20 "Best Picture" Winners That Weren't The Best

The Academy Awards are not always right, and there have been a few instances where they were very wrong. These films are not necessarily bad, and many are very good; these are the Best Picture winners that I think should have been runners up. In descending order of Oscar year:
Log in to copy items to your own lists.
The Hurt Locker (2008)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
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. (131 mins.)
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
“ It's a truly great war film, and one of the best suspense thrillers of the decade, but it isn't my pick for the best picture.

Should have gone to: INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS. Tarantino managed to rewrite history and give the Nazi party the blazing execution it deserved. ” - matsnowie
Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
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?" (120 mins.)
“ A wonderful, romantic and uplifting story. I didn't agree with the people who called it the best film of the decade, and I only agree that it was one of the best films of the year.

Should have gone to: THE DARK KNIGHT. Perhaps the Academy will redeem itself the next time a masterpiece comes out of the comic book genre, but Chris Nolan's crime epic deserved - at minimum - a nomination. ” - matsnowie
Crash (2004)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
Los Angeles citizens with vastly separate lives collide in interweaving stories of race, loss and redemption. (112 mins.)
Director: Paul Haggis
“ A solid collection of short stories that are masterfully interwoven over a single day in LA.

Should have gone to: BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. I'm not as crazily anti-Crash as some people are, but Brokeback Mountain is a far more timeless film. Some day Crash will seem dated, but the cowboy romance will still be heartbreaking. ” - matsnowie
Chicago (2002)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
Murderesses Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart find themselves on death row together and fight for the fame that will keep them from the gallows in 1920s Chicago. (113 mins.)
Director: Rob Marshall
“ This entertaining musical played around with reality by having the bulk of its songs appear as pieces of the main character's imagination.

Should have gone to: THE HOURS. A clever musical would have been deserving back in the 1960s, but 2002 deserved something more intellectual. The triple-story of The Hours is a masterpiece of novel adaptation and story editing. ” - matsnowie
Shakespeare in Love (1998)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
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. (123 mins.)
Director: John Madden
“ Improving on the Romeo and Juliet story with a witty script, Tom Stoppard wrote a prime romantic blockbuster. But...

Should have gone to: SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. Spielberg's war epic is a movie-going workout with one of the greatest opening sequences of all time. ” - matsnowie
The English Patient (1996)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
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. (162 mins.)
“ Seen by every adult in 1996, the adaptation of Michael Ondaatje's novel was not the best picture of the year.

Should have gone to: FARGO. The Coen brothers open with a giant lie ("based on a true story") and tell the darkest comedy ever. ” - matsnowie
Braveheart (1995)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
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. (178 mins.)
Director: Mel Gibson
“ Filled with terrible accents and century-wide anachronisms, Braveheart is an entertaining epic that fails to be the piece of art that Gibson likely believes it is.

Should have gone to: APOLLO 13. A science-based film with proper science, and a suspenseful thriller despite everyone knowing the ending; these are the marks of a great piece of filmmaking. ” - matsnowie
Forrest Gump (1994)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.8/10 X  
While not intelligent, Forrest Gump has accidentally been present at many historic moments, but his true love, Jenny Curran, eludes him. (142 mins.)
Director: Robert Zemeckis
“ Likely the most-seen of any best picture winner, Forrest Gump is the charming film that deserved a nomination but not a win.

Should have gone to: PULP FICTION or THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION. Either Tarantino's imaginative crime film or Darabont's heartwarming prison drama would have been satisfying choices for the Oscar. ” - matsnowie
Dances with Wolves (1990)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
Lt. John Dunbar, exiled to a remote western Civil War outpost, befriends wolves and Indians, making him an intolerable aberration in the military. (181 mins.)
Director: Kevin Costner
“ Kevin Costner's epic civil war-era film is the sort of thing that feels like Oscar-bait.

Should have gone to: GOODFELLAS. Another Scorsese masterpiece overlooked. It would have been one of the most foul-mouthed films to win the top prize (246 F-words). ” - matsnowie
Out of Africa (1985)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
In 20th-century colonial Kenya, a Danish baroness/plantation owner has a passionate love affair with a free-spirited big-game hunter. (161 mins.)
Director: Sydney Pollack
“ Set in Africa, yet largely without black characters, the romance is well told, but not deserving of the big prize.

Should have gone to: BRAZIL. Terry Gilliam's dystopic masterpiece wasn't even nominated, despite winning plenty of non-Oscar prizes. It's nice to think that someday the Academy will continue down the path of the last few years and go out on a limb to give the prize to something less standard. ” - matsnowie
Chariots of Fire (1981)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
Two British track athletes, one a determined Jew and the other a devout Christian, compete in the 1924 Olympics. (125 mins.)
Director: Hugh Hudson
“ I support international cinema as much as the next film fan, but there was an alternative worth noting in the list of nominatees for 1981:

Should have gone to: RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. Possibly the greatest action movie ever, the first Indiana Jones film is the kind of blockbuster entertainment that - if given the prize - would boost the Oscar telecast ratings through the roof. ” - matsnowie
Ordinary People (1980)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
The accidental death of the older son of an affluent family deeply strains the relationships among the bitter mother, the good-natured father, and the guilt-ridden younger son. (124 mins.)
Director: Robert Redford
“ An extremely close-up look at a crumbling family, Ordinary People is one of Robert Redford's greatest films. However...

Should have gone to: RAGING BULL. When Clint Eastwood was asked about loosing the director prize to Martin Scorsese in 2006 he pointed out, "He should have won for Raging Bull." And who is going to disagree with Dirty Harry? ” - matsnowie
Rocky (1976)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
Rocky Balboa, a small-time boxer, gets a supremely rare chance to fight heavy-weight champion Apollo Creed in a bout in which he strives to go the distance for his self-respect. (120 mins.)
“ The Wrestler and The Fighter proved that sports movies can be fun for non-sports fans, but Rocky is stuck in the boxers-only corner. Sadly dated despite its uplifting story, it didn't deserve the prize.

Should have gone to: NETWORK or TAXI DRIVER. A frighteningly precient satire on television news or another Scorsese classic would have been better choices. ” - matsnowie
My Fair Lady (1964)
    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. (170 mins.)
Director: George Cukor
“ No amount of charming music and silly Englishness can cover up what was overlooked in 1964:

Should have gone to: DR. STRANGELOVE OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING A LOVE THE BOMB. The first of many opportunities missed by the Academy to give Stanley Kubrick a deserved award. ” - matsnowie
West Side Story (1961)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
Two youngsters from rival New York City gangs fall in love, but tensions between their respective friends build toward tragedy. (152 mins.)
“ Street gangs dancing is just silly; it didn't take Family Guy to point that out. Street gangs dancing while telling the story of Romeo and Juliet is just exhausting.

Should have gone to: THE HUSTLER. One of many great early Paul Newman performances, the Hustler is a surprisingly shocking drama of shady characters. ” - matsnowie
Gigi (1958)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 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. (115 mins.)
“ I'll admit I haven't seen Gigi, but none of the reviews I've read can make a case for this beating its fellow nominee.

Should have gone to: CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. Another great Paul Newman role, a career best performance from Elizabeth Taylor, and a script from Tennesse Williams that managed (even under the production code) to include a controversial subtext along with the "can't look away" drama. ” - matsnowie
The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)
    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. (152 mins.)
“ Likely winning because of the film's superstar producer and the fact that half the voting audience appeared in the cast list, this circus production did not deserve to win.

Should have gone to: HIGH NOON. The real-time western is a masterpiece of rising tension and Gary Cooper's leading man status. ” - matsnowie
Hamlet (1948)
    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. (154 mins.)
“ Olivier was a great actor, but his floppy-fish performance of "to be or not to be" looks sillier with every great Branagh, Gibson, and Tennant performance that follows.

Should have gone to: THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE. Bogart was able to shed the charming leading man of Casablanca to play one of the corrupted gold miners in John Huston's classic tale of greed and conflict. ” - matsnowie
How Green Was My Valley (1941)
    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. (118 mins.)
Director: John Ford
“ Nope. Didn't deserve it.

Should have gone to: CITIZEN KANE. Welles may have been too young and his film may have been too ground-breaking, but it difficult to argue that it didn't deserve the big prize that year. ” - matsnowie
Grand Hotel (1932)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
A group of very different individuals staying at a luxurious hotel in Berlin deal with each of their respective dramas. (112 mins.)
Director: Edmund Goulding
“ Again, I haven't yet seen this film, but consider the alternative:

Should have gone to: CITY LIGHTS. Chaplin was slow to adopt sound and this, his second-to-last silent, opens by saterizing dialogue and goes on to tell one of the most brilliantly crafted romances of the silent - or any - Hollywood era. ” - matsnowie