Every year, more and more people become disillusioned with the Academy Awards. And why wouldn't they? Throughout its 95 years, the process has become a transparent game of insider politics. But that doesn't stop people for hoping for the best and rooting for their favorite films.
For horror fans, that hope often crumbles away into disappointment. Since the first Academy Awards in 1929, only six horror films have ever even been nominated for Best Picture—The Exorcist, Jaws, The Silence of the Lambs, The Sixth Sense, Black Swan, and Get Out. The Silence of the Lambs is the only film that ever took home the title.
For years, the horror genre has been dismissed as silly slashers and gore porn. While it's hard to deny films like that exist within the genre, is there any genre that exists without its more frivolous films? Horror is a force of social commentary, a mirror that reflects back not only our fears, but our flaws. Since it's a genre known for taking some of the biggest chances, you'd think it would get rewarded more often.
Here are eight horror movies that absolutely should have won an Oscar.
Not as heinously snubbed as some of the other films on this list, Psycho was actually nominated in four categories at the 33rd Academy Awards: Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (Janet Leigh), Best Art Direction for a Black and White Film, and Best Cinematography for a Black and White Film. Today, the film has cemented itself as a classic. Everyone knows the story of the motel run by the deadly momma's boy Norman Bates. It's a film that is referenced not only across several horror films, but across films in every genre imaginable.
It's shocking to think that a film that's become such a cultural cornerstone wasn't even nominated for Best Picture. It's even more shocking to think that it lost every category it was nominated in—especially Best Director, given the gravitas of Hitchcock's work. But the film was a bit too morally taboo for the time period, and in the end, the film didn't need the accolades to become a masterpiece of legend.
Jordan Peele's directorial debut Get Out was nominated for four Oscars at the 90th Academy Awards and took home one for Best Original Screenplay. Considering the film was up against The Shape of Water (which won for Best Picture and Best Director), it had some fair competition. However, Jordan Peele's latest film, Nope, was shockingly snubbed at the 95th Academy Awards, earning zero nominations.
Blending science fiction and horror, Peele's grippingly fresh story follows siblings OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald Haywood (Keke Palmer) as they are some of the first to notice an unsettling, otherworldly presence hovering over their California horse ranch. The film was not just a great horror film, but a flat-out great film. With glimpses into showbiz—which the Academy typically trips over themselves for—Nope should have at least received some recognition. Besides the fact that Kaluuya and Palmer deliver some of the most gripping performances I've ever seen on a screen, the technical feats involved in the film were incredible, and you can't ignore Peele's vibrant originality.
The Sixth Sense
At the 72nd Academy Awards, The Sixth Sense was nominated in six different categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Haley Joel Osment), Best Supporting Actress (Toni Collette), Best Original Screenplay, and Best Film Editing. Unfortunately, the film and its cast went home empty-handed.
The Sixth Sense follows a young boy (Osment) who is disturbed by his ability to see ghosts. A weary child psychologist (Bruce Willis) attempts to help the boy with his struggles, but he's got some problems of his own.
In terms of cultural staying power, this film is right up there with Psycho. I mean really, can you name two films with better twists? On top of that, it lacked the blood, gore, and shock factor that the Academy so frequently looks down upon in horror movies. With its subtle tension, artful storytelling, and groundbreaking performances, it should have taken home Best Picture.
There was absolute outrage when Ari Aster's Hereditary didn't receive a single Oscar nod at the 91st Academy Awards. Had The Academy not seen the film, or...? Following the release of Get Out, Hereditary seems like a solemn promise that horror movies were making a name for themselves as a serious and vital genre. But perhaps the film's contents were too disturbing for Oscar voters to see the beauty beneath the terror.
Hereditary centers on a grieving family who are plagued by unsettling and devastating events. Truly cutting down to the core of grief, the screenplay is unlike anything else I have ever seen. The cinematography and editing kept me on the edge of my seat, holding my breath. But even if the film wasn't nominated in any of those categories, Toni Collette should have been nominated for and taken home the award for Best Actress, Olivia Colman be damned.
The Thing (1982)
Based on a novella by John W. Campbell, this film was directed by horror great John Carpenter. As revolting as this film can be at times, it's really no shock at all that it wasn't nominated at the 55th Academy Awards. But that doesn't mean it's right!
A research team in Antarctica must fight for their lives after they make a terrifying alien discovery. But as the alien can take on the form of its victims, trust won't be the thing that saves them. The film as a whole is a delightfully overwhelming experience. It's tense, it's horrifying, it's gross. It's perfect. The special effects are stomach-churningly visceral, and while that's hardly the kind of thing the Academy looks for, the film should have, at the very least, been nominated for Best Visual Effects.
Despite the fact that this film is inexplicably unavailable anywhere for streaming, The Others raked in accolades at the Goya Awards and Saturn Awards, and even earned some nominations at the BAFTAS and Golden Globes after its 2001 release. However, the 74th Academy Awards ignored the film all together.
A subtle, psychological horror film, The Others takes place around the end of the Second World War and follows a mother with two photosensitive children who begins to suspect her family home is haunted. The film garnered both commercial and critical success, yet the Academy refused to pay it respect. The Others could have easily been nominated for Best Director, Best Actress (Nicole Kidman), Best Original Screenplay, and Best Cinematography. The latter two categories could have easily been won.
Mia Goth sparked quite the conversation after she openly criticized the Academy for snubbing Pearl—and snubbing the horror genre in general. Pearl is a highly stylized film that isn't everyone's cup of tea, but isn't that precisely the kind of film the Academy adores?
Pear is a prequel to Ti West's unique horror film X, which generated rave reviews. Another exploration of fame and show business, this movie probably had a bit too much sex and murder to appeal to the Academy's sensibilities. But West displayed masterful directing, and the cinematography in the film was striking. Above all else, Mia Goth delivered an explosive performance as the titular character.
While I can confidently say that Pearl deserved any kind of nomination, it's hard to argue against the film that actually swept the 95th Academy Awards, Everything Everywhere All At Once. But if Pearl had premiered in a different year, it definitely would have deserved an Oscar of its own.
Sure, The Shining didn't exactly receive rave reviews when it first came out, but considering how much of a horror staple it is nowadays, it's practically a crime that it didn't receive any Academy Award nominations. Adapted from Stephen King's novel of the same name, the film follows the Torrance family as they hole away in an isolated hotel for the winter. As the young son Danny grapples with burgeoning psychic abilities, the father becomes overtaken by a sinister force.
While the film isn't lacking in violence, it's not the slasher-fest horror is often reduced to. In fact, given it's slower pacing, it doesn't fit as neatly into the horror genre as other films might. But Stanley Kubrick, despite his legendarily bad behavior on set, churned out a movie that has achieved icon status. That should have earned him a nomination for Best Director, at least. But above all of the other wonderful things that could be said about this film, the true shining (ha) gem at its center is none other than Shelley Duvall, who should have unquestionably taken home the award of Best Actress for her portrayal of Wendy Torrance.