5. Rocky (1976)
Rocky was a sleeper hit, earning $225 million at the box office and going on to eventually become the highest grossing film of 1976. At the 49th Academy Awards, Rocky was nominated for ten awards and won three including Best Picture. Considering Rocky’s critical and financial success at the time, its continued popularity and the fact that it has spawned multiple sequels – you could be forgiven for thinking that it has no place on an overrated Best Picture winners list.
It is only when you consider the films that Rocky went up against for Best Picture that its win begins to look less deserving. The other Best Picture nominees at the 49th Academy Awards were All the President’s Men, Bound for Glory, Network and Taxi Driver. When considering these films in comparison to Rocky – Rocky, much like the titular character in the film, is very much the underdog.
Who should have won? Taxi Driver. Again taking into consideration a film’s lasting legacy and impact, and Taxi Driver is often referred to as one of the best films ever made. It is also widely referenced in popular culture and the line “you talkin’ to me?” is one of the most quoted film lines of all time.
4. Crash (2005)
In 2006, Crash was one of the Best Picture nominees at the 78th Academy Awards along with Capote, Munich, Brokeback Mountain, and Good Night, and Good Luck. Paul Haggis’ tense racially fuelled drama infamously took home the top award over the critically acclaimed Brokeback Mountain to the shock of many. Crash divided both audiences and critics, with the majority of the criticism stemming from its overly heavy-handed and contrived approach to its subject.
It has continued to be the subject of controversy and has been frequently voted as the least deserving Best Picture winner of all time by a number of publications. In 2015, Academy members were asked which Best Picture winners that they most regretted and would choose differently if given a second chance and Crash was chosen, with Brokeback Mountain being the preferred winner.
Paul Haggis himself has also said that he believes that Crash did not deserve to win Best Picture that year saying, “Was it the best film of the year? I don’t think so. But you shouldn’t ask me what the best film of the year was because I wouldn’t be voting for Crash.”
Who should have won? Brokeback Mountain. The main reason that Crash was such a controversial winner is that it won over Brokeback Mountain which was presumed to be a shoe in as the big winner of the night and was the critic’s favourite.
Regardless of this, Brokeback Mountain was the much more deserving winner. It marked an important turning point in LGBT film and was a landmark film in terms of visibility and acceptance. As well as this, Brokeback Mountain boasts beautiful cinematography, artistry, and stunning performances from its cast.
3. Shakespeare in Love (1998)
Viewed by many as one of the worst Best Picture winners of all time, romantic comedy Shakespeare in Love won Best Picture at the 71st Academy Awards in 1999, triumphing over Elizabeth, Life is Beautiful, Saving Private Ryan, and The Thin Red Line.
Sporting wonderful costumes, a breakthrough performance by Gwyneth Paltrow and a witty script by Tom Stoppard, Shakespeare in Love is by no means a bad film. But when viewed against the other nominees, it becomes a light-hearted piece of fluff which is ultimately forgettable.
Shakespeare in Love has also been the subject of controversy due to it being widely believed that its Best Picture win was engineered by its producer Harvey Weinstein who went on a blitzkrieg campaign of lobbying and bullying to ensure the film’s success. Regardless of why and how it won, it is felt that Steven Spielberg was robbed and that Saving Private Ryan deserved the win.
Who should have won? Saving Private Ryan. Steven Spielberg’s war epic has more than stood the test of time and is seen as one of the best war films of all time. Comparing scenes from Shakespeare in Love to scenes from Saving Private Ryan, and Saving Private Ryan is so much more impactful, memorable and important.
2. Dances with Wolves (1990)
Kevin Costner’s western epic was an unexpected hit when it was released; it was loved by audiences and made $424 million at the box office on a budget of $15 million. It also received critical acclaim and won numerous awards, making it one of the most honoured films of 1990. At the 63rd Academy Awards, Dances with Wolves was nominated for twelve awards and won seven including Best Picture.
At the time, Dances with Wolves’ multiple wins wasn’t seen as controversial. It is only in more recent years that the film and its themes have been questioned. In particular what is referred to as the ‘white saviour trope’ has been cited as being a fundamental flaw of the film. There has also been criticism of the film’s depiction of the Lakota dialect.
However the main reason that Dances with Wolves is seen as an overrated Best Picture Winner is because of the films it was up against, and managed to beat. Dances with Wolves was nominated for Best Picture along with Awakenings, Ghost, The Godfather Part III and Goodfellas.
Who should have won? Goodfellas. Consistently appearing on best film lists and praised for its direction, performances and screenplay, Goodfellas is considered by many to be the best gangster film of all time. When you think about it, when was the last time you watched, talked about or quoted Dances with Wolves?
1. Around the World in 80 Days (1956)
Around the World in 80 days was nominated for eight Academy Awards at the 29th Academy Awards in 1957. It won five including Best Picture, beating Friendly Persuasion, Giant, The King and I, and The Ten Commandments to the top prize. Around the World in 80 Days was seen as a slight surprise win at the time because the other nominees were critically acclaimed and incredibly popular with audiences.
However as the years have gone by, Around the World in 80 Days has persistently appeared on lists of ‘Worst Best Picture Winners.’
Around the World in 80 Days had a $6 million budget which was no mean feat in in the 1950s. It was also filmed in thirteen different countries using one hundred and forty sets, and had over forty famous cameo appearances in it.
Who should have won? Any of the other nominees. Around the World in 80 Days is a fun, flamboyant and entertaining adventure but when compared to the other nominees that year, it pales into significance. The Ten Commandments and The King and I in particular have stood the test of time as great films.
Author Bio: Cara McWilliam-Richardson is a writer with a passion for films and filmmaking. She has written several screenplays, and is currently working on her first novel. Her favourite genre to write is fantasy and science fiction.