A Beautiful Mind, Crash, The Hurt Locker and the Top Ten Worst Best Picture Winners

Not everyone loves the Best Picture winner for the Academy Awards.  Myself included. Like many people, my absolute favorite rarely matches up with what is decided as the best and is stuck on the bench of nominees looking in or worse, doesn’t even have the honor of just being nominated.  But usually the winner is close enough within my top ten for the year that I’m fairly satisfied.  However, sometimes a mediocre or even a terrible film wins the coveted award and those are the moments that compelled me to give the Top Ten Worst Best Picture Oscar Winners.

How Green Was My Valley

10. HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY (1941) – A family drama about the hardships living in a mining town doesn’t quite have the impact as it’s fellow nominees.  This is sort of an obligatory entry not because it’s a bad film but because of who it beat out.  I’m guessing many of you don’t know much about this film, but I’m sure you’ve heard plenty about a few of the other nominees.

What Should Have Won: CITIZEN KANE, THE MALTESE FALCON  (DUMBO wasn’t nominated)

9. THE HURT LOCKER (2008) – I don’t think this is a bad film, I just think it’s an OK film.  In retrospect it wasn’t the best year for film and the best movies were ones that would never win by Oscar standards.  You can read my rant from two years ago about why “THE HURT LOCKER doesn’t deserve Best Picture” and my long list of better war films that never won.

What Should Have Won: INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS

8. CALVACADE (1934) – Another drawn out film about a couple of British aristocrats and life’s hardships over thirty years.  Even describing it irritates me.

What Should Have Won:  42ND STREET, I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GAIN, LITTLE WOMEN (KING KONG wasn’t nominated)

Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep in Kramer vs. Kramer

7. KRAMER VS. KRAMER (1979) – I actually like this movie, however when comparing it to all the other best pictures one would have to scratch their head why?  A fine film but hardly great and the story of a father (Dustin Hoffman) winning custody of his son over the mother (Meryl Streep) seems pretty dated.

What Should Have Won:  APOCALYPSE NOW

6. THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH (1952) – Perhaps in 1952, this dramatic tale from Cecil B. DeMille of the lives within a circus was far more impactful than today.  But looking back now, it’s not necessarily terrible but it definitely isn’t what the title suggests.

What Should Have Won: HIGH NOON (SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN wasn’t nominated)

Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron in An American In Paris

5. AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (1951) – I love Gene Kelly so it pains me to say this one.  I really enjoy the music but that is no reason to win Best Picture.  When beautiful Paris is shot mostly on a soundstage you know there’s a problem.  For the record, several other musicals that won could be on this list like GIGI (1958), THE BROADWAY MELODY (1929) and THE GREAT ZIEGFELD (1936) but I decided to only pick the one with the most notoriety to save space.

What Should Have Won:  A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, A PLACE IN THE SUN (AFRICAN QUEEN wasn’t nominated)

4. AROUND THE WORLD IN THE 80 DAYS (1956) – Sometimes it’s more about how time treats you as a film.  When looking back at the other films compared to a guy flying around the world in a balloon, it’s obvious this is the one less remembered.

What Should Have Won: THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, THE KING AND I, GIANT

Matt Dillon and Thandie Newton in Crash

3. CRASH (2004) – I saw this small, unknown film the spring before it won and I liked it quite a bit.  After it won, I thought wow I don’t remember it being that good and upon second viewing, I realized my first assessment was completely wrong.  CRASH is a giant leap backwards in stereotypes and over dramatization.  This not only shouldn’t have won but it shouldn’t have been nominated.

What Should Have Won:  BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN

2. CHARIOTS OF FIRE (1981) – This overblown excuse for a sports film is now only remembered for it’s inspiring score – hardly a reason to win best picture.  Another film that is far too long and far too boring.

What Should Have Won: RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK

Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind

1. A BEAUTIFUL MIND (2001) – In my opinion, the absolute worst film to ever win best picture.  I’ll admit Ron Howard did some surprising stylistic directing and Russell Crowe delivered a strong performance.  But the film is outright dull without a point.  It neither inspires nor tells a greater story.  I saw it once and hated it. Then I watched it again and found it unbearable.

What Should Have Won:  LORD OF THE RINGS: FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, MOULIN ROUGE (MEMENTO wasn’t nominated).

By Nathan Swank

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