Posted by: Greg | November 9, 2009

10 Worst Best Picture Oscar Winner’s

Awards season is coming up, you know the time when the studio’s start releasing their “Oscar bait.” I love the Academy Awards. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I find some sort of validation in knowing that there is a massive group of people out there that loves the movies even more than those of us who write for The Spotless Minds. And that makes me feel accepted. But whenever that Best Picture award comes around I know that there is an 80% chance that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will royally fuck it up. These are the ten biggest mistakes the Academy ever made and the movies that should have won.

Number 10: Dances with Wolves (1990)

Are you fucking kidding me???? ‘Good Fellas’ came out this same year and was nominated for Best Picture as well! How high would you have to be to think for a second that Martin Scorsese’s gangster masterpiece is inferior to watching Kevin Costner, of all people, stare at grass for over 2 1/2 hours?? ‘Dances with Wolves’ is a beautiful film to look at, but so is ‘Good Fellas,’ and in the end Scorsese’s film is the one that encompasses the truest spirit and magic of the film medium. When Ray Liotta breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience to tell us why he loved being a gangster, it’s one of those moments that makes me love film.

Number 9: Forrest Gump (1994)

I am the first to admit that I am incredibly biased against this movie because it beat the film that I used to call my favourite: ‘Pulp Fiction’ (which still holds a number 6 position on my Top Ten). ‘Forrest Gump’ is an ok movie that was surrounded in a sea of better ones. It deserved some of the recognition it got (eg. Tom Hanks for his incredibly charming performance) but it is not and never will be better than The Fiction, and here’s why: after one of the worst decades in popular culture (the 80’s), action/adventure movies began to be bland, predictable and driven by a deathly precise formula…you know, like they are again now. But then when all hope seemed to be lost Quentin Tarantino put all those bland formula’s together and made something completely fresh and new. Say what you will about QT, but ‘Pulp Fiction’ is a masterpiece. And then there’s Forrest, sitting on his bench, telling a perfectly linear story about his unlikely life. So the Academy once again goes for the safe choice. Oh well, stupid is as stupid does…I guess.

Oh almost forgot. ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ was also nominated for Best Picture, just to put into perspective how fucking stupid the Academy can be.

Number 8:  Chariots of Fire (1981)

Has anyone ever actually watched a marathon? Well guess what? I have. They’re bloody boring. So boring that clawing your eyes out and asking an old person why they hate black people seems like a better way to pass the time. And yet, here we are in 1981 and a movie about a really long jog and a catchy score wins Hollywood’s top prize. Guess what else was nominated this year…give up? ‘RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK’ the quintessential  adventure movie. But no, Professor Jones and his fedora weren’t sophisticated enough for Mr. Oscar.

Number 7: Ordinary People (1980)

I always wonder why the Academy is so cruel to Martin Scorsese. This movie won over ‘Raging Bull’ which is easily one of the best movies of the whole decade, while Robert Redford’s harsh drama is barely a footnote. This choice is a really obvious one as it appears on a lot lists like this one by other film critics. I don’t actually know of anyone who thought this was a better film than ‘Raging Bull.’ Maybe I just don’t want to.

Number 6: A Beautiful Mind (2001)

Ron Howard has made only one good movie and it is not this one (It’s ‘Apollo 13’ if you were wondering). This film is emotionally manipulative with it’s audience. It doesn’t give the viewer any space to make their own judgements on the characters especially the story’s protagonist who is presented as a tormented Saint-like man who can do no wrong and is a victim of his own genius. God dammit! Give the man some dimensions! Let him grapple with the darkest sides of his twisted mind instead of the one that tells him to do invisible math equations. Also I did not believe, for one second, the relationship between Crowe and Jennifer Connelly. What really hurts is how well this movie starts, but then turns into non-engaging, Oscar baiting BLARG! And what’s worse is that the general public still loves it! AGH!

Oh right! Uhhhh, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring definitely should have won this year, it’s the best of the Trilogy easily.

Number 5: Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

Ok, this is actually a good movie, and deserved this award, and probably shouldn’t be so high on this list, but it did beat ‘Apocalypse Now.’ That I cannot forgive.

Number 4: My Fair Lady (1964)

I’m willing to take a lot of flack for this. I know how crazy some people are for dear old Audrey. And this movie was made when musicals on film were still relevant (heads up, they’ve been making a huge comeback since ‘Chicago’ but I’m not sure we’re there yet). This movie may be wonderful but it doesn’t say anything important and it also has become a little bit dated. But the movie that should have won is still quite relevant, humorous and highly entertaining. ‘Dr. Strangelove’ is one of my favourite films of all time and was nominated this year for four academy awards (Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay and Actor – Peter Sellers) and took home a big goose egg. Its darkly comic take on nuclear annihilation is ingenious and hilarious. Peter Sellers is always brilliant and with fantastic turns from George C. Scott and Slim Pikins makes this one of the best of the decade if not ever.

Number 3: Titanic (1997)

The poster for this movie lists the better movies that James Cameron made. ‘Terminator 2’! ‘Aliens’! Even ‘True Lies.’ The reason that these movies are better is because they are uncompromising and unique. ‘Titanic’ on the other hand is a brilliantly made film, but it is a story we’ve all heard many times before. In fact this movie is almost a remake of the 1953 film of the same name. The film is extremely basic when one looks past the striking visuals: poor boy meets rich girl. They fall in love. Forces conspire to come between them. Then the ship sinks and the girl refuses to share the enormous floating door and dooms the boy to a watery grave. Ok so that last part isn’t very common, but my point is that as far as story goes, this one doesn’t take any risks, and I think the Academy should award risks when they are effective. Like LA Confidential, which should have won.

Number 2: Shakespeare in Love (1998)

I really, really, really wanted to make this my number one pick, but I couldn’t let my hatred of romantic comedies completely blind my judgement. However, the number 2 position is almost just as good. In a year when four other movies SHOULD HAVE WON, the academy picked a ROMANTIC COMEDY!!!! And not even a good one, this is a fucking mediocre romantic comedy starring two mediocre leads. You know what Joseph Fiennes is doing now? TV and soft-core porn. Yeah. And what the hell is Ben Affleck doing in this movie? The man can barely do a Boston accent and he grew up there, never mind a proper English dialect! For those of you reading this who think I’m full of shit, let me list the films that were also up for the Big Prize this year: ‘Life is Beautiful’ ‘The Thin Red Line’ ‘SAVING PRIVATE RYAN’ and ‘Elizabeth.’ Any one of these would have been better than this poor excuse for a period piece. God it just makes me so mad, I want to kick something small and furry!

Number 1: How Green Was My Valley (1941)

Remember this one? I didn’t think so. This movie’s number one claim to fame is that it is a terrible bore and that it beat ‘Citizen Kane.’ In the most classic blunder in Academy history, they award the movie about coal miners going on strike and leave out AFI’s number one film of all time (Personally I don’t think ‘Citizen Kane’ should be number 1, but hey, who am I to judge?). Also nominated the same year was ‘The Maltese Falcon’ and ‘Sergeant York.’ Yesterday I asked a random group of people if they had heard of ‘How Green Was My Valley.’ I received an almost unanimous “what now?” And then I asked them if they had heard of Citizen Kane, and then came a resounding “of course!”

I rest my case.

Now I want to state clearly that there are plenty of good best picture winners (The Godfather, The Departed, Slumdog Millionaire, The French Connection, The Deer Hunter etc.) and I promise I will write a positive review one of these days. Until then, tah.

– Greg



  1. Hilarious. Great idea for a list! I am glad Shakespeare in Love was number two, that’s probably the one that I immediately think of when discussing terrible best picture winners.

  2. Okay, look.

    Everyone knows the Academy did Scorsese a disservice when Raging Bull, arguably the best film of the 80s didn’t win Best Picture.

    That said, they also did a disservice turning Ordinary People, a truly spellbinding film into what you refer to as “barely a footnote”. This film has been overshadowed by it’s Oscar win which is a terrible shame. Ordinary People is a beautiful, affecting film with some of the best performances I have ever seen.

    You can rage on the “Bull” as much as you like but at the end of the day they are both essential viewing.

  3. Forrest Gump may or may not have beaten Pulp Fiction is no bother to me. But I didn’t know it beat Shawshank. That’s just silly.

    A Beautiful Mind isn’t the most brilliant film but it is a good one. I cared about the characters, and that is more than I can say for Pulp Fiction. And Fellowship is inherently the worst Rings film because there is not nearly enough fucking people up in sweet battles, dogg! (and I am totally serious).

    And lastly, Slumdog Millionaire should be on this list. The Wrestler is one of the best movies of all time, and it got beaten by a movie that could never decide on what it wanted to be until it finally rested on “totally fucking average with a Bollywood homage” right at the end.

  4. I’d love to make this a comment thread in which people leave their thoughts on the Ten Worst Best Picture Winners. I love hearing this feedback. This list is by no means definitive, so please let me know your own top ten worst

  5. This list missed a few other Oscar Travesties: Here’s my list

    1959 Worst picture: BEN HUR / should have won: SOME LIKE IT HOT

    1982 Worst picture: GHANDHI / should have won: E.T

    1983 Worst picture: TERMS OF ENDEARMENT / should have won: YENTL

    1994 Worst picture: FOREST GUMP / should have won: FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL

    2002 Worst picture: CHICAGO / should have won: THE PIANIST

    2005 Worst picture: CRASH / should have won: BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN

    2007 Worst picture: NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN / should have won: THIS IS ENGLAND

  6. I’m actually quite surprised that you didn’t include Slumdog Millionaire and Crash on your list.

    A huge percent of the best movies ever been made did not win Best Picture, and I think it’s a shame.

  7. In terms of film quality, Broadway Melody is the worst of all. In terms of who they were up against, How Green Was My Valley is worst (quality-wise, it passes.)

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