Oscar Who? 14 Movies You Won't Believe Won Academy Awards
Some of them have fallen into obscurity long ago, and an Oscar didn’t help.
1. "Suicide Squad" (2016)
Yes, you read that right. The critically panned "Suicide Squad" won an Academy Award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling. This band of misfit antiheroes, led by the likes of Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and Deadshot (Will Smith), are employed by a secret government agency for dangerous missions.
Despite its star-studded cast and flashy costumes, the film was lambasted for its convoluted plot and overstuffed character roster. To add to the irony, it beat out "Star Trek: Beyond" for the Oscar in Best Makeup category, which many found questionable. Still, the thought of the phrase "Academy Award-winning movie Suicide Squad" is enough to tickle your funny bone.
2. "The Greatest Show on Earth" (1952)
"The Greatest Show on Earth" could also vie for the title of "The Greatest Shocker at the Oscars." Despite its lackluster plot surrounding circus life, this film managed to win Best Picture. Critics have been scratching their heads over this decision for decades.
Though the film was praised for its circus spectacle, its story was as thin as a tightrope walker's balance beam. It's also often overlooked in Cecil B. DeMille's filmography, making its Best Picture win a real high wire act. It holds a 44% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, making it the lowest-rated Best Picture winner on the site.
3. "Cavalcade" (1933)
"Cavalcade" is one of those films that, unless you're a true cinephile, might make you say, "Caval-what now?" The film depicts the life and times of two English families from New Year's Eve 1899 to New Year's Day 1933. While it sounds like an interesting concept, the execution was more tedious than a long-winded Oscar acceptance speech.
Despite its lack of contemporary recognition, it somehow snagged the Best Picture award in 1933. It's one of those rare Oscar-winning films that have faded into relative obscurity, making its win a real head-scratcher.
4. "The Broadway Melody" (1929)
Here we have the first sound film to win Best Picture, "The Broadway Melody," a film that's about as memorable as the third verse of a Broadway show tune. The plot follows two sisters who travel to New York City to make it big on Broadway. While this may seem like standard movie fare today, it was a novelty in the early sound era. Despite its historical significance, the film suffers from a threadbare plot and amateurish acting. Still, it danced its way to an Oscar win in 1929.
5. "The Towering Inferno" (1974)
A star-studded disaster flick about a fire in the world's tallest skyscraper, "The Towering Inferno" was a hot ticket item in the mid-70s. Despite its outlandish premise and melodramatic plot, it won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography. To make matters even more baffling, it beat out "Chinatown," a film now considered one of the greatest ever made. It seems the Academy had a real burning desire for this over-the-top spectacle.
6. "Around the World in 80 Days" (1956)
Based on the Jules Verne novel, "Around the World in 80 Days" involves an Englishman named Phileas Fogg (David Niven) who wagers he can circumnavigate the globe in 80 days, with the bet driving the entire plot. Despite its sprawling narrative and globe-trotting adventure, many found the film more dull than its exciting premise promised.
Its spectacular visuals seemed to serve as a mask for its lack of a compelling storyline and dimensional characters. Still, the Academy was wowed by its grandiosity, awarding it Best Picture over films with more complex narratives.
7. "Cimarron" (1931)
"Cimarron," based on the Edna Ferber novel, follows the life of Yancey Cravat (Richard Dix), a newspaper editor who settles in Oklahoma during the 1893 land rush. The film is widely criticized for its slow pacing, wooden acting, and jumbled plot.
It moves haphazardly between Yancey's heroics, his familial struggles, and the socio-political landscape of the time. It feels like an uneasy mishmash of a western, family drama, and societal commentary, leaving viewers more confused than a cowboy in a city slicker bar. Regardless, it won the Academy Award for Best Picture.
8. "The Robe" (1953)
"The Robe" takes us into the Biblical era. It revolves around a Roman tribune, Marcellus Gallio (Richard Burton), who wins Christ's robe during a dice game at the crucifixion, leading to life-changing events. While the film deserves credit for being the first movie released in the widescreen process CinemaScope, the plot doesn't hold up as well. Despite its religious significance and grand spectacle, the narrative often gets bogged down by melodrama, making it more tedious than inspiring. But hey, it still won two Oscars.
9. "The King's Speech" (2010)
While not inherently bad, "The King's Speech" is another Best Picture winner that many find puzzling. The film follows King George VI (Colin Firth) as he attempts to overcome his stammer with the help of an Australian speech therapist. It's a film filled with long scenes of Firth and Geoffrey Rush (the therapist) talking, making it seem like a highly decorated therapy session. Many argue that its Best Picture win was more due to the Academy's fondness for British royalty than its overall quality.
10. "Crash" (2004)
"Crash" might be the most contentious Best Picture winner in recent memory. It tells the interconnected stories of several characters in Los Angeles, dealing with themes of racial tension. While the premise is intriguing, the execution was heavy-handed and often stereotypical. It's like the filmmaker was trying to make a nuanced point with a sledgehammer, making the plot feel forced and preachy. Despite these criticisms, it shockingly beat out "Brokeback Mountain" for Best Picture.
11. "Gladiator" (2000)
"Gladiator" is a spectacle of blood, sweat, and Russell Crowe shouting, "Are you not entertained?" It follows the story of Maximus (Crowe), a Roman General who is betrayed, turned into a slave, and must fight as a gladiator. The film is high on action and melodrama, but the plot was described by some critics as a rehashed revenge saga.
Despite these criticisms, the movie was a commercial hit, earning over $457 million worldwide. It won Best Picture and holds a solid 76% on Rotten Tomatoes, which might make you wonder, did the spectacle overshadow the storyline?
12. "The Artist" (2011)
"The Artist" is a black and white, largely silent film that pays tribute to the golden age of Hollywood. It's about George Valentin, a silent movie star whose career takes a nosedive with the advent of talking pictures. While the film has an intriguing premise and certainly exudes nostalgia, its plot is essentially a simple rags-to-riches-to-rags (and back to riches) story.
The film was a critical darling, boasting a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and it won Best Picture, leaving some people wondering if the Academy was simply charmed by its nostalgia and novelty.
13. "Chicago" (2002)
"Chicago," a tale of crime, scandal, and razzle-dazzle, tells the story of Roxie Hart (Renée Zellweger), a murderess who gains fame in 1920s Chicago. The plot, however, often seems secondary to the song-and-dance numbers. It's a flashy film that captivates with its glitz and glamour but doesn't deliver much in terms of a compelling narrative. Despite this, it raked in over $306 million at the box office and won Best Picture, making it the first musical to win the award in 34 years.
14. "Driving Miss Daisy" (1989)
"Driving Miss Daisy" is about the decades-long friendship between an elderly Jewish woman, Daisy Werthan (Jessica Tandy), and her African-American chauffeur, Hoke (Morgan Freeman) in the American South. The film was criticized for its slow pacing and a plot that seemed to tiptoe around the racial issues of the time.
Despite the lukewarm reviews, it was a box office success, grossing over $145 million, and won Best Picture. It currently holds a 82% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, even though many argue it lacks the depth and subtlety required of a Best Picture winner.