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The 10 biggest Oscar snubs of all time, from 'Saving Private Ryan' to Alfred Hitchcock

Andrea Mandell, USA TODAY
·5 min read

All this time later, it still hurts.

The list of snubbed A-list actors, directors and hallmark movies is long when it comes to the Oscars. Legends such as Judy Garland (a two-time nominee), Marilyn Monroe (zero nominations) and Richard Burton (a whopping seven nods!) often go their whole lives without taking a gold statue home. And puzzling films can triumph in the best picture race over others that have remained culturally relevant for more than half a century. We're looking at you, "It's a Wonderful Life," which lost in 1947 to "The Best Years of Our Lives." (Which film do you remember?)

In honor of all the deserving talent suffering from Oscar's cold shoulder, here are the 10 biggest snubs of all time when it comes to the Academy Awards (airing Sunday, 8 EDT/5 PDT ).

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1. 'Citizen Kane' losing best picture

In 1942, one of the greatest upsets in film history took place at the 14th Academy Awards: “How Green Was My Valley” won instead of "Citizen Kane." Never heard of it? Not surprised. Meanwhile, the Orson Welles-directed film continues to top critics' lists, including the American Film Institute's 100 Greatest Movies of All Time.

2. Alfred Hitchcock never won best director

Creating a cinematic style in films like "Vertigo," "Psycho" and "The Birds" that's so famous it’s now an adjective, the Master of Suspense was nominated five times and never won. The Academy moved to rectify that by honoring Hitchcock, who died in 1980 at age 80, with the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1968.

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3. Glenn Close is still a bridesmaid

Glenn Close was predicted to win at the 2019 Academy Awards, but went home empty-handed.
Glenn Close was predicted to win at the 2019 Academy Awards, but went home empty-handed.

Close now holds the record for the actress with the most Oscar nominations (eight, thanks to her recent "Hillbilly Elegy nod) who’s never won. After Close lost out for films like "Fatal Attraction," "Dangerous Liaisons" and "Albert Nobbs," prognosticators thought for sure it would happen in 2019, thanks to her deft work in "The Wife." But Olivia Colman took the trophy instead for playing Queen Anne in “The Favourite.”

Ranked: Glenn Close's Oscar-nominated performances (including 'Hillbilly Elegy,' 'Fatal Attraction')

4. 'Saving Private Ryan' losing to 'Shakespeare in Love'

"Shakespeare in Love" imagines a romance between Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) and a woman (Gwyneth Paltrow) who auditions, disguised as a man, for one of his plays that helps the Bard write “Romeo and Juliet.”
"Shakespeare in Love" imagines a romance between Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) and a woman (Gwyneth Paltrow) who auditions, disguised as a man, for one of his plays that helps the Bard write “Romeo and Juliet.”

"Shakespeare" toppling Steven Spielberg's heavy-hitting World War II film shocked Hollywood in 1999, and marked a new era of ruthless behind-the-scenes campaigning spearheaded by now-disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. We also now know that Paltrow, who won best actress for "Shakespeare," has said she was once targeted by Weinstein. It makes the best picture win – and the film, frankly – all the harder to celebrate today.

5. Spike Lee has never won best director

“BlacKkKlansman” director Spike Lee, getting hugs from presenter Samuel L. Jackson as he took home his first Oscar at the 2019 Academy Awards, following five nominations in nearly 30 years.
“BlacKkKlansman” director Spike Lee, getting hugs from presenter Samuel L. Jackson as he took home his first Oscar at the 2019 Academy Awards, following five nominations in nearly 30 years.

Despite a career that brought us films like "Do the Right Thing," "Malcom X" and "Inside Man," Lee has only ever been nominated once for best director, for “BlacKkKlansman.” And people are still furious that the seminal “Do the Right Thing” wasn’t even nominated for best picture in 1990 – the same year “Driving Miss Daisy” won. But there is gold in his house: Lee took home best adapted screenplay in 2019 and won an honorary Oscar for career achievement in 2016. Unfortunately, he was looked over in this year's nominations for "Da 5 Bloods."

6. Stanley Kubrick was shut out

Kubrick's movies have left an indelible mark on our culture, from "Spartacus" and "A Clockwork Orange" to "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "Dr. Strangelove." But despite four best director nominations, he never won. The director, who died in 1999, did take home one Oscar – for visual effects for "2001: A Space Odyssey."

7. Pam Grier and 'Jackie Brown' were robbed

Pam Grier is a flight attendant and part-time smuggler in "Jackie Brown."
Pam Grier is a flight attendant and part-time smuggler in "Jackie Brown."

Fans are still smarting over Grier’s snub for 1997's “Jackie Brown.” Quentin Tarantino wrote the role of a flight attendant and part-time smuggler for Grier, and though she gave a landmark performance, Grier didn't even score a nomination (but co-star Robert Forster did). Helen Hunt won that year for "As Good As It Gets," besting nominees Kate Winslet ("Titanic"), Julie Christie ("Afterglow"), Judi Dench ("Mrs. Brown") and Helena Bonham Carter ("The Wings of the Dove").

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8. Peter O’Toole couldn't nab a win

He was nominated eight times – including for 1962's "Lawrence of Arabia" – but never won. Ultimately, O'Toole received an honorary Oscar in 2003, and was in attendance at the Academy Awards to accept it. "Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, my foot," he said on stage. O'Toole racked up his final acting nomination in 2007 for "Venus." He died in 2013 at age 81.

9. Cicely Tyson deserved gold for years

Cicely Tyson accepts an honorary Oscar at the 10th annual Governors Awards gala.
Cicely Tyson accepts an honorary Oscar at the 10th annual Governors Awards gala.

The late Tyson was nominated once in 1973 for her Depression-era drama “Sounder," but lost to Liza Minnelli for "Cabaret." Though later in life she earned love playing Viola Davis' mother in ABC's "How to Get Away with Murder," her contribution in film remains indelible, with films spanning “The River Niger,” “Fried Green Tomatoes,” "The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter," “Diary of A Mad Black Woman,” “The Help" and “Last Flag Flying.” Tyson became the first woman of color ever to win an honorary Academy Award in 2018. Accepting the Oscar at the Governors Awards, Tyson called it "the culmination of all those years of have and have-not." The beloved actress died in January at 96.

10. 'Brokeback Mountain' lost to ... 'Crash'

Jack Nicholson couldn't contain his surprise at the 2006 Academy Awards as he announced that "Crash" had bested "Brokeback Mountain" for best picture (even mouthing "Whoa!" at the podium). "Brokeback," a gay love story between two cowboys (Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger), had been the favorite to win, but "Crash," a drama centered around racial tensions in L.A., ultimately took best picture. It's gone down as one of the biggest head-scratchers in Oscars history – with even "Crash" writer/director Paul Haggis questioning his win. “Was it the best film of the year? I don’t think so,” Haggis said in a 2015 interview with HitFix.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Oscar snubs: 10 biggest of all time, from 'Citizen Kane' to Spike Lee