15 Inferior Best Picture Oscar Winners (And the Enduring Classics They Beat)
1973: The Sting
The Classic It Beat: The Exorcist
Yet again, not a complete embarrassment. The Sting still holds up as a solid comedy today, but if you ask a fan of comedic film to name his favorite comedies, do you think The Sting will be in the Top 20? Now ask a horror fan the same question. I bet The Exorcist makes it into the Top 3 every single time -- unless you're asking one of those horror fans who claim to hate it just to be different, in which case, kindly slap his or her smug fucking face for me. The Sting helped solidify Robert Redford and Paul Newman as kings of the buddy picture, but The Exorcist set the high watermark for an entire genre, and soiled the bellbottoms of an entire generation. And it would still be doing so today, were bellbottoms still in style.
1979: Kramer Vs. Kramer
The Classic It Beat: Apocalypse Now
Fresh war does not do well at the box office. It just hurts too much. Three Kings and The Hurt Locker, both excellent films set in the two Iraq conflicts, did poor theatrical numbers despite critical acclaim and only found life later on home video and DVD. Such was the case with Apocalypse Now, which took Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness and stuck it in the middle of a hallucinatory Vietnam War. Even though it was obviously a brilliant film, the Academy wasn't nearly as comfortable handing over the Oscar to it as they were with awarding it to a film about the at-the-time very topical subject of divorce. Divorce was just starting to become socially acceptable, so here we have a choice which seems baffling now, but kind of made sense at the time.
1980: Ordinary People
The Classic It Beat: Raging Bull
Ordinary People is a sad, sad film filled with great performances -- Mary Tyler Moore in particular -- but it lacks the dynamic levels of Raging Bull, the highs and the lows, the smoldering intensity. It wasn't the last time Scorsese was unjustly skipped over for an Oscar, sadly.
1981: Chariots of Fire
The Classic It Beat: Raiders of the Lost Ark
Look, sometimes the Academy should see through obvious Oscar bait and just go with the film everyone loves. You'll watch Chariots of Fire maybe once in your life. You'll watch Raiders of the Lost Ark literally every time you catch it while flipping through channels. Don't act like it's not true.
1987: The Last Emperor
The Classic It Beat: Fatal Attraction
For all I know, The Last Emperor is about a struggling sandwich shop called Emperor's run by a gruff but lovable old man trying to keep the place afloat with the help of his many eccentric relatives. Why did it beat out a film whose very title has become part of the lexicon, immediately understood when referring to one's crazy ex? Well, despite the fact that the film is still scary as shit to this very day, we just can't picture an Academy that would hand out a Best Picture Oscar to a film featuring a boiled pet rabbit.