10 Great Recent Movies Snubbed For Best Picture

For almost a century now, the Oscar for Best Motion Picture has been widely regarded as one of the most popular and prestigious awards in world cinema. And yet, not a year goes by that the nominations for the category announced ahead of the annual Academy Awards ceremony manage to please everyone. Just like clockwork, come spring one can expect legions of pundits, film buffs, and industry insiders fiercely debating what the Academy got right (or wrong again), complaining about prizes going to the wrong movies, and which deserving contenders slipped through the cracks through no fault of their own.

For the present list, we’re zeroing in on 10 noteworthy titles that won our hearts in the past five years but were ultimately overlooked by the Academy. Mind you, Oscar nod or not, few if any of the following titles are exactly what one would call underrated — in fact, all of them were considerably well-received and popular upon their release, they just simply couldn’t sway enough Academy voters when it came to fill out those preferential ballots. In our hearts, though, they’re all winners.


1. Aftersun (2022)

Two years have passed since Scottish filmmaker Charlotte Wells announced herself on the world stage and made our collective hearts swell with “Aftersun”, a piercing directorial debut that somehow continues to live rent-free in our heads to this very day.

This ‘90s-set memoir piece about an adult woman reminiscing about a childhood summer vacation she once spent with her dad at a coastal Turkish resort was warmly received by the entire online film community before securing a spot at the very top of our 2022 year-end round-up list. Unfortunately, subtle, and character-driven dramas of this ilk can be very much hit-or-miss within the Academy membership, and the awards campaign rolled out by A24 didn’t pack enough of a punch for “Aftersun” to have much of a chance of hanging around the best picture conversation to the finish line (for better or worse, the indie distribution studio decided to put all their chips on “Everything Everywhere All at Once” instead).

Thank heavens for the surprising yet thoroughly deserved acting nod for fan favorite Paul Mescal, who was simply unforgettable in the role of a thirty-something divorced dad quietly going through it all.


2. The Iron Claw (2023)

It’s a shame that the Academy voting body couldn’t save room this past awards season for Sean Durkin’s hard-hitting take on the Texan Von Erich family clan who climbed through the ranks of American professional wrestling in the early 1980s. Former teen heart-throb Zac Efron of “High School Musical” fame steered his waning career back in the right direction and was widely pegged for an acting nom for his affecting and surprisingly vulnerable performance as Kevin, the second oldest son of the six, who tries to follow in his domineering father’s footsteps and make a name for himself in the national wrestling scene while reeling off inconceivable trauma and family tragedy.

Ultimately, A24’s campaign for “The Iron Claw” was a case of too little, too late, with the critically acclaimed domestic drama struggling to carry any kind of momentum and Oscar buzz following its Christmas weekend theatrical rollout. You’ll probably want to bring tissues for this riveting study of brotherly love, tortured masculinity, and intergenerational trauma, a film that is disarmingly refreshing in its earnest sentimentality — not a bug but an endearing feature in today’s cinematic landscape where self-deflating irony seems to have become the norm.


3. Nope (2022)

Science-fiction movies don’t often get much love from the Academy, let alone pick up the kind of buzz needed to claim the top prize, but it was still disappointing to see one of the most popular and thought-provoking films of 2022 walk away empty-handed with zero nominations overall.

Part Spielbergian sci-fi-horror hybrid, part revisionist western, part anti-Hollywood parable, Jordan Peele’s third feature film led by Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer as two siblings in a family of ranch owners in rural California was an instant hit among moviegoers that dominated box-office charts and earned near-universal acclaim.

So how did the Academy overlook a surefire contender by an industry-beloved auteur and one of the leading creators in today’s scene? When it came out, “Nope” seemed prime for awards contention, though the film’s searing indictment of the entertainment business — which hammers home just how shamelessly showbiz turns personal tragedies into profitable content — likely hurt its chances of going the distance when put alongside more crowd-pleasing contenders.


4. The Worst Person in the World (2021)

Watching the final third of Danish-Norwegian director Joachim Trier’s Oslo trilogy in the thick of one of the most uneventful festival circuits in recent memory almost felt like a gift from the cinematic gods. Renate Reinsve (who won Best Actress at Cannes and was last seen at this year’s Sundance with “Handling the Undead”) was a complete revelation in the role of a wayward twenty-something shuffling between college majors and tumultuous relationships while frantically trying to get her act together and find her true calling.

Neon wasted no time snatching up distribution rights for this smart subversion of the meet-cute rom-com template, which expertly fuses the joie de vivre and free-spirited dialogue of mumblecore staples like “Frances Ha” with ample doses of dry wit that recall Woody Allen’s best. While it occasionally does retreat to familiar tropes, the film as a whole feels like a breath of fresh air — real, lived-in characters pull together, drift apart, and reconnect while dealing with relatable, grown-up problems, and that’s it. A best original screenplay nod barely registers as a consolation prize that could make up for the fact that the Academy snubbed this film in favor of heavy-handed, pandering schlock like Adam McKay’s “Don’t Look Up”.


5. May December (2023)

Todd Haynes’ ripped-from-the-headlines melodrama loosely inspired by a decade-old tabloid scandal finds Julianne Moore in top form as a disgraced Georgia teacher infamous for being caught having an affair with a seventh grader and marrying him years later after serving her prison sentence, and Natalie Portman as the hotshot Hollywood actress spending some time with her family as research for playing her in an upcoming indie film. But the real standout here is Charles Melton, who steals the show and won our hearts with a subtle, star-making performance that earned near-universal praise and, in a perfect world, should’ve earned an Oscar nom too.

Especially in today’s political climate, it was not entirely surprising to see the Academy’s old guard steering towards less controversial, prototypical contenders when filling out their preferential ballots than a conversation-starter that touched on hot-button issues like tabloid journalism and wide age-gap relationships. By any metrics, though, Netflix’ sleeper hit should’ve been a no-brainer pick — not only is the film held together by a trifecta of tour-de-force performances, but it also feels as timely, observant, and mordantly funny as any of last year’s nominated shoo-ins.