Weekend Roundtable: Great Movies That Oscar Ignored Completely

It’s time for our final Oscar-themed Roundtable of the season. This week, we want to highlight some movies that the Academy Awards outright ignored. We’re not talking about films that were snubbed by losing their categories to something less deserving. We’re talking about movies that weren’t even on Oscar’s radar at all. These films received no nominations at all in any category, despite their terrific performances, direction, storytelling, or other qualities of merit. How did Oscar miss these?

Josh Zyber

  1. Heat‘ – I really can’t comprehend what happened at the 1996 Academy Awards. The Best Picture nominees that year were ‘Apollo 13‘ (vastly overrated), ‘Babe’ (cute but insubstantial), ‘Braveheart‘ (the winner, also astoundingly overrated), ‘Il Postino’ (middlebrow fluff), and ‘Sense and Sensibility’ (a stodgy Merchant/Ivory knockoff). Where the hell is Michael Mann’s ‘Heat’ in all this? The movie is extraordinary on every level, from script to direction to performances. It’s a flat-out masterpiece. Was it overlooked because the Academy thought it was too similar to Martin Scorsese’s ‘Casino‘? No, that can’t be it, because ‘Casino’ was also largely bypassed, save for a Supporting Actress nomination. ‘Heat’ wasn’t even recognized for the amazing sound design of its central heist sequence? Are you kidding me? This oversight is unconscionable!

Drew Taylor

  1. Zodiac‘ – When I was considering this question, I immediately shot to my favorite movie of the aughts, David Fincher’s masterful ‘Zodiac’. Then I began doubting myself. “Surely this must have gotten some nomination, maybe in a technical category or two,” I reasoned. Then I looked it up. Not a single Academy Award nomination. This is an absolute travesty. I can’t imagine why the film was so universally overlooked, other than its early-March release date (Academy voters have notoriously short memories) or the fact that some may have found its labyrinthine plot too impenetrable. It shared similar DNA with the Best Picture-nominated ‘All the President’s Men‘, but failed to elicit any kind of response. At the very least, ‘Zodiac’ should have nabbed a Best Visual Effects nomination. People will one day and look back on it as a more important visual effects film than the newer ‘Star Wars’ movies. With any luck, audiences will be discovering this film for years to come, even without the Academy accolades.

Aaron Peck

  1. The Informant!‘ – I remember walking out of ‘The Informant!’ thinking that Matt Damon had a Best Actor prize already sewn up. His performance is that good. When the Golden Globes rolled around, Damon was nominated, only to lose out to Robert Downey, Jr. in ‘Sherlock Holmes‘. I consoled myself saying, “The Golden Globes are a joke. Everyone knows that. The Oscars will get it right.” Then the Oscar nominations came. Matt Damon was nominated, no surprise there. But he was nominated for the wrong movie! Jumping on the Clint Eastwood bandwagon, Damon was nominated for his role in ‘Invictus‘ instead of his much more engaging and demanding role in ‘The Informant!’ I was beside myself. ‘Invictus’ called for Matt Damon to beef up, stand around looking like a stoic rugby player, and run around a lot. That’s hardly an Oscar-worthy performance. The fact that ‘The Informant!’ went without even one Oscar nomination that year floored me.

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

  1. The Shining‘ – I’ve griped previously about how Stanley Kubrick was nominated for more than a dozen Academy Awards but only took home a single statuette, and even that was in a technical category. Still, at least the likes of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey‘ and ‘Dr. Strangelove‘ were nominated. ‘The Shining’, on the other hand, was wholly and completely ignored. At the very least, its cinematography and editing deserve to be recognized. Oh well. On the upside, the Academy did lavish Richard Rush’s gleefully insane ‘The Stunt Man’ with multiple nominations in key categories that year, so there’s a part of me that still loves them for that.

Mike Attebery

  1. Dazed and Confused‘ – You could put Richard Linklater’s entire filmography in a hat, blindly pick a title, and find a little gem that was almost entirely overlooked by Oscar. But of all his pictures, Linklater’s first classic, perfectly-realized snapshot of life captured on film is also one of the most criminally overlooked pictures he ever made. I was probably as guilty as the Academy in overlooking this film upon its release. The marketing, which pushed the ’70s stoner comedy angle relentlessly, really didn’t inspire me to go see it in theaters. That’s a shame, because there’s so much more to it than that! While ‘Dazed’ perfectly captures a time period and locale (I grew up in the Southwest; these folks are all too real), the experiences and uncertainty of high school life portrayed in Linklater’s breakout film are universal even today. The sights, the sounds, the attitudes, the smells. Hell, I never smoked pot, but the first time I actually identified that signature aroma, it answered so many question from days gone by, and instantly transported me back in time to some very vivid memories. (sniff sniff) “Hey! That’s the smell outside the bathroom by Ms. Chabot’s Latin classroom!” The truth is, you didn’t have to live like these characters (I was probably more like the dorks played by Adam Goldberg and Anthony Rapp) to recognize their real life counterparts from your own high school. And if you did live like some of these folks, all the better. From the writing and direction, to the acting (come on, Affleck is fantastic! Has Matthew McConaughey ever had a better part than David Wooderson?!), to the cinematography, editing, costuming (this movie certainly triggered a ’70s revival at my high school), everyone right across the board was criminally overlooked. This, my friends, is a great movie, one that will stand the test of time. As I seem to have to say at the end of every one of these Roundtables, where is the Blu-ray?

Junie Ray

  1. The Big Lebowski‘ – I find it interesting that the Russian Guild of Film Critics awarded ‘The Big Lebowski’ “Best Foreign Film,” but the movie couldn’t come up with even a single nomination here at home. Big Oscar winners/nominees that year (1998) were ‘Shakespeare in Love‘, ‘Saving Private Ryan‘, and ‘Life is Beautiful’. We were in the midst of the dot-com bubble and clearly delusional on a few fronts. So I don’t understand why there wasn’t room for a little of what the Big Lebowski had to offer. Then again, it is a bit of a stoner flick and those have never been terribly popular with the Oscar crowd.

Dick Ward

  1. Speed Racer‘ – I’m going back to Best Visual Effects again. It’s a category that I’m passionate about, since digital effects are so often used poorly. When a movie uses them right, I believe it should be recognized for that. In 2008, a horribly underrated film called ‘Speed Racer’ did just that. I’m the first to criticize digital effects, but the Wachowskis got it right with ‘Speed Racer’. The effects were unreal, but they were unreal to establish a certain mood, rather than just to dazzle the audience and show off. Despite the amazingly detailed, bright and fast car races, the sequences were created in such a way that I was able to follow the action. I knew where the cars were on the track, how close they were to the end, and who was winning. Even the pod race in ‘The Phantom Menace’ got confusing fast. It’s a travesty that ‘Speed Racer’ was overlooked for the category. It’s an even bigger shame that ‘Benjamin Button‘ won. All that movie did was make Brad Pitt look like William H. Macy. You get an Oscar for that?

Now it’s your turn to remind us of some worthy movies that slipped under Oscar’s radar.


  1. BostonMA

    wow Josh i’m ecstatic that you also fully agree with Heat and the Oscars. that’s really awesome, and you used it as the photo for the thread itself!

    too sweet.

    obviously, Heat is my #1 for this category, as i picked it for the #1 Oscar snub as well, but i also feel that Zodiac (agreeing with Drew this time vs. the other thread) was criminally overlooked as it was one of the best films of 2007.

    Casino’s another one, as it’s one of Scorsese’s six masterpieces, and after getting an extreme Memento kick over the past few days, i would add that to the category, even if it did get nominated for Best Original Screenplay (an award it should’ve ran away with) because it IS the best film of 2000, by far.

    one could make the argument that Hitchcock’s Vertigo and Ridley’s Blade Runner could fit this category as well but they have been noted as films that were greatly ahead of there time so perhaps one can’t hate on the Academy for those particular issues.

  2. I agree with Dick on Speed Racer. The movie was made to be a live-action version of a badly-dubbed Japanese Anime, and Speed Racer not only succeded, but far surpassed the expectations.

    I’ve said it before, and this seems to be a perfect topic for this – I am shocked that kid-actors do not even get so much as a nomination for amazing work in movies. Take Dakota Fanning – not a SINGLE Oscar nomination. Come on, I Am Sam, The Secret Life of Bees…

    The Secret Life of Bees did not get a single nomination either. Come on, best actress and supporting actress for Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys or Queen Latifah! Best Screenplay would be nice

    No Reservations – should have been nominated for best actor Aaron Eckhart, Best Actress – Catherin Zeta-Jones, and best Supporting Actress – Abigail Breslin.

    Flight of the Navigator – Best Special Effects, Best Performance

    Lost In Space – Say what you will about the movie, but for 1998, the special effects and makeup and set-design were AMAZING. Yes, it looks VERY dated now.

    Team America – Best Music, Original Song, Best Director, Best Screenplay

  3. besch64

    And this doesn’t really count, but you’d might as well put The Wrestler on this list. It wasn’t nominated for best picture, Aronofksy wasn’t nominated for best director, and the screenplay wasn’t nominated. And that was a year where all of those categories had some major weak links.

    And don’t even get me started on the best original song debacle.

  4. Here are a few of my overlooked favorites:

    Superman II (1980)
    Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
    The Terminator (1984)
    Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)
    Hard Eight (1996)

  5. John

    Scott Pilgrim Vs the World for effects this year! Really glad to see Speed Racer getting all the love as well! Also Saving Private Ryan got more attention than The Thin Red Line???!!! Come on!

  6. Tron: Legacy for it’s Visual Effects, as well as Scott Pilgrim..both movies did an outstanding job with the Visual Effects but seem to be snubbed out of the category..WHY?!

    Also Tron Legacy/ Daft Punk for Original Score?!

  7. Samuel

    Just have to say in regards to Zodiac, though it maybe should have got something, a big part of it being overlooked was that 2007 was an incredibly strong year for films across the board. It’s going to be tough when you’re against No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood.

  8. Sorry but cant agree with The Thin Red Line even comparing to Saving Private Ryan, couldnt even finish Red Line, one of the most boring movies I had seen at the time, I can easily agree with why Private Ryan got more notice and nods

    Superman II – seriously? Thats cheese fest galore, especially the theatrical cut, that along with Star Trek II, while both childhood favorites and guilty pleasures should never make any list of the Oscars, at least not by their rules

    • Superman II could/should have been nominated in a number of technical categories.

      Star Trek II should have been nominated for Best Supporting Actor.

      And The Thin Red Line was a GREAT film. At the very least, it should have gotten a cinematography nod.

      Finally, there’s a reason Scott Pilgrim isn’t nominated for anything…but you guys aren’t going to like it…it’s a BAD movie! There, I said it!

  9. Oh and I loved Speed Racer, awesome visuals and fantastic action, all of that and I HATE that WB fucked up with the audio….why cant we get a re-release of this with HD audio???

    *Goes and Cries in the Corner*

  10. One the main reasons I tend to hate the Oscars and a lot of film related people/institutions is the complete disrespect for the comedy genre.

    Comedy is the hardest freaking thing to pull off right. and while dramas on the surface appear to have more “depth/meaning/importance”, what is more important than making people laugh? That’s a huge contribution to society. In particular the low brow comedy genre. The prejudice is so built into to people, the mere mention of a comedy getting an award is scoffed at.
    Think of movies like The Jerk, Planes Trains & Automobile & Airplane are all classics that deserve as much if not more respect than The Godfather.

    • I do agree with you to an extent, comedy is really tough to do well. The problem is when award shows actually do “comedy” they get it completely wrong. The Golden Globes nominated ‘The Toursit’ and ‘Red’ in the comedic category this year.

      • Comedies DO win Oscars, but they usually have to be something out of the ordinary, or essentially be “dramedies” (half drama/half comedy). Examples being: Forrest Gump, American Beauty, Shakespeare In Love, Annie Hall, and As Good As It Gets

  11. ilovenola2

    I, too, feel that “Zodiac” was a sad casualty of a too-early release date and thus missed out on nomination thoughts.
    This year the picture that got NO notice at the box office and NO notice from Oscar’s nominators is my favorite, “Let Me In.” At least the film is getting notice now– from renters and especially purchasers of blu-ray discs!! But no nominations for Oscars.

  12. Chri

    I know this is a foreign made film, but I feel The Proposition got robbed at least for the best foreign category, I thought it was brilliant. And Fight Club anyone?

    • Josh Zyber

      Although made in Australia, The Proposition is an English-language movie. The category is Best Foreign-Language Film, not just Best Foreign Film. The Proposition wouldn’t be eligible there. It’s a good pick, but in the Best Picture category instead.

      Fight Club was nominated for Sound Effects Editing.

  13. Ian Whitcombe

    The Searchers is, off hand, the single most obvious example of a genuine American masterpiece being wholly ignored by the Academy.

    Generally speaking, It’s actually rather of a challenge to find truly great films not to have been nominated for at least one award. I’ll go with:

    Blood Simple
    My Dinner With Andre
    Unfaithfully Yours (Original 1948 version)
    Don’t Look Now
    Wings of Desire
    Medium Cool
    500 Days of Summer
    The Bride Wore Black
    Groundhog Day
    Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters
    The Night of the Hunter
    Trouble In Paradise
    Three Kings

    Invariably, it seems to come down to movies that nobody saw upon release. Out of this list, only Andre did better in theatres than expected, Groundhog Day needed time to age, and Don’t Look Now was paired with the original Wicker Man as a double-feature in the UK (so that probably did OK), but most just faded way.

  14. Ryan Clements

    You all talk like the Oscars actually mean anything!!!

    Have you not worked out yet that the Oscars are basically a popularity contest? Real artistic craftsmanship does not really come into play here (or in any awards shows, for that matter).

    Surely the expansion of the Best Picture nominations to ten titles speaks volumes about using it as a vehicle to generate more income for studios.

    I used to look forward to the Oscars every year, but over the past 10 or so years, I have just increasingly lost interest as I recognised that it is not about quality at all. I have even heard stories of how Academy voters simply can’t be arsed filling out their ballots and give it to their spouse to complete. Does that sound like a sign of quality to anyone else??