The Academy Awards are the world’s biggest celebration of cinema, making notes of the finest films of the year from all backgrounds, genres and budgets…supposedly. Of course, for many generations, this simply hasn’t been the case with the Oscar voters often favouring films that uphold American patriotism or contain politically important messages relating to war, drama or grand romance.
One of several genres to lose out from this bias, horror cinema has long suffered from a lack of representation at the awards show, with the likes of The Shining by Stanley Kubrick, The Thing by John Carpenter and The Wicker Man by Robin Hardy each being snubbed by the Oscars. In fact, ever since the start of the ceremony’s history, only five horror films have ever been nominated for Best Picture, with the majority one leaning on the ‘thriller’ side of the genre.
Whilst, more recently, the likes of 28 Days Later by Danny Boyle, The Babadook by Jennifer Kent and Ari Aster’s Hereditary have each missed out on Oscar nods, it seems as though none of these films had enough of a pertinent subtext for the Academy to recognise their successes. Instead, the ceremony continues to ignore one of the most important genres in cinema.
The five horror films ever nominated for Best Picture:
The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973)
Making history becoming the first horror film ever to be nominated for the Best Picture, The Exorcist narrowly lost out to The Sting, starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, when it was released in 1973. As the highest-grossing film of the year, the success of Friedkin’s film cannot be understated, earning ten nominations for Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Deserving the Best Picture win alongside a win for Linda Blair in the Supporting Actress category, The Exorcist only walked away with the statuette for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Sound.
Get Out (Jordan Peele, 2017)
A commercial and critical giant upon its release in 2017, Get Out catapulted director Jordan Peele to international acclaim upon its release, allowing him to make Us two years later and Nope in 2022. A social horror about the racism of contemporary America, the film starred Daniel Kaluuya alongside Allison Williams, LaKeith Stanfield, Lil Rel Howery and Caleb Landry Jones.
Amassing four Oscar nominations including for Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Picture, Peele took home the screenplay award though arguably deserved the biggest award of the night.
Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975)
The blockbuster classic that changed the face of commercial Hollywood cinema, Jaws by Steven Spielberg was wholly deserving of its Best Picture nod and should’ve taken home the prize instead of the winner One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. At one time being the highest-grossing film of all time, Spielberg’s terrifying tale of the folly of consumerism is an American classic.
Earning several nominations at the 48th Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Film Editing, Best Original Dramatic Score, and Best Sound, taking home three awards in the technical categories.
The Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1991)
Remaining the only horror film ever to take home the award for Best Picture, Jonathan Demme’s influential horror-thriller popularised one of the most iconic villains of cinema in the psychopathic Hannibal Lecter. Led by terrific performances from Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins and Ted Levine, the horror film is brought to life by such actors, with the script leaving a little to be desired.
As well as taking home Best Picture, The Silence of the Lambs also became one of only three films to ever win the ‘Big Six’ Oscars, including for Best Actor, actress, director, and screenplay.
The Sixth Sense (M. Night Shyamalan, 1999)
Die-hard horror fans might have a few things to say about M. Night Shyamalan’s film The Sixth Sense being labelled as a horror film, with the drama better pertaining to the thriller genre. Nonetheless, the film certainly has horror elements, with Shyamalan injecting his iconic style into the film with terrific critical and commercial success, leading him onto further success in the 21st century.
Earning six nominations including for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Actor for the young Haley Joel Osment, M. Night Shyamalan’s film ultimately walked away with nothing at the end of the night.