10 Horror Movies More Deserving of the Best Picture Oscar than the Winner

The Academy’s century-long oversight of horror highlights a persistent underappreciation for a genre that has consistently pushed cinematic boundaries.

Ignoring powerhouse performances like Lupita Nyong’o in ‘Us’ and Toni Collette in ‘Hereditary,’ along with the technical mastery inherent in horror films, underscores the genre’s unjust taboo status during awards season.

This neglect is particularly glaring when considering that not all Best Picture winners have maintained a lasting influence or legacy, unlike many horror classics that have profoundly shaped modern cinema.

Horror’s rich history is replete with films that not only defined the genre but also expanded the language of cinema, making it clear that numerous horror masterpieces were far more deserving of the Best Picture Oscar than the actual recipients.

The Academy’s reluctance to honor these films reflects a missed opportunity to recognize horror’s significant contributions and enduring appeal.

As the medium evolves, it’s time to reassess horror’s place in cinematic excellence, advocating for its long-overdue recognition and celebrating its unparalleled ability to engage, innovate, and terrify audiences worldwide.

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1. Dracula vs. Cimarron (1931)

horror movies deserved best picture oscar - Dracula vs. Cimarron

‘Dracula,’ released in 1931, not only brought Bram Stoker’s iconic vampire to the silver screen but also heralded a new era for the horror genre in Hollywood. Key highlights include:

  • Bela Lugosi’s Performance: His portrayal of Dracula is iconic, setting the standard for all previous vampire portrayals.
  • Gothic Cinematography: The film’s visual style has become synonymous with horror, influencing countless films in the genre.

‘Cimarron,’ on the other hand, despite winning the Best Picture Oscar, has seen its significance wane over the decades:

  • Historical Significance: While it made history as a Western-winning Best Picture, its legacy has yet to endure.
  • Diminished Legacy: Today, it’s remembered mainly for its Oscar win rather than its impact on cinema.

Why ‘Dracula’ Deserved Best Picture Over ‘Cimarron’:

  • Lasting Influence: ‘Dracula’ has inspired filmmakers and terrified audiences for nearly a century.
  • Legacy and Influence: Its aesthetic and narrative techniques have become a template for the horror genre.
  • Enduring Legacy: Unlike ‘Cimarron,’ ‘Dracula’s influence is still felt, proving its worth beyond its initial release.
LegacyPioneered the horror genre, influencing cinema for a century.It was a historic win for a Western, but its significance has faded.
InfluenceIt continues to inspire filmmakers and terrify audiences.It is remembered more for its Oscar win than for its cinematic impact.
Cinematic WorthIts lasting influence and place in cinema are undisputed.Lacks the enduring legacy and influence of ‘Dracula.’

2. King Kong vs. Cavalcade (1933)

horror movies deserved best picture oscar - King Kong vs. Cavalcade

‘King Kong’ not only captured the imagination of a generation but also revolutionized the use of special effects in cinema.

Its depiction of a colossal ape terrorizing New York City, achieved through groundbreaking stop-motion animation, remains a milestone in film history.

This 1933 masterpiece is more than just a movie; it’s a landmark of innovation, setting a standard for visual storytelling that inspires filmmakers today.

In stark contrast stands ‘Cavalcade,’ which clinched the Best Picture Oscar that year.

While it may have resonated with audiences of its time, offering a panoramic view of British life from the turn of the century through the 1920s, its legacy has significantly faded.

Unlike ‘King Kong,’ ‘Cavalcade’ has yet to have a lasting influence on the medium or the industry.

Why ‘King Kong’ Deserves Recognition:

  • Cinematic Innovation: ‘King Kong’ pushed filmmaking boundaries, introducing special techniques foundational to visual effects work in cinema. Its legacy of innovation makes it a seminal work in film history.
  • Cultural Impact: The cultural footprint of ‘King Kong’ is immense, spawning sequels and remakes and influencing many monster films. Its iconic scenes and characters have become embedded in popular culture, a feat ‘Cavalcade’ has not achieved.
  • Enduring Appeal: The ability of ‘King Kong’ to continue thrilling audiences across different generations underscores its timeless appeal and significance. Its blend of adventure, horror, and groundbreaking effects has made it a cinematic icon.

3. Invasion of the Body Snatchers vs. Around the World in 80 Days (1956)

horror movies deserved best picture oscar - Invasion of the Body Snatchers vs. Around the World in 80 Days

‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ is not just a film; it mirrors society’s paranoia. Released in 1956, this horror masterpiece tapped into the era’s fears with its tale of alien assimilation.

Its brilliance lies in the subtext, a chilling reflection on the loss of identity and the Cold War anxieties that gripped America.

This contrasts starkly with ‘Around the World in 80 Days’, which, while clinching the Best Picture Oscar that year, lacks the timeless resonance of ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers.’ Here’s why:

  • ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ offers a deep, introspective look at societal fears, making it as relevant today as it was in the 1950s.
  • The film is a chilling reflection on the loss of identity and the anxieties of the Cold War era.
  • In contrast, ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ was undoubtedly a technical marvel and a feel-good adventure but did not provoke thought and lingering unease as ‘Invasion’ did.

The case for ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ as the more deserving of the Best Picture Oscar is strong. Beyond its surface-level thrills:

  • It serves as a powerful medium for social commentary.
  • Its legacy transcends horror, becoming a pivotal piece of cinematic art.
  • The film’s enduring legacy and relevance showcase the power of horror to reflect and critique the world around us.
FeatureInvasion of the Body SnatchersAround the World in 80 Days
ThemesIdentity loss, societal fearsAdventure, cultural exploration
ImpactDeep social commentaryCinematic Achievement
Oscar Deserving CriteriaTimeless relevance, thought-provokingA technical marvel, entertainment value

4. The Birds vs. Tom Jones (1963)

horror movies deserved best picture oscar - The Birds vs. Tom Jones

Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’ (1963) redefined horror by turning ordinary bird flocks into symbols of terror, showcasing Hitchcock’s genius in suspense and visual storytelling.

In contrast, ‘Tom Jones,’ the Best Picture winner that year, delivered comedy through unique narrative techniques but has yet to age gracefully, often remembered for its novelty rather than cinematic excellence.

Key Points:

  • ‘The Birds’ stands out for its innovative use of sound and visuals, impacting cinema.
  • Hitchcock’s influence extends beyond film, affecting literature, television, and music, demonstrating the broad cultural impact of ‘The Birds.’
  • The film’s exploration of nature rebelling against humanity adds depth, making it a subject of study and discussion.

Comparison Table:

FeatureThe BirdsTom Jones
InnovationSound and visualsNarrative techniques
Legacy & ImpactEnduring, wide influenceAged, niche interest

‘The Birds’ transcends horror, offering a profound commentary on human nature and fear.

Its legacy and Hitchcock’s craftsmanship argue for its deserving of the Best Picture Oscar over ‘Tom Jones,’ highlighting cinema’s power to provoke thought and leave a lasting impression.

5. Rosemary’s Baby vs. Oliver (1968)

horror movies deserved best picture oscar - Rosemary's Baby vs. Oliver

‘Rosemary’s Baby’ (1968), directed by Roman Polanski, is a genre-defining horror masterpiece that delves into themes of isolation, betrayal, and the occult.

It pioneered the psychological horror genre, focusing on atmosphere and tension rather than explicit scares, profoundly impacting horror cinema and setting a trend for future films.

In contrast, Oliver!, the Best Picture Oscar winner of the same year, is a vibrant musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’s classic.

Celebrated for its lively performances and grand production design, it remains a notable achievement within the musical genre.

Still, it doesn’t match the groundbreaking influence of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ in its respective field.

Key Points:

  • ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ introduced a new kind of horror, emphasizing psychological depth and the horrors within daily life and relationships, reshaping the horror genre.
  • It has maintained a significant cultural influence, inspiring discussions on autonomy, paranoia, and the occult, showcasing its enduring legacy.
  • The film’s narrative complexity and masterful direction have made it a horrifying and deeply human cinematic experience.

Comparison Table:

Aspect‘Rosemary’s Baby’‘Oliver!’
Genre InfluenceRedefined horrorNotable musical
Cultural ImpactEnduring, wide influenceCelebrated but less influential
InnovationPsychological depthLively performances

‘Rosemary’s Baby’ stands out not just as a pinnacle of horror but as a cinematic milestone, pushing the boundaries of storytelling and leaving a lasting impression on both the genre and popular culture.

Its innovative approach and cultural resonance argue compellingly for its status as the more deserving Best Picture winner over ‘Oliver!’.

6. The Exorcist vs. The Sting (1973)

horror movies deserved best picture oscar - The Exorcist vs. The Sting

The Exorcist (1973) redefined horror and cinema with its groundbreaking special effects, stellar acting, and profoundly unsettling narrative, making it a critical and commercial powerhouse.

Beyond a film, it became a cultural touchstone, igniting debates and a fascination with the supernatural.

Conversely, ‘The Sting’ offered a charming, intricately plotted caper that shone through the chemistry of Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Winning the Best Picture Oscar, it is celebrated for its storytelling and revival of classic Hollywood style.

Key Points:

  • ‘The Exorcist’ obliterated horror boundaries, setting new standards for film production, marketing, and audience engagement, with an influence transcending its genre.
  • It remains a pivotal reference for filmmakers and audiences, exploring themes of faith, fear, and the human condition, showcasing the profound impact of cinema.
  • ‘The Sting,’ while a classic and deserving of accolades, does not match the groundbreaking contribution of ‘The Exorcist’ to the cinema.

Comparison Table:

Aspect‘The Exorcist’‘The Sting’
Genre InfluenceRedefined horrorExcellent caper film
Cultural ImpactCultural phenomenonCelebrated storytelling
InnovationGroundbreaking effects, narrativeRevival of classic Hollywood

‘The Exorcist’ transcends the horror genre to become a landmark in cinematic storytelling.

Its enduring legacy and broad influence make a compelling case for it as the more groundbreaking and deserving film.

While ‘The Sting’ remains a film history classic, ‘The Exorcist’ profound impact and innovation argue strongly for its significance in reshaping cinema.

7. Alien vs. “Kramer vs. Kramer” (1979)

horror movies deserved best picture oscar - Alien vs. “Kramer vs. Kramer

‘Alien’ (1979), directed by Ridley Scott, revolutionized the sci-fi horror genre with its suspenseful, claustrophobic atmosphere aboard the Nostromo and introduced the iconic Xenomorph.

Sigourney Weaver’s role as Ellen Ripley broke new ground, challenging genre conventions and gender stereotypes.

A critical and commercial triumph, ‘Alien’ has impacted cinema, inspiring filmmakers and captivating audiences for generations.

In contrast, ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’ won the Best Picture Oscar for its profound exploration of divorce, custody battles, and family dynamics, featuring stellar performances by Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep.

It resonated deeply with audiences for its emotional depth and narrative strength.

Key Points:

  • ‘Alien’ set new standards for sci-fi and horror, blending them seamlessly to create a groundbreaking film experience.
  • It introduced a new kind of horror antagonist and a strong, resourceful female protagonist, influencing future characters and narratives.
  • ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’ captured the complexities of human relationships, making a significant cultural impact in its own right.

Comparison Table:

Aspect‘Alien’‘Kramer vs. Kramer’
Genre InnovationRevolutionized sci-fi horrorProfound family drama
Cultural ImpactInfluenced cinema, video games, literatureExplored divorce/family dynamics
LegacyContinues to inspire filmmakersRemains a poignant family narrative

‘Alien’ redefined genres and reshaped cinematic storytelling with its blend of horror, sci-fi, and a decisive female lead. Its innovative use of practical effects and atmospheric tension marked a watershed moment in the film.

While Kramer vs. Kramer offers a touching and genuine portrayal of familial struggles, ‘Alien’s groundbreaking achievements and lasting influence.

Make a compelling case for its recognition as the more deserving Best Picture winner, highlighting its status as a masterpiece that transcended its genre to leave an indelible mark on the landscape of cinema.

8. The Shining vs. Ordinary People (1980)

horror movies deserved best picture oscar - The Shining vs. Ordinary People

The Shining’ (1980), directed by Stanley Kubrick, is more than a horror movie; it’s a profound exploration of the human psyche, isolation, and darkness.

Its blend of complex themes, visual storytelling, and Jack Nicholson’s performance has established it as a cinematic masterpiece, continuing to provoke discussion and analysis decades later.

Ordinary People offers an emotionally charged drama focusing on family dynamics and healing post-tragedy, powered by standout performances from Mary Tyler Moore and Timothy Hutton. While impactful, its cultural longevity pales compared to ‘The Shining.’

Key Points:

  • ‘The Shining’ profoundly influences cinema and culture, inspiring filmmakers and becoming a staple in popular culture with its iconic scenes and quotes.
  • Its ambiguity and depth have spurred endless debates and interpretations, underlining its complexity.
  • ‘Ordinary People’ delivers a poignant exploration of grief but lacks the groundbreaking cinematic artistry and lasting impact of ‘The Shining.’

Comparison Table:

Aspect‘The Shining’‘Ordinary People’
Cultural ImpactDeeply ingrained in popular cultureImpactful, yet less pervasive
Innovation & ArtistryGroundbreaking horror and psychological depthPoignant, emotional storytelling
Enduring AppealContinues to captivate and provoke discussionSignificant but less enduring

‘The Shining’ transcends its genre, offering a groundbreaking mix of horror, psychological insight, and cinematic brilliance.

Its enduring appeal, cultural impact, and innovative way of engaging audiences strongly support its status as the most impactful and deserving Best Picture winner.

9. The Thing vs. Gandhi (1982)

horror movies deserved best picture oscar - The Thing vs. Gandhi

John Carpenter’s groundbreaking horror film The Thing has experienced a significant shift in critical reception since its 1982 release.

Initially receiving mixed reviews and overshadowed by contemporaneous blockbusters, it is now hailed as a cornerstone of horror cinema.

It is celebrated for its innovative special effects and the intense atmosphere of paranoia it creates.

  • Innovation in Horror: ‘The Thing’ set new benchmarks in the genre with its psychological terror and pioneering practical effects.
  • Cultural and Genre Influence: It has inspired filmmakers and special effects artists, securing a cult following and a revered status in horror history.

‘Gandhi,’ the Best Picture winner of the same year, is an epic biographical film that provides a powerful and inspiring account of Mahatma Gandhi’s life.

Despite its historical significance and Ben Kingsley’s acclaimed performance, recent critiques have focused on its pacing, portrayal of complex issues, and a predominantly Western perspective.

Key Comparisons:

Aspect‘The Thing’‘Gandhi’
Innovation & ImpactRevolutionized horror with effects and atmosphereSignificant historical portrayal
Enduring PopularityGained a passionate cult followingRemains respected but faced critiques
Genre InfluenceSet standards in horror cinemaImportant biographical work
Cultural SignificanceDeeply influenced cinema and pop cultureCelebrated for its historical narrative

‘The Thing’ stands out for its lasting impact and innovative filmmaking, blending suspense and special effects to create a film that redefined its genre and left a lasting mark on the cinematic landscape.

Its themes of trust, identity, and fear of the unknown continue to resonate, making it a timeless classic.

While ‘Gandhi’ is undeniably a cinematic milestone, ‘The Thing’s’ enduring popularity, critical reevaluation, and influence on both horror cinema.

And broader film culture makes a compelling case for it being more deserving of the Best Picture Oscar, highlighting its unique and lasting contribution to the art of cinema.

10. The Sixth Sense vs. American Beauty (1999)

horror movies deserved best picture oscar - The Sixth Sense vs. American Beauty

The Sixth Sense, a film that masterfully intertwines horror with a gripping mystery, showcased M. Night Shyamalan’s exceptional directing talents and featured standout performances by Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment.

This film became a significant box office success and resonated deeply with audiences and critics, earning it six nominations at the Academy Awards.

  • Engagement and Mystery: The film captivated audiences with its haunting story and twist ending, redefining the horror and thriller genres.
  • Academy Recognition: Despite its widespread acclaim and nomination for Best Picture, it did not win in this category.

‘American Beauty,’ on the other hand, was initially celebrated as a cinematic masterpiece, capturing the essence of suburban life and its underlying tensions.

However, its standing has somewhat diminished over time, with its relevance and perception being critically reassessed by contemporary audiences.

Comparative Highlights:

Criterion‘The Sixth Sense’‘American Beauty’
Genre ImpactRedefined horror and thriller genresCaptured suburban existentialism
Academy RecognitionNominated for 6 Oscars, including Best PictureWon Best Picture
Cultural LegacyIncreasingly esteemed over timeRelevance and perception have dwindled
Public ReceptionGrew in popularity and critical acclaimInitially praised, now critically reassessed

Bold Assertions:

  • ‘The Sixth Sense’ is celebrated for its innovative storytelling and haunting narrative, which allowed it to age gracefully and continue to be highly regarded in the public eye.
  • ‘American Beauty,’ while a significant film at its release, has faced a decline in its cultural impact, leading to a reassessment of its initial acclaim.

In retrospect, considering the lasting impact and evolving public perception, ‘The Sixth Sense’ emerges as a film of profound influence and enduring appeal. Making a compelling case for its superiority over ‘American Beauty’ in the context of the Best Picture award.

Its legacy as a timeless story and a benchmark in its genre underscores the sentiment that it deserved the Oscar, showcasing the shift in how these films are viewed over time.

FAQs About Horror Movies and the Oscars

Have horror movies ever won the Best Picture Oscar?

Yes, horror movies have won the Best Picture Oscar, though it’s a rare occurrence. The most notable example is “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991), which won Best Picture and other major categories.

Why do the Oscars often overlook horror movies?

Horror movies are often seen as niche or genre-specific, focusing more on entertainment and shock value rather than the traditional artistic merits valued by the Oscars. However, this perception changes as more horror films are recognized for their depth, craftsmanship, and social commentary.

What horror movies have been nominated for Best Picture?

Apart from “The Silence of the Lambs,” other horror movies nominated for Best Picture include “Get Out” (2017) and “Black Swan” (2010), which demonstrate the genre’s evolving recognition.


While exploring overlooked horror films at the Oscars, we’ve unearthed genre-defining masterpieces like ‘The Shining’ and ‘The Sixth Sense.’

These films have not only redefined the horror genre but have also left a significant mark on cinema.

Their critical acclaim and cultural impact highlight the Oscars’ tendency to overlook the innovation and lasting influence these horror classics offer.

Key Points:

  • Redefining Horror: Films like ‘The Shining’ and ‘The Sixth Sense’ have broadened the horizons of horror, blending psychological depth with innovative storytelling.
  • Oscars’ Oversight: Despite their contributions, these films were overshadowed by others that, while notable, don’t match the horror genre’s lasting influence and innovation.

The Need for Broadened Recognition:

  • Depth and Diversity: The horror genre’s depth, societal commentary, and technical ingenuity deserve acknowledgment on par with other cinematic forms.
  • Redefining Excellence: This journey calls for a more inclusive Oscars that appreciate the artistry across genres, including the often-dismissed horror.

In championing these horror classics, we advocate for a cinema that values diversity and innovation, recognizing these films’ profound impact on the art form.

It’s a call to action for the Oscars and film enthusiasts to reevaluate and celebrate the horror genre’s unique contributions to cinema, ensuring these masterpieces are honored as snubs and pivotal landmarks in film history.

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