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 (1959) 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) 94%

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 (1969) 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

DC Comics Amazon Prime Video cancelled Western feel good biopic comic book movies Super Bowl Hallmark high school adenture docuseries Sundance Now new zealand Mindy Kaling scene in color Trailer Discovery Channel adaptation Disney Channel children's TV golden globe awards E! movie mutant adventure award winner docudrama The Walt Disney Company prank festivals book adaptation 90s First Look thriller 2017 Emmys south america versus all-time talk show werewolf A&E stop motion films Mary poppins 2018 stoner USA ABC lord of the rings Netflix science fiction BAFTA australia Calendar Podcast NBA Music Emmy Nominations royal family Pirates festival anime worst BET Awards composers Binge Guide E3 Year in Review Comics on TV critics dexter spanish Box Office aapi Freeform Anna Paquin biography superman james bond women a nightmare on elm street Rom-Com satire Holiday Fox Searchlight HBO Marvel robots TV renewals hispanic heritage month quibi football king kong Legendary comic books BBC Britbox Sci-Fi Travel Channel TCA 2017 political drama Black Mirror USA Network doctor who rotten movies we love directors Crackle cooking dogs Song of Ice and Fire rotten travel Polls and Games TCA video Premiere Dates miniseries binge Paramount halloween tv Animation true crime rt labs Writers Guild of America ratings Superheroe blaxploitation Superheroes 99% Marathons Infographic mission: impossible Acorn TV young adult anthology Stephen King 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Election DGA HBO Max ITV based on movie wonder woman Summer black Film Quiz free movies streaming movies El Rey suspense TLC franchise rom-coms Adult Swim spain Winners Television Academy FOX popular Photos See It Skip It Drama Set visit documentaries Fall TV Spike witnail comic book movie italian Tarantino Action Apple TV Plus Tomatazos CW Seed screenings 2021 classics BET game show Peacock venice boxoffice revenge YouTube worst movies Netflix Christmas movies The Academy Thanksgiving superhero technology jamie lee curtis kong YA canceled Black History Month Disney asian-american richard e. Grant streaming animated Syfy FX comiccon ghosts zero dark thirty child's play Hulu Fantasy FX on Hulu theme song book Film Festival critic resources Disney streaming service japanese pirates of the caribbean HBO Go blockbusters crime Captain marvel war Pet Sematary Mudbound rt archives Fox News History Rock 21st Century Fox Esquire Masterpiece dark Television Critics Association natural history OneApp LGBTQ APB video on demand Musical screen actors guild laika emmy awards documentary Columbia Pictures Hear Us Out Elton John zombies Heroines harry potter Women's History Month historical drama Amazon Prime japan movies name the review kids dramedy Marvel Television Nominations Cannes YouTube Red crossover 2016 The Arrangement Family archives heist movie American Society of Cinematographers Baby Yoda LGBT dceu Pacific Islander Apple TV+ Biopics Disney Plus TNT Starz facebook singing competition sitcom latino teaser spanish language Valentine's Day FXX social media The Witch Country Alien Rocketman Comic-Con@Home 2021 Comic Book Logo Ghostbusters foreign Endgame WGN Rocky Awards dc Countdown Brie Larson Lifetime Christmas movies serial killer DirecTV marvel comics indie TIFF TV movies Disney+ Disney Plus concert TCM 007 romance NYCC Creative Arts Emmys Nat Geo Amazon Studios Musicals transformers 24 frames ViacomCBS Winter TV international 71st Emmy Awards hollywood hist Sony Pictures 2020 SXSW ID GoT PlayStation ABC Family National Geographic mockumentary Ellie Kemper Marvel Studios Sundance TV Red Carpet The Walking Dead Turner unscripted cancelled TV series Opinion sequels BBC America aliens Reality CMT crime thriller scary movies toy story space VH1 Tubi Lifetime comedies OWN Toys reviews Chernobyl parents cars ABC Signature MTV TBS Amazon green book Paramount Network Walt Disney Pictures Awards Tour DC streaming service target TruTV nbcuniversal AMC Watching Series Star Trek renewed TV shows series christmas movies marvel cinematic universe cancelled television Pop TV Character Guide sequel Lionsgate Certified Fresh zombie 1990s MSNBC what to watch Shudder First Reviews sag awards Showtime Grammys toronto Best and Worst Pride Month game of thrones Nickelodeon kaiju fast and furious jurassic park hidden camera President olympics The Purge TCA Winter 2020 20th Century Fox police drama SDCC Martial Arts posters know your critic Broadway comic psycho PaleyFest cancelled TV shows casting Tokyo Olympics 72 Emmy Awards justice league legend TV diversity X-Men Exclusive Video CBS Ovation Mary Poppins Returns deadpool Interview RT History Kids & Family telelvision NBC MCU GLAAD Mystery cats Trivia Wes Anderson Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt monster movies Universal dragons Sneak Peek Chilling Adventures of Sabrina romantic comedy Trophy Talk cinemax Arrowverse indiana jones spy thriller independent saw Holidays nature universal monsters king arthur supernatural scorecard period drama ESPN die hard Comedy Lucasfilm 2015 CBS All Access Reality Competition Image Comics discovery Turner Classic Movies cops Apple A24 IFC Films Christmas Spectrum Originals basketball breaking bad canceled TV shows Schedule chucky IFC action-comedy crime drama batman slashers twilight trailers medical drama Bravo strong female leads The CW new york Mary Tyler Moore Classic Film Dark Horse Comics Food Network Crunchyroll gangster obituary PBS GIFs vampires 2019 Star Wars psychological thriller remakes nfl 4/20 WarnerMedia TV Land TV One Funimation sports best Shondaland RT21 comics Avengers spinoff Paramount Plus SundanceTV BBC One Pixar news razzies mcc tv talk New York Comic Con television San Diego Comic-Con Warner Bros. boxing VICE french CNN 45 YouTube Premium Horror stand-up comedy Vudu halloween cartoon elevated horror criterion Sundance Academy Awards Cartoon Network VOD cults disaster blockbuster golden globes Oscars Cosplay live action DC Universe finale fresh Spring TV Comedy Central 73rd Emmy Awards hispanic Extras debate Hallmark Christmas movies slasher Video Games reboot TCA Awards Pop politics new star wars movies Teen Epix Tumblr joker 93rd Oscars spider-man godzilla rt labs critics edition