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The 100 Best Movies That Were Not Nominated for Best Picture

Since the very beginning, The Oscars have had plenty of misses in the Best Picture category. These 100 are the ones we find most egregious.
Not Nominated Best Picture
By  · Published on April 20th, 2021

10. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Close Encounters

Steven Spielberg’s domestic sci-fi adventure changes with you as you age. When I was younger, I was right there with Richard Dreyfuss’ electrician character, Roy Neary. Knowledge of life beyond the stars consumed his every thought, and the call to join the visitors was nearly unbearable. Leaving his family felt like the obvious choice. But now, as middle age grips me, I watch Close Encounters of the Third Kind with a totally different set of eyes. Roy is not merely affected by this terrible knowledge; he’s infected. It ruins the man he was, and the man he becomes has no place on this planet. We can no longer understand him, and we don’t want him, and he doesn’t want us. I watch Close Encounters of the Third Kind today, and I’m a weepy mess. I look at those family members around me who were struck by mental illness, and I see Roy. What will I see in another decade and another decade after that? There is great joy in revisiting the best cinema. Best Pictures should be fluid, ever-changing as you change. They mean different things, but they always mean something. (Brad Gullickson)

9. Mikey and Nicky (1976)

Discs Mikey And Nicky

The contentious production of Mikey and Nicky is now the stuff of legend, but it’s also one of the reasons this film took decades to reach the status it has now. After becoming frustrated with director Elaine May’s process of filmmaking, Paramount essentially hacked and buried the film. It wasn’t until years later that a version May approved of saw the light of day. But had this come out at the time, and had it been supported by the studio the way it should have been, it’s possible that May’s directing career would have been radically different (and far more acclaimed) than it was. Of all the movies on this list, Mikey and Nicky is perhaps the strongest example of a film that was never given the fighting chance it was worthy of. (Anna Swanson)

8. Rear Window (1954)

Rear Window James Stewart
Paramount Pictures

For better or worse, Rear Window may have birthed thousands of nosey neighbors. Thanks to Alfred Hitchcock’s ravishingly voyeuristic thriller, too many of us snatched up our binoculars and took to our windows, forever scanning our neighbors’ domiciles, hoping to catch a killer in the act…or post-act. The film is at once utterly simplistic and radically overwrought. Jimmy Stewart, confined to his wheelchair and wretched imagination, peeps something peculiar across the way, and suddenly, he’s engrossed in an impossible race for justice. Hitchcock is at his most peacock with Rear Window, preening his fabulous craft, proudly prodding the audience, and making us sweat with glee and a little anxiety. To top it all off, Grace Kelly steals every damn scene as the all-too-willing socialite girlfriend throwing herself in harm’s way. When you’re not yanking your hair out, screaming for her to watch her back, you’re chomping your lip, hoping disaster will strike so this teasing suspense can finally end. Rear Window has you from the fade-in and knows it. It’s a monster that way. (Brad Gullickson)

7. Zodiac (2007)

Zodiac Bridge

Are you sitting down? Because you might want to do that before I mention this piece of information: not only was Zodiac not nominated for Best Picture, it wasn’t nominated for a single Oscar. Now, it’s true that 2007 was a stacked year and there was some exceptionally hefty competition at the Academy Awards. But regardless, Zodiac, David Fincher’s true-crime epic, can easily stand toe to toe with the best films of this century. The film is as expertly crafted as they come, with an outstanding ensemble cast and Fincher’s signature precision and unflinching perspective. In some ways, it’s even more egregious that in a year when the Oscars got a lot right, they still left this gigantic blind spot. (Anna Swanson)

6. Rashomon (1950)

Rashomon is a deceptively simple feature. Akira Kurosawa pulls everything back, narrowing his focus to dismantle our perception of cinematic certainty. What you see on the screen is not the truth, but a version of it. Rashomon is a tale of murder. Who did what and why isn’t really the point. Perception and time muddy everything. Kurosawa takes three settings and a handful of characters and explores their nature from a myriad of angles. Answers are within, but getting to them may cost more than most are willing to spare. The director brought his cast and crew together and forced them to live beside each other while shooting the film. He wanted everyone to live and breathe and consume each other’s presence. To tell the story, they had to live the story. And to watch the story is to live the story. Giving yourself completely over is the only way to reach any kind of authenticity. (Brad Gullickson)

5. If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)

If Beale Street Could Talk

Following the Oscars success of Moonlight, it seemed natural that Barry Jenkins’ follow-up, If Beale Street Could Talk, would at least be in strong contention. After all, the film helped solidify Jenkins’ status as one of the best directors to emerge in the last decade. His lush and languid camerawork is that of a skilled and confident craftsman. And it’s clear that Jenkins knows how to take influence from filmmakers such as Jonathan Demme while creating a film that is wholly original and unique. If Beale Street Could Talk wonderfully demonstrates his ability to bring out extraordinary performances from his cast, particularly Regina King, and his talent for perfectly paced narratives. The film picked up a few nominations but somehow missed out on a Best Picture nod, an egregious oversight that the Academy should deeply regret if they don’t already. (Anna Swanson)

4. The Master (2012)

The Master Face To Face

It’s hard to hold the Academy responsible for overlooking a Paul Thomas Anderson masterpiece. It’s like being mad at a chicken for not being a horse. Oscar voters might be intelligent individuals (I have no idea), but as a collective body that votes on art, their knowledge, appreciation, and awareness of the medium are rudimentary at best, and it shows every year when they dumb down the pool of should-be nominees with shit that simply has messages they agree with. The issue harkens to a tried and true unspoken Oscar rule: The more thought a movie requires from its viewers, the less likely it is to be nominated. And The Master is a film made entirely of thought – thought that lingers, lurks, and explodes around every corner while leaving viewers utterly confounded as to what the hell they just watched and why it gave them such a strong reaction. The cinematography, score, performances, direction, screenwriting, costuming, production design, et al., will hold space in your head rent-free for an indefinite amount of time. But, the Oscars aren’t in the business of awarding films that stand the test of time; they’re in the business of quick hits and movies that sat aside budgets for extravagant Oscar voter gift baskets. (Luke Hicks)

3. Singin’ In The Rain (1952)

Singin In The Rain Gotta Dance

The Academy Awards have many kinks, but maybe no greater one than movies about movies. Singin’ in the Rain is the ultimate celebration of the art form. It’s a brilliantly loud (in sound, color, and performance) movie that roars with an appreciation for every single person who tirelessly toils to bring a picture from nothingness to the big screen. By focusing on that stressful transition from the silents to the talkies, Singin’ in the Rain postulates a horror where Hollywood could have tumbled into obscurity while also championing the magical performers who fought to maintain its glory. Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald O’Connor are titanic heroes who put motion pictures on their backs and cemented the industry through their mighty tap dance. Watching it today, you simply assume that Singin’ in the Rain raked in all the awards, and the fact that it was never even nominated for Best Picture is downright absurd. Singin’ in the Rain is movies, dammit. Can you have others without it? I guess, but who would dare? Not I. (Brad Gullickson)

2. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

A Space Odyssey

The fact that perhaps one of the most beautiful, epic, and mind-blowing films ever made wasn’t nominated for Best Picture in 1969 is a crime. Yes, it did receive nominations for its script, director, and production design, but even then, 2001: A Space Odyssey is still greater than the sum of its fantastic parts. It is a vision of human innovation and nihilism, both exciting and depressing, a complicated vision of humanity and what may lay in store for us in the future. Director Stanley Kubrick did not just want this to be a piece of cinematic spectacle, but a more realistic portrayal of space travel. Every ship was painstakingly constructed and researched, which shines through the impeccable set design of every ship, from the transporter from Earth to the Moon to the large wheel-like construction of Discovery One. Kubrick goes against the grain again and again, especially in his aural choices for the film. There is almost no dialogue, and instead of working with a composer to create a one-of-a-kind score, Kubrick instead utilized existing classical music that was initially just meant to be temporary tracks. Everything about 2001: A Space Odyssey is awe-inspiring, revolutionary, and unable to be replicated; this film is truly one of a kind and has shaped the very concept of sci-fi filmmaking. (Mary Beth McAndrews)

1. Do The Right Thing (1989)

Do The Right Thing

While the Oscars have inched towards becoming perhaps a little more internationally minded, historically they have been, in the words of three-time Oscar-winner Bong Joon-ho, “not an international film festival. They’re very local.” And in the locale of the US of A, few films can claim to be as seminal as Spike Lee’s second feature-length joint, the film that solidified the writer/director/star’s arrival as a major voice in American cinema and marked the feature debuts of both Martin Lawrence and Rosie Perez. From opening credits to the dueling closing epigraphs from Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, Do The Right Thing is the sort of film that hops from one iconic scene to the next with nary a lull. As tensions come to a boil on a hot summer’s day, the film grapples with the complexities of racism and its consequences without making the mistake of trying to flatten the issue into something that can be wrapped up with a bow in two hours. Instead, it asks tough, crucial questions and respects the audience enough to have us come to our own conclusions. It’s such a significant film on so many fronts that it’s one of the relatively few titles to be inducted into the National Film Registry the very first year it became eligible. Do The Right Thing is not just a masterpiece, it’s the sort of film that’s seeped into popular culture so deeply that even if you haven’t seen it for some reason — and to be clear, you should — you’ve definitely seen its impact. (Ciara Wardlow)

Follow along with more of our coverage of the Academy Awards. This article was co-written by Anna Swanson, Brad Gullickson, Ciara Wardlow, Emily Kubincanek, Farah Cheded, Luke Hicks, Mary Beth McAndrews, Meg Shields, and Rob Hunter; with additional writing and editing from Christopher Campbell and Neil Miller.

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