55 Movies You Won’t Believe Didn’t Win Best Picture At The Oscars

TCM

"And the award goes to..." is a sentence fragment with plenty of heft, especially when it comes to the Oscars' top award, that ultimate crown of Hollywood laurels, the Best Picture winner. Who better than a group of peers to judge which of their own is the superior film that year? Yet time and again Tinseltown's top dogs make odd, inexplicable, and even downright wrong choices. You won't believe that these 57 movies didn't win Best Picture; in fact, seeing them next to the films that beat them might just have you rethinking the value of the industry award entirely.

Snubs to films like Citizen Kane and It's A Wonderful Life seem obvious in retrospect, but the films they were up against had more class, flair, or the burnish of intellectual respectability going for them. Past winners from a more modern era, especially Crash and American Beauty, have tarnished a little faster, their glow quickly fading and their competition revealed as the true gems sparkling in Hollywood's firmament. Who really wants to sit down with The English Patient's dour romance when you could enjoy its competitor's Minnesota Nice noir by the Coen Brothers?

Sometimes films just have better campaigns that attract more attention, but sometimes, Hollywood insiders just can't see the forest for the trees. Check out these so-called losers and how they stack up today.

1. 'The Sixth Sense'

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Lost to: American Beauty

In hindsight anything losing to American Beauty, a smarmy film featuring Kevin Spacey's main character going through a midlife crisis by almost sleeping with his teen daughter's best friend looks pretty bad, but in particular M. Night Shyamalan's atmospheric thriller (which holds up even after you know the main plot twist), seems a special shame.

2. ‘I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang’

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Lost to: Cavalcade

A movie about the upper crust and lower class dealing with the effects of a lesser-known war pales in comparison to Fugitive's dark look at the brutality and cruelty of the justice system, and how it turns even men who want to go straight into criminals by default.

3. ‘The Thin Man’

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Lost to: It Happened One Night

Both are filled with witty banter and screwball antics, but Thin Man's Nick and Nora are winsome beyond compare, plus there's a murder mystery!

4. 'Babe'

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Lost to: Braveheart

The blustering (and historically incorrect) historical epic lost to the year's real hero: A small pig determined to make it against the odds and actually change the social order for good.

5. ‘The Lion In Winter’

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Lost to: Oliver!

The greatest Christmas movie of all time (yep, I said it) and possibly the best dysfunctional family film ever (take that, Royal Tenenbaums) lost to a singing, dancing Dickensian moppet.

6. ‘Moonstruck’

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Lost to: The Last Emperor

The life story of China's last emperor is fine and has an excellent soundtrack, but how can it compare to a film featuring Cher and Nicholas Cage's finest performances?!

7. 'Mad Max: Fury Road'

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Lost to: Spotlight

A movie about a newsroom doing important things lost to a perfect all-out epic action movie about facing trauma.

8. ‘Grand Illusion’

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Lost To: You Can’t Take It With You

While it's a charming movie, wacky family vs. snooty blue bloods doesn't stack up against a film about The Human Condition.

9. 'Brokeback Mountain'

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Lost To: Crash

Another case where anything losing to an awful, Oscar-bait film, in this case Racism Is Bad: The Movie, would be a shanda, but particularly for Ang Lee's quiet, devastating romance to get shunted? Nah.

10. ‘Chinatown'

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Lost To: The Godfather Part II

Men with money to do whatever they want without fear of consequences is more relevant than ever today, putting it a little ahead of a film examining coiled toxic masculinity across time (that, unfortunately, is lauded as a good thing by many of its fans).

11. ‘Pulp Fiction’

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Lost to: Forrest Gump

Gump's shameless feel-good take on history featuring a noble free spirit won Oscar votes, but Tarantino's riff on classic films rebooted several careers and offered a glimpse of films to come.

12. ‘She Done Him Wrong’

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Lost To: Cavalcade

Not to knock the film again, but Cavalcade can't hold a candle to Mae West's sassy triple-entendres, featuring a baby-faced Carey Grant.

13. ‘The Red Shoes’

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Lost To: Hamlet

Hamlet, the tale of a 30 year old who can't figure out what he's doing, is always going to be considered Important. The Red Shoes' tale of an artist trapped between two cruel men's egos, is ART.

14. ‘Gaslight’

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Lost To: Going My Way

At least Gaslight garnered a Best Actress win for an amazing lead performance by Ingrid Bergman as a woman driven to doubt her own sanity by a total cad, and Best Art Direction, Black And White Film, to boot.

15. ‘Double Indemnity’

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Lost To: Going My Way

Though the noir classic, filled with lines like "I never knew death smelled like honeysuckle," got seven nominations, it didn't win a single Oscar. Was it Barbara Stanwyck's wig?

16. ‘Bonnie And Clyde’/'The Graduate’

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Lost To: In The Heat Of The Night

This is more pleasant surprise that Hollywood wasn’t ready to acknowledge the Boomer generation doing the movie equivalent of table flipping, instead lauding a film dealing with systematic racism, something they've since been happy to ignore. Still, the two films heralded the New Hollywood to come.

17. ‘Wuthering Heights’

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Lost To: Gone With The Wind

OK, well, EVERYTHING was going to lose to Gone With The Wind, the 3-hour epic about a whiny, selfish woman who wants everything and finagles most of it, only to have the Civil War get in her way.

18. ‘Working Girl’

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Lost to: Rain Man

We've come full circle — from this film's Women Can't Be Friends message (see also: An Officer And A Gentleman, Pretty Woman), to present-day cries that not supporting women patently doing horrific things is anti-feminist (see: the last and upcoming elections), we're now back to a balance with this film's ultimate message of Bosses Are Terrible.

19. ‘Selma’

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Lost to: Birdman

A timely film about the lesser-known but important civil rights march lost to a film about a male actor dealing with his career. Sigh.

20. 'Some Like It Hot'

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Lost to: Ben Hur

This overblown action drama won Best Picture back in the day, but Mad Max couldn't make the cut? And the Oscars snubbed one of the finest comedies ever, with all-around outstanding performances and perfect timing.

21. ‘The Shawshank Redemption’

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Lost to: Forrest Gump

Now this is the story of perseverance against the odds that should've nabbed Best Picture.

22. ‘Taxi Driver’

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Lost To: Rocky

This one's tough, because it's not like a great film about an underdog earning what he needed from life winning is anything bad — just that Scorsese's searing look inside Bickle's mind is so singular and outstanding.

23. 'The Grand Budapest Hotel'

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Lost to: Birdman

Anderson's attempt at looking slightly beyond wealthy white families to the broader world is less naval-gazing than Birdman.

24. 'The Help'

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Lost To: The Artist

Viola Davis herself told The New York Times she regretted her role in The Help for perpetuating the "white savior" narrative, and indeed the white women's stories trump the people they're supposedly talking to, but even this Davis performance trumps the treacly Hollywood sap of The Artist.

25. 'Phantom Thread'

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Lost To: Shape Of Water

Paul Thomas Anderson's breakdown of relationship dynamics between supposed auteurs and the women who "deal" with them has more nuance than the straightforward love story of a woman and fish-man.

26. 'Little Miss Sunshine'

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Lost To: The Departed

Scorsese should've won, but not like this, and not at the expense of a sweet, oddball family movie.

27. 'The Elephant Man'

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Lost To: Ordinary People

Mel Brooks produced David Lynch's lone period-piece about a Victorian sideshow attraction's life, though it lost to a perfectly decent movie about a family coping (or not) with loss.

28. 'It’s A Wonderful Life'

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Lost to: The Best Years Of Our Lives

Well, no one knew back then how much of an enduring classic the film would be.

29. 'Raging Bull'

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Lost To: Ordinary People

Again, I'd like to point out Scorsese eventually won for The Departed, a film based on the far superior film Infernal Affairs, and featuring a whole range of questionable Boston accents.

30. ’The Maltese Falcon’

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Lost to: How Green Was My Valley

One of the best noirs of all time lost to a film about... Welsh mining.

31. 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon '

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Lost to: Gladiator

The wrong period piece featuring vengeance and major set-pieces won, especially when, on one hand you have two manly-to-the-point-of-parodic leads (Russell Crowe, Oliver Reed), and on the other, two champions of their art (Michelle Yeoh, Chow Yun-fat).

32. ‘Dr. Strangelove’

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Lost To: My Fair Lady

Kubrick's dark look at the Cold War didn't stack up to a singing, Cockney-accented Pygmalion.

33. ‘Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf’

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Lost To: A Man For All Seasons

It doesn't matter what the winner was, nothing was going to top this all-out psychological battle between husband and wife (heck, put it up against Phantom Thread and the latter would pale in comparison).

34. ‘Cabaret’

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Lost to: The Godfather

Liza deserved better.

35. 'Citizen Kane'

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Lost to: How Green Was My Valley

The film that makes the top three of nearly every Best Film list (though considering everything you've read so far that's taken Best Picture, rethink the gatekeeping) lost to... Welsh mining.

36. 'Fargo'

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Lost to: The English Patient

An endless "love" story vs. the Coens' sharp noir, starring a Frances McDormand as a severely pregnant gumshoe.

37. ‘Stagecoach'

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Lost To: Gone With The Wind

As mentioned earlier, everything was doomed to lose to the 3-hour epic, but it's a shame this story of strangers banding together as they ride across the West didn't get its due.

38. 'Get Out'

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Lost To: Shape Of Water

No offense to Guillermo del Toro's fantastical romance, which itself was a win, as the Oscars usually don't acknowledge horror or fantasy, but Get Out was the film people didn't realize they wanted or needed when it hit.

39. ‘All That Jazz’

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Lost To: Kramer Vs. Kramer

The film where Divorced Dad Learns To Dad trumped Bob Fosse's impeccable overview of his own life and career.

These Films Weren’t Even Nominated!

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C'mon, Academy - do better.

40. 'Sunset Boulevard'

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Nominated in EVERY ACTING CATEGORY and still didn’t win a dang thing.

41. 'The Public Enemy' (1931)

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Ok, it got Best Original Story but not a single acting nomination for one of cinema's indelible performances.

42. 'Being John Malkovich'

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It also lost Best Director to American Beauty's parody of an Academy "prestige" movie. Remember how beautiful that plastic bag was? Exactly.

43. 'The Straight Story'

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David Lynch's devastating film about aging, loneliness, and death only got one Best Actor nod and lost to, you guessed it, Kevin Spacey in American Beauty.

44. 'Do The Right Thing'

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It garnered two nominations for Best Screenplay (lost to Dead Poets Society) and Best Supporting Actor (lost to Denzel Washington in Glory), starting Spike Lee's history of being nominated but not winning.

45. 'Brazil'

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Terry Gilliam's dystopian masterpiece lost Best Screenplay to Witness and best Art Direction to Out of Africa (which...didn't they shoot on location?)

46. 'Alien'

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Of course, it took away the award for Best Special Effects, but this all-time great horror film still leaves viewers tense and unnerved over three decades later.

47. 'Women In Love'

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Nominated for four awards but only winning Best Supporting Actress, this tale of all sorts of doomed loves should've at least gotten the Best Picture nod.

48. 'What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?'

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Only winning for Best Costume, it was the non-win that supposedly re-sparked the feud between its lead actresses, with Bette Davis convinced that Joan Crawford asked others not to vote for her, and Crawford offering to pick up the award for any other nominee unable to make it — meaning that she walked onstage at the ceremonies, and Davis didn't.

49. 'Hiroshima Mon Amour'

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Oddly nominated for Best Screenplay, but not Best Foreign Film, it didn't win either.

50. 'Vertigo'

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With only two nods for Art and Sound Direction, Hitchcock’s creepiest and best film didn’t win a thing.

51. 'A Star Is Born' (1954)

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Of all six nominations the film received and didn’t win, the one that stung most was Judy Garland losing to Grace Kelly in The Country Girl.

52. 'Gold Diggers Of 1933'

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Featuring Ginger Rogers, singing, dancing, pre-code debauchery, plus a hard-hitting look at the Great Depression’s effect on war veterans… and all it got was a Best Sound Recording nod.

53. 'Captain Blood'

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This film got an ultra-rare write-in nomination for Best Director, and still lost.

54. 'Bride Of Frankenstein'

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Despite being a horror classic, the film that invented camp sensibility for the wider world was only nominated for Best Sound Design and nothing more.

55. 'My Man Godfrey'

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This madcap mixed-up identity romance across class lines got six nominations, none of which were for Best Picture.

Luckily, not winning Best Picture doesn't mean these films have faded — many of them are available to stream. You can judge for yourself whether they were truly robbed of their rightful laudations.