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The 5 Worst Best Picture Oscar Line-Ups Of All Time

The 5 Worst Best Picture Oscar Line-Ups Of All Time

Alright, you’ve already seen our picks for the five best BEST Picture years, the Oscar years that you can actually look back on and not wince if you’re a fan of movies and just-deserved prizes. So let’s keep it simple: here are the five worst years below, the ones that make fans of cinema rather crazy and that have had people bitching about it ever since.

The 5 Worst Best Picture Line-Ups

The Best Picture Nominees:
“All The King’s Men” (winner), “Battleground,” “The Heiress,” “A Letter To Three Wives,” “Twelve O’Clock High”
What Else Could They Have Nominated? 
“Adam’s Rib,” “The Third Man,” “Kind Hearts & Coronets,” “Manon,” “On The Town,” “Passport To Pimlico,” “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon,” “White Heat”
Why Is It One Of The Worst? Anyone who thinks that the Oscars picking sub-standard fare is a recent development needs to cast their mind further back; because when the not-all-that-great “All The King’s Men” (remade less successfully with Sean Penn in 2006) is the best of your five nominees, you’re in trouble. Made up of two post-WW2 patriotic crowd-pleasers in “Battleground” and “Twelve O’Clock High,” and two forgettable melodramas in “The Heiress” and “A Letter To Three Women,” it’s a positively dull five, especially given that British cinema was having something of a renaissance, Jimmy Cagney was giving his signature role in “White Heat” and there was even an ace musical in “On The Town.”

The Best Picture Nominees:
“Around The World In Eighty Days” (winner), “Friendly Persuasion,” “Giant,” “The King & I,” “The Ten Commandments”
What Else Could They Have Nominated?
“War and Peace,” “The Searchers,” “High Society,” “La Strada,” “Baby Doll,” “Beyond A Reasonable Doubt,” “Bob Le Flambeur,” “Forbidden Planet,” “The Killing,” “A Kiss Before Dying,” “The Red Balloon,” “Seven Samurai,” “Somebody Up There Likes Me,”
Why Is It One Of The Worst? At the very peak of Hollywood’s television-battling streak of megabudgeted blockbuster epics and museums, few years were quite as grim as this one. It’s not as if they were lacking in quality studio product: “The Searchers” was released in the same year. The fucking “Searchers.” And yet only one of the five, “Giant,” is really worth its place, the other being impressive spectacles (or in the case of “Friendly Persuasion,” a lesser knock-off of “High Noon,” right down to the presence of Gary Cooper), but fairly insubstantial. And “Around The World In Eighty Days,” is generally a film that tops polls of the worst Best Picture winner ever.

The Best Picture Nominees:
“Oliver!” (winner), “Funny Girl,” “The Lion In Winter,” “Rachel Rachel,” “Romeo & Juliet”
What Else Could They Have Nominated?
“2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Rosemary’s Baby,” “Planet of the Apes,” “Faces,” “Hour Of The Wolf,” “If…” “The Killing Of Sister George,” “Night Of The Living Dead,” “Performance,” “The Producers”
Why Is It One Of The Worst? A year after the Oscars were divided between the coming of the new guard (“Bonnie & Clyde,” “The Graduate“) and the death of the old (“Doctor Dolittle,” “Guess who’s Coming To Dinner“), as detailed in Mark Harris’ briliant book “Scenes From A Revolution,” the Academy kicked back in a big way, with one of their weakest ever line ups. We could just about stomach “Romeo & Juliet,” even if it’s far from Zefferelli’s best, but otherwise we got two musicals far from the best the genre had to offer, a mediocre period piece and Paul Newman‘s worthy, but dull directorial debut. All drab choices in a year where the counter-culture was crossing over to the mainstream with the psychedelic likes of “2001,” “Yellow Submarine” and “Performance.”

The Best Picture Nominees:
“Million Dollar Baby” (winner), “The Aviator,” “Finding Neverland,” “Ray,” “Sideways”
What Else Could They Have Nominated:
“Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind,” “Dogville,” “The Motorcycle Diaries,” “Before Sunset,” “Collateral,” “The Incredibles,” “The Sea Inside,” “Friday Night Lights,” “Vera Drake,” “A Very Long Engagement”
Why Is It One Of The Worst: 2004 admittedly wasn’t a banner year for the movies, but still, can you find a duller line-up in Oscar history than this one? “Sideways” was worthy of inclusion, but otherwise we got Clint Eastwood‘s by the numbers, on the nose boxing/euthanasia tale, arguably Martin Scorsese‘s worst film, a super-dull Miramax drama with Johnny Depp (see also: “Chocolat“) and a standard musical biopic, admittedly one anchored by a strong central performance. All this in a year with “Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind,” arguably the finest film of its decade. We’re still only eight years on from the fact, but we can’t imagine any of the five really living on in cinema history as anything other than footnotes.

The Best Picture Nominees:
“Slumdog Millionaire” (winner), “The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button,” “Frost/Nixon,” “Milk,” “The Reader”
What Else Could They Have Nominated:
“The Wrestler,” “The Dark Knight,” “Happy-Go-Lucky,” “Wall-E,” “Che,” “Hunger,” “Man On Wire,” “In Bruges,” “Synedcoche: New York,” “Let The Right One In,” “The Class,” “The Visitor,” “Waltz With Bashir”
Why Is It One Of The Worst? After this year, the Academy decided to expand the field from five to ten, and while it was generally assumed to be for ratings reason, there must have been a few Academy members in the Kodak Theater looking up at the five nominees and realizing that they didn’t like a single one. We’re actually in the pro-‘Slumdog’ camp, even if it was far from our favorite of the (admittedly weak) year, but Fincher’s dragging, Gump-ish ‘Benjamin Button?’ Ron Howard‘s less than compelling “Frost/Nixon?” Gus Van Sant‘s messy, awards-baity “Milk?” “The Reader,” which must number among the worst films ever to get nominated? If ever there was a year to honor Pixar and superheroes, or documentaries like “Man On Wire” and “Waltz With Bashir,” surely any would have been preferable to the middlebrow mediocrities on display here.

Other Bad Years:
1947: “Gentleman’s Agreement,” “The Bishop’s Wife,” “Crossfire,” “Miracle On 34th Street,” saved by “Great Expectations”
1955: “Marty,” “Love Is A Many Splendored Thing,” “Mister Roberts,” “Picnic,” “The Rose Tattoo”
1959: “Ben Hur,” “Room At The Top,” “The Diary Of Anne Frank,” “A Nun’s Story,” saved by “Anatomy Of A Murder”
1987: “The Last Emperor,” “Fatal Attraction,” “Hope and Glory,” Moonstruck,” saved by “Broadcast News”
1995: “Braveheart,” “Apollo 13,” “Babe,” “Il Postino,” “Sense & Sensibility”
1999: “American Beauty,” “The Cider House Rules,” “The Green Mile,” “The Sixth Sense,” saved by “The Insider”
2006: “The Departed,” “Babel,” “Letters From Iwo Jima,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” “The Queen

You’re certainly going to have an opinion on this one, aren’t you? “Crash” winning the Best Picture in 2005 is obviously a recent travesty, but considering the competition — “Brokeback Mountain,” “Capote,” “Good Night, and Good Luck,”and “Munich” — it’s actually a good Best Picture year. It just so happens that the decision went south. 

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