More often than not, when a movie wins Best Picture at the Oscars – arguably the most prestigious award that a film could possibly aspire to – that prize is bound to be accompanied by one or a few nods in the acting categories. This isn’t always the case, though. On 12 noteworthy occasions, the Best Picture winner’s cast received no love from the Academy.
Sometimes, this is no big deal, as movies like Wings don’t have particularly memorable performances. But in the case of films like Parasite, fans still feel that the Academy’s acting voters may have dropped the ball.
1 ‘Wings’ (1927)
Wings, a silent romantic drama about two young World War I combat pilots who fall in love with the same woman, immediately made history when it became the Best Picture winner of the first-ever Academy Awards.
Despite not being as highly regarded as many films of its era, Wings is still considered to be a fine war film with stunning technical qualities, from breathtaking photography to atmospheric directing. However, it was only nominated for two Oscars (winning both), and neither of them fell under an acting category.
2 ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ (1930)
The original All Quiet on the Western Front, undoubtedly the most violent and harrowing American film of its time, follows a group of German recruits during WWI and how their idealism slowly becomes hopelessness.
Nearly a century later, the movie is still remembered as one of the most impactful and intellectually provocative anti-war movies to ever come out of Hollywood. Though its cast did a phenomenal job, no actor managed to snatch an acting nomination. This year, the German remake of the film is also nominated for Best Picture with no acting nods.
3 ‘Grand Hotel’ (1932)
You’d be forgiven for never having heard about Grand Hotel. Despite being well-liked by those who’ve seen it, this romantic drama about a group of people in a Berlin hotel has mostly faded into obscurity by Best Picture winner standards.
It’s definitely a film worth remembering, though. Firstly, because it’s a perfectly paced and wonderfully edited story with amazing performances that definitely deserved an Oscar nomination. Secondly, because to this day, it remains the only movie in history to win Best Picture with no other nomination in any category.
4 ‘An American in Paris’ (1951)
It’s very hard to go wrong with musicals starring the legendary Gene Kelly. From Singin’ in the Rain to the Best Picture winner An American in Paris, they’re bound to make you have a good time even if you’re not a fan of the genre.
The movie won a staggering six of the eight Oscars it was nominated for. However, none of these eight were for Kelly’s humorous performance, though he did receive an honorary award for his trajectory that year.
5 ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ (1952)
The Greatest Show on Earth is a family drama about the eventful lives of the people of a circus. If you hadn’t heard about it before, that’s because it has aged rather poorly, becoming among the lowest-rated Oscar winners on most platforms, and is considered one of the worst Best Picture winners of all time.
The movie isn’t without redeeming qualities. It’s entertaining and visually impressive, and it has decent performances. However, it turns out to be mostly pretty forgettable due to an excruciatingly overlong runtime and an uninteresting narrative.
6 ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ (1956)
Around the World in 80 Days may have won five Oscars and been nominated for three more, but don’t be fooled: It’s widely regarded as one of the least deserving winners of the Academy’s highest honor.
To be fair, it’s not totally awful. Fans of Jules Verne will definitely find it to be an outrageous adaptation of the source material, but general audiences will probably enjoy its humor and idiosyncratic identity, despite its messy story, excessive runtime and forgettable performances that weren’t nominated for anything (probably for the best).
7 ‘Gigi’ (1958)
At the time of its release, the comedy musical Gigi was a major hit with audiences, critics and the Academy. It was nominated for a commendable nine Oscars, and it won all nine. As the years have passed, though, it hasn’t aged very well.
There are still many who love the movie for its catchy music and charming cast. However, the other side of the argument rests on the film’s overly flat and simplistic story, controversial story beats and creative decisions, and ineffective humor.
8 ‘The Last Emperor’ (1987)
For decades after Gigi, all Best Picture winners got recognition in the acting categories too. Bernardo Bertolucci‘s The Last Emperor broke tradition by winning all 9 Oscars it was nominated for, none of which celebrated the cast.
Bertolucci’s film is a monumental achievement, one that definitely deserves more recognition than it gets from general audiences nowadays. Although none of the movie’s actors received an Academy Award nomination, they all do a terrific job at elevating the character-driven story.
9 ‘Braveheart’ (1995)
Nowadays, Mel Gibson is probably as famous for his acting work as he is for his directing efforts. The fact that the historical epic Braveheart is arguably his most famous movie in both departments says a lot about it.
No cast member from the film got a nomination, though the acting isn’t exactly where Braveheart‘s biggest strengths lie. Rather, it’s all about how passionately told and well-paced its story is, how effective and brutal the gory action is, and how excellent Gibson’s work behind the camera comes across as.
10 ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’ (2003)
Despite receiving no acting nominations, the epic conclusion to Peter Jackson‘s Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Return of the King, is tied with Ben-Hur and Titanic for the most Oscar wins for a single movie with 11. Each one of them was deserved – and no one would have complained about a nod or two for the dedicated cast.
There is little to be said about this monumental fantasy spectacle that hasn’t been said before. With jaw-dropping set pieces and an enrapturing narrative, its Best Picture win became one of the most impactful in the history of the Oscars.
11 ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ (2008)
This widely beloved British romantic drama is the story of Jamal, an orphan teen who recalls his childhood in the slums of Mumbai after being accused of cheating in Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?.
Those unfamiliar with Danny Boyle‘s frenetic directing style might be put off by Slumdog Millionaire at first. But fans of the director or those who fall in love with his way of telling stories are bound to enjoy this stylish, vibrant, colorful crowd-pleaser which has amazing performances from actors who went on to become household names, like Dev Patel.
12 ‘Parasite’ (2019)
Parasite is the first foreign film to ever win Best Picture at the Oscars. For that alone, it’s worthy of the utmost admiration. But as if it wasn’t enough, this riveting dramedy thriller is also one of the most captivating and well-made movies of the past few years.
Though fans were clamoring for at least a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Song Kang-ho‘s amazing performance, this didn’t come to pass. However, that hardly matters when such a staggering cinematic achievement landed 4 Oscar wins including the most coveted award in the industry.
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