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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

70. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

Snow White Huntsman Disney

Walt Disney’s big bet. Having pushed his cartoon shorts about as far as he could, the mogul was ready to take his shop into the land of features. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs hit 1937 with a lot to prove and met many crossed arms. America’s first cel-animated feature film conquered all that saw it and made its necessary cash. From its success, an empire would rise, but that’s not its crowning glory. Snow White is a massively charming adventure, spinning from folklore and capturing universality in return. Snow White built the mouse house, but it also assured the legitimacy of the animated art form. (Brad Gullickson)

69. Blue Velvet (1986)

Blue Velvet Jeffrey Closet
De Laurentiis Entertainment Group

Look, David Lynch isn’t for everyone, but if there was one of his films to be nominated for an Academy Award, it would be Blue Velvet. Lynch’s neo-noir about the seedy underbelly of suburban America is his most palatable film as it follows a linear plot structure and contains minimal surrealist imagery. But, it still undoubtedly carries Lynch’s mark as he makes uncanny the well-known imagery of suburbia both through his script and stellar performances by Kyle MacLachlan, Laura Dern, and Dennis Hopper. An ear in a field; a despondent lounge singer; a despicable villain; a young man who deems himself the knight in shining armor. But what makes Blue Velvet so shocking is Dennis Hopper repeatedly smashing an oxygen mask on his face and screaming sexual obscenities, which was perhaps too much for Oscar voters. How is that worse than American Beauty, the 2000 Best Picture winner that deals with similar themes of darkness and sex behind closed doors in suburban neighborhoods? It is a fascinating comparison to see which depictions of sex and sexuality are deemed palatable by the Academy. (Mary Beth McAndrews)

68. Chungking Express (1994)

Chungking Express

Wong Kar Wai’s fourth feature has become one of his most beloved. The diptych narrative of Chungking Express is split between lovelorn Hong Kong cops: one a silly, light-hearted man hung up on his infatuation with a deadly criminal woman, and the other a cool, collected veteran trying to woo an attendant at a fast-food stand in the bustle of the Chungking Mansions. Wong’s music choices, character development, and trademark themes shone as brightly as they could for the Academy, but it wasn’t enough to catch the attention of Oscar voters, who are not known for their awareness of international cinema; rather, the horse blinders they don when confronted with it. Not until Parasite’s 2020 win has the concept of a non-English language Best Picture winner held any weight in a given year. Moreover, Chungking Express‘ blend of romantic comedy and shoot ‘em up violence is the kind of innovative genre work that offends Oscar voters for some reason. Change is scary, I guess. (Luke Hicks)

67. Beau Travail (1999)

Beau Travail

Claire Denis is not, has never been, and probably never will be the type of filmmaker to take home Hollywood’s highest honor. But, if there ever was a time for her to be in contention, it would have been with Beau Travail. After a decade of making waves in the art house scene, Denis’ recognition hit new highs with this 1999 film that follows the memories of a disgraced French Foreign Legion soldier. In addition to featuring an all-time great performance from Denis Lavant and some of the most sumptuous, sun-drenched images ever committed to film, Beau Travail topped critics’ lists and picked up a couple of nods in the film festival realm. As anyone who’s seen the film surely knows, the lack of recognition at award shows says nothing about the film’s quality and instead speaks volumes of the woefully limited purview of Academy considerations. (Anna Swanson)

66. Blood Simple (1984)

Blood Simple Neo Noir
Circle Films

There are jokes to be found in the blood and the meat of humanity. From the jump, the Coen brothers delighted in the balance between the awful and the ridiculous with Blood Simple. Our desperate desire for conquest, both financially and romantically, is friggin hilarious and should be mocked at all times. The Coens reached for noir as their backbone to scorn our pathetic little grasps for more, and it serves them fantastically. Then-cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld does noir in color better than anyone, and Blood Simple works smashingly as both love letter and send-up. Why do one thing when you can do two things? (Brad Gullickson)

65. Easy Rider (1969)

patriotic movies Easy Rider
Sony Pictures

Easy Rider kicked American cinema in the ass. Dennis Hopper’s low-budget counter-culture outburst exposed Hollywood’s total lack of understanding when it came to the storytelling engine and contemporary relevance. Formulas need to get poisoned every once in a while, and Hopper was definitely the guy to spike the punch. Easy Rider vibrates with the penetrating thrum of the Harleys beneath their actors’ butts. It shot upon its audience like a shotgun blast, and we’ve never been the same since. The film is a beautiful meandering trip, taking you on the road with its heroes, forcing you to question everything you were raised on here in the States. (Brad Gullickson)

64. A Star is Born (1954)

A Star Is Born

In 1954, George Cukor revisited a story he had already explored in his 1932 movie What Price Hollywood?, but this time as a musical. This version of A Star is Born was one hell of a production. Cukor dealt with constant script changes from producers and an unreliable leading lady, Judy Garland. Much like with other films, she had a hard time here remaining professional and on time because of her difficult health and drug issues. After a grueling production, the film was botched in the editing process, removing several musical numbers and twenty-seven minutes of the film after Cukor had approved a longer version. Nevertheless, the resulting film is a marvel of a musical, and Garland gave a fantastic performance despite her problems during shooting. She received a nomination for her performance, but in one of the biggest upsets in Oscar history, she lost to Grace Kelly, who won for one of her most forgettable roles. Similarly, the movie was denied a Best Motion Picture nomination. The treatment A Star Was Born was given at the 1955 Oscars just proved that the film’s depiction of Hollywood as an unforgiving business was right. (Emily Kubincanek)

63. Lady Vengeance (2005)

Lady Vengeance Black And White Turtleneck

Park Chan-wook’s vengeance “trilogy” began with Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002), and while it was chased by the immensely popular Old Boy (2003), it’s the third film that delivers perfection. Lady Vengeance follows a woman’s quest for revenge after being released from prison for a horrible crime she didn’t commit, and her journey is one filled with grim violence, suspenseful thrills, a dark sense of humor, and real warmth. The humor is probably the biggest surprise as the film is quite vicious at times, up through a particularly nasty (but cathartic) ending, while still managing to hold on to its humanity. Strong performances and a beautiful score add to the experience, and all of it comes together with endlessly inventive and attractive cinematography. This is smart, gorgeous, powerfully affecting cinema that’s also immensely entertaining. (Rob Hunter)

62. Jackie (2016)

Jackie Portman Graves

Pablo Larraín’s first and only English-language film to date (his next, Spencer, will be out later this year) is a testament to the prolific Chilean master’s knack for the language of cinema. It takes some real gall as an outsider to shoulder all the mourning and misery of one of America’s most iconic historical moments in the occurrence and aftermath of John F. Kennedy’s death. But Larraín pulls it off with grace, devastation, and an underlying sense of mystery, which captures the nebulous, universal trauma that accompanies death and the endlessly questionable and nefarious nature of Kennedy’s assassination, in particular. But the lack of a Best Picture nomination for Jackie wasn’t a huge surprise. More of a huge disappointment for those holding out hope for an evolving Academy. Larraín didn’t hold much favor in Hollywood, and Natalie Portman’s heavy-hearted performance wasn’t enough to sweep the film into Best Picture consideration where it belonged. (Luke Hicks)

61. Dead Ringers (1988)

Dead Ringers

Of all of David Cronenberg’s more pointedly horrific films, Dead Ringers seems the most likely to actually score a Best Picture nomination. Make no mistake, Dead Ringers is a squirmy movie, no less interested in matters of the mind and flesh than any of Cronenberg’s more openly grotesque fare. But I can actually imagine a universe where Dead Ringers eeks through, where its creeping dysmorphic heartache lures Academy votes in rather than repelling them on principle. When Jeremy Irons (who plays the film’s twin leads) won the Academy Award for Best Actor for Reversal of Fortune two years later, he thanked David Cronenberg. There was an applause break for a reason. (Meg Shields).

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