The 21 Biggest Academy Award Snubs of All Time

The Oscars are supposed to be a barometer for greatness in the movie industry, but sometimes the Academy just misses the mark. Think about it: Three Six Mafia has an Oscar, but Leonardo DiCaprio does not. Snubs inevitably happen every year and some are more egregious than others. As we prepare for the next batch of nominations, let us reflect on some of the biggest snubs that still have us scratching our heads.

1. Leonardo DiCaptio in The Departed


Leo has been nominated a lot, we know this, but he was at his best in this Martin Scorsese flick. It still pains us that this wasn’t his year.

2. Leonardo DiCaprio in Revolutionary Road


We thought Leo/Kate Winslet reunion would equal Oscar magic. But alas, it was not to be.

3. Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch Me If You Can


We still love this movie and think he was fantastic as con man Frank Abagnale Jr. Technically he played more than character, as Frank faked his way into becoming an airline pilot, a doctor and a lawyer.

4. Leonardo DiCaprio in The Aviator


Last Leo one, we promise. But man did he do a good job playing Howard Hughes’ descent into madness.

5. Brokeback Mountain


With the exception of Ang Lee winning for Best Director, Brokeback Mountain got completely shut out of the Oscars. Crash beat it for Best Picture in an upset, and Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Williams all inexplicably lost in their categories despite delivering amazing performances.

6. Alfred Hitchcock


Can you believe the Master of Suspense never won an Oscar for directing? Despite all of his directing techniques that are now famous, poor Hitch never got Oscar recognition. Couldn’t they have at least given him the Best Cameos in All His Films award?

7. James Dean


We expect that if James Dean had lived longer than his young 24 years, he would have taken home Oscar gold. But the impressive trifecta of films he made during his much-too-short career (A Rebel Without a Cause, East of Eden and Giant) are enough to make us sad he never won.

8. Saving Private Ryan


This Steven Spielberg wartime epic starring Tom Hanks was beat out for Best Picture by Shakespeare in Love. Rumblings have indicated power producer Harvey Weinstein’s purse strings – rather than the film’s merit – are what actually got Shakespeare the gold.

9. Marilyn Monroe


The iconic bombshell never got to make a breathy Oscar acceptance speech. She was probably most deserving for her part in Some Like It Hot, but it just wasn’t in the cards.

10. Amy Adams


Doesn’t it seem like she gets nominated every year? She’s like the female Leonardo DiCaprio at this point. She was great in The Fighter and she was our favorite part of American Hustle last year. Such a shame.

11. Robert Redford


Redford, aka the Brad Pitt before Brad Pitt, has never won an Oscar for acting. He nabbed one in 1981 for directing Ordinary People and got a Lifetime Achievement award in 2002, but the founder of the Sundance Film Festival was never acknowledged for the talent that made him famous.

12. Paul Newman for The Hustler


It took Paul Newman way too long to claim his Oscar glory. He was notoriously snubbed all throughout his prime years – most notably for The Hustler in 1962. The Academy finally gave him an honorary award in 1986 and then a Best Actor Oscar in 1987 for his role in the subpar sequel to The Hustler – The Color of Money.

13. Citizen Kane


This film has been number one on so many AFI Greatest Movies of All Time lists that we kind of just assumed it had won the Oscar for Best Picture. Not so. The Orson Welles masterpiece was beat out by How Green Was My Valley, a movie about a Welsh mining village.

14. Michael Fassbender in Shame


When you put aside the jokes about “best performance by a penis in a movie,” you’ll realize that Fassbender actually turns in an Oscar-worthy performance in Shame (clothed or unclothed). We’ll give him time though – we think a statuette is in his future.

15. Ewan McGregor


Ewan (or as we like to call him: every straight man’s mancrush) has turned in some brilliant work over the years – like his roles in Beginners and The Impossible. But sadly it seems it wasn’t enough to catch the Academy’s attention.

16. Johnny Depp


Johnny Depp does not have an Oscar. We repeat: Johnny Depp does not have an Oscar. How can the guy who played iconic characters in Edward Scissorhands, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Finding Neverland be lacking a trophy, you ask? It’s a mystery for the ages.

17. Jessica Chastain


Remember when Jessica Chastain had like a million movies come out in 2011? In luckier years, we think at least ONE of those would have gotten her a win. Maybe 2015 will be her year. 

18. Keira Knightley in Pride & Prejudice


Reese Witherspoon beat her out that year for Walk the Line, but Keira would have had our vote for her pitch perfect portrayal of Jane Austen heroine Elizabeth Bennett.

19. Atonement


Talk about a beautifully made film. It even won the Golden Globe for Best Drama that year, which is usually a sign that an Oscar imminent. Nope. No Country for Old Men took it instead. Guess nothing beats a Coen Brothers film with an ambiguous ending.

20. Short Term 12

If you’ve seen this gem of an indie movie starring a riveting Brie Larson, you’ll understand why this was a major snub. It was one of the best movies of 2013, but presumably because it was so small, it didn’t get any awards love. Travesty. 

21. Mary Elizabeth Winstead in Smashed

Another small movie, but a huge Oscar-worthy performance by Winstead as a young wife coming to terms with sobriety. Or at least worthy of a nomination. Pay better attention, Academy!

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