How Many Times Have the Oscars Gotten Best Picture Wrong in the Last 20 Years?
It is in no way bold or controversial to suggest that the Academy of Motions Pictures rarely manages to properly award the best movie of each year the Best Picture prize. Most of us understand that once a movie meets a certain threshold of quality, or tackles a certain subject, or features particular actors, the rest mostly falls into the hands of the PR people tasked with promoting the Oscar campaigns. It’s part of the reason why Daniel Carlson argues that awards don’t matter, and while I agree with most of that, I still believe that the awards process itself is great for providing exposure to underseen movies of a certain quality.
But to understand how deeply a sham the Oscars really are, looking at the Oscar race in one year hardly provides the full picture. With a sample of one, you can chalk anything up to an aberration. But if you examine the Best Picture winners from the last 20 years, a pattern emerges, and it’s difficult to argue that The Academy truly awards the highest achievement in filmmaking.
Here are the winners from the last 20 years, and the film (or films) I personally thought should’ve won. I disagreed with the Academy 19 out of the 20 years, and I guarantee that almost every one of you will disagree with at least 15 of the Academy’s choices, even if you also disagree with my own.
Winner: Forrest Gump
Should’ve Won: Pulp Fiction
Should’ve Won: The Usual Suspects or Toy Story (neither of which were nominated)
Winner: The English Patient
Should’ve Won: Fargo (or Sling Blade or Trainspotting or anything except The English Patient)
Should’ve Won: L.A. Confidential (Good Will Hunting and Jackie Brown were also better choices)
Winner: Shakespeare in Love
Should’ve Won: I would’ve given it to Out of Sight, but would’ve been content with Rushmore or Saving Private Ryan, as well.
Winner: American Beauty
Should’ve Won: American Beauty was a great movie, but there were so many that were better that year, including Toy Story 2, Iron Giant, Being John Malkovich, Three Kings, Galaxy Quest, The Sixth Sense Magnolia, Office Space, or the movie I’d have given the Oscar, Fight Club
Should’ve Won: You Can Count On Me, Memento, Traffic or Almost Famous (only Traffic was nominated)
Winner: A Beautiful Mind
Should’ve Won: Amelia or Billy Elliot, or even two of the other nominees, Moulin Rouge or In the Bedroom. (It was a bad year for movies, admittedly)
Should’ve Won: Another bad year for movies, but About a Boy fared better with critics, and Adaptation, About Schmidt, or even Monsoon Wedding would’ve made better choices.
Winner: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Should’ve Won: In America, hands down (wasn’t even nominated). Lost in Translation and Finding Nemo were also better.
Winner: Million Dollar Baby
Should’ve Won: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Should’ve Won: Brokeback Mountain, and it shouldn’t have been a contest.
Winner: The Departed
Should’ve Won: Children of Men. I actually didn’t hate the choice of winner, although in what was another weak movie year, I might have also gone with Pan’s Labyrinth or Half Nelson
Winner: No Country for Old Men
Should’ve Won: Zodiac (but it’s a close call)
Winner: Slumdog Millionaire
Should’ve won: The Dark Knight or In Bruges.
Winner: The Hurt Locker
Should’ve Won: Inglorious Basterds (Up in the Air, or even non-Oscar type movies like (500) Days of Summer and District 9 would’ve been acceptable).
Winner: The King’s Speech
Should’ve Won: Inception, although there were several other movies considerably better than The King’s Speech, including Black Swan, The Fighter, The Social Network, True Grit, and Winter’s Bone, all of which were nominated.
Winner: The Artist
Should’ve Won: Another overall terrible year for movies overall, but Drive, Moneyball, 50/50 and even the comedy Bridesmaids would’ve been better choices.
Should’ve Won: It’s hard to make an argument against Argo, but Django Unchained andBeasts of Southern Wild might have been better. I think I’d have still gone with Argo.
Winner: Not Determined
Should’ve Won: Short Term 12 (not nominated)