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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

50. Die Hard (1988)

Die Hard

Die Hard is a Christmas movie. We settled that debate a long time ago. No one dares to contest it anymore, thank goodness. Now, we gotta get everyone on board with the fact that Die Hard is a Best Picture. The film is brilliant with its action, punctuating every gunshot, every explosion, every neck crack with Bruce Willis’ self-deprecating humanity. The same aspects that make Die Hard a cherished Christmas film are the ones that make it a Best Picture, too. There’s a familial agony beneath every snap, crackle, and pop. Die Hard is no mindless slaughter-fest; it’s the saga of a husband learning to love again and yanking his emotions from his caveman’s heart and onto his caveman’s tongue. (Brad Gullickson)

49. Boyz N the Hood (1991)

Boyz N The Hood
Columbia Pictures

We recently published an essay on how surprising it was for The Silence of the Lambs to win Best Picture, and so many responses we’ve gotten point to 1991 being a rather light year competitively speaking. Really? And Boyz N the Hood still didn’t make the cut? Nothing against the five movies that were nominated, including Beauty and the Beast being another seemed outlier in being the first animated feature in the category, but even looking at the Best Director category gives you two easy alternatives, one of which is placed at ninetieth on this list and the other of which is a very bad look for the Academy with this very entry. Sure, John Singleton was a new kid with his first feature — a sensationally timeless coming-of-age drama that’s also a terrific cultural representation and reflection of the time — and maybe the membership was like wait let’s see how he does as he goes, but they nominated his direction and they nominated his original screenplay, so seriously, why ignore the movie as a whole as one of the very best of the year? It is, after all, one of the very best of that year. (Christopher Campbell)

48. The Swimmer (1968)

The Swimmer Burt Lancaster Party

After flopping at the box office in an already stacked year for cinema, The Swimmer failed to capture the attention of Oscar voters in 1968, an oversight that only grows more egregious with passing time. Based on an allegorical John Cheever short story, Frank and Eleanor Perry’s film is a masterclass in adaptation, one that doesn’t simply animate the words on the page, but uses every tool in cinema’s arsenal to imaginatively translate the hypnotic intensity of its source material into a multi-dimensional fever dream. Burt Lancaster stars as a suburban alpha male whose sense of reality gradually crumbles as he embarks on a day-long odyssey to swim home via every backyard pool in the neighborhood. Lancaster is at his absolute best here, gradually subverting to haunting ends the cocky masculinity that first earned him his star status and which helped define an entire era of cinema. Inspired casting and off-kilter visuals dig the scalpel ever deeper into the American Dream, culminating in a deeply unsettling final scene that cements The Swimmer’s status as a great Dream critique, on par with the likes of The Graduate. (Farah Cheded)

47. Carol (2015)

Carol Therese Warm

Todd Haynes’ Carol plays right into the period lesbian piece cinema canon, complete with sad women, vintage costumes, gazes full of longing, and an ending that’ll crush any gay heart. It plays into everything straight people love about queer cinema, and it was thoroughly recognized by the Academy for its beauty, earning six nominations for performances, writing, score, and more. So while it was so thoroughly recognized, it almost feels wrong that it didn’t receive a Best Picture nomination that year. Yes, it is about suffering lesbians, but it’s also about discovering sexuality, the effects of repressing that sexuality, and the violence that comes with trying to live your own truth. Carol is a thing of beauty that while contributing to the ever-growing list of sad queer movies, is still delicate and handled with care as to tell an authentic tale of love than a tale full of spectacle. (Mary Beth McAndrews)

46. The Last of the Mohicans (1992)

Daniel Day Lewis Last Of The Mohicans

French and Indian War set romantic adventure drama The Last of the Mohicans is the sort of epic that’s truly the full package — it’s got action, romance, and a proper grand finale of an ending. It’s a feast for the senses sort of film that combines great performances, spectacular scenery, and a sweeping score composed by Trevor Jones and Randy Edelman. Michael Mann’s obsessive attention to detail and Daniel Day-Lewis’ similar tendencies dovetail together exceptionally well and bring a groundedness to the high drama of the story. Not only is The Last of the Mohicans a phenomenal film, but it also ticks about twenty different boxes that usually leave the Academy’s hearts beating faster. And actually, it does have the only Oscar win for a film directed by Mann (Best Sound Editing), but as far as the Best Picture category was concerned, they didn’t bite. (Ciara Wardlow)

45. My Man Godfrey (1936)

My Man Godfrey

Yet another fantastic comedy snubbed by the Academy is My Man Godfrey. Director Gregory La Cava created one of the most dazzling screwball comedies ever, giving us the performance we remember comedienne Carole Lombard for today. Audiences were able to laugh at the rich and the frivolousness of high society. This film did not go unnoticed by the Academy in 1937, though. It was nominated for Best Writing (Screenplay), Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Actress in a Leading Role, Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Best Actor in a Supporting Role, and Best Director. All of the components that go into creating an “Outstanding Production” were recognized in My Man Godfrey, but it still wasn’t nominated for Outstanding Production. This film is the only movie to be nominated for all acting categories, writing, and directing without being nominated for Best Picture. My Man Godfrey lost in all categories it was nominated in as well. The 1937 Oscars were crazy to shut out this movie, which like Godfrey, is far from “Forgotten” today. The Outstanding Production award for 1937 was given to The Great Ziegfeld. (Emily Kubincanek)

44. A Hidden Life (2019)

A Hidden Life Mountain

This list isn’t about swapping out a nominated film with a not-nominated film, so without getting too into the specifics of the 92nd Oscar nominations (you can Google what was nominated instead), let’s just say that any voter who opted for a different film about World War II and Nazism over A Hidden Life should spend the rest of their life hanging their head in shame. Then again, if A Hidden Life offered toothless feel-goodery in the face of fascism, it wouldn’t be the masterwork it is. Terrence Malick’s astounding epic chronicles the life of Franz Jägerstätter (August Diehl), an Austrian conscientious objector who refused to fight for the Nazis. The film is an emotional juggernaut with Malick’s signature fondness for deftly capturing the beauty of the natural world while painting it in stark contrast to the cruelty of those inhabiting it. A Hidden Life is the work of a virtuoso at the top of his game and it’s a film worthy of the incredible true story behind it. (Anna Swanson)

43. Vertigo (1958)

Vertigo Memory

Alfred Hitchcock sinks his teeth into noir once more and coughs upon it a few more layers of perversion on an already perverted genre. Vertigo is an ugly movie that beats with a black heart and a blacker brain. It’s a feast for your eyes, but as it lulls on, the imagery unbalances the viewer. The sickly greens drape over your vision, and the reds push down on your gut. If you tumble too far into Vertigo’s headspace, you may have an urge to grab a bucket. Hitch’s masterpiece only becomes more troubling with every year, but that loathsome attraction is impossible to resist. There’s magic in this monster. To love it is to acknowledge the very worst we’re capable of committing. (Brad Gullickson)

42. Cool Hand Luke (1967)

Cool Hand Luke
Warner Bros.

“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” A truly iconic callback line for a truly iconic movie. The 1960s was a peak time for anti-establishment films, and even in a crowded playing field, Stuart Rosenberg’s prison drama is a real stand-out thanks to a stellar script and stunning performances from both Paul Newman as the titular inmate — never not good, of course, but here particularly great — and Strother Martin as the unrelenting prison warden known only as “The Captain,” who is now and forevermore the first image that comes to mind when I think of mirrored aviators. Some argue that Newman was miscast in the role, but ironically the way in which Newman feels a smidge like the odd man out only works in service of the enigma that is Luke. While this masterpiece was overlooked, the Academy did manage to spare a nomination that year for the box office bombing, poorly received Rex Harrison version of Doctor Dolittle, thanks to intense studio lobbying so, you know, there’s that. (Ciara Wardlow)

41. M (1931)


Before there was The Silence of the Lambs, there was M. Hans Beckert walked so that Hannibal Lecter could run. While the Academy managed to look past its distaste of the horror/thriller space to give the top prize to the latter, the former had no such luck. Admittedly, part of it might have to do with how the film was butchered and dubbed for its initial US release because talkies were still rather new and the industry hadn’t figured out the whole subtitles thing just yet, but I digress. Fritz Lang’s first sound film and also his magnum opus, M basically paved the way for all serial killer films that followed. While what qualified as provocative and daring in the 1930s doesn’t all too often age all that effectively, Lang’s uncanny ability to make you sympathize with the devil (with plenty of help from Peter Lorre’s brilliant performance) is still cinematic mindfuckery at its finest ninety years after its initial release. (Ciara Wardlow)

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