15 Inferior Best Picture Oscar Winners (And the Enduring Classics They Beat)

Categories: Film and TV

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.

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Nick R.
Nick R.

Ugh, English Patient losing to Fargo. That is just factually wrong.

Brittanie Shey
Brittanie Shey

That scene from Streetcar still gives me chills.


I gather you never actually saw The Last Emperor. A piece of cinematic art direction without equal, filled with great performances from some of China and Japan's finest actors that gives us a glimpse into the personal life of one of the last great monarchs of Asia. I suppose it can't compete with bunny boiling, but there is some poop humor in it, so maybe you'll see it now.


I was with you until 1994.  Let's face it, if you thought all Forrest Gump was about was just a simpleton tumble weed and seeing what life brings, you pretty well missed the entire point of the movie.  Hanks was merely a simple vessel who took us through a few generations of America growing up from a child with crippled legs (post war shackles) through teenagers, early adulthood and middle age in the 90s.  It is the story of us, with us pretty much meaning the baby boomers, but, really what America became from post WW2 through 1990s and the beginning of the AIDS era.  

Further, you also failed to mention what might have been the best movie of that astounding year for American movies, The Shawshank redemption.  Not even a mention?  Come on!  


"This represents the second time in a row Stanley Kubrick's genius got screwed out of its proper accolades."

I keep watching Mr. Kubrick's movies, looking for the genius part and I can't find it anywhere. His work, (mostly) is passing-to-good film. I still prefer his "The Shining." There's simply a cold, emotional distance in his work, (like a painfully antiseptic examination room) that puts me off the man's work, kinda like George Lucas.

Gotta agree with you on the last third of your list, though. Those award-winning ~ahem~ films, mark my shift (and acceleration) from movies to books. Ron Howard and Kevin Costner should be given a monthly stipend to NOT make movies.

John Seaborn Gray
John Seaborn Gray

I'm not a Baby Boomer, so I'm not anywhere near as obsessed with / reverent towards their own life story as they are.

You're right about one thing though: I should have at least mentioned The Shawshank Redemption. If the Academy needed to pick a crowd-pleaser, that's the one it should have been.


Boy-howied, that was the best-est, golly-gee-wiz, boot-strappin', tea-baggin', Repub'can maverick porn ever. Best part of all, the coloreds an' women died. That'll teach'em to stay in their place.

Nick R.
Nick R.

OK, wow, that's what I meant. I'm pretty dumb, so.

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