–By Sam Hendrian–
“And the winner is… La La Land!” A few moments later… “Actually, Moonlight won.” So went one of the biggest flubs in Oscar history at the 89th annual Academy Awards ceremony in 2017. While legitimate mistakes like this have not been made too often over the course of Academy Awards history, many decisions that opinionated movie fans perceive as major mistakes have certainly be read from the golden envelopes over the years. It is always an honor to be nominated, but only one person can win, and sometimes the person who does is not necessarily the worthiest of the golden statuette. As the 90th annual Academy Awards ceremony rapidly approaches on March 4, here are my picks for the biggest Oscar snubs of all time.
1947 Academy Awards Ceremony
What won Best Picture: The Best Years of Our Lives
What should have won Best Picture: It’s a Wonderful Life
While William Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives is a fairly well-made and poignant movie that features one of my favorite old-time actresses, Teresa Wright, it is not nearly as moving and unforgettable as Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. The Best Years of Our Lives has remained good over the years; It’s a Wonderful Life gets better over the years.
1955 Academy Awards Ceremony
Who won Best Actress: Grace Kelly for The Country Girl
Who should have won Best Actress: Judy Garland for A Star is Born
As much as I admire Grace Kelly and her compelling dramatic performance in The Country Girl, Judy Garland’s heart-wrenching performance in A Star is Born is unforgettable and represents the peak of an acting career that continues to bring joy to countless people. To Miss Garland’s great credit, she wasn’t even at the awards ceremony that night because she was busy giving birth to her third child, Joey, whom she purportedly called the greatest “Academy Award” she could ever receive. Rest in peace, Judy. Hopefully you’ve found your way over the rainbow.
Who won Best Director: Elia Kazan for On the Waterfront
Who should have won Best Director: Alfred Hitchcock for Rear Window
This is a tough one for me– I think On the Waterfront is one of the greatest films of all time– but the Master of Suspense unjustly did not win a single competitive Academy Award over the course of his 50-year filmmaking career, and if any film would have been entirely different without his direction, it’s Rear Window. The simple story of a temporarily-handicapped photographer suspecting his neighbor of being a wife-murderer is crafted by Hitchcock’s masterful hands into an unforgettably pulsating experience with unmatched suspense. I’m all for On the Waterfront winning Best Picture, but I do wish the directing Oscar went to the Master.
1959 Academy Awards Ceremony
What won Best Original Score: The Old Man and the Sea (composed by Dimitri Tiomkin)
What should have at least been NOMINATED for Best Original Score: Vertigo (composed by Bernard Herrmann)
Dimitri Tiomkin was a swell composer, but Bernard Herrmann should have at least been nominated alongside him in 1955, for heaven’s sake! His unforgettably beautiful and haunting score for Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo contributed hugely to making the film the timeless masterpiece that it is, and if that does not cause the music to merit an Oscar nomination and win, I don’t know what does.
Who won Best Actor: David Niven for Separate Tables
Who should have at least been NOMINATED for Best Actor: James Stewart for Vertigo
David Niven was a good actor and probably deserved the Oscar that year, but James Stewart’s performance as an obsessive, objectifying detective in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo is hauntingly memorable and splendidly off-type, and it is a huge shame that it was overlooked by the Academy. Think good ole Jimmy Stewart only played the charming and virtuous everyman? Well, think again; Vertigo features him at his darkest and most emotionally complex.
1983 Academy Awards Ceremony
What won Best Picture: Gandhi
What should have won Best Picture: E.T. The Extra Terrestrial
While I think Gandhi is an enjoyable historical epic and not as “dreadfully dull” as some people say it is, E.T. The Extra Terrestrial touches the heart in a way that few films ever had, and it is much more timeless and memorable than the former film. Even Richard Attenborough, the director of Gandhi who would go on to play John Hammond in Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, is quoted as saying, “[E.T.] was an infinitely more creative and fundamental piece of cinema than [Gandhi].”
1994 Academy Awards Ceremony
Who won Best Supporting Actor: Tommy Lee Jones for The Fugitive
Who should have won Best Supporting Actor: Ralph Fiennes for Schindler’s List
Tommy Lee Jones is supremely amusing as a restless and wisecracking U.S. marshal in The Fugitive, but come on, he just plays a caricature of himself in that movie and every movie he has been in since. Ralph Fiennes’s performance as the sadistic Nazi camp commandant Amon Goeth in Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List is unforgettably bone-chilling, and it likely required a lot more prowess than Jones’s performance did. At least Schindler’s List won Best Picture over The Fugitive. Not only is it the best movie of 1993, but it is also one of the most significant cinematic masterpieces of all time.
2009 Academy Awards Ceremony
What won Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire
What should have at least been NOMINATED for Best Picture: The Dark Knight
It was not necessarily a mistake for Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire to win the Best Picture award, but Christopher Nolan’s supremely haunting and ethically-compelling superhero drama The Dark Knight should have at least received a nomination. Granted, only five nominees were allowed in 2009 rather than the ten that are allowed now, but I still think The Dark Knight deserved to sneak into the top five films of the year. It is an unforgettable masterpiece.
2012 Academy Awards Ceremony
What won Best Original Song: “Man or Muppet” from The Muppets
What should have at least been NOMINATED for Best Original Song: “Star-Spangled Man” from Captain America: The First Avenger
I enjoyed 2011’s The Muppets, and “Man or Muppet” is a delightfully goofy and over-serious song, but “Star-Spangled Man” from Captain America: The First Avenger is genius! A tribute to rousing patriotic tunes of the 1940s, the song was penned by Beauty and the Beast composer Alan Menken and Mulan lyricist David Zippel, and I had it in my head for months after first hearing it. The fact that it wasn’t even NOMINATED for Best Original Song is an ignominious mistake!
2014 Academy Awards Ceremony
What won Best Picture: 12 Years a Slave
What should have at least been NOMINATED for Best Picture: Saving Mr. Banks
While I do not doubt the worthiness of 12 Years a Slave to win Best Picture, it was in my opinion a huge disgrace that one of the most moving and enjoyable films in a long time, Saving Mr. Banks, was not nominated for a single Academy Award other than Best Original Score. Perhaps it was just too “sentimental” for Academy voters to nominate it (although sentimentality did not stop movies like The Sound of Music and Forrest Gump from WINNING Best Picture years earlier). Oh, well. It’s all subjective. In my book, Saving Mr. Banks is only beaten by Up as the most satisfying film of the 21st century so far.
Well, that’s all, folks! What are some significant snubs you remember from Academy Awards history?