It’s an honor just to be nominated when you’re talking about the Academy Award for best picture, among the most sought-after prizes in popular culture.
But you might be surprised at some of the films that are considered among the greatest in film history but which were not nominated for the best picture Oscar in the year that they were released.
2019 OSCARS: See the nominees for the 91st Academy Awards in a gallery at the end of this story
In continuing a game we’ve been playing for several years, I’ve gathered a selection of local “movie experts” and polled them: From a collection of movies now considered classics — but none of which were nominated for best picture — which are the best, or your favorites, that should have been up for an Academy Award?
Here’s how I formed that collection: The American Film Institute has on two occasions released a list of the 100 greatest American movies. Of that 100, there were 22 movies that were never nominated for the best-picture Oscar. Of course, there are other movies that people might add as overlooked classics, but I kept it to the AFI list.
With one exception: I did add “The Dark Knight” — the 2008 film that, when it was not nominated for best picture, pushed the Academy to expand its nominees in the best-picture category beyond five each year to as many as 10 annually.
Each voter then ranked those 23 films, and these are the results of the eight people’s voting, plus a few of their comments.
Bottom line: Several great movies of the 1950s were overlooked, and Alfred Hitchcock did not receive his due from the Academy.
1. “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968)
Stanley Kubrick had three films nominated for Oscar’s top trophy but not the film that most consider his greatest creation. The best-picture Academy Award in 1968 went to the musical “Oliver!”
Huston: “Groundbreaking in literally every way. Then, for good measure, it’s also a profound meditation on our place in the universe.”
Wiens: “After 50 years, whether forecasting 2001 or 2019, it was right on.”
Chitwood: “A true, wildly influential cinematic achievement if there ever was one, and the Academy completely whiffed it.”
Hermann: explaining the troubled times of 1968 in the U.S.A., “’Oliver’ was a feel-good movie about innocence and evil in which the former largely wins out (while) ‘2001’ was too artsy and esoteric for most back then.”
2. “Rear Window” (1954)
“Master of suspense” Alfred Hitchcock was nominated for best director five times but never won, and three of the top five films on this list are classics of his that were not nominated for best picture. This year’s best-picture winner was “On the Waterfront.”
Brown: “Storytelling through style....so much is unsaid, but we’re satisfied as voyeurs.”
LaFevers: “The star power, the Edith Head costumes, the intrigue.”
Wiens: “Every time I watch it, it feels like Oscar to me.”
3. “Singin’ in the Rain” (1952)
The musical classic was nominated for two Academy Awards, winning none, while the best-picture Oscar was given to “The Greatest Show on Earth,” often regarded among the Academy’s most unworthy winners ever.
Brown: “The blueprint for the perfect musical.”
Chitwood: on its revered stature today, “Yet another example of quality winning out in the end.”
Huston: “Feats of athletic artistry elevated its mix of song, dance, comedy, romance and satire to a landmark peak. This will always remain the standard bearer for the movie musical.”
Wiens: “It may be raining in the film, but it brightens my day to watch Gene Kelly.”
4. “Vertigo” (1958)
It’s Hitchcock again with this thriller that has grown in stature over the decades more than any other in his collection. The musical “Gigi” took home the best-picture win among nine Oscars.
Brown: “A snub for the ages. Maybe it’s because Alfred Hitchcock makes his audiences so uncomfortable.”
Chitwood: “This is actually a scenario in which the best-picture snub makes sense. ‘Vertigo’ was not well-reviewed at the time and only gained a critical re-appreciation (later). It’s now hailed as one of the greatest movies ever made.”
5. “North by Northwest” (1959)
One of Hitchcock’s most beloved movies was nominated for three Oscars but not best picture. That prize went to “Ben-Hur.”
Hermann: “The omission of the Hitchcock movies in the awards race is a mystery. Each is a masterpiece.”
Chitwood: “The Oscars apparently have a history of ignoring popular movies!”
6. “The Searchers” (1956)
There were no Oscar nominations for this John Ford-John Wayne Western masterpiece. The winner of best picture: “Around the World in 80 Days.”
Huston: “The best Western ever made.”
7. “Do the Right Thing” (1989)
Spike Lee’s powerful comedy-drama about race received two Oscar nominations but not for best picture, an award that “Driving Miss Daisy” took home.
Wright: “(It) came barreling on the cultural scene, taking up the fractures of those times (and these times) by focusing on a microcosm, a block in Brooklyn, to reflect the larger world.”
Huston: “Many great films have explored slavery, segregation and the effects of racism throughout our nation’s history. A legitimate argument could be made that Spike Lee’s incendiary, comic and grieving masterpiece is the greatest of them all.”
Chitwood: on it not being nominated, and on “Driving Miss Daisy” winning: “Three decades later, which film are people still talking about?”
8. “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977)
Steven Spielberg’s influential science-fiction movie received eight Oscar nominations, but it wasn’t going to receive a best-picture nomination in the same year as “Star Wars,” especially when sci-fi movies were almost never nominated for the top honor.
9. “Some Like It Hot” (1959)
The gender-bending comedy won an Oscar for costumes but no best-picture nod; the prize went to “Ben-Hur.”
Wright: “Brilliant script, phenomenal cast and one of the best final lines of all time.”
10. “The Dark Knight” (2008)
The comic-book movie whose lack of a best-picture nomination forced the Academy to make a change did win two Oscars, including Heath Ledger’s posthumous acting award. “Slumdog Millionaire” won best picture.
Chitwood: “An embarrassing snub, and even with the category changes it took the Academy another decade to actually nominate a superhero movie for best picture.”
Hermann: “I think the film came along before comic-book heroes turned the page on what could be considered ‘best movie’ material. We get it now. It is legendary.”
Brown: Nolan’s film “redefined the genre.”
11. “The Manchurian Candidate” (1962)
The Cold War thriller was not a best-picture nominee in a year that “Lawrence of Arabia” won it all.
Hermann: “It’s one of those films that is a set piece of an era. It’s the kind of film I love where the stakes are huge, the clock is ticking, and danger lurks at every turn.”
Huston: “Every political paranoia thriller owes a debt to this one.”
12. “Blade Runner” (1982)
Ridley Scott’s sci-fi creation was not nominated for best picture in a year that “Gandhi” took home the top award.
13. “Spartacus” (1960)
The Roman-slave drama won four Oscars but no nod for best picture, won by “The Apartment.”
14. “Easy Rider” (1969)
The Dennis Hopper-Peter Fonda counterculture favorite earned the pair a screenplay nomination but not best picture, won by “Midnight Cowboy.”
15. “Rebel Without a Cause” (1955)
This teen drama starring James Dean received three Oscar nominations but not for best picture, won by “Marty.”
16. “King Kong” (1933)
The giant-ape adventure was totally overlooked by the Oscars in a year that historical epic “Cavalcade” took home best picture.
17. “The Third Man” (1949)
The wartime mystery won the Oscar for cinematography but did not rate among five best-picture nominees in a year won by “All the King’s Men.”
18. “Frankenstein” (1931)
The horror masterpiece was not among eight best-picture nominees, with “Grand Hotel” the winner.
19. “The Wild Bunch” (1969)
Director Sam Peckinpah’s violent Western, co-starring Oklahoma actor Ben Johnson, was not among the five films nominated for best picture, won by “Midnight Cowboy.”
20. “Bringing Up Baby” (1938)
The screwball comedy classic was ignored at the Oscars, where “You Can’t Take It With You” won among 10 best-picture nominees.
21. “Sullivan’s Travels” (1941)
Filmmaker Preston Sturges’ comedy received no Oscar nominations in a year with 10 best-picture choices, with “How Green Was My Valley” the winner.
22. “Duck Soup” (1933)
The Marx Bros. comedy received no Oscar nominations in this year with 10 best-picture nominees and “Cavalcade” on top.
23. “Modern Times” (1936)
The Charlie Chaplin marvel received no Oscar nominations. There were 10 best-picture nominees, with “The Great Ziegfeld” taking the prize.
Photos: See the nominees for the 91st Academy Awards
The nominees for the 91st annual Academy Awards, which were announced Jan. 22 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, California: