25 of the Oscars’ Most Egregious Snubs

25 of the Oscars’ Most Egregious Snubs

There’s no shortage of controversy each year, when the Academy Awards announces nominations, and later, winners. Inevitably, a director, actor, or film that fans enjoyed loses the Oscar — or doesn’t even get a nomination in the first place. There have been numerous instances through the years of movies that are now considered cinema classics that lost out to less memorable films.

24/7 Tempo reviewed historical Academy Awards winners and losers using sources like the Internet Movie Database to create a list of 25 of the biggest Oscar snubs of all time.

Filmmaking is a subjective art, so it is difficult to declare which movie might actually be Best Picture. However, it is worth noting that movie studios spend tens of millions of dollars on encouraging voters to select their film — through billboards, direct appeals, merchandise, lavish parties, VIP events with the stars of the films, and more. 

And like in election, heavily-marketed movies are therefore often favored, while those that will eventually go down as all-time classics are sometimes overlooked. For instance, classic war movies “Thin Red Line” and “Saving Private Ryan” lost the 1999 Best Picture award. Many say this was only because disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein at the time ran an aggressive campaign for his film “Shakespeare in Love.”

Much of the controversy from the Oscars in recent years also stemmed from accusations that the Academy tends to favor the contributions of men over those of women, as well as those of  white artists over filmmakers of color. 

Chloé Zhao became the first woman of color to be nominated for Best Director in 2021 for “Nomadland,” –Zhao is just one of just seven women ever nominated for the award. Just 16 female-helmed films have been nominated for cinema’s top prize in the nearly century-long history of the Academy Awards. These are all the Best Picture nominees that have been directed by women.

Source: E. Bacon / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

Alfred Hitchcock never winning Best Director

Alfred Hitchcock is one of the most celebrated directors in Hollywood history, nicknamed the Master of Suspense. Stil, the creative force behind such classics as “Psycho,” “Vertigo,” and “The Birds” has never won an Oscar for Best Director — despite being nominated five times. The Academy did, however, honor Hitchcock in 1968 with the honorary Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, which is usually awarded to creative producers of consistently critically-acclaimed movies.

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Audrey Hepburn for ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’

Audrey Hepburn is one of the most celebrated actors of all time. Perhaps her most iconic role was as socialite Holly Golightly in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Yet this legendary character did not net Hepburn an Oscar, as she lost out to Sophia Loren in “Two Women.” Perhaps the Academy passed her over because Hepburn had already won a Best Actress Oscar for 1953’s “Roman Holiday,” but her loss still ranks as one of the biggest Academy Award head scratchers of all time.

Source: Courtesy of Focus Features

‘Brokeback Mountain’ losing to ‘Crash’

Jack Nicholson didn’t even try to hide his surprise when he announced that “Crash” won Best Picture at the 2006 Oscars — a moment the Academy would no doubt like erased from clip reels. The winner was (largely expected to be) “Brokeback Mountain,” Ang Lee’s drama about two cowboys who develop a sexual and emotional relationship that spans two decades. The film was a massive box office success and critics’ favorite at the time. Lee won the Oscar for Best Director. There were speculations that the more conservative members of the Academy were uncomfortable with the film’s gay content.

Source: Courtesy of HBO Max

Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield nominated for Best Supporting Actor

The recognition of being nominated for an Oscar is, of course, an honor — but how actors are nominated for the different categories can sometimes be strange. Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield are both nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 2021. But then who does the Academy think is the lead of the “Judas and the Black Messiah” movie? The film is nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture but none for leading role.

Source: Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Female directors in general

2021 is the year when the most women have been nominated for Best Director — two. Chloé Zhao earned the nomination for “Nomadland,” and Emerald Fennell for “Promising Young Woman.”

No woman has been nominated twice in the Best Director category, and only one woman has ever won — Kathryn Bigelow for the war drama “The Hurt Locker.” Before this year, only five women had been recognized in the prestigious category of Best Director, and only 14 movies directed by women had been nominated for Best Picture.

Source: Rich Polk / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

Glenn Close never winning, especially for ‘The Wife’

Glenn Close is nominated for Best Supporting Actress this year, increasing her total number of nods to eight. She is the most nominated living actor — man or woman — without an Oscar. Her loss to Olivia Colman in the 2019 Oscars was considered a snub, especially after she won the Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award for her role in “The Wife.”

The Academy has maybe sought to rectify the situation by nominating Close for “Hillbilly Elegy” this year — a movie with mostly terrible reviews. Close is even nominated for a Razzie award for worst supporting actress.

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Peter O’Toole never winning, despite 8 nominations

If Glenn Close does not win this year, she and Peter O’Toole will be tied for the title of actors having the most nominations without a win. The difference between the two is that O’Toole was always nominated in the leading actor category. O’Toole, whose performance in “Lawrence of Arabia” is often considered among the greatest in Hollywood history, was awarded an honorary Oscar in 2003. He initially turned it down — which was never done before — because he wanted to win “the lovely bugger outright.”

Source: Courtesy of Miramax

Samuel L. Jackson not winning for ‘Pulp Fiction’

Many people might think that Samuel L. Jackson’s impressive filmography would have won him an Oscar by now. Not only does he not have any of the golden statuettes, but he has only been nominated once — for Best Actor in Supporting Role for “Pulp Fiction.” That year, he lost to Martin Landau for “Ed Wood,” a movie far fewer people probably remember by now. In comparison, Jackson’s Bible-citing hitman Jules Winnifield is considered one of the greatest fictional characters in movie history.

Source: Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

‘Singin’ in the Rain’ having only 2 nominations

“Singin’ in the Rain” was nominated for two Oscars in 1953, Best Supporting Actress and Best Score, winning neither. The year before, “An American in Paris,” in which Gene Kelly also starred, was awarded six Oscars, including Best Picture. The Academy may have felt that Kelly, who was awarded an honorary Oscar in 1952, was recognized enough in such a short period of time and did not even nominate him for “Singin’ in the Rain” — a classic that remains one of the greatest musicals Hollywood ever produced.

Gene Kelly, a legendary dancer and actor in musicals, has never won a competitive Oscar, which is a snub as well. This may be due to the Academy’s well-known disfavor of comedy.

Source: Archive Photos / Moviepix via Getty Images

Spike Lee never winning for Best Director

Spike Lee is one of the most celebrated directors in American movie history, directing films like “Malcolm X,” “He Got Game,” “Jungle Fever,” and more now hailed as classics. But the Academy has long overlooked Lee’s work — particularly “Do the Right Thing” — Lee’s 1989 Brooklyn-based film exploring the racial tensions in America. Though the film is still a staple in film classes, it was not even nominated for Best Picture or Best Director. Lee was nominated for Best Original Screenplay. Lee finally earned his first directing nomination for 2018’s “BlacKkKlansman,” the film that also netted him his first Oscar win for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

‘The Dark Knight’ never even nominated for Best Picture

Though “The Dark Knight” was shut out of the Best Picture category, it still managed to shake up Oscar history. It was the rare superhero flick that racked up big box office numbers while also impressing critics, largely thanks to Heath Ledger’s unforgettable Oscar-winning performance as The Joker. Fans wanted to see “The Dark Knight” compete for Best Picture, but the Academy, long criticized for ignoring large-budget blockbusters in favor of dour dramas, boxed it out of the category.

Just months after the controversial snub, however, the Academy announced it would expand the Best Picture category from five to 10 films — presumably to include films like “The Dark Knight” and to draw more fans to the awards show broadcast in the process.

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

‘The Shining’ being nominated for nothing

“The Shining” is a historic snub for several reasons. One, Stanley Kubrick, who directed and wrote the screenplay adaptation of the horror classic, is one of the greatest filmmakers in Hollywood. But Kubrick has only one Oscar — for visual effects for the 1968 movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” (which he co-wrote and directed as well).

The other flagrant snub was for Jack Nicholson. If for nothing else, “The Shining” should have gotten a nomination for Nicholson’s full-throated and iconic performance as the unhinged Jack Torrance. At the time, however, the movie did not get many positive reviews by critics.

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

‘Vertigo’ not being nominated in a prestigious category

Though “Vertigo” is now considered a classic, the film wasn’t a big hit and received many bad reviews when it was released. This may explain why the movie was not nominated for any prestigious awards. The movie was recognized with just two Oscar nominations — for art direction and sound. Maybe “Vertigo” got better with age as fans and critics’ appreciation of the film has grown since 1958, when it was released. In 2020, the film was at the top of British Film Institute’s all-time greatest films, displacing “Citizen Kane.”

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Greta Gerwig not being nominated for Best Director for ‘Little Women’

One of the most famous snubs of the last few years is the Academy not nominating Greta Gerwig in the category of best director for her film “Little Women.” The critically acclaimed movie was nominated for Best Picture, and Gerwig was already one of just five women ever nominated for Best Director (for “Lady Bird” only two years prior). Gerwig’s omission from the category in 2020 only reinforced the deep/wide gender inequality and bias in the movie industry.

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Ava DuVernay and David Oyelowo not being nominated for Best Director for ‘Selma’

The Academy has long faced criticism for overlooking actors and filmmakers of color. This racial divide ignited another media firestorm when “Selma,” which tells the story of Martin Luther King Jr. organizing the Selma to Montgomery march for civil rights in 1965, was snubbed at the 2015 Oscars.

The “Selma” cast and crew reported that after protesting the death of Eric Garner at the hands of a police officer at their New York City premiere, members of the Academy told them they would not receive votes because of their activism. The critically acclaimed film was nominated for Best Picture, but David Oyelowo was snubbed for Best Actor, as was Ava DuVernay for Best Director. This, in addition to the Academy awarding only white male actors in the best actor category that year, led to the #OscarsSoWhite social media campaign, which highlights the fact that filmmakers of color are often overlooked during awards season.

Source: Courtesy of United Artists

Robert Mitchum not being nominated for ‘The Night of the Hunter’

Robert Mitchum delivered an iconic performance in “The Night of the Hunter” as a sinister preacher who aims to steal money from the children of his former prison cellmate. The film’s tense encounters would go on to inspire horror scenes in movies for years to come, but it was ahead of its time.

Highly stylized and almost surreal, “Night of the Hunter” was critically panned and financially unsuccessful when it came out in 1955. Though it was completely ignored by the Oscars, the film has more recently started to gain recognition as a cinema classic, and Robert Mitchum’s performance is now hailed as legendary.

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Francis Ford Coppola not winning for directing ‘Godfather’

Just about every ranking of the greatest movies of all time has “The Godfather” somewhere in the top. The film scored 11 Oscar nominations, winning three, including for Best Picture and Best Actor in a Leading Role, but not Best Director. The Oscar for Best Director” went to Bob Fosse for “Cabaret.”

When Coppola won Best Director in 1975 for the second installment of The Godfather franchise, he started his acceptance speech with a joke: “I almost won this a couple of years ago for the first half of the same picture. That’s not why we did ‘Godfather Part II,’ however.”

Source: Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Judy Garland not being nominated for ‘The Wizard of Oz’

Judy Garland was just 17 years old when she delivered one of the most well-known and beloved characters — Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz” in 1939. Though Garland did win an honorary Oscar for her “outstanding performance as a screen juvenile during the past year,” many feel that Garland deserved at least a true nomination for Best Actress. The category was won by Vivien Leigh for “Gone With the Wind” that year.

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures / The Weinstein Company

Jamie Foxx not being nominated for ‘Django Unchained’

“Django Unchained” was nominated for Best Picture at the 2013 Oscars, but the actor playing Django was not. The critically acclaimed movie was a box office hit — Quentin Tarantino’s highest grossing movie at the time. Foxx’s performance of a freed slave on a mission to save his wife also received much acclaim from critics, yet he didn’t receive the nod.

Source: Courtesy of The Weinstein Company

‘Fruitvale Station’ not being nominated for any award

“Fruitvale Station” is based on the actual police shooting of Oscar Grant III, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident, on New Year’s Eve. It was widely expected that the movie would win most of the major Oscar categories. That was in 2013, which was supposed to be the year of the Black movie. But the film did not even get a nomination nod.

The movie’s director, Ryan Coogler, is now known for blockbuster and critically acclaimed hits like “Black Panther” and “Creed.” In 2021, Coogler received his first nomination as a producer for “Judas and the Black Messiah,” which is up for Best Picture.

Source: Courtesy of DreamWorks Pictures

‘Saving Private Ryan’ losing to ‘Shakespeare in Love’

With only positive reviews from critics and fans, Steven Spielberg’s World War II epic “Saving Private Ryan” was all but guaranteed the Oscar for Best Picture in 1999. The film was nominated for 11 awards and won five, including Best Director. Many people blame the now-disgraced Harvey Weinstein’s bullying Oscar push for “Shakespeare in Love” winning Best Picture that year.

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Ben Affleck not being nominated for ‘Argo’

Everybody was talking about Ben Affleck’s movie “Argo,” about the heroic and innovative rescue of six Americans during the Iranian hostage crisis. The film took the 2013 Oscar for Best Picture, which went to Ben Affleck, George Clooney, and Grant Heslov as the producers. Much to everyone’s shock, however, Affleck was not even nominated for directing. He did win a Golden Globe and a BAFTA award for directing the thriller.

Source: Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images

Leonardo DiCaprio having just one Oscar

Most people who consider themselves movie fans are shocked that Leonard DiCaprio only has one Oscar, and that the win came relatively recently, in 2016. DiCaprio is considered one of the best actors of his generation and has been the lead in many critically acclaimed movies since his breakout role in 1993’s “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” (for which he was nominated in the supporting actor category). DiCaprio has been nominated a total of six times as an actor and once as a producer on the Best Picture nominated “Wolf of Wall Street.”

Source: Courtesy of RKO Radio Pictures

‘Citizen Kane’ only winning one Oscar

Orson Welles’ 1941 masterpiece, “Citizen Kane,” is undoubtedly one of the greatest movies ever made — not that you could tell from the awards it won. The film won only one Oscar for best screenplay. The movie was thought to be unbeatable in the Best Picture category but lost the statuette to “How Green Was My Valley,” which has largely been forgotten. There was a lot of controversy surrounding “Citizen Kane.” Film critic Pauline Kael of The New Yorker wrote once that there were “hisses and loud boos” every time the title of the movie was read out loud at the ceremony.

Source: Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Martin Scorsese having only one Oscar

Just like it’s surprising that Leonardo DiCaprio has only one Oscar for acting, it’s surprising that Martin Scorsese has only one for directing “The Departed” (2006) in which DiCaprio starred. Scorsese, one of the most legendary directors in history — having directed classics such as “Goodfellas,” “Casino,” “Gangs of New York,” “Taxi Driver,” and “Raging Bulls” among others — and whose career has lasted for more than 50 years, has been nominated 14 times, nine times for directing.

One of his most acclaimed movies — “Taxi Driver” (1976) — scored four nominations, but not for best directing.

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