Straight Outta Compton may have been excluded from its (rightful) place among the Best Picture nominees at this year’s Academy Awards, but at least it’s not alone. These ten classic films won prestige, critics’ accolades, and lasting cultural significance (not to mention our hearts), but none of them managed to win an Oscar.
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
That’s right, Shawshank Redemption. (Italics added per proper grammar, of course, but also for heavy emphasis.) This movie is everything Oscar voters love: period piece, male lead, a little bit heartbreaking—the works. If Shawshank Redemption isn’t best picture material, we don’t know what is. Or, wait… maybe we do. Forrest Gump swooped in and snatched up pretty much all the awards that year. We forgive you this time, The Academy.
Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
Oh, so we give a posthumous Oscar to Heath Ledger for his performance as the Joker, but nada for James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause? Forget that he made angsty Jim Stark a pop culture icon—a tip of the hat for his unawarded performances in East of Eden and Giant would have been nice.
The Color Purple (1985)
Despite 11 nominations, everyone on the team, from Quincy Jones to Oprah to Whoopi Goldberg to Spielberg (who even had “being white” in his favor) walked away empty handed. Welcome to the club.
Maybe we’re biased in favor of director Nicolas Winding Refn’s gritty vision of Los Angeles, but come on. Sorry you had to stomp that guy’s face in all for nothing, Ryan Gosling. Better luck next time (and by next time, we mean next time—no The Big Short supporting actor nom for you).
The Lego Movie (2014)
Never mind the Lego Movie’s sheer awesomeness, it was flawlessly executed, smart, and surprising—adjectives worthy of few non-Pixar animated films. And it lost to, what, Big Hero 6? We’re not going to dwell on it—this one still hurts.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Things looked promising when It’s a Wonderful Life garnered a best actor/director/picture nomination trifecta, but the film lost out in all three categories to The Best Years of Our Lives. But do we watch The Best Years of Our Lives on Christmas each year and cry every single time? Nope.
Quick, Google “best director of all time.” Who comes up at the top of almost every list? That’s right, Alfred Hitchcock. Guess who never took home an Oscar for best director? Alfred Hitchcock. Guess which game-changing thriller won nary a statuette? Psycho.
The Thin Red Line (1998)
Thin Red Line was a big one for director Terrence Malick (just look at that cast), and Oscar voters love them a WWII film. Which, perhaps, is why they handed best director to Steven Spielberg for Saving Private Ryan instead. No Oscars for you, Terence Malick.
The Shining (1980)
Total Oscar nominations: zero. The Academy doesn’t like to be scared, apparently—unless it’s by Anthony Hopkins. Sidenote, Kubrick won a Golden Raspberry “Worst Director” Award for The Shining, which A. makes no sense, and B. probably wasn’t much consolation.
Al Pacino and Robert de Niro coming together in the brilliantly understated restaurant scene for the first time in cinematic history? “Meh,” said the Academy.
That wraps up our list. Are there any other deserving, as-of-yet unrecognized films/directors/actors out there that we forgot to mention? Hm, can’t think of any…