The Worst Movies That Won Oscars

A lot of movies have won Oscars throughout the history of the Academy Awards, but just because a movie takes home a golden statue, doesn’t mean that it’s good. The Academy is very into a certain type of movie, so even some mediocre films have won an Oscar or two. These are the worst movies to win Oscars.



The Academy Awards are the ultimate symbol of quality in the film world. Or at least, they’re the most popular symbol of quality. Your parents know what an Oscar is, but they’re probably less familiar with fancy international film festivals that give out prestigious awards such as Cannes or Telluride. If a movie wins an Oscar, it’s a big deal, especially if it’s Best Picture, which often denotes what is, definitively, the best movie of that specific year. People tend to have opinions about what should win Best Picture, to say the least.

There are entire websites devoted to betting on which movies will win which awards, and numerous culture sites publish their own predictions to get in on the Oscar race. It's not that hard to guess which movies will win Oscars, though sometimes there are surprises. Sometimes, even the Oscars don't get it right. More often than not, movies that are usually pretty good go home with gold, sometimes, movies that are pretty bad go home with gold! Yes, subjectivity is everything, folks, which is why Suicide Squad somehow has an Oscar. You don’t know what it won it for, but you do know that it probably doesn’t deserve it.

While more often than not, movies that are usually pretty good go home with gold, sometimes, movies that are pretty bad go home with gold! Yes, subjectivity is everything, folks, which is why Suicide Squad somehow has an Oscar. You don’t know what it won it for, but you do know that it probably doesn’t deserve it.

Of course, there are a lot of bad movies that have won Oscars. The Academy is often biased towards certain types of movies, known as “Oscar bait.” There are several types of Oscar bait, the types of movies you always see winning awards: devastating family dramas, war movies, any movie with Meryl Streep in a lead role that doesn’t have her singing ABBA songs. These movies are usually good, not great, but the Academy will often be moved to nominate these movies despite their actual quality, sadly, and often ignore more innovative films by doing so.

Recently we’ve seen the Academy begin to actually nominate more innovative and interesting films, such as Get Out, Arrival, and Mad Max: Fury Road. But as always, there’s Oscar bait (and worse) nominated, sometimes even winning awards while more worthy films are snubbed. Here are the worst movies to win Oscars.

Life is Beautiful (1997)

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Awards won: Best Foreign Language Film, Best Actor (Roberto Benigni), Best Original Score

Call it the Forrest Gump effect: Life Is Beautiful was critically acclaimed and universally beloved at the time of its release, but watching it again now, one can’t help but marvel at how emotionally manipulative it actually is. If anything, this movie is actually worse than Forrest Gump in that respect, because at least that movie didn’t mine humor out of Forrest in a concentration camp. 

The actual plot of this movie revolves around a man named Guido (played by Roberto Benigni, in an Oscar-winning performance) courting a married woman in 1930s Italy, marrying her and having a son, and then years later the entire family being sent to a concentration camp, where Guido lies to his son and tells him they’re actually all playing a game where the prize is a tank(!?). The movie ends up being an uncomfortable mix of slapstick comedy and drama as Benigni does his worst Chaplin impression while the actual Holocaust happens. Life Is Beautiful is the worst kind of emotional porn: it goes for the easiest laughs and the easiest emotion by attempting (and ultimately failing) to depict a historical atrocity.

The Artist (2011)

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Awards won: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Jean Dujardin), Best Costume Design, Best Original Score

You remember The Artist—it was in black and white and completely silent. You remember how awkward the silences were in the theater or in your living room. You probably remember the cute dog in it, too. You definitely don’t remember anything else about this movie, but it won Best Picture! This is a perfectly fine movie with a perfectly fine gimmick, but I don’t think anyone thought that this was the best movie to come out in 2011, the same year as movies like The Tree of Life, Bridesmaids, and Midnight In Paris. This movie also exposes a major bias that the Academy has: rewarding movies that are about how great movies are. Given that it’s essentially a love letter to silent cinema, it’s no surprise that this won Best Picture. But this was the 2012 Oscars—they definitely made up for it the next year, and didn’t go for an easy crowd pleaser about how movies are the best, right?

American Sniper (2014)

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Awards Won: Best Sound Editing

Clint Eastwood is very divisive as a director. The consensus on most of his work is pretty split, with most critics unsure if he’s our greatest director of the tragedy of masculinity and violence, or if he simply revels in it unironically. To some critics, American Sniper is one of his more successful interrogations of masculinity, specifically with regard to the American military. But while it’s technically impressive, it quite often feels like it’s less of a critique and more like an imperialist fairy tale. 

The movie follows real life sniper Chris Kyle (played by Bradley Cooper) as he becomes the deadliest marksman in military history during the Iraq War, and the toll this takes on his personal life. Ostensibly a critique of war, the movie portrays wartime violence as simply necessary, and its victims as irrelevant—every Iraqi killed in the movie is nameless, faceless enemy fodder. The movie also fails to properly investigate PTSD on a meaningful level; we barely get to process Kyle’s own trauma, and then the story glosses over how Kyle was killed (after returning home, he was murdered by another vet suffering from PTSD). 

American Sniper simplifies a complex mess of a war into a black and white horror that our American hero must come to terms with, much like many other Hollywood movies about the Iraq War.

Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

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Awards Won: Best Actor (Matthew McConaughey), Best Supporting Actor (Jared Leto), Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Dallas Buyers Club signaled the height of the McConnaisance, and definitely proved that Matthew McConaughey had officially made a comeback. If only it was for a better movie. McConaughey is very good in it (he’s good in most things), but he’s the only good thing in a very boring, bordering on Lifetime-quality film. The film tells the story of Ron Woodruff, an AIDS patient diagnosed in the ‘80s in a time with very little HIV/AIDS education who went on to smuggle drugs to those who needed them. The film manages to hit several cliches usually present in stories about LGBTQ people, as well as several biopic cliches. 

Questionable straightwashing of Ron Woodruff aside (he was reportedly queer himself), the movie tells the tired story of a homophobic man who learns to overcome his homophobia after becoming friends with queer people. Jared Leto’s Oscar-winning performance (setting aside the offensive practice of cis actors playing trans actors) is also garishly bad, succumbing to the very worst Hollywood stereotypes of trans characters as fragile, beauty-obsessed, tragic martyrs used to wring easy emotion out of the viewer. All of that aside, there are no dramatic beats here that aren’t present in other, better “underdog vs. the establishment” stories like Erin Brokovich or Philadelphia.

The Imitation Game (2014)

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Awards Won: Best Adapted Screenplay

The Academy loves clichéd biopics with troubling LGBTQ storylines, apparently. An extremely by-the-numbers biopic, The Imitation Game tells the story of Alan Turing, a British man who decrypted German intelligence codes for the British government during World War 2. It’s especially galling that this movie specifically won for its screenplay, which is half Benedict Cumberbatch saying “Eureka!” and half British government officials spouting typical World War II dialogue. In a bizarre choice, the fact that Turing committed suicide because of the British government’s anti-gay laws, despite his status as a war hero, is never actually portrayed in the film. Instead, there's a typical crowd pleasing ending, with the actual details of his death awkwardly explained via epilogue over said ending.

The Theory of Everything (2014)

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Awards Won: Best Actor (Eddie Redmayne)

Again with the awarding of bland biopics. Stephen Hawking was a fascinating and brilliant man, and his theories and writing were fantastical and awe-inspiring. The Theory of Everything, though, which is about his career and marriage, doesn’t bring any of these adjectives to mind. It’s, again, a standard boilerplate biopic. Admittedly, it has some beautiful cinematography, especially in its imagining of Hawking’s own beloved space, but the movie wasn’t even nominated for that. In the end, you have an okay performance from Eddie Redmayne who has—let’s face it—never been that great. Folks, all he does is pout.

Suicide Squad (2016)

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Awards Won: Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Easily the worst movie to win an Oscar in the past twenty years, Suicide Squad is god awful trash. The script feels unfinished at worst and barely thought through at best. Every single actor is wasted here, and that includes Will Smith and Viola Davis, two actors who can easily elevate any movie they’re in. Even they failed to make this movie at least appear competent. The action scenes are either rote or impossible to see, given how the dark the cinematography is (part of the DC Cinematic Universe’s ode to making all of their films figuratively and literally as dark as possible). Now, you may be thinking, “It didn’t win an Oscar for acting, directing, or even cinematography! It won for Best Makeup and Hairstyling, it must be good at that at least, right?” and you’d be somewhat right. Harley Quinn looks impressive and will influence Halloween costumes for years to come, but the makeup on literally everyone else looks pretty bad, so it didn’t even deserve that one award, especially when compared to Star Trek Beyond, which it was up against that year.

Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

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Awards Won: Best Sound Mixing, Best Film Editing

You know those clickbait ads you see that say, “This Is Why [Actor Name] NEVER Works Anymore”? Weirdly enough, you never see Mel Gibson featured in them. Mel Gibson has said many things, some anti-Semitic, some misogynistic, some racist, all bad. As a result, he didn’t direct movies for ten years, until 2016, when he made Hacksaw Ridge. Now, Mel Gibson is a bad person, but bad people can theoretically make good movies that are not representative of their awful views. Hacksaw Ridge is a bad movie that is representative of Mel Gibson’s own views. The movie is regressive, racist trash that succeeds in being a pastiche of war propaganda films.

It tells the real life story of the life of soldier Desmond Doss (played by Andrew Garfield), who has a perfect, Christian life until World War II happens, and he enlists, but as a conscientious objector, meaning he refuses to use weapons or kill anyone. The movie quickly switches from by-the-numbers melodrama to a horrific war film, showing soldiers getting murdered in increasingly violent ways as Doss attempts to survive and save others. The Japanese soldiers are described as devious and evil before they even show up and are seen to be the racist, monstrous caricatures that the American soldiers believe they are, the horror film villains to our beloved Christian hero, who “isn’t” implicit in the violence.

The movie is in love with its own violence, glorifying it and showing more blood than some horror movies that came out that year. It’s a nasty film with awful intentions, made by an awful man. Sadly, Hacksaw Ridge was critically acclaimed, and its success only marks the beginning of a career resurgence for Gibson.

Darkest Hour (2017)

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Awards Won: Best Actor (Gary Oldman), Best Makeup and Hairstyling


Gary Oldman is a very good actor. He is very bad in Darkest Hour, to the point that I sometimes refer to it as Gary Oldman’s The Nutty Professor. Casting Oldman as Winston Churchill was already a bizarre choice, given the fact that he looks nothing like him and the makeup used to make Oldman look like Churchill probably could have been used to hire an actor who actually looks like him. Beyond that, his performance doesn’t even justify the casting choice; Oldman blusters and yells in an almost unintelligibly thick British accent, but he somehow got an Oscar out of it. Kristin Scott Thomas is fine as his wife, but everyone else is instantly forgettable, besides Gary Oldman, whose performance you wish you could forget. 

Not only is the performance unintentionally hilarious, the movie itself is pretty boring, hitting all of the moments you’d expect in any movie about WWII. Ironically enough, there’s a section of the movie dedicated to the crisis in Dunkirk, the exact subject of Christopher Nolan’s infinitely more interesting film Dunkirk, which came out the same year.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

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Awards Won: Best Actress (Frances McDormand), Best Supporting Actor (Sam Rockwell)

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a divisive film to say the least. Though it opened to critical acclaim, there’s been increasing criticism towards some of the questionable aspects of the film. Sadly, everyone in it is at the top of their game: Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, and Woody Harrelson give some of their best performances, and McDormand and Rockwell received well-deserved Oscars. The problem, though, is that the movie they’re all in is terrible. Ostensibly about a mother who is desperate for police to find the person who raped and murdered her daughter (she erects the titular billboards to get their attention), the movie is shockingly moralistic, arguing that anger only begets more anger, even though the viewer almost definitely comes to identify with main character Mildred’s quite righteous anger. 

The movie also goes surprisingly easy on Sam Rockwell’s character, a terrible cop with a history of racial violence. Three Billboards is a confused movie that constantly seems to be at odds with itself thematically. The characters are contradictions themselves, at least when they’re written beyond caricature, unlike Peter Dinklage’s character, who isn’t defined beyond his status as a little person, or Mildred’s ex-husband’s girlfriend, who isn’t defined beyond “dumb and young.” It says a lot about the powerful lead performances that they seem to have distracted critics from the movie’s large faults.

The Great Gatsby (2013)

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Awards won: Best Production Design, Best Costume Design

The Great Gatsby may indeed deserve the awards that it won, but the overall quality of the film is pretty bad. In a movie all about excess, it’s no surprise that the production, costumes, and dazzling visual effects are super high budget, especially since it’s directed by Baz Luhrman. But no amount of CGI can save this film from being what it is: boring. It’s obvious that too much time and money was spent on these aspects of the film, and for this reason there is very little substance beyond the surface. 

The beginning of the film is a thrill ride of money, women, and booze, but after that, the fun dies out. Without all the bacchanalia, the movie depends on the acting, plot, and themes, which are mediocre at best. Luhrman seems to misrepresent the themes of the beloved novel, and even those who read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book five times, or perhaps even more so these people, will find this interpretation to be a let down. 

Les Miserables (2012)

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Awards won: Best Sound Mixing, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Supporting Actress (Anne Hathaway)

Musicals are known for being over the top, and Les Miserables is no exception. While Anne Hathaway’s performance was loved by the Academy, it was over-emotional and way too weepy. This whole movie is just too much: too long, too many songs (especially since Russell Crowe shouldn’t be singing at all), too much overacting, and too many showy performances with little depth. 

Tom Hooper’s interpretation of the classic musical is highly theatrical in a way that doesn’t translate well to film. The whole thing seems like a desperate attempt to make you cry, especially at the end, with one of the corniest ending shots in movie history. Unfortunately, the only reason we’re crying is because we were forced to sit through this awful film.

The Help (2011)

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Awards won: Best Supporting Actress (Octavia Spencer)

Take the white savior out of The Help and you’ve got a fine film about black housekeepers in 1960s Mississippi, struggling for acceptance and fair treatment. But then you’d also have a movie that barely tops 40-50 minutes, since director Tate Taylor’s adaptation of the 2009 best-selling novel by author Kathryn Stockett is mostly concerned with the pursuits of its main character, a young wannabe writer named Skeeter (Emma Stone).

As the film’s two central maids, Aibileen and Minny, actresses Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer give remarkable performances, but, in Hollywood’s typically limiting way, they’d both only be eligible for Best Supporting Actress. Given a handful of powerful monologues, Davis and Spencer are only allowed to emote in Stone’s presence, dictating their true stories to Skeeter for her non-fiction book.

In theory, that’s not a bad approach. But given the material, the film's decision to white-wash its narrative through the ever-dreaded “savior” character and her own uninteresting subplots (the worst of which involves the dullest of love interests), instead of using Skeeter as a framing device to delve into Aibileen’s and Minny’s pasts, becomes a cowardly failure.

The Iron Lady (2011)

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Awards won: Best Actress (Meryl Streep), Best Makeup

Of course Meryl Streep won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in last year's The Iron Lady. Why wouldn't she? She's fucking Meryl Streep. Simply casting her in a movie guarantees Oscar consideration at the least. The problem here, though, is that Streep's larger-than-life performance as the polarizing first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is just that—she dominates every single scene to the point that there are teeth marks left on the celluloid.

It's also one of the most biased, ridiculously self-serving biopics in years. Thatcher certainly has her fair share of detractors and haters, for policies that some argue promoted greed and racism towards immigrants, yet you'd never know it from The Iron Lady. Director Phyllida Lloyd's squeaky clean flick avoids confronting any of its subject's faults and opts to lazily stage one career highlight after another, usually through montages and always damaged by Streep's theatrical mannerisms.

The Wolfman (2010)

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Award won: Best Makeup

Now here's an individual award we can totally get behind. Rick Baker, Hollywood's long-winning master of practical effects, created some of the best makeup work of the last decade in The Wolfman, turning a nicely cast Benicio Del Toro into a hairy, growling, ferocious lycanthrope that stands on two legs and doesn't have a computer-generated thing about him. It's a wonderful progression from the look of Lon Chaney, Jr.'s wolf in the 1941 original movie of the same name.

Maybe they should've just let Baker write and direct the damn thing too. Outside of Del Toro's knockout werewolf moments, director Joe Johnston's much-troubled production (which barely got completed amidst director changes and other backstage drama) is poorly paced, a bit too grisly for its own good, and stupidly divulges into CGI overload for a moronic, action-heavy climax that pisses all over Chaney, Jr.'s legacy.

Alice in Wonderland (2010)

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Award won: Best Art Direction

Yes, Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland is a visual marvel. The colors pop, the makeup effects convince, and the CGI characters all look impressively lifelike. So giving the box office smash an award like Best Art Direction makes perfect sense, but come on—It has to feel a little shameful to reward such a meandering and unfocused narrative mess with anything associated with Mr. Prestige, that golden dude named Oscar.

It's only 108 minutes long, but Alice in Wonderland feels more like 208, never landing big-enough laughs or registering an enjoyment factor beyond, "Oh, look, there's Johnny Depp being darkly quirky again. Fun!"

Avatar (2009)

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Awards won: Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects

Avatar's existence isn't a bad thing. Thanks to the ambitious special effects work of James Cameron and all of his wonderfully geeky cohorts, it's proof that CGI and 3D aren't sounding a death-knell for lovers of cinema. When handled by true masters of the technologies, these devices can make for immersive worlds. They don't have to be cheap gags or scares.

If only Cameron had spent as much mental energy on Avatar's script as he did on the visuals. Whereas he dedicated many years to the computer graphics, Cameron could've simply re-watched Dances with Wolves while looking at photos of rain-forests before cranking out Avatar's simplistic, unoriginal storyline.

The Blind Side (2009)

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Award won: Best Actress (Sandra Bullock)

In 2006, writer Michael Lewis’ book The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game presented an in-depth and honest look at the tough road to success taken by Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Michael Oher. With Oher as the main character, Lewis’ text followed the resilient guy from his days growing up in the slums of Memphis through his years fighting against educational headaches and racial discomfort, all on his way to an NFL contract. As written by Lewis, Oher’s story could make for one hell of a sports biopic.

And we’re still waiting for that film. Director John Lee Hancock’s 2009 adaptation of Lewis’ book certainly isn’t that; no, The Blind Side is actually a movie about Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock), the football-loving, white mother of two who took Oher into her home and looked after him during his high school and college years. Why? Because Hollywood loves a good white savior story, and The Blind Side, which depicts Oher as little more than the black version of Lenny from Of Mice And Men, is arguably the film industry’s most egregious example of color-bland storytelling.

Insult, meet injury: In a move that showed the Academy’s pussyfooted inclinations, Oscar voters elected the commercially gigantic The Blind Side as a Best Picture nominee, and, furthermore, crowned Bullock as the year’s Best Actress recipient. If cheap Southern accents, blond hair helmets, and artificial emotions are what makes an acting performance “award-worthy,” then The Blind Side is Bullock’s Meryl Steep moment, for sure.

The Reader (2008)

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Award won: Best Actress (Kate Winslet)

As solid as ever, Kate Winslet earned her Best Actress honor in The Reader, Stephen Daldry's 2008 adaptation of German author Bernard Schlink's 1995 novel. She's especially top-notch in the film's first act, during which she plays a woman who's having an affair with a teenage boy. It's this 1958 section of the film where Daldry and his cast deliver a raw, sensual, and dangerous romance, and for that The Reader is worth a look.

Just turn if off once the setting jumps 37 years, into 1995, and Ralph Fiennes takes over as the grown-up version of said teenage boy. The Reader loses all of its steam and devolves into a standard courtroom drama that's as exciting as, well, watching somebody read Schlink's text verbatim and stone-faced.

The Golden Compass (2007)

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Award won: Best Visual Effects

Everything about director Chris Weitz's The Golden Compass screams blockbuster: the lavish special effects, the A-list cast (including Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig), and the action sequences anchored by oversized CGI creations. It's just too bad that, when the movie opened in December 2007, nobody gave a damn about giant polar bears outside of those Coca-Cola commercials. Costing a whopping $180 million, The Golden Compass barely raked in $25 mil during its opening weekend, on its way to a dismal $70 mil total intake and a complete overhaul at New Line Cinema.

Admittedly, it's very deserving of that Best Visual Effects trophy, even if the movie itself is little more than a dull fantasy-adventure. Michael Bay's Transformers should've won that year.

Crash (2004)

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Awards won: Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing

Far as subtlety goes, Paul Haggis' multi-character drama Crash has the gentleness of a Mack truck plowing into a crowded building. A tapestry of racial tension in Los Angeles, it's a maddening viewing experience. Some moments, like the little girl with a gun to her head, are so manipulative, only robots wouldn't feel riveted by them. But that doesn't make it good. Most scenes in Crash take obvious stereotypes (white cops are horrible people, black guys dressed in baggy clothes are dangerous) and play them out forcibly and, worst of all, predictably.

With its starry cast and emotional center, Haggis' film was the safe bet at the 78th Academy Awards, and the voters took no risks. Crash beat out better movies like Brokeback Mountain, Capote, and Good Night, and Good Luck to win Best Picture. The year's biggest injustice, though: David Cronenberg's A History of Violence didn't even score a Best Pic nomination.

Chicago (2002)

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Awards won: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Catherine Zeta-Jones)

We have nothing against showy musicals. Anytime movies like Singin' in the Rain, Annie, or, hell, Moulin Rouge pop up on cable television, it's time to grab the nearest kitchen utensil, use it as a microphone, and sing—loudly. With the window curtains shut and no one else around, of course.

Hating on director Rob Marshall's Best Picture winner, 2002's Chicago, isn't the byproduct of any bias. Rather, it's the byproduct of Marshall's insistence on not letting the musical numbers speak (or sing) for themselves. Chicago is too stylized for its own good, taking away from all-in performances from Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renee Zellweger with hyperkinetic editing and music-video-like extravagance.

Pearl Harbor (2001)

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Award won: Best Sound Editing

Historical events like the Japanese aerial attack on Pearl Harbor deserve thoughtful screenplays and filmmakers willing to devote as much time to the story as they do the trailer-ready action. A director like David Lean could've worked wonders with the subject matter, but Michael Bay? Under the bombastic explosion king's control, the 2001 summer blockbuster Pearl Harbor is a brain-dead parade of visual effects, robotic acting, hammy dialogue, and a history lesson with the depth of a first-grade education.

But all of those bombs, zooming airplanes, and crashes do sound super crispy! Apparently the award for Best Sound Editing can go to the movie that assaulted viewers' eardrums and nearly caused widespread deafness for anyone stuck inside a theater watching it. Not to mention self-inflicted blindness.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

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Award won: Best Makeup

Take another look at the Grinch in the picture above. That really looks nothing like Jim Carrey, does it? Once again, makeup champion Rick Baker transformed an instantly identifiable Hollywood A-lister into an unrecognizable, inhuman character, and, for the sixth time since 1982, the Academy awarded him for it. And Carrey, for his part, did Mr. Baker proud, giving a creepy, unhinged performance as Dr. Seuss' scariest antagonist. Which makes it a shame that everything else about director Ron Howard's stilted book-to-film adaptation betrays the great work of both Baker and Carrey.

Howard and the rest of his filmmaking team tried morphing the childlike wonder of Seuss' source material into an edgier tale that could skew toward older audiences as well. So, as a result, you've got a Grinch with a cliched nobody-liked-me-as-a-kid backstory, an overall tone that's weirdly negative (for a kid's movie), and gross sight gags that lack imagination (i.e., the Grinch pushing a man's face into a dog's butt). This movie is butt, in other words.

What Dreams May Come (1998)

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Award won: Best Visual Effects

Based on Richard Matheson's haunting 1978 novel, director Vincent Ward's 1998 film What Dreams May Come goes to great lengths to present a wondrous vision of the afterlife. At times, it's a breathtaking achievement, depicting the hereafter as a water-color painting come to life. In this area alone, Ward's adaptation does Matheson's original book justice.

As for every other area, though, Ward and screenwriter Ron Bass might as well have just ripped a copy of the book on screen. The cerebral yet optimistic material gets upended into a morose, uninviting collection of dreary sentiments delivered by a miscast Robin Williams.

Forrest Gump (1994)

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Awards won: Best Picture, Best Actor (Tom Hanks), Best Director (Robert Zemeckis), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Visual Effects

Sure, like many of you, we felt enchanted by Robert Zemeckis' Forrest Gump when we first saw it. The sappy emotions, endearing side characters (Gary Sinise's Lt. Dan, Mykelti Williamson's Bubba Gump), and Tom Hanks' sympathetically dim-witted performance hit their desired targets (read: viewers' heartstrings) with a sledgehammer's force. Not to mention the special effects trickery that puts Gump into historical footage alongside folks like JFK and John Lennon is quite effective.

But do yourselves a favor: Give Forrest Gump, which won a staggering six Oscars, another look. Those scenes that previously made you weep, like young Forrest's sprint toward the bus, or older Forrest bonding with his newly motherless son? They're all played with such obvious, cry-now sentimentality that you'll most likely smack yourself for ever falling for Forrest Gump's manipulations in the first place.

Scent of a Woman (1992)

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Award won: Best Actor (Al Pacino)

Was there ever any doubt that Al Pacino would win his eighth Academy Award for 1992's Scent of a Woman? His vivacious acting in the Martin Brest-directed drama plays like a calculated attempt at a trophy: Get an already esteemed actor to portray someone with a disability (in this case, blindness), let him chew on the scenery like a rabid dog, and sprinkle in the right amount of melodramatic money-moments for the Oscar broadcast's clip-showing purposes.

The plan worked worked, and Scent of a Woman, now especially, feels like an overly calculated piece of star-powered obviousness.

Death Becomes Her (1992)

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Award won: Best Visual Effects

As you've seen elsewhere in this countdown, the Best Visual Effects category is often the Academy's way of briefly saluting movies that otherwise would be forgotten within the year.

Case in point: Death Becomes Her, the ridiculously high-concept comedy from director Robert Zemeckis about two women (Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep) who mess around with an immortality potion and can't seem to stay dead. At best, it's a wacky Warner Bros. cartoon envisioned by someone working on the same wavelength as Tim Burton; at its worst, though, Death Becomes Her is a one-note satire of youthful, superficial obsessions that abandons self-awareness and wastes a great cast (which also includes Bruce Willis).

Flashdance (1983)

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Award won: Best Original Song ("Flashdance… What a Feeling," Irene Cara)

It's only right that Irene Cara's massive Billboard hit "Flashdance… What a Feeling" took home the Oscar for Best Original Song—without her original recording, director Adrian Lyne's cheesy Cinderella-in-spandex drama would've sank into cinematic obscurity.

The ubiquitousness of Cara's single lent pop culture relevance to a film that's B-movie fluff with an unfortunate, gorgeous, and charismatic star (Jennifer Beals) going through the insufferable motions of hackneyed romance and formulaic character development. Those who hate James Cameron's Titanic even more than Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" should feel right at home here.

Earthquake (1974)

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Awards won: Best Sound Mixing, Special Achievement Academy Award for Visual Effects

Movies like Earthquake make you appreciate the Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich, those apologetically hollow filmmakers who aren't afraid to favor grandiose eye candy over memorable storytelling. With this high-caliber 1970s disaster flick, starring the likes of Charlton Heston and Richard "Shaft" Roundtree, director Mark Robson unwisely focused on the script's rampant melodrama and unlikable characters.

There's an unspoken agreement shared between filmmakers and audiences who sign up for something called Earthquake: Show us tons of mindless action, some visual effects sequences we've never seen before, and include a few goofy one-liners and we'll overlook all of the narrative flaws. Robson, however, actually tried to develop undesirable characters instead of going overboard with the hysteria, thus making the actual earthquake moments flat and the film itself unbearable.

A Touch of Class (1973)

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Award won: Best Actress (Glenda Jackson)

A Touch of Class was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, but the only victory came via star Glenda Jackson's Best Actress statue. Even the most apologetic of rom-com fans will scratch their heads at those statistics once they sit down with a copy of director Melvin Frank's by-the-numbers, comedic love story today.

Jackson plays a divorced fashion designer who sleeps with a married insurance man (George Segal) who makes their affair official when he plans a trip to Spain. Cheap laughs and reprehensible infidelity ensue, in a wonky romantic comedy that would star someone like Jennifer Aniston if it were remade today.

Butterfield 8 (1960)

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Award won: Best Actress (Elizabeth Taylor)

Fans of Denzel Washington and Martin Scorsese understand that their respective Oscar victories (for Training Day and The Departed, respectively) were well-deserved from a career perspective, but, unfortunately, awarded for the wrong movies. It's reassuring to know that both of them finally took home statues, but it's also frustrating to think that their numerous earlier works weren't the benefactors.

The same thing happened with Elizabeth Taylor decades prior, when the acclaimed actress snagged the Best Actress honor after there previous nominations that yielded no golden hardware. Taylor's victory lap came from Butterfield 8, a tawdry drama in which she played a model who moonlights as a prostitute. As they say, sex sells, even when it comes to getting the Academy to reward one of cinema's all-time greatest actresses.

How did Taylor herself feel about Butterfield 8? She was once famously quoted as remembering the picture with, "I still say it stinks."

Around the World in 80 Days (1956)

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Awards won: Best Picture, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Music, Best Adapted Screenplay

Many critics and Oscar buffs cite Around the World in 80 Days as the worst Best Picture winner of all time. Though we're not immediately inclined to agree (as this list points out, there have been some god-awful Best Picture recipients over the years), that doesn't mean this overcrowded, predictable comedy deserves a pass.

On the contrary, Around the World in 80 Days is a shallow, hokey, and painfully long (141 minutes, to be exact) exercise in excess. As if to only distract viewers from the film's goofiness, a cavalcade of big-name cameos proceeds throughout the picture, including Frank Sinatra and Buster Keaton. None of whom, mind you, serve any purpose other than causing A-list diversions.

The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)

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Awards won: Best Picture, Best Story (the precursor to Best Original Screenplay)

It almost feels like sacrilege to include Cecil B. DeMille on any list tinged with negativity. After all, he's the Hollywood icon and original blockbuster champ behind landmark motion pictures like Cleopatra (1934) and Samson and Delilah (1939). Yet the man slipped up big-time once, and, as painful as it is to acknowledge, it was quite the folly.

Considered one of the worst movies to ever win the Best Picture honor from the Oscar committee, DeMille's The Greatest Show on Earth is an overlong (two-and-a-half hours, to be exact) and virtually plot-less look at shenanigans at a large-scale circus. It's a tedious soap opera disguised as lavish spectacle, one that's led by an overcharged Charlton Heston and might provide some fun for little kids who beg their parents to visit Barnum & Bailey's.

All's well that ends well: DeMille avenged his reputation four years later with the monumental The Ten Commandments, the last movie he made before passing away in 1959.

The Broadway Melody (1929)

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Award won: Best Picture

Oscar historians must wish that The Broadway Melody had never been made. Why? Because director Harry Beaumont's 1929 musical will forever be remembered as the first sound film to ever win the coveted Best Picture prize.

At the time of its initial release, The Broadway Melody was a huge success, launching a profitable franchise for MGM Studios and delighting audiences who'd never seen or heard Hollywood-made song-and-dance pictures of its kind. Revisited today, however, it's a banal, entirely uneventful production with so-so musical numbers and a stifled vibe that's all the more blah when you consider how inventive the genre became.

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