Oscars 2019: The 10 worst Best Picture winners

Sam Ashurst
Paul Haggis, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Clint Eastwood at the Oscars.

So, The Academy have finally responded to the widespread criticism of their decision to cut a load of the most important awards from the live Oscars ceremony. It’s an in-depth explanation, which goes a long way to addressing the issues people had with the change.

Now, all we need for them to do is put out a statement explaining why they gave the Best Picture award to the following films, and we’ll start to think about forgiving them.

1. Shakespeare In Love (1998)

Shakespeare in love (Foto: Getty)

Astonishingly, Gwyneth Paltrow’s Bard-themed rom-com managed to prise the Best Picture Oscar away from Saving Private Ryan’s far more deserving bosom.

Shakespeare In Love was the definition of disposable fluff, shot like a TV show, with hammy performances throughout (look, this is a film that casts Ben Affleck as a Shakespearean actor), and it won the very top prize on the most important night in cinema?

It seemed like a joke at the time, but with hindsight, the win has a dark-tinge, now we know that Harvey Weinstein used bullying tactics to claim the prize.

2. Crash (2004)

Paul Haggis with the awards for Best Motion Picture of the Year and Best Original Screenplay for Crash

The only possible explanation for Crash’s 2004 win was that the Oscar voters got their screeners mixed up with their DVD collections and thought they were voting for David Cronenberg’s Crash. Seriously, Paul Haggis’ Crash is a sanctimonious mess. It’s so bad even the director himself has criticised it.

“I don’t know how good a film it is,” Haggis said in 2015. “I didn’t know at the time. It was a good script. I didn’t know it was a good movie, but I knew it touched people, and that’s what I wanted to do. I knew it made people question long-held beliefs. Have I done better films? Yeah. In the Valley of Elah is a much better film, but it didn’t have the impact. I was trying to stop a war there. Didn’t succeed, did I?”

3. Chicago (2002)

Actress Catherine Zeta-Jones performs during the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre on Sunday Feb. 24, 2013, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Chicago won six Oscars (SIX!), despite looking like someone brought a video-camera to their local theatre.

This turgid musical hasn’t exactly stood the test of time, to the extent we’re not even sure if the people who were in it have seen it more than once.

And, to add insult to injury, it was up against The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers, which is undoubtedly the best film of that trilogy. They stole it from us. Sneaky little hobbitses*. Wicked, tricksy, false!

*Academy voters.

4. Argo (2012)

(left to right) George Clooney, Grant Heslov and Ben Affleck with the Oscar for Best Picture for Argo alongside Jack Nicholson (far right) at the 85th Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre, Los Angeles.

Remember when we all thought Ben Affleck was a good director? You know, after we saw Gone Baby Gone, but before we saw Live By Night? That was a weird time, wasn’t it? Especially as it directly led to Affleck winning the Best Picture gong for a movie that’s basically as politically sensitive as Rambo III. As Slate pointed out after the nominations were announced:

“Instead of keeping its eye on the big picture of revolutionary Iran, the film settles into a retrograde ‘white Americans in peril’ storyline.”

“It recasts those oppressed Iranians as a raging, zombie-like horde, the same dark-faced demons from countless other movies – still a surefire dramatic device for instilling fear in an American audience.”

“After the opening makes a big fuss about how Iranians were victimised for decades, the film marginalises them from their own story, shunting them into the role of villains.”

Argo f*** yourself, basically.

5. The Broadway Melody (1929)

The Broadway Melody (credit: MGM)

The first musical to win the Best Picture Oscar is also the worst.

Thankfully, only true Oscar completists will have seen it, because every element – staging, dialogue, performance – is bad. But don’t take our word for it, it’s also one of the lowest ranking Best Picture winners on Rotten Tomatoes, with just 35% positive reviews.

Basically, imagine if Bohemian Rhapsody was up for Best Picture this year, and that’s the kind of thing we’re talking about. Wait, what do you mean ‘it is’?

6. Cimarron (1931)

Best Picture winner Cimarron (credit: RKO)

The Oscar ceremony was only two-years old when we saw the first western win Best Picture. Unfortunately, it was such a bad example of the genre, it took another 59 years for another western to win the same prize – Kevin Costner’s Dances With Wolves (which also isn’t great, to be fair).

Bafflingly, Cimarron was released in the same year as City Lights, Little Caesar, and The Blue Angel, three of the greatest films ever made – none of which were nominated.

Instead, Cimarron’s competition included ‘Skippy,’ and ‘Trader Horn.’ So, what we’re saying is, the Oscars took a while to find its feet.

7. The Greatest Show On Earth (1952)

Best Picture winner The Greatest Show On Earth (credit: Paramount Pictures)

More like ‘worst show,’ am I right? Guys? Guys?

Okay, lame joke, but, as it’s aimed at an even lamer film, we’re fine with it.

Hollywood gossip claims The Greatest Show On Earth won Best Picture by default because members of the Academy were reluctant to vote for the anti-Joseph McCarthy western High Noon, after its screenwriter Carl Foreman had just been blacklisted in Hollywood.

If true, that’s disgraceful. If not, we can see how the rumour would start – there has to be some explanation for why the embarrassing circus movie took the prize over a film that’s still considered one of cinema’s very best.

8. Forrest Gump (1994)

‘Forrest Gump’ 1994 directed by Robert Zemeckis. (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Getty Images)

Run, Forrest, run…away from the truth that you should have handed your Oscar over to either Pulp Fiction or the Shawshank Redemption, who were also nominated in the same year you surprised everyone by stealing the Best Picture trophy.

Gump is a sentimental celebration of stupidity is as saccharine as a box of chocolates, and only half as fulfilling. Still, stupid is as stupid does – which, more often than not, involves winning underserved Oscars.

9. Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Clint Eastwood receives the Best Director Award and Best Film Award for Million Dollar Baby.

What is it about Scorsese movies that makes the Academy go so crazy they’ll award Best Picture to any old rubbish to stop Marty from having the trophy cabinet he so deserves?

In 1980, it was Ordinary People over Raging Bull, 1990, it was Dances With Wolves over Goodfellas, in 2011, The Artist over Hugo, but, of all of them, 2004’s Million Dollar Baby is probably the most shocking. Not because The Aviator was so good, but because Million Dollar Baby was so bad – with all the subtlety and gravitas of a Hallmark TV movie.

10. A Beautiful Mind (2001)

Ron Howard with his Best Director and Best Film awards for A Beautiful Mind at the 74th Annual Academy Awards (Oscars) at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles.

Stretching the definition of ‘true story’ to its breaking point, A Beautiful Mind’s portrayal of mathematician John Nash contains so much made-up stuff it might as well be a cartoon. In a year that Memento, Monsters Inc and The Royal Tenenbaums were released (none were nominated for Best Picture) this one is more upsetting than a broken calculator during a maths exam.

Oh, and that beautiful romance at the heart of the movie? Nash and Alicia divorced during the film’s timeline, perhaps in part because Nash once threw his wife to the ground during mathematics department picnic, before placing his foot on her neck, to demonstrate his superiority over her. Unsurprisingly, that didn’t make it to the final cut of the film.

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