Legendary Directors Who Never Won an Oscar


The Academy Awards seem to work mostly in hindsight. They wait until a director has proven themselves over time before slinging them a Best Director statue rather than giving one to rich new talents. Sometimes a newbie can slip through, but the likes of Martin Scorsese are left in the lurch until late in their career. In some cases the most important film makers in history get passed over time and time again (or go without nominations) until they retire or pass on, never to be honoured by the self-imposed biggest award in the business. Here’s ten people who were foolishly omitted.

Stanley Kubrick

One of the most revered names in the business, both for his innovation and unique style, few directors attain the status held by Stanley Kubrick. The American filmmaker was no stranger to controversy during his career by confronting taboo topics such as sex, violence, war, paedophilia, crime and punishment. As a result the Academy have steered clear off his work, dropping him nominations but never honouring him with a reward until after his death.

Kubrick films

Who he lost to:

Dr. Strangelove lost to George Cukor for My Fair Lady.

2001: A Space Odyssey lost to Carol Reed for Oliver!

A Clockwork Orange lost to Willian Friedkin for The French Connection

Barry Lyndon lost to Miloš Forman for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Charlie Chaplin

If there’s one director that is instantly familiar to people around the world it is Charlie Chaplin. Everyone who has lived during the age of film knows his little tramp character and although his movies are considered to be amongst the greatest ever made he was never been nominated for the Best Director statuette. After various attacks against his character that lead to him being driven out of the country he was awarded an Honorary Reward at the age of 83, five years before his death.

Chaplin Films

Movies that should have been nominated: City Lights, The Great Dictator, The Kid, The Gold Rush, Modern Times.

Alfred Hitchcock

Even if you haven’t seen his work you know the name and you know the face. Hitchcock’s career spanned decades, producing a vast catalogue of thrillers, horrors and nail biting television. Every bit the showbiz personality, he was as famous as his movies. In spite of five nominations Hitchcock always lost to more dramatic fare.

Hitchcock films

Who he lost to:

Rebecca lost to John Ford for The Grapes of Wrath

Lifeboat lost to Leo McCarey for Going My Way

Spellbound lost to Billy Wilder for The Lost Weekend

Rear Window lost to Elia Kazan for On the Waterfront

Psycho lost to Billy Wilder for The Apartment

Fredrico Fellini

The Italian filmmaker’s name is held up as one of the most influential directors who has ever lived. He would blend fantasy, dreams and reality to create modernist fantasies. Fellini is a key figure in the alternative film movement in post war decades and his name is still synonymous with extravagant modern productions.

Fellini Films

Who he lost to:

La Dolce Vita lost to Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins for West Side Story

8 1/2  lost to Tony Richardson for Tom Jones

Satyricon lost to Franklin J. Schaffner for Patton

Amarcord lost to Miloš Foreman for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Robert Altman

Altman may not have shaken the film industry like Chaplin or Fellini but he is undoubtedly one of the finest writers and directors to work in the business. His ensemble casts were ushered through fantastically woven scenarios that held up a darkly comedic mirror to society. For Altman the filmmaking was very naturalistic – it was the perspective that mattered.

Altman Films

Who he lost to:

M*A*S*H lost to Franklin J. Schaffner for Patton

Nashville lost to Miloš Foreman for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

The Player lost to Clint Eastwood for Unforgiven

Short Cuts lost to Steven Spielberg for Schindler’s List

Ingmar Bergman

This Swedish born auteur has been referred to as the most influential filmmaker in history on more than one occasion with directors like Allen, Altman, Coppola and Kubrick citing him as an inspiration. Bergman used cinema to explore themes of life, death and faith and encouraged his performers to improvise even if he’d spent years working on a script. Bergman is responsible for some of cinema’s most iconic images.

Bergman Films

Who he lost to:

Cries and Whispers lost to George Roy Hill for The Sting

Face to Face lost to John G. Avildsen for Rocky

Fanny and Alexander lost to James L. Brooks for Terms of Endearment

Sidney Lumet

Put together a list of the greatest movies ever made in American cinema and you will undoubtedly find the Sidney Lumet crops up more than a couple of times. Lumet made bold, expressive movies seeped in reality, addressing social justice and human nature. His movies hit hard and leave an impression. Any one of the films listed below would be the high point in a director’s career.

Lumet Films

Who he lost to:

12 Angry Men lost to David Lean for The Bridge on the River Kwai

Dog Day Afternoon lost to Miloš Foreman for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Network lost to John G. Avildsen for Rocky

The Verdict lost to Richard Attenborough for Ghandi

Sergio Leone

Whenever your father sat you down and made you watch an old Western starring Clint Eastwood there’s a good chance it was by Sergio Leone. His films were all at once grand, sweeping epics and down and dirty action films. Leone frequently worked closely with the legends of the genre, and was the go-to guy for any film dealing with anti-heroes or shades of grey morality. He was even offered The Godfather.

Leone Films

Movies he should’ve been nominated for: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, For a Fistful of Dollars, Once Upon a Time in America, Once Upon a Time in the West.

Ridley Scott

These days Scott is spending his time keeping Russell Crowe’s career afloat. Prior to that he was the go to guy for sweeping epic blockbusters with well-crafted characters at their core. Considering how much of what he produces ticks the boxes for Oscar bait it’s surprising that he’s been skipped over.

Scott Films

Who he lost to:

Thelma and Louise lost to Jonathan Demme for The Silence of the Lambs

Gladiator lost to Steven Soderbergh for Traffic

Black Hawk Down lost to Ron Howard for A Beautiful Mind

David Lynch

If there’s one thing that will put a director into Oscar’s blind spot it’s experimentation. David Lynch has created a string of unorthodox yet critically and commercially successful films that redefine the approach to visual story telling. The term ‘Lynch-esque’ is commonly used to describe any film that explores surrealism in filmmaking.

Lynch Films

The Elephant Man lost to Robert Redford for Ordinary People

Blue Velvet lost to Olver Stone for Platoon

Mulholland Drive lost to Ron Howard for A Beautiful Mind