Earlier this week, I clocked which Best Pictures winners most shook up the Academy system. The antithesis to those game changers, as it were, are the least deserving winners of the top prize.
Now, please keep in mind that I’m not necessarily saying all of these films are horrible –in fact, most are rather solid – I’m simply stating that, given their competition, in no way did they deserve to win. I hope you enjoy my picks, and please feel free to list some of your own in the comments!
Other nominees: Decision Before Dawn, A Place in the Sun, Quo Vadis, A Streetcar Named Desire
Okay, now, admittedly, musicals aren’t my thing. I understand that An American in Paris is a milestone of American musical films, but there’s simply no argument out there that can convince me it is better than A Place in the Sun or A Streetcar Named Desire. Granted, both of those flicks were edgy for their time (hell, they’re edgy now), so I can understand why they lost out. But that doesn't necessarily make it okay.
The Sting (1973)
Other nominees: American Graffiti, Cries and Whispers, The Exorcist, A Touch of Glass
The Sting is by far my favorite film on this list, so, again, don’t take this as a dig against George Roy Hill’s endlessly entertaining con artist thriller. But is it as revelatory as American Graffiti, or bold as The Exorcist, or as fucking perfect as Cries and Whispers? Nah.
Other nominees: All the President’s Men, Bound for Glory, Network, Taxi Driver
I dig Rocky’s earnestness, but when you stack it up against two flawless features (Network, All the President’s Men) and Taxi Driver, the tell all to end all of films, then Rocky’s win simply is not justified.
Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
Other nominees: Born on the Fourth of July, Dead Poets Society, Field of Dreams, My Left Foot
I respect the overt sentimentality of Dead Poets Society and Field of Dreams (both of which are extremely rewatchable, I might add), and I love the heavy-handedness of Born on the Fourth of July and My Left Foot. These are four solid-to-remarkable films. Driving Miss Daisy is something you watch once in your eighth grade civics class. That’s enough.
Dances with Wolves (1990)
Other nominees: Awakenings, Ghost, The Godfather Part III, GoodFellas
I’m no fan of Dances with Wolves. I think it is long, inaccurate and just plain boring. And while I appreciate the people do indeed enjoy it, come on now, we’re talking about GoodFellas. Let me put this another way: when was the last time you watched Dances with Wolves? When was the last time you watched GoodFellas? Yup.
The English Patient (1996)
Other nominees: Fargo, Jerry Maguire, Secrets & Lies, Shine
There was no reason for The English Patient to not win. It’s sprawling, huge, and genuinely good. I get that. But still… taking into account the vividness of Fargo, the heart of Jerry Maguire and the honesty of Secrets & Lies, I can’t stand behind The English Patient here.
Shakespeare in Love (1998)
Other nominees: Elizabeth, Life is Beautiful, Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line
Shakespeare in Love is the least deserving Best Picture winner of all time. By now it’s common knowledge that Bob and Harvey Weinstein all but bought this award by sending voters lavish gifts, a practice that has now been banned. So, yeah, they won it, but did they really win it?
A Beautiful Mind (2001)
Other nominees: Gosford Park, In the Bedroom, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the King, Moulin Rouge!
This might be the one time I am able to side with Lord of the Rings fans. Now, do I think The Fellowship of the Ring is a better film then A Beautiful Mind? My god no. But many (…most?) people do. Do I think A Beautiful Mind is better than the other three nominated films? Not a chance.
Other nominees: Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Good Night, and Good Luck, Munich
I lied. Crash is the least deserving Best Picture winner of all time. I could go on, but I’m done talking about this movie’s win.
The King’s Speech (2010)
Other nominees: Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, 127 Hours, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter’s Bone
From the moment I first saw The King’s Speech, I considered it nothing more than a glorified HBO movie. And that’s no insult – HBO cooks out quality films, but are the Best Picture worthy? Not in my mind. Every actor involved here is nothing short of superb, sure, but the movie is dull, especially when lined up with its competition.