40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades

Trista - May 13, 2019

While Academy Awards are often regarded, at least in the United States, as a benchmark for signifying a quality film, the rewards are often, in fact, quite contentious. Many groundbreaking and iconic films throughout history have not received Oscars. Some movies have been given numerous awards only to age very poorly, either due to the subject matter or evolving filmmaking and acting standards. On the other hand, some of the most timeless films that are still regarded as pinnacles of their genres went unawarded. The Academy has snubbed movies, directors, and actors. Check out this epic list of 40 losers who should’ve won.

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
A still image from an Academy Awards live broadcast. NPR.


40. The Shining

The Shiningis perhaps one of the most iconic horror films ever made. Phrases from the movie like “redrum” and “here’s Johnny” have entered the cultural lexicon. The film is one of Stanley Kubrick’s most significant cultural and financial successes. Despite this, the film wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar. Interestingly, the film was actually nominated for two Razzie Awards, which are the inverse of the Oscars and targeted at poorly received films. Nevertheless, The Shining is considered an iconic movie now even though it struggled early in its box office days and received mixed reviews.


40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
A Blader Runner poster from 1982. Wikimedia.

39. Blade Runner

The Academy has a long and well-documented distaste for “genre” films like horror, science fiction, and fantasy. Blade Runner most definitely fell victim to this prejudice. The film was up against typical biography fare in Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi, which also beat out E.T. for the Best Film prize. Unlike the commonplace biography, Blade Runner was the film adaptation of Phillip K. Dick’s haunting science fiction novella Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. The film, which features stellar performances from Harrison Ford and Sean Young and excellent direction from legendary filmmaker Ridley Scott was truly ahead of its time.

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
A still of Gary Oldman as Sid Vicious in Sid and Nancy. YouTube.

38. Gary Oldman as Sid Vicious

Gary Oldman has played numerous memorable characters throughout his long and storied career, ranging from Harry Potter’s Sirius Black to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Perhaps his most outlandish performance was as troubled punk star Sid Vicious in Sid and Nancy. He brought the troubled vitality of Vicious, with a past full of violence and drug abuse, to life on the screen. Despite this, the Academy Award for Best Actor went to Paul Newman for his role in The Color of Money.

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
A poster for Rosemary’s Baby. Poster Museum.

37. Rosemary’s Baby

The controversy around Roman Polanski cannot be dismissed, but neither can the immense achievement of his film Rosemary’s Baby. A feminist horror masterpiece, it follows the troubled pregnancy and loss of agency experienced by a young New York mother played by Mia Farrow. Long before the film reaches its terrifying conclusion, viewers are made physically uncomfortable by the naked depiction of everyday misogyny in the 1960s. Despite the beautiful direction and incredible performances, the film wasn’t even nominated by the Academy.

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
A still of Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet. Roxie.

36. Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet

David Lynch, the director of Blue Velvet, has a long history of being snubbed by the Academy. However, at least some of his actors have been acknowledged for their roles in his bizarre, beautifully crafted films. Sadly, Dennis Hopper did not make the cut. While the movie received a mixed reception in its day due to numerous explicit and violent scenes, Dennis Hopper was widely praised for his intense performance as a sadistic gangster. The Best Supporting Actor award went instead to Michael Caine for Hannah and Her Sisters.

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
Myrna Loy and William Powell. LA Times.

35. Myrna Loy

Myrna Loy, along with William Powell, formed an incredibly dynamic duo that featured in fourteen films together, many of which featured the famous characters of Nick and Nora Charles from the novel The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammitt. William Powell was nominated for three Academy Awards for Best Actor in his role in three of the Thin Man films. Despite being an equal part of the duo, Myrna was never nominated for her work. She didn’t receive an Academy Award until two years after her death, and that was only as a lifetime achievement award.

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
Charlie Chaplin in character. IMDB.

34. Charlie Chaplin

Despite being one of the most recognizable faces, when in character, of the 20th century, Charlie Chaplin was almost entirely snubbed by the Academy. He received one honorary award early in his career and another much later in life. The only non-honorary reward he received was for musical composition in a film that was released, and acknowledged, 20 years later in the United States than in Europe. It’s an extraordinary legacy, given Chaplin’s impact on the influence of filmmaking as a whole.

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
A headshot photo of director Ridley Scott. IMDB.

33. Ridley Scott

Ridley Scott has been making sprawling epic films since the 1970s. He is famous for historical sagas like The Kingdom of Heaven and Gladiator but has succeeded in other genres including science fiction with Alien and The Martian. While Scott has been nominated four times, the director has yet to win with his most recent loss coming with 2016’s The Martian. He even lost in a year when his own film, Gladiator, took Best Picture. Scott is still busy directing, so he still has a chance!

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
A photograph of David Lynch. Vulture.

32. David Lynch

David Lynch is best known for his incredibly bizarre, surreal films in addition to his relatively normal adaptation of the science fiction hit Dune. Films like Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, and Mulholland Drive epitomize his style with heavy doses of symbolism, outstanding performances from actors, and surreal imagery. Much like Ridley Scott, he has been nominated four times but has yet to win. Perhaps most egregious is his snub for Mulholland Drive, a stunning and complicated film that meditates on the dangers of Hollywood itself.

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
A picture of David Fincher from 2014. Joanne Davidson / Silverhub / REX / Shutterstock / Indie Wire.

31. David Fincher

There seems to be a running theme of the Academy snubbing prolific, talented directors. Alongside David Lynch and Ridley Scott stands David Fincher, director of such acclaimed films as The Social Network, Gone Girl, Zodiac, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The two films he has been nominated for, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Social Network, were both hugely successful films with many reviewers citing The Social Network as one of the best films of its year. As a relatively young director, Fincher hopefully has many awards ahead of him.

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
A picture of actor Ed Harris from 2018. Jordan Strauss / Invision / AP / REX / Shutterstock.

30. Ed Harris

There are few character actors as instantly recognizable as Ed Harris. His long, illustrious career includes directing himself in the biographical film Pollock, about the abstract American painter Jackson Pollock, as well as featured roles in acclaimed films like Apollo 13 and The Truman Show. Harris has been nominated four times for acting nods but has yet to win. Harris will perhaps have better luck with the Emmys, now that he plays as the Man in Black on the critically acclaimed show Westworld.

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
A movie poster for Vertigo. Mubi.

29. Vertigo

Alfred Hitchcock’s psychological thriller Vertigo consistently makes top 10 lists of all-time great films. A British Film Institute poll actually had it at number one, a spot typically reserved for Citizen Kane. Despite the incredible directing of Hitchcock and the intense performances of Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak, the film received only Art Direction and Sound awards, both of which are categories typically used to nominate genre films that don’t win the major prizes.

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
A movie poster for Mulholland Drive. IMDB.

28. Akira Kurosawa

Akira Kurosawa is one of Japan’s most prolific and visionary directors. His influential films include Rashaman, Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood, Yojimbo, and Ran. Much like Hitchcock and Jimmy Stewart, Kurosawa collaborated with his favorite stars repeatedly and featured legendary actor Toshiro Mifune in 16 of his films. Despite his wide-ranging influence on the industry and other directors, Kurosawa only ever received one Oscar for the 1976 film Dersu Uzala. Aside from that win, his movies were mostly only nominated in the poorly curated foreign film category.

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
The Brokeback Mountain movie poster. Wikimedia.

27. Brokeback Mountain

In a time before gay marriage rulings and only seven years after the brutal murder of gay man Matthew Shepard, Brokeback Mountain was highly controversial for its depiction of a love affair between two stereotypically masculine ranch hands. The beautifully shot and directed film lost to the controversial race-relations film Crash. Many critics at the time blamed homophobia for keeping Brokeback Mountain out of the winner’s slot, as Crash was widely regarded as a much weaker film.

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
Actress Natalie Portman in Black Swan. W Magazine.

26. The Social Network, Black Swan, and Inception

What a year! What titan of a film could beat out the incredibly well-received movies The Social Network, Black Swan, and Inception? Why only an Oscar bait film featuring beloved British actors tackling a beloved English king’s speech impediment. While it has already largely been forgotten, The King’s Speech managed to knock all three films out of the running. The Social Network, in particular, has held up much better over the years than the saccharine King’s Speech.

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
A still image of Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction played by Samuel L. Jackson. Twitter.

25. Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction

Do they speak English in what? There are few evil characters more iconic than Jules Winnfield who featured in Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 hit Pulp Fiction. His “say what again” scene with a low-level drug dealer and his Biblical soliloquy before murder made Samuel L. Jackson’s portrayal a standout part of the film. His partner, Vincent Vega, played by John Travolta, played the relatively quiet straight man to Winnfield’s over the top, dramatic enforcer persona. The character’s use of humor in totally inappropriate situations is always worth a rewatch of the film.

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
A film still of Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List. Time.

24. Ralph Fiennes

Ralph Fiennes has played in numerous films that were genetically engineered to be Oscar winners. His commanding performance as Count László de Almásy in The English Patient wasn’t enough to win him a statue. Likewise, many critics believe he was outright robbed in 1994 when Tommy Lee Jones took home the Best Supporting Actor title for his work on The Fugitive. That same year, Fiennes was nominated for his absolutely chilling portrayal of the Nazi war criminal Amon Göth in Schindler’s List. Fiennes still has yet to take home an Oscar.

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
A photo of actor Joaquin Phoenix. IMDB.

23. Joaquin Phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix has had some incredible roles in his career. From the sinister emperor in Gladiator to Johnny Cash, to a lonely man in love with an AI in Her. He has been nominated for acting Oscars many times but has always lost out. In 2016 he had an impossible match-up going against the acclaimed, multi-award winning Daniel Day-Lewis. However, many believe he should have taken home the statue in 2006 for his incredible portrayal of country legend Johnny Cash. Phillip Seymour-Hoffman ended up taking the award for his portrayal of Truman Capote.

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
The movie poster for Double Indemnity. Pinterest.

22. Double Indemnity

Double Indemnity is arguably the best film noir picture ever made. It is beautifully filmed and has an incredibly clever script that portrays a woman enlisting her insurance agent’s help in murdering her husband for insurance money. Alfred Hitchcock praised the film, stating that the writer/director Billy Wilder’s name had become the two most important words in filmmaking. The film was nominated for seven awards but lost all of them. The primary winner of the year was Going My Way, a forgettable musical comedy featuring Bing Crosby.

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
Actress Sigourney Weaver as Ripley in Alien. Den of Geek.

21. Sigourney Weaver in Alien

Continuing the legacy of disdain towards genre films, Ridley Scott’s extraterrestrial Alien was largely snubbed by the Academy. Despite Scott’s precise direction, the Academy only acknowledged the film for Visual Effects, a common practice with genre films. Many contemporary and modern critics have argued that Sigourney Weaver’s incredible portrayal of the almost masculinely strong Ripley was worthy of an Oscar win. Weaver herself has said in the past that the Academy treats science fiction films with no respect, which seems likely given the snubbing of Alien, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Blade Runner.

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
A picture of Christopher Nolan. Variety.

20. Christopher Nolan

Few modern directors are as well known as Christopher Nolan. A legend in his own right, his films have been some of the highest grossing and most popular films of the last decade. Many credit him with the revival of successful superhero films with The Dark Knight. He also elevated speculative fiction to a new level with the smash hit Inception. He turned to more traditional filmmaking with the war epic Dunkirk in 2017. Despite all of these successes, Nolan has yet to win a Best Director Oscar.

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
The Big Lebowski movie poster. Wikimedia.

19. The Big Lebowski

The legendary Coen Brothers and their films have won many awards. No Country for Old Men gave them their first Best Director award, while the earlier black comedy Fargo saw them win for best original screenplay. However, The Big Lebowski continues to be their biggest cult hit. The 1990s surreal crime comedy film continues to be a constant source of memes and jokes for internet culture. Despite featuring legendary actors like Jeff Bridges and Sam Elliot, the film received zero Academy Award nominations.

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
The poster for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Wikimedia.

18. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is perhaps one of the most iconic films of the 1980s. The visual of the bicycle in front of the moon is instantly recognizable and has been woven into modern pop culture through homages in shows like Stranger Things and Bob’s Burgers. Considered both a genre film and a children’s film, it was an uphill battle for the Best Picture award, which ultimately went to Richard Attenborough’s biopic Gandhi. Sir Richard himself later said that he felt E.T. should have won the award.

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
A film poster for Saving Private Ryan. Wikimedia.

17. Saving Private Ryan

Few war epics portray the bloody, raw reality of modern warfare more realistically than Saving Private Ryan. While Steven Spielberg won the Best Director award for the film, the Best Picture award went to the rather lightweight costumed period drama Shakespeare in Love. Many felt the Best Picture award undeserved, especially given the film’s lineup against Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line, and Life is Beautiful. Saving Private Ryan, in particular, has aged much better and has stayed relevant.

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
The movie poster for Citizen Kane. Wikimedia.

16. Citizen Kane

It is almost impossible to discuss the history of a film without touching on Orson Welles’ masterpiece Citizen Kane. The drama, which portrays the life of a thinly veiled William Randolph Hearst figure named Charles Foster Kane, was filmed using many new and revolutionary techniques that would later become standard in filmmaking. The film’s length, superb quality, and experimental style have long caused it to be ranked as the greatest film ever made. Despite this, Citizen Kane lost the Best Picture award to John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley.

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
A photograph of Alfred Hitchcock. Biography.

15. Alfred Hitchcock

Few directors can brag of a career more illustrious than Alfred Hitchcock. The master of suspense, his psychological thriller films including The Birds, Vertigo, Rear Window, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and North by Northwest have shaped not only filmmaking but popular culture. Hitchcock left an inedible mark on filmmaking, yet received zero Academy Awards and only five nominations during his lifetime. He wasn’t nominated at all for some of his best films, including Vertigo which is widely regarded as one of the best movies ever made.

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
A photograph of Stanley Kubrick. Hollywood Reporter.

14. Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick was a visionary director at home in any genre. He rocked the world of science fiction with 2001: A Space Odyssey flipped dystopian fiction upside down with A Clockwork Orange and even dabbled in comedy with Dr. Strangelove. Somehow, Stanley lost Best Director for Dr. Strangelove to My Fair Lady. He was never even nominated for many of his greatest films, including Lolita and Full Metal Jacket. To add further insult to injury, the deceased filmmaker still hasn’t been granted a lifetime achievement award.

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
A movie poster for GoodFellas. Wikimedia.

13. GoodFellas

If The Godfather is the father of gangster films, GoodFellas is its powerful, fast-talking uncle. Martin Scorcese’s 1990 crime drama follows the life of a part-Irish man in an Italian crime family, portrayed expertly by Ray Liotta. Famed for its “do I amuse you” scene with the volatile Joe Pesci, the entire film is superbly acted and directed. The Best Picture Award for 1990 sadly went to Dances With Wolves, which has aged poorly and feels extremely turgid today.

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
A headshot photo of actor Cary Grant. Wikimedia.

12. Cary Grant

Cary Grant was an incredibly versatile actor. He took on substantial roles in Hitchcock thrillers like North by Northwest and Notorious but was just at home in lighthearted comedic roles. Despite this somewhat rare versatility, Grant was only ever nominated for two Academy Awards and won none. The Academy has a long-standing tendency to dismiss comedic performances, which led to snubs for many of his greatest achievements. He received an honorary lifetime Oscar for his body of work in 1970.

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
A still of Bette Davis in All About Eve. Pinterest.

11. Bette Davis and Gloria Swanson

1951 was a highly controversial year for the Best Actress prize. The award went to Judy Holliday for her performance as an uncouth young woman in Born Yesterday. The film and her role in it have not aged well. Two parts that went overlooked, however, are still widely considered two of the best female performances in film history. Bette Davis’ performance as a scheming, aging Broadway star in All About Eve and Gloria Swanson’s sad portrayal of a silent film star in Sunset Boulevard would both have been far better choices.

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
A still from the infamous monologue in Network. Vox.

10. Network, Taxi Driver, and All the President’s Men

Yes, you are reading the title correctly. In one single year, three incredible films lost the Best Picture award. Network, the incredibly prescient satire of mass media, All the President’s Men, which dramatized the Watergate investigation, and Taxi Driver, Scorsese’s chilling character study of Taxi Driver all lost to Rocky. While Rocky is doubtlessly a classic, it simply cannot compare to the other three films. Rocky also managed to knock out Sidney Lumet and Ingmar Bergman in the Best Director category.

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
The film poster for City of God. Original Film Art.

9. City of God

2002’s City of God was a heartbreaking look at life inside of one of Rio de Janeiro’s infamous favelas, or slums. Despite the worldwide acclaim the film received, it was not selected to even win a foreign film nomination from the Academy. The foreign film versus Best Picture category has long been controversial due to its American and Western-centric view, but not even nominating such an acclaimed Portuguese-language Brazilian film seems like a massive oversight.

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
A still image of Robert De Niro in the movie Taxi Driver. Film Forum.

8. Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver

While it is hard to believe that Rocky beat out films like Network and Taxi Driver, it’s even harder to think that Robert De Niro was not honored for his incredibly unnerving performance as the disturbed titular taxi driver. The only saving grace of this loss is that the award went to Peter Finch for his incredible performance in Network. His “mad as hell” monologue is often still shown in schools as an astonishing piece of rhetoric and media criticism.

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
A photograph of Francis Ford Coppola. California Museum.

7. Francis Ford Coppola for The Godfather

The Godfather continues to comfortably reside in the conversations about the best films ever made. Many of the film’s scenes are incredibly iconic and continue to receive homages in modern media. The film won Best Picture, Best Screenplay, and Best Actor. Somehow, Francis Ford Coppola was passed over in favor of Bob Fosse who directed Cabaret. It’s almost unheard of for films to win the “big three” awards and not take home Best Director as well, and it’s particularly hard to fathom with such a beautifully directed film.

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
The 1968 movie poster for 2001: A Space Odyssey. Wikimedia.

6. 2001: A Space Odyssey

While the Academy has a well-noted bias against genre films, 2001: A Space Odyssey surely should have been the exception to their rule. A staggeringly epic adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s novel of the same name, the film used the limited technology of the era to create a genuinely futuristic masterpiece. The film is so vital that the United States Library of Congress has preserved it. Nevertheless, it received only one Academy Award: the lowly (and often used for a genre film) award of Best Visual Effects.

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
A movie poster for Pulp Fiction. Amazon.

5. Pulp Fiction and Shawshank Redemption

In any reasonable year, Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption would be shoo-ins for Best Picture. Instead, the actors from both films were pitted against heavyweights in the middling Ed Wood and the juggernaut of schmaltz Forrest Gump. As engineered Oscar Bait, an edgy non-linear crime drama like Pulp Fiction stood no chance against Tom Hanks’ portrayal of Gump. While both Pulp Fiction and Shawshank Redemption have stood the test of time, Forrest Gump has primarily been relegated to daytime TV movie marathons.

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
A photo of Humphrey Bogart. Biography.

4. Humphrey Bogart

On a list of the best male film stars in history, Humphrey Bogart would surely be near the top. His career included countless incredible roles delivered with impeccable performances. He was never nominated for many of his most iconic characters, including those as Detective Sam Space in The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep and as the villain in The Treasure of Sierra Madre. He finally was nominated for his incredible performance as Rick in Casablanca but lost to the entirely forgotten Watch on the Rhine role played by Paul Lukas.

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
A still of Gary Cooper in High Noon. Vanity Fair.

3. High Noon

Fred Zinnemann’s High Noon is arguably the most celebrated Western film ever made. It stars the iconic Gary Cooper as an aged lawman forced to face an entire group of bandits alone. The film not only broke away from many Western film traditions with its focus on dialogue instead of action and real-time filming, but it also served as an allegory against blacklisting and defended the courage of those who spoke up against the practice in Hollywood. It lost both Best Picture and Best Director to Cecil B. DeMille’s Greatest Show on Earth.

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
A poster for The Godfather. IMDB.

2. The Godfather Supporting Cast

The Godfather picked up many Academy Awards in its time, including Best Picture. However, the incredible supporting cast ended up being snubbed. Al Pacino, James Caan, and Robert Duvall were all nominated for Best Supporting Actor for their work on the film. The award went to Joel Grey for Cabaret, awarding him for a role which he had already played on Broadway before the film adaptation. It’s hard to imagine a world where none of the Corleone sons were worthy of an Oscar.

40 Outlandish Oscar Snubs Throughout the Decades
A poster for the movie Do the Right Thing. IMDB.

1. Do the Right Thing vs. Driving Miss Daisy

The Oscars have increasingly come under scrutiny for how overwhelmingly white the films and nominees tend to be. The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite in past years helped draw attention to the lack of diversity. This lack of diversity was perhaps most pointed in 1989. Spike Lee’s incredible film Do the Right Thing, which chronicled recent racial tensions during a heat wave, was not even nominated for an award. What picture won that year? Driving Miss Daisy, which depicts the friendship between a Jewish woman and her black hired driver in the 1960s American South. The contrast did not amuse Spike Lee.


Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“The 20 greatest Oscar snubs ever – Ranked!” Ryan Gilbey, The Guardian. January 25, 2018.

“25 Biggest Oscar Snubs: Citizen Kane, Hitchcock, Ryan Gosling & More” Marlow Stern, Daily Beast. February 23, 2013.

“The Worst Oscar Snubs of All Time” Originally by Ranker Film, n.d.

“23 Hollywood stars who shockingly still don’t have Oscars” Travis Clark, Business Insider. February 21, 2019.