The Mortal sins of the Academy....Best Picture?

by John Jacoby | created - 30 Apr 2011 | updated - 08 Mar 2013 | Public

Everyone agrees that citizen Kane should have won best picture for 1941 over How green Was my Valley, and that Raging Bull was the best picture of 1980. This list expands that notion. It is my personal list of mortal omissions and questionable best picture winners! And, of course, what should have won!!

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1. Rebecca (1940)

Not Rated | 130 min | Drama, Mystery, Romance

8.2
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

A self-conscious bride is tormented by the memory of her husband's dead first wife.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock | Stars: Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, George Sanders, Judith Anderson

Votes: 98,633

The movie, Rebecca, Hitchcock's first foray into American film making was awarded best picture for 1940, and it was a quality film. But the better choice should have been John Ford's masterpeice, The Grapes of Wrath.

2. How Green Was My Valley (1941)

Not Rated | 118 min | Drama, Family

7.8
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

At the turn of the century in a Welsh mining village, the Morgans, he stern, she gentle, raise coal-mining sons and hope their youngest will find a better life.

Director: John Ford | Stars: Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O'Hara, Anna Lee, Donald Crisp

Votes: 17,527

Again, the Academy missed the mark and overlooked the remarkable and far superior, Citizen Kane, for Best picture for the year 1941.

3. Going My Way (1944)

Passed | 126 min | Comedy, Drama, Music

7.2
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

Father Charles O'Mailey, a young priest at a financially failing Church in a tough neighborhood, gains support and inspires his superior.

Director: Leo McCarey | Stars: Bing Crosby, Barry Fitzgerald, Frank McHugh, James Brown

Votes: 8,472 | Gross: $16.30M

This one is really flagrant, ignoring the wonderful Double Indemnity, which should have prevailed as best picture for 1944.

4. Hamlet (1948)

Not Rated | 154 min | Drama

7.8
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

Prince Hamlet struggles over whether or not he should kill his uncle, whom he suspects has murdered his father, the former king.

Director: Laurence Olivier | Stars: Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, John Laurie, Esmond Knight

Votes: 12,939

Olivier's masterpeice is moving and timeless, but best film of the decade was shunned and should have won; the wonderful "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" was the best picture for 1948.

5. All the King's Men (1949)

Approved | 110 min | Drama, Film-Noir

7.6
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

The rise and fall of a corrupt politician, who makes his friends richer and retains power by dint of a populist appeal.

Director: Robert Rossen | Stars: Broderick Crawford, John Ireland, Joanne Dru, John Derek

Votes: 10,899

A good, entertaining well acted film, but the better choice is, yet another William Wyler classic, The Heiress, was the best picture for 1949.

6. The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)

Not Rated | 152 min | Drama, Family, Romance

6.7
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

The dramatic lives of trapeze artists, a clown, and an elephant trainer are told against a background of circus spectacle.

Director: Cecil B. DeMille | Stars: James Stewart, Charlton Heston, Betty Hutton, Cornel Wilde

Votes: 10,564 | Gross: $36.00M

Admittedly, 1952, was a very light weight year in terms of best picture caliber movies. But, "Greatest show..."? It should not have been nominated. The best of the off year were High Noon, the Quiet Man, and my personal choice, Moulin Rouge, John Huston's fine film, which should have captured the award.

7. Marty (1955)

Not Rated | 90 min | Drama, Romance

7.7
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A middle-aged butcher and a school teacher who have given up on the idea of love meet at a dance and fall for each other.

Director: Delbert Mann | Stars: Ernest Borgnine, Betsy Blair, Esther Minciotti, Augusta Ciolli

Votes: 17,387

A fine and entertaining film, and historically significant, as the first Indie film to make it big, but, not worthy of the big prize with competition the likes of Man with the Golden Arm, Picnic, and my choice, the wonderful "Mr. Roberts", the choice for best pic for 1955.

8. Around the World in 80 Days (1956)

G | 175 min | Adventure, Comedy, Family

6.8
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

A Victorian Englishman bets that with the new steamships and railways he can circumnavigate the globe in eighty days.

Directors: Michael Anderson, John Farrow | Stars: David Niven, Cantinflas, Shirley MacLaine, Robert Newton

Votes: 20,180 | Gross: $42.00M

1956 was the most curiously weird year for Oscar. Not the greatest field of best picture entries, but many better than "Around the world in 80 days". My choice, "The Ten Commandments" should have won!

9. Gigi (1958)

G | 115 min | Comedy, Musical, Romance

6.8
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

Weary of the conventions of Parisian society, a rich playboy and a youthful courtesan-in-training enjoy a platonic friendship, but it may not stay platonic for long.

Director: Vincente Minnelli | Stars: Leslie Caron, Maurice Chevalier, Louis Jourdan, Hermione Gingold

Votes: 16,335

Delightful romp, with the beautiful Leslie Caron, but best picture for 1958 was between Separate tables, Vertigo and Defiant Ones. My choice... "Vertigo".

10. Ben-Hur (1959)

G | 212 min | Adventure, Drama, History

8.1
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
90 Metascore

When a Jewish prince is betrayed and sent into slavery by a Roman friend, he regains his freedom and comes back for revenge.

Director: William Wyler | Stars: Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins, Stephen Boyd, Haya Harareet

Votes: 182,220 | Gross: $74.70M

For length, it crushes the other great films, but 1959 was a year that paralleled 1939 for incredibly good entries, "Some Like It Hot", North by Northwest, Anatomy of a Murder. My choice, Preminger's best, "Anatomy of a Murder.' Jimmy Stewart, never better!

11. My Fair Lady (1964)

G | 170 min | Drama, Family, Musical

7.9
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

A misogynistic and snobbish phonetics professor agrees to a wager that he can take a flower girl and make her presentable in high society.

Director: George Cukor | Stars: Audrey Hepburn, Rex Harrison, Stanley Holloway, Wilfrid Hyde-White

Votes: 73,945 | Gross: $72.00M

Amusing, well done and entertaining, but he best picture for 1964 was Dr. Strangelove, the very best of Kubrick.

12. The Sound of Music (1965)

G | 174 min | Biography, Drama, Family

8.0
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

A woman leaves an Austrian convent to become a governess to the children of a Naval officer widower.

Director: Robert Wise | Stars: Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Eleanor Parker, Richard Haydn

Votes: 165,898 | Gross: $163.21M

This is one really frosts me. The movie is a fine musical but 1965 is the year of the wonderful and timeless "Doctor Zhivago" easily the best picture of the year, and arguably the decade.

13. In the Heat of the Night (1967)

Not Rated | 109 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

8.0
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75 Metascore

An African American police detective is asked to investigate a murder in a racially hostile southern town.

Director: Norman Jewison | Stars: Sidney Poitier, Rod Steiger, Warren Oates, Lee Grant

Votes: 55,579 | Gross: $24.38M

One of my favorite movies of all time, but the better choice is "The Graduate", a top ten of all time classic.

14. Oliver! (1968)

G | 153 min | Drama, Family, Musical

7.5
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Young Oliver Twist runs away from an orphanage and meets a group of boys trained to be pickpockets by an elderly mentor.

Director: Carol Reed | Stars: Mark Lester, Ron Moody, Shani Wallis, Oliver Reed

Votes: 28,602 | Gross: $16.80M

1968 was another lean year (see 1952, 1956, 1949 and 1977). Nevetheless, better films than the winner include 2001: A Space Odyssey, Charly and my choice, "Rosemary's Baby".

15. Annie Hall (1977)

PG | 93 min | Comedy, Romance

8.1
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
92 Metascore

Neurotic New York comedian Alvy Singer falls in love with the ditzy Annie Hall.

Director: Woody Allen | Stars: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts, Carol Kane

Votes: 218,855 | Gross: $39.20M

Another lesser year, and limited choices for best film, but the better choice than the winner is my personal choice for best picture, "Julia".

16. Chariots of Fire (1981)

PG | 125 min | Biography, Drama, Sport

7.2
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78 Metascore

Two British track athletes, one a determined Jew, and the other a devout Christian, compete in the 1924 Olympics.

Director: Hugh Hudson | Stars: Ben Cross, Ian Charleson, Nicholas Farrell, Nigel Havers

Votes: 45,210 | Gross: $58.97M

One of the great mysteries of the academy, Chariots was the compromise dark horse winner, given the deadlock between On Golden Pond, Reds, and Atlantic city. I sugggest the best three movies of 1981 were not even nominated, Milos Foreman's Ragtime, Sidney Lumet's gritty, Prince of the City and my choice, the underrated, "Body Heat", my best picture for 1981.

17. Amadeus (1984)

R | 160 min | Biography, Drama, History

8.3
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
93 Metascore

The incredible story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, told by his peer and secret rival Antonio Salieri - now confined to an insane asylum.

Director: Milos Forman | Stars: F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce, Elizabeth Berridge, Roy Dotrice

Votes: 305,614 | Gross: $51.97M

Good acting and directing, an interesting biopic, but not quite best picture material. Better choice, the not even nominated and wildly underrated, "The Pope of Greenwich Village", my choice for best picture of 1984.

18. Out of Africa (1985)

PG | 161 min | Biography, Drama, Romance

7.2
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In 20th-century colonial Kenya, a Danish baroness/plantation owner has a passionate love affair with a free-spirited big-game hunter.

Director: Sydney Pollack | Stars: Meryl Streep, Robert Redford, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Michael Kitchen

Votes: 58,763 | Gross: $87.10M

Out of tequila, out of valium, out of entertainment, this overly long but well acted soaper is simply not best picture caliber. My choice: "Prizzi's Honor" a great offering in the twilight of the memorable career of the wonderful John Huston.

19. The Last Emperor (1987)

PG-13 | 163 min | Biography, Drama, History

7.8
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76 Metascore

The story of the final Emperor of China.

Director: Bernardo Bertolucci | Stars: John Lone, Joan Chen, Peter O'Toole, Ruocheng Ying

Votes: 77,988 | Gross: $43.98M

See 1985 for similar comments on the historically significant but overly long, and plodding Emperor. Only the fine work of Peter O'Toole saves this picture. Better movies and best picture caliber offerings include "Wall Street" and my personal choice, the wildly entertaining and well acted, "Broadcast News", my choice for 1987.

20. Driving Miss Daisy (1989)

PG | 99 min | Drama

7.4
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
81 Metascore

An old Jewish woman and her African-American chauffeur in the American South have a relationship that grows and improves over the years.

Director: Bruce Beresford | Stars: Morgan Freeman, Jessica Tandy, Dan Aykroyd, Patti LuPone

Votes: 81,347 | Gross: $106.59M

Jessica and Morgan shine in this likeable tale of the post war South and human relationships that surprise, but the movie was not best of 1989. Better choices were "Glory" and my personal choice, "Dead Poets Society" as best picture for 1989.

21. Dances with Wolves (1990)

PG-13 | 181 min | Adventure, Drama, Western

8.0
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  
72 Metascore

Lieutenant John Dunbar, assigned to a remote western Civil War outpost, befriends wolves and Indians, making him an intolerable aberration in the military.

Director: Kevin Costner | Stars: Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell, Graham Greene, Rodney A. Grant

Votes: 204,811 | Gross: $184.21M

The academy seemed to award overly long and boring epics during this ten year run, and it's unimaginable that "Dances" won best picture. Better choices include "Awakenings", "Reversal of Fortune" and my personal choice, the compelling "Goodfellas", my choice as best picture for 1990.

22. Forrest Gump (1994)

PG-13 | 142 min | Drama, Romance

8.8
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.8/10 X  
82 Metascore

The presidencies of Kennedy and Johnson, Vietnam, Watergate, and other history unfold through the perspective of an Alabama man with an IQ of 75.

Director: Robert Zemeckis | Stars: Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise, Sally Field

Votes: 1,438,617 | Gross: $330.25M

Nice film, great acting and wonderful support from true pros Sally Field and Gary Sinise, but Gump was simply not nearly as good as two standouts, the intelligent offering from the wonderful Robert Redford, "Quiz Show" and my choice, "Shawshank Redemption", my selection for best picture of 1994 (a very good year).

23. Braveheart (1995)

R | 178 min | Biography, Drama, History

8.4
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
68 Metascore

When his secret bride is executed for assaulting an English soldier who tried to rape her, Sir William Wallace begins a revolt against King Edward I of England.

Director: Mel Gibson | Stars: Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau, Patrick McGoohan, Angus Macfadyen

Votes: 823,992 | Gross: $75.60M

Easily one of the top five misteps of the Academy, and maybe the most egregious (see also 1990, 2000, 1952, 1956 and 1998), the year 1995 was graced with one of the best movies of all time, Ron Howard's best, the wonderful Apollo 13, should have won the prize.

24. The English Patient (1996)

R | 162 min | Drama, Romance, War

7.4
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
87 Metascore

At the close of WWII, a young nurse tends to a badly-burned plane crash victim. His past is shown in flashbacks, revealing an involvement in a fateful love affair.

Director: Anthony Minghella | Stars: Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe, Kristin Scott Thomas

Votes: 155,321 | Gross: $78.65M

Two great films were released in 1996 and English patient was not one of them. The movies were "Jerry Maguire" and my personal choice, the Coen Brothers quirky classic, "Fargo", my selection as best picture for 1996.

25. Titanic (1997)

PG-13 | 194 min | Drama, Romance

7.8
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
75 Metascore

A seventeen-year-old aristocrat falls in love with a kind but poor artist aboard the luxurious, ill-fated R.M.S. Titanic.

Director: James Cameron | Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Kathy Bates

Votes: 878,133 | Gross: $0.69M

1997 was a great year for movies, rivaling 1939, 1959, 1974 and 1976 in terms of numbers of best picture caliber releases. I like at least three movies better for best picture: L.A. Confidential, Good Will Hunting and my choice for best picture of the great year, 1997, "As Good as it Gets" another winner for James L. Brooks directing iconic Jack Nicholson.

26. Shakespeare in Love (1998)

R | 123 min | Comedy, Drama, History

7.2
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87 Metascore

A young Shakespeare, out of ideas and short of cash, meets his ideal woman and is inspired to write one of his most famous plays.

Director: John Madden | Stars: Gwyneth Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes, Geoffrey Rush, Tom Wilkinson

Votes: 189,870 | Gross: $100.32M

Maybe the most egregious error in Academy History. Shakespeare had no business winning over the far superior and timeless, "Saving Private Ryan" my choice for best pic of 1998.

27. Gladiator (2000)

R | 155 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

8.5
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
67 Metascore

When a Roman General is betrayed, and his family murdered by an emperor's corrupt son, he comes to Rome as a gladiator to seek revenge.

Director: Ridley Scott | Stars: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed

Votes: 1,103,971 | Gross: $187.71M

Another incomprehensible blunder. Gladiator? Are you kidding me; you are killing me Academy! Better choices: Erin Brockovich and my personal favorite and selection, "Traffic", a masterpeice and my choice for 2000's best picture.

28. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

PG-13 | 201 min | Adventure, Drama, Fantasy

8.9
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94 Metascore

Gandalf and Aragorn lead the World of Men against Sauron's army to draw his gaze from Frodo and Sam as they approach Mount Doom with the One Ring.

Director: Peter Jackson | Stars: Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom

Votes: 1,360,065 | Gross: $377.85M

This was an award for the cumulative effort of of the three film "Rings" trilogy. The better choice is yet another Clint Eastwood gem, the gritty and entertaining, "Mystic River" my pick for best picture of 2003.

29. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

R | 120 min | Drama, Romance

8.0
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  
86 Metascore

A Mumbai teen reflects on his upbringing in the slums when he is accused of cheating on the Indian Version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?"

Directors: Danny Boyle, Loveleen Tandan | Stars: Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Saurabh Shukla, Anil Kapoor

Votes: 700,973 | Gross: $141.32M

Slumdog is entertaining and innovative, loaded with Danny Boyle flourishes, which I enjoy, but the better films for 2008 were Frost/Nixon, and my personal choice, "Milk", as best picture for 2008.

30. The Hurt Locker (2008)

R | 131 min | Drama, History, Thriller

7.6
Rate this
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
94 Metascore

During the Iraq War, a Sergeant recently assigned to an army bomb squad is put at odds with his squad mates due to his maverick way of handling his work.

Director: Kathryn Bigelow | Stars: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Guy Pearce

Votes: 365,699 | Gross: $17.02M

The Hurt Locker won best picture in perhaps the leanest year for best picture contenders in history. It was an historically awful year. I liked "The Blind side" and "Up in the Air" although neither qualify as best picture caliber films. Given the necessity of needing a winner, my vote is for "Up in the Air" for the best of lot for 2009. I am very pleased that movies rebounded with an astonishing comback and offered some true classics in 2010!!!