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The 11 Must-See Movies Completely Rejected By the Oscars

The 11 Must-See Movies Completely Rejected By the Oscars

READ MORE: Full List of 2016 Oscar Nominations

Love & Mercy

From “Brokeback Mountain” to “The Tree of Life” and “12 Years a Slave,” Bill Pohlad has produced some of the most critically acclaimed films of the past two decades. Stepping behind the director’s chair for the first time since his 1990 debut “Old Explorers,” Pohlad and screenwriter Oren Moverman reinvigorated the biopic genre with a unique approach to chronicling Beach Boys leader and co-founder Brian Wilson. The film is presented in a parallel narrative covering two important time periods in Wilson’s life: The 1960s and the 1980s. Bringing the singer to life over these two separate decades is a pair of performances by Paul Dano and John Cusack that show the peak of their dramatic powers. Dano, in particular, is a force of unrelenting genius, registering Wilson’s brilliance as inspiring and tragic all in a single look.


What is there to say about “Tangerine” that hasn’t been said already? Magnolia effortlessly mounted the first Oscar campaign for a transgender actress, and in many ways we wish Mya Taylor would be at the Dolby Theater in February. In this madcap tale of two Los Angeles prostitutes wandering around Hollywood in search of a cheating pimp, the two stars — Taylor and Kitana Kiki Rodriguez — break out in ways both comically brilliant and dramatically profound. Director Sean Baker, shooting the streets of Hollywood with a magnetic intensity, crafts a screwball comedy that never stops surprising. His characters’ plight make their tale universally relatable, and the film speaks boldly to every viewers’ battle to survive another hectic day.

The End of the Tour

James Ponsoldt has emerged as one of the best independent directors thanks to acclaimed favorites “Smashed” (2012) and “The Spectacular Now” (2013), and this biographical drama about a magazine reporter and his conversations with author David Foster Wallace during a promotional book tour is another emotional winner. Following in the footsteps of Jonah Hill, Judd Apatow stalwart Jason Segel makes a successful jump to drama with his portrayal of Wallace, the influential “Infinite Jest” author who committed suicide at age 46 after years of battling depression and substance addiction. It’s ultimately these dark facets of Wallace’s life that make Ponsoldt the best choice to bring the author to the big screen. Ponsoldt embraces his subjects and their addictions with a rare sensitivity that builds character organically without ever judging it. The results have been movies of stirring authenticity, and “The End of the Tour” movingly continues the trend.


Christian Petzold’s post-Holocaust drama is based around an incredulous premise: A German woman (Nina Hoss) emerges from the concentration camps with horrific facial scars, receives plastic surgery and rediscovers her husband in Berlin, where he fails to recognize her. Rather than reveal her identity, she allows him to believe she’s dead, only to wind up part of his scheme to have her pretend to be herself so he can claim her inheritance. But if “Phoenix” requires a certain suspension of disbelief to make its contained scenario work, the rewards of such a gamble speak for themselves. Petzold’s followup to the 2012 Hoss vehicle “Barbara” is a fascinating study of Holocaust trauma rendered in intimate terms. As Hoss’ performance and the final shot make clear, history may fade from view but the scars it leaves behind will never go away. 

James White

After blowing away audiences at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Josh Mond’s breakout feature “James White” turned into one of the fall’s must-see indie releases. Revelatory is a word used too loosely in this business, but it whole-heartedly applies to the work done by Christopher Abbott in the title role. James is the kind of lost soul that could be insufferable in the hands of a lesser actor, but Abbott makes his emotional journey in the wake of his mother’s cancer diagnosis a powerful and crippling arc that proves unforgettable. The film is a singular experience and one that announces the arrival of both Abbott and Mond as indie voices to pay serious attention to moving forward.

Mississippi Grind

In “Mississippi Grind,” Ben Mendelsohn stars as a gambling addict who doesn’t know when to cash his chips in and call it a day, and Ryan Reynolds is a flighty traveler who likes to gamble for fun and doesn’t care about winning or losing. Through a chance encounter, they develop a great friendship and head on a gambling road trip to win money to pay off the former’s loan shark. Take a page from Robert Altman’s “California Split” playbook, directors Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden (“Half Nelson”) craft a road trip that explores the back roads of America and ventures into the dark rooms where high stakes gambling takes place. The duo don’t just succeed in getting triumphant performances out of their two leads, they simply get the very best from them. Mendelsohn is an absolute delight, imbuing his character with depth as he advances his character’s morally questionable behavior. Reynolds, more charismatic than ever, delivers a career highlight. Whenever the dynamite chemistry between these two is front and center, “Mississippi Grind” soars.

Beasts of No Nation

Although Cary Fukunaga broke into the mainstream with his acclaimed, Emmy-winning direction of “True Detective” Season 1, cinephiles have been fans of his for quite some time thanks to his striking features “Sin Nombe” and “Jane Eyre.” Fortunately, the success of HBO’s crime drama gave Fukunaga his biggest canvas yet as the writer-director-cinematographer of Netflix’s harrowing “Beasts of No Nation.” Based on the novel by Nigerian author Uzodinma Iweala, “Beasts” is set in an unspecified African country and stars Idris Elba as a ruthless war lord who takes in a young boy, Agu (newcomer Abraham Attah), and trains him to become a child solider. Viscerally told from the young boy’s perspective, the movie is a hypnotic and horrorifying journey, one that paid off a risky gamble by Netflix and proved Elba’s towering performance skills. We’re still shocked this movie ended up shut out of the Oscars

The Diary of a Teenage Girl

First-time director Marielle Heller’s adaptation of Phoebe Gloeckner’s acclaimed graphic novel is a startlingly fresh take on teen sexuality. Independent Spirit Award nominee Bel Powley, who won the Gotham Award for Best Actress, gives the breakthrough performance of the year as titular diarist Minnie, a charming, naive and rebellious young woman who falls in love with an older man (Alexander Skarsgard) who’s dating her mother (Kristen Wiig). However risqué the plot may sound, the ultimate strength of “Diary” is just how genuine and powerful Minnie’s coming-of-age emotions resonate with the viewer. Heller combines elaborate animated sequences with frank sex scenes and dramatic showdowns, all neatly contextualized by Minnie’s need to process every detail. Her developing individuality is infectious, and by the end, we’re right there with her.

99 Homes

After dismantling the American Dream in 2012’s Zac Efron-starring “At Any Price,” Ramin Bahrani returned to familiar territory with “99 Homes,” which used similar material to far better and more bracing effect. Andrew Garfield gave one of the great overlooked performances of the year as a put-upon single dad struggling to make ends meet for both his young son and his own mother (played by Laura Dern). It’s a hard-knock life that only gets worse when the family loses their house. Desperate for a job, Garfield’s Dennis takes a job from the very man who snatched his home away from him, unscrupulous real estate broker Rick Carver (Michael Shannon). As Dennis plunges deeper into Rick’s world, partaking in unexpected windfalls, he also begins to lose his moral compass and, still worse, his own family. Bahrani keeps his tension tight, and his actors respond with two of their finest performances yet. 

Clouds of Sils Maria

Stewart’s role as personal assistant Valentine in Olivier Assayas’ delicate meditation on fame and aging brought her the most illustrious reviews of her career. She’s even picked up a handful of Best Supporting Actress prizes from critics groups across the country, yet none of them were enough to land the actress her first Oscar nomination. It’s all a shame, too, since Stewart uses her trademark vulnerability in ways that push her acting skills into new exciting territories. Buried in glasses and tattoos, the actress fully inhabits her role as a credible young woman riddled with self-doubt. Her slowly-revealed insecurities powerfully complement the fears of aging that plague her employer (a knockout Juliette Binoche), and Stewart has never been better.


With a politically-charged message, energized aesthetics and suave direct narration courtesy of Samuel L. Jackson, “Chi-Raq” recharged all the staples of a Spike Lee joint and turned them into the most vital piece of filmmaking the director has delivered in over a decade. Co-written with Kevin Willmont, the satire is a modern day adaptation of the ancient Greek play “Lysistrata.” The stunning Teyonah Parris stars as the eponymous character, who reacts to the murder of a child by a stray bullet by organizing a group of women against the ongoing violence in Chicago’s Southside. Her efforts create a movement that challenges the ideas of race, sex and violence in America and around the world. Operating in the same blood-boiling current events that first gained him international recognition in “Do The Right Thing,” “Chi-Raq” returns Spike Lee to his former glory. Between him and Parris, this joint blazes the screen down.

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James Lehr

Plz forgive me my horrible memory but there was a horror movie about a young girl pursued by an evil spirit. Made an impression on the critics but being released early in the year and being a horror flick is something AWSCAR tends to dismiss oftentimes.

Kevin Mar

Wooo….how the hell did Chi-Raq make it on this list? I agree with all the others. BIG FAN of Mississippi Grind and End Of The Tour….but Chi-Raq was an hour too long and dreadful. I reallllly gave it a shot too.


You start the list with two films in my top 20 (including my #3 of the year), and follow it with one of the most overrated films of the year? Sigh.


Beast of no Nation and Clouds of Sils Maria were great works of art. I’m not surprised Oscar voters missed them.


Poor Truthy! It becomes full time job – to jump from one article that mentions Kristen Stewart, to another, trying to belittle her and her work.
Unfortunately, this hateful spam prevents normal conversation about excellent movies that are the theme of the article above.

TC Kirkham

Also add to that list: Tom At The Farm, Me And Earl And The Dying Girl, Boy Meets Girl, and The Wolfpack

Daniel Andrés Núñez Escobar

I think The Club (Pablo Larrain) deserves more, at least a nomination.


You missed "Concussion." Will Smith’s performance was second only to Decaprio’s in Revenant


"Beast of No Nation" was a awesome movie beautifully told. Very surprise it received no nominations?!?

Wendy McCarthy

Never heard of any of these movies. Didn’t even see advertisements.

Sarah B

Sarah Silverman in I Smile Back definitely deserves a Nominantion at least for her performance.


I was going to consider this list until I seen Chi-Raq

Daniel Delago Boise Movies Examiner

Quite a few buzzed about films at Sundance last year didn’t perform well at the Box Office. The only bonafide hit was ‘Brooklyn’ starring Saoirse Ronan. Paul Dano’s ‘Love & Mercy,’ Kristen Stewart’s ‘Clouds of Sils Maria’ and Bel Powley’s ‘Diary of a Teenage Girl’ all deserved Best Supporting Actor/Actress Oscar consideration.


The Oscars are a joke… havent we already worked that out?

Bill Murray

These are actually my best pictures of the year.


Dope should have been included on this list. Deserved a nom for best original song, and was just a great film.




What We Do in the Shadows….I am a bit of a movie snob and, while this movie is not Oscar fodder, it is great! It is funny and unpredictable- I think it is my favorite film of 2015!

Not buying the hype

Stewart got good reviews for playing herself in Sils Maria. There was no acting involved. She does have tatts and glasses, she even wore some of her own clothes in the film. Zero acting. It’s all PR hype and it’s sad to see you using her pic in your endless tweets. We know click bait when we see it. Keep pandering, it won’t help your reputation. She was snubbed by her peers because unlike the critics, they see thru the hype & know she’s a one note actress with a very limited range. Guy Lodge and others have started calling her out for this.


Really ? Are you done singing praises for Clouds and Kristen Stewart. She only acts as herself in that film . That’s not acting ! Try playing a role that is not yourself and doing it well. She never even tries. One trick pony. NO range.

Bob Hawk

Note to Sean M and Alexandra: THE LOBSTER (which I love) hasn’t opened yet — and A PERFECT DAY just opened this past Friday

Cameron Ward

I think The prophet should have been nominated for best animated feature. it has some of the best 2D animation you will ever see


Glad you added the cut throat truth of "99 Homes" to this list, and "Beasts of no Nation" was both raw and sad.

I do want to watch "Phoenix" – it appears to be extremely interesting!

Sean M

The Lobster

Mary C

What’s wrong with the Academy – why was Idris Elba not nominated???


Phoenix was fantastic. I think it was a 2014 release in Europe 2015 here. I don’t know why it didn’t make the Foreign Language cut. But the good news is that it’s streaming on Netflix, as is Tangerine (which I also loved), so you can easily watch them now.

Robert Maier

I think these are very good choices, though some were not my favorites. That’s life.


I would add Me and earl and the dying girl

Robert Byrd

I agree with most of the films on your list. I was particularly dismayed that "Phoenix," "Beasts of No Nation," and "99 Homes" were ignored by the Academy. I saw all three films at TIFF industry screenings and was blown away! "Phoenix" had one of the best endings I’ve ever seen! "99 Homes" left everyone (or so it seemed) in the theater exhausted. It was phenomenal! And what can I say about "Beasts of No Nation"? It’s actually scandalous that such a powerful film was passed up for the likes of "The Martian" or "Mad Max" – two wildly overrated forays into action-film boredom.


It’s so sad and designative Beasts of No Nation wasn’t nominated at all. It’s such a masterly movie and the performances of Abraham Attah and Idris Elba were spectacular.

equipment guy

Come on!! This is what the Indie Spirit Awards are for, you really didn’t think the freaking Oscars were going to nominate anything edgy and out of the box. It’s the Oscars for god sake.


"A Perfect Day" by Fernando León de Aranoa was by far the best movie I’ve seen this year, I can’t understand why it’s not mentioned anywhere… it also had a terrific cast with Benicio del Toro and Tim Robbins et al.


Clouds od Sills Maria dissapoimted me! Very hipsterish without ana essemce..

Angel Reyes

Clouds of Sils Maria sucks. I’m glad it was ignored. The rest of the list very interesting.


I see that people are tired of hearing about CoSM and Kristen Stewart but she really did get snubbed. I love Rachel Mcadams but her part was so small…that and ‘it follows’ didnt get the recognition they deserved.


@AWARDSGEEK I agree 100 % with you. I read a lot of articles from this page and Stewart is in almost everyone of them. It’s starting to get absurd, it’s like her PR pays them or something…

I really liked The Diary of a Teenage Girl and James White. Bel Powley and Cynthia Nixon were both outstanding.


To awards geek

You would not read more talk about COSM if you stay away! Try that!


Everything about Love and Mercy was bad except select moments form Dano and the Beach Boys’ music.


No Juaja love?


Guess I was being too optimistic in thinking that Oscar noms would mean the end of constant drum beating for COSM and Stewart from this site. We heard you the first 30 times.

Dirk Roth

At least someone is giving James White some cred!

Jason Briggs

Thought Phoenix was 2014. Great movie, either way. Also feels like Meadowland was shut out of the conversation.

Nathan Duke

Glad you included Clouds of Sils Maria. Add to that list: It Follows


Beasts of No Nation was pretty good but I’ve never heard of the others except for Chiraq, and I think Spike Lee is one of the most overrated directors of the last 30 years.

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