Special Report

Movies So Good They Should Have Won an Oscar - But Didn’t

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The 95th Academy Awards nominations have just been released; and as with every round of nominations, some critically acclaimed films were shut out completely. One particularly surprising omission this Oscars season is the historical action film “The Woman King,” starring Viola Davis as a general in the West African kingdom of Dahomey. (Here are 25 of the Oscars’ most egregious snubs.)

Throughout the history of the Academy Awards, many remarkable films have been overlooked. To determine the greatest movies that should have won an Oscar, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data on Academy Award wins, audience reviews, and critical reception. Films that have never received an Academy Award were ranked based on an index composed of average ratings on IMDb, an online movie database owned by Amazon, and a combination of audience scores and Tomatometer scores on Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator, as of January 2023, weighting all ratings equally. Only non-documentary films released in 1935 or after were considered. Directorial credits are from IMDb.

Most of these films received at least one Oscar nomination – with a few receiving five or more – but a handful were not nominated at all. Some failed to garner praise after their release but have gone on to become cult classics, while others were critically well received and have remained enduring favorites that have since been added to the National Film Registry.

Click here to learn about movies so good they should have won an Oscar – but didn’t

While the films on our list run the gamut from the 1930s to the 2020s, films from the Old Hollywood era of the ‘30s through the ‘50s are particularly well represented, with classic directors Ernst Lubitsch, Charlie Chaplin, Billy Wilder, and Alfred Hitchcock each having multiple movies on the list.

Some films by respected modern directors also appear on this list. Christopher Nolan’s memorable hit thriller “Memento” failed to win an Oscar despite receiving two nominations, while Martin Scorsese’s extraordinary drama “Taxi Driver” received four nominations, including best picture, but won none. (Here are Martin Scorsese’s movies ranked worst to best.)

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

25. White Heat (1949)
> IMDb user rating: 8.1/10 (31,467 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 93% (9,168 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 97% (35 reviews)
> Academy Award nominations: 1
> Directed by: Raoul Walsh

Considered one of the best gangster movies ever made, “White Heat” follows a psychotic mama’s boy gang leader as he breaks out of prison and plans his next heist, ignorant of the undercover agent who has infiltrated his crew.

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Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

24. How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
> IMDb user rating: 8.1/10 (693,881 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 91% (312,983 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 99% (212 reviews)
> Academy Award nominations: 2
> Directed by: Dean DeBlois & Chris Sanders

Set in a Viking society, this animated coming-of-age film follows a young teen named Hiccup who dreams of becoming a dragon slayer – until he actually captures a dragon and develops a friendship with the misunderstood creature.

Source: Courtesy of United Artists

23. To Be or Not to Be (1942)
> IMDb user rating: 8.2/10 (33,747 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 93% (6,029 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 96% (47 reviews)
> Academy Award nominations: 1
> Directed by: Ernst Lubitsch

When members of a theater company in Nazi-occupied Poland realize that an acquaintance is a German spy, they use their acting skills to foil his plan of betraying members of the Polish resistance.

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

22. Taxi Driver (1976)
> IMDb user rating: 8.2/10 (761,825 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 93% (260,919 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 96% (94 reviews)
> Academy Award nominations: 4
> Directed by: Martin Scorsese

After returning from service in Vietnam, Travis Bickle is unstable and adrift, working nights as a taxi driver on the decrepit streets of New York. Full of undirected rage, he decides to make the world a better place by rescuing a child prostitute from her pimp.

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Source: Courtesy of United Artists

21. The Great Escape (1963)
> IMDb user rating: 8.2/10 (246,586 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 95% (103,579 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 94% (49 reviews)
> Academy Award nominations: 1
> Directed by: John Sturges

Based on a book of the same name, this film is a fictionalized rendition of Australian fighter pilot Paul Brickhill’s first-hand account of a mass escape of prisoners from a supposedly escape-proof Nazi POW camp in 1944.

Source: Courtesy of Newmarket Films

20. Memento (2000)
> IMDb user rating: 8.4/10 (1,169,429 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 94% (381,352 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 93% (181 reviews)
> Academy Award nominations: 2
> Directed by: Christopher Nolan

In this neo-noir psychological thriller, a man without the ability to form new memories becomes obsessed with finding the people who murdered his wife and left him with anterograde amnesia.

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Source: Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

19. The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
> IMDb user rating: 8.1/10 (30,166 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 91% (11,972 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100% (37 reviews)
> Academy Award nominations: 0
> Directed by: Ernst Lubitsch

Based on the Hungarian play “Parfumerie” (which also inspired the modern film “You’ve Got Mail”), this romantic comedy follows two co-workers who can barely stand each other in person but fall in love with anonymous penpals – who, of course, turn out to be each other.

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

18. The Princess Bride (1987)
> IMDb user rating: 8.1/10 (408,278 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 94% (527,843 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 97% (78 reviews)
> Academy Award nominations: 1
> Directed by: Rob Reiner

This cult classic takes the form of a tale that a grandfather reads to his sick grandson. In the storybook, a handsome and adventurous young swordsman attempts to rescue his true love from a forced marriage to an arrogant prince.

Source: Courtesy of United Artists

17. The Great Dictator (1940)
> IMDb user rating: 8.4/10 (213,266 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 95% (43,757 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 93% (45 reviews)
> Academy Award nominations: 5
> Directed by: Charles Chaplin

The first film with sound from silent filmmaker Charlie Chaplin, this satirical comedy/drama was a critique of rising fascism and antisemitism in Europe. Chaplin stars as both a fascist dictator and an oppressed Jewish barber.

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Source: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment

16. Before Sunrise (1995)
> IMDb user rating: 8.1/10 (286,974 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 93% (73,661 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100% (46 reviews)
> Academy Award nominations: 0
> Directed by: Richard Linklater

This romantic drama concerns two young train travelers who connect on a trip from Budapest to Vienna and decide to spend a single night together before they go their separate ways in the morning.

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

15. Make Way for Tomorrow (1937)
> IMDb user rating: 8.2/10 (8,028 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 92% (908 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100% (20 reviews)
> Academy Award nominations: 0
> Directed by: Leo McCarey

This heartrending family drama depicts the struggles of an elderly couple who lose their home to foreclosure and end up living hundreds of miles apart when not one of their five children will consent to taking in both parents.

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Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

14. Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
> IMDb user rating: 8.3/10 (649,300 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 98% (25,000 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 93% (411 reviews)
> Academy Award nominations: 1
> Directed by: Jon Watts

The latest Spider-Man movie brings in Doctor Who, after Peter Parker’s identity is revealed and he calls on the time traveler to help him conceal it once again. However, the spell goes wrong and leads to a crack in the multiverse.

Source: Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

13. North by Northwest (1959)
> IMDb user rating: 8.3/10 (312,200 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 94% (79,896 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 97% (109 reviews)
> Academy Award nominations: 3
> Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock

When an innocent businessman is mistaken for a government agent, a group of foreign spies attempt to stage his death, frame him for murder, and pursue him across the country. He finally meets a woman who agrees to help him, but even she may not be who she appears.

Source: Courtesy of United Artists

12. Paths of Glory (1957)
> IMDb user rating: 8.4/10 (199,155 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 95% (35,412 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 95% (62 reviews)
> Academy Award nominations: 0
> Directed by: Stanley Kubrick

An anti-war film set in WWI, “Paths of Glory” depicts a group of soldiers who refuse to go through with a suicide mission and are subsequently court-martialed for cowardice, while their commanding officer attempts to defend them.

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Source: Courtesy of United Artists

11. The Gold Rush (1942)
> IMDb user rating: 8.2/10 (106,473 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 93% (20,591 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100% (50 reviews)
> Academy Award nominations: 2
> Directed by: Charles Chaplin

This silent comedy follows an 1890s gold prospector in the Klondike as he forms an uneasy alliance with some nefarious characters, battles the elements in search of fortune, and tries to win over a beautiful dance hall girl.

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

10. Double Indemnity (1944)
> IMDb user rating: 8.3/10 (150,031 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 95% (35,812 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 97% (92 reviews)
> Academy Award nominations: 7
> Directed by: Billy Wilder

When an insurance salesman meets the alluring wife of one of his clients, he allows himself to be roped into a murderous plot. His colleague and best friend, however, grows suspicious of their client’s apparently accidental death.

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Source: Courtesy of RKO Radio Pictures

9. It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
> IMDb user rating: 8.6/10 (422,428 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 95% (219,179 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 94% (87 reviews)
> Academy Award nominations: 5
> Directed by: Frank Capra

In this Christmas fantasy film, a kind-hearted businessman who has given up his dreams in order to serve his community attempts suicide on Christmas Eve. Only the love and prayers of his wife and family can save him – in the form of a guardian angel.

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

8. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
> IMDb user rating: 8.4/10 (467,737 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 94% (209,644 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 98% (92 reviews)
> Academy Award nominations: 4
> Directed by: Stanley Kubrick

This black comedy follows the frantic efforts of a slew of politicians and military officers who attempt to prevent nuclear war by calling off an imminent bombing that was ordered by a psychopathic general.

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

7. Psycho (1960)
> IMDb user rating: 8.5/10 (630,728 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 95% (240,418 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 96% (104 reviews)
> Academy Award nominations: 4
> Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock

A quintessential horror film whose shower scene is one of the most infamous moments in cinematic history, “Psycho” depicts the unfortunate fate of a woman on the run with stolen cash as she stops at a small motel and meets its polite but eerie proprietor.

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Source: Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

6. Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
> IMDb user rating: 8.3/10 (228,668 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 95% (138,714 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100% (67 reviews)
> Academy Award nominations: 2
> Directed by: Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly

Set in 1920s Hollywood during the transition from silent to talking films, this musical follows a silent film star as he attempts his first talking picture and falls in love with an ambitious chorus girl who provides the voice for his obnoxious screen partner.

Source: Courtesy of Fathom Events

5. Rear Window (1954)
> IMDb user rating: 8.5/10 (465,467 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 95% (151,019 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 98% (122 reviews)
> Academy Award nominations: 4
> Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock

This mystery thriller concerns a wheelchair-bound photographer in New York City who secretly watches his neighbors through his apartment window to pass the time, and begins to suspect that one of them has murdered his wife.

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Source: Courtesy of United Artists

4. Modern Times (1936)
> IMDb user rating: 8.5/10 (228,754 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 95% (40,314 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 98% (108 reviews)
> Academy Award nominations: 0
> Directed by: Charles Chaplin

Both a satirical black comedy and a romance, this film follows Chaplin’s tramp character as he struggles to adapt to industrialization, ends up in a mental institution, is mistaken for a communist, and attempts to keep a homeless girl from going to prison.

Source: Courtesy of United Artists

3. Witness for the Prosecution (1957)
> IMDb user rating: 8.4/10 (116,454 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 95% (9,011 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100% (33 reviews)
> Academy Award nominations: 6
> Directed by: Billy Wilder

A legal drama with elements of noir and black comedy, this film, based on an Agatha Christie novel, follows an ailing lawyer as he takes on a client accused of murder, while the client’s wife takes the stand against her own husband.

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

2. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
> IMDb user rating: 9.3/10 (2,465,102 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 98% (887,061 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 91% (77 reviews)
> Academy Award nominations: 7
> Directed by: Frank Darabont

Based on a novella by Stephen King, this film portrays the incarceration of banker Andy Dufresne for two murders he didn’t commit, highlighting the friendships and choices that keep him afloat as he serves his sentence.

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Source: Courtesy of United Artists

1. 12 Angry Men (1957)
> IMDb user rating: 9.0/10 (702,293 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 97% (105,515 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100% (55 reviews)
> Academy Award nominations: 3
> Directed by: Sidney Lumet

When a teenager is tried for murdering his father in a cut and dried case, a single juror votes “not guilty” while urging the others to take their time, exercise caution, and analyze their own prejudices before condemning the youth to death.

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