Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Question of the Week: What’s the best non-winning Best Picture nominee?

Continuing with our Oscar theme before this coming Sunday’s ceremony (which I will not be watching, nor do I know anything about the nominees!), I turn last week’s Question on its head by asking: What’s the best movie that was actually nominated for Best Picture but did not win the award? This does not mean that the movie is better than the movie that actually won the Oscar – maybe it was a strong year! I’m just wondering, of all the movies nominated for Best Picture, which one is the best? It’s kind of difficult!

Last week I could list all the Best Picture Winners, but the list of movies nominated for Best Picture is much longer, so I’ll simply link to the Wikipedia page that gives them all. Open that tab up and peruse, and then give me your answer!

Obviously, if it’s difficult to have watched all the Best Picture Winners, it’s even harder to have watched all the nominees! But that’s fine – we’ll live, right? Here are my five best, in no particular order:

Citizen Kane and Apocalypse Now are two of my favorite movies ever, so they’re on the list. The fact that Kane didn’t win Best Picture over How Green Was My Valley, a movie only Frasier Crane remembers, is one of the biggest idiocies of the Academy’s history. Pulp Fiction is another one of my favorites, so that’s there, too (all of the movies that were nominated in 1994 were better than Forrest Gump, for what it’s worth). Those are not only favorites, but I think they’re the best, too, but the final two are a bit harder. I think I have to have Chinatown and Goodfellas on the list, because they’re two really excellent movies. I like The Crying Game, Fargo, Secrets and Lies, and L.A. Confidential more, though. But let’s keep those two classics on the list. So that’s five. Dang, there have been a lot of great movies nominated for Best Picture! So give me yours, good readers! Rank them if you have to!


    1. Jeff Nettleton

      Star Wars was nominated. George Lucas was also nominated as Best Director and Alec Guinness for Best Supporting Actor. Only won technical awards. I was massively PO-ed that it lost to Annie Hall, a film which I still don’t like, even as a mature adult. Not that Star Wars really deserved to win; but, it was still a better film experience, in my book.

    2. Greg Burgas

      Yeah, I was a bit surprised that Star Wars had been nominated. It feels like one of those “Well, this was really popular, so we’ll nominate it, but it’s never going to win” kind of things.

  1. Jeff Nettleton

    I’m gonna throw out Sidney Lumet’s Twelve Angry Men. It lost to Bridge on the River Kwai, more due to David Lean’s scenery than the content, in my opinion. Lumet’s film may not be as visually interesting; but, the story and performances are just on another level. So many great actors working their craft.

  2. Edo Bosnar

    Probably lots, but I don’t have the time to go over the entire list. I decided to just turn around my answers from last week and pick a movie or movies nominated for the same years as my ‘worst’ pics.
    However, the problem with the other 1978 nominees, when Deer Hunter won, is that I haven’t seen any of them. I only ever saw part of Coming Home, and it seemed like a good enough film, so I guess I’ll go with that.
    I have seen three of the other films nominated in 1985, when Out of Africa won, and I’d say two of them at least, Witness and Color Purple, are far better. And although I didn’t like Prizzi’s Honor very much, either, it’s still better than Out of Africa.

    And I couldn’t help noticing the nominees for the next year, 1986, when Platoon won. Again, I saw three besides the winning film, and I’d say Children of a Lesser God is a better movie (although it’s now problematic to me when considering the context of William Hurt being abusive in his off-screen relationship with Marlee Matlin).

  3. Eric van Schaik

    70’s (when I started going to the cinema) – Star Wars
    80’s Raiders of the lost ark
    90’s Fargo
    00’s Up
    10’s Inception (I don’t see that much in theatres anymore)

  4. Peter

    I think the “right” answer is probably Citizen Kane, which is a great movie and was probably even more impressive when it first came out and its cinematic vocabulary hadn’t been copied to death.

    The Wizard of Oz is also a good potential pick – 1939 was a heck of a year.

    Taxi Driver and Raging Bull are top-20 films for me, so they’re also contenders. Raiders of the Lost Ark and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are top 10.

    But the ultimate nominee for me is It’s a Wonderful Life. That’s like a top 3 film for me. Schmaltzy at times? Sure! But it’s an incredibly moving picture no matter how schmaltzy it gets in my opinion. I don’t even have a problem with The Best Years of Our Lives winning, either, because that is another incredible film. Yet Capra has my heart in the end.

  5. Der

    -The tale of Princess Kaguya is the best of the nominated in 2014. I mean, Big Hero Six is ok, but man, I suppose they didn’t watch Princess Kaguya

    -Also, When Marnie was There in 2015. I like Inside Out, but Marnie is the better movie

    You know what? When you see a Studio Ghibli movie nominated, just assume that it won’t win and that it should win.

    Ah you meant non-animated movies? Who has time to watch movies when there is lots of anime to watch?

  6. Jazzbo

    Saving Private Ryan has always been the biggest one for me. I feel like that should have won Best Picture regardless of what other movies it was up against, but especially it should have won against Shakespeare in Love.

    Dr Strangelove and Butch Cassidy would be the other two top non-winners for me. Although glancing through that list there are a lot.

  7. John King

    Still lots I have not seen, but quite a few I have…
    I think I’ll go by decade

    1930s – The Wizard of Oz (back when I was at school in the mid ’70s, one of my brothers school friends had a copy and would get out the projector and show it to people who visited)
    1940s – It’s a Wonderful Life
    1950s – Twelve Angry Men
    1960s – Doctor Strangelove…
    1970s – Star Wars
    1980s – Raiders of the Lost Ark
    1990s – Four Weddings and a Funeral
    2000s – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
    2010s – Inception

  8. fit2print

    Star Wars is terrific but here’s the hill I’m going to die on (well, one of many but still): not only was Star Wars not the best film of 1977, it wasn’t even the best science fiction film, with that honor belonging to none other than Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

    As for the question at hand, I don’t think the contest is even close: to me, Raging Bull is one of the best movies ever made. Period. And it lost the best picture Oscar to one of the worst-ever Oscar-nominated films: Ordinary People. What were the voters thinking?

    This was actually a great question of the week because, as we all know, the Academy gets it wrong just about every single year so there are a ton of snubbed nominees to choose from. Still… I don’t think anything compares to Raging Bull. To this day, I still can’t comprehend why a film that is so monumentally great took home just two statuettes… mind-boggling

    1. I rewatched Close Encounters for my Aliens Are Here book. It’s well made but still somehow “meh.”
      Raging Bull I find wildly overrated. I’m not a Scorsese fan but after all the build-up and acclaim, I was surprised how uninteresting it turned out to be.
      But that, as they say, is what makes horse races.

  9. The movie I immediately though of upon reading the question is NETWORK. Amazing film.

    It’s wild to me that The Thin Man was nominated for Best Picture. But it’s great, brilliant. And After the Thin Man is even perfecter (though not a Best Pic nom).

    Raiders of the Lost Ark is a classic, of course.

    Inglourious Basterds is my favorite Tarantino movie, just outpacing Pulp Fiction.

    I love Inception to bits, and I bawled like a baby at the end of Toy Story 3. 2010 was a stacked year.

    Mad Max: Fury Road gets better with every viewing.

    I’ll catch heat for this, but I wish La La Land won.

    Get Out is brilliant– I forgot it was nominated.

    So, “best”? I’ll stick with Network. Favorite? It’s hard to pick one.

  10. daniel

    I can’t really say what’s the best non-win picture nominee, but here’s some stuff that came to mind. (Some of them have already been mentioned.)

    STAGECOACH (1939)
    I don’t know a lot of those old timey movies, but STAGECOACH is cool, right?

    Sentimental favorites, saw’em when I was young and always liked them.

    A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971) and JAWS (1975)
    I know people generally think seventies is the best decade for films, but Jesus those years are stacked.

    I’m actually one of those wierdos who prefers TEMPLE OF DOOM and LAST CRUSADE, but I’ll give Indy some love, RIDERS is a great movie.

    HOPE AND GLORY (1987)
    BROADCAST NEWS and MOONSTRUCK get a lot of props these days, but I kinda love HOPE AND GLORY

    Saw THE INSIDER not to long ago, great movie.

    It’s usually NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MAN or THERE WILL BE BLOOD for 2007, well MICHAEL CALYTON was also excellent, dammit.

    The fandom for this movie is problematic, but I think the movie itself is really good. BOYHOOD and WHIPLASH are also ok from that year.

    FURY ROAD (2015)
    Also enjoyed BRIDGE OF SPIES and THE MARTIAN.

    LADY BIRD or DUNKIRK (2017)
    Liked GET OUT and THE POST as well.

    THE FAVORITE (2018)
    Didn’t love ROMA, but I can see why other people would.

    I was really surprised by how much I was taken with MARRIAGE STORY.

  11. Mario Ribeiro

    1934 – The Thin Man
    1937 – The Awful Truth
    1941 – Citizen Kane
    1944 – Double Indemnity
    1948 – The Red Shoes
    1950 – Sunset Boulevard
    1959 – Anatomy of a Murder
    1960 – Elmer Gantry
    1964 – Dr. Strangelove
    1972 – Cabaret
    1974 – Chinasationenny II
    1975 – Dog Day Afternoon
    1976 – Taxi Driver
    1979 – Apocalypse Jazz
    1980 – Raging Bull
    1981 – Atlantic City
    2003 – Mystic River

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