Names We Never Expected to Ever Be on the Oscar’s Nom List

Godzilla: Minus One

Every year surrounding the infamous Academy Award nomination announcements, we're shocked by snubs or pleasantly surprised when a notoriously revered filmmaker finally earns the recognition they deserve. Ultimately, the sneaks that somehow worked their way onto the list are more shocking than films that seemed like a sure thing getting snubbed. 

1. Godzilla Minus One (2023)

Minami Hamabe in Godzilla Minus One
Image Credit: Toho International.

Godzilla Minus One has made history as the first Godzilla film ever to earn an Academy Award nomination in the franchise's 70-year history. Currently rated 8.3 on IMDb and so far grossing enough at the box office to land in the top five of the highest-grossing foreign language film in U.S. film history, fans are clearly smitten with the film. However, the franchise has been mired with aversion from critics, with none of the preceding 38 films ever being nominated. With clear underdog status, it came as a shock when, in 2024, it earned a nomination for Best Visual Effects.

2. Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)

Fifty Shades of Grey Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan faced immense criticism for the casting and portrayal of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey. Hardly living up to fans of the erotic novels' expectations, the franchise received flack from its inception, especially after the first film's release in 2015. It's the lowest-rated of the franchise, likely because it had the most hype and massive reach. With 333k ratings on IMDb, it's earned a terrible 4.2 rating.

No matter how you cut it, very few people were pleased with this movie, and it significantly damaged the leading actors' careers. However, one of its saving graces was its incredible soundtrack, featuring artists like The Weeknd and Ellie Goulding. The Academy seems to have agreed, nominating The Weeknd's “Earned It” for Best Original Song.

3. Suicide Squad (2016)

Suicide Squad
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

There's no denying there was a lot of positive anticipation for 2016's Suicide Squad, myself included. Both versions of its haunting and adrenaline-fueled trailers looked incredible. Its cast was jam-packed with A-list veteran actors, and we were at the peak of the superhero frenzy. The actual payoff was, to put it politely, derided by both critics and audiences. It was so heavily panned that James Gunn later re-adapted it into a total reboot of the franchise with some of the same characters (with much more desirable results).

Its win for Best Achievement in Makeup & Hairstyling seemed like a cosmic joke that spurred countless trending articles from publications whose titles need not be more self-explanatory than “Suicide Squad Just Won an Oscar.” The punchline wrote itself. The movie's win for Makeup & Hairstyling was like The Rock winning an award for Most Versatile Actor. Have they no sense of irony?

4. Norbit (2007)

Norbit 2007
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Okay, prepare to go down the Norbit rabbit hole because this one is filled with hilarious and low-key tragic lore. Norbit was a ridiculous early 2000s comedy in the style of low-brow slapstick cross-dressing humor that is so bad it's good. It's a movie so bad that it single-handedly killed Eddie Murphy's only chance of winning a Best Supporting Actor Oscar (for Dreamgirls) and, potentially, his subsequent comedic career, which all but died after this cinematic horror was allowed to leave the cutting room floor. 

Just like that, in one fell swoop, Norbit put Eddie Murphy in quite a predicament. By lambasting him as the worst actor in Hollywood, costing him an Oscar for a highly respected film in a career-best performance (which he would never usurp in his later career), it's a phenomenon dubbed The Norbit Effect. To twist the knife deeper, critics ironically nominated Norbit for a Best Makeup Oscar. Life is cruel; then you die!

5. Borat (2006)

Borat Movie (2006)
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Borat, originally titled Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, was a 2006 satirical film starring Sacha Baron Cohen, famous for its politically incorrect caricature of American culture. Cohen portrays a hilariously backward man from Kazakhstan who goes to the U.S. to report on the “greatest country in the world.” Borat's bigoted, crude humor juxtaposed with unscripted regular people under the impression that Cohen's absurd caricature is a real person makes for hilarious satire bordering on documentary.

While cherished by many and earning a solid 7.4 rating on IMDb, it's one of those love-it-or-hate-it comedic premises. It's not for the faint of heart or easily offended, and in a prestigious award category known to bank on more conventional scripted dramas, Borat hit the big time when it was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. It was surprising to see critics recognize such crude humor as worthy of such a respectable award — or at least to be in contention for such an award. It lost out to The Departed, which is fair enough.

6. The Boss Baby (2017)

Alec Baldwin, Lisa Kudrow, and Jimmy Kimmel in The Boss Baby (2017)
Image Credit: DreamWorks Animation.

Forgive me, boss baby, for I was unfamiliar with your game. I knew The Boss Baby, which has grown into its own mega-franchise with two films, two TV series, and an interactive special, was popular with babies, children, and even! What I did not see coming was for it to earn critical acclaim in the form of an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature. Look, I know the movie was up against other animated films, which tend to consist of family-friendly movies, but come on, it's The Boss Baby. He wears a little suit and came out of the womb dreaming of forming a tech start-up or something.

Can he even walk? How am I supposed to believe a baby who can't walk knows how to run a corporation? The award went to Tom McGrath and Ramsey Naito. McGrath is known for the Madagascar franchise and Megamind, both of which rock, so maybe we shouldn't scoff so hard. With a bit of digging, however, I discovered their dirty little secret. The Academy changed its rules for the Best Animated Feature category that year, allowing any Academy members who wished to participate to vote in this category instead of a narrower group of Academy members within the animation industry, as had been standard. 

7. Click (2006)

Click Adam Sandler
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing.

You're not going to believe this one even if I tell you. If I told you Click was nominated for an Academy Award, that would be funny enough. That requires no further explanation to get to the crux of the joke, but I fear it's worse than that. It wasn't nominated in any category; oh no, it was nominated for Best Achievement in Makeup

Though it's one of Sandler's best films, I would have been perfectly content to see it nominated in the Best Screenplay category, but instead, it was in contention for the best makeup transformation. Granted, Click involved Sandler's character rapidly aging and becoming significantly more rotund, but the transformation didn't stick out as anything notably Oscar-worthy. Nominees Bill Korso and Kazu Hiro explained that they had developed an innovative new silicone appliance as one of the biggest advances in makeup since rubber pieces were introduced around the time of The Wizard of Oz

8. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

You might expect the only thing Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen could be nominated for is Visual Effects, but you'd be wrong. It was nominated in 2010 for Best Achievement in Sound Mixing, a category I will never understand. The Transformers movies are often used as punchlines about Michael Bay‘s fixation with big action spectacles at the expense of plot lines and character development — something he has admitted. Still, they were quite an achievement in visual effects and, apparently, sound.

Revenge of the Fallen is a solid summer blockbuster movie. It was surprising to see its name listed among films like The Hurt Locker, Avatar, Inglourious Basterds, and Star Trek, especially following its mixed reviews. Bay claimed the film was affected by the writer's strike from 2007 to 2008, which accelerated its scripting schedule. He told The Hollywood Reporter, “I was prepping a movie for months where I only had 14 pages of some idea of what the movie was. It's a B.S. way to make a movie. Do you know what I'm saying?”

9. The Lone Ranger (2013)

The Lone Ranger Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer
Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

Despite earning mixed reviews, the Lone Ranger earned two Oscar nominations in Best Visual Effects and Best Makeup and Hairstyling categories. However, it lost in both categories, which didn't help resuscitate its battered reputation as a snooze-fest with an inflated budget. With a 6.4 rating on IMDb, it isn't terrible, but it was raked over the coals by critics and earned five Razzie nominations.

It won the Razzie for Worst Remake, Rip-off, or Sequel. Chris Stuckmann called it “A horrifically boring movie that feels like a long lost sequel to Wild Wild West (1999), another big-budget western disaster.” Over time, it's largely been forgotten, and its two lead stars have been mired in controversy, leaving it out of the Hollywood conversation entirely.

10. 102 Dalmatians (2000)

102 Dalmatians
Image Credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

The sequel to 101 Dalmatians, 102 Dalmatians, isn't exactly coveted as the peak of cinema. It's rated an abysmal 4.8 on IMDb and a 30% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes. The consensus was that it's pretty bad, but it's just a tacky kids' movie. The first film was inventive and fun enough to earn Glenn Close a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress.

This follow-up only received a nomination for Best Costume Design, and you might be thinking, well, what's so strange about that? It's Cruella de Vil, after all! A family-centric sequel that audiences can hardly utter a good word about is hardly Oscar bait, and to demonstrate my point, I need only mention that it lost to Gladiator, funnily enough. The Stinkers Bad Movie Awards nominated it in five categories, including The Remake or Sequel Nobody Was Clamoring For.

11. Batman Forever (1995)

Batman Forever
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

While Tim Burton's Batman and Batman Returns are both certifiable classics of the genre, as reflected in their IMDb ratings (7.5 and 7.1, respectively), Batman Forever came along to mess everything up, and everything went downhill. With a dismal 5.4 IMDb rating, fans and critics weren't smitten with Joel Schumacher's direction. It was a total mismatch from the tone set by the previous movies. Its gimmicky suits and campy atmosphere retconned Gotham City's dark, brooding atmosphere into one with neon lights and vibrant color palettes.

The performances were over the top, the romantic subplot was dreadful, painting Nicole Kidman as a one-dimensional love interest, and some call it more of a 2-hour toy commercial than an actual film. This made its Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography all the more surprising. It was a massive downgrade in the franchise's story, and the preceding Batman films had only earned nominations in categories like Best Makeup, Visual Effects, or Set Direction. It was surprising to see a critical and commercial failure nominated in the coveted cinematography category. You wouldn't usually see a superhero film land a place in this category alongside Braveheart, which it lost to. Batman Forever was also nominated for Best Sound and Best Sound Effects Editing. 

12. Waterworld (1995)

Kevin Costner in Waterworld (1995)
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

When it was released in 1995, Waterworld was the most expensive film ever made. With continuous production setbacks, rewrites, and cost overruns, their original budget of $100 million quickly ballooned into $175 million. It's penned as one of the biggest commercial flops in movie history, failing to make a return on its investment and going over budget by $75 million during an era where huge spectacles like Jurassic Park could be made on a budget of $63 million. It lost money at the box office but later made up for it with video releases and television rights deals, but it certainly did in Kevin Costner's reputation. It earned 4 Razzie nominations and one Oscar nomination in the same year. The Academy Award nomination was in the Best Sound category. This film was a problem for Costner for several reasons — it couldn't keep its promises, lost money, and was plagued with drama.

The movie promised to be a Max Max on water, promoting itself as a masterpiece in world-building, storytelling, and action. Instead, it was critically torn apart, had to rely on home video sales to turn a profit, and creative disputes between Costner and director Kevin Reynolds led to Reynolds quitting the movie, though he still earned directing credit. Costner wasn't just acting in the movie but also served as a producer, placing blame for the film's failures squarely on his shoulders more than an actor would. 

13. Shakespeare in Love (1998)

Shakespeare in Love (1998), Gwyneth Paltrow
Image Credit: Miramax Films.

Shakespeare in Love differs from the previously mentioned films in that it wasn't so ridiculous that it was nominated for an Oscar, but that it was nominated in thirteen categories, including Best Picture, and won seven. Most ludicrously, it beat Saving Private Ryan for Best Picture in 1999, perhaps one of the greatest Academy Award injustices in history. Shakespeare in Love, though enjoyed by many and rated a solid 7.1 on IMDb, was a much more lighthearted film than the rest of the 1999 Best Picture nominees. Beating Saving Private Ryan for Best Picture was ridiculous enough, but Gwyneth Paltrow's Best Actress win added insult to injury as one of the most controversial wins in the history of the awards.

Paltrow faced an onslaught of derision from her fellow actors. Glenn Close openly stated that the surprising win left her confused and didn't make any sense, believing Montenegro of Central Station should have won. 

14. Bad Grandpa (2013)

Johnny Knoxville and Jackson Nicoll in Bad Grandpa (2013)
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

The iconic series known for ridiculous and dangerous stunts performed by friends with ridiculously high openness to experience and virtually zero boundaries was first adapted into a movie in 2002. There were seven movies preceding Bad Grandpa, which earned an Oscar nomination for Best Achievement in Makeup & Hairstyling. The movie, born out of an MTV reality comedy T.V. series, revolved around a gang of guys trying out random stunts and injuring themselves for fun. 

Makeup artist Stephen Prouty admits their initial bid for an Oscar in the makeup and hairstyling department began as a joke but ultimately gained faith in their process that it could hold its own in the line-up of makeup and hairstyling transformations. Each shooting day for Knoxville entailed three hours in the makeup chair. Prouty used eleven prosthetic pieces just to age Knoxville's hands! The movie was up against Dallas Buyers Club and The Lone Ranger, losing the title to the former. 

15. Shrek (2001)

Shrek
Image Credit: DreamWorks Pictures.

If you're looking for Shrek slander, you'll find nothing of the sort here. We're ride or die for Shrek around here, best believe. With that said, it will never not be funny that it was nominated for Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published (now known as Best Adapted Screenplay). It made sense that it was nominated for and won Best Animated Feature, given that it's one of the wittiest, highest-quality animated films to come out since the millennium.

Shrek was the first film ever to win the category, which was brand new in 2002. However, the screenplay category included films like A Beautiful Mind (which won this category and Best Picture) and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, among others. Shrek has cemented its place in the zeitgeist, being inducted into the National Film Registry in 2020. So yes, Shrek being nominated among such legendary, serious films for Best Adapted Screenplay is funny but also deserved.

16. Black Panther (2018)

Black Panther (2018) Chadwick Boseman
Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

Black Panther made history at the 2019 Oscars as the first superhero film to be nominated for Best Picture. In total, Black Panther earned seven nominations and three wins, including Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, and Best Original Score. These Oscar wins were history-making, as the first Oscar wins for Marvel Studios. Two of the nominees, Ruth Carter and Hannah Beachler, made history as the first African American woman to win Best Costume Design and the first woman of color to be nominated and win Best Production Design.

Black Panther doesn't deserve to be singled out any more than any of the other generic superhero films to come out of the past sixteen years in the MCU. In my humble opinion, it's just the first one to earn a place in a category it simply doesn't belong in. That could just be my anti-corny superhero movie bias talking, though.

17. Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

Transformers: Dark of The Moon Movie (2011)
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

I don't just have it out for Transformers: Dark of the Moon because they dared to replace my girl Megan Fox — it was a truly awful sequel. It's not Mark Wahlberg's Transformers era terrible, but it paved the way for the awfulness to come. In addition to earning three Oscar nominations, all in technical categories relating to sound or visual effects, it was nominated for eight Razzies, including Worst Supporting Actress and Worst Screen Couple. 

Despite being a significant downgrade in the Transformers saga, it roped people in thanks to its two previous serviceable movies, earning $1.124 billion at the worldwide box office. That was the fourth highest-grossing film in history at the time. Curiously, the franchise's leading man, Shia Labeouf, didn't reprise his role as Sam Witwicky in the fourth or any of the following films. 

18. Babe (1995)

Babe Movie (1995)
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Babe was a cute, family-friendly comedic drama that combined live-action with animatronics. While it was a sweet story, we hardly expected it to be nominated for Best Picture in 1996. It was nominated for seven Oscars in total but only won for Best Visual Effects and lost its bid for Best Picture to Braveheart (which seems fair).

To my surprise, Babe has a strong fanbase who are adamant that it earned its place in the Oscar race if not outright robbed! Vulture named it the Best Loser of the race for Best Picture. Decider admits that Babe was a surprise entry for Best Picture that year, which no one saw coming. Still, writer Joe Reid makes the case that in an alternate universe, it's Babe—the heartwarming story about a pig herding sheepdogs—that should have eclipsed Braveheart.

19. Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (2001)

Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Much like Shrek, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius was one of the first movies ever nominated for Best Animated Feature. Unlike Shrek, it did not deserve to be there. I grew up watching Jimmy Neutron (the show); it was a guilty pleasure. My mom claims I had a crush on Jimmy Neutron, which I attribute to a false memory because there is no way. It's an appealing cartoon to kill the mundane hours characteristic of being seven, but to nominate it over Atlantis: The Lost Empire? That's heresy and a bad start to the launch of the Animated Feature category.

20. Tropic Thunder (2008)

Robert Downey Jr. and Ben Stiller in Tropic Thunder (2008)
Image Credit: DreamWorks Pictures.

While an amazing comedy with brilliant Hollywood satire, Tropic Thunder is something I probably shouldn't have seen in the theater with my dad when I was 11 years old. Child services aside, Tropic Thunder, while a brilliant directorial debut by Ben Stiller, was not expected to grace the list of Oscar nominations. Technically, the film didn't earn any nods, but one actor did. Robert Downey Jr. was nominated for Best Supporting Actor as Kirk Lazarus, a white Australian method actor who undergoes “pigmentation alteration surgery” to pose as African American sergeant Lincoln Osiris.

There wasn't a big outcry about political correctness, so RDJ's blackface didn't become a point of criticism until years later. However, it's worth pointing out that the film, which is a criticism of the film industry, is part of the film's satirical commentary on the absurdity of actors undergoing extreme measures for their craft. It's also a criticism of Hollywood whitewashing and lack of diversity. 

21. Ted (2012)

Ted (2012)
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Ted was a raunchy comedy starring Mila Kunis, Mark Wahlberg, and Steve MacFarlane as a foul-mouthed troublemaking teddy bear. Despite being a fan of McFarlane's Family Guy, I found Ted insufferably annoying and lacking any of the comedic qualities of McFarlane's previous work. Ted earned one nomination at the 2013 Oscars for Best Original Song.

Since they got a nomination, Seth McFarlene and Ted appeared on the Oscars stage to present the Best Sound Mixing and Sound Editing award. They created the Ted illusion by creating a duplicate Academy Awards stage at CBS studios to film a segment that matched the Dolby Theatre setup. It involved the coordination of precise camera positions to seamlessly integrate animated content with the use of Dell Precision workstations. The production team was prepared to push a button for the correct winner during the live broadcast.

22. Hustle & Flow (2005)

Hustle & Flow (2005), Terrence Howard, Taraji P. Henson
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Hustle & Flow follows the story of a Memphis pimp who tries to become a successful hip-hop artist amid a mid-life crisis starring Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson. The film features an elaborate scene where Djay and Shug are recording the song It‘s Hard Out Here for a Pimp in the studio—a song by Memphis hip-hop group Three Six Mafia. The song was written and recorded for the film and features Taraji P. Henson's real vocals on the chorus. To everyone's surprise, the film was recognized by the prestigious Academy Awards, a place that hardly puts respect on hip-hop or rap music.

It‘s Hard Out Here for a Pimp was nominated for Best Original Song and won. The ecstatic hip-hop group took to the stage in utter elation as they gave their victory speech, and it lightened the mood for the rest of the night, with host Jon Stewart making repeated jokes about it. Terrence Howard was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role but lost to Philip Seymour Hoffman for Capote

23. The Avengers (2012)

The Avengers Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner
Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

In 2013, The Avengers revolutionized the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In phase one, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger had all already been released. The Avengers, released in 2012, completed Phase One of the MCU, solidifying it as a new era in cinema: one where superhero films are king. The film generated $1.5 billion at the worldwide box office, and twelve years later, it still has an 8 out of 10 rating on IMDb, rated by 1.4 million users. While The Avengers got heaps of praise, formed an intense fandom, and spawned a new era of filmmaking where Marvel would eclipse every other form of storytelling for the next decade, it was, at the end of the day, a light, fun, silly superhero movie.

It earned an Oscar nomination for Best Visual Effects, which was not unheard of; Iron Man and Iron Man 2 both had Oscar nominations for Visual Effects, and Iron Man also earned one for Best Sound Editing. 

24. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Gamora Guardians of the Galaxy 2014 Marvel Television
Image Credit: Marvel Television

Guardians of the Galaxy marked the sixth MCU film nominated for an Oscar, this time for Best Visual Effects and Best Makeup & Hairstyling. Much like The Avengers, it performed great at the box office, raking in $772.8 million worldwide and becoming the third-highest-grossing film of 2014. It has an 8 rating on IMDb, as decided by 1.3 million people. The film's unconventional characters and makeup effects were surprisingly recognized with a nomination at the coveted awards ceremony.

Up to that moment, Guardians of the Galaxy had been an obscure set of unrecognizable Marvel heroes who were popularized and formed a huge fan base thanks to the success and critical acclaim of the first film. There have since been another two Guardians films, plenty of cross-over films within the franchise, and reportedly, a fourth film is in the works. While I can appreciate the comedic timing, clever use of music, and charismatic cast, Guardians of the Galaxy always struck me as colossally overhyped dad humor.