They’ve been giving out Oscars for 91 years and, since the beginning, good films have often been snubbed.
Sometimes, a film is snubbed because it was too groundbreaking to be embraced at the time of its initial release. Sometimes, a film is snubbed because it was directed by the wrong person or it dealt with subject matter that was considered to be too controversial for the Academy to embrace. Sometimes, a film is snubbed because of a lack of publicity or a studio that failed to launch an effective awards campaign. And, sometimes, a good film is snubbed because it’s been a very good year and there’s only so many available slots.
There’s a lot of reasons but what it all come down to is that good films sometimes don’t get nominated for best picture.
So, in honor of those films, I’m going to take a decade-by-decade look at some of the best films that were not nominated for best picture. We’ll start with the 1920s, with the founding of the Academy in 1927. Here are 6 good films from the 20s that were not nominated for best picture!
It (1927, dir by Clarence G. Badger))
One of my favorite silent films of all time, It featured not only one of Clara Bow’s greatest performances but also a storyline that, at the time, was considered to be rather daring. Clara plays a shopgirl who never allows her love for her boss to interfere with her efforts to protect both her roommate and her roommate’s baby from two meddling welfare workers. Though It was not nominated for Best Picture, Clara Bow did star in very first film to win the top award, Wings.
Metropolis (1927, dir by Fritz Lang)
Having been released in the United States in January of 1927, this visionary German film was eligible to be nominated for best picture but it sadly went unnominated. Science fiction was a genre that long-struggled to get any meaningful recognition from the Academy. Fortunately, that appears to have changed a bit over the past few years.
The Jazz Singer (1927, dir by Alan Crosland)
The Jazz Singer has not aged particularly well and it’s impossible not to cringe when Al Jolson shows up in blackface. However, it was the first commercially successful film to incorporate sound recording and, as such, it pretty much changed cinematic history. In fact, it was such a game changer that legend has it that the Academy ruled it ineligible to compete for best picture because it was felt it would be unfair to all of the silent nominees. Instead, The Jazz Singer was given a special honorary award.
The General (1927, dir by Clyde Bruckman and Buster Keaton)
Though Buster Keaton’s Civil War epic was made and screened in 1926, it didn’t receive a wide release until 1927, making it eligible for the first Academy Awards. However, since the initial critical and commercial reaction to the film was rather middling, The General was snubbed. Only later would the film be reevaluated and recognized as a classic screen comedy.
The Road to Ruin (1928, dir by Norton S. Parker)
This low-budget, independently made and distributed film became the second highest grossing movie of 1928, therefore showing that a film made outside the studio system could be a success. With its storyline about a teenage girl who gets caught up in a world of drugs, sex, and general decadence, it established many of the exploitation film tropes that are still in use today. The Road to Ruin was a Lifetime film before Lifetime. For that alone, it should have been nominated.
Pandora’s Box (1929, dir by G.W. Pabst)
G.W. Pabst’s classic melodrama is another film that wasn’t appreciated when it was originally released and therefore, both it and Louise Brooks were snubbed by the Academy. It wouldn’t be until the 1950s that Pandora’s Box finally started to receive the acclaim that it deserved.
Up next, in an hour or so, the 1930s!