The Biggest Oscar Snubs Of All Time: When The Academy Awards Got It Wrong

Updated on February 19, 2020
Tom Hanks holding onto his Oscar for his role in Philadelphia.
Tom Hanks holding onto his Oscar for his role in Philadelphia.

Early each year, the film world is taken over by an epidemic known as Oscar fever. As each year of movies and documentary film making goes by, critics assign “Oscar-buzz” to particular films and performances. Some receive Oscar buzz and are considered shoe a shoe in for Academy Award Nominations before they’ve even been seen by the public or even in many cases before they’ve even been filmed. A recent example is Daniel Day Lewis being practically penned in for an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of President Abraham Lincoln, in Steven Spielberg’s latest biopic “Lincoln.” Whether or not he deserves the buzz is not decided until the performance hits the big screen, and but the buzz is undeniable and filmmakers aren’t complaining as it is sure to get more viewers out of their homes and into the theaters.

Once The Academy Awards arrive each year, there is always controversy and in many cases the decisions are criticized and questioned by the masses. How could that film not win Best Picture? Her performance was undeniably brilliant, how could she lose out to her? The questions fly, and nobody will ever be happy. However, some years there are decisions that such a vast majority of viewers agree, are plain an simply, downright wrong! Here are some of the biggest Oscar snubs in film history. Feel free to suggest any you feel should make the list!

The stars of George Lucas' groundbreaking masterpiece.
The stars of George Lucas' groundbreaking masterpiece.

Annie Hall beats out Star Wars (50th Academy Awards in 1978)

Until Lord of the Rings: Return of the King took home Best Picture in 2004, the Fantasy and Sci-Fi genres had never seen a winner in this category. Largely responsible for this is the first of my Oscar snubs, which took place during the 50th Academy Awards in 1978. Woody Allen is a great, reputable director who has seen a large number of nominations throughout the years, most recently the fantastic and charming Midnight in Paris. Annie Hall was also a great flick, funny and witty, but what George Lucas did with Star Wars was reinvent filmmaking as it was then known, and spawn one of the biggest franchises in the world. What he created was a well written, well-acted, innovative, and groundbreaking, special effects filled masterpiece and that is one of the most loved films of all time. These kinds of films don’t come around very often, and when they do they are often not awarded accordingly, as was the case in 1978.

Possibly the greatest war film ever made.
Possibly the greatest war film ever made.

Shakespeare in Love over Saving Private Ryan (71st Academy Awards, 1999)

When you think of modern war movies, the first to come to many people’s minds is Saving Private Ryan. Directed by Steven Spielberg, and starring Tom Hanks, Matt Damon and a host of fantastic, fantastic actors, the film is easily one of the most realistic, gritty, emotional and immersing films of all time. Quite frankly, it is possibly the greatest war film ever made, and that is a list including such films as Platoon, Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket. Spielberg took home a well-deserved Best Director Award, so the film must be a lock for Best Picture, right? Wrong. It was beaten out by Ralph Fiennes and Shakespeare in Love, a good, even great film. But, Saving Private Ryan it is not. In many eyes this is quite possibly the worst Oscar snub of all time, and I think if you sit down on evening and watch these two films, you will see why.

Pacino did win an Oscar later for Scent of a Woman.
Pacino did win an Oscar later for Scent of a Woman.

Art Carney (Harry and Tonto) over Al Pacino in Godfather Part 2 (47th Academy Awards in 1975)

The Godfather: Part 2. Arguably the better of the first two Godfather films, and possibly my favorite film of all time. Coppola’s masterpiece deserved of every single major Academy Award available to it, and it won 6. Best Picture, Best Director, a Best Supporting Actor award for De Niro. However, there was one award it did not receive, perhaps the one award that was most deserved. Al Pacino was fantastic in The Godfather, but what he did in Part 2 was undeniably more powerful. Pacino’s performance in part 2 is one of the most menacing, monstrous, and beautiful pieces of acting of all time. His on screen presence is like nothing I’ve ever seen, and his portrayal of the paranoia and power Michael Corleone is feeling can send chills down your spine. To lose out to Art Carney, (a fantastic actor, no doubt) is quite frankly inexcusable.

Who has even heard of How Green Was My Valley?
Who has even heard of How Green Was My Valley?

How Green Was my Valley over Citizen Kane (14th Academy Awards in 1941)

Citizen Kane is a film that is commonly called “the greatest film ever made,” and rightfully so. The argument can be made that no film in history has had a bigger influence on the industry than Orson Welles’ film. So many of the technical and storytelling techniques used in the film were mimicked for years to come, and modern filmmaking may not be where it is at this point without them. Not to mention a fantastic performance from Mr. Welles himself, and one of the most iconic phrases in film history “Rosebud”. The film had an epic feel about it, in story and delivery, and this is something that very few films are able to establish. Granted, the films value wasn’t established to many until years after, and for this reason it could be said that the Academy should get a reprieve. However, as the ultimate group of critics, who are supposed to be the true opinions that matter in the world of Hollywood, one would hope they would be able to see a classic when it hits them in the face.

LA Confidential had all the things Titanic did not.
LA Confidential had all the things Titanic did not.

LA Confidential loses to Titanic (70th Academy Awards in 1998)

This one may surprise a few people, but it is a personal choice that I really wanted included in this list. The reason being, I for one, believe that Titanic is wildly overrated. Sure, it is a good film, on an epic scale, which broke box office records all over the place. However, when you really break it down, it was cheesy, the acting was horrific from almost all parties involved and in all honesty it was almost laughable at times. LA Confidential on the other hand, had masterful acting from a great cast, it was gritty, dark and did “noir” better than any modern movie in recent memory. It also had surprises and twists that were truly effective and surprising. It had everything a great Oscar winning film should have. Titanic did not, plain and simple. This one will sting for a while for me.

Well there is my first list of all time Oscar snubs. Feel free to add on some of your own!


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    • profile image

      George McAllister 

      16 months ago

      Thank you, really good read yes of course Al Pacino should have got it for Godfather 2 and Dog Day afternoon .

      Annie Hall is a great movie and Star wars isn't and none of the sequels or prequels or Disney spin offs are that great .

      Titanic is awful, LA Confidential is brilliant .

      Mickey Rourke should definitely have won for The Wrestler but as usual the Oscar went to somebody impersonating someone Sean Penn- Milk anyway there's so many reasons to agree and disagree but at the end of the day its all a bit of fun and it ain't saving lives xx

    • Royce Proctor profile image

      Royce Proctor 

      17 months ago from Dallas, Texas

      Brokeback Mountain being snubbed for best picture.

    • profile image


      19 months ago

      Paul Newman should have won for Cool Hand Luke

    • profile image

      Pat Mills 

      4 years ago from East Chicago, Indiana

      I consider Annie Hall to be one of the great American films, though I certainly admire Star Wars. Any of the other nominees in his year would have been preferable to Roberto Begnini.

    • jmartin1344 profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Royal Oak, Michigan

      Thanks for reading letsalk. I agree, it is Apples & Oranges, but I just can't accept that Star Wars wasn't a winner for what it did for cinema. Annie Hall is great stuff though.

      Thanks again!

    • letstalkabouteduc profile image

      McKenna Meyers 

      4 years ago

      I just watched LA Confidential for the first time recently and thoroughly enjoyed it -- very well made and acted. I've seen Annie Hall many times and adore the writing and acting. It still holds up after all this time. Comparing it with Star Wars is apples and oranges, but I prefer Annie Hall.

    • PANKAJ PRADIP BAR profile image


      5 years ago

      The part where you have mentioned Titanic being overrated and funny is tottaly unacceptable ... Watchin 1500 people die in the middle of Atlantic is not something to laugh about...

    • jmartin1344 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Royal Oak, Michigan

      Thanks kotobukijake - I really appreciate you putting together such a thoughtful response to my writing.

      I haven't actually seen Gods and Monsters or Wag The Dog. I will be sure to check into both. But that is an interesting point you make about the academy's inability to predict pop culture, and in a way perhaps it is good that this isn't what the Oscars are based on. But at the same time it should be worth something. It's an interesting topic.

      Your points about the music are great, and I agree that Jurassic Park's score is absolutely incredible. One of the best of all time, without question. I hadn't actually given much thought to that snub, but you're right on the money.

      I look forward to reading some of your stuff on the topic.

      Thanks again!

    • kotobukijake profile image


      6 years ago

      Some interesting choices here, and you make your arguments quite effectively. I personally think Citizen Kane is overrated, but it WAS a masterfully-crafted film that holds up well with repeat viewing, whereas How Green Was My Valley was fairly boring and forgettable. I also agree that Al Pacino's performance in The Godfather, Part 2 was nothing short of awesome, perhaps a career best for him, and though I've not seen Harry and Tonto I'll bet I'd have gone with Pacino. On three of your other picks, though... I agree that Saving Private Ryan was a better choice than Shakespeare in Love, but the not-even-nominated-for-Best-Picture Gods and Monsters was better still. Similarly, while I agree that L.A. Confidential was EASILY better than Titanic, the not-even-nominated-for-Best-Picture Wag the Dog was tops in my book. However, both of those are great examples of snubs that happened in the nominations process. On the third... I'm sorry, but to me Star Wars doesn't remotely hold a candle to Annie Hall. HOWEVER... I fully acknowledge what you say about the film's ultimate impact; I see this as a companion to Citizen Kane, as one of the ultimate examples of how the Academy cannot always predict the evolution of pop culture.

      As to other snubs... I noticed the comments on Schindler's List getting snubbed in the acting categories. Both Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes were freakin' awesome in that film; Neeson losing to Tom Hanks strikes me as only a slight snub, if that, but Fiennes' loss to Tommy Lee Jones was definitely a snub. Interestingly, one the biggest snubs in Oscar history took place that year during the nominations process, and it involved the OTHER Steven Spielberg/ John Williams collaboration--Jurassic Park. Williams' Oscar-winning score for Schindler's List was beautiful, haunting and among his finer works, but his score for Jurassic Park was nothing short of ICONIC, on a level with Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Also, Williams is one of the most-nominated people in Oscar history, the Meryl Streep of music, and has been a double-nominee on multiple occasions... Go figure the Academy's descision to nominate JP for BOTH sound categories and yet ignore the music. To continue... The double snub of BOTH Tangled and Summer Wars for Animated Feature in 2010 and for BOTH WALL-E and The Dark Knight for Best Picture in 2008 will always rankle me; while both snubs did help lead to altered Academy rules (the latter could be held DIRECTLY responsible for the current 5-10 field of nominees), it cannot disguise the fact that all of those films deserved consideration even under the rules at the time.

      Anyway, sorry for rambling. There have been MANY snubs over the years, and I myself plan to eventually post an in-depth look at the ones just mentioned and more. I did enjoy your article, and look forward to reading more.

    • jmartin1344 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Royal Oak, Michigan

      Thanks for reading Music and Art 45!

      I definitely agree with Schindler's list - I actually just wrote a hub about some of the best supporting actor performances in recent memory and Ralph Fiennes for his role in that film was on the list - so I really should have included it here since he didn't get an Oscar! he was great.

      Agree with Peter O Toole too I'd say - I guess I didn't include it because I really like Gregory Peck and i think it's tough to say he was undeserved - but O Toole was unreal in such an epic movie, he should have taken it.

    • Music-and-Art-45 profile image


      7 years ago from USA, Illinois

      This is a great list I agree with all but Star Wars and Annie Hall, and I also don't think Star Wars was well acted. I'm a huge Star Wars fan, too. If I may I would also add as snubs Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes for not winning in their respective acting categories for Schindler's List, and Peter O'Toole should have won for an acting award for Lawrence of Arabia.

    • jmartin1344 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Royal Oak, Michigan

      Thanks for reading everymom. I didn't even mention the CGI, but you're right, that was questionable too! Thanks for sharing! I actually do love Leo DiCaprio by the way - he is unreal - but that was not his finest hour in my opinion. Perhaps his most lucrative though!


    • everymom profile image

      Anahi Pari-di-Monriva 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts

      I actually DO agree with you about Titanic; I felt let-down in everything you mentioned: the (over-)acting, the screenplay, even the CGI was so-so compared to '78's ground-breaking Star Wars. Loved your Hub!

    • jmartin1344 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Royal Oak, Michigan

      Thanks Paradise7!

      I couldn't tell you if you spelled that right! Looks good to me! Great to hear you love movies as much as I do, I appreciate you taking the time to read my hub. The majority of my hubs are about movies so hopefully you'll enjoy any more I am able to write! I figured some people wouldn't agree with the Titanic selection - always got to throw some controversy in there to go with the safe bets!

      Thanks again!

    • Paradise7 profile image


      7 years ago from Upstate New York

      You did a great job here! Though I didn't agree with you on the LA Confidential vs. Titanic, you certainly hit t in my book the rest of the way!

      I love films, movies, whatever you love to call them. I see yet another true afficiando ( did I come remotely close to spelling that right?) in this hub.


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