8. Days of Heaven (1978)
Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven is his most aesthetic and spellbinding film so far. Very few directors master the art of juggling characters and maneuvering them to their fullest extent. Malick stands on top of that list. Extracting the best from the cast, he rendered a rich and highly evocative film that moved the audience and critics alike. Nonetheless, it found no nomination for the Best Picture and had to do with just one award for Best Cinematography.
1978 was the year Hollywood started to deeply explore the psychological aftereffects of the Vietnam War on the American soldiers. Couple of years back, Scorsese’s Taxi Driver revolved around a PTSD-afflicted Vietnam war veteran. Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter was a distressing as well as poignant look at the American soldiers’ harrowing experience. Naturally, the top prize went to that film.
9. Raging Bull (1980)
Robert de Niro won his first Oscar in the Best Actor category for his stunning performance as the fiery boxer Jake LaMotta. In terms of production, writing, and direction, Raging Bull was clearly ahead of its time. But Robert Redford’s Ordinary People walked away with the Best Picture that year. Of course, Redford’s film was a superbly acted and crafted drama about a suburban family coping with a huge loss. Yet over the years, there have been plenty of films made on the subject, some of which are superior to Ordinary People — In the Bedroom (2001) and Manchester by the Sea (2016), for instance.
Raging Bull, however, was a very unique character study as well as boxing drama. There has been nothing like it so far. It deeply explores the almost animalistic appetite and self-destructive attitude that defines the rise and fall of Jake LaMotta. Yet another disappointing Best Picture snub from The Academy.
10. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
This was the third time the jury chose to ignore a Kubrick film. Hailed as one of the finest war movies ever made, it changed people’s perspective towards men living in war zones. Full Metal Jacket was raw and real. The entire boot-camp segment was immensely hard-hitting and thought-provoking. Juxtaposing war with hell, it crushed over-the-top, commercial films like Top Gun. But it only went as far as one nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.
By the time Full Metal Jacket was made, there were several war films on the same subject. Though Kubrick’s take was very unique, The Academy gave the Best Picture award the previous year to Oliver Stone’s Platoon, a Vietnam war drama. Moreover, it’s interesting that the Best Picture went to Bertolucci’s obscure arthouse drama The Last Emperor.
11. The Shawshank Redemption/Pulp Fiction (1994)
It’s criminal to call yourself a cinephile if you haven’t seen The Shawshank Redemption and Pulp Fiction. Both films are the centerpieces of contemporary cinema. Abundantly loved and admired, they were powerful and sort of game changers. Tarantino’s neo-noir film consisted of a non-linear narrative and an eclectic soundtrack to back its delectable attitude and style. And Frank Darabont’s The Shawshank Redemption message of hope still resonates with and continues to inspire people. It’s the #1 film in IMDb Top250 list.
Forrest Gump’s Best Picture win was a shocker that year. Robert Zemeckis’ film was undoubtedly a decent feel-good entertainer, but far less superior compared to its counterparts. However, Forrest Gump’s victory was inevitable. We know The Academy’s love for feel-good dramas. And Forrest is the most American character, who exemplifies the ideals associated with white American culture and social standards.
12. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
‘Will a foreign language film ever win a Best Picture Oscar?’ was an all-too pervasive question until Parasite’s win at the 2020 Oscars. But back then, Guillermo del Toro’s fantasy masterpiece being snubbed was a crushing disappointment. It didn’t even get a Best Picture nomination. In the Best Foreign Film category, Pan’s Labyrinth lost the award to the cold-war drama The Lives of Others. But Bong Joon-ho’s win and Drive My Car’s nomination in the 2022 Oscars offers much hope.
Set in the Spanish Civil War era, Pan’s Labyrinth was about a girl who discovers an underworld realm. As poetic as a ballad dance, the film embodied socio-political themes with fantastical elements. It was one-of-its-kind films that got better in every viewing. Nominated in six categories, it won three Oscars (for cinematography, art direction, and makeup). Guillermo was also eventually honored with the Best Director Oscar for The Shape of Water (2017).
13. The Social Network (2010)
The Academy’s choices are sometimes frustrating, not just because the jury members have snubbed a great film, but also because an undeserving film secures a victory. I have already mentioned a few titles above. However, one of the most upsetting snubs was David Fincher’s The Social Network losing to The King’s Speech. Written by the brilliant Aaron Sorkin, Fincher’s film portrayed the compelling origin story of Facebook. Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield were absolutely phenomenal in the central roles.
Fincher’s movie asks difficult questions about the tech giants and their business practices that are more relevant than ever. It ushered in a fresh understanding about Silicon Valley culture. The King’s Speech, on the other hand, is a straightforward feel-good tale about the royal class. It didn’t have any social relevance that could make it memorable beyond the awards season.
There we are! What do you think are some of the most glaring Oscar Best Picture snubs? Oscars’ hallowed reputation in the film world has waned over the years. Like every award-giving organization, The Academy also suffers from its own set of biases and short-sightedness. Still the awareness regarding intersectionality and lack of diversity in Oscar campaigns has brought about gradual changes. Of course, there’s the misconception that The Academy Awards cover the broad range of cinema the world has to offer. It’s predominantly about American movies, and naturally there are politics and business intertwined to it. So, Oscars surprises and its egregious snubs don’t surprise us after all.
Additional writing by Arun Kumar