Movies That Should Have Won Best Picture

by Craig B.

I shouldn’t let petty things get stuck in my craw, but every time I watch Apocalypse Now, I’m somewhat perplexed that it didn’t win Best Picture; It’s one of my favorite flicks. Its primeval mass pulls you down the Nung River and deposits you in the jungle like a fragment of Kurtz’s broken life. And If you wish to learn just how broken director Francis Ford Coppola was at that time, watch Hearts of Darkness, the phenomenal documentary Eleanor Coppola made during her husband’s movie-induced existential meltdown.

The Best Picture winner that year was Kramer vs. Kramer. A fine film, to be sure, with solid performances by Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman. It had its finger on America’s contemporaneous social pulse, but it didn’t (and still doesn’t) have the gravitas of Coppola’s juggernaut. It also wasn’t (and still isn’t) considered one of the greatest movies ever made. Apocalypse Now was…and still is. Hence my chagrin. Like I said, I shouldn’t let the details bother me, but in this case, the devil really is in the details.

Following is a list of movies I think should have won Best Picture of the year, but didn’t.


Goodfellas (1990)

Dances with Wolves, Kevin Costner’s lush costume epic, won Best Picture at the 63rd Academy Awards using the morally ambiguous Hollywood trope that white people make the best indigenous folk. If you’re uncertain what I mean, may I suggest Avatar, The Last Samurai or *gulp* Lawrence of Arabia (one of my favorite movies) as elucidating examples. PC or not, Dances with Wolves was cinematically astute. It wasn’t, however, the best movie that year. I would have given the award to Goodfellas, arguably Martin Scorsese’s most accomplished film, and considering his staggeringly good output, that’s saying a lot.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

In the mid 50’s, musicals underwent a Hollywood resurgence and started gobbling up Oscar awards like they were free samples at a supermarket. It seemed like every three years or so, another musical would be crowned with the Academy’s laurels. And, for the most part, one could reasonably argue that they deserved it. Until 1968. Oliver! won that year. 2001: A Space Odyssey wasn’t even in the running for best picture. There’s no delicate way to put it; Stanley Kubrick was robbed. His majestic, momentous space saga paved the artistic path for the future of science fiction in cinema.

All the President’s Men (1976)

I’m not necessarily disappointed that Rocky won Best Picture at the 49th Academy Awards. It’s my favorite film of the franchise, and perhaps the only film in the series that could legitimately be called art. Sylvester Stallone wrote the script and starred in the film, and the combination made him a star. The problem with Rocky winning is that so many great movies that came out in 1976. Taxi Driver, Network, and The Message, to name just a few. Then there’s my favorite of the heap, All the President’s Men, which is possibly the greatest film ever made about the power of the press. Considering today’s political climate, its message is shockingly prescient.

Vertigo (1958)

Gigi won Best Picture at the 31st Academy Awards, and although it’s a serviceable musical, it never wormed its way into America’s zeitgeist. That same year, Hitchcock directed Vertigo, receiving mixed reviews from critics when it came out. It’s now considered one of his masterpieces. Hitchcock never won an Oscar for Best Director (out of five nominations) and only one of his films won Best Picture…that was for Rebecca in 1940. Hitchcock’s lack of bling became bitingly obvious as the years rolled by, and in 1967, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences tried to rectify the error when they presented Hitchcock with the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award. Understandably, Hitch was a wee bit less effusive than usual. His speech consisted of two words, “Thank you.”

I hope you enjoy these titles! Be sure to comment with any additional titles you discover so I can add them to my list.


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10 responses to “Movies That Should Have Won Best Picture”

  1. Gloria says:

    Morning, I agree with most all of Your appraisals. I would certainly add – although great fun “My Fair Lady” should not have won. “Dr. Strangelove” was terribly horribly under appreciated and a clear winner, then & now!

    • Craig Burgess says:

      I think most Stanley Kubrick flicks are horribly underappreciated. I love “My Fair Lady.” It’s right up there with “Fiddler on the Roof” as one of my favorite musicals. You’re right, though. “Dr. Strangelove” should have probably won that year.

  2. Isaac H. says:

    Great list! Sadly, Scorcese is no stranger to being given the short straw by the Academy Awards. I remember the 68th Academy Awards when when Braveheart won best Picture AND Best Director (yea, that guy) and Casino wasn’t even nominated for either category. And Blakkklansman losing out to Green Book has been compared to Driving Miss Daisy winning Best Picture and Glory being snubbed in the category in the 62nd, or Unforgiven winning and Malcolm X being snubbed in the 65th. The AA can be really tone deaf in their selections, and it seems like they have been for decades.

    • Craig Burgess says:

      Sometimes, they can be color blind and tone deaf. “Malcolm X” is, in my opinion, Spike Lee’s greatest film. He got royally snubbed. I do love me a good western, though, and “Unforgiven” is, with all its quirky peccadilloes, a very good western. But you’re right…”Malcolm X” has historical legs and feels as fresh as when it was made.

  3. Linda Bloom says:

    It is good that movies live on even when they don’t win!!

  4. Mike says:

    I’d say:

    “The General” over “Wings”
    “Citizen Kane” or “The Maltese Falcon” over “How Green Was My Valley”
    “The Treasure of Sierra Madre” over “Hamlet”
    “Raiders of the Lost Ark” over “Chariots of Fire”
    and “The Shawshank Redemption” over “Forrest Gump”

    At one point I had seen all but 3 or 4 of the Best Picture winners and a lot of the nominees, but I’ve fallen behind with more recent films.

    • Craig Burgess says:

      Wow! There’s some history in that list, and I can’t argue with any of it. I almost chose “The Shawshank Redemption” over “Pulp Fiction” as my favorite movie that year. They are both better movies than “Forrest Gump.” In fact, I had it penciled in for a little while, but just when I thought I was out, “Pulp Fiction” kept pulling me back in. I love love love great dialogue.

  5. Lindsey A. says:

    I didn’t realize all those movies released in 1976, but I’m still shocked that All the President’s Men didn’t win BP!

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