Last year’s Academy Awards debacle with La La Land and Moonlight proved it’s not just the wrong envelopes which are read out—sometimes the wrong movies get named Best Film without Warren Beatty’s help.
Here are the seven worst Best Films in living memory and those that should have won.
7. Crash (2006)
What was meant to be an edgy social commentary piece on racism in post 9/11 America came off more like a community service short. Muddled direction by Paul Haggis and stunt casting (Sandra Bullock a racist! Don Cheadle a cop! Matt Dillon a racist cop!) conspire to prevent this film about the consequences of racism becoming something much better.
Should have won: Brokeback Mountain. Tragic and deeply moving, Ang Lee’s cowboy love story was confirmation of Heath Ledger’s rare talent.
6. Forrest Gump (1995)
This vaguely condescending, sickly sweet mess gave Tom Hanks his second consecutive Best Actor win but his performance couldn’t hide the truth that it was just the story of a deeply moronic, blissfully ignorant man-child who somehow rises to a position of enormous influence and power. Strangely prophetic.
Should have won: The Shawshank Redemption. The greatest interracial love story ever told.
5. Dances With Wolves (1991)
The first in a series of inexplicable vanity projects for the hot-at-the-time Kevin Costner, this is cinematic Valium with admittedly noble intentions. Civil War soldier makes friends with Native Americans. And wolves. Hilarity and tragedy ensue. Really slowly. At least Waterworld had Dennis Hopper in it.
Should have won: Martin Scorsese’s mobster masterpiece Goodfellas. A travesty it missed out. Forgeddaboudit.
4. Titanic (1998)
An incredible technical achievement but the acting was awful and James Cameron’s script was worse. Poor Billy Zane: all his cartoonish character needed was a moustache to twirl, and watching Kate Winslet’s mannered huffing was akin to being exposed to a giant cheese grater. No wonder Jack cashed in his chips.
Should have won: LA Confidential. Brilliant 1950s-set police corruption thriller with Russell Crowe in career-best form. And a creepy Kevin Spacey. Yoiks.
3. Shakespeare in Love (1999)
A truly undeserving winner. Vapid and instantly forgettable. An alleged romantic comedy about the Bard’s greatest love story. Benefited from a $3 million marketing blitzkrieg by Miramax’s Harvey Weinstein (before being ‘Weinsteined’ meant something else entirely). Gwyneth Paltrow’s irksomely weepy acceptance speech made her so reviled that complete strangers hugged each other joyfully when her head turned up in a box at the end of David Fincher’s Seven. With a creepy Kevin Spacey. Yoiks.
Should have won: Saving Private Ryan. Not Steven Spielberg’s greatest film – even though he picked up Best Director – but should have won for the astonishing 28-minute D-Day landing sequence alone.
2. The English Patient (1997)
In the Sahara Desert, an unrecognisably burnt Ralph Fiennes lies in bed dying and has flashbacks. For a running time of 18 hours. At least you get to lie down when you pay for deep sleep therapy. How in the name of William H. Macy it beat Fargo remains a greater mystery than how this outrageously boring movie ever got made.
Should have won: Fargo. The Coen Brothers in peak form and a brilliant Oscar-winning Frances McDormand. An actual crime that it lost.
1. Chariots of Fire (1982)
Profoundly uninteresting film about two amateur runners, one of whom refuses to run on the Sabbath. Or something. Uber annoying electro soundtrack by Vangelis another lowlight.
Should have won: Raiders of the Lost Ark. Unashamedly populist and to this day the best thing Harrison Ford ever did. Spielberg’s incomparable tribute the Saturday afternoon action matinee. The film that made me fall in love with cinema in the first place.
The King’s Speech in 2011. Colin Firth’s rousing battle with a speech impediment. No thanks.
Should have won: The Social Network. David Fincher’s ripping yarn about the birth of Facebook.