Total Recall

10 Movie Classics the Oscars Ignored

We look at 10 excellent films that earned nary an Academy Award nomination.

by | January 24, 2018 | Comments

The Oscar nominations have just been announced, which means our long annual awards-season debate surrounding who should win, who might surprise us, and who got snubbed is just getting started. In anticipation of that mother of all awards ceremonies, let’s take an appreciative look back at some of the greatest films in Hollywood history that didn’t receive a single Oscar nomination — a list that, as you’ll see, includes more than a few timeless classics. No envelope, please… it’s time for Total Recall!

The Big Lebowski (1998) 83%

In a filmography studded with cult classics, the Coen brothers’ The Big Lebowski might be the cultiest — which is to say that when it arrived in theaters, it landed with nowhere near the impact you might suspect today. In spite of a top-notch cast that included Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, as well as an eminently quotable screenplay whose storyline amiably loped between (often equally surreal) moments of comedy and drama, Lebowski eked out less than $20 million during its theatrical run, and although critics were generally kind, they weren’t exactly falling all over themselves to proclaim its everlasting virtues. The Coens had the last laugh in the long run, however — Oscars are nice, but how many movies have inspired their own religion?

Watch it here: Amazon, FandangoNOW, Google Play, iTunes

Breathless (1961) 97%

When Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless arrived in 1960, there was no way for critics to know they were witnessing one of the most influential works in all of cinema — as well as the arrival of one of the medium’s greatest auteurs. But everyone who saw it — including more than two million French filmgoers — knew they were watching something bold and new, and among cineastes, it was recognized as part of the emerging French New Wave. How it came up empty with the Academy is up for debate, but there’s no arguing its lasting impact; among directors as well as critics, Breathless is regularly cited on lists of the all-time greatest films.

Watch it here: AmazonFandangoNOWGoogle PlayiTunes

Bringing Up Baby (1938) 93%

The Oscars are traditionally fairly dismissive of comedies, and the list of classic laughers that deserved a nod from the Academy is long — but Bringing Up Baby, starring Cary Grant as an uptight zoologist and Katharine Hepburn as the ditz who turns his life upside down, belongs at or near the top. Critics were generally enthusiastic about Grant and Hepburn’s second big-screen pairing, but the audience’s response was decidedly mixed; despite strong receipts in a handful of locations, Baby landed with a thud in many parts of the country, and was only ultimately saved from the cultural dustbin thanks to a second life granted by television screenings more than a decade after it slunk out of theaters.

Watch it here: AmazonFandangoNOWGoogle PlayiTunes

Heat (1995) 87%

One of a handful of thrillers to make such stylishly effective use of its Los Angeles locations that the city is virtually a character unto itself, Michael Mann’s Heat might be hands down the sleekest cops-and-robbers suspense flick of the ’90s — which is really saying something, considering Mann had to weave a tangled web of plotlines involving a crowded, marquee-topping ensemble that included Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. Alas, not even the combined might of two of Hollywood’s greatest thespians could earn this classic heist picture any attention from the Academy. Mann’s next release, 1999’s The Insider, made up for lost opportunities with an impressive seven nominations — none of which, sadly, it won.

Watch it here: AmazonFandangoNOWGoogle PlayiTunes

King Kong (1933) 98%

A creature feature so massive that its very title can be used as a colloquialism for “big and powerful,” King Kong has been remade more than once over the years — and is being revisited again this year in Kong: Skull Island — yet the original remains one of the few classic black-and-white movies that many modern filmgoers have seen. A critical and commercial success, Kong set a thrilling new benchmark for special effects; unfortunately, the Oscars didn’t have a category for that type of achievement yet, but what it lacks in awards-season hardware, it’s clearly more than made up in lasting cultural impact.

Watch it here: AmazonFandangoNOWGoogle PlayiTunes

M (1931) 100%

The way we talk about director Fritz Lang today, you’d think he was swimming in awards during his lifetime, but in reality, he racked up an astonishing zero Oscar nominations — and that includes shameful goose eggs for his twin towers of cinematic achievement, Metropolis and M. The latter, Lang’s first talkie, uses sound in a number of inventive ways, including his enormously influential decision to make Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” the recurring theme music for Peter Lorre’s villainous Hans Beckert. It’s gone on to be reissued numerous times, continuing all the while to enjoy near-universal critical acclaim; in fact, it’s one of a small handful of classic films to boast a 100 percent Tomatometer rating. An unfortunate oversight on the Academy’s part, but given that Lang’s name has become synonymous with groundbreaking genius among cinema buffs, it’s safe to say all’s well that ends well.

Watch it here: AmazonFandangoNOWGoogle PlayiTunes

Mean Streets (1973) 95%

Martin Scorsese’s long streak of Oscar futility really got going with 1973’s Mean Streets, which found the young director determined to make a personal film after the frustration of working for hire on Roger Corman’s Boxcar Bertha. Emboldened by disappointment and professional desperation, Scorsese drew on his roots in New York City’s Little Italy neighborhood to tell the story of an ambitious but conflicted young gangster (Harvey Keitel) and his fraught relationships with a young woman (Amy Robinson) and her brother (Robert De Niro), a small-time gambler with a volatile streak. Although Mean Streets whiffed at the Academy Awards, it started Scorsese on his way to elite filmmaker status — even if he did end up having to wait until 2007, and through five nominations, to win his first Best Director Oscar.

Watch it here: AmazonFandangoNOWGoogle PlayiTunes

Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) 95%

A mammoth revisionist Western before revisionist Westerns were cool, Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West synthesized tropes from the already well-trod genre and fired them back at an audience not yet accustomed to seeing its frontier mythology deconstructed — and represented an artistic leap forward for Leone, who used a much slower pace and more realistic tone to tell the tale of an unsavory hired gun (Henry Fonda) whose campaign of terror against a railroad town is complicated by a lone vigilante (Charles Bronson) with a mysterious vendetta. Better late than never, West has steadily built a devoted following since its release, and influenced generations of America’s most popular filmmakers.

Watch it here: AmazonFandangoNOWGoogle PlayiTunes

The Shining (1980) 84%

Like comedy, horror hasn’t always found the warmest reception at the Academy, and a horror movie adapted from a bestseller by Stephen King — who hasn’t always been a critics’ darling himself — probably never stood a prayer of receiving Oscars recognition. On the other hand, the big-screen version of King’s The Shining boasted a stellar pedigree, both onscreen and behind the cameras; with Jack Nicholson starring opposite Shelley Duvall and Stanley Kubrick directing, this terrifying descent into snowbound madness could easily have earned a nomination or three. Alas, it came up empty, forever depriving Nicholson the opportunity to stroll up to the podium and shout, “Heeeeeeeeeeeeere’s Oscar!”

Watch it here: AmazonFandangoNOWGoogle PlayiTunes

Three Kings (1999) 94%

David O. Russell’s movies have piled up a number of Oscar nominations and wins over the years, and it’d be hard to argue he’s been unfairly ignored by the Academy. Still, looking back, it’s a little surprising to note that Russell’s Three Kings didn’t pick up a single nomination. A critical and commercial hit, this pitch-black satire of modern warfare and global American politics is the rare message movie that works as pure entertainment — and it found Russell employing a few nifty visual tricks, too. Any or all of the above might have been good for awards consideration; alas, Russell would have to content himself with the awards-season attention he’d generate in later years with movies like The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, and American Hustle.

Watch it here: AmazonFandangoNOWGoogle PlayiTunes

Tag Cloud

Podcast Logo Ovation indie blaxploitation Star Trek Spring TV GLAAD 2016 RT21 Interview Amazon Prime Sneak Peek E3 Television Critics Association movie tv talk biography Mary Poppins Returns Starz australia politics book medical drama RT History DC streaming service breaking bad Toys YouTube Red American Society of Cinematographers Thanksgiving south america dramedy worst movies Pop TV Pride Month Paramount Netflix Britbox CBS DC Comics free movies ratings war game show Extras Christmas Crunchyroll The Witch historical drama golden globes a nightmare on elm street festivals cancelled TV series sports mission: impossible name the review italian Comedy Central latino VICE spanish TCM cartoon diversity anthology game of thrones SDCC revenge Set visit 4/20 Martial Arts 2019 Syfy dceu hist Year in Review Writers Guild of America serial killer sag awards BBC spy thriller Summer LGBTQ CNN Brie Larson FOX Action obituary Song of Ice and Fire cops stop motion Dark Horse Comics National Geographic Creative Arts Emmys documentary all-time 45 asian-american screen actors guild FX on Hulu reviews comics Adult Swim YouTube archives nfl Stephen King Sundance TV robots Disney superhero President Certified Fresh Black History Month History sitcom ITV First Reviews vampires Comics on TV supernatural ID Country Tarantino Lionsgate Mary poppins PlayStation 2020 Peacock video Amazon Mystery Tomatazos binge Walt Disney Pictures See It Skip It Shondaland HBO Tubi classics quibi Fox Searchlight X-Men mockumentary zombie Captain marvel toronto dc docudrama Cartoon Network romance natural history independent what to watch Marathons laika Pirates Marvel Studios Nat Geo video on demand Chernobyl Superheroe Classic Film Comedy A24 Biopics Horror BAFTA dogs The Walking Dead rotten Film TV Land halloween tv crossover Universal HBO Go cancelled TV shows adventure zero dark thirty Video Games unscripted directors Pop Photos werewolf emmy awards football foreign Holidays parents Showtime true crime First Look television Best and Worst OWN Super Bowl Superheroes Watching Series Opinion Epix technology Nominations cooking Sundance CBS All Access 007 Fall TV Spike social media cults adaptation Sony Pictures FXX Calendar spain sequel VH1 TCA 2017 indiana jones BBC One Marvel Television Disney Plus Awards crime drama stand-up comedy political drama Reality Competition elevated horror die hard The CW best Cannes Funimation Arrowverse jamie lee curtis TCA Pixar PaleyFest TNT Hear Us Out boxoffice Trophy Talk TCA Winter 2020 SundanceTV cinemax The Academy YouTube Premium fast and furious NYCC Spectrum Originals Red Carpet miniseries Drama nature cars halloween stoner MSNBC space rotten movies we love Trailer Amazon Prime Video Trivia series Esquire AMC cancelled television 2015 comic books Countdown green book Anna Paquin batman Lifetime Christmas movies Hallmark Christmas movies black Rock Netflix Christmas movies comic dragons venice Freeform NBC The Purge documentaries hollywood TV Star Wars Endgame MTV Crackle Holiday hispanic LGBT singing competition joker DGA Teen canceled based on movie Acorn TV BBC America 2017 crime thriller justice league Turner Classic Movies 20th Century Fox APB BET TV renewals scary movies Disney streaming service Mindy Kaling slashers DirecTV blockbuster christmas movies BET Awards mutant sequels Masterpiece ESPN Emmy Nominations psychological thriller science fiction Box Office Binge Guide Amazon Studios Shudder Schedule OneApp IFC Films chucky renewed TV shows talk show Hulu Paramount Network Quiz USA Network comiccon San Diego Comic-Con Sci-Fi Mudbound 21st Century Fox comedies Chilling Adventures of Sabrina TLC YA Rocketman Travel Channel finale criterion TCA Awards Apple child's play MCU versus HBO Max spanish language Apple TV Plus animated Musical award winner japanese Film Festival doctor who Infographic twilight TIFF Baby Yoda Warner Bros. cancelled GoT Oscars disaster french WarnerMedia psycho ABC VOD teaser Black Mirror Rocky Bravo Musicals Tumblr spider-man Winners CW Seed El Rey Heroines casting franchise police drama Lifetime A&E facebook films aliens richard e. Grant Television Academy Premiere Dates PBS The Arrangement Disney+ Disney Plus universal monsters Cosplay IFC canceled TV shows travel Family toy story DC Universe spinoff Fantasy Pet Sematary strong female leads witnail Academy Awards New York Comic Con Disney Channel Emmys USA nbcuniversal Apple TV+ Fox News Kids & Family reboot Western news Nickelodeon streaming dark kids discovery WGN remakes Mary Tyler Moore Ellie Kemper Animation ABC Family ghosts festival Avengers Polls and Games GIFs concert children's TV scorecard Winter TV TruTV Food Network screenings transformers period drama zombies Turner Comic Book 2018 Ghostbusters 71st Emmy Awards movies Hallmark theme song Character Guide anime crime Columbia Pictures romantic comedy thriller Sundance Now Vudu harry potter critics cats Valentine's Day Awards Tour Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt 72 Emmy Awards FX Music Marvel Women's History Month composers CMT TBS Election Reality worst Grammys Elton John satire Lucasfilm Rom-Com Discovery Channel SXSW 24 frames E!