At the 2016 Oscars ceremony, Leonardo DiCaprio finally got his very own golden statue. After giving award-worthy performances in such movies as The Wolf of Wall Street, The Aviator, and Blood Diamond, he is finally recognized for his work in… The Revenant? Ah, The Revenant, the film in which he bravely struggles with being cold, having clumpy hair, and being on the wrong side of a bear hug. Sure, it’s a gorgeously shot and visually engaging thrill-ride, but is it DiCaprio’s best work? Not even close.
Leo winning an award for one of his lesser roles isn’t exactly an unprecedented move by the Academy Awards, which has a history of awarding belated Oscars to people without appreciating their more superior work. Here are 10 Oscar Winners Who Should Have Won For Other Movies.
10. Martin Scorsese
Martin Scorsese, the quintessential New York director (no offense to Woody Allen), has directed some of the greatest dramas of all time: Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and so many others. But he wouldn’t win the Oscar for any of those movies. In fact, before Leo’s losing streak became a meme, Scorsese was the Susan Lucci of the Academy Awards; always a bridesmaid, never a bride.
Eventually, when Scorsese’s time finally came around, it was 2006’s The Departed. The Departed holds the unique distinction of being nobody’s favorite Scorsese film. Even at the time, it was all but understood that the Oscar was an apology to Scorsese for their unforgivable snubbing of his greatest works, of which The Departed is a benign and simplified, if still entertaining, imitation.
9. Al Pacino
Al Pacino, shockingly, only has one Oscar. Even more shockingly, it’s not for Dog Day Afternoon, The Godfather Part II or Serpico; it’s for 1992’s Scent of a Woman. Scent is a good film, but there’s no denying the fact that it’s full of Oscar bait speechifying. We all know how much The Academy loves it when actors pretend to be blind or crippled or otherwise disabled, and here, Pacino plays a blind veteran who is angry at the world. So of course he won the Oscar!
Previously, Pacino had been nominated for seven other acting Oscars, but failed to garner even a single win, even though his films are recognized as some of the most important movies of their time. While his win for Scent of a Woman was much-deserved, The Academy offered, as is often the case, “too little too late.”
8. John Wayne
Don’t let the haters fool you; John “Duke” Wayne’s performance as the aged U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn in 1969’s True Grit is exceptional, and he truly earned his Oscar. On the other hand, John Wayne starred in The Searchers and Sands of Iwo Jima, two of the greatest films of all time. In The Searchers, he gives a riveting performance as the leader of a posse out to rescue a young Natalie Wood, yet it becomes clear that Ethan Edwards is really out to kill as many Comanche Indians as he possibly can. He is full of hate, an old killer who jumps at the chance to return to the battlefield.
Sands of Iwo Jima is often dismissed as a generic war film, a sentiment held exclusively by people who’ve never seen it. Those who’ve seen the film know that Wayne’s nomination for Best Actor was well-deserved. It’s a great picture, which really explores the sacrifices which have to be made, willingly or otherwise, to turn young men into soldiers. It’s absolutely criminal that John Wayne’s acting talents were never recognized as much as his stature as a leading man.
7. Paul Newman
Despite being nominated for nine acting Oscars, the great Paul Newman only won once, for his role in 1986’s The Color of Money, the distant sequel to 1961’s The Hustler, a film for which Newman had also been nominated, playing the same character, “Fast” Eddie Felson. As great as The Color of Money is, Newman’s status as lead actor is arguable, since the film follows both him and his young disciple, played by Tom Cruise.
Either way, the fact that Newman won the award for Best Actor was absolutely seen as part of a consolation prize for their failure to champion his jaw-dropping performance in 1967’s Cool Hand Luke (Rod Steiger won for In the Heat of the Night), as was his status as recipient of an Honorary Oscar the year before his win for The Color of Money. Other films for which Newman was nominated but lost include Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Hud, and The Verdict.
6. Jeremy Irons
Jeremy Irons was only nominated for a single Oscar, for 1990’s Reversal of Fortune, which he won, but many fans feel his performance in 1988’s Dead Ringers should have been recognized instead. In David Cronenberg’s creepy thriller (which is just par for the course for Cronenberg, master of the “not-quite-horror but still palpably unsettling drama” genre), Irons plays two characters, twin gynecologists with an unusually strong bond and a similar taste in women.
Being a Cronenberg joint, a high level of fetishistic sex, drugs, and violence inevitably ensue. Too overtly disturbing for the Academy’s sensibilities, they instead waited until Irons starred in a more traditional (but still psychologically demanding) thriller before they were ready to give him his special moment.
5. Russell Crowe
Gladiator is a great movie, don’t get us wrong, but we all know that the Academy Awards were going through a major “Old Hollywood Epic” phase during the immediate post-Titanic years, which certainly worked in Gladiator‘s favor when it came time to give out the gold statues. Nowhere is this more apparent than with its wins for Best Picture and Best Actor for its lead, Russell Crowe.
Consider Russell’s other two Oscar nominations in 2000 and 2002; The Insider is a tight Michael Mann drama/thriller. Had the Academy voted with public opinion, we suspect Crowe would have multiple little gold men standing tall above his fireplace. We’re still not sure how he lost to Kevin Spacey (who we love!) in American Beauty, to say nothing of his loss to Denzel Washington in 2002, after delivering an incomparable performance as the real life mathematician, John Nash, in A Beautiful Mind.
4. Sandra Bullock
Remember that time Sandra Bullock won an Oscar for The Blind Side? Yeah, that was so weird, right? The Blind Side is regarded as so obviously Oscar bait, we thought there was no way the Academy would stoop so low as to reward such shameless pandering. We were wrong. Bullock’s performance definitely saved the film from being an unmitigated disaster, but for her admittedly glowing performance in such a mediocre film to be what earned her an Oscar win is just bizarre.
Even worse is the fact that, just four years later, she appeared in Gravity, a gorgeous film in which she appeared as almost exclusively the only character, demonstrating her amazing range and ability to carry a movie on her own strengths as an actor. Of course, she lost to Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine, a fine film, but decidedly less beloved than Sandra’s turn in Gravity.
3. Jennifer Lawrence
Jennifer Lawrence has been nominated for four Academy Awards, but she only won once, for what is sometimes considered the weakest of her nominated performances, that of Tiffany in 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook. Most prefer her performance in 2010’s Winter’s Bone, as a determined young woman on the hunt for her criminal father. She was absolutely worthy of winning the Oscar back then, but the foolish Academy, perhaps believing her to be too new on the scene, saw things differently. Maybe they just really hated her on The Bill Engvall Show?
Regardless, we’re happy that J. Law has been able to maintain a steady stream of blockbusters like The Hunger Games and X-Men while also starring in prestige pictures like Joy and American Hustle. Plus, she’s only 25 years old, so we have little doubt that her best work is surely yet to come.
2. Elizabeth Taylor
There is little counter-argument to the statement that Elizabeth Taylor is one of the greatest actresses of all time. Her Best Actress Oscar for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a rare case in which the Academy absolutely nailed it, but we can’t help but to question the wisdom of her other Oscar win, for BUtterfield 8.
This is a film which Taylor loathed so much, she would derisively refer to it as “Butterball 4,” and she would speak frankly to the press about how much she hated it. We think she’d agree with us when we say her performance in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was superior. While the film is often cited as an egregious example of how Hays Code censorship can alter a film, but it’s still a classic, and Elizabeth’s performance is downright electric.
1. Warren Beatty
We still can’t believe that Warren Beatty only has one Academy Award, and it isn’t even for acting (it’s for directing 1981’s Reds). He was nominated for four acting Oscars, including for Bonnie & Clyde, Bugsy, and Heaven Can Wait, but was only nominated for the screenplay of Shampoo, one of his best films.
Beatty stars as a womanizing hairdresser during the Sexual Revolution with the looming dawn of the Nixon presidency hanging over the proceedings. A provocative, smart, and funny film, the fact that Beatty wasn’t nominated shocks fans to this day. Then there’s Bulworth, his criminally 90s but still excellent political satire. The screenplay was nominated, but got nothing for directing or for Beatty’s surreal turn as the ridiculously unhinged title character.
Do you agree with this list? Are there any other notable instances of Oscar dissonance you’d like to add? Sound off in the comments below!
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