13 Great Films the Oscars Completely Ignored

The 96th Academy Awards are set to take place on March 10, 2024 and Christopher Nolan’s epic blockbuster drama Oppenheimer leads the pack with a stunning 13 nominations, while the critical darlings Poor Things and Killers of the Flower Moon are hot on its heels with 11 and 10 nods, respectively.

The Academy has expanded its horizons on what can be considered an Oscar film. In recent years, some surprising films like Top Gun: Maverick, Black Panther, and Toy Story 3 have earned high-profile Academy Award nominations, proving that financially successful, fan-favorite pictures can also be in the running for Oscar glory. The same can be said about international films ever since the Best Picture win of Parasite in 2020, with Anatomy of a Fall and Zone of Interest having earned multiple Oscar nominations in 2024.

That being said, the Academy still has a long history of ignoring not just popular movies, but generally great films. While there are only so many nomination slots in a given year, the history of great films that should have been nominated by the Academy is just as long as the ones that were celebrated. With that in mind, here are 15 great films that were ignored at the Academy Awards for Oscars, in no particular order.

13 Heat


Release Date
December 15, 1995

Touting a stacked ensemble cast led by Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, and Val Kilmer, Michael Mann’s epic crime film Heat chronicles the escalating clash between professional L.A. thief Neil McCauley (De Niro) and LAPD Lieutenant Vincent Hanna (Pacino) as the criminal attempts to pull off one final heist before retiring while being relentlessly pursued by the determined detective.

Mann’s Groundbreaking Shootout

The intense power struggle between De Niro and Pacino’s warring counterparts left audiences on the edge of their seats, as did the unforgettable bank robbery and bloody shootout that astonishingly unfolded. The iconic firefight scene is undeniably one of the most realistic and thrilling action sequences to ever grace the screen, and it took nearly 10 adrenaline-pumping minutes to unfold. Heat has landed on numerous critics’ lists as one of the greatest crime films of all time; a sequel is currently in development, with Adam Driver attached to star. Stream on Hulu

12 Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Shane Black made his superb directorial debut when he helmed the neo-noir crime black comedy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, enlisting the talents of Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer, and Michelle Monaghan to help tell the story of a low-level criminal who gets mistaken for an actor and is subsequently tasked with shadowing a stoic private detective for a Hollywood role, only to be swept up in a perplexing murder conspiracy.

Downey and Kilmer’s Cinematic Gold

A lively parody of film noir and their common tropes, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is jam-packed full of humor, mystery, and plenty of twists and turns, and both Downey and Kilmer shined and let loose in their entertaining roles. The gifted actors more than deserved an Oscar nomination for their winning portrayals, as did the comedy’s sharp screenplay, and in 2020 Downey would later callKiss Kiss Bang Bang “in some ways the best film I’ve ever done.” It was named the “Overlooked Film of the Year” at the Phoenix Film Critics Society, further proving it should have been considered by the Academy. Buy/Rent on Prime Video

Groundhog Day

Bill Murray delivered one of the finest performances of his illustrious career when he teamed up with frequent collaborator Harold Ramis for the ’90s fantasy rom-com Groundhog Day, a celebrated hit that famously follows Murray as he is forced to relive the same day over and over after becoming stuck in a time loop. Murray was able to branch out and show off his range as a performer, proving himself to be more than just a comic actor with the help of Ramis’ dynamic direction.

Comedy Dream Team

Upon its initial debut, Groundhog Day was a knockout at the box office and with critics, attracting widespread praise for its phenomenal blending of cynicism and sentimentality and for Murray’s career-defining performance. The fantasy flick further proved the magic that Murray and Ramis could create together on screen, having done so previously in movies like Caddyshack and Ghostbusters, and the duo deserved to be rewarded for their brilliant partnership. Groundhog Day‘s reputation has only grown in recent years, and is now regarded as one of the greatest comedies ever made. Buy/Rent on Prime Video

11 The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

When the Western began to decline, a movement emerged in Italy to recover the feeling of these films, thanks to directors like Sergio Leone. One of his most important classics was The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, a film that ended the Dollars trilogy starring the unique Clint Eastwood in the role of the Man with No Name.

Celebrated Western Classic

The film ends up serving as a great tribute to the American Western and still offers us iconic scenes and an unforgettable interpretation by Eastwood. Unfortunately, it was not remembered at that year’s Academy Awards, mainly because it was an Italian film at a time when productions from other countries were restricted to the Foreign Film award. Italies submission that year was The Battle of Algiers. Stream on Max

10 Frankenstein

Frankenstein (1931)

Release Date
November 21, 1931

James Whale

Colin Clive , Mae Clarke , Boris Karloff , John Boles , Edward Van Sloan , Frederick Kerr , Dwight Frye , Lionel Belmore

70 Minutes

It is not new that people talk about how the Academy Awards tend to look down on genre films, specifically horror. While there have been some exceptions, like Silence of the Lambs winning Best Picture and Get Out being nominated, the perception is the genre is not typically worthy of awards consideration. However, it is absurd to think that Frankenstein, an absolute classic of cinema, did not garner a nomination.

Iconic Horror Masterpiece

Directed by James Whale and based on the book of the same name by Mary Shelley, the film tells us about Henry Frankenstein’s experiments, which gave rise to the iconic monster played by Boris Karloff. While Dracula may have kicked off the Universal Monster movies, Frankenstein is arguably the most iconic Universal Monster movie and a landmark film in cinema. Popular culture’s perception of the material owes more to the 1931 film than the original novel, and after almost 100 years still stands stall in the imagination of many. Rent/Buy on Apple TV+

9 The Shining

Continuing the Academy’s hatred of horror, another very striking example is The Shining, Stanley Kubrick’s film that brought to the screens – with many creative freedoms – Stephen King’s book. The film features astonishing performances by Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall and an impressive production design, even though the film and the book have many differences, generating conflict between Kubrick and King.

Related: 9 Movies Nominated for Both an Oscar and a Razzie Award

A Hallowed Horror Classic Emerges

When it was released in 1980, the movie garnered mixed reviews from critics and notably received two Razzie nominations, one for Worst Director and another for Worst Actress for Shelley Duvall, which the Razzie has since rescinded. The film is now a landmark horror film and one of the best-regarded in the history of the genre and showcases how the initial reaction to a movie can change over time. Rent/Buy on Prime Video

8 The King of Comedy

Released in 1981, The King of Comedy stars Robert De Niro as an aspiring comedian with severe psychological problems who witnesses first-hand disillusionment with the media. Martin Scorsese is far from an Oscar-passed director. He has already been nominated nine times for the Best Director award and has already taken home a statuette for his work on The Departed, a film released in 2006. But it is quite curious that one of his greatest classics was ignored by the award.

Justice Is Served?

In an odd twist of fate, possibly as a way for not nominating this film at the time, years later, Joker would be nominated for Best Picture, with Joaquin Phoenix winning the Best Actor statue. Director Todd Philips had been open about how The King of Comedy was a major inspiration for Joker. Stream on Hulu

7 Reservoir Dogs

Quentin Tarantino is another great director who has already made history with the Academy, having been nominated three times in the category of Best Director and even received two statuettes for Best Original Screenplay for his work on Pulp Fiction and Django Unchained. However, many complain to this day about how his first film was completely snubbed by the Academy.

Tarantino’s Shocking Omission

Released in 1992, Reservoir Dogs tells the story of several jewel thieves whose plans are horribly thwarted. The feature is considered by several Tarantino fans as the best film of his career and, like the other films mentioned, has a sharp and very surprising script. Still, as it was an unknown name, Tarantino was left out of that year’s Academy Awards ceremony. Stream on Prime Video

6 Before Sunrise

Long before winning over the world with Boyhood, Richard Linklater was already making profound and reflective films about human connections and relationships, and perhaps the best example of this is the Before Trilogy, which follows the story of a couple when they meet, meet again and, years later, they experience marital problems.

Linklater’s Triumphant Trilogy

Starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, the first film in the trilogy was Before Sunrise, from 1995. Despite the resounding reception from critics, the film was ignored at the Academy Awards. Thankfully, the Academy learned, and both Before Sunset and Before Midnight secured Best Adapted Screenplay nominations. Rent/Buy on Apple TV+

5 City Lights

City Lights poster 1931

City Lights

Release Date
January 30, 1930

Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin , Virginia Cherrill , Al Ernest Garcia

87 min

Charlie Chaplin

Despite being an iconic Hollywood figure and one of the silver screen’s most prominent performers of all time, the Academy did not show Charlie Chaplin as much love as he should have received during his spectacular career. For the silent romantic dramedy City Lights, Chaplin wrote, directed, and starred in the revered picture, which followed his character the Tramp as he falls in love with a beautiful blind flower girl while juggling his stormy friendship with an eccentric, booze-loving millionaire.

Chaplin’s Tour de Force Film

Regarded as one of the greatest films of all time and Chaplin’s cinematic masterpiece, City Lights was both a critical and commercial success, grossing more than $4 million and dazzling American audiences, who desperately needed laughter and joy during the Depression-era. Film critic James Agee called the dramedy’s closing scene “the greatest single piece of acting ever committed to celluloid”, and the legacy of City Lights has only grown in the numerous decades since its release, with many agreeing it should have garnered numerous Academy Awards. Stream on Max

4 In the Mood for Love

In the Mood for Love

In the Mood For Love

Release Date
March 9, 2001

Kar-Wai Wong

Tony Leung Chiu-wai , Maggie Cheung , Siu Ping-Lam , Tung Cho ‘Joe’ Cheung , Rebecca Pan

Speaking of romances, a movie that needs to be cited, and rightfully praised, is In the Mood for Love, a great romantic drama written, directed, and produced by Wong Kar-wai. The film follows a man and his neighbor who suspect their spouses are unfaithful. In love with each other, they decide to start a relationship while trying not to be discovered.

Kar-wai’s Spellbinding Storytelling

The film is cited as one of the greatest works of all time and a great testament to Wong Kar-wai’s power to tell stories. In the Mood for Love was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2000 and won the Technical Grand Prize and Best Actor for Tony Leung. However, it was shut out of the Academy Awards that year. Even without an Academy Award nomination, it continues to be a celebrated piece of cinema and was recently placed fifth in Sight & Sound‘s “Greatest Films of All Time” poll by critics. Stream on Max

3 Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Portrait of a Lady on Fire poster

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Release Date
December 6, 2019

Céline Sciamma

Noemie Merlant

Directed by Céline Sciamma, Portrait de la Jeune Fille en Feu – also known as Portrait of a Lady on Fire, tells the story of the forbidden love between a painter and her model. The film has been acclaimed since its debut at the Cannes Film Festival in 2019, but surprisingly, it was not nominated for a single Oscar category in 2020.

Related: Best Movies That Premiered at Cannes, Ranked

Sciamma’s Oscar-Worthy Endeavor

Part of the reason for the film’s snub was that France, the original country of the feature, did not enter it on the list of competitors for Best Foreign Language Film – that year, the chosen feature was Les Misérables. Still, many believed that Sciamma deserved a Best Director nomination and that the film should have been in the running for the top category at the ceremony. Stream on Hulu

2 Us



Release Date
March 14, 2019

Even a perfect performance doesn’t guarantee an Oscar, especially when it involves being in a horror movie. In 2019, the already acclaimed director Jordan Peele released his second feature film, Us, which tells the story of a family that receives a visit from their evil doubles, “the tethered.” And at the center of the film, Lupita Nyong’o stands out with one of the best performances of her career.

Nyong’o’s Powerhouse Portrayal

Even though Peele won Best Original Screenplay for his work in 2017’s Get Out, his second project was summarily forgotten, and fans criticized Nyong’o’s absence from the Best Actress race. Not only was Us a massive financial success, grossing over $256 million, but critics and moviegoers were bewitched by the horror film’s unique premise, Michael Abel’s ominous musical score, and Peele’s masterful direction. Buy/Rent on Prime Video

1 Touch of Evil

Touch of Evil poster

Touch of Evil

Release Date
April 23, 1958

111 min

Touch of Evil is one of Orson Welles’ darkest masterpieces, a grimy and grim film noir about a Mexican special prosecutor (a poorly cast Charlton Hesto still doing a good job) celebrating his honeymoon but somewhat stuck on the border after a car bomb kills two people. He butts heads with the old police captain, played by Orson Welles in one of his greatest performances. His intimidating, tragic, and sometimes disgusting performance deserved at least an Oscar nomination, along with his direction and script.

The Blacklisted Orson Welles

Orson Welles never really received the recognition he deserved throughout his life, spending his final three decades trying to gain financing for films and often failing. His feature film debut, Citizen Kane, was nominated for three Oscars in 1942, and won for Best Original Screenplay (which allegedly prompted boos from the audience). His next film, The Magnificent Ambersons, was nominated for four Oscars the next year, and the writer of his 1946 film, The Stranger, received a nomination for his adaptation. However, he never received another Oscar nomination for the rest of his life, despite directing masterpieces like Touch of Evil, Lady from Shanghai, The Trial, Chimes at Midnight, Othello, F for Fake, and Mr. Arkadin. Buy or rent on Apple TV and other platforms.


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