Top 10 Times the Oscars Got It Wrong

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Top 10 Times the Oscars Got It Wrong

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Jesse Singer
These actors, directors, writers and films were robbed! For this list, we'll be looking at those times when the Academy overlooked deserving nominees and/or outright gave the golden statue to the wrong people. Our countdown includes "Saving Private Ryan", "Raging Bull", “Citizen Kane”, and more!
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Top 10 Times the Oscars Got It Wrong


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Times the Oscars Got It Wrong.

For this list, we’ll be looking at those times when the Academy overlooked deserving nominees and/or outright gave the golden statue to the wrong people.

Leave a comment, statement, or acceptance speech below. And take your time. We won’t let the orchestra play until you’re finished.

#10: “Boogie Nights” Ripped Off

“70th Academy Awards” (1998)
From the amazing opening long take to the final “long” shot, “Boogie Nights” is a brilliant film from one of the greatest directors of his generation. And yet, the only recognition the film got from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences were nominations for Best Supporting Actress, Supporting Actor, and Original Screenplay. “As Good as It Gets” was a really good film and “Titanic” was an all-around cinematic achievement, but “Boogie Nights” arguably deserved to win Best Picture. How was it not even nominated? And where was PT Anderson’s Best Director nomination? Also, while Mark Wahlberg was still fairly new to the acting scene, his performance in this film was pitch-perfect on every level and more than deserving of at least a nomination.

#9: Best Picture to “The King’s Speech”

“83rd Academy Awards” (2011)
The National Society of Film Critics, Los Angeles Film Critics, New York Film Critics Circle, National Board of Review, and Golden Globes are just some of the organizations that picked David Fincher’s “The Social Network” as the best film of 2010. Quentin Tarantino has even called it the best film of the decade, saying “It is number one because it’s the best, that’s all! It crushes all the competition.” However, according to the Academy Awards, “The Social Network” wasn’t even the best film of the year 2010. That honor went to Tom Hooper’s “The King’s Speech,” a solid period drama, but hardly the best film of that year. Almost ten years later, Fincher continues to make Oscar-caliber movies like “Mank” while Hooper made “Cats.”

#8: Spielberg Not Nominated for “Jaws”

“48th Academy Awards” (1976)
Steven Spielberg is the most financially successful director of all time and is often credited with creating the modern “blockbuster” with his 1975 film, “Jaws.” The film was even nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Although, Spielberg was not among the Best Director nominees that year. To be fair, 1975 was a pretty great year at the movies and the director category was stacked with some of the best filmmakers of their generation, including Fellini, Kubrick, Lumet, Altman, and that year’s winner, Miloš Forman for “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.” However, there was probably also some old-school thinking among Academy members who couldn’t appreciate the talent and artistic vision behind a blockbuster movie about a shark.

#7: “Green Book” Wins Best Picture

“91st Academy Awards” (2019)
The “OscarsSoWhite” hashtag stemmed from a noticeable lack of diversity at the 2015 and 2016 Oscars, most notably in the acting categories. Since then, the Academy has tried - or at least tried to make it look like they’re trying - to bring more diversity. In 2019, multiple people of color got acting nods while Best Picture nominations went to “BlacKkKlansman” and “Black Panther.” On the surface, “Green Book” taking home Best Picture looked like another step forward. However, beneath the surface, this divisive film could be considered a step back. The New York Times wrote that the movie has “very little that can’t be described as crude, obvious and borderline offensive.” Well, at least the Academy finally made up for Peter Farrelly’s “Dumb and Dumber” snub.

#6: “Raging Bull” Loses Best Picture

“53rd Academy Awards” (1981)
Martin Scorsese’s “Raging Bull” is a masterpiece. Not only did it garner plenty of praise in 1980, but it has been deemed by many - including famed film critic Roger Ebert - as the best film of that entire decade. It’s so ingrained in our cinematic subconscious that many people probably assume it won awards for Best Picture and Best Director at the Oscars. But it didn’t! Those honors actually went to a good film from a very good director, Robert Redford’s “Ordinary People.” It was Redford’s first time behind the camera. And in a crazy coincidence, Scorcese would suffer the same fate exactly ten years later...

#5: “Dances with Wolves” Gets the Win

“63rd Academy Awards” (1991)
A decade after failing to give “Raging Bull” the top prize, the Academy had an ample opportunity to make it up to Martin Scorsese. The director arguably topped his 1980 masterpiece with 1990’s “Goodfellas,” one of the definitive mob movies. “Goodfellas” was nominated for Best Picture and Scorsese earned a directing nod. The film was arguably his best since “Raging Bull” and some critics have even called it Scorsese’s finest work. But again, not the Academy! Talk about déjà vu, Scorsese and his film lost to an actor turned first-time director. This time, it was Kevin Costner and “Dances with Wolves.” Sure, that’s a good movie, but it’s no “Goodfellas.” Don’t worry, Marty. Your Oscar is only another sixteen years away.

#4: “Crash” over “Brokeback Mountain”

“78th Academy Awards” (2006)
When people talk about overrated Best Picture winners, “Crash” has become the default answer for many. One particular director had this to say about the crime drama: “Was it the best film of the year? I don’t think so.” Why should anyone care what this one director had to say? Well, maybe because he is Paul Haggis, the writer and director of said Best Picture winner. And he isn’t alone. In 2015, The Hollywood Reporter asked hundreds of Academy Voters to recast their vote on the 2006 race - and this time, in their poll, “Brokeback Mountain” came out on top.

#3: The Wrong Thing to Do to “Do the Right Thing”

“62nd Academy Awards” (1990)
In 1992, John Singleton became Oscar’s first black Best Director nominee for “Boyz n the Hood.” He should have been at least the second, following Spike Lee for “Do the Right Thing.” While Lee did get in for Best Original Screenplay, he lost that award and wasn’t even nominated for Best Director. The film wasn’t nominated for Best Picture either. Instead, the Oscars laid its praise on a much tamer, less important, and more Academy-friendly look at race relations, “Driving Miss Daisy.” As Lee put it, “Driving Miss Daisy” isn’t “being taught in film schools all across the world like ‘Do the Right Thing’ is.” While Lee finally won a screenplay Oscar for “BlacKkKlansman,” star John David Washington went overlooked in Best Actor.

#2: “Citizen Kane” Loses Best Picture

“14th Academy Awards” (1942)
What is the greatest movie of all time? The answer to that question will obviously vary depending on who you ask. But when it comes to critics, filmmakers, historians, and writers, the answer that you will hear most often is without a doubt, “Citizen Kane.” And one answer you will probably never hear is, “How Green Was My Valley.” And yet, in 1942, at the 14th Academy Awards, it was the latter that took home the top prize. In fact, on another lesser, but still wrong note, “The Maltese Falcon” - a great movie often cited as the birth of film noir - was another one of the Best Picture nominees that lost to “How Green Was My Valley” that year.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Ava DuVernay Not Nominated for “Selma,” “87th Academy Awards” (2015)
The Film Was Nominated for Best Picture; Maybe They Thought It Directed Itself?

No Kathryn Bigelow in Best Director for “Zero Dark Thirty,” “85th Academy Awards” (2013)
Another Case of a Movie Nominated for Best Picture & Its Female Director Not Nominated

Toni Collette Snubbed, “91st Academy Awards” (2019)
Collette Delivered a Career-Best Performance in “Hereditary,” But No Love from the Academy

Akira Kurosawa Loses, “58th Academy Awards” (1986)
He Was Amazingly Only Nominated Once for Best Director, & He Lost

Adam Sandler Snubbed, “92nd Academy Awards” (2020)
From “Punch-Drunk Love” to “Uncut Gems,” the Academy Refuses to Acknowledge Sandler

#1: “Saving Private Ryan” Loses Best Picture

“71st Academy Awards” (1999)
Of all the films that have won Best Picture at the Academy Awards, a significant percentage of them also won Best Director. One of the times that didn’t happen is also the most egregious mistake that the Oscars has ever made. In 1999, the Academy deemed Steven Spielberg the best director for his film, “Saving Private Ryan.” However, in a decision that shocked Hollywood, the Best Picture Oscar went to “Shakespeare in Love.” And while “Shakespeare in Love” is a very good film, most people credit its victory, less to its artistic merits and more to the hardcore and overwhelming marketing push that it got from the studio. A victory that, as Vanity Fair wrote just a few years ago, “changed the awards forever.”
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