It’s Oscar season once again – and while Academy members scratch their heads trying to decide which of this year’s crop of worthy titles deserves to take home the big prize, we trawl the archives to uncover the worst Oscar offences of all time. From Julie Andrews warbling on a mountaintop to the time ‘Harry and the Hendersons’ walked away with a handful of gold, here are all the Academy’s biggest blunders in one handy list.
This is by no means a definitive rundown of all of Oscar’s shoddy decisions – we didn’t even have room to mention Celine Dion or ’Chicago’ – so if you really, really hate ‘Titanic’ or really, really love ‘Forrest Gump’, tell us about it in the comments box below.
RECOMMENDED: Read our full guide to the Oscars 2016
Best Director, 1939
It may be a popular classic that still holds the record for most tickets sold, but slavery-era epic ‘Gone With a Wind’ feels a mite creaky in this age of #OscarsSoWhite and ‘12 Years a Slave’. But that’s not the only reason we question Victor Fleming’s Oscar win. In truth he was only one of three directors to work on the film, so the award really should’ve been split between them.Read more
Best Picture, 1953
Legendary producer-director Cecil B DeMille may be one of the key figures in the history of American cinema, but that doesn’t mean his films were all great. Gaudy circus story ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ may have packed them in at the box office, but you’d be hard-pressed to mount a strong artistic defence of this trashy, overlong epic.Read more
‘Around the World in 80 Days’
Best Picture, 1957
Sometimes the Academy don’t just get the winners wrong, but the whole damn ceremony: in 1957, while the likes of ‘The Searchers’, ‘Written on the Wind’ and ‘Forbidden Planet’ were wowing audiences at home, with ‘The Ladykillers’, ‘La Strada’ and ‘Seven Samurai’ on release worldwide, the Academy saw fit to reward this turgid family romp, while the nominees were rounded out with epically tedious crud like ‘Giant’, ‘The King and I’ and ‘The Ten Commandments’.
It could’ve been...
A year to remember.
For Best Cinematography, 1963
That this bloated, tedious and wildly overpriced historical epic took any awards at all is disgraceful, but the one which really sticks in the craw is Cinematography. Not only does the film look like it’s been shot through a veneer of blancmange, but it triumphed over arguably the most visually sumptuous film ever made, ‘The Leopard’, which wasn’t even nominated.Read more
Best Picture, 1965
The mid-'60s were a grim time for Hollywood both artistically and economically, as reflected by a truly lacklustre brace of Best Picture nominees at the 1966 awards: alongside Robert Wise’s excruciatingly cheerful nuns ‘n’ Nazis romp were ranged the likes of ‘Doctor Zhivago’, ‘Darling’ and something called ‘A Thousand Clowns’.
It could’ve been...
Um… ‘Von Ryan’s Express’?
Best Foreign Language Film, 1966
It may have looked slick, exciting and frightfully modern at the time, but Claude Lelouch’s paper-thin romantic romp now seems trite, dated and disgustingly self-satisfied – as relentlessly annoying as its twittering oh-so-French theme song.Read more
Best Original Song, 1985
Everyone loves Stevie Wonder, and with good reason, but even before the song was verbally lambasted by John Cusack in ‘High Fidelity’, it was widely accepted that this drippy, cloying romantic ballad is one of the soul pioneer’s low points.Read more
Best Picture, 1986
In the mid-'80s, the Academy suddenly became obsessed with dishing out heaps of awards to grandiose, sweeping tales of life in foreign lands: see ‘Gandhi’, ‘Platoon’, and ‘The Last Emperor’. While each of those films is defensible, the same can’t really be said of this tiresome, glacially-paced colonial romance.Read more
Best Makeup, 60th Academy Awards, 1988
‘Academy Award winner “Harry and the Hendersons”’ must be one of the oddest accolades ever devised, but it’s nonetheless true. The make-up fraternity may simply have been rewarding FX legend Rick Baker for past achievements, but whatever their reasoning, this dire family monster-com had no right to be within sniffing distance of awards glory.
It could’ve been...
Absolutely anything else.
Best Picture, 1990
Sometimes the Academy seem to enjoy making things difficult for themselves. To nominate this good-natured but worryingly old-fashioned race-relations weepie rather than Spike Lee’s dynamic, challenging ‘Do the Right Thing’ was insult enough. To then give crotchety old ‘Miss Daisy’ four awards including the big prize was an unforgiveable injury.Read more
Anthony Hopkins for ‘The Silence of the Lambs’, Al Pacino for ‘Scent of a Woman’
Best Actor, 1992, 1993
No actor ever won an Oscar for their subtle behaviour, but these two foot-thick slices of ham really stand out. Hopkins’s turn in ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ is admittedly terrific fun: sucking the marrow out of every villainous line, he comes on like William Shatner auditioning for ‘Dracula’. Pacino, meanwhile, is just a ball of mad, bellowing energy. Is this really the same man who played it so quiet and malevolent as Michael Corleone?
Three drippy ballads from Disney
Best Song, 1993, 1995, 1996
In the mid-1990s, the Walt Disney Company exerted a stranglehold over the Best Song category, resulting in wins for three unlistenably schmaltzy ballads – A Whole New World from ‘Aladdin’, Can You Feel the Love Tonight? from ‘The Lion King’ and Colors of the Wind from ‘Pocahontas’ – each of which combine lowest-common-denominator lovelorn lyrics, hideously catchy melodies and slushy string-based instrumentation.
It could’ve been...
Anything by Randy Newman.
Best Picture, 1994
America loves to pat itself on the back, but this slick, saccharine, deeply reactionary nostalgia-fest is one giant leap too far. Tom Hanks gives a dead-eyed, inexplicably Best Actor-winning performance as the dullard man-child whose simple, old-timey wisdom inevitably gets the better of revolutionaries, counterculturists and those pesky Vietnamese.Read more
Best Picture, 2002
By the late ‘90s, it seemed the Academy had decided to avert any chance of controversy by doling out awards to the blandest, most inoffensive movie they could find (see also: ‘Shakespeare in Love’, ‘Titanic’, ‘Chicago’). The worst offender in this category has to be Ron Howard’s entirely forgettable maths ‘n’ madness biopic, a disease-of-the-week TV movie which somehow escaped into the multiplex.Read more
Best Supporting Actress, 2003
Proof that it’s possible for a single supporting performance to sink an entire film, Renee Zellweger’s slack-jawed, fish-faced female-Forrest-Gump ruined this otherwise decent landscape drama from Anthony Minghella – but the Academy saw fit to reward her nonetheless.Read more
Best Picture, 2006
2005 was the year politics returned to Hollywood, with the Middle East (‘Munich’), gay rights (‘Brokeback Mountain’) and America’s troubled political history (‘Good Night and Good Luck’) all on the agenda. ‘Crash’ was a political film too, but in the lily-livered, hand-wringing, don’t-say-anything-unless-you-say-something-offensive-by-mistake vein – so of course it snatched the big prize.
It could’ve been...
Any of the above.
Best Cinematography, 2010
Leaving aside the issue of quality – time has not been kind to James Cameron’s derivative sci-fi adventure – the real question is how a film created almost entirely within a computer can be nominated for Best Cinematography? Photographing a film is a tactile art, demanding in-depth knowledge of focal lengths, lenses and the way light moves. If all that work is done by a thousand nerds sweating over a thousand desktop computers, who’s really doing the ‘filming’? And does this mean Pixar movies are eligible?
It could’ve been...
Michael Haneke’s stunning ‘The White Ribbon’. End of story.
Best Director, 2011
Patriotic and positively pro-royal ‘The King’s Speech’ is a perfectly diverting slice of British cosiness. Still, it’s hardly Best Picture material – and the fact that helmsman Tom Hooper also took the Best Director prize is simply bizarre. His work is TV-standard: solid but unimpressive. And it looks even weaker next to David Fincher’s icy-cool ‘The Social Network’, which was also in the running.Read more
Best Picture, 2012
In the four years since this moderately entertaining silent movie about backstage Hollywood life won Best Picture, has anyone ever said the words ‘you know what I feel like watching? “The Artist”’? To go from winning film’s biggest honour to being completely forgotten in 48 months is pretty impressive, but given the film’s cutesy tone, drama-free setup and general air of self-satisfied middle-of-the-road-ness it’s perhaps not surprising.Read more
‘Birdman: or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance’
Best Picture, 2015
Alejandro González Iñárritu’s ‘Birdman’ divides critics – our reviewer gave it a five-star rave, while for others it’s a shallow, unfunny rant directed at the easiest of targets: actors and the media. But all that is irrelevant, because ‘Birdman’ had the misfortune to be released in the same year as a film that brought something genuinely new and refreshing to cinema. Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’, filmed over 13 years, was a heartfelt, daring coming-of-age drama that stunned audiences worldwide. So of course it couldn’t win.
It could have been...
‘Boyhood’, plain and simple.
Discover more-deserving Oscar winners
The Oscars are Hollywood’s annual chance to dress up to the nines, roll out the red carpet and remind the world how brilliant it is. To be fair, the Academy do get it right occasionally – so here’s our handy list of the best winners available to stream on Netflix UK.Read more