The Five Least-Deserving Best Picture Winners of All-Time


Oscar season is fast approaching, and before long, the nominees for Best Picture will be announced.  Last year’s nominees were particularly strong (with the exception of the vastly overrated Juno), and No Country for Old Men was certainly deserving of Best Picture.  However, the best movies of the year don’t always win, and there have been more than a few snubs in Oscars history.  While a truly bad film is almost never nominated for Best Picture, there have been some movies that won the award despite comparing poorly with their competition.  Here’s a look at the five least-deserving Best Picture winners:

My Fair Lady (1964)


Nothing against musicals, but this story of an uptight phonetics professor teaching Eliza Doolittle (played by Audrey Hepburn) how to speak proper English is awfully bland.  Many of Hepburn’s vocals were dubbed, and it’s difficult to stay interested in a movie that largely centers on speech.  My Fair Lady is still a pretty good movie, but there’s no way it should have won over Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, a film more relevant and poignant today than it was in 1964.

Forrest Gump (1994)


I like Forrest Gump, but it plays like more of a collage of American and pop culture history than it does as a coherent film in which a protagonist must overcome conflict.  Forrest remains the same throughout the movie, living out a fable littered with classic songs meant to curry favor with our sense of nostalgia.  Forrest Gump isn’t a bad movie, but Quiz Show and especially The Shawshank Redemption and Pulp Fiction were superior films.  Seriously: Forrest Gump over Shawshank and Pulp Fiction?

Titanic (1997)


Titanic is a pretty polarizing film – you either appeciate the scale upon which Cameron presents his love story or you’re nauseated by the sappiness that saturates a movie where two people who would never even speak to each other fall in love in just a matter of days.  What Cameron did in recreating the mammoth ship is surely impressive, and DiCaprio and Winslet can both act their asses off, but the convenience of Jack and Rose’s love is too prominent to overlook.  Titanic is a sappy love story, although a well-made one.  As Good As It Gets, Good Will Hunting, and especially L.A. Confidential were better choices in 1997.

Shakespeare in Love (1998)


Shakespeare in Love is a really, really good movie.  That said, the opening war scene in Saving Private Ryan was perhaps in and of itself reason enough for Speilberg’s epic war movie to be nominated, and the underlying story of sacrifice and bravery throughout the movie makes it one of – if not the – best war movies ever.  The thing is, Saving Private Ryan wasn’t even the best movie of 1998.  That honor would go to Life is Beautiful, the rare perfect movie that can compel audiences to experience nearly every emotion possible.  If you don’t cry – either out of sadness, happiness, or a combination of both – at the end of Life is Beautiful, you don’t have a soul.

Crash (2005)


2005 wasn’t a particularly strong year for Best Picture nominees, and I won’t argue that the other films nominated (Munich, Capote, Good Night and Good Luck, and Brokeback Mountain [insert childish homophobic joke here]) are classics.  That said, Crash was an unrealistic, melodramatic depiction of racism in this country.  Of course racism exists, but it’s not as black and white cut and dry as Crash would have you believe.  The film suffers from finding itself quite clever, linking together its characters (a technique that was executed properly and brilliantly in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia) in an unbelievable, far-fetched manner.  Plus, presenting the scenes in slow motion coupled with an overly dramatic score doesn’t make the movie good.  It makes it pretentious, and the social message about racism is delivered with the subtlety of a jackhammer.

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  1. Hey, “life is beautiful” did win best picture – it won best foreign film. As it was not american, it was not eligible to win best picture. derrrr.

    also, “the english patient” should have made your list, as “Fargo” was the clear choice for best picture of 1996.

  2. @ Tadd

    You’re misinformed. A foreign film can be nominated/eligible for Best Foreign Language Film *and* Best Picture – like Couching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was in 2000.

    Derrrr yourself, smart guy.

  3. either way, life is beautiful got it comeuppance, and i can guarantee that i’m much smarter than you. i’ll challenge you to any i.q. test you’d like at any time you’d like. so, derrrrrr… back to you. typically the academy doesn’t choose foreign films as best picture, if for no other reason, than that it would retract from the real talent in film making, which is strongly on the american side. double derrr, mr. blogger fat man. hey, look! another burger or seven to chow on!

  4. Nobody mentioned how Woody Allen’s vaguely memorable smirkfest “Annie Hall” beat out the timeless classic “Star Wars” for 1977s best pic. I agree that the English Patient couldn’t velcro my interest without an IV drip of Ritalin in an isolation tank… butt let’s not trounce Titanic’s improbable class crossing tryst: Roseanne Barr married Tom Arnold, didn’t she? And Liz Taylor “that guy.” Think of it as the first Love Boat episode ever. And let’s not bash the Bard’s best blowout in Shakespeare in Love. Finally Shakespeare we can understand. I just watched Private Ryan 3 times in a row, but Mr. Spielburg, please… how many ways can you show decapitation in France without Marie Antoinette’s ghost Poltergeisting in? So… how do I win the Oscar pool each year? Ask “How would a 50-something, straight, white guy vote?” That’s the bulk of the Academy, folks.

  5. Good list i suppose but seriously… why do people feel so insecure enough to get into little rages like Mr. Tadd here? And obviously IQ doesn’t prove a thing (which I highly doubt he scores well in), as you can see by his erroneous conclusion that you are a “Mr. fat man blogger” (I saw a picture of you somewhere on the site… far from fat.), and his ethnocentric view that “real talent in film making” is predominately in America. HAH! For someone so smart you’d think he’d realize that there are idiots and geniuses in every part of the world. Sorry for the rant.

  6. I’ve seen every Best Picture winner but three, and it can’t be that four of the five least deserving are from the past ten years. These are my least favorite Best Pictures:

    1935 – Mutiny on the Bounty
    1941 – How Green Was My Valley
    1944 – Going My Way
    1947 – Gentlemen’s Agreement
    1951 – An American in Paris
    1958 – Gigi
    1998 – Shakespeare in Love
    2002 – Chicago

    I probably have more, but a lot of them I’ve only seen once and don’t remember if I hated them or not (e.g. Crash, Out of Africa, The English Patient).

    Here are some I really enjoyed and wouldn’t have otherwise seen had I not been trying to see them all:

    1927 – Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
    1932 – Grand Hotel
    1938 – You Can’t Take It With You
    1940 – Rebecca
    1946 – The Best Years of Our Lives
    1950 – All About Eve
    1957 – The Bridge on the River Kwai
    1963 – Tom Jones
    1973 – The Sting
    1984 – Amadeus
    1992 – Unforgiven
    2006 – The Departed
    2007 – No Country for Old Men

  7. the only thing the author got ‘right’ in his abysmal review was ‘shakespeare in love’…

    saving private ryan IS the greatest war pic of all time and it surely was the BEST MOVIE of that year

  8. @ jon

    There’s no right or wrong. It’s just my opinion. All reviews will remain opinions until someone points me to a standard, objective means of reviewing films.

    Life is Beautiful is better than Saving Private Ryan, in my opinion, but SPR is a phenomenal film worthy of a best picture nomination (and award, were it released in a different year).

  9. THANK YOU for saying Life is Beautiful deserved it that year, I thought I was alone on that. Great list, I agree with literally each one, but in my opinion you missed the biggest of them all: Chariots of Fire. The thing plays like a bad TV movie and it beat both Atlantic City and Raiders of the Lost Ark (two absolute classics), as well as Reds, which I haven’t seen but suspect is much better than Chariots.

  10. @ Gary

    Life is Beautiful is one of my favorite movies. I remember a couple friends and I rented it the night before we took the LSAT, as a way to relax and get our mind off of things. I had heard it was great, but I really didn’t know anything about it. Needless to say, the three of us were moved; there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

    I haven’t seen Chariots of Fire in YEARS, but Raiders is one of my all-time favorites. The fact that I can’t remember much about Chariots (aside from the theme song) probably doesn’t bode too well.

  11. The Thin Red Line is ten times better than Saving Private Ryan, Life is Beautiful and Shakespeare in Love combined. And Tadd, sayig that all the filmmaking talent is on the American side is an incredibly idiotic statement, proving nothing but your own ignorance.

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