Every cinephile knows that “What was the best movie of the year?” and “What movie will win Best Picture at the Oscars?” are two entirely different questions. For as long as there have been award shows, movie fans have been complaining about prizes going to the wrong films. From classic slights like John Ford’s “How Green Was My Valley” beating out “Citizen Kane” to more recent grievances like “The Social Network” losing to “The King’s Speech,” Oscar history is littered with what-ifs.
Ranking art is an inherently subjective activity, and it would be ridiculous to expect the Oscars to be able to please everyone. But with almost a century’s worth of data to look at, certain patterns emerge that reveal blindspots in the Academy’s voting tendencies. Too often, it feels like filmmakers with bold new voices are shunned (or relegated to writing categories) in favor of more traditional fare for older audiences. That often leads to “Oscar bait” movies winning Best Picture before being largely forgotten, while the bolder films that they defeated go on to become classics.
Nobody can change the past, but it’s fascinating to look back and speculate what the Academy should have done differently. Keep reading for our 27 favorite movies that were nominated for Best Picture but should have won.