Top 10 Movies That Are Better Than Best Picture Winners
VOICE OVER: Matthew Wende
WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
Written by Nathan Sharp
Best picture winners don't always stand the test of time, and sometimes are even outshone by these incredible movies! WatchMojo presents Top 10 Movies That Overshadowed Best Picture Winners! But what will take the Top spot on our list? Will it be 2001: A Space Odyssey, Psycho, or Brokeback Mountain? Watch to find out!
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They didn’t get the award, but they certainly got the recognition. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Movies That Overshadowed Best Picture Winners.
For this list, we’ll be looking at films that received more attention from the public and arguably could have won the Best Picture award – regardless of whether they were actually nominated in that category or not. We aren’t saying that the Best Picture winners are bad movies – far from it (they won the award after all). We’re simply stating that these flicks immediately, or eventually, overshadowed the real winner in the hearts of the public.
#10: “Zero Dark Thirty” (2012)
“Argo” took home the big prize at the 85th Academy Awards, despite only winning two others (Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film Editing). However, many people were left disappointed with the movie, especially regarding its various inaccuracies towards the role of the Canadian embassy and its dramatic exaggerations. While it took home the award, some felt that other movies were more deserving, including “Django Unchained” and particularly “Zero Dark Thirty.” Kathryn Bigelow’s film was widely praised and appeared on many year-end lists, despite some controversy surrounding its depiction of torture. Both movies followed political stories, but many believed that “Zero Dark Thirty” told a more gripping, accurate, and relevant tale.
Overshadowed: “Argo” (2012)
#9: “High Noon” (1952)
It’s one of the greatest Westerns of all time versus “The Greatest Show on Earth,” and we all know which one has stood the test of time. “The Greatest Show on Earth” was set in the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus, and featured wildly extravagant production values for the time. As a technical showcase, “The Greatest Show on Earth” is undeniably better. However, it is widely regarded as one of the most controversial Best Picture winners. On the other hand, “High Noon” is lauded for its subversion of Western tropes, won more Oscars than its competitor, and is now widely regarded as one of the best Westerns, nay, best MOVIES, ever.
Overshadowed: “The Greatest Show on Earth” (1952)
#8: “The Social Network” (2010)
We all saw this coming, yet we were dismayed all the same. For many, the writing was on the wall (Facebook pun!): here was a fast-paced, darkly stylish, modern movie about the creation of Facebook. And here was a slow, old-fashioned historical drama about a political radio broadcast. Even a fish could have predicted the outcome. That’s not to say “The King’s Speech” was a bad movie – like most of its kind, the acting was sublime, and its art direction magnificent. But “The Social Network” was the favored underdog, especially after its Golden Globe wins for Best Director and Best Motion Picture – Drama. But, nope. The Academy loves them some period pieces.
Overshadowed: “The King’s Speech” (2010)
#7: “Citizen Kane” (1941)
“How Green Was My Valley” is a maudlin movie about a troubled family living in the South Wales Valleys at the end of the 19th century. It won the awards for Best Director and Best Picture, and while it certainly isn’t considered a bad film, it pales in comparison to “Citizen Kane,” which is often considered the most revolutionary and influential movie of all time. Many facets of the mystery drama’s filmmaking, including its cinematography and editing, set the precedent for future movies, and modern film owes a lot to “Citizen Kane.” “How Green Was My Valley” is basically just another forgotten Best Picture winner.
Overshadowed: “How Green Was My Valley” (1941)
#6: “GoodFellas” (1990)
Back in the day, it seemed as though Martin Scorsese was always being snubbed. In 1980, “Raging Bull” infamously lost to “Ordinary People.” And, in 1990, his gangster tour de force, “Goodfellas,” was defeated by “Dances with Wolves,” the Kevin Costner movie about a Union Army lieutenant and the Lakota people. “Dances with Wolves” is a great movie – the production values are stellar (including authentic Lakota dialogue), and it reinvigorated the popularity of the Western. But it’s arguable that “Goodfellas” has better stood the test of time. It’s now considered a masterpiece of the crime genre, whereas “Dances with Wolves” has arguably been left in the 90s, a winner perhaps based more on political than artistic reasons.
Overshadowed: “Dances with Wolves” (1990)
#5: “Saving Private Ryan” (1998)
This is easily one of the biggest upsets in Academy Award history. Spielberg had created a modern masterpiece, a war epic that terrified and touched in equal measures. “Shakespeare in Love” was a slower period piece with suitably appropriate production values. On one hand, it seemed like prime Oscar material. On the other hand, “Saving Private Ryan” was so esteemed that many believed it could overtake the Academy’s penchant for literary period dramas (despite being a period drama itself). And despite it winning the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Drama and the Oscar for Best Director, the coveted award went to “Shakespeare,” and movie fans haven’t shut up about it since. Ourselves included, apparently.
Overshadowed: “Shakespeare in Love” (1998)
#4: “Apocalypse Now” (1979)
Like “The King’s Speech” and “The Social Network,” anyone could see this win coming from a mile away. “Apocalypse Now” is a very dark and challenging movie about the horrors of Vietnam and the depraved depths of the human psyche. “Kramer vs. Kramer” is a movie about the struggles of divorce starring Academy favorites Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep. While it was an important movie for its time, particularly its challenging of parental roles, it hasn’t had nearly the impact that “Apocalypse Now” has had on the art of film. Many people consider “Apocalypse Now” not just a movie, but also an experience, a fantastic representation of what the medium of film can achieve.
Overshadowed: “Kramer vs. Kramer” (1979)
#3: “Brokeback Mountain” (2005)
“Brokeback Mountain,” a movie about two men’s forbidden love story, was released at a time when homosexuals were still not that often represented in film. It swept award ceremonies, taking home Best Picture and Best Director at the British Academy, the Golden Globes, and the Critics’ Choice awards. It was nominated for eight Oscars, the most nominations of the year. Its Best Picture win was seemingly a lock. So many people were left stunned when “Crash” won, with some arguing that “Brokeback’s” pro-gay themes challenged the conservative Academy. Even “Crash’s” writer and producer, Paul Haggis, admitted that it shouldn’t have won, and in 2015, a re-polling of the Academy resulted in “Brokeback Mountain” winning over “Crash.”
Overshadowed: “Crash” (2004)
#2: “Psycho” (1960)
You guys remember “The Apartment,” right? It was that movie with timeless villain Norman Bates and arguably the most famous scene in the history of cinema! Oh, that was “Psycho?” Right. “The Apartment” is that comedy about a man who allows his superiors to use his apartment for affairs. It’s a great movie, winning five Academy Awards, including Best Picture. In any other year, this may not have been notable, but this was the year that “Psycho” was released. “Psycho” paved the way for sex, violence, and depravity in film, and it arguably began an entirely new genre: the slasher. Nothing against “The Apartment,” but it’s hard to compare to the sheer influence of “Psycho.”
Overshadowed: “The Apartment” (1960)
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
Overshadowed: “The English Patient” (1996)
“It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946)
Overshadowed: “The Best Years of Our Lives” (1946)
“Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981)
Overshadowed: “Chariots of Fire” (1981)
#1: “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968)
There’s no denying that “Oliver!” is delightful. It features some incredible musical numbers, and it appeals to a wide range of audiences. That said, it has arguably aged rather poorly, and some can’t help but see it as just another musical. Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” is a timeless masterpiece, as relevant and technically ambitious today as it was back in 1968. The movie proved to be a huge influence on future filmmakers (like Spielberg) and it paved the way for mainstream acceptance of science fiction, which exploded in the following decade. “Oliver!” can’t help but blend in; “2001” redefined what a movie could be. And to think, it wasn’t even nominated for Best Picture.
Overshadowed: “Oliver!” (1968)