The Top 10 Biggest Oscar Snubs of the Past 40 Years

By Preston Garrett · June 24, 2010

To put it lightly, there's Oscar snubs every year – upsets, tears, unrequited dreams, and poor choices.  Needless to say you can't win 'em all, but sometimes more than others, the Academy makes a biiiiig mistake.  Here, in our humble opinion, are the worst of the worst Academy choices since 1970.

10. Pulp Fiction & The Shawshank Redemption shrimp out to Forrest Gump

1994 was one of the years that just hit culture square in the face with a myriad of outstanding films.  Forrest Gump, is definitely one of these, but come on!  Pulp and Shawshank are two of the highest rated movies ever made.  It's really no surprise that Shawshank slipped through the cracks – it's one of those movies where the nomination was a win in and of itself.  But Pulp was a huge hit, and had the likes of Roger Ebert and Charlie Rose talking about the huge paradigm shift it would inevitably cause for the studio system and genre films alike.  Everyone liked Forrest Gump though, apparently.  Again, come on!

9. Ellen Burstyn loses to Julia Roberts for doing her best Ellen Burstyn impression
In 2000, Julia Roberts took home the bacon for Soderbergh's Erin Brockovich.  It was certainly a sweetheart situation – as they say in Citizen Kane, she'd always been the bridesmaid, and never the bride.  Well, the Academy decided to flower Soderbergh and his peripheral counterparts with a plethora of nods this year between Brockovich and Traffic (I personally wish Traffic had won Best Pic over Gladiator, but not really that "snub worthy").  Apparently the Academy forgot that Roberts was basically citing her entire performance from her Requiem for a Dream contender Ellen Burstyn's in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore.  Of the 2 actress's performances, Burstyn by and large had the meatiest, most risky, well-crafted performance.  So another situation where the Academy needed to indulge the popularity contest over the quality one.

8. Kubrick's lack of Connections
The French Connection is a fabulous movie.  So when it won Best Pic for 1971, it seemed fair enough.  It basically started a new wave of verite cinema, firmed Gene Hackman's icon status, and gave one of the nerdiest directors ever (William Friedkin) the cool factor he never had.  I definitely love TFC… but it hoarded the prizes!  A Clockwork Orange came out the same year and got no real Oscar recognition from the Academy, except the nominations.  Simply put, it should have won something, most notably either Director or Screenplay (both were credited to Kubrick).  But that would be out of style, right?  For the Academy to honor one of the seminal directors in history?  Lets just say they're trying to make good on this now by giving guys like Scorsese they're well overdue recognition before they're 90% done with their bucket lists.

7. Ralph Fiennes got scorched for being absolutely terrifying
Schindler's List was THE movie in 1993.  I mean… it's incredible.  It took home some of the top Oscar prizes, so there's no real need to complain… except for the one award (other than Picture) that it absolutely should have won.  Ralph Fiennes' portrayal of the psychotic Nazi Amon Goeth established the now cliched role of the psychotic Nazi.  SImply put, there'd be no Basterd-ly Hans Landa without him.  But for whatever reason the Academy decided to spread the wealth a little and give Tommy Lee Jones the statuette for Supporting Actor as Sam Gerard in The Fugitive.  Okay, The Fugitive is a fabulous film – I personally think it would have won the top prize if it weren't for the almighty List. But… Jones' performance is pretty minor in comparison to Fiennes'.  And where the hell was the Actor nomination for Harrison Ford?  Screwy times in Academy-land.

6. Taxi Driver & Network knocked out by Rocky
1976 was the 1994 of the 70s.  Rocky, Taxi Driver, and Network were all in the running for the Best Pic category.  Yes, all these films are great, but it's another case of the Academy going with the more popular Pic.  Rocky is definitely an underdog story in every way, but it's the most accessible film of the 3 big contenders.  Taxi and Network were prolific and groundbreaking.  Taxi delved into dark, personal demon territory that had never been depicted on film before, and Network predicted reality television (seriously)!  But meat-slapping and jumbled Philadelphia vernacular proved more potent than these tales of eccentricity.  At least the Academy now honors the underdog when it's actually an underdog now to make up for crap like this (ahem, Hurt Locker).

5. Fargo loses to boredom
1996 – the year of "show me the money," and the ridiculously long, Seinfeld-parodied movie that everyones' parents went to see and came home smelling like booze, tears, and idiocy.  The English Patient swept the Oscars this year, in spite of the fact that it's incredibly boring, predictable, boring, and boring.  Proving how badly the Academy screwed up this year, AFI inducted Fargo to the top 100 in less by the next decade.  A gargantuan running time and epic deserts seemed to blind the Academy – I guess they thought David Lean had made it.  Anyway, Fargo is infinitely better – one of the most well executed, concise capers to ever hit the silver screen.

4. Wolves howl in the face of the Goodfellas
Once upon a time, people cared about Kevin Costner, no matter what he did (until Waterworld).  Case in point with Dances with Wolves in 1990.  He swept the Oscars with his longwinded, and yes, good tale of a Civil War dude who goes to live with Native Americans.  Goodfellas literally lost because Costner was that "awesome" back then.  The crazy thing about Goodfellas is that is was somewhat of a surprise nominee in the first place – in general it had mixed to poor reviews because of it's hyper violence, incessant profanity, and unlovable characters.  To put it lightly, there's probably been few other collective 180s regarding a film than the quick one that took place with Goodfellas.  In the next couple years, it would be hailed as the "best mob movie ever" and nestled right beside The Godfather as the other epitome of life in the mafia.  Even more of a snub, where the hell was Liotta's nomination?

3. Apocalypse vs Kramer
1979 saw the year that praised the awkwardness of divorce more than the atrocities of evil on the battlefield of Vietnam.  Apocalypse Now lost out to Kramer vs. Kramer, which now seems pretty idiotic.  But I actually went back and watched Kramer recently and decided it was a deserving film.  In spite of that though, it's atrocious that Robert Benton took home Director and Writing Oscars for this.  Coppola received no recognition for this film whatsoever, even after losing his mind to make it over the course of something like 5 years.  So my real beef is that Coppola got no props.  Perhaps The Godfather films out shine this "smaller" fare.  But to me it just seems like another situation of giving the little guy the big guy awards just… because.

2. Coppola's first screw
Yes, these 2 snubs are back to back.  1972 – the year of The Godfather.  Marlon Brando took home the Best Actor prize (he actually didn't, but at least the Academy tried to give it to him), it won Best Pic, and Best Adapted Screenplay.  Yeah, those are 3 big prizes.  Bob Fosse ended up taking home the Best DIrector Oscar for Cabaret.  I guess I could get into super nitty gritty complaints  about why Fosse shouldn't have won, but I won't.  I'll just say that Coppola redefined a genre completely, whereas Fosse just made another musical.  Redefined a genre.  Made another musical.  Which seems like the more deserving winner?  Think about it for a sec.  If you're thinking about how amazing horses' heads are in bedsheets, then I think you're on my side…

1. Shakespeare In Love
It's still seriously hard to talk about. 1998 was an interesting year for films… in the most bland sense of the word.  All the Best Pic nominees were either World War II films, or Elizabethan films set in England: Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line, Life is Beautiful, Elizabeth, and Shakespeare in Love.  Yes, these are all great films.  Yes, there was one movie that was supposed to win – Saving Private Ryan.  It's one of the most staggering war films ever put on film, the highest grossing picture of 1998, and regarded as the Schindler's List of the more traditional World War II genre.  So how the hell did Shakespeare in Love pull it off?  I have no idea.  Really.  All I know is that when Harrison Ford read the Best Pic winner, you could tell he was pissed with the rest of America.