40 Movies That Should Have Won the Best Picture Oscar (But Didn’t)

40 Movies That Should Have Won the Best Picture Oscar (But Didn’t)

Leonardo Dicaprio, The Aviator
THE AVIATOR, Leonardo DiCaprio, 2004, (c) Miramax/courtesy Everett Collection

1
Amour
2012. NOMINATED: Yes. LOST TO: 'Argo.' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: Medium. 'Argo' is a good time, but 'Amour' is one of the most powerfully heartbreaking dramas in many years.
2
The Tree of Life
2011. NOMINATED: Yes. LOST TO: 'The Artist.' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: High. 'The Artist' is a fluffy, spineless gimmick, while The Tree of Life is a piercing, introspective philosophy piece.
3
The Social Network
2010. NOMINATED: Yes. LOST TO: 'The King's Speech.' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: High. 'TSN' is cutting, creative, and highlights the deep loneliness of a new generation. 'TKS' offers nothing fresh at all.
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4
Synecdoche, New York
2008. NOMINATED: No. WHAT WON? 'Slumdog Millionaire.' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: High. As good as 'Slumdog' might have made you feel, the depression imparted by 'Synecdoche' is far more valuable and earned.
5
There Will Be Blood
2007. NOMINATED: Yes. LOST TO: 'No Country for Old Men.' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: Low. 'NCFOM' is itself a terrific picture, but 'TWBB' outweighs the Coen Bros film in substance and character work.
6
Children of Men
2006. NOMINATED: No. WHAT WON? 'The Departed.' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: Medium. Scorsese's crime drama is good (not great), but Cuaron's sci-fi is the kind of creativity that cinema was invented for.
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7
Brokeback Mountain
2005. NOMINATED: Yes. LOST TO: 'Crash.' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: Unparalleled.
8
The Aviator
2004. NOMINATED: Yes. LOST TO: 'Million Dollar Baby.' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: Medium, although the real terror is that Leonardo DiCaprio didn't get an Oscar for his best performance to date.
9
Lost In Translation
2003. NOMINATED: Yes. LOST TO: 'Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: Low. We love the 'LOTR' trilogy, but Coppola's tribute to ennui may be the defining film of the 2000s.
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10
City of God
2002. NOMINATED: No. WHAT WON? 'Chicago.' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: High, and this is coming from someone who actually digs 'Chicago.' 'City of God,' however, is the far more powerful and important film.
11
Mulholland Drive
2001. NOMINATED: No. WHAT WON? 'A Beautiful Mind.' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: Pretty high, considering the marvel of dark imagination that is David Lynch's best movie vs. the sweet but uninspired biopic.
12
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
2000. NOMINATED: Yes. LOST TO: 'Gladiator.' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: Almost 'Crash'-levels high. Why does the Academy snub Ang Lee so hard?
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13
Being John Malkovich
1999. NOMINATED: No. WHAT WON? 'American Beauty.' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: We can crank this down to medium-low, if only because there was never any hope a movie as weird as 'BJM' would win the Oscar.
14
The Thin Red Line
1998. NOMINATED: Yes. LOST TO: 'Shakespeare in Love.' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: High. 'SIL' is not the piece of garbage that people often chastise it for being, but Malick's war film is a near masterpiece.
15
Babe
1995. NOMINATED: Yes. LOST TO: 'Braveheart.' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: Medium. 'Braveheart' is simply hot air, but the talking-pig family film (yes, I'm serious!) is truly magical storytelling.
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16
Natural Born Killers
1994. NOMINATED: No. WHAT WON? 'Forrest Gump.' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: Medium, if only because we had such a tough time debating whether 'NBK' or 'Pulp Fiction' deserved the award. But not 'Forrest Gump.'
17
Reservoir Dogs
1992. NOMINATED: No. WHAT WON? 'Unforgiven.' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: Low. 'Unforgiven' isn't bad, it's just not nearly as artful or inventive as Tarantino's debut picture.
18
Goodfellas
1990. NOMINATED: Yes. LOST TO: 'Dances with Wolves.' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: Medium to us, but high if you ask the average Scorsese fan who swears that this is his best film.
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19
Do the Right Thing!
1989. NOMINATED: No. WHAT WON? 'Driving Miss Daisy.' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: High. The Academy insisted on awarding a racism film, and gave the win to the schmaltzy, toothless one over the fresh 'DTRT.'
20
Broadcast News
1987. NOMINATED: Yes. LOST TO: 'The Last Emperor.' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: Low, but we can't help but show some love for the best thing James L. Brooks ever gave us (other than 'The Simpsons').
21
Hannah and Her Sisters
1986. NOMINATED: Yes. LOST TO: 'Platoon.' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: Medium. Sure, Vietnam is a literal war-torn jungle, but so the lovestruck New York in 'Hannah and Her Sisters' is a figurative one!
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22
Back to the Future
1985. NOMINATED: No. WHAT WON? 'Out of Africa.' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: Medium. 'Out of Africa' is nothing special, and 'BTTF' (while of course lighter than most Oscar caliber work) is very much so.
23
Raging Bull
1980. NOMINATED: Yes. LOST TO: 'Ordinary People.' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: Maybe the lowest on the list, as 'Ordinary People' is absolutely wonderful... but 'Raging Bull' is just a smidge better.
24
Network
1976. NOMINATED: Yes. LOST TO: 'Rocky.' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: High. The babbling underdog sports movie gets the trophy over the scathing sociopolitical satire? This makes us mad as hell.
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25
The Last Picture Show
1971. NOMINATED: Yes. LOST TO: 'The French Connection.' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: Low, if you consider the quality of 'TFC.' But 'The Last Picture Show' might just be the best coming-of-age movie ever made.
26
MASH
1970. NOMINATED: Yes. LOST TO: 'Patton.' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: Medium. Oscars, if you're gonna give it to a war film, give it to the funny one!
27
2001: A Space Odyssey
1968. NOMINATED: No. WHAT WON? 'Oliver!' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: Come on, this is just freakin' bananas.
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28
The Graduate
1967. NOMINATED: Yes. LOST TO: 'In the Heat of the Night.' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: Plastics.
29
Blow-Up
1966. NOMINATED: No. WHAT WON? 'A Man for All Seasons.' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: We'll bump this down to low if only because 'Blow-Up' is a particularly esoteric entry. But it's a marvelous one.
30
Dr. Strangelove
1964. NOMINATED: Yes. LOST TO: 'My Fair Lady.' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: Simply, 'Dr. Strangelove' is the greatest comedy, the greatest satire, the greatest Kubrick movie ever made. 'My Fair Lady' is not.
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31
8 1/2
1963. NOMINATED: No. WHAT WON? 'Tom Jones.' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: On a scale from 1 to 10, we'd rank the problematic nature of this snub about...
32
Some Like It Hot
1959. NOMINATED: No. WHAT WON? 'Ben-Hur.' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: High. 'Ben-Hur' is an obvious Oscar winner, sure, but it's nowhere near the achievement that the way-ahead-of-its-time 'SLIH' is.
33
Vertigo
1959. NOMINATED: No. WHAT WON? 'Gigi.' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: How many famed directors' Top 10 lists do you find 'Gigi' on these days, hm?
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34
12 Angry Men
1957. NOMINATED: Yes. LOST TO: 'The Bridge on the River Kwai.' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: Overlooked by the public at the time of release, '12 Angry Men' is today perhaps America's greatest one-room film.
35
The Ten Commandments
1956. NOMINATED: Yes. LOST TO: 'Around the World in 80 Days.' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: High... but Passover tradition of watching this film with Nana might be influencing that rating.
36
Rear Window
1954. NOMINATED: No. WHAT WON? 'On the Waterfront.' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: High-ish. Yes, 'On the Waterfront' is terrific. But 'Rear Window' is the stuff of cinematic legend.
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37
Stalag 17
1953. NOMINATED: No. WHAT WON? 'From Here to Eternity.' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: Low. Billy Wilder's war film might not be that well remembered, but it's a fun, cunning, dark thriller with great character.
38
Singin' in the Rain
1952. NOMINATED: No. WHAT WON? 'The Greatest Show on Earth.' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: Just watch Donald O'Connor perform "Make 'em Laugh" and try to argue against this.
39
The Bicycle Thief
1948. NOMINATED: No. WHAT WON? 'Hamlet.' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: High (augmented by the fact that 'Hamlet' must have seemed like the classier pick, while 'The Bicycle Thief' was clearly the supreme choice).
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40
The Big Sleep
1946. NOMINATED: No. WHAT WON? 'The Best Years of Our Lives.' DEGREE OF ATROCITY: High. Bogart, Bacall, Hawks, Chandler, Faulkner... come on, Oscars. What were you thinking?

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