From Indiana Jones to Star Wars, Crouching Tiger to talking pig — here are 11 films that should hold the award for Best Picture.
With an erratic awards season thus far creating major uncertainty as we head toward the main event, it seems like this year’s Best Picture winner could go to more or less any of the nominated films. The problem with such a bumper crop, however, is that no matter how good the shortlist is — no matter how amazing each film happens to be — there’s still only one top spot.
And so it goes: where there are winners there must also be losers. And, sure, “it’s an honour just to be nominated” — personally, I’ve been thrilled absolutely every time I’ve almost won something, because it’s definitely just as good of a feeling, right? — but, where winners are concerned, there can be only one.
The thing about that, though, is that it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s always the right one. And, with the Academy now voting on its 92nd Best Picture Award, you can bet there have been some pretty hefty misfires over the course of nearly a century. And so here we are, staring down the barrel of an inconvenient truth: the Academy is not infallible and there are films out there which should say “Oscar for Best Picture” on their Wikipedia pages.
Casting your eye back through previous years, it’s not hard to see that much of this comes from the Academy’s obsession with prestige and its apparent contempt for popularity — something further confirmed in 2018 when they felt the need to create (and then retract after a deservedly negative reception) an award for “Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film” to further differentiate between the two.
With all that in mind, and with the 2019 Academy Awards fast approaching, we’ve picked 13 films — all nominated for Best Picture in their year — which should have, if there were any justice, taken home the gold.
Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
Lost to: One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest
A singular love story-cum-heist movie and still unique to this day, Dog Day Afternoon tells the twin stories of a botched bank robbery and the boundary-pushing motives behind it. Based on actual events, the film is part police procedural, part adrenaline-fuelled monologue, a masterclass in focused yet frenetic direction from Sydney Lumet, and a lesson in skin-searingly frantic acting from Al Pacino.
Lost to: One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest
It’s not that I have anything against One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, it is undoubtedly a wonderfully miserable film, and I know that — even if it hadn’t won — Jaws and Dog Day couldn’t both take the award, but Spielberg took the monster movie format to new heights with his fourth outing as director. Funny, suspenseful, and full of quotes that still endure 44 years later. They should’ve had a better vote —or something like that.
Star Wars (1977)
Lost to: Annie Hall
There are a lot of obvious reasons I’d love to see Woody Allen have any and all awards for his work rescinded without exception — but those don’t even need to come into play here: we’re talking about Star Wars here — this could and should have been A New Hope for popular culture to be taken seriously. But, alas, light-up swords and laser noises just don’t make for “important” cinema.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Lost to: Chariots of Fire
I don’t know all that much about Chariots of Fire, but I know — unequivocally — that Raiders not only slaps, but it slaps significantly harder and melts at least 100% as much Nazi face as 1981’s “official” winner.
Lost to: Gandhi
In theory these two stories of peace and love and misunderstanding have a lot in common — but the main difference is that only one, and no prizes for guessing which, was made to be enjoyed. There are so many things wrong with Richard Attenborough’s hagiographic portrait of Mohandas Gandhi and so few things wrong with E.T. that the mind boggles at this decision.
Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
Lost to: Rain Man
A Campy, violent period drama —OTT in every way, and fully kitted out with a wig-adorned, face-powdered all-star cast that features everyone from John Malkovich to Michelle Pfeiffer to Keanu Reeves. Basically everything you could want from a movie.
Lost to: Braveheart
Something Oscar-winning films tend to be bad at is bringing good vibes and Babe came stacked to the rafters with positivity and heartwarming, inter-species friendship. Braveheart, conversely, did not. Remember: it’s okay to be happy.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
This one should have been a no-brainier: Crouching Tiger helped bring narrative-driven martial arts cinema to the Western mainstream and paved the way for other exceptional films like House of Flying Daggers. Gladiator did neither of those things. Actually, does anyone resent what Gladiator did do to deserve this?
Moulin Rouge! (2001)
Lost to: A Beautiful Mind
I don’t mean to give Russell Crowe a hard time — only very recently he was great alongside Ryan Gosling in The Nice Guys — but Moulin Rouge is hammy, theatrical and wears its intentions on its sleeve; its tugs at the heart strings are done in plain sight, rather than dressed up in dour, grandiose drama. It also marks the last time Baz Luhrman was actually good.
Lost to: Million Dollar Baby
Paul Giamatti should have been drinking Champagne and not Merlot back in 2004 — it’s as simple as that
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Lost to: Crash
I don’t know what more Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger could have done here with Annie Proulx’s source material. This was a fresh and necessary take on toxic masculinity that still stands as relevant today — if not more so — and the unwieldy, overly worthy Crash simply does not compare.