in 2005 that were far better. Joe Wright’s “Pride & Prejudice,” for instance, was a far superior film in every way.

The real distinction, though, is that “Brokeback Mountain” provokes a better discussion about human relationships, love, and societal expectations (though it’s less certainly diverse than “Crash”)

It’s also interesting, given the Oscars’ obsession with biopics and historical epics that “Crash” beat “Munich” and “Good Night and Good Luck,” not even taking into account “Brokeback Mountain.”

All in all, though, most people agree that “Crash” didn’t deserve the award, and there are plenty of good reasons why.

What Should Have Won:
Brokeback Mountain

 

2. How Green Was My Valley (Ford, 1941)

How Green Was My Valley (1941)

This is another example of a film that isn’t “bad” in the general sense of the term. John Ford’s “How Green Was My Valley” is well made, with great direction and excellent dialogue.

To say, though, that “How Green Was My Valley” was better than “Citizen Kane” which – whether one likes it or not – forever changed cinematography, sound design, narrative structure, and lighting is frankly silly. This doesn’t even take into account the widespread belief by many critics that “Citizen Kane” is the best film of all time. While that’s a disputable opinion, there is plenty to love and admire from “Citizen Kane.”

Ford’s film doesn’t even come in second place, as John Huston’s “The Maltese Falcon” far outshines the former film with brilliant pacing, excellent writing, beautiful lighting, and incredible sound design.

There could even be an argument that “How Green Was My Valley” didn’t even deserve third place, considering Hitchcock’s excellent thriller “Suspicion” which has far superior lighting, acting, and sound design.

The point is pretty simple for this one: “How Green Was My Valley” is a fine film – maybe even great – but it’s hard to compete with the best film of all time, the best noir film of all time, and one of Hitchcock’s most underrated thrillers.

What Should Have Won:
Citizen Kane

 

3. West Side Story (Robbins & Wise, 1961)

west-side-story

“West Side Story” is an excellent adaptation – albeit somewhat of a loose one – of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” with great musical numbers, an exceptional cast, and great set design. Why, then, did it not deserve the award?

Well, simply put, because “Judgement At Nuremberg” is a colossal film that was better made, emotionally arresting, and historically important. Kramer’s film was darker, harder to watch, and more complex, which likely enhanced “West Side Story’s” charm. It was a fun film with a palatable narrative and some great spectacle. Technically, “West Side Story” is a better film. The cinematography was excellent, the use of color was great, and the sound design was stellar.

However, when judging the title of Best Picture, one has to take into account everything that encompasses filmmaking. This includes technical proficiency, but is not limited to it. In this respect, “Judgment at Nuremberg” is a far better film in every way “West Side Story” is a good film. This is to say that the former explores its narrative with more passion, force, and boldness than the latter.

“West Side Story” is a fun film, and many have said that it’s deserving of its win because it captured the essence of film. Bosley Crowther, a writer for the New York Times who reviewed the film, said: “What they have done with West Side Story in knocking it down and moving it from stage to screen is to reconstruct its fine material into nothing short of a masterpiece.”

And still, “Judgment at Nuremberg” manages to outshine this excellent musical because of its focus on philosophical discussion. It questions moral, political, and religious ideologies in the context of World War II, and it while it may not be as easy or fun to watch as “West Side Story” it certainly provides a more stimulating premise with far more depth, passion, and bravery.

What Should Have Won:
Judgment at Nuremberg

 

4. My Fair Lady (Cukor, 1964)

My Fair Lady

This choice seems rather self-explanatory. “My Fair Lady” was a good film with great performances from Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison. It explored interesting themes, was family friendly, and ultimately a crowd pleaser. Granted, it had the benefit of being an adaptation of a play that garnered enormous praise eight years earlier.

However, when stacked up against one of the smartest satires in cinematic history, “My Fair Lady” loses. “Dr. Strangelove” was not only an important look at war – both the frivolities and dangers of it – but also an excellent comedy in its own way. Modern satires, both in film and television, often attempt to replicate “Dr. Strangelove” and its mad genius. “The Brink” – a TV show recently canceled from HBO – is a perfect example of this.

Moreover, “Dr. Strangelove” is still heralded as one of Kubrick’s masterpieces – some consider it his “official” masterpiece – and is still held in high regard, both as an example of fine cinema and as a piece of entertainment. “My Fair Lady” may be a great film, and it may be entertaining, but it holds nowhere near the same universal acclaim, both socially and critically, and it is nowhere near a staple of cinematic history as Kubrick’s film is.

What Should Have Won:
Dr. Strangelove

 

5. Shakespeare in Love (Madden, 1998)

shakespeare-in-love

The 1999 Oscars could be thought of as the year of World War II. With three films that all excellently, in one way or another, presented and explored the atrocities of the war, it seemed to be a relatively safe bet that Spielberg, Malick, or Benigni’s film would win the Best Picture award. And yet, to everyone’s surprise, the comedy “Shakespeare In Love” took home the grand prize.

It’s easy to see why “Shakespeare in Love” didn’t deserve the honor: when put up against the likes of one of Spielberg’s best films, the film many argue is better than it – The Thin Red Line – and Benigni’s film about the human spirit in the face of incredible evil, Madden’s film really was an underdog in every sense of the term for very good reason. “Shakespeare in Love” was funny and praised by many critics, but it did not have anywhere near the social appeal any of the three aforementioned films did.

The argument for “Life Is Beautiful” over the other nominees lies in its message. In comparison to the two gritty films about soldiers in war, “Life Is Beautiful” presented an oddly optimistic view of life, of humanity’s ability to rise above horror and tribulation, and of the soft light in one of humanity’s darkest times.

While there is certainly no argument that either “Saving Private Ryan” or “The Thin Red Line” are underserving of the award, there is an argument that “Life Is Beautiful” is a far more bold and complex film, and therefore deserving of the top honor.

What Should Have Won:
Life is Beautiful

 

 

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  • Brandon Thompson

    NO WAY, NO WAY. Life is Beautiful shouldn’t haven’t been nominated for an Oscar let alone win best picture. The only heart breaking thing about it is that someone thought it was a good idea to mix a holocaust movie and comedy together.

    Saving Private Ryan should’ve won, without a doubt.

    • qwertyuiop

      La Vita è Bella is one of the best movies ever made imo.

      • Brandon Thompson

        Mixing the holocaust and humor together is like your whole town being killed and instead of making a drama about it they make a comedy.

        Movies like American History X, Truman Show, The Big Lebowski, Rushmore, Pi and A Bug’s Life are all superior films.

        • Linus Hirschi

          You didn’t like Fellini’s film? Perfectly ok.
          Your arguments are completely invalid though.
          “Comedy”, pff. You should watch it again maybe.

          • Brandon Thompson

            On IMDb the first genre listed is comedy and it’s a sad attempt at that. Also it’s not a Fellini film, it is a Benigni film.

          • Linus Hirschi

            Holy shit, what an error on my side! “Sad attempt at [a comedy]” is the best description though.

          • Luis Felipe Peña

            “Felllini”, u are so lost.. Im pretty sure if u ever watch a Fellini film u wouldnt feel so Amazed with such a mediocre film like ”
            La vitta e bella”

          • Linus Hirschi

            Someone with your level of English shouldn’t look down on people. Really. Also, I don’t feel Amazed with La Vita è Bella, I merely liked it. I’ve seen Fellini though and yes, his films are in a way more interesting. toxic little kids here, have a wank, will ya?

          • Luis Felipe Peña

            English is not my native, yet I’m able to barely speak it, i wonder what u would do if I ask you to speak Spanish or Italian kid. Keep on watching stupid films; clowns need to have fun as well. Bye don’t bother replying ill be wanking on ur pic and won’t read.

          • Linus Hirschi

            Nice try, passive aggressive don’t work on me as I have absolute control over my feelings. My native tongue is German. Now roll up and cry, or read my comment again. You started insulting people which is fine, but I like to jump the fray, biiaaaaatch! Also, I’ve only seen La Vita è Bella once as a kid.

    • CaseX

      While I don’t hate “Life is Beautiful,” I do agree that “Ryan” was the better picture and definitely should have won. It’s one of (if not THE) best WWII movies ever made.

      • Linus Hirschi

        Shaving Ryans Privates is a huge flick indeed.
        Homme Tanks does his name justice in that film

  • Darren

    The Maltese Falcon does not outshine How Green Was My Valley

  • docksidelee

    And “Goodfellas” lost to “Dances With Wolves”. Sigh…

    • CaseX

      Right??

  • Samantha Bryans

    In no world did West Side Story not deserve to win.

  • Driving Miss Daisy over Dead Poets Society, Born on the 4th of July, My Left Foot, and Field of Dreams while Glory, Do the Right Thing, Henry V, Batman, Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade, Drugstore Cowby, and sex, lies, & videotape weren’t nominated? That as motherfuckin’ bullshit!

  • Jamess

    District 9? Dafuq.

  • warrenzoell

    2001 a space odyssey lost to Oliver!

    • John W. Thackery

      No, it didn’t as 2001 wasn’t even nominated Best Picture.

  • Andoverblogger

    I agree Forrest Gump shouldn’t have won but it should’ve been Pulp Fiction, not The Shawshank Redemption. Nothing like Pulp Fiction had ever been done before, and it remains to be one of the most influential films of all time.

    • CaseX

      100% agreed. Christ, just look at the influence “Fiction” had on cinema…EVERYONE was trying to copy it for the next decade…and it WASN’T the “Best Picture of the Year”?? Give me a break.

  • Randinho

    Good Will Hunting over LA Confidential? No way. Life Is Beautiful is a cloying mess.

  • Marisabel Suarez

    12 years a slave shouldn’t have won over Gravity

    • Prudvi Nath

      Both of them shouldn’t have been nominated for Oscar in the first place.. Lol..

  • CaseX

    I wanted to stop watching the Oscars altogether after “Gump” won Best Picture over “Pulp Fiction” (the most influential film of the 90’s)…but I stayed with it for a few more years. Then they gave the trophy to the forgettable “Shakespeare in Love” over “Saving Private Ryan.” I was done. Haven’t watched them since.

  • Vincenzo Politi

    I really don’t mind Forrest Gump but… THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR INCLUDING CHICAGO AND SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE!

  • Nodar

    District 9 ? Srsly ? I mean, I adore this Movie but for Best Pic ? NO WAY !!!

  • Aisha Sabila

    The Oscars was never credible in the first place.

  • Bill C.

    Life Is Beautiful was vile … L.A. Confidential was the best of its year by a mile. and Pulp Fiction was better than both Forrest Gump, and the ,(for me), terribly over-rated The Shawshank Redemption.

    • Linus Hirschi

      The Shawshank Redemption is “overrated”? Wow, much news, seeing it’s been imdb best movies first place for forever. “La vita è bella” is vile? What the fuck are you smoking?

  • Patrick Hill

    Still think Malick’s “The Thin Red Line” should have won in 1999, but being a severely under watched film I guess it’s to be expected.

  • Anthony Lancaster

    So you think Ordinary People over Raging Bull and Dances With Wolves over Goodfellas and Driving Miss Daisy over Do The Right Thing were not gross and disgusting errors?

  • Raul F. Manfredini

    I agree with all, excep with “Forrest Gump”

  • mark jon Davies

    Tastes are always different so there will always be other choices that might seem better but do not fit the bill. I doubt that even if some of your recommendations are interesting, that they would be better. Even though for example Shawshank was a good story written by Steven King and exceptional movie, Forrest Gump was something different. I do not know many people who did´nt love it including me. I agree in some of the list but not all. Titanic by far won in depth and filmmaking procedure to Good Will Hunting, because of the true story tragedy and how Cameron portrayed his gigantic vision towards it. I don´t understand anyhow how art can be defined in awards, who cares it´s about the story not the price 😉

    “Haters will hate, lovers will love but it does not change the picture”