Saturday, February 21, 2015

Top 5 Movie Guide: Best Picture Nominees That Didn't Win, 1980 to 2013

For this edition of the Top 5 Movie Guide, we went with a category a bit more broad than usual. Tomorrow will hold the 87th Academy Awards ceremony, where dozens of films will be vying for top awards, and none more prestigious than Best Picture. The award is considered the most important not only of the Oscars, but of the entire awards circuit (due to the largest base of voters selecting its winner, from all different guilds and factions). In our lists below, we pick some of our favorites that didn't take home to trophy - and we're restricting it to 1980 and up to try and keep some form of structure.


The Academy Awards began in 1929, and Best Picture is one award that has remained constant in every year since, though its official name has went through many incarnations (originally Outstanding Picture, through five more official titles before most recently settling on Best Picture in 1962). In the first few decades of the award, there was as many as twelve films nominated, but that soon changed to a limit of five nominees, a rule the Academy stuck with until very recently. In 2009, the Academy made the decision to change the field to ten total nominees instead of five, as something of a throwback to the earlier years (though, many refer to it as "The Dark Knight Rule" - it didn't receive a nomination in 2008, and there was strong backlash against the Academy for constantly omitting more entertaining/accessible films). After only two years having a field of ten, the Academy changed it again, to how it currently is now: at least five nominees and up to ten.

To date, there have been 520 films nominated for the award, 55 available for this list (58 total nominees in this span, but both nominated The Lord of the Rings films as well as "The Shawshank Redemption" have been enshrined on this site, making them ineligible below). Still, that left a large, very strong field to choose from, and ultimately one of the more unique groupings of films we've ever featured in one of these lists. Hit the jump to see which films each of us selected!

Alex Schopp -
What a stupid, stupid list to construct. There were just too many deserving titles here, deciding which to include and which to omit was awful. And then ranking those - just stop. And because I love to torture myself, I decided to omit any films that are currently in my Top 10 All Time. That mixed things up a bit more and led to some even tougher decisions. It also led to me cheating a little, but deal with it. I decide what gets posted on this site, not you.

     1. Moneyball (2011)
At the very least, I felt comfortable with this pick. "Moneyball" will probably end up on my Top 10 eventually, but for now, it is not. Fantastic script, and a perfect mix of baseball and personal dramas. I love Aaron Sorkin's writing.
     2. Pulp Fiction (1994)
The film I wanted for this spot (Shawshank) I felt shouldn't be here anyway, since it should have won Best Picture in 1994. Since it's been enshrined on this site and can't be used, I guess my wish comes true (win?). I'm sure the creators of the film feel equally satisfied with this honor as they would have had they won Best Picture. Instead, I'll go with another film from '94 that many thought was equally deserving of the award. I just don't care for "Forrest Gump", so these two films stand out to me in a big way. Thanks to the pop culture sentiments towards Tarantino's work, my interest levels for this film have fluctuated strongly over the years. I'm happy with this film being here now, but this spot could have also went to "The Pianist", "Elizabeth", or "Apollo 13".
     3. Midnight in Paris (2011)
Is this really my third-favorite movie ever, post-1980, nominated for Best Picture but that didn't win? Even amid those countless restrictions, that feels like such lofty praise for the film. It's a fantastic concept though, one I'm sure we've all dreamed about at one time or another. And even though I haven't closely followed a lot of his career, it's awesome to see Woody Allen still crushing it after all these years. This spot also could have been "True Grit", "Django Unchained", or "The Wolf of Wall Street".
     4. Field of Dreams (1989)
I needed another anchor for this list that was pre-1990. "Field of Dreams" easily fit the bill. Another baseball film, this one a bit more emotional and personal than focusing on an on-field product. I'm glad Kevin Costner likes sports so much and continues to make movies about them. Some of them don't turn out so well, but this is one of the greats. This spot could have also been "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" or "Broadcast News".
     5. The Kids Are All Right (2010)
I mentioned in my Julianne Moore list why I love this film. Does it deserve this Top 5 status? Right now, I'm saying yes. But this spot could have easily been "Up in the Air", "Avatar", or "Inglourious Basterds".

Ben Foutch -

     1. Pulp Fiction (1994)
Drugs, gimp fetish, pawn shop rape, watch-toting rectums, and graphic violence. This is my #1 pick and I really don't want know what that says about me.
     2. Inception (2010)
"Does it stop spinning or not?" That is not the point.
     3. Shine (1996)
I feel like this is the cautionary companion to "Whiplash". If I pushed myself to those levels, I'd definitely be less Andrew Neimann and more David Helfgott.
     4. Sideways (2004)
I read somewhere that Merlot sales dropped after this released. I guess there are worse characters than Miles to emulate.
     5. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
It's 2015 and Hollywood is still making this film. Can't say I blame them.

Derek Clem -

     1. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
I was the perfect age during the Disney Renaissance. All the Disney cartoons that came out during that era hold a special place in my heart, this one included. Of the Disney Renaissance films, I tend to find this one to be the most sophisticated. It’s always a pleasure to watch. I love "Silence of the Lambs", but I really do wish this would have won Best Picture. It saddens me to know that a traditional animation film may never get that honor.
     2. Apollo 13 (1995)
I love "Braveheart", but I wish this would have taken the big prize. My dad grew up during the heyday of the space program and passed much of his interest in the subject to me, hence my love for this movie. Plus it stars Tom Hanks!
     3. Avatar (2009)
I mean, I guess I’m okay with "The Hurt Locker" winning Best Picture, with "Avatar" being mostly archetypal storytelling and all, but James Cameron, with all the innovation that went into "Avatar", deserved that Best Director statue.
     4. The Queen (2006)
I know it’s just a movie, but man, I have so much respect for the actual Queen now. I love that she puts duty first in almost all situations. She’s like a Vulcan or something. But she also knows how to adapt when necessary.
     5. The Social Network (2010)
Such an easy watch. The dialogue, score, and visual tone all do a great job of making me cozy.

Nathan Hinds -
I first wanted to construct this list based on the five biggest snubs among this group. But since it was so difficult to narrow this list down to five with all the choices I had - and realizing that possibly the best example of that ("Shawshank Redemption") was excluded from this list - I chose to stick with a general mix of biggest snubs/favorite films. This list would've been impossible to make if the Academy had started allowing more than five nominees earlier than 2009 - though, the current construction actually made room for films that common people outside of the Academy saw and could root for.

     1. E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial (1982)
Most of these movies don't need much of an explanation. Even though on its surface, it's a movie you associate more with watching as a kid, it's a movie I enjoy and appreciate more as I get older. And this was definitely the Best Picture of 1982. This may be wrong (I've never found the footage) but didn't the director or producer of "Ghandi" say during their acceptance speech that E.T. should have won?
     2. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
You can definitely file this one under snubs as well. Only in the Oscars can you can be the greatest war movie made in the last 30 years, but go up against a period piece love/drama in the Best Picture field and lose. Everyone knows "Shakespeare In Love" was not the best movie that year. I mean, what is the Academy's obsession with movies filled with ladies in corsets? And knowing that, how has Helena Bonham Carter not won five Oscars by now?
     3. Field of Dreams (1989)
Three films, and three snubs to get my list started. The 80's wasn't the strongest decade for this award. When I previously ranked all of the Best Picture winners, the 80's were one of the weakest decades as a whole. Basically folks, don't use the Oscars as a gauge for filmmaking in the 80's. There's plenty of amazing films, the Academy just missed 'em.
     4. A Few Good Men (1992)
I don't want it to seem like I'm throwing "Unforgiven" under the bus, but I do think it's an overrated Western. There have been much more deserving Westerns that either didn't win, or weren't even nominated. I think "A Few Good Men" is more deserving based on being infinitely more watchable and providing one of the most famous lines in the history of cinema.
     5. Inception (2010)
Purely an agenda pushing pick. I chose this because it's another year where the Academy just went with a period drama over a much more ambitious, enjoyable, and well-made movie. Anyone who knows the history of these awards knows how criminally under-appreciated both the entire Sci-Fi genre is as well as Christopher Nolan. How does this man only have one nominated film? I truly believe this man has not made a single film that isn't great. *I still think "The Social Network" should have won this year, but I want the sci-fi genre and Nolan to get more appreciation.

Andy Schopp -

     1. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
This movie encapsulates all that I want from a film: a few jokes, some intense action, with plenty of wonder and discovery. Movies don't reach a much higher pedestal than this.
     2. Avatar (2009)
I was initially uncertain about the placement of this movie, so I turned to the good ol' reliable watchability factor. And folks, this one is through the roof! I don't know exactly what it is that draws me in so much, I just love to love it. Its action and sci-fi at its best!
     3. Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
I love this movie. It is so poignant and powerful, while also giving you so much hope and admiration. If you haven't seen it yet, please go do so immediately. It's a must-see more so than probably anything else on my list!
     4. Saving Private Ryan (1996)
What I appreciated about it was how different it was than any other war films before it. War movies before this were - in a non-specific generalization - just old black and white buddy flicks with a ton of dialogue and two-dimensional characters. This movie made everything seem so much more real and painful. This made my list because of the way it impacted the way I thought about an entire genre of film.
     5. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
I grew up watching this as many a younglings did from my generation. It will be forever ingrained into our minds for its memorable characters and fantastical scenery.

What a unique list this turned out to be. Going into it, though, this was one that you knew would turn out differently than most. In fact, I think the goal was different here than on many of our lists - most of the time you're looking for those repeat selections; the cream of the crop. Here, with so many great films available for this category, I think it's a good thing we ended up with so much variety. I think showcasing the number of great films here shows our range and diversity as a group.

So that being said, there were 18 total films (officially) listed above. There were seven films that showed up on multiple lists, but all seven of those only hit on two different lists - no film was featured more than twice. Another thing that's always neat, all five writers above had a different film in their #1 spot. And actually, outside of "Pulp Fiction", every other film in the top two spots above was different. A lot of variety this week. A lot of really great films, though.

This was a fun exercise, and hopefully showcased a nice range of films that have appeared in the Best Picture category in recent years. Now the only thing left to wonder, when someone goes to do this list next year, will "Boyhood" or "Birdman" be eligible? We'll know tomorrow.

Thanks for reading. Happy watching!