While we could go all day naming movies that have been unfairly overlooked by The Academy for one reason or another, these near classics feel like they should’ve been awards season shoo-ins and yet ultimately received no Oscar love at all.
“King Kong” (1933)
It was the quintessential monster movie of the era and was a landmark for special effects, but the Academy handed it zero nominations.
“Modern Times” (1936)
Many of Charlie Chaplin’s silent masterpieces predate the Oscars, but the Academy didn’t take the chance to nominate his final turn as The Tramp. Chaplin himself wouldn’t be properly recognized by The Academy with an Oscar win until “Limelight” was finally released in 1972.
“Bringing Up Baby” (1938)
Katherine Hepburn had already won an Oscar by the time she starred in this screwball comedy classic alongside Cary Grant. What gives?
“His Girl Friday” (1940)
Seriously, what did the Academy have against Howard Hawks? “His Girl Friday” is another screwball comedy great with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, but it was completely snubbed. Even the play and movie on which its based, “The Front Page,” got three Oscar nominations.
“The Searchers” (1956)
It’s not like the Oscars had never heard of John Ford or John Wayne when this masterpiece came out.
“Paths of Glory” (1957)
Stanley Kubrick’s 1957 World War I film starred Kirk Douglas as a heroic commanding office, but was roundly ignored by The Academy.
“Touch of Evil” (1958)
Orson Welles’ noir begins with a masterful long take and has some stunning black and white cinematography, but after “Citizen Kane,” Welles never got another Oscar nomination until he won an honorary award in 1971.
Jean-Luc Godard’s groundbreaking film that kicked off the French New Wave and helped shape modern cinema did get attention from the Berlin Film Festival and even the BAFTAs, but not AMPAS. Godard has also never been nominated for an Oscar, but he received an honorary Oscar in 2011.
“Harold and Maude” (1972)
The Oscars would come to love Hal Ashby movies, but his second feature, “Harold and Maude,” had to settle for just two Golden Globe nominations for stars Ruth Gordon and Bud Cort.
“Mean Streets” (1973)
It took way too long for The Academy to finally recognize Martin Scorsese, but they completely overlooked his first critical masterpiece.
“The Shining” (1980)
All work and no Oscar nominations makes Jack a dull boy.
“This Is Spinal Tap” (1984)
“This Is Spinal Tap” defined a genre of mockumentary filmmaking and captured and held a mirror up to heavy metal music in the ’80s, but England’s loudest rock band was over the heads of the Academy.
“Once Upon a Time in America” (1984)
Sergio Leone’s mob epic was a sensation at Cannes, but its Oscar hopes were doomed when its nearly four-hour running time got butchered for a theatrical release.
“Reservoir Dogs” (1992)
Quentin Tarantino didn’t get any nominations for his debut “Reservoir Dogs,” but he’d burst onto the scene in a major way when his follow-up film “Pulp Fiction” went head-to-head with “Forrest Gump.”
“Groundhog Day” (1993)
A beloved romantic comedy and Bill Murray performance didn’t get the credit it deserves. Somehow it feels like we’ve lived this day before.
Michael Mann’s riveting heist saga boasts Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Val Kilmer and even a prime spot on the IMDB Top 250, but no Oscar noms.
Wes Anderson’s breakthrough film netted a Golden Globe nomination for Bill Murray and two Independent Spirit Awards, and that’s it.
“The Big Lebowski” (1998)
The Oscars may not have abided by Jeff Bridges and The Dude in this Coen Brothers classic, but that’s just, like, your opinion, man.
“American Psycho” (2000)
Before Christian Bale became a perennial Oscar contender, he starred in Mary Harron’s cult favorite that critics were mixed on and the Academy ignored almost entirely; though it did win a special recognition from the National Board of Review.
Was David Fincher’s “Zodiac” just too dense for Academy voters? Or pushing three hours, was it just a little too long?
Maybe the themes of Lars von Trier’s gem were too similar (or too bleak) compared to another surprise Best Picture nominee from that year, “The Tree of Life.”
“Frances Ha” (2012)
Noah Baumbach, Greta Gerwig and Adam Driver were all nominated for Oscars in 2020, but the movie that put them all together and had stellar black and white cinematography was somehow overlooked.
“Fruitvale Station” (2013)
The Academy would eventually come around on Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan, but it missed its chance recognizing their breakthrough work with the true story of police brutality in “Fruitvale Station,” even though Sundance, Cannes, the Gothams, Indie Spirits and critics groups all showered it with praise.
Ron Howard, true story, thrilling racing, huge star power, zero Oscar nominations.
“Dear White People” (2014)
Justin Simien’s debut film “Dear White People” was an explosive conversation piece with an acclaimed screenplay that got snubbed in the height of the #OscarsSoWhite era.
“Wonder Woman” (2017)
A Best Picture nomination for a superhero movie would’ve been its own achievement (and would eventually happen with 2018’s “Black Panther”), and a female-led and directed one would’ve been a giant statement. And the Academy failed to nominate it in even the technical categories as well.
“The Rider” (2017)
Chloé Zhao’s lush and poetic drama “The Rider” felt like a dark horse contender for at the very least a screenplay nomination after it won top honors from the Gotham Awards for Best Film, but it got bucked from the rodeo.
“Paddington 2” (2018)
Many critics held up the whimsical “Paddington 2” as one of the best movies of the year, kids movie or otherwise. Others even looked to Hugh Grant as deserving of a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his gonzo villain turn.
Horror movies are always a tough sell with the Academy, as are movies that premiered at Sundance, but A24 pushed hard to get Toni Collette a nomination. Ari Aster’s follow-up film “Midsommar” was completely shut out as well.
“Mission: Impossible – Fallout” (2018)
Tom Cruise made the best case yet for why the Academy should institute a category for Best Stunts when his jaw dropping, death-defying work was overlooked entirely.
“The Farewell” (2019)
After premiering at Sundance, Awkwafina managed to stay top of mind in the Oscar race through all of 2019, and she would even win a Golden Globe for her performance. But in a year that lacked for diversity among the acting nominees, “The Farewell” missed out on a screenplay nomination as well.
“Uncut Gems” (2019)
Some critics speculated that the Safdie Brothers film might have a sleeper chance at a Best Picture nomination and that Adam Sandler should be a Best Actor contender in a crowded field. But because he and the movie were shut out, Sandler made good on a threat to continue making even more Netflix movies that both critics and the Academy will hate.