It might sound obvious, but a film getting nominated for an Oscar doesn’t automatically make it good.
In fact, there have been numerous deserving films over the years that were somehow overlooked by the Academy.
Sure, it’s easy to assume that certain films don’t get nominated because they’re not what Oscar voters would usually go for, but there have been some surprises in the past.
For example, pretty much every new superhero film earns a nomination thanks to the technical or makeup categories, while random animated films are acknowledged most likely because of the low number on offer in a certain year.
This means films like DC’s Suicide Squad may have been mauled by the critics, but still get recognised by the Academy (it went on to win), which is ridiculous when you consider classics such as Don’t Look Now or The King of Comedy didn’t even get recognised.
They aren’t alone − with the Oscars 2022 a matter of weeks away, we’ve run through the 47 most surprising films that didn’t receive a nomination in any category.
1. American Honey (2016)
From dancing on Top of the Pops to winning an Oscar for Best Director: it would have been a deserved trajectory for Andrea Arnold following the release of American Honey, a drama following a teenage girl (Sasha Lane) who gets caught up in the wrong crowd. Arnold’s day may – and should – still come.
2. American Psycho (2000)
Starring future Oscar winner Christian Bale, Mary Harron’s adaptation of the Bret Easton Ellis novel – in which the actor plays the psychopathic Patrick Bateman – didn’t receive a single nomination.
3. Babyteeth (2019)
Babyteeth, which was shot in 2019 but released in the US in 2020, was one of the best films of its year. The film’s leads – Eliza Scanlen, Toby Wallace, Essie Davis and Ben Mendelsohn – all deserved acting nominations, but apparentlys voters never watched it.
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4. Before Sunrise (1995)
While the final two chapters of Richard Linklater’s Before… trilogy earned screenplay nominations, the film that introduced the world to future married couple Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Céline (Julie Delpy) was criminally overlooked.
5. The Big Heat (1953)
Fritz Lang had a number of films overlooked by the Academy (see: M, 1931; You Only Live Once, 193. While this noir, starring Glenn Ford, Lee Marvin and and Gloria Grahame, is a film you’d expect to have been nominated, it became yet another film to receive no recognition from the awards body.
6. The Big Lebowski (1998)
The Academy’s generosity to the Coen brothers peaked when No Country for Old Men beat There Will Be Blood in one of the ceremony’s closest Best Picture races of all time. It remains surprising that one of their few films to evade any nominations is this endlessly-quotable comedy starring Jeff Bridges as The Dude.
7. Blow Out (1981)
Brian De Palma doesn’t exactly make films in the hope of winning awards, but his political thriller – based on Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow Up – would have deserved any Oscar it was nominated for.
8. Breathless (À bout de souffle) (1960)
Breathless’ failure to receive a nomination is proof of why the Oscars do not generate huge amounts of respect among the film community. Despite being one of the most studied films in the world, Jean Luc-Godard’s French masterpiece has an Academy Award tally of zero.
9. Bringing Up Baby (1938)
The Academy rewarded many notable screwball comedies over the years, though this Howard Hawks-directed standout starring Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn – who’d go on to hold the record for most wins – wasn’t one of them.
10. Don’t Look Now (1973)
It seems the Oscars only had room for one horror film at the 1973 ceremony, with The Exorcist winning two Oscars that year despite Nicolas Roeg’s Venice-set chiller failing to secure a single nomination. In fact, Nicolas Roeg, who directed this Venice-set chiller, is one of the most unfairly overlooked directors in Oscars history.
11. Frances Ha (2012)
Looking back over the 2010s, Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha stands tall as one of the decade’s best films. Greta Gerwig’s spirited performance as an aimless New Yorker is an all-timer, and even if that year’s acting categories were too crowded, it would have assimilated in nicely with that year’s (10!) Best Picture nominees. Gerwig would go on to become a Best Director nominee for her 2017 film Lady Bird.
12. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
It wouldn’t be until the 1990s that western films found favour with the Academy. It was ironically thanks to Unforgiven, a film directed by Clint Eastwood whose career flourished after starring in this Sergio Leone film that many consider to be the genre’s peak.
13. La Haine (1995)
Mathieu Kassovitz’s black-and-white drama – translated in English as Hate – follows three young friends and their struggles living in the suburbs of Paris. Looking back at the nominees of that year, it should easily have received a nod in the Best International Feature Film category.
14. Halloween (1978)
The Academy may not be enthusiastic about constantly awarding horror films, but they do have previous (see: The Exorcist and The Silence of the Lamb and Get Out). This makes the absence of John Carpenter’s influential Halloween even more of a glaring oversight.
15. Heat (1995)
On paper, the big screen union of Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in Michael Mann’s cop drama was a shoo-in for awards, but no Oscar nominations manifested.
16. His Girl Friday (1940)
Yet another Howard Hawks screwball comedy starring Cary Grant that criminally failed to secure a single Oscar nomination.
17. In the Mood for Love (2000)
Wong Kar-wai set the benchmark for romance in film with his acclaimed Hong Kong drama following a man and woman (Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung) who develop feelings for one another after suspecting their respective spouses of having an affair together.
18. Insomnia (2002)
While falling short of Christopher Nolan’s best, modest drama Insomnia – made years before Batman Begins – had enough strong performances (Al Pacino, Robin Wiliams, Hilary Swank) to warrant acting nominations. Alas, it received none.
19. The King of Comedy (1982)
It may have taken him decades to win an Oscar, but the Academy has rarely balked at nominating Martin Scorsese films – especially for ones that star Robert De Niro. The King of Comedy was an exception.
20. The Long Goodbye (1973)
The first of two Robert Altman films on this list. This superior thriller stars Elliott Gould as Raymond Chandler’s private investigator, Philip Marlowe, in one of the director’s most entertaining films and is just as good as any other film nominated that year (see: American Graffiti, The Sting, Cries and Whispers).
21. Local Hero (1983)
Bill Forsyth’s beloved comedy-drama follows the mishaps of an American man sent to buy up a Scottish village where the oil company he works for wants to build a refinery. Forsyth won the Bafta for Best Director, but the film received no such love from the Academy.
22. A Man Escaped (1956)
Robert Bresson’s adaptation of André Devigny’s memoirs charts the French Resistance member’s time as prisoner of the Germans during the Second World War – and is even more enthralling considering Bresson himself was held captive years before.
23. The Man With Two Brains (1983)
He may have hosted several times, but Steve Martin has never been nominated for an Oscar. One film he deserved recognition for was Carl Reiner’s 1983 sci-fi comedy, The Man with Two Brains.
24. Margaret (2011)
Kenneth Lonergan would go on to win an Oscar for Manchester by the Sea, but Margaret – his three-hour drama featuring a searing performance from Anna Paquin and wife J Smith Cameron – criminally failed to secure a single nomination.
25. A Matter of Life and Death (1946)
The Academy Film Archive may have preserved A Matter of Life and Death in 1999, but voters failed to recognise the Powell & Pressburger’s fantasy-romance at the time of its release in 1946.
26. Memories of Murder (2003)
Before Parasite, there was Memories of Murder. Bong Joon-ho has been making incredible films for decades now, and this sprawling and highly-influential crime thriller is just as good as Parasite, which brilliantly won Best Picture in 2020.
27. Never Rarely Sometimes Always
The fact Sidney Flanagan isn’t an Oscar winner for Eliza Hittman’s drama, following a young girl who seeks medical help after an unwanted pregnancy, is outrageous.
28. Night Moves (1975)
Gene Hackman starred in numerous Oscar nominated films (see: The French Connection, Mississippi Burning, Unforgiven), but Night Moves should be on that list. A twist-filled crime film with an ending for the ages, it’s more than worthy of a mention alongside Hackman’s greatest films.
29. Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985)
It’s quite staggering to think that Paul Schrader has only ever received one Oscar nomination – for his First Reformed screenplay – considering he was behind such films as Blue Collar and Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. His fictionalised account of the life of celebrated Japanese writer Yukio Mishima is one such film that would have been a worthy winner, let alone nominee.
30. Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
Though it’s by no means a masterpiece, it’s staggering to think that Sergio Leone’s gangster epic – starring Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci – didn’t receive any Oscar nominations. Not even composer Ennio Morricone received one – but this was due to his score being disqualified from consideration after Warner Bros accidentally omitted the composer’s name from the opening credits when trimming the film’s lengthy running time for its American release.
31. Our Little Sister (2015)
Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda finally broke onto the Oscars scene when Shoplifters was nominated for Best International Feature Film in 2019. In truth, Kore-eda should have several nominations to his name. Our Little Sister, his tender 2015 drama, would have made an excellent nominee.
32. Paterson (2016)
Critics assumed Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson would have been a shoo-in for awards recognition – most notably in the Best Actor category, thanks to a quietly fantastic performance from Adam Driver – but no such luck.
33. Paths of Glory (1957)
Stanley Kubrick never won Best Director despite being nominated four times. One of his films that didn’t make the Oscars cut in any category was his black-and-white anti-war film.
34. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)
How Céline Sciamma’s drama, following the love affair between two women in the late 18th century, didn’t get any nominations, we’ll never know. It’s a staggering work, which ranks high up in Sciamma’s impressive back catalogue.
35. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Reservoir Dogs may not touch Quentin Tarantino’s best, but it remains a surprise that the filmmaker’s debut didn’t get recognised in the screenplay category, at least.
36. The Rider (2018)
Of all the films to be snubbed at the 2018 Oscars, Chloé Zhao’s drama – which stars a real-life rodeo cowboy and his family – was easily the most egregious.
37. School of Rock (2004)
Hear us out: Richard Linklater’s comedy is one of the greatest films of the 21st century to date, and the fact it never got a nomination says more about the Oscars than it does about School of Rock. Jack Black has (and will) never be better as Dewey Finn, a wannabe musician who turns a classroom of kids into a rock band while pretending to be their supply teacher. He should have easily scored a Best Actor nomination.
38. The Searchers (1956)
The role of Civil War veteran Ethan Edwards might be considered John Wayne’s best role, but the Academy didn’t agree: he would win his sole Oscar for True Grit in 1970 (for the same role Jeff Bridges would be nominated for 41 years later).
39. The Shining (1980)
Another Kubrick film that was completely ignored by the Academy is the director’s Stephen King adaptation of The Shining. Today, it’s considered one of his finest works as well as being one of the most revered horror films of all time.
40. The Shop Around the Corner (1953)
This Ernst Lubitsch romantic comedy, starring Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart, may be a beloved Christmas staple around the world, but it has zero Oscar nominations to its name.
41. This Is England (2006)
The 2007 ceremony was not one of the Academy’s finest years, with The Departed beating Babel, Letters from Iwo Jima, Little Miss Sunshine and The Queen to Best Picture). would have been far better had Shane Meadows’ coming-of-drama been in contention for awards.
42. Tokyo Story (1953)
Tokyo Story is deemed Japanese filmmaker Yasujirō Ozu’s masterpiece and was named Sight & Sound’s best film of all time in 2012 – and yet, no Oscar nomination.
43. Touch of Evil (1958)
Orson Welles’ classic noir wasn’t as well loved at the time of release as it is today. It stands head and shoulders above several other films nominated during that period, so the lack of a nomination is quite surprising.
44. Tyrannosaur (2011)
Olivia Colman may be in contention to win her second Oscar this year (having taken home Best Actress for The Favourite in 2019), but the fact she failed to earn a nomination (even at the Baftas, for that matter) for her role in Paddy Considine’s hard-hitting drama Tyrannosaur is one of the biggest oversights in awards history.
45. Walkabout (1971)
Another exceptional achievement in filmmaking from Nicolas Roeg that somehow failed to receive any Oscar nominations is Walkabout.
46. You Were Never Really Here (2018)
Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here – starring Joaquin Phoenix – is a sensational piece of work worthy of reward that was actually hotly tipped following its festival premiere. Sadly, due to shifting release dates, the film lost steam and went down in the annals as one of the best films of that year not to get a nomination in any category.
47. Zodiac (2007)
David Fincher’s Mank might have been the most nominated film of 2021, but his cult serial killer drama Zodiac failed to receive a single Oscar nomination. Three years later, he would go head-to-head with (and lose out to) The King Speech’s Tom Hooper for The Social Network. In truth, Zodiac is every bit as good as the Facebook drama.
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