Shunned by the Academy | Our Top 10

By Nathaniel Dalby - Wed 24th Jan 2018 Features

Here’s our pick of the 10 best films not nominated for Best Picture.

Batman faces down Heath Ledger's Joker

The 2018 Oscar nominations have finally been announced, signalling the climax of yet another awards season. This year’s nominations have proved to be pretty pleasing for most film fans, with brilliant genre films such as Get Out and Logan seeing nods as well as first-time directors such as Jordan Peele getting much-deserved recognition.

History tells us that this is not always the case. The Oscars usually don’t go by without some sort of controversy, whether it be the lack of representation or the Academy overlooking a well-loved film. Here’s our pick of the 10 best films not nominated for Best Picture. 

The Dark Knight (2008)

The most famous example of an Academy snub by far has to go to The Dark Knight. This second chapter of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy blew audiences and critics away in 2008, with the film also doing big numbers in the box office. For a long time, this was the only film anyone was talking about, with Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker drawing huge praise (and not just because the actor had tragically passed before release). 

When Oscar season came about though, it was nowhere to be found on the Best Picture list, causing a huge outcry that eventually led to the Academy extending the number of nominations from 5 to 9. Heath Ledger did, however, receive his well-deserved posthumous  Best Supporting Actor award.

Zodiac (2007)

2007 was a packed year for films. The Oscars were dominated by 2 of the most acclaimed ever - No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood. Between them, they cleaned up most of the awards, and deservedly so. In doing so, however, the Academy overlooked Zodiac, a film that deserves to be mentioned in the same tier as the big winners.

Zodiac is perhaps David Fincher’s best work, combining the atmosphere and visuals he injects into every film with a gripping and thoughtful crime thriller, one that transcends the typical murder mystery fare. Most importantly, it’s a film people are still talking about as they discover how good it is, which is more than you can say about say, Atonement

The Big Lebowski (1998) 

This cult comedy from the Coens was completely snubbed by the Oscar voters, receiving no nomination at all. Whilst the reception of this film has increased with time, fans at the time were still expecting at least a Best Screenplay nod. When the time came, they were surprised when it received nothing at all. Strange for a film about an old white guy shuffling his way around Hollywood. 

Heat (1995)

Michael Mann’s crime epic was one of the highlights of 1995’s strong film offerings but was completely ignored when it came to awards season. Heat brings together Robert De Niro and Al Pacino for the first time since Godfather Part II for 2 powerhouse performances. Now regarded as one of the best films of the ‘90s, the film was forgone by the academy in favour of the also excellent crime thriller The Usual Suspects. Whilst it can be argued that genres should be fairly represented by the Oscars, is there anyone out there that still thinks Babe warranted a Best Picture nod?

Robert De Niro and Val Kilmer face off in Heat

Blade Runner (1982)

If there’s one genre that routinely gets shafted come awards season, it’s sci-fi. If you’ve made a sci-fi film (or any genre film), even if it’s regarded as a classic, it’s hard to get the Academy to notice at all. Blade Runner is one of the biggest examples of this, with the film today being regarded as a classic of the genre and of cinema in general. Alas, there was no room for more than one sci-fi film during the 55th Oscar Awards and E.T had already booked its place. This, however, still didn’t stop Gandhi from winning. 

Alien (1979)

An even bigger example of sci-fi not getting noticed is Ridley Scott’s other classic Alien. This is one of the most influential films ever, paving the way for smart, mature sci-fi to take the centre stage. The film did win an Oscar for its visual effects (as if there were any other contenders), but was overlooked for everything else despite it being a brilliantly acted and shot experience. This tense sci-fi horror getting ignored is one of the biggest examples of the Academy being about 10 years behind everyone else. Kramer vs. Kramer won Best Picture that year, a film no one’s seen for about 25 years. 

Drive (2011) 

This neo-noir thriller came out of nowhere in 2011, causing a whole generation to seek out cool jackets and driver's gloves. The ultra-violent and stylish presentation coupled with great performances from Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan wasn’t enough to draw a best picture nod, with Oscar-bait style films like The Tree of Life and War Horse getting in ahead. Drive did manage a nomination for best sound editing but ultimately deserved way more. Watch it now on Netflix.

The Shining (1980) 

Stanley Kubrick had a rough time at the Oscars, never once winning an award for directing or for best film. You could cite most of his films as an example, but one that really grates is The Shining. Horror is another genre that never gets recognition at the Oscars even when it deserves it, but the treatment of The Shining is particularly offensive due to it being nominated for 2 Razzies (the stupid “Worst Film” awards). For one of the most culturally important films ever, that’s hard to take. Catch it now on Amazon Prime Video.

Children of Men (2006)

Another case of a film being overlooked due to intense competition, Children of Men had little chance of winning the big one thanks to Martin Scorsese's brilliant The Departed. That isn’t to say it didn’t deserve at least a nomination, especially over something like The Queen, which is essentially a Sunday afternoon TV movie. Children of Men has proved something of a cult classic since then, with its violent depiction of Britain's future being more prescient than ever. 

American History X (1998)

Edward Norton was famously robbed of best actor for his turn as a reformed white supremacist in American History X, but it’s easy to argue that that the film itself was also robbed of a Best Picture nomination. The film is still just as shocking and affecting today as it was in 1998 (perhaps even more so) and has held up much better than eventual winner Shakespeare in Love, which people still argue shouldn’t have won over Saving Private Ryan. It’s a classic case of the Academy choosing something warm and safe over something that people actually remember. 

Edward Norton in American History X