The Best Picture Winners That Never Were – Part One (1946 – 1990)

apocalypsenow

“…it’s judgement that defeats us.”

Everyone loves a list. I’m starting to quite enjoy writing them too. And seeing as it’s that time of year, it’s about time for an Oscars list. Given the atmosphere surrounding the awards nowadays – a lack of diversity, no Oscars for DiCaprio and yet another Interracial Double Penetrations sequel being left off the damn best films list – I thought up a list of “Also Ran” films. Those that should’ve won the Best Picture award the year they were nominated over what actually won.

As per usual, I used my very simple, very unscientific methods and rules to put this list together, which are as follows. Firstly, I only picked ten. From that list of films I’ve only picked ones that were nominated for the award but lost. If I didn’t, it’d be a list filled with films like Fight Club, Terminator 2: Judgement Day and American History X. Second, the list is based on nothing but my opinion. Hopefully you’ll agree with me in my choices, but its ok if you don’t.

So, without further ado, let’s crack on with those films robbed of the most coveted of prizes.


1946 – It’s a Wonderful Life

Losing out to The Best Years of Our Lives, this timeless Christmas movie is the first of a few films on this list with the same quality; years, nay decades after the film lost out on its Oscar, its quality and staying power far surpasses that of the film that beat it.

Frank Capra’s Christmas movie about a man who is shown just how bad life for everyone else would have been if he hadn’t existed has far outlasted William Wyler’s post-World War II drama. All these years later, while Best Years is still a great film, It’s a Wonderful Life is a time tested, sitcom approved, feel good journey worthy of its spot on BBC One every Christmas.


1971 – A Clockwork Orange

Ok, this one was tough. I wasn’t sure it should be here but after a lot of thinking, and watching both films again just because I can, I truly believe that Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece was robbed to give the statue to William Friedkin’s The French Connection.

I’m very aware that this is likely to get me lynched. Sadly this probably won’t be the last film on the list to do that. Even worse because you won’t find Friedkin’s The Exorcist anywhere on this list. But I simply didn’t think that ’71s Oscar winner – while well made and gritty – was the better of these two films. Kubrick’s social commentary is just as scathing, and maybe more relevant today than it ever has been.


1979 – Apocalypse Now

Beaten out by Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep’s divorce drama Kramer Vs. Kramer, which also took a crap load of other Oscars for its director and stars; Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam War epic is undoubtedly one of the greatest war films, if not one of the greatest films, ever made. Based on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, the film, like its source material, plays with the idea that the line between being a civilised member of society and being a savage is much thinner and much more delicate than we are willing to believe.

Another in the list that is still relevant and poignant today, far more than the film that beat it to the podium that year, Apocalypse Now is a genuinely timeless film that while it still gets the recognition it deserves today. It definitely deserved the statue that year.


1989 – Born on the Fourth of July

Another tough decision. Beaten to the finish by Driving Miss Daisy, Oliver Stone’s biopic about paralysed Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic who, feeling betrayed by his country after he returns from the war, becomes an anti-war/pro-human rights activist. It was the perfect follow up to the director’s Oscar winning Platoon from a couple of years previously.

Obviously, both this and Miss Daisy had hard pressing issues that needed to be brought into the light, of course they did. And I’m not naive enough to say that the racially charged drama didn’t or doesn’t have a place on film history; but while the issues of race in America have been regularly brought into the spotlight by those in Hollywood, those hitting veterans – injured or not – seem to have been forgotten.


1990 – Goodfellas

No, I don’t think Dances With Wolves deserved an Oscar. I don’t even think it’s a good film all on its own. But when you compare it to one of the greatest crime dramas ever made that doesn’t have Godfather in the title, it’s just bloody awful. I mean come on, four hours of Kevin Costner prancing around like Mowgli from The Jungle Book making friends with Wolves when everyone else is busy fighting a war? Just… No.

Fellas on the other hand, is an hour and a half shorter for a start – I mean seriously, I can watch this and Another 48 Hours in the time Wolves is on for – but it doesn’t have a single frame that I’d take out of it. A perfect cast and a perfect script, perfectly directed and worthy of repeat viewings. I’m using the word again, but it’s timeless, it’s a classic. Dances With Wolves is boring, forgettable nonsense in comparison.


So what do you think? Am I right? Wrong? Racist? Either way, I’ve got more to come…

To Be Continued…

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