Let’s face it, not every film that takes home the coveted Best Picture Oscar deserves the honor. While the Academy Awards have certainly recognized some cinematic masterpieces over the years, there have been a few head-scratchers in the mix. In this article, we’re going to take a casual stroll down memory lane and critique five films that, in our humble opinion, should never have won the Best Picture Oscar. As a note, I don’t mean to take a look at the films from the perspective of each respective competition, and offer the film which should have won it, in my opinion. I just want to look at a few titles that really don’t feel like award-worthy films in my book.
Kicking things off, we have the rather recent “Nomadland,” a visually stunning film that left many viewers wondering what all the fuss was about. While it’s undeniable that Frances McDormand delivered an excellent performance, the film as a whole left us feeling a bit empty. The slow pacing and lack of a compelling plot made it a challenging watch for some.
Sure, the cinematography was breathtaking, capturing the vast landscapes of the American West beautifully. But a pretty picture doesn’t automatically make for a Best Picture. “Nomadland” felt more like a travelogue than a gripping narrative, leaving us scratching our heads at its Oscar win. I suppose that we could say that the strength of the 2021 competition wasn’t very high, with relatively few notable releases during the Covid pandemic and its lockdowns, but Nomadland winning any year just feels a bit off.
Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” was hailed as a masterpiece of modern fantasy cinema, but it had me greatly questioning the Academy’s taste. The film’s premise—a mute woman falls in love with a fish-man creature—was undeniably unique. However, the romantic subplot between a human and, well, a fish, left us feeling more bewildered than emotionally invested.
While “The Shape of Water” had some visually stunning moments and an impressive performance by Sally Hawkins, it’s hard to understand why this offbeat love story secured the Best Picture Oscar. Sometimes, pushing the boundaries of storytelling can result in a divisive film, and in this case, it felt like the Academy might have jumped the gun. Because the story is extremely predictable and even childish at times, with many plot holes and atrocious dialogue writing. In my opinion, this is perhaps the worst one on the list.
“The Hurt Locker” is often hailed as a gritty and realistic portrayal of war, but it left us wondering if we watched the same movie as the Academy voters. While it did an admirable job of depicting the psychological toll of warfare on its characters, it felt more like a collection of intense moments than a cohesive narrative.
What really irked us about “The Hurt Locker” was its treatment of war. It seemed to glorify the adrenaline rush of combat and the recklessness of its protagonist, Staff Sergeant William James (Jeremy Renner), rather than offering a thoughtful exploration of the human cost of war. In a year when masterpieces like “Avatar” and “Inglourious Basterds” were in the running, we’re still baffled by this choice.
“Chicago” is often praised for its lively musical numbers and strong performances, but it’s not a film I’d crown with the Best Picture Oscar. Sure, it was a fun and flashy musical, but beneath the glitz and glamour, it lacked the depth and substance that typically characterize Best Picture winners.
The film’s characters were often one-dimensional, and while the musical sequences were entertaining, they didn’t necessarily advance the plot in a meaningful way. Plus, in a year when “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” was in contention, it’s hard to justify “Chicago” as the Best Picture of 2002.
Closing out my list is “The Greatest Show on Earth,” a film that not only won Best Picture but also left a rather forgettable mark on cinematic history. Directed by the legendary Cecil B. DeMille, this circus drama was long on spectacle but short on substance.
The film suffered from a disjointed narrative that attempted to shoehorn in every circus act imaginable. While the impressive ensemble cast did their best, the lack of a cohesive and engaging storyline made it a tedious watch. It’s safe to say that “The Greatest Show on Earth” isn’t the first film that comes to mind when you think of Best Picture winners.
In conclusion, while the Academy Awards have undoubtedly honored some exceptional films over the years, not every Best Picture Oscar winner has stood the test of time or lived up to the hype. These six films left me with more questions than answers when it comes to their Best Picture status. But hey, film is subjective, and these opinions are just one take on the matter. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and cinema is no exception.