12 Critically-Despised Movies You (Probably) Didn't Know Were Nominated for Oscars
The Oscar nominations are chock full of movies that critics love and audiences have praised, but that's not always the case. Here are 13 movies you probably didn't know got nominations after being shredded by critics.
When Eddie Murphy was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role in “Dreamgirls” the following year, it was crapfest “Norbit” that most agree led to him losing. (There were billboards and advertisements all over town during the same time the Academy was voting.) So the following year, the Academy goes and votes for “Norbit” for Best Make-Up (for special effects wizard and frequent Murphy collaborator Rick Baker). To add perfect symmetry to this story, “Norbit” didn't win the Oscar either. Presumably Murphy stormed out of whatever room he was watching the Oscars in that year, too.
'Bugsy Malone' (1976)
For those who remember, Alan Parker (who would go on to direct “Midnight Cowboy,” “Pink Floyd’s The Wall” and “Evita”) made his feature directorial debut with the most bizarre children's film, possibly ever. “Whaaa?” is how people will most likely respond when you try to jostle their memory into retrieving some scrap of “Bugsy Malone.” (It was a huge financial bomb in the United States.) Still, despite all of this, it secured a lone Academy Award nomination -- for the now-defunct Best Original Song Score category (what?) for future Daft Punk collaborator and certifiable genius Paul Williams. It didn't win.
Steven Spielberg's most notorious box-office and critical failure somehow managed to score three nominations in 1980: Sound Mixing, Cinematography, and Visual Effects. Of course, this was the year of “Apocalypse Now” and “All That Jazz” (not to mention ultimate, unlikely champion “Kramer vs. Kramer”), so this epic misfire didn't have much of a chance.
'Heaven's Gate' (1980)
Today, Michael Cimino's troubled period epic “Heaven’s Gate” has its fair share of defenders, thanks in large part to a 2012 restored director's cut and a collective realization that it didn't deserve the skewering it got upon initial release. But at the time of the Academy Awards, it was still seen as a hulking pile of burning rubble -- a thing so powerful and ugly that it brought down an entire studio (United Artists). Woof. So, it is kind of incredible that it still managed to garner an Oscar nomination, in the form of Best Art Direction / Set Direction (a deserved nomination if there ever was one). Alas, it didn't win.
'Dick Tracy' (1990)
Warren Beatty, who produced, directed, and starred in “Dick Tracy,” was certainly going for something specific. The movie was shot only in primary colors, with the composition and lighting of an old-timey comic strip. Disney thought it had a hit on its hands, spending $100 million on production and marketing, but the movie ultimately sputtered and fizzled to a close. But here's what amazing: it was nominated for SEVEN Academy Awards and ultimately won three. Zounds!
Almost 30 years after the movie's release, I still have no clue what “Toys” was about. The film was a discombobulating, surrealist mess. None of this, apparently, kept it from vying for Oscar gold, with the movie securing a pair of nominations -- Art Direction and Costume Design. It lost both categories, to movies that better married their arty pretensions and consumerist leanings (“Howard’s End” and “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” respectively).
'Batman Forever' (1995)
These days, “Batman Forever” is remembered more for losing Michael Keaton behind the cowl and adding nipples to the Batsuit than for being of “quality.” And yet, it swung in and nabbed Oscar for Cinematography (wait, what?), Sound and Sound Editing. The fact that it won none means that there is still justice in the world.
'Con Air' (1997)
Nic Cage's follow-up to his Oscar-winning performance in “Leaving Las Vegas” is this “so-bad-its-eye-cancer” hit from the '90s. It landed noms for Best Sound Mixing and Original Song (for “How Do I Live” a song that was everywhere the summer “Con Air” came out). Of course, this was the year of “Titanic” which swept the Awards, so “Con Air” never stood a chance. At least it will always have an endless supply of TNT airings.
'The Village' (2004)
M. Night Shyamalan's underwhelming chiller, the director's follow-up to the crowd-pleasing, alien-invasion romp “Signs” was set in an old-timey community and featured one of the dumber twist endings in recent memory. It's the kind of movie where a mentally challenged character somehow becomes less challenged as the movie goes along. None of this has to do with the movie's Academy Award recognition, however, which earned composer James Newton Howard his fourth nomination in the Best Original Score category. So there you go.
'The Black Dahlia' (2006)
Brian De Palma is no stranger to controversy and criticism. But to call “The Black Dahlia” one of the most poorly received movies of the man's career is really saying something. People HATED it. Which makes the movie's sole Oscar nomination, for Best Cinematography, something that borders on miraculous.
'Suicide Squad' (2016)
This isn't the worst comic book movie ever made, but it is definitely its cousin. You'd think a 26 percent “Rotten” score would make this the movie equivalent of Chernobyl, but somehow the Academy found it in their hearts to give it a nod for Best Make Up. Those Jared Leto face tattoos didn’t apply themselves, people!
Chris Pratt added another stiff leading man performance to his collection of roles that feel like Burt Mackland acting as [insert character here] with this critical and costly box office bomb. Despite this sci-fi dud's rape-y, misogynistic vibes, the Academy liked what they saw enough to nominate it for Best Original Score and Best Production Design. Post-#metoo, that would never fly.