The 10 Worst Movies That Ever Won an Oscar

Still of Ian Charleson and Ben Cross running in Chariots of Fire.
credit: Warner Bros.

The world may never know why timeless atrocities like these were picked out while iconic classics like "Singing in the Rain" went ignored. We've done our part today to shed a little light on the subject with a look at the dozen worst actual Oscar winners.

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1. Going My Way (1944)

Instead of a trope like good cop/bad cop, Going My Way gives us a taste of the priesthood gone rogue. It involves befriending young people by being hip and cool (without trying too hard). There's an awkward moment when a priest asks out two underage boys, but it was a more innocent time, and of course they couldn't have known how that would play several decades later.

Still of Father O'Malley standing between two boys.

Honestly, this is a very good movie and I'm sad to see it even make this list. Of course, that's what happens when we weed out the worst from the grade A movies. Just one question: In what world can people sing together on the telephone without having to deal with static or delay? Is that a 1940s thing? Can we go back there?

2. Oliver! (1968)

The costumes are marvelous, the choreography is delightful, even the settings are full of life and character. But there is one sore weakness: the lyrics. From the moment a room full of boys shouted "food, glorious food," I knew I was in for an interesting time watching Oliver!

Still of Oliver Twist watching children pretend to be horses.

Every forced rhyme and awkward phrase--and there are many of them--is a ticket to a face-palm. My personal favorite is when an orphan boy declares he will do anything for his beloved mother figure, and she asks if he would climb a hill or wear a daffodil. Dream big, my little urchins.

3. Patton (1970)

The one and only General George S. Patton leads American to victory by focusing on what really matters: tidiness. He even orders a doctor to drill two holes in a helmet and wear it under his stethoscope.

Still of General George S. Patton saluting in front of the United States flag.

Meanwhile his underlings are dropping bombshells like "Arabs need food and clothing." There is plenty of witty banter and some very impressive stunts, but none of that can keep the movie from crawling like a wayward snail.

4. Braveheart (1995)

It's hard to believe Braveheart came out a full 10 years before the mem-worthy refrain of "THIS IS SPARTA," in "300," because the two have become one in my mind. Forget the slight geological difference.

Still of William Wallace delivering a battle cry.

If you were dying to see a film with men in kilts lined up to fight, know this: it comes at the cost of historians everywhere crying themselves to sleep. Based loosely on an epic poem and even more loosely on reality, this isn't too shabby of a fantasy film. But this movie has done more damage to a generation's knowledge of history than "Titanic" and "Shakespeare in Love" combined.

5. Crash (2004)

Crash is the Hollywood bulldozer that bravely smashed one straw man after another, each one more makeshift than the last. It makes perfect sense that this film won the Oscar... because not picking it would have been racist.

Still of officer escorting Arabic couple out of gun store in Crash.

The heavy-handed moral of the movie glosses over nuance and subtlety to bludgeon the viewer with raw emotion. That being said, the cinematography is breathtaking. Each scene weaves together beautifully, even as the story moves between unconnected characters. The film plays with distance and timing in ways that still haunt me to this day. Long story short: Questionable writing but amazing film. But too badly flawed to really be Oscar-worthy.

6. Around the World in 80 Days (1956)

Modern movies often come up short adding enough mundane detail for realism. Romantic interests stammer "see you at 8" before hanging up the phone, with no mention of where. Super detectives announce "It's under the carpet!" when a half dozen other places were not yet ruled out.

Still of a sacrificial ceremony in Around the World in 80 Days.

Around the World in 80 Days has the opposite problem. Each logistical detail is laid out in excruciating detail. Then the real fun begins as Phileas Fogg embarks on the most boring activity on Earth: traveling, kind of slowly. Honestly, for such a tall order, the movie does a good job keeping the viewer entertained from the beginning to the end. Tune out some of the more outrageous racist caricatures (it's a product of its day, after all) and you have yourself a mostly watchable movie.

7. A Beautiful Mind (2001)

This film might be called a heroic coming of age story with a usual Hollywood happy ending, but read between the lines to see it as a tragedy. A Beautiful Mind is about a Princeton snob who talks like a velvet-bound dictionary and wonders why no one takes him seriously.

Still of Alicia Nash clutching her baby and confronting John Nash in A Beautiful Mind.

Each of the side characters are colorful and sweet in their own way, but the John Nash, with the titular beautiful mind, inspires nothing but an awkward mix of envy and disgust. Without giving too much away, I'll just say this: this movie advocates some questionable medical advice. In fact, it's a little horrifying that the Academy didn't discredit it on sight.

8. Gandhi (1982)

No matter how important a film's message, it still has to be a good movie to be worthy of an Oscar. The problem is the only reason Gandhi could have possibly won is on the merits of the subject matter.

Still of Gandhi clutching Katsurba Gandhi's hands.

In three hours, it does very little; indeed, half the film is of the Gandhi looking pensive. This may be an honest portrayal of how Gandhi composed himself, but it is not the makings entertainment. An eighth grade history class may be relieved to watch this instead of reading a textbook, but that does not make it an Oscar-worthy masterpiece.

9. Out of Africa (1985)

This semi-autobiographical film is about a rich baroness who moves to Nowhere in Particular, Africa in order to start a dairy farm. Through the course of Out of Africa, we find out which is easier: Finding a man who takes marriage seriously or chasing away a lion with a whip.

Still of Karen Blixen writing and petting a bird in Out of Africa.

Spoiler: It's the second one. The entire movie is a little bit too much like Twilight fan-fiction (but with less pregnancy and more STDs).

10. Chariots of Fire (1981)

This regrettable film is about two English rivals who are too English to insult each other properly. Both are college students who really like running. Let's be clear: They really like running. Seriously, look at this dude's face. No one enjoys running that much.

Still of Ian Charleson and Ben Cross running on the beach in Chariots of Fire.
credit: Warner Bros.

Chariots of Fire includes about 10 minutes of racing, which is more footage of running in circles than anyone can bear. The rest is unceasing and pointless dialogue. The greatest conflict in the entire movie is a literal scheduling conflict. Be sure to check it out.

On the other hand, the movie soundtrack did give avant-garde electronic compose Vangelis 10 minutes of fame in the early 80s, so there's that.

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