- Warner Brothers
The Oscars rule over the movie industry. But over the years, some stinkers get nominated and some stinkers actually manage to get a win.
The only really terrible movie up for an Oscar in 2018 is “The Boss Baby,” which secured a nomination for best animated feature over “The Lego Batman Movie,” which was actually watchable, and quite good.
Movie trends come and go, and while the Academy likes to award lesser-known indie darlings, it’s also known to award cheesy hits that were specifically made to win Oscars (known as “Oscar bait”). And then there are the bad movies that manage to get wins for less competitive categories, like makeup and costumes.
In 2008, for example, “Norbit,” one of the worst movies of all time, was nominated for best makeup. Though it didn’t win, the same can’t be said for some other movies that are just as terrible.
Here are the worst movies that actually won Oscars:
1. “Harry and the Hendersons” (1987)
- YouTube – Harry and the Hendersons
Won: Best makeup
A family runs over a Bigfoot-like creature with their car. The family brings it home, thinking it’s dead. But it comes back to life, and the family adopts him as a pet. This movie is abysmal and hard to watch, but it somehow managed to get an Oscar for best makeup, even though the makeup – even for 1987 – is bad. Maybe the fact that John Lithgow was in it made the Academy feel as if it had to give it something.
2. “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (2000)
Won: Best makeup.
Best makeup can go to some really, really, really, really bad movies. The Academy really has to reach sometimes to give an award out in this category. The live-action “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is a terrible movie. It’s insulting to Dr. Seuss and to Christmas movies. Even kids hate it. And kids who love it will never acknowledge it when they’re adults. The makeup on Jim Carrey’s Grinch is OK, but did it deserve an award? No, it did not.
3. “Pearl Harbor” (2001)
Won: Best sound editing
Nominations: Best original song, best sound, best effects
Besides a catchy original song recorded by Faith Hill (which was nominated for best original song), this Michael Bay movie is a disaster and disrespectful to US history. Bay’s war film uses Pearl Harbor as a catalyst for a self-indulgent love triangle involving self-indulgent, unlikable characters. It’s offensive in many ways, and at over three hours long, it makes “Avatar” feel like a half-hour sitcom.
4. “Crash” (2004)
Won: Best picture, best original screenplay, best film editing
Nominations: Best supporting actor (Matt Dillon), best director, best original song
This movie had everything a movie needs to win some Oscars. And this one is really, really bad. In 2009, The Atlantic named it “the worst movie of the decade.” But it had a star-studded cast, a “clever” screenplay that intertwined characters who would otherwise have nothing to do with one another, and an underlying social message.
The problem? The message was good, but the delivery was weak. The movie is condescending to the audience: We know this is a movie about racism, and we know that racism is bad. And we all know what racism is. Yet the movie used every opportunity to point out what racism is, that it is bad, and that this is a movie about racism.
5. “Avatar” (2009)
- 20th Century Fox
Won: Best cinematography, best visual effects, best art direction
Nominations: Best picture, best director, best film editing, best original score, best sound mixing, best sound editing
“Titanic” was long. And while it’s certainly not even close to the best movie to have won best picture, it’s fun, exciting, and watchable. “Avatar” is only one of those things: long. Too long. The CGI is overdone, and the story feels like a rip-off of Disney’s “Pocahontas.” It didn’t deserve any of these nominations, and it certainly didn’t deserve any of these wins. Because of James Cameron’s involvement and its huge box-office gross, “Avatar” probably had these nominations in the bag before any Academy voter even saw the movie.
The best part about this particular ceremony was that Cameron’s ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow beat him for best director (becoming the first woman to win the honor) and best picture for “The Hurt Locker.”
6. “The Blind Side” (2009)
- Warner Brothers
Won: Best actress (Sandra Bullock)
Nominations: Best picture
In 2010, Bullock got her first Oscar win for her starring role in the cheesiest movie ever made. Sure, her acting was fine, but her accent was obnoxious, and the dialogue was incredibly cliché. The movie was based on the true story of a wealthy Mississippi family that took in a local football player with a troubled past. In addition to Bullock’s win, it somehow managed to get a best picture nomination, because 2009 was not the finest year for film. If this movie had been a musical, it would have won everything.
7. “The Wolfman” (2010)
- The Wolfman
Won: Best makeup
This movie starred Benicio del Toro and was supposed to be terrifying. But it wasn’t. It was a dull remake of the 1941 classic that somehow managed to win an Oscar in the art department. Was the win deserved? Don’t bother finding out, because this movie is unwatchable.
8. “The Artist” (2011)
- The Weinstein Company
Won: Best picture, best actor (Jean Dujardin), best director, best original score, best costume design
Nominations: Best supporting actress (Bérénice Bejo), best original screenplay, best cinematography, best film editing, best art direction
Remember “The Artist”? Probably not, so here’s a refresher: This French silent film came out in 2011. Its release was relatively quiet until it was nominated for 10 Oscars and won five, including best actor, best director, and best picture. It also starred an adorable dog, but other than that the movie is forgettable. It was fun to see a modern-day interpretation of a silent film, but it didn’t bring much more to the table than that gimmick, and it doesn’t hold a special place as a memorable and impactful movie the way its fellow nominees “The Tree of Life,” “Midnight in Paris,” and “Moneyball” do.
9. “Les Miserables” (2012)
Won: Best supporting actress (Anne Hathaway), best sound mixing, best makeup and hairstyling
Nominations: Best picture, best actor (Hugh Jackman), best costume design, best production design, best original song
Most musicals are over-the-top, and any musical with a star-studded cast gets a warm welcome from the Academy, even if it’s not deserved. (Some would say that’s true of “La La Land.”) “Les Miserables” came in with many advantages: It was directed by Tom Hooper, who was fresh off multiple wins for “The King’s Speech.” The cast included Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe (may he never sing again), Amanda Seyfried, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Eddie Redmayne. Plus, all of the performances were shot live instead of being prerecorded, which is the industry standard for musicals.
Good for them, but it doesn’t make a good movie. Besides a moving performance from Hugh Jackman, this movie was underwhelming and didn’t bring anything fresh to the popular musical. Crowe’s performance was an embarrassment, and Hathaway’s winning performance was Oscar bait at its most desperate.
10. “The Great Gatsby” (2013)
- The Great Gatsby trailer
Won: Best production design, best costume design
This movie had everything: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jay Z, glitter, jazz, drinking alcohol illegally, murder. But the mix of 21st-century filmmaking with a literary classic and Tobey Maguire did not work for director Baz Luhrmann. Though the film probably deserved the awards it won – the sets were cool, as were the costumes – it’s just a forgettable movie with a great trailer.
11. “Gravity” (2013)
- Warner Bros. Pictures
Won: Best cinematography, best director, best film editing, best original score, best sound editing, best sound mixing, best visual effects
Nominations: Best picture, best actress (Sandra Bullock), best production design
Not a terrible movie, but a terribly overrated one. “Gravity” is visually stunning and anxiety-inducing, but that’s about it. Sandra Bullock didn’t deserve a best actress nomination for this – her acting was fine but not mind-blowing. Many predicted that after seemingly sweeping the ceremony with its wins, it would take home best picture, but that deservedly went to “12 Years a Slave.”
Yes, Alfonso Cuarón deserved his win for best director, but he should’ve gotten that back in 2006 for the incredible “Children of Men,” or even “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” each of which better represented his filmmaking skills.
12. “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” (2014)
- Fox Searchlight/”Birdman”
Won: Best picture, best director, best original screenplay, best cinematography
Nominations: Best actor (Michael Keaton), best supporting actor (Edward Norton), best supporting actress (Emma Stone), best sound mixing, best sound editing
By now we all know that the key to the Academy’s heart is a star-studded cast and an emotional performance from a veteran actor. But another thing that pulls the Academy in like a magnet? Movies about movies. Like “The Artist” and “Argo,” “Birdman” is actually a very mediocre movie. Michael Keaton turns in an impressive performance, but other than that it’s basically just the dude version of “Black Swan” but more confusing and with a lot of screaming, nauseating camerawork, and unnecessary and pretentious parentheses in the title.
Dishonorable mention: “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace” (1999)
Nominations: Best sound, best visual effects, best sound effects
While this abomination of the “Star Wars” saga didn’t actually win anything, it must be noted that it was nominated for three awards including visual effects. Even for 1999, most of the effects in this movie weren’t that impressive. The ships were sleek and shiny and new, but the droids and Jar Jar Binks looked retrograde.