Here are our picks for the best movies of the decade nominated for zero Oscars. Each year, the Academy attempts to recognize the best achievements in film, but invariably there are always snubs. Film, of course, is a subjective medium, and everyone has their own opinions about what is and isn’t worthy of Oscar gold. Even the most acclaimed contender for Best Picture has its fair share of detractors, and the movies that don’t get any Oscar love at all have legions of viewers championing its merits long after the nominations have already been announced.
Even though there are 24 Oscar categories covering a variety of filmmaking aspects, there’s a limited number of nominations. No matter how great a single movie is, sometimes it just doesn’t have enough support to beat out the intense competition. And while movies like First Man, The LEGO Movie, and The Town (among countless others) fell short of snagging Best Picture nominations, they were at least in the running for other awards. The films on this list couldn’t garner even one Oscar nomination – not even in one of the technical areas.
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Sports dramas tend to have a solid track record with the Academy, but Ron Howard’s chronicling of James Hunt and Niki Lauda’s epic rivalry was completely shunned. This was despite earning a pair of Golden Globe nominations: Best Picture – Drama and Best Supporting Actor (Daniel Brühl) among other notable accolades from other awards bodies. Both Brühl and Chris Hemsworth gave fantastic performances in roles they seemed tailor-made for, and Howard was at the top of his game behind the camera. Rush’s race sequences are exhilarating and easily draw the viewer into the world. One does not have to be a Formula One enthusiast to appreciate this great film, and it’s a shame the Academy completely ignored it.
14. The Nice Guys
Comedies, arguably unfairly, face an uphill climb at the Oscars. Even when something as slick and entertaining as Shane Black’s The Nice Guys comes around, voters look the other way. The buddy comedy is fueled by a pair of terrific turns by Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, both demonstrating great chemistry with each other and stellar comedic timing. Gosling in particular really let loose, with his portrayal as Holland March marking a sharp change-of-pace from the more straight-faced dramas he appeared in earlier in the decade. Besides the acting (Angourie Rice had a star-making performance here too), The Nice Guys was notable for recreating 1970s Los Angeles in great detail, so it could have been in the running for Best Production Design.
13. Edge of Tomorrow
Science-fiction is another popular genre that unfortunately struggles to appeal to Oscar voters, but there are occasional breakthroughs. Sadly, Doug Liman’s masterful Edge of Tomorrow was not one of them. Emily Blunt channeled legends like Sigourney Weaver and Linda Hamilton in her performance as the “Full Metal Bitch” Rita Vrataski. And Tom Cruise, who so often plays the charming, confident hero, had an opportunity to play against type as the cowardly Bill Cage. The screenplay, credited to Jez & John-Henry Butterworth and Cruse’s trusted collaborator Christopher McQuarrie, brilliantly mixed Aliens and Groundhog Day into something that was fresh and entertaining. Of course, Edge of Tomorrow’s best chances at a nod were in the technical categories, but its great visual effects and sound design couldn’t get any traction.
12. The Edge of Seventeen
In 2017, coming-of-age dramedy Lady Bird was one of the biggest titles of awards season. However, a year prior there was another high school coming-of-age story many felt was deserving. We speak of The Edge of Seventeen, which featured a standout (and Golden Globe nominated) performance by Hailee Steinfeld. The script was able to deftly update all of the classic John Hughes traits, entertaining viewers with a fresh perspective in this ever-growing sub-genre of film. The Edge of Seventeen might have been too “small” to crack the Best Picture lineup, but Steinfeld and the screenplay certainly delivered the goods. Relatable, poignant, and funny, The Edge of Seventeen proved to be a major oversight on the Academy’s part.
11. Shutter Island
When Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio team up, it’s all but a guarantee Oscar nominations are coming. Four of their five collaborations to date have been Academy darlings, with Shutter Island the outlier. This twisty drama, released in early 2010, wasn’t as critically acclaimed as Scorsese’s other works with DiCaprio, but still had Marty’s 21st century muse delivering one of his more complex performances and, of course, state-of-the-art filmmaking that Scorsese is known for. From its opening moments, Shutter Island evokes a sense of dread and uneasiness – a compliment to Scorsese’s crew that helped set the tone. It’s extremely rare for the Academy to completely reject a Martin Scorsese picture, but for some reason, Shutter Island couldn’t cut it.
10. Paddington 2
Recently, Hugh Grant called Paddington 2 the best film of his career, and many would be inclined to agree with him. This utterly delightful sequel was the ideal remedy to today’s divided and trying times, embracing audiences with its important message of politeness and kindness. Even the most cold-hearted cynic would find it difficult to resist the charms of Paddington, who only wants to make the world a better place. Much more than just a “kids’ movie,” Paddington 2 is packed with pertinent subtext that touches viewers on an emotional level and is bolstered by terrific filmmaking by director Paul King. At one point, it was the best-reviewed movie of all-time on Rotten Tomatoes, and it’s easy to see why.
9. Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Before Taika Waititi became a favorite of MCU fans, he made a name for himself as a quirky indie filmmaker in his native New Zealand. Arguably his best work to date is Hunt for the Wilderpeople, a unique coming-of-age tale where juvenile delinquent Ricky Baker and his “uncle” Hec try to evade authorities while traversing through the wilderness. Julian Dennison and Sam Neill both deliver standout performances, with the former helping elevate Ricky beyond the trappings of a stereotypical “troubled youth” frequently seen in movies. Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a perfect example of “happy sad cinema,” allowing viewers to feel several emotions over the course of its running time. That Waititi was able to effectively pull off the tonal changes speaks to his talent as a writer and director, making him one to watch from here on out.
8. The Dark Knight Rises
The Academy’s incredulous snub of The Dark Knight in 2008 caused such an uproar, it led to the expansion of the Best Picture category. So, it’s with rich irony that The Dark Knight’s sequel received zero nominations in 2012. Granted, The Dark Knight Rises is arguably the weakest of the trilogy, but it’s still a very good film and provided a satisfying conclusion to Bruce Wayne’s story. No performance reached the levels of Heath Ledger’s Joker, but Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, and Michael Caine were all fantastic in their roles. And with Christopher Nolan at the helm, The Dark Knight Rises’ technical merits are first rate. Whether it’s Hans Zimmer’s epic score, the beautiful cinematography, or the seamless blending of CGI and practical effects, something from the film easily could have been nominated.
7. The World’s End
Edgar Wright concluded his Cornetto trilogy with a riff on the sci-fi invasion film that took a hard look at the perils of middle-age and failed dreams. Simon Pegg’s Gary King is a wholly dynamic character; for most of the film, he comes across as a bit of a nuisance before a third act twist turns him into a heartbreaking and sympathetic figure. Pegg fully commits to the role and delivers perhaps the best performance of his career. Wright, of course, is as detailed-orientated and energetic as ever, with The World’s End full of his clever foreshadowing bits that make things more rewarding on rewatches and thrilling action set pieces. The film is comedic in nature, but has some deep, tragic undertones that make it all the more impactful. Wright finally got an Oscar invite for Baby Driver, but he should have been there years before.
Another example of the Academy’s perceived bias against sci-fi, this original time-traveling crime story from Rian Johnson picked up a couple of nods from the Critics’ Choice Awards and Writers Guild Awards, but couldn’t make it through at the Oscars. In particular, Johnson’s inventive, genre bending screenplay earned plenty of praise, as did the performances by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis. Looper was one of the more fascinating and exciting movies of 2012, cementing Johnson’s status as a gifted filmmaker with a knack for finding fresh takes in some of the medium’s most established genres. Every once in a while, the Academy can’t resist an excellent piece of sci-fi, so it’s a shame Looper couldn’t get one nomination.
Horror is another genre with longstanding difficulty at the Academy. That was one of the reasons why Get Out was such a landmark moment. Last year, many cinephiles felt Hereditary had what it took to land some Oscar nominations. Most notably was Toni Collette, whose incredible performance was recognized by several critics associations. When her name when uncalled on Oscar nomination morning, it was one of the consensus picks for biggest snub. Hereditary was also praised for being a truly unsettling work of art, announcing Ari Aster as one of the brightest up-and-coming horror directors of this generation. Few were expecting this one to go all the way, but a nomination or two in some categories would have been appreciated.
Drawing inspiration from writer Will Reiser’s real-life battle with cancer, 50/50 takes a humorous and poignant approach to its subject matter to incredible results. The film balances a tough line and is capable of making viewers belly laugh right before going for an emotional sucker punch. 50/50 works as well as it does because Gordon-Levitt is its anchor, delivering an authentic and captivating performance that should have landed him in the Best Actor field. Seth Rogen is also great as the supportive best friend who’s doing what he can to help out. 50/50 earned some love at the Golden Globes, but the Oscars didn’t go for it at all – even though the screenplay, acting, and the movie overall was more than deserving of being a major contender.
3. Mission: Impossible – Fallout
In 2015, Mad Max: Fury Road became a surprise leader in the Oscar clubhouse, scoring nods in Best Picture and Best Director. But when Fallout earned praise as the best action movie since Fury Road, it couldn’t even get a technical nomination. That’s unfortunate, because Cruise and McQuarrie once again teamed up to deliver something action fans will rave about for years to come. The daredevil leading man literally put his life on the line multiple times for the sake of audiences’ entertainment, doing his own dangerous stunts. McQuarrie was the glue that held the picture together, staging exciting set piece after exciting set piece, building up to the crescendo of the high-stakes third act. Mission: Impossible – Fallout was the action movie of the summer and one of the best films of 2018. It’s too bad the Oscars didn’t notice it at all.
Steve McQueen’s directorial followup to Best Picture winning 12 Years a Slave, Widows was one of the on-paper candidates to make an Oscar run last year. Combining McQueen’s arthouse sensibilities with mainstream genre thrills, Widows was a different kind of heist movie full of deeper meanings and metaphors (the one-take involving Colin Farrell in the limo sticks in one’s mind long after the credits have rolled). With the always excellent Viola Davis leading an A-list ensemble that gave it their all, Widows should have been in the running for several awards instead of going home empty handed.
1. Eighth Grade
Another coming-of-age story, Bo Burnham’s achingly real portrait of adolescence was a favorite of cinephiles last year, announcing him as a director to watch moving forward. Burnham’s tight script perfectly captured the trials and tribulations of a messy time period, striking all the right chords that made it relatable (and at times painful) to watch. Carrying the film on her shoulders was Elsie Fisher, who knocked her role right out of the park and was one of the most genuine movie teenagers to grace the big screen in some time. When Eighth Grade was passed over by the Academy, it was a stunning turn of events, since many believed it at least would get into the Best Original Screenplay field.
- 10 Cloverfield Lane
- Green Room
- Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
- Short Term 12
- Sorry to Bother You
- Wonder Woman
More: The Best Movie Endings of the Decade