10 Oscar Movies That Time Forgot
Every year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences selects the very best in cinema from the previous calendar year. This group of industry professionals and insiders is considered by some to be the authority on the subject, and thus the Academy Award is the highest honor a film can receive. But sometimes it’s an honor just to be nominated, and indeed when the Oscar nominations roll around, each studio boasts the films, performances, and crafts that were singled out that year.
But not every film nominated for an Oscar stands the test of time. Indeed, even some Oscar wins have aged rather poorly, with films that weren’t even nominated securing a more esteemed place in the annals of film history. And then there are the movies that are forgotten entirely. As the years have gone by, the shine of an Oscar nomination (or win) has faded, and the movies themselves have been lost to the sands of time.
Not all forgotten Oscar movies are bad. Some are just fine, but this list is a reminder that Oscar nominations are a snapshot. They reflect a moment, and the Academy’s voting block has ebbed and flowed over the decades, marking exponential evolution in just the past few years. It’s easy to forget now, but some of the films on this list were huge deals when they were released, and fever clearly struck enough Academy members to make an impact. But unlike Titanic or The Deer Hunter or even Kramer vs. Kramer, these movies have, for one reason or another, stopped finding new fans.
So below, a rundown of 10 Oscar movies that time forgot.
The English Patient (1996)
Nominations: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Editing, Score, Sound, Costume Design, Cinematography
Wins: Picture, Director (Anthony Minghella), Supporting Actress (Juliette Binoche), Cinematography, Art Direction, Sound, Costume Design, Score
The English Patient was a very big deal when it hit theaters in 1996, but then again at that time it fit the mold of the kind of movie that wins Oscars. It’s a period epic with a sweeping love story and it’s based on a beloved book: in the 90s this was the perfect formula for “Oscar bait.” But it didn’t just get a ton of Oscar nominations (and wins), it was also a smashing success at the box office, scoring over $230 million. This was a big movie!
So why, then, has it been forgotten? The film isn’t terrible in hindsight, but it does feel a bit old fashioned now. Its cast continued to find success and writer/director Anthony Minghella would be back at the Oscars a few years later with the superior The Talented Mr. Ripley, but The English Patient—despite winning a ton of awards—has just kind of faded. Though it should be noted not everyone was a fan at the time, as the film was the subject of a particularly memorable episode of Seinfeld in which Elaine couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. As is almost always the case, Seinfeld was ahead of the curve.
The Full Monty (1997)
Nominations: Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Score
Oh yes, that British movie about male strippers was nominated for Best Picture! The England-set dramedy follows a group of unemployed men who decide to form a striptease act. That’s the premise of this Oscar-friendly film. The 90s were a weird time, and 1997 in particular saw a pretty diverse Best Picture lineup that included Good Will Hunting, L.A. Confidential, and of course Titanic. Those films continue to be remembered (and beloved) today, but the curious case of The Full Montyremains one of the Academy’s biggest head-scratchers of the last few decades.
The Cider House Rules (1999)
Nominations: Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor, Editing, Original Score, Art Direction, Adapted Screenplay
Wins: Supporting Actor (Michael Caine), Adapted Screenplay (John Irving)
In the wake of The English Patient’s sweeping success, not to mention Titanic, romances became all the rage. The Cider House Rules was one of these that hit the Academy in a big way, while the flip side is something like Snow Falling on Cedars (which to this day I still get confused with Cider House given that they’re both snowy romance Oscar-friendly movies). This is a film that’s pretty epic in its storytelling scope, as it follows the goings-on at an orphanage before, during, and after World War II, but as you can tell if you possibly dozed off just reading that sentence, this one didn’t exactly fire audiences up in the ensuing years.
Nominations: Best Picture, Actress, Score, Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actress
Chocolat is probably most memorable nowadays as a punchline in the Paul Rudd/Jason Segel comedy I Love You, Man. In 2000, The Cider House Rulesdirector Lasse Hallström was at it again, this time crafting a period romance set in France. Johnny Depp is in this movie! That’s a weird thing. The story revolves around a young mother (Juliette Binoche) who opens a chocolate shop in a repressed French village, changing the lives of its citizens forever. Yes indeed, this Best Picture nominee is a French love story about a chocolatier. The pic was shut out at the Academy Awards ceremony and in the years that followed, English Patient-esque romances began to fade out of Hollywood’s (and the Academy’s) favor.
In the Bedroom (2001)
Nominations: Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actress
In the Bedroom is a movie that virtually no one talks about anymore, for no good reason at all. Filmmaker Todd Field would follow this film up with the more incisive and memorable Little Children in 2006, but his feature debut is a dark and surprisingly violent family drama with terrific performances from Tom Wilkinson, Sissy Spacek, Nick Stahl, and Marisa Tomei. Again it’s kind of hard to pinpoint exactly why everyone forgot about In the Bedroom beyond the fact that it’s just kind of a very small, simple drama. But that definitely doesn’t make it bad.
Nominations: Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Supporting Actress, Score, Editing
The thirstiest of thirsty Oscar movies. Before Alejandro G. Iñárritu became the first filmmaker to ever win back-to-back Best Director Oscars for Birdman and The Revenant, he made a prior splash at the Academy Awards with Babel. The film was Iñárritu’s biggest yet and boasted A-listers Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett in lead roles, but while it attempted to tell the story of unconnected characters in three separate locations, it fell flat and rang hollow. You could basically smell this film begging to win Oscars, and indeed the finished product is probably better left forgotten. Practically all involved went on to make better movies that would score major Oscar nominations (and wins), and obviously Iñárritu further honed his craft in the ensuing years.
The Reader (2008)
Nominations: Best Picture, Director, Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography
Wins: Actress (Kate Winslet)
The Reader was so forgettable from the get-go that in Hugh Jackman’s opening song-and-dance number for the Oscars ceremony, his song for The Reader was all about how no one had actually seen the film or knew what it was about. This is the movie that Harvey Weinstein famously squeezed into the Best Picture race over the favorite The Dark Knight, and it so rattled the Academy that the following year they expanded the number of Best Picture nominees. The Reader is…fine, but it is so utterly, achingly forgettable it’s hard to even single out anything about it. Kate Winslet’s performance isn’t even markedly better than ones she should have won for (Eternal Sunshine, Little Children). Even her turn in Revolutionary Road the same year was more memorable than her The Reader role, but Harvey worked his behind-the-scenes magic, and The Reader: Best Picture nominee and Best Actress winner was born.
Nominations: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Adapted Screenplay, Editing
But The Reader wasn’t the only forgettable Best Picture nominee in the 2008 lineup—Ron Howard’s biographical drama Frost/Nixon was also nominated that year. The film offers a portrait of Richard Nixon through the lens of his famous interviews with David Frost, and while there’s nothing noticeably bad or unworthy about the film, it’s just a little too traditional, a little too old fashioned to make any kind of long-lasting mark.
The Artist (2011)
Nominations: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Costume Design, Editing, Original Score, Art Direction
Wins: Best Picture, Director (Michel Hazanavicius), Actor (Jean Dujardin), Costume Design
Fun Fact: The Artist is a movie that in 2011 won the Oscars for Best Picture, Director, and Actor in a major domination of the ceremony—and yet, scientifically speaking, 100% of human beings have entirely forgotten about it. Voters got swept up in this ode to the silent film era at the time, but some could see the embarrassment coming. The Artist now feels like some communal hallucination—did this really happen? Oh it did. It really, really did.
The Imitation Game (2014)
Nominations: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Editing, Original Score, Production Design
Wins: Adapted Screenplay
While the expanded Best Picture field has naturally resulted in a few more “forgettable” nominees, The Imitation Game feels like a movie straight out of Miramax’s 1990s playbook. And indeed the film was produced and released by The Weinstein Company, so there’s a reason for that familiarity. Like others on this list The Imitation Game isn’t glaringly bad—it’s actually pretty watchable. But three years out we can already feel this one fading fast.