The Oscars are the most prestigious awards in Hollywood and perhaps the most coveted in the entire film industry. Given out by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) since the late 1920s, they have redefined filmmaking in numerous ways. To win an Oscar is often a seal of quality for any film… But not always.



On the movie-focused social media site Letterboxd, there are plenty of Oscar-winning movies with ratings that are subpar at best, proving that the Academy doesn’t always get it right. Whether they received one small award, like the Best Makeup winner The Nutty Professor, or multiple big ones, like the Best Picture recipient Cavalcade, these are movies showing that the label “Oscar winner” isn’t always a guarantee of excellence.


10 ‘Coquette’ (1929)

Letterboxd Rating: 2.7/5 Stars

woman sitting on a man's lap, another man watching them
Image via United Artists


Back in 1929, Sam Taylor‘s Coquette was a big deal. Advertised as iconic silent cinema star and AMPAS co-founder Mary Pickford‘s first talkie, it’s a romantic drama about a flirtatious Southern belle who’s compromised with one of her suitors, leading to tragedy. Though the movie was well received at the time, it has faded into relative obscurity over time. Those who have seen it don’t think of it very highly, making it unlikely to see it among anyone’s favorite 1920s films.


The movie’s sole Oscar nomination at the second-ever Academy Awards was a nod for Pickford’s lead performance. She won, but very shortly after, she quit acting altogether. As such, Coquette is an invaluable piece of cinematic history, but even then, most Letterboxd users think it’s a waste of time. They call its story dull and forgettable, and criticize how Pickford’s Oscar came for one of the weakest performances of her career.


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9 ‘The Wolfman’ (2010)

Letterboxd Rating: 2.7/5 Stars

a werewolf with a white shirt howling at the moon
Image via Universal Pictures


There’s an inimitable kind of charm in the best werewolf horror movies, but Joe Johnston‘s The Wolfman certainly isn’t one of them. It’s about an American man who, upon his return to his ancestral homeland, is bitten and cursed by a werewolf. Even if it wasn’t exactly praised for its story or performances, the film received recognition for its chilling look and incredible makeup work.


It was precisely for its makeup that the movie received an Oscar. It’s hard to complain since it’s the most impressive aspect of an otherwise pretty bland horror movie. While many Letterboxd users call it an underrated gem (and not only because of its terrific Gothic visuals), most find it a boring slog to have to get through.


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8 ‘Pearl Harbor’ (2001)

Letterboxd Rating: 2.7/5 Stars

Soldiers running away from an explosion in Pearl Harbor
Image via Buena Vista Pictures Distribution


Michael Bay isn’t exactly a beloved Hollywood director. More often than not, his films are received as overwhelmingly loud and shallow spectacles with little to offer outside of plain entertainment value. One of his most ambitious outings, however, is the grand war epicPearl Harbor, a 3-hour-long tale of war and romance about two lifelong friends and a beautiful nurse, who are caught up in the horror of the Pearl Harbor attack of 1941.


The film was nominated for four Oscars and won in the now-retired category of Best Sound Editing. If there’s anything about this film that was certainly beyond reproach, it was the sound. Letterboxd users praise the terrifically crafted action sequence that the whole film builds up to but complain about all the melodramatic romance and clichéd drama to be found before and after that sequence.


Pearl Harbor

Release Date
May 21, 2001

Runtime
3h 3m


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7 ‘Song of the South’ (1946)

Letterboxd Rating: 2.7/5 Stars

Kids, a man, and cartoon characters walking with the sunset behind them
Image via RKO Radio Pictures


A movie with quite a cheery but racist history, Harve Foster and Wilfred Jackson‘s Song of the South is an old Disney film that the company has fought to bury as deep under the ground as they can, and for good reason. On the surface, it’s about a kind storyteller telling a young boy the tale of the trickster Br’er Rabbit. Beneath that, it’s a bizarre celebration of the horrible myth that Black slaves were cheerful and happy about plantation life.


Despite its controversial nature, the Academy honored the film with a Best Original Song win for the catchy classic “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah”, as well as an Honorary Award for James Baskett‘s endearing portrayal of the storyteller Uncle Remus. While Letterboxd users don’t like that Disney has virtually erased a piece of history that’s important to talk about, they also don’t deny that, beyond any charming entertainment value, the film is racially insensitive beyond any possible redemption.


song of the south

Release Date
November 12, 1946

Director
Harve Foster , Wilfred Jackson

Cast
Ruth Warrick , Bobby Driscoll , James Baskett , Luana Patten , Lucile Watson , Hattie McDaniel

Runtime
94


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6 ‘The Golden Compass’ (2007)

Letterboxd Rating: 2.6/5 Stars

Promotional image for 'The Golden Compass'
Image via Warner Bros. 


A controversial adaptation of Philip Pullman‘s acclaimed dark fantasy novel Nothern Lights, which tried and failed to be the next big thing in cinematic fantasy, Chris Weitz‘s The Golden Compass is about a young girl who journeys to the far North to save her kidnapped best friend from a mysterious organization’s terrible experiments.


Despite a star-studded cast, the movie was a flop for both fans of Pullman’s work and those who were unfamiliar with it. Despite this, it won an Oscar for its admittedly excellent Visual Effects. Letterboxd reviewers have no complaints about The Golden Compass‘s visuals, but they certainly have a lot to criticize about its confusing tone, clichéd story, and absolute obliteration of what made the source material special.


The Golden Compass

Release Date
December 4, 2007

Director
Chris Weitz

Runtime
113


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5 ‘Cavalcade’ (1933)

Letterboxd Rating: 2.6/5 Stars

man and wife from movie
Image via Fox Film Corporation


One of the lowest-rated Best Picture winners on IMDb, Frank Lloyd‘s Cavalcade is a war drama that shows the triumphs and tragedies of two English families, one upper-class and one working-class, from the end of the 19th century to 1933. It sounds like an epic premise with lots of narrative juice to squeeze out of it, but Lloyd somehow managed to make it unengaging from start to finish.


As well as the top award of 1933 cinema, the movie also earned Lloyd a Best Director statuette. While it’s one of the most obscure Best Picture winners, having fewer Letterboxd reviews than most others, those who decided it was worth their time to write about Cavalcade panned it for being boring, uninspired, and deeply unexciting despite the potential for an engrossing tale of family drama.


Cavalcade

Release Date
April 15, 1933

Director
Frank Lloyd

Cast
Una O’Connor , Herbert Mundin

Runtime
112


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4 ‘The Nutty Professor’ (1996)

Letterboxd Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

Eddie Murphy and Jada Pinkett Smith in The Nutty Professor
Image via Universal Pictures


Starring Eddie Murphy playing a staggering number of characters, Tom Shadyac‘s The Nutty Professor is a comedy about a kind, brilliant professor who uses his own fat-reducing serum to hopefully conquer the heart of a beautiful woman who has joined his university’s faculty. Murphy’s transformative comedy was pretty satisfying for his fans, which helped the movie be relatively well-received.


For making Murphy look so convincing yet hilariously cartoonish as all these different characters, the movie won the Best Makeup Oscar. Sadly, everything else hasn’t aged so nicely with Letterboxd users. While many of them enjoyed the film’s dumb sense of humor, others found it crudely juvenile and obnoxious, perpetuating harmful stereotypes while making a number of fart jokes so large it’s an actual achievement in itself.


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3 ‘Cimarron’ (1931)

Letterboxd Rating: 2.4/5 Stars

Richard Dix as Yancey and Irene Dunne as Sabra in Cimarron (1931)
Image via RKO Radio Pictures


The fourth Best Picture winner of all time was also the first Western to win the big Oscar, something that hasn’t happened all that many times since. It’s Wesley Ruggles‘s Cimarron, about a newspaper editor who settles in an Oklahoma boom town with his reluctant wife at the end of the nineteenth century.


Both on Letterboxd and outside of it, Cimarron has been endlessly criticized for its questionable racial depictions, uninspired directing, overlong runtime, and boring narrative. It’s not like it has much cultural or historical value outside of its being the first Western Best Picture, either, making it one of the most universally disliked Oscar winners in any cinephile social circle, not only Letterboxd.


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2 ‘The Broadway Melody’ (1929)

Letterboxd Rating: 2.4/5 Stars

Anita Page and Bessie Love hold each other close
Image via Warner Bros.


The lowest-rated Best Picture winner on Letterboxd is Harry Beaumont‘s The Broadway Melody, the second-ever recipient of the award and the first winning talkie. It’s a musical drama about two sisters from the vaudeville circuit who try to make it big on Broadway, despite matters of the heart getting in the way.


There are plenty of good reasons why movie fans on Letterboxd pretty much universally agree that this is the weakest winner ever of Hollywood’s most longed-for honor. Its story is uncompelling and repetitive, its musical numbers are all surprisingly forgettable, and its depictions of femininity have aged like milk. The Broadway Melody is easily one of the most dull Oscar winners ever, making it all the more surprising that its award was that of the greatest movie of 1929.


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1 ‘Suicide Squad’ (2016)

Letterboxd Rating: 2/5 Stars

Jared Leto in Suicide Squad
Image via Warner Bros. Pictures


It’s not exactly uplifting to think that David Ayer‘s Suicide Squad, widely considered one of the worst superhero films of all time, has the same number of Oscars as classics like Citizen Kane and Goodfellas. The third DCEU film adapts the story of the titular team of incarcerated supervillains, who are used by a secret government agency to save the world from the apocalypse.


Suicide Squad won an Oscar for Best Makeup, and while that’s certainly one of its few redeeming qualities, it doesn’t have much else to offer. A tragic victim of studio interference, the film is choppily edited, poorly written, and a lackluster adaptation of one of DC Comics’ most beloved teams. The world would be a much better place if “Oscar-winning” wasn’t a label that could be applied to such a disgraceful film.


Suicide Squad

Release Date
August 5, 2016

Runtime
123 minutes


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KEEP READING:The Worst Best Picture Winner from Each Decade



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