Oscar Bait Movies That Failed to Win Any Oscars (2023)

The 95th Academy Awards ceremony draws ever nearer and, as one of the most prestigious events in cinema, there are always plenty of film industry professionals hoping to be recognized for their achievements. While this pursuit of brilliance often brings about great movies, it has also seen some pictures made with the sole intention of being viewed as Oscar-winning powerhouses.

RELATED: 2022's Most Unsuccessful Oscar Baits, Ranked

“Oscar bait” is a term that has been coined to describe such films, which typically target timely themes, genres and storylines only to be found out for their egregious insincerity, forced gravitas and transparent falseness. While there have been plenty of occasions where Oscar bait has won out, there have also been a few where it has fallen flat on its face and gone home empty-handed.



1 ‘Amelia’ (2009)

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The Academy Awards are known to love a good biopic about a significant figure in human history. It makes the genre something of a serial offender when it comes to producing Oscar baits, but one of many biopics to collapse under the weight of its own ambitions was 2009’s Amelia which documented the career of Amelia Earhart.

Hilary Swank played the titular role and, as someone who had won two Oscars in the ten years prior, appeared likely to lead the film to success during the awards season. However, the biopic didn’t perform well at the box office and failed to earn a nomination, with critics condemning the execution of Earhart’s life story.

2 ‘Alexander’ (2004)

From adored classics of the 50s and 60s to the genre’s revisionist revival through the 90s and early 2000s, swords and sandals have seldom struggled to strike gold at the Oscars. With that in mind, it seemed Alexander was a certainty to make a splash at the ceremony in 2005.

Armed with a stellar cast and coming from acclaimed director Oliver Stone, the biographical drama followed famed military leader Alexander the Great’s (Colin Farrell) mighty conquest. However, the film failed to score a single Oscar nomination and was universally panned for its ponderous meandering over the course of its 175-minute runtime.

3 ‘J. Edgar’ (2011)

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With Hollywood icon Clint Eastwood directing Leonardo DiCaprio in a dramatic biopic about J. Edgar Hoover, J. Edgar was designed to be, and marketed as, a major Oscar contender. While DiCaprio was exceptional (and arguably unlucky not to earn a nomination), much of the rest of the film proved to be uninspired.

The narrative was seen as being overly confusing while the story beats were too cautious, refusing to pry into the ugly depths of Hoover’s power and how he abused it. J. Edgar flopped at the box office, failed to earn a single Oscar nomination, and has come to be viewed as one of the few misfires of Eastwood’s illustrious career.

4 ‘Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close’ (2011)

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caused an outcry upon release, with its story widely viewed as being exploitative of the 9/11 terror attack on the World Trade Center. That outcry was then amplified when the Academy Awards nominated the film for two Oscars, including Best Picture.

The sentimental tearjerker followed a young boy who searches New York City for the lock to match the key left behind by his father who died in the attack. While the novel it was based on was warmly received, the film was seen as a heavy-handed emotional drama that was too pretentious to be the heartfelt tragedy it should have been. It won neither of the awards it was nominated for.

5 ‘Seven Pounds’ (2008)

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While Will Smith took home his first Oscar for King Richard, the sports biopic was certainly not the first time the actor had campaigned for an Academy Award. 2008 saw Smith star in Seven Pounds, a drama about a haunted man who selflessly strives to improve the lives of seven strangers.

The film had aspirations of being a hard-hitting emotional wallop of tragedy, redemption and sentimentality, but for many, it was more accurately defined as a glum and depressing movie ruined by illogical plot points. It would appear the Academy agreed with the masses as Seven Pounds failed to receive any Oscar nominations.

6 ‘Cats’ (2019)

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As a star-studded musical adapted from a wildly successful stage show, it is clear that Universal Pictures had high hopes for what Cats could become. Sadly, the end result didn’t quite meet expectations, with the CGI and live-action combination used to capture the cats making for a visual spectacle so absurd that it became a pop-culture phenomenon for all the wrong reasons.

Not only did the film’s infamy fail to translate to box office success, but it also dashed all hope of it garnering any sort of Oscar recognition. According to The Daily Beast, a difficult relationship between director Tom Hooper and the overworked visual effects team was to blame for the laughable end result, but it’s doubtful even a great CGI achievement would have done much to save the film.

7 ‘House of Gucci’ (2021)

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Ridley Scott had a huge yet ultimately disappointing 2021, releasing The Last Duel and House of Gucci to divisive response. While historical epics usually track well with the Oscars, it was the family drama biopic of pioneering fashionistas the Guccis that most egregiously screamed out for award-season recognition.

Among its all-star cast were previous Oscar-winners Lady Gaga, Jared Leto and Al Pacino who all put in eye-catching performances which amassed a lot of attention. Some thought the film was an undervalued masterpiece while others viewed it as little more than a jumbled, self-indulgent mess. Regardless of what anyone thought, it didn’t track well with the Academy, earning just one nomination for Best Makeup and Hairstyling which ultimately went to The Eyes of Tammy Faye.

8 ‘The Soloist’ (2009)

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A major box office flop, The Soloist was the kind of picture that typically plays well with the Oscars. A biographical feel-good drama about a homeless musician living with schizophrenia whose attempts to lead a better life are supported when he is discovered by a journalist, its popularity was boosted with Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr. occupying the starring roles.

While both actors earned high praise for their performances, the film itself was criticized, namely for its storyline which adhered to the Hollywood formula too stringently to reach its full potential. The film failed to score an Oscar nomination and made just a little over half its budget back to become an all-around failure despite its uplifting story and strong lead actors.

9 ‘Don’t Look Up’ (2021)

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With a newfound penchant for political satire, Adam McKay went from cleverly provocative films like The Big Short and Vice to the downright polarizing disaster film Don’t Look Up. Boasting a cast full of Hollywood heavyweights, preaching a message of social importance, and trying to deliver a few barbed gags along the way, its satirical lens was precisely tailored toward the Academy Awards.

As far as Oscar nominations go, the approach worked a treat as Don’t Look Up received four nominations including one for Best Picture. It failed to win any though and, despite becoming a Netflix hit, was met with mixed reviews with many criticizing its one-eyed, pretentious scope as well as its lackluster execution.

10 ‘Amsterdam’ (2022)

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With The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle among his hits which made a splash at the Oscars, David O. Russell seemed likely to feature prominently at the ceremony again with Amsterdam being his first feature film in seven years. A star-studded adventure through a fascinating yet disturbing time in American history, the historical drama followed three unlikely friends as they became embroiled in a deadly scheme to bring fascism to 1930s America.

Despite the film's clear timeliness and its darkly comedic view of the historic events, it simply wasn't executed with the joyous punch of O. Russel's previous films. Amsterdam was decimated by critics for its inability to turn its stellar cast, flashy visuals and mesmeric costuming into something greater than the sum of its parts and ultimately failed to garner any Oscar nominations.

NEXT: The Biggest Oscar Snubs of All Time, According to Reddit

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