25 Biggest Oscar Snubs: Citizen Kane, Hitchcock, Ryan Gosling & More (Photos)

The Academy has a history of screwing up. See the worst calls, from Hitchcock to Gosling. By Marlow Stern.

Clockwise from top left: Everett Collection; AP (2); Getty

Clockwise from top left: Everett Collection; AP (2); Getty

25 Biggest Oscar Snubs Ever!

Clockwise from top left: Half Nelson, Citizen Kane, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Alfred Hitchcock.

Clockwise from top left: Everett Collection; AP (2); Getty

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which annually honors the best and brightest in cinema with Oscar statuettes, has a long history of screwing up. In honor of this Sunday night’s Academy Awards ceremony, airing on ABC at 7 p.m. ET, The Daily Beast gives you the biggest Oscar snubs of all time, from Ryan Gosling to Citizen Kane.

—By Marlow Stern

25. Ryan Gosling, ‘Half Nelson’ (2006)

The Academy is notorious for passing over young actors in their prime who deliver dynamic performances—take Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver, for example—in favor of more seasoned thespians. Gosling was only 26 when he was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar for 2006’s Half Nelson. He plays Dan Dunne, a young middle-school history teacher at an inner-city Brooklyn school who struggles with crack addiction. Gosling perfectly captures the cynicism and despair of disillusioned Millennials, while also delivering a frighteningly edgy and realistic turn and in what is, in this writer’s estimation, one of the best performances of the 2000s. He lost out to Forrest Whitaker’s bombastic portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland.

24. ‘4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days’ (2007)

The Academy Award for Best Foreign Film has been notorious for being one of the most poorly managed categories on Oscar night since it was instituted in 1956 (the first winner was Fellini’s La Strada). And in recent years, it’s only gotten worse. Amélie failed to win the award in 2001, and in 2003, the Brazilian crime epic City of God wasn’t even nominated. In 2008, the mediocre Japanese film Departures beat out Israel’s stunning Waltz With Bashir and France’s The Class, while in 2009, the Argentinian film The Secret in Their Eyes upset Jacques Audiard’s crime masterpiece A Prophet and Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon. But the biggest travesty came at the 2008 ceremony, when Christian Mungiu’s Romanian abortion saga 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days failed to secure even a nomination despite being named the best overall film of the year by The New York Times and winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

Handout, via Landov

23. Tom Cruise

Whether or not you’re a fan of Tom Cruise the person, you’ve got to respect his acting chops. Cruise particularly excels at playing vainglorious pricks whose seemingly perfect lives begin falling apart. He’s been nominated for three Academy Awards, and lost the first—as paralyzed activist Ron Kovic in Born on the Fourth of July—to Daniel Day-Lewis for his portrayal of Irish painter Christy Brown in My Left Foot, who suffered from cerebral palsy. Understandable. The other two losses, not so much. Cruise’s titular spiraling-out-of-control sports agent in 1996’s Jerry Maguire lost out to Geoffrey Rush’s institutionalized pianist in Shine—despite the latter film’s alleged gross inaccuracies. And in 1999, Cruise’s outstanding turn as a sex guru in Magnolia lost out to Michael Caine’s doctor in The Cider House Rules. The scene where Cruise goes into convulsions cursing, and ultimately forgiving, his dying, estranged father, played by Jason Robards, is the best acting work he’s ever done.

22. ‘Do the Right Thing’ (1989)

Spike Lee’s 1989 film about racial tensions bubbling to the surface on the hottest day of the summer in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy is a masterful portrait of Reagan-era disillusionment and disenfranchisement. President Barack Obama even took his future wife, Michelle, to see the film on their first date. Despite heaps of critical praise, and its later elevation to classic status, the film failed to secure an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. “In 1989, Do the Right Thing was not even nominated,” Lee later said. “What film won Best Picture in 1989? Driving Miss Mother F*cking Daisy! That’s why [Oscars] don’t matter. Because 20 years later, who’s watching Driving Miss Daisy?”

Paramount/Michael Ochs Archives, via Getty

21. The 1972 Oscar for Best Supporting Actor

At the 45th Academy Awards, honoring the best films that were released in 1972, Bob Fosse’s movie-musical Cabaret took home many awards over the far more deserving The Godfather, which many now recognize as one of the greatest films of all time. While Marlon Brando managed to win Best Actor for his portrayal of mafia boss Vito Corleone, a trio of supporting actors in the film—Al Pacino, James Caan, and Robert Duvall—lost in the Best Supporting Actor category to Joel Grey for his turn as the master of ceremonies in Cabaret (a role he had already played on Broadway). The Godfather trio, unfortunately, must have canceled each other out.

APIC, via Getty

20. ‘Double Indemnity’ (1944)

Written by Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler and directed by Wilder, Double Indemnity tells the riveting tale of a hapless insurance agent (Fred MacMurray) who is convinced by a seductive femme fatale (Barbara Stanwyck) to murder her husband and make it look “accidental,” triggering a “double indemnity” clause in his life-insurance policy that would award her double the amount. It is one of the most beautifully lensed film noirs ever, and its script is ingenious. Even the great Alfred Hitchcock once said, “Since Double Indemnity, the two most important words in motion pictures are ‘Billy’ and ‘Wilder.’” The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards but won none, losing Best Picture and Best Director to Leo McCarey’s Bing Crosby-starring movie-musical Going My Way, which has not held up well.

Lucy Nicholson/AFP/Getty

19. David Lynch, ‘Mulholland Drive’ (2001)

David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive is a multilayered, labyrinthine saga about Hollywood’s sordid past and the difference between perception and reality. The form-breaking film is arguably Lynch’s finest work and, following Best Director Oscar nods for The Elephant Man (1980) and Blue Velvet (1986), Lynch got his third nomination for this. Unfortunately, he lost the Best Director Oscar at the 2002 ceremony to Ron Howard for his relatively formulaic A Beautiful Mind (which also won Best Picture). Most of Howard’s oeuvre doesn’t hold up too well—especially Mind—whereas Lynch’s film is now regarded as one of the finest movies of the 2000s, and also launched the career of a then-unknown actress by the name of Naomi Watts.

18. ‘Brokeback Mountain’ (2004)

Despite loads of critical praise and a Best Director Oscar win for Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain, about the forbidden love between two Wyoming cowboys—played by the late Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal—lost the Best Picture Oscar to Paul Haggis’s preachy and melodramatic race-relations drama Crash. Many were critical of the win, with some writers blaming homophobia within the Academy’s voting branch, and others crediting distributor Lionsgate for sending out an unprecedented 130,000+ Oscar screeners.

Silver Screen Collection/Archive Photos, via Getty

17. Katharine Hepburn, ‘The Philadelphia Story’ (1940)

George Cukor’s screwball comedy centers on a Philadelphia socialite who, on the eve of her wedding to a nouveau riche man, finds herself torn between him, her caddish ex-husband (Cary Grant), and a reporter dispatched to cover the nuptials (Jimmy Stewart). It’s regarded as one of the greatest screwballs of all time, and Hepburn owns the film. Despite this, and the fact that she was a previous winner, Hepburn lost the Best Actress Oscar to Ginger Rogers for her turn as a saleswoman torn between two men in Kitty Foyle, and is evidence of the Academy’s longstanding bias against great comedy performances. And the film that is, in this writer’s opinion, the best screwball comedy of all time, His Girl Friday, was also released in 1940, also co-starred Cary Grant, and received a staggering zero Oscar nominations.

Paramount Pictures/Archive Photos, via Getty

16. Jack Nicholson, ‘Chinatown’ (1974)

Roman Polanski’s neo-noir Chinatown centers on Jake Gittes (Nicholson), a private eye who is hired by a widow (Faye Dunaway) to investigate the death of her husband, only to stumble on a grand conspiracy involving the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. The film, now regarded as a masterpiece, features one of the greatest screenplays ever written (by Robert Towne), and cemented Nicholson’s status as the top film actor of the ‘70s. It was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, but only managed to take home Best Screenplay. And Nicholson, who had received Best Actor nods in 1970 (Five Easy Pieces) and 1973 (The Last Detail), managed to lose again—to Art Carney for his turn as an elderly widower in Harry and Tonto. Justice was served the following year when Nicholson took home his first Oscar for his zany portrayal of Randle Patrick McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

15. The 2010 Oscar for Best Picture

Have you tried watching The King’s Speech on cable recently? The film, about King George VI’s (Colin Firth) struggle to overcome his stutter with the help of Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), is a very handsome, well-acted parlor drama that doesn’t hold up very well. And that same year, The King’s Speech managed to win Best Picture over a coterie of more deserving films, including David Fincher’s The Social Network, about the origins of Facebook; Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, about an obsessive ballerina; Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi epic Inception; David O. Russell’s The Fighter; and Lee Unkrich’s heartrending Toy Story 3. Even statistician extraordinaire Nate Silver picked The Social Network to win Best Picture. Don’t ever underestimate the campaigning ability of Harvey Weinstein.

Miramax Films/Hulton Archive, via Getty

14. Samuel L. Jackson, ‘Pulp Fiction’ (1994)

The 1995 Academy Awards Ceremony was a debacle on so many levels (more on this later), but one of the biggest travesties was Samuel L. Jackson’s larger-than-life performance as Jheri-curled, God-fearing hitman Jules Winnfield losing to Martin Landau’s turn as aging actor Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood. It was an infamous “career Oscar” for Landau who was 66 at the time and on his third nomination. Jackson’s Jules, meanwhile, is now remembered as one of the greatest characters in modern cinema.

David Lee/Focus Features, via AP

13. Kate Winslet, ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ (2004)

Kate Winslet’s performance as Clementine, the delightfully quirky object of Joel Barish’s (Jim Carrey) affection, is an absolute marvel, and the finest turn of the actress’s career. Winslet was nominated for her fourth Oscar for Eternal Sunshine, but lost the Best Actress Oscar to Hilary Swank, who won her second Best Actress trophy for her turn as a burly boxer in Million Dollar Baby. That film—and Swank’s performance—doesn’t hold up nearly as well as Eternal Sunshine. As a “makeup” of sorts, she was awarded with the Best Actress Oscar in 2009 for her turn as a Nazi guard in the heavy-handed historical drama The Reader. The Academy, as is its wont, typically awards actors on their third, fourth, fifth, or in this case, sixth, go-around for lesser performances.


12. ‘High Noon’ (1952)

Fred Zinneman’s High Noon stars Gary Cooper as an aging town marshal in New Mexico Territory who is forced to face a gang of outlaws by himself. The film also features Grace Kelly as his pacifist, Quaker wife, and Lloyd Bridges as his deputy sheriff. Shot in close to real time, High Noon is regarded as arguably the greatest Western ever, despite its distinct lack of action—instead choosing to rely on moralistic dialogue for the majority of its running time. The film was also viewed as an allegory for blacklisting, praising those willing to stand up to the House Un-American Activities Committee. Unfortunately, High Noon lost the Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director to Cecil B. DeMille’s circus-set drama The Greatest Show on Earth, which is now considered one of the worst films to ever win Best Picture.


11. Humphrey Bogart

Despite being considered the greatest male star in the history of American cinema by the American Film Institute, Humphrey Bogart was screwed time and again on Oscar night. Bogart wasn’t even nominated for playing Det. Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon (1941), To Have and Have Not (1944), The Big Sleep (1946), his iconic villain in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) or Key Largo (1948). He was nominated for Best Actor for his portrayal of Rick Blaine, a disillusioned owner of a nightclub and gambling hall that catered to refugees, as well as French, Italian, and Nazi officials, on the eve of America’s entry into World War II in Casablanca. Despite the film winning Best Picture and Best Director, Bogart lost the Best Actor Oscar to Paul Lukas for his turn in the little-known Watch on the Rhine. Bogart was eventually awarded the Best Actor Oscar for 1951’s The African Queen—but by then, it was more of a concession than anything else.

10. The 1994 Oscar for Best Picture

The aforementioned debacle that was the 1995 Academy Awards ceremony, honoring the best films released in 1994, will go down as one of the silliest in history. Robert Zemeckis’s time-spanning saga Forrest Gump, featuring Tom Hanks as its titular dim-witted protagonist, took home the Best Picture Oscar over Quentin Tarantino’s crime classic Pulp Fiction, as well as Frank Darabont’s Shawshank Redemption. For shame.

9. The 1976 Oscar for Best Picture

Guess everybody loves an underdog story. At the 1977 Academy Awards ceremony, John G. Avildsen’s working-class boxing drama Rocky, written by and starring Sylvester Stallone, won the Best Picture Oscar over now-classics Taxi Driver, a scathing commentary New York City directed by Martin Scorsese; Network, Sidney Lumet’s ahead-of-its-time satire of cable news; and Alan J. Pakula’s political thriller All the President’s Men, about Woodward and Bernstein’s investigation of the Watergate scandal.


8. The 1950 Oscar for Best Actress

Yikes. At the 1951 Academy Awards Ceremony, Judy Holliday was awarded the Best Actress Oscar for her performance as “Billie” Dawn, an uncouth mistress to a tycoon who hires her a tutor, played by William Holden, so she can become more refined, in Born Yesterday. The film, and Holliday’s performance, has not aged well. But it’s not so much Holliday’s performance as whom she beat that’s the problem here. Holliday managed to beat out Bette Davis’s turn as an aging, scheming Broadway star in All About Eve, as well as Gloria Swanson’s fallen silent-movie star in Sunset Boulevard. These are two of the greatest female film characters in the history of cinema, and neither was awarded the Oscar.


7. Cary Grant

Cary Grant, one of the greatest actors of all time—and a comedy legend—never won an Oscar … and he was only nominated twice, garnering nods for Penny Serenade (1941) and None But the Lonely Heart (1944). A victim of the Academy’s longstanding bias against comedy performances, with unrecognized turns in the classics Bringing Up Baby, His Girl Friday, The Philadelphia Story, and Charade, Grant was also unrecognized for his underrated dramatic performances in three fantastic Hitchcock films: Suspicion, Notorious, and North by Northwest. In 1970, he was finally awarded an honorary Oscar. Too little, too late.

6. ‘Goodfellas’ (1990)

Martin Scorsese’s masterful crime saga traces the rise and fall of Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) and several other Lucchese crime family members, including Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) and the tempestuous Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci). The film is absolutely explosive, thanks in large part to the game performances and Scorsese’s kinetic directing, leading esteemed film critic Roger Ebert to write, “No finer film has ever been made about organized crime— not even The Godfather.” At the 1991 Academy Awards ceremony, however, Goodfellas—nominated for six Academy Awards—only won one (Best Supporting Actor for Pesci). And it lost both Best Picture and Best Director to Kevin Costner’s Dances With Wolves—a film that seems to drag today. This, of course, wasn’t the first time Scorsese was screwed over for Best Director. He wasn’t even nominated for Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, and The King of Comedy, and lost for Raging Bull to Robert Redford’s Ordinary People. He finally won the Oscar at the 2007 ceremony for the Boston-set crime drama The Departed.

Gene Page/AP

5. Francis Ford Coppola, ‘The Godfather’ (1972)

The wedding sequence. The thwarted assassination at the hospital. The restaurant hit. The scenes in Sicily. The Godfather is, without question, one of the finest filmmaking achievements ever. It was the highest grossing film of 1972, and received 10 Oscar nominations, winning Best Picture, Best Actor (Marlon Brando), and Best Adapted Screenplay. However, Coppola—God knows why—managed to lose Best Director that year to Bob Fosse for his movie-musical Cabaret. How a film wins Best Picture, Best Screenplay, and Best Actor, and doesn’t take home the Best Director Oscar is a mystery. To make matters worse, Coppola wasn’t even nominated the following year for The Conversation, before he finally took home the Best Director statuette for The Godfather: Part II.

Keith Hamshere/Getty

4. Stanley Kubrick

Known for being a perfectionist, often requiring dozens of shots and inspecting virtually every aspect of the mise-en-scene before rolling, Stanley Kubrick is widely regarded as one of the greatest filmmakers ever. No genre escaped him. Kubrick, however, never won the Best Director Oscar. He wasn’t even nominated for Paths of Glory, Lolita, and Full Metal Jacket, and unfairly lost the Oscar for helming Dr. Strangelove, the greatest comedy film of all time, to George Cukor for My Fair Lady. Strangelove also lost Best Picture that year to My Fair Lady, while his sci-fi masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey didn’t even receive a Best Picture nomination. That the late genius still hasn’t received so much as an honorary Oscar is completely baffling.


3. Alfred Hitchcock

“The master of suspense” was nominated for five Best Director Oscars but never won. He also failed to even be nominated for some of his greatest films, including Vertigo, Notorious, and North by Northwest. It’s downright embarrassing and remains a huge stain on the Academy’s record.

Paramount Pictures/AP

2. ‘Vertigo’ (1958)

Voted the “greatest film of all time” in the British Film Institute’s acclaimed Sight and Sound Poll—knocking Citizen Kane from the top spot—Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece Vertigo received just two Oscar nominations, for Best Art Direction and Best Sound.

Mercury Productions RKO/AP

1. ‘Citizen Kane’ (1941)

Yes, it’s the biggest fuckup in Oscar history. At the 1942 Academy Awards ceremony, Orson Welles’s brilliant saga of publishing magnate Charles Foster Kane—based on the life of William Randolph Hearst—took home just one Oscar (for Best Original Screenplay). The film lost Best Picture and Best Director to John Ford’s so-so drama How Green Was My Valley, chronicling life for a family struggling in a Welsh mining town. Citizen Kane, meanwhile, is considered not only the greatest film of all time, but a revolutionary film from a technical standpoint, incorporating low-angle, deep focus, and crane shots—all considered wildly unorthodox at the time.