Awards committees: designed to highlight the very best of the world’s cinema and reward films that withstand the test of time.
But, occasionally, these scrupulous boards somehow manage to miss the years’ most impressive cinematic offerings.
We’ve compiled a list of our favourite films that, despite being championed by fans and critics alike, never received the recognition they deserve. From Hollywood blockbusters to independently-funded debuts, these are the best films of all time that were snubbed by the Oscars when they were released.
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Quentin Tarantino’s first-feature length film caught the attention of audiences and was immediately written into cinema history as a cult classic – despite failing to achieve the praise of professional critics for years. Six criminals are hired to conduct a diamond robbery. All are confident that the heist will succeed, but when the police turn up and shut down the operation, the group splits and they begin to question whether their plan was undermined by an insider source.
It’s a film that bears all the tell-tale signs of a low-budget feature: a small cast, few sets, and the jibbering, swear-laden lines of actors bluffing their way through the script. But it’s the bloody masterpiece’s tampered-with timeline that makes the story great, turning it into a post-mortem of events and bearing the first glimmer of Tarantino’s now-trademark ambitious, intelligent filmmaking.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
This 1960s classic won over audiences with its showdowns and shootouts, and is still enjoyed over 60 years later – despite being shunned by critics and award committees at the time of its release.
In the film, three men set off in search of $200,000 worth of gold coins during the American Civil War. But, two friends quickly turn on one another when they realise just how much money they’re chasing. It’s a heat-hazed classic, with a corker of a score by Ennio Morricone and countless close-ups of a brooding, sunburnt Clint Eastwood in his prime.
Ocean's Eleven (2001)
The action-packed tale of a group of experts, misfits and bandits clubbing together to perform a heist on three major Las Vegas casinos all in one night. What’s not to get the pulse racing? The millennium remake of the 1960 classic has all of the suspense, action and explosions that you want from a good Clooney-starring caper – and that A-list cast and sweeping shots of glamorous casino floors don’t hurt, either.
But it wasn’t loved by voters, and didn’t manage to pick up a single Oscar nomination – even for the slap-bang editing and impressive performance across the technical categories. It may have been struck by the curse of the remake, and had a lack of originality levelled at it, but this Steven Soderbergh-directed update is undoubtedly better than the original. Sorry, Sinatra.
Illegal boxing rings, gangsters and a stolen diamond. A slick comedy about London’s grittiest gangsters getting involved in underground boxing bets. Guy Ritchie’s second film, as with Soderbergh’s Ocean’s 11 also on this list, is stacked with iconic one-liners and clever editing. But, as with Clooney’s caper, critics didn’t take kindly to Snatch’s complex, intertwining stories and plot-turns.
But, although it may be hard to digest after the first viewing, you’ll surely want to come back for more — even if just to get an earful of Brad Pitt’s attempt at a British accent (no surprise there wasn’t an Oscar nod there…).
Michael Mann’s depiction of attractive, utterly corrupt Los Angeles only scraped a couple of minor award nominations, despite thoughtful casting, stylish score and graceful camerawork.
While a career criminal (de Niro) considers getting out of the business following one last robbery, a detective (Pacino) follows his every move in an attempt to put him behind bars for good. Three hours of perfect crime viewing follow the duo’s cat-and-mouse battle across LA. Too fun for the Academy? It may be irrecoverably amoral, but it’s beautiful all the same – and a nod for cinematography would have been well-deserved.
Miller's Crossing (1990)
The Coen brothers’ third collaboration, a neo-noir piece of gangster cinema, has all the Tommy guns, mob bosses and prohibition liquor you could wish for. Tom Reagan, right-hand man to the Irish mobster that heads a gang, finds himself caught in the crossfire between his boss and Italian gangster Johnny Caspar.
But Miller’s Crossing goes deeper than warring mobs and well-shot scenes. It’s a tale of male friendships, loyalty and ethics – all played out perfectly by a cast including Albert Finney and Gabriel Byrne. But still, despite embodying perfectly sleek mobster cinema at its finest, there wasn’t a sniff from the Oscars.
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