Every now and then, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences screws up, resulting in many movies that won an Oscar but shouldn’t have. They’ve been doing this for almost 100 years (91 years to be exact), you’d think they’d become good at what they do? Not always the case. To be fair, they’ve picked many great gems. From “Gone with the Wind” to “The Godfather,” the Academy has chosen some beautiful movies to recognize as quality art and classic cinema.
Of course, some categories don’t carry as much weight as others. Best Makeup is usually a throw away while Best Picture is the cream of the crop. A movie that won Best Picture should be a classic and stand the test of the time. Unfortunately, some films in this category don’t and are long forgotten, while the films they beat out proved themselves over the long haul. The Academy isn’t perfect. They don’t have a crystal ball. So, every now and then, they get things wrong. Here are 25 movies that won an Oscar but shouldn’t have.
The French Connection
Although this was a very exciting movie and Gene Hackman did a very good job in the role, he didn’t deserve to win an Oscar over Malcolm McDowell in “A Clockwork Orange.”
“American Sniper” won the Oscar for Sound Editing. Many don’t really bat an eye at this, but there’s no way it should have won over “Interstellar,” a clearly superior film in many regards, sound editing included.
This movie is a cheap, messy, and schlocky attempt to make a superhero movie. Fans might enjoy it for what it is, but it has no business showing up at the Academy Awards. Still, it somehow won Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling, probably because the films that year were sparse and they needed a third choice.
The Greatest Show On Earth
This movie is critically panned, yet it somehow won Best Picture against “High Noon” and “Ivanhoe.” If I had to bet, I’d say the Academy picked it because it’s about “show business.”
The Blind Side
Sure, “The Blind Side” was a touching movie and Sandra Bullock did a serviceable job (despite the bad southern accent), but there wasn’t anything about her performance that screams Oscar worthy.
Scent of a Woman
Here is your recipe for an Oscar movie, according to the Academy: Take 1 part physical or mental handicapped character, 1 cup of dramatic speech by the tough guy who starts off bitter but has a heart of gold, mix that with the actor who has given variations of the same speech in movies, and you have “Scent of a Woman.” Al Pacino took home the Oscar for this one (with a performance that is almost a laughable caricature of himself) against Denzel Washington in “Malcolm X” and Clint Eastwood in “Unforgiven.” That’s a crime against cinema, if not humanity.
This movie’s story isn’t original (mixing the plot of “Dances With Wolves” and “Ferngully”) but there’s no denying the special effects were ground-breaking at the time. Still, it hasn’t aged very well and it shouldn’t have won Best Cinematography against the likes of “Inglorious Basterds.”
Note to Hollywood: Stop remaking movies that were never really terrifying to begin with. Werewolves aren’t scary anymore. That aside, this film somehow won Best Achievement in Make-Up. Have you seen the werewolf? Because it’ll make you laugh once you realize it won this award.
Shakespeare in Love
I think everyone agrees this was a huge miscalculation on the Academy’s part. They just can’t help themselves to a sappy drama about plays and stage theater, giving this movie no one cares about anymore seven Oscars. It won Best Picture against the likes of “Saving Private Ryan” and “The Thin Red Line,” two war movie masterpieces.
This movie is an awful (and painfully obvious) attempt by Michael Bay to copy “Titanic” and sweep the Oscars. He failed miserably. The only award this sappy love story in war-movie-clothing took home was Best Sound Editing. Its competitor was “Monster’s Inc.” Which, if you think about it, is a serious slap in the face to Pixar.
This film won Best Picture over “The Pianist” and “Gangs of New York.” How? Because it’s a musical! As we’ve already covered, the Academy loves musicals, plays, broadway adaptations, and usually films as a love letter to Hollywood. Is it a cute film? Sure. Does it deserve being Best Picture? No way.
Around the World in 80 Days
It makes little sense why this silly picture would win over the likes of “The King and I” and “The Ten Commandments.” Both of those films have aged tremendously, being shown countless times on television and in schools. This film? Not so much. As a side note, the Jackie Chan remake was even worse.
“Butterfield 8” starred Elizabeth Taylor, and is about a call girl who had an affair with a married man. Oddly enough, this was a way to shame her for having an actual affair with Eddie Fisher. She knew it, too, hating the script for exploiting her personal life. After filming this movie, she became very ill with pneumonia and had an emergency tracheotomy. This, as you can imagine, dredged up a ton of sympathy during the award season. Everyone, even her, admitted it’s the only reason she took home the Oscar for Best Actress. It’s sweet revenge for her, but still, the film isn’t really deserving.
Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
I know this is going to make a lot of people angry. For the record, I love “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. However, “The Return of the King,” in my mind, is the weakest of the three with way too many slow motion scenes, endings, and, a bloated runtime. While I think it deserves many of its Oscars, it’s difficult to imagine how it won Best Picture against “Lost in Translation” and “Mystic River.”
Hey, when was the last time you watched “Slumdog Millionaire” and enjoyed it? Never? Yeah, me too. In 2009, this film swept the Oscars, winning eight total awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay, among others. Again, it’s difficult to understand why. “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is clearly the superior film in many of the categories, and Wally Pfister’s cinematography work on “The Dark Knight” should have totally won Best Achievement in Cinematography, not Slumdog.
Harry and the Hendersons
Look, I’m not going to sit here and tell you “Harry and the Hendersons” isn’t a lovable, cute, and wholesome film about big foot that you shouldn’t watch (because you should). However, I will tell you that this film, in no way, should have been seen on the nomination list for the Academy Awards, much less win for Best Makeup. Clearly, someone had a serious vendetta against Peter Falk in “Happy New Year.”
Remember when I told you the Academy swoons over movies that pay homage to Hollywood? Well, “The Artist” made them lose their collective minds. It was tailored made to win an Academy award, checking nearly every box. But that doesn’t mean it deserves it. It’s actually a really awful and forgettable movie. Do you remember Jean Dujardin? Didn’t think so.
This well-beloved movie took home the Oscar for Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Director, all categories it shouldn’t have won. First, Tom Hank’s portrayal of a mentally handicapped man has not aged well; it’s almost insulting. Second, it won Best Picture against “Shawshank Redemption,” which is clearly ridiculous. Third, Robert Zemeckis won Best Director over Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction,” which means only one thing–the Academy must have been a room full of chimps in 1995.
The English Patient
This movie won nine Oscars in 1997, including Best Picture, Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Best Director, and Best Cinematography. It’s also very boring and forgettable. It’s so bad that “Seinfield” made an entire episode mocking it. To make matters worse, it beat “Fargo” and “Jerry McGuire” for Best Picture, two movies you likely haven’t forgotten about and have watched way more than this mess.
How The Grinch Stole Christmas
Directed by Hollywood stalwart Ron Howard, this bloated live-action take on the 30 minute Dr. Seuss cartoon is painful to watch today. The Academy shouldn’t have touched it with a nine-and-a-half foot pole. It might have good makeup design, but giving it an Oscar is a bit too much.
The Golden Compass
This film was panned by critics, but still won the Oscar for Best Achievement in Visual Effects over it’s competitor “Transformers.” Considering the first Transformers success resulted in a massive and popular franchise while “The Golden Compass” tanked, I think it’s safe to say Optimus Prime wins for Best Achievement in Visual Effects.
This poorly aged film on the Charles Dickens novel “Oliver Twist,” won several Oscars, including Best Director. Do you know who got snubbed in the same category? Stanley Kubrick and his iconic film “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Both have stood the test of time. As for “Oliver!” and it’s director? Not so much.
Dances With Wolves
This film about a white savior to a Native American tribe hasn’t exactly aged well. It took home seven Oscars, including Best Director. You know what movie has aged well? “Goodfellas,” directed by Martin Scorsese.
Alice in Wonderland
“Alice in Wonderland” was a cute and colorful take on the Disney cartoon, but how it beat out “Inception” from obtaining the Oscar for Best Achievement in Art Direction is beyond me. Inception was a creative and visual masterpiece while Wonderland just copied the cartoon.
How Green Was My Valley
Few people have probably even heard of (much less remember) “How Green Was My Valley.” It took home five Oscars, including Best Picture, beating out the greatest film of all time, “Citizen Kane.” I’m thinking you have heard of that one.