Top 10 Failed Oscar-Bait Movies of 2017

5. Breathe (Directed by Andy Serkis)

Robin Cavendish is left confined to bed, paralysed from the neck down and given a prognosis of only months left to live after he contracts polio at the age of twenty-eight. With the help of his devoted wife and the ground-breaking ideas of inventor Teddy Hall, Cavendish becomes an advocate for the disabled and travels the world in the hopes of helping fellow patients and transforming their lives.

Robin Cavendish’s son Jonathan Cavendish commissioned writer William Nicholson to write the screenplay for the film which had its world premiere at the 42nd Toronto International Film Festival. Breathe was reasonably well received critically, but reviews weren’t as positive as had been hoped for. The box office figures were really disappointing as well. Breathe only made $4 million against a $15 million budget.

With its failure to break out, including in the U.K where it was predicted to do well, Breathe quickly lost all of its awards momentum. The film’s failure seems to be in its heavy sentimental angle, and it has been criticised as being a “middle of the road drama.” With films featuring actors who have had to portray limited movement doing notoriously well at the Academy Awards, Breathe hoped to capture the Academy’s attention but ultimately it failed to do so.


4. Victoria and Abdul (Directed by Stephen Frears)

Victoria and Abdul

Victoria and Abdul is based on the book of the same name by author Shrabani Basu and is about the real life relationship between Queen Victoria and her Indian Muslim servant Abdul Karim.

In 1887, Abdul Karim is instructed to travel to England in order to present Queen Victoria with a mohur – a gold coin which has been made as a token of appreciation from British ruled India for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Once in England, Abdul strikes up an unusual and strong friendship with the Queen which soon becomes a subject of contention amongst the Queen’s household.

An unofficial sequel to the 1997 film Mrs Brown, Judi Dench reprised her role as Queen Victoria and Stephen Frears signed on to direct. Victoria and Abdul had its world premiere at the 74th Venice Film Festival. The film was a sleeper success, eventually earning $65 million at the box office. Critic’s reviews were mediocre and nice at best, although the film’s performances were praised with many calling Dench’s turn as Queen Victoria “Oscar-worthy.”

Victoria and Abdul wasn’t completely shut out of the 90th Academy Awards, earning nominations for Best Costume Design and Best Makeup and Hair. However, the fact that all the film’s performances were ignored surprised many. Victoria and Abdul had set itself up as prime Oscar bait – luscious costumes and royal décor along with Judi Dench in the lead role but it failed to impress the Academy.


3. Stronger (Directed by David Gordon Green)


Stronger is a biographical drama based on the memoir of the same name by Jeff Bauman and Bret Witter. It follows Jeff Bauman after he loses both of his legs in the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. Jeff is able to assist the police in helping to identify one of the suspects, but he faces his own journey and battle on the road to recovery. With the support of those around him, Jeff embarks on an emotional and physical rehabilitation.

Lionsgate announced plans to develop Jeff Bauman’s memoir Stronger in 2014. Soon afterwards, David Gordon Green signed on to direct, quickly followed by the casting announcements of Jake Gyllenhaal as Jeff Bauman and Tatiana Maslany as his girlfriend Erin Hurley.

Stronger had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, and was received warmly as one of the best films of the festival. With brilliant, emotional performances from the cast, in particular Jake Gyllenhaal and Tatiana Maslany, it was presumed that both were in with a strong shot at an Academy Award nomination however the nominations never materialised.

2017 saw the release of two Boston Marathon films. Usually when two films of similar themes are released, they end up competing for box office figures with one becoming the clear winner. However in this case, both films failed to make an impact at the box office.

Patriots Day starring Mark Wahlberg was the more dramatic retelling relying on action, whereas Stronger took a more character centric emotional route. Critics loved Stronger, but perhaps the decision to focus on human drama over the bombing investigation cost Stronger its audience. Stronger remains one of the most snubbed films of this awards season.


2. Battle of the Sexes (Directed by Jonathan Dayton)

Battle of the Sexes

This biographical sports drama is loosely based on the 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, and the lead up which saw both parties trapped in the media glare. On court both were top of their game, but off court each face their own personal and financial troubles. Whilst Riggs gambles away his reputation and legacy for a chance at the spotlight again, King is facing marital struggles and coming to terms with her sexuality.

The duo behind Sundance breakout Little Miss Sunshine came back together to try and recreate the same success with Battle of the Sexes. And with Academy Award winner Emma Stone and Academy Award nominee Steve Carrell on board, Battle of the Sexes looked set to make an impact on awards season. Yet despite being a critical success, with many calling it Emma Stone’s best performance yet, Battle of the Sexes was a box office disappointment.

Hard to pinpoint exactly why Battle of the Sexes was not popular with audiences, some have questioned whether the events depicted are just not of interest to a modern audience. However, Battle of the Sexes also appeared to have a limited release which may not have given cinema goers enough of a chance to go and see it. Regardless, Battle of the Sexes quickly left the conversation when thinking about awards season contenders and failed to entice the Academy as had been hoped.


1. Detroit (Directed by Kathryn Bigelow)

Detroit is a fact based drama set in the summer of 1967 during the riots and civil unrest that took place in the city of Detroit. Two days into the chaos and riots, reports of gunshots prompt Police to search and seize control of an annexe of the Algiers Motel. Soon Police tactics turn to retribution rather than justice, and a group of young men become caught up in a brutal and brash interrogation.

Directed by Academy Award winning director Kathryn Bigelow and written by screenwriter Mark Boal, Detroit re-teamed the filmmakers behind Best Picture winner The Hurt Locker. With this award winning combination in mind, Detroit began its theatrical run with a limited release before being given a wider release and then a re-release, all in order to push its awards season campaign. However the film failed to gain a wide audience, earning $21.5 million at the box office against a $34 million budget.

Detroit is well shot and well directed, with strong performances from its cast. It delivers a powerful, thought-provoking message and an emotional punch. Generally it was well received critically, however questions have been raised on its morality and whether it has omitted important facts from history, such as the activism that was happening in the city at the time.

With these omissions heavily criticised, it is thought that Detroit may have turned some audiences away from it. After this and its disappointing box office figures, Detroit failed to gain any recognition from the Academy.

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.