22 Surprising Oscar Snubs

We look at some of the Academy's most noteworthy recent snubs... and the less noteworthy films that were nominated instead.

by | January 30, 2014 | Comments

Oscar Noms and Snubs

It’s an immutable law of Hollywood that there are just never enough Oscar nominations to go around. With this year’s Academy Awards mere weeks away, we decided now would be a perfect time to take our annual look back at some of the many quality movies that missed an opportunity to take home one of the little gold guys — and some that overcame seemingly insurmountable odds to become some of history’s most surprising nominees. Obviously, this is meant to be a conversation starter rather than a complete list, but hey — that’s what the comments are for. What other films undeservedly escaped the Academy’s attention?

The Clan of the Cave Bear

Oscar Nominee for Best Makeup


1986: Sexy cave people club punks and one percenters

Oh Academy, where to start with 1986? You nominated two middling sequels (The Karate Kid, Part II, Poltergeist II), a notorious box-office dud (Pirates), and a goofy caveman movie (The Clan of the Cave Bear). Meanwhile, you snubbed a well-reviewed box office hit with an all star cast (Down and Out in Beverly Hills, starring Nick Nolte, Richard Dreyfuss, and Bette Midler) and a film that made Siskel and Ebert’s list of the best movies of the decade, one that marked the arrival of Gary Oldman as one of cinema’s most dependable actors (Sid & Nancy). But hey, when you get the chance to give some love to Peter Cetera, you’ve got to do it.




Oscar Nominee for Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design


1992: Chatty crooks, lady ballplayers, and undercover cops get snubbed

Base your movie’s visual aesthetic around the work of Rene Magritte, and you’ve kind of earned yourself a shot at Academy Award nominations for art direction and costume design — so negative reviews notwithstanding, it’s hard to begrudge Barry Levinson’s notorious Robin Williams-led flop Toys its pair of Oscar noms. Along similar lines, while Jean-Jacques Annaud’s adaptation of the Marguerite Duras novel The Lover was critically savaged, it’s certainly lovely to look at, so we don’t have a major problem with its nomination for Best Cinematography. All the same, it’s hard to swallow those honors when some of the year’s best movies — heck, some of the decade’s — were snubbed in 1992, including a cult classic (Reservoir Dogs), a powerfully acted crime thriller with an instant-classic theme song from Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg (Deep Cover), and a crowd-pleasing smash dramedy with a hit soundtrack (A League of Their Own).



Beethoven’s 2nd

Oscar Nominee for Best Original Song


1993: Bill Murray helps redefine the romantic comedy. Oscar prefers big dogs.

For the most part, the 66th Academy Awards were bereft of egregiously silly nominees, with the exception of the schmaltzy ballad “The Day I Fall in Love,” the love theme from the barely-remembered doggie-com Beethoven’s 2nd. Still, it’s not unfair to ask what the Academy was thinking when it failed to nominate Robert De Niro’s critically acclaimed directorial debut A Bronx Tale, a coming-of-age drama loaded with standout performances. It was a box office flop, you say? Fine: what about Groundhog Day, then? Not only is it a near-perfect romantic comedy, it also features one of Bill Murray’s finest performances, and was a decent-sized hit to boot. (Oh, right. Comedies never get nominated.)




Oscar Nominee for Best Sound Mixing


1995: Mutant fish guy tops bank robbers, Hollywood hooligans

Though it was an infamous flop upon its release, Waterworld has its retroactive defenders, who value the sheer audacity of Kevin Costner’s expensive, expansive sci-fi epic. Still, it’s kind of shocking in retrospect that Waterworld got a nod from the Academy, while both Get Shorty and Heat were sidelined come Oscar time. The former is a deft Hollywood satire featuring sharp performances from such old pros as John Travolta, Gene Hackman, and Danny DeVito, while the latter contains riveting set pieces and a much-ballyhooed showdown between Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. You’d think either of these movies would have been nominated for something, but you’d be wrong.



Patch Adams

Oscar Nominee for Best Original Musical or Comedy Score


1998: Max Fisher and the Dude: non. A doctor in a clown nose: oui.

Okay, sure, we all remember the chorus of that Aerosmith song from Armageddon, and we’re willing to concede the sound and visual effects nominations the movie earned. We can even sort of understand the Academy’s nod to Patch Adams for its score; after all, it’s a big part of the movie’s decidedly saccharine aftertaste. That said, was there really no room for any recognition for Rushmore‘s script or production design, or for The Big Lebowski‘s fantastic ensemble cast? Fine, we get it: Wes Anderson wasn’t as a big a name yet, the Coens had Fargo to live up to, and the Academy has never been particularly generous to comedies.



Hollow Man

Oscar Nominee for Best Visual Effects


2000: Awesome mutants! Music nerds! Invisible pervs?

Alright, we’ll admit it: the visual effects in Hollow Man were pretty cool. You know what other movie had good visual effects? A little flick called X-Men, which was a much bigger hit with audiences and critics. And while the Oscar-nominated 102 Dalmations is dimly remembered in the minds of movie buffs, High Fidelity is as adored now as it was in 2000. And given its endlessly quotable dialogue, you’re telling us High Fidelity didn’t deserve a Best Adapted Screenplay nod?




Oscar Nominee for Best Makeup


2006: The Sandman bests 007, Denzel, and the Wachowskis

Action-packed and surprisingly weighty, Casino Royale reignited the James Bond franchise and was one of the best-received 007 flicks in years. So naturally, the Academy took no notice. Likewise, Inside Man was a strong thriller with several eminently nominatable actors (Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster, and Christopher Plummer among them), and V for Vendetta was a feast for the eyes and ears. Instead, the Academy gave nods to a so-so Adam Sandler film (Click) and a forgettable disaster movie remake (Poseidon).



Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Oscar Nominee for Best Visual Effects


2009: A Transformers movie gets nominated. Let that sink in.

Effects-heavy sci-fi adventures are pretty commonly honored in the technical categories, so Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen‘s nomination for Sound Mixing wasn’t a big shock to anyone. What’s probably more surprising is that Sam Rockwell’s thoughtful performance in another sci-fi film, Duncan Jones’s critically acclaimed debut Moon, went overlooked, especially in a year that proved — with the nomination of District 9 for Best Picture — that the Academy wasn’t averse to modestly budgeted films of the genre. Then there’s The Damned United, which could have easily replaced a couple of entries in the Best Adapted Screenplay category. Throw in the curiously absent Studio Ghibli film Ponyo, and you’ve got yourself a solid list of potential nominees that would have given their competition a run for their money. Alas, we’re left with the “Oscar-nominated Transformers franchise.”



Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa

Oscar Nominee for Best Makeup and Hairstyling


2013: We’re still stunned that Bad Grandpa got nominated

Nothing against Johnny Knoxville or his frequently funny Jackass series, but it does seem unfair that this year’s franchise spinoff Bad Grandpa gets to put “Oscar nominee” after its name while critically esteemed releases such as Blue Is the Warmest Color, The Butler, and Enough Said came away empty-handed. And sure, Grandpa‘s nomination comes in the critic-proof Best Makeup and Hairstyling category, which also includes room for the widely reviled The Lone Ranger — but one of Ranger‘s nominations came in the Best Visual Effects category, which somehow excluded the often jaw-droppingly cool Pacific Rim.



Take a look through the rest of our Awards Tour coverage for the latest news and photo galleries leading up to this weekend’s Academy Awards.

Finally, here’s the trailer for one of the most memorable Oscar nominees from recent years — 2007 Best Makeup contender Norbit:

Written by Ryan Fujitani, Jeff Giles, and Tim Ryan.

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