Many people think the Oscars are the pinnacle of filmmaking and the best way to determine what the best films in a given year were, but that’s not always true. Film is very subjective, just like all art is.
But just because a movie is voted the winner of best movie, does not mean that it necessarily deserves it. Fans may be surprised at how many winners of best films got pretty low scores on Rotten Tomatoes. From forgotten black-and-white films to overly celebrated cinematic excursions, these are some of the worst films to have received an Oscar nomination for Best Picture.
Updated March 29, 2022 by Tanner Fox: Another Oscar award has come and gone, and although the previous year represented something of a recovery after the tough run that was 2020, most of the interest stemmed from a quarrel on stage that took place between host Chris Rock and the winner of Best male lead Will Smith.
Of course while The Oscars in 2022 may not be remembered for the right reasons, things could certainly be worse. In the past, lots of pretentious, unworthy films were nominated for one of Hollywood’s most prestigious awards, with some of them almost coming off with a dubiously deserved victory.
15 Crash (2004) – 74%
To this day, many people do not understand why Crash won best film considering that it took several missteps in its exploration of race, class, and gender in Los Angeles. But despite the many controversies surrounding it, Crash managed a pretty respectable Rotten Tomatoes score.
Many feel that this is one of the worst winners of best film ever and were sad that it turned out Brokeback Mountain, which is what competes against. It was popular enough to get a short-lived TV series on Starz.
14 Gentlemen’s Agreement (1947) – 74%
This 1947 film starred Gregory Peck as a journalist named Phil Green. He makes it his goal to take on a new task with a focus on uncovering anti-Semitism for a remarkable magazine. To try to get the right perspective, Gregory pretends to be a Jew so he can understand what they are experiencing in their daily lives from the great people of the city.
But when he falls in love with a woman, his life becomes even more complicated. The film won three Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actress for Elia Kazan, but it only managed to get an approval rating of 74% on Rotten Tomatoes.
13 Around the World in 80 Days (1956) – 72%
Around the world in 80 days won five Oscars and was popular enough to be remade in 2004. The film followed a young Englishman named Phileas Fogg. Fogg promises that he can travel around the globe in under 80 days.
When he actually manages to begin his journey, he is followed by a police inspector who thinks Fogg is fooling everyone. But some critics felt that although the film was funny and had an excellent cast, the performance helped cover up the weak points in the film’s script.
12 Forrest Gump (1994) – 70%
Considering how beloved Tom Hanks was in the 1990s and how praised the film would beit might surprise fans to know that Forest gump only rated at 70% on Rotten Tomatoes and did not even achieve Certified Fresh score. Despite the lukewarm initial critical reception, Forrest Gump was the second highest earner in 1994.
It also won several other Oscars along with Best Picture, including Best Male Lead for Hanks. Decades after release, people still like to discuss, about Forrest Gump is really a masterpiece, or if it has become seriously overhyped.
11 Joker (2019) – 68%
A disturbingly authentic comic book origin story from 2019 Joker tells the story of Arthur Fleck, a stubborn outcast, desperate to find his way in a joyless and depressing Arkham City. Eventually, his inner demons manifest themselves in murderous hostility as he inadvertently triggers a violent uprising against the city’s top socialites.
Shocking, moody and surprisingly grounded considering its source material, Joker was a hit when it debuted in 2019, but critics found it was too far removed from the otherwise approachable DC award, and its mixed political messages irritated and confused many.
10 The Great Ziegfeld (1936) – 66%
Given the title, it is fitting that this film follows the true story of Florenz Ziegfeld, a talented theater producer who became world famous in the 1920s for his glasses on stage. He had a great love for women and often cast a large number of them in his shows.
He was also involved in a famous love triangle. That said, the film had some controversy at the time of release due to the portrayal of Farida Mahzar. The film was considered a good example of Hollywood’s golden age when it was first released, but it has since lost some of its luster in the eyes of many.
9 The Blind Side (2009) – 66%
Based on the true story of former NFL player Michael Oher, The blind side was a sentimental tale that saw an underprivileged youth excel as a sports star with the help of an altruistic family. Although it was celebrated as an absolutely fantastic feel-good film, modern introspection has not been kind to the film’s incredible dependence on artificial sentimentality.
Eager to appear uplifting and emotionally charged, some critics claimed that the Sandra Bullock vehicle overplayed her hand and turned into an adventure that was originally a very gloomy story.
8 Cavalcade (1933) – 63%
Two couples from opposing classes, one upper class and the other working class, experience their friendships and love life on trial as World War I breaks out and they struggle to find a middle ground. Calvacade is an epic pre-Code drama produced in black and white, and it is still considered a classic to this day.
Although the film was well received, it is surprising to see that its Rotten Tomatoes score is closer to the mid-range than the exceptional. Not only did the film win best film, it also won best director and best art direction.
7 Bohemian Rhapsody (2019) – 60%
Representing the life of famous Queen frontman Freddie Mercury on the screen was no small task, and though many felt that 2019’s Bohemian Rhapsody capturing the magic of the band’s music, some critics argued that it did not dive deep enough into the background of its leading character.
While protagonist Rami Malek certainly saw the role, fans quarreled over the authenticity of his performance, and some seem to believe that the film failed to portray Mercury in the right light.
6 Out of Africa (1985) – 58%
Meryl Streep and Robert Redford fall in love with this epic romantic drama which revolves around the character of Streep, a wealthy and aristocratic woman who finds herself having to make a crucial choice between a life of lavish comfort and true love.
Despite critics agreeing that both Streep’s and Redford’s performances were unique, many of them felt that the film was a slow pace and far too long. Yet there are just as many people who feel it Out of Africa is one of the defining romantic movies, on par with classics like Titanic and Casablanca.
5 Cimarron (1931) – 52%
Despite its medium-sized reviews, Cimarron won the top prize at the Oscars and remains one of the few Western films to have achieved that victory. It follows the story of a newspaper editor who convinces his wife to join him in Oklahoma.
But when they arrive, he feels inclined to go further west, and the two remain tied to the territory until Oklahoma finally becomes an official state. Cimarron was based on the Edna Ferber novel of the same name and is considered one of the most influential western films ever made.
4 Alibi (1929) – 50%
When the daughter of a police chief marries a gang king in secret, she is forced to lead a secret life as she covers for her husband’s crimes. Nominated for best film almost a century ago, Alibi is a strange movie that does not hold anything at all.
Debuted at the end of the silent film era, Alibi was shot again for sound, resulting in incoherent line delivery and some noticeably off-kilter performance. Few would consider it a classic film, but it represents an interesting period in film production where Hollywood history buffs may be interested.
3 Extremely high and incredibly close (2011) – 45%
An adaptation of a novel from 2005, Extremely loud and incredibly close deals with Oskar Schell, a young boy struggling to cope with Aspberger’s syndrome. His father works to help him improve his social skills, but when he is killed during the September 11 attacks, Oskar is left stubborn, confused and upset.
Although the novel on which it was based is still enjoyed by many, critics wrote off Extremely loud and incredibly close as a self-evident example of Oscar bait. Emotionally exploitative and unnecessarily long, it has since gone down as one of the worst best film-nominated films of the last two decades.
2 The Greatest Show On Earth (1952) – 43%
Completely separated from The greatest showman, the musical starring Zac Efron and Hugh Jackman, this 1952 film had a similar story, though it eventually received less than favorable reviews. It took the audience behind the scenes of the amazing Ringling Brothers.
Despite its dazzling spectacle, only the film managed to obtain an approval rating of 43% from the review aggregator. It won best film, and it also won best story. Steve Spielberg credits the film as one of the films that has had the greatest impact on his career.
1 The Broadway Melody (1929) – 36%
The Broadway tunes is about the Vaudeville sisters Queenie and “Hank,” who take their action to Broadway in hopes of chasing fame and fortune. But what begins as a glittering showstopper succumbs to a bad romantic subplot in which the two women both find themselves in love with the same man.
Modern reviews have been friendlier to the film, while the original reviews were mixed. Many believed that the story itself was basic, but that it was enhanced by the style of instruction and excellent performance of the cast.
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