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All That Glitters Is Not Gold: The Worst Oscar Winning Films
David Bax , March 3rd, 2010 02:29

David Bax takes a trip down memory lane and looks at the worst films which took home Oscar gongs

The Academy Awards have a reputation as the most respected and coveted honor in all of American film. There are two reasons for this. First, they’ve been around a long time. Second, they’re chosen by the people in the industry, and nowhere will you find a group of people more eager to congratulate themselves than in Hollywood. With a force as strong as the narcissism of the film industry working against them, it’s amazing that they ever get it right. But when they don’t, they really don’t.

Broadway Melody

Broadway Melody’s win marks the beginning of a long tradition of the Academy being so stunned by technological achievements that it dazedly gives the award to a film that doesn’t have anything else going for it. Sound and color were new and given that Broadway Melody is a musical that featured the use of Technicolor, it had plenty of both. But while time has allowed the spectacle to fade, it can’t take away the Oscar.


The grand historical epic is a good way to get the Academy’s attention. They’re big and they’re “important.” Ironically, history has not been kind to Cimarron. It is now less a picture of the late 1800’s and more a document of the bald-faced racism of the America in which it was made. And in true Hollywood fashion, the racism comes in the patronizing variety.

How Green Was My Valley

Yes, How Green Was My Valley was made with great effort and skill by the legendary director John Ford. But you know what else came out in 1941? The Maltese Falcon. And, oh yeah, Citizen Kane.

Around the World in 80 Days

Once again, the Academy was tricked by a sparkly new technology into giving the award to a snooze of a motion picture. Around the World in 80 Days was presented in 70MM and in the recently developed widescreen. It featured location photography from all over the globe. It had dozens of cameos by the biggest actors of the day. What it didn’t have was a halfway decent script or a single spark of life.


Every once in a while, Hollywood gets musical fever and gives the Oscar to whatever song and dance fest made a lot of money that year. This movie may not be the worst one to receive the honor but it deserves to have its award revoked if only for the hilariously crass addition of an exclamation point (as well as the removal of the twist) to the title of Charles Dickens’ tale of a horribly mistreated and manipulated orphan.


Gandhi is over three hours long and I guarantee you’ll feel every minute of it. In this boring, plodding tale that fails to properly immortalize one of the great men in human history, Ben Kingsley’s performance is the only thing worth watching. But after about 20 minutes, you get it. And then there’s still what feels like a couple days of movie left

Rain Man

As Tropic Thunder reminded us, Oscar loves to reward an actor for portraying a mentally disabled person. This year, though, they simply couldn’t contain themselves and they gave the award to the whole damn movie. Dustin Hoffman is great, of course, but it’s in service of a cheesy, predictable story filled with manufactured sentiment and hammy dialogue. You’ll find more compelling drama watching The People’s Court.


A lot of people went to see this movie. For men, it had a whole lot of blood. For women, it had a whole lot of Russell Crowe. But for history buffs, it only held a multitude of inaccuracies and for film buffs, it presented an array of shallow performances and uninteresting cinematography. Russell Crowe is a wonderful actor [you're fired, Ed] and Ridley Scott is a great director. But after Gladiator, A Good Year and American Gangster, they should do us all a favor and just stay away from each other.


How do you take one of the best stage musicals of the last half of the twentieth century and make a terrible movie out of it? By not even having the balls to make it a real musical. The songs are presented in almost dream sequence format, removed from the reality of the film. The end result is two films that only detract from each other, leaving the audience unsure of how deeply invested to be in either. Also, Queen Latifah is in it.


The reason Hollywood thinks its audiences are dumb is because they are. And they proved both by making and then giving the Best Picture Oscar to Paul Haggis’ maddeningly strident, preachy fable about racism, which the film lets us know is bad and still exists. Clearly, the Academy thinks awarding it is a sign of social progress or something when the real progressive thing to do (not to mention the correct one) would have been to give the award to Ang Lee’s beautiful love story, Brokeback Mountain. It’s a good thing these awards don’t actually mean anything.

If you want to hear more from David, check out his Battleship Pretension blog click here. His last feature for usis here.