• Cody James


Let’s face it, sometimes the Oscars just get it wrong!

To win an Academy Award is often perceived as the highest honor one can receive in Hollywood. While some say it is just an honor to be nominated, let’s be honest, to have your hard work recognized with that golden bronze statuette puts you in the pantheon of some of the most innovative filmmakers in cinematic history.

With the 90th annual Academy Awards taking place on March 4th, we now have nearly a century of awards and honors that have been given out to the creative and talented minds behind some of cinema’s greatest films.

But what makes a film or performance Oscar worthy? Does an award merit the influence and pop culture impact that these movies leave behind? A film released fifty years ago may not have been understood by critics and audiences but today is viewed as a masterpiece. Our perceptions of films are always evolving and with that we can establish the fact that yes, sometimes The Academy gets it wrong!

In this article, I will provide the TOP 10 times the Academy had us all scratching our heads. Some of these films/performances were nominated for Oscars but did not win, while some choices on this list were not even nominated for an Academy Award.

So, let’s begin, starting with…


Citizen Kane (1941)


(Lost to How Green Was My Valley)

This is the one that seems to send everyone into a frenzy, so I thought it important to call attention to it first. Widely regarded as the greatest film ever made, Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane was a controversial film for its time but as the years went on, the film retained a reputation for its brilliant narrative and approach to masterful filmmaking. So why did it lose Best Picture to the drama How Green Was My Valley? A film about a Welsh family and their struggle to make it in the late 19th century. Sounds thrilling, doesn’t it? Likely, it is because Citizen Kane was not the monumental triumph that it is now seen as today.


Fargo (1996)


(Lost to The English Patient)

I’m with Elaine from Seinfeld on this...

I can’t think of a better film that exemplifies winning an Oscar for being long, drawn out, and about pain and heartache than the 1996 war drama The English Patient. While the film was a major hit among box office, critics, and audiences, the Coen Brothers’ dark comedy Fargo would have been a more original choice for the Best Picture Award and could have been a real game changer at the Oscars the way The Silence of the Lambs was when it won all 5 of the major categories. Fargo did manage to win Oscars for Best Original Screenplay and Best Actress for Frances McDormand.


Gena Rowlands in A Woman Under the Influence (1974)


(Lost to Ellen Burstyn for Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore)

While Ellen Burstyn had all the elements of a first-class performance in Martin Scorsese’s Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Gena Rowlands delivered a far more complex performance as a mentally unstable housewife that when watching today, is like a work of art. Her performance is completely electrifying and although this loss didn’t seem to bother too many people, I find it unbelievable that Gena Rowlands never did receive an Academy Award for what I consider to be one of the greatest performances ever by an actress on screen.


Psycho (1960)


(Not Nominated - Actual Winner: The Apartment)

I don’t think any film has made a bigger impact on cinema than Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 horror masterpiece Psycho, adapted from the 1959 novel of the same name, written by Robert Bloch. A controversial film from the moment it was released, Psycho was a groundbreaking film and encompasses some of the most iconic moments in pop culture. While this psychological thriller was nominated for Best Director (Alfred Hitchcock), Best Supporting Actress (Janet Leigh), Best Cinematography (Black and White), and Best Art Direction (Black and White), the film did not win a single Oscar and was also snubbed in the Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay categories. If we could go back in time, Psycho would not only have won Best Picture, but also in all the categories it was nominated.


Judy Garland


(Total Nominations: 2)

One of the most talented and iconic stars of Hollywood’s classic era, Judy Garland is one of the first actresses we as moviegoers are introduced to as The Wizard of Oz is an essential childhood viewing experience. While Garland was honored with an Academy Juvenile Award, a miniature Oscar statuette once given out by the Academy to a performer under the age of eighteen for their contributions to film, Judy Garland never received an Oscar for Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress. Also, in a film career that lasted nearly thirty years, she only received two Academy Award nominations. Her nominated performance in 1954’s A Star Is Born that resulted in a loss to Grace Kelly for The Country Girl was called “the biggest robbery since Brink’s.”


Bette Davis in All About Eve (1950)


Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard (1950)


(Lost to Judy Holliday for Born Yesterday)

Sometimes there is such stiff competition in a category that The Academy decides to play it safe and bestow an Oscar to a more underwhelming performance. That was the case in 1950 when The Academy gave the award for Best Actress in a Leading Role to Judy Holliday for her comedic and dramatic performance in Born Yesterday. While Holliday was perfectly effective in this role that she also starred in on Broadway, the fact that The Academy decided to overlook Bette Davis’s greatest performance as Margo Channing in the 1950 Best Picture winner All About Eve or Gloria Swanson’s devilishly iconic role as Norma Desmond in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard remains one of the biggest errors in Oscar history. I mean, they couldn’t just do a tie? They did eighteen years later in this category.


Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

(Lost to Humphrey Bogart for The African Queen)

It’s not fair to say that Marlon Brando was “snubbed” for an Academy Award, considering he won two. However, this one still has me scratching my head. In a high-octane performance that was beyond operatic, Marlon Brando delivered a crowning achievement in acting that I don’t think any actor will ever live up to in Elia Kazan’s A Streetcar Named Desire. But when the time came for what many thought would be Brando’s first Oscar win, The Academy chose to reward Humphrey Bogart for his work in The African Queen. While Bogart is another one of old Hollywood’s greatest actors, this award seemed more like a consolation prize for a body of work without an Oscar win and with Brando as the new guy on the block, The Academy must’ve known he’d have another chance at winning the statuette. Think of it this way, A Streetcar Named Desire won Oscars for Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress. Was this really a time Brando should have been left out?


Stanley Kubrick


(Total Nominations: 4)

2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket. These are just a few films from the list of one of cinema’s most innovative Directors, Stanley Kubrick. With his vastly thought-out set designs, unusual use of music, and conceptual use of style, Kubrick created a world of film that expanded ideas on art, philosophy, and sex. So why did this creative mastermind behind some of cinema’s most iconic films never receive an Oscar for Best Director? Perhaps The Academy found Kubrick’s unique style of directing a little too uneasy to be recognized with Oscar recognition. But there is no denying Stanley Kubrick is one of the most groundbreaking Directors of all time.


Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot (1959)


(Not Nominated - Actual Winner: Simone Signoret for Room at the Top)

Take this in for a moment...

Marilyn Monroe was never nominated for an Academy Award.

This may have made sense back in the 1950s when Marilyn Monroe suffered from the stereotype of being a “dumb blonde” and was not being taken seriously as an actress. But Monroe was very dedicated to her craft. Eager to be viewed as a serious actress and not just a sex symbol, Monroe studied method acting at The Actors Studio and received lessons from some of the greatest coaches in the business. While this didn’t make a drastic change to her film roles, no performance better exemplified Monroe’s skill as an actress than when she played Sugar “Kane” Kowalczyk in Billy Wilder’s 1959 comedy classic Some Like It Hot. Her combination of sultriness, comedic timing, and dramatic ability added to the film’s critical success and while Some Like It Hot received several Academy Award nominations including Best Director and Best Actor for Jack Lemmon, Monroe was omitted from the list of Best Actress nominees. The Academy completely blew the opportunity to give Marilyn Monroe the validation she so rightfully deserved.




(Lost Best Picture to Dances with Wolves and Best Director to Kevin Costner for Dances with Wolves)

Maybe I had to be there to understand this but I’m sorry, how can a three-hour film about a lieutenant and his relationship with an Indian tribe even compare to the epic narrative of Martin Scorsese’s crime film Goodfellas? Let’s be honest, I could have easily done a top 10 list of all the times Scorsese’s films have been snubbed by the Oscars, but no injustice hurts more than the overblown applause for Kevin Costner’s directorial debut Dances with Wolves over the far more appealing gangster-flick Goodfellas.


Alfred Hitchcock


(Total Nominations: 5)

This is just plain criminal! I’m sure most moviegoers would assume that complex Director Alfred Hitchcock has won his share of Oscars. But oh, would they be wrong! While his 1940 film Rebecca did take home the Best Picture Oscar, with a total of five nominations (Rebecca, Lifeboat, Spellbound, Rear Window, Psycho), Alfred Hitchcock was never honored with an Academy Award for Best Director. How can this even be possible? Dubbed as “The Master of Suspense,” Hitchcock was the creative force behind some of the most prolific and groundbreaking thrillers in history. His name is brought up in conversations of genius and innovators. His unique style of filming people is something that influenced a whole generation of filmmakers. And while it is unbelievable that Hitchcock never received an Oscar himself, it just shows that you don’t need an award to amplify your legacy.

So, there they are. The Top 10 times The Academy made us say “WHAAAT?!”

When was a time YOU think the Oscars got it wrong?

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About the Administrator:

My name is Cody James. Welcome to my blog - Some Like It Hollywood!

Since I was a kid, movies have always been my virtual escape from reality.

I love ALL TYPES of films from every era and enjoy talking about them.

I currently host a movie review segment on 102.9 W4 Country in Ann Arbor, MI.

You can also follow my blog on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

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