Welcome to our second part of DC Horror Oscar coverage this year. Yesterday we took on “The Horror Films That Deserved Oscars Nominations” and today we are going to be tackling an all-new subject: “Horror Movies That Were Nominated and/or Won Academy Awards.”
Sure there are some classics that we all know scored Oscar gold, such as The Silence of the Lambs and The Exorcist, but I think when you look through the following article you’ll be surprised at which films garnered some serious attention throughout the years.
So without further ado, as I don’t want this article to go on as long as, say, any given installment in the Academy Awards ceremonies, let’s get into the horror movies that were nominated and/or won Academy Awards.
While I have yet to check out Mervyn LeRoy’s The Bad Seed – which was adapted from the 1954 play by Maxwell Anderson – with the Rob Lowe remake on the horizon, this film is heading towards the top of my “Classic Check-Up” list. Especially considering the film managed to score four Oscar nominations, including Best Actress (Nancy Kelly), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Eileen Heckart), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Patty McCormack), and Best Black-and-White Cinematography (Hal Rosson). So I know there has to be a solid night’s entertainment contained within. I’ll let you know!
Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is hands-down one of the best films ever made, horror or otherwise. From it’s classic, shocking shower sequence, to Anthony Perkins’ chilling performance as Norman Bates, Psycho is one of the best of the best. And it seems the Academy agreed as the pre-slasher film was nominated for four Oscars including Best Director (Alfred Hitchcock), Best Supporting Actress (Janet Leigh) Best Black-and-White Cinematography (John L. Russell), Best Black-and-White Art/Set Decoration (Joseph Hurley, Robert Clatworthy, and George Milo)
While it is nearly impossible for me to say just what film is my favorite horror movie of all-time, Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby is right up there in the top five for sure. Haunting and filled to the brim with paranoia, the modern-gothic fright flick was nominated for two Oscars including Best Adapted Screenplay (Roman Polanski) based on the novel of the same name by Ira Levin, and Best Supporting Actress (Ruth Gordon). And, hoo-ray, Gordon won for her role! But where was the love for Mia Farrow as Rosemary? Weak.
William Friedkin’s The Exorcist was nominated for a stunning 10 Oscars including Best Picture, Best Actress (Ellen Burstyn), Best Supporting Actor (Jason Miller), Best Supporting Actress (Linda Blair), Best Director (William Friedkin), Best Adapted Screenplay (William Peter Blatty), Best Cinematography (Owen Roizman), Best Film Editing (Jordan Leondopoulos, Bud S. Smith, Evan Lottman, Norman Gay), Best Production Design (Bill Malley, Jerry Wunderlich), and Best Sound Mixing (Robert Knudson, Chris Newman). Blatty won Best Adapted Screenplay and the film scored another win for Best Sound Mixing.
As I mentioned above with the Rosemary’s Baby entry, picking my favorite horror movie of all-time is damn-near impossible. But like Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby, Steven Spielberg’s Jaws is in my top five for sure. The killer creature feature was rightfully nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Film Editing (Verna Fields), Best Original Dramatic Score (John Williams), and Best Sound (Robert Hoyt, Roger Heman, Earl Madery and John Carter). The film would win all but Best Picture. But where was Spielberg’s nomination for Best Director? After all, this is his debatable masterpiece. And that is saying something.
“They’re all going to laugh at you!” Brian De Palma’s gutsy and timely adaptation of Stephen King’s debut novel Carrie is a film that I try to revisit each year. I have yet to read the novel by Stephen King, but if it is half as good as DePalma’s motion picture, then I think I’m in for a real treat. And speaking of how good DePalma’s motion picture is, the film was nominated for two Oscars. One for Best Actress (Sissy Spacek as the titular Carrie White) and another for Best Supporting Actress (Piper Laurie as her overbearing, insane mother). Unfortunately, neither Spacek nor Laurie took home the gold, which sucks.
Personally, I love Richard Donner’s “creepy little kid may or may not be the anti-christ” horror movie The Omen. This is a famous fright film that I saw relatively late in my initial horror binge-watching in late high school, but once I peeped it the film it stuck with me for days and nights afterward. It’s those damn dogs and that damn score! And speaking of the film’s haunting score, Richard Donner’s The Omen was nominated for two Academy Awards including Best Original Score (Jerry Goldsmith) and Best Original Song (“Ave Satani”). Goldsmith won the Oscar for Best Orignal Score. Well deserved!
I know I’ve already touched on this twice now in the same article, but let’s go ahead and beat this dead horse a bit more and let me say that while I can’t pick a favorite horror movie, along with Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby and Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, Ridley Scott’s Alien is one of, if not my favorite, horror film ever. Suitably, the sci-fi creature feature was nominated for two Oscars including Best Art Direction (Michael Seymour, Leslie Dilley, Roger Christian, Ian Whittaker) and Best Visual Effects (H.R. Giger, Carlo Rambaldi, Brian Johnson, Nick Allder, Denys Ayling). The film would go on to win the Best Visual Effects award that night. Go, Giger!
Unlike my inability to name a favorite horror film of all-time, I have no issue saying that John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London is my favorite horror-comedy of all-time, no issue at all. While the film wasn’t an Oscar darling by any means the year it came howling out, it was given a single Oscars nomination back in 1982 for Rick Baker’s show-stopping work in Makeup and Hairstyling. Baker would win the award that year, which was all but created just to give the man props for his seamless werewolf transformation scene, you know the one I’m talking about. Come on now, sing it with me: “Blue moon… you saw me standing alone…”
Personally, I don’t think there is much to debate when it comes to whether or not Tobe Hooper or Steven Spielberg directed Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist. But that classic debate aside, the supernatural shocker was nominated for three Oscars back in 1982 including Best Sound Editing (Stephen Hunter Flick, Richard L. Anderson), Best Visual Effects (Richard Edlund, Michael Wood, Bruce Nicholson), and Best Original Score (Jerry Goldsmith). Unfortunately, the film lost all of its nominations to Steven Spielberg’s other film E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, bummer. I mean, I love E.T. as much as the next guy, but still, bummer.
While I know it might upset a few people here and there, I have always preferred Ridley Scott’s Alien to James Cameron’s Aliens, but that is just personal preference. That said, the sequel is widely considered by many to be superior to the original film, and the Academy seems to agree as the movie earned seven Oscar nominations including Best Actress (Sigourney Weaver), Best Art Direction (Peter Lamont, Crispian Sallis), Best Editing (Ray Lovejoy), Best Original Score (James Horner), Best Sound (Graham V. Hartstone, Nicolas le Messurier, Michael A. Carter, Roy Charman), Best Sound Editing (Don Sharpe), and Best Visual Effects (Robert Skotak, Stan Winston, John Richardson, Suzanne Benson). The film would go on to win both Best Sound Editing and Best Visual Effects.
Remeber that dead horse we were beating a few entries back? Well, let’s check back in on him. Again, while I can’t pick a favorite horror movie, David Cronenberg’s 1986 remake of The Fly starring Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis is in my top ten for sure. The remake scored a well-deserved Oscar nomination for Best Makeup (Chris Walas, Stephan Dupuis) and to make matters all the better, the film won its sole award and thus gives me a sliver of faith in the Academy’s voting practices. After all, for all the strength the film displayed wall-to-wall, you cannot debate the movie’s SPX were f*cking mind-blowing. Congrats, The Fly!
Tim Burton’s horror-comedy Beetlejuice was nominated and won (!) the Academy Award for Best Makeup (Steve La Porte, Ve Neill, Robert Short) at the 61st Academy Awards. Makes sense considering not only Beetlejuice himself is a work of modern horror art, but just think of all the other ghosts in Hell’s waiting room (or whatever that was). Terrific work that was justly appreciated by the Oscars. That said, I don’t mean to sound ungrateful or anything, but how did Michael Keaton not get at least a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his role as the ghost with the most? Baffling.
Sad but true that Stand by Me director Rob Reiner’s 1990 adaptation of Stephen King’s novel Misery was only nominated for a single Oscar, and that was a Best Actress nomination Oscar for Kathy Bates and her role of the Dragon Lady AKA Annie Wilkes. While I would have liked to see this film in particular win (or at least have been nominated) for Best Adapted Screenplay for William Goldman, it’s hard to argue that if the film was to garner just one Oscar, then Bates performance is the one I’d have gone with as well. I almost hate to say it but, good job on this one, Oscar.
Jonathan Demme’s adaptation of Thomas Harris’ novel The Silence of the Lambs is the high-water mark for horror films at the Academy Awards. The film was nominated for stunning 7 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director (Jonathan Demme), Best Adapted Screenplay (Ted Tally), Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins), Best Actress (Jodie Foster), Best Film Editing (Craig McKay), and Best Sound Mixing (Tom Fleischman, Christopher Newman). In the end, the film took home wins for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor, and Best Actress.
Regardless of what I think of some of the acting on display in Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (not to name names, Keanu Reeves), the film is still one of the most gorgeous films ever made, horror or otherwise. Fittingly the flick was nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Costume Design (Eiko Ishioka), Best Sound Editing (Tom C. McCarthy), Best Makeup (Greg Cannom, Michèle Burke, Matthew W. Mungle), and Best Art Direction/Set Decoration (Thomas E. Sanders, Garrett Lewis). The film won three out of those four for Best Costume Design, Best Sound Editing, and Best Makeup. Again not appear ungrateful to the Academy for showing our beloved genre some love, but weren’t Bram Stoker’s Dracula‘s sets and Art Direction the best things about the film? Shrugs. Guess not.
I’ve loved almost everything Robert Zemeckis has directed. That said, I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Zemeckis’ horror-comedy Death Becomes Her starring Meryl Streep, Bruce Willis, and Goldie Hawn. It’s not a bad movie, it’s just not my cup of tea, other than the gore scenes. Anyhow, Death Becomes Her was nominated for – and won – the Academy Award for Visual Effects (Ken Ralston, Doug Chiang, Doug Smythe, Tom Woodruff, Jr.), and this makes a ton of sense considering, if you haven’t viewed the film in a while, the flick is lacking in almost every regard other than it’s stunning visual effects. Especially considering the film was released in 1992, a full year before Jurassic Park.
The Ghost and the Darkness
A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child director Stephen Hopkins’s killer lions flick The Ghost and the Darkness starring Michael Douglas and Val Kilmer is a film that desperately needs a remake. The original film isn’t all bad, but the story (featuring Kilmer and Douglas as hunters at war with a pair of bloodthirsty lions attacking workers on a railroad through their territory) is so killer that a new take on the true tale would win all the awards, not just the single win the film garnered for Best Sound Editing (Bruce Stambler).
I’m not going to lie, M. Night Shyamalan’s chilling ghost story The Sixth Sense scared the absolute hell out of me when I saw it in the theaters back in high school. Actually, the film didn’t just scare me, it gave me a week-long panic attack, it was bad. But as bad as my experience was after seeing the film, the movie itself is f*cking stunning. The Academy agreed and the film was nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director (M. Night Shyamalan), Best Supporting Actor (Haley Joel Osment), Best Supporting Actress (Toni Collette), and Best Original Screenplay (M. Night Shyamalan), and Best Editing (Andrew Mondshein). Sadly the film did not win a single Oscar that year. For shame, Haley Joel Osment needed that win.
I don’t know about you, but I love the absolute gorgeous-and-gory hell out of Tim Burton’s R-rated horror film based on Washington Irving’ classic tale Sleepy Hollow. While it was no surprise that the film’s script wasn’t nominated for any Oscars, it was a literal cause for celebration back in ’99 when the film was nominated for three Academy Awards including Best Art Direction (Rick Heinrichs, Peter Young), Best Cinematography (Emmanuel Lubezki), and Best Costume Design (Colleen Atwood). The film only managed to take home the win for Best Art Direction, and while we can’t argue with that, the film boasts some of the most stunning cinematography we have seen in a horror film, ever. It would have been nice to give Emmanuel Lubezki the win on that one.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Hoo-ray! Director Tim Burton returns yet again to the Academy Awards, after the above-mentioned Beetlejuice and Sleepy Hollow, this time, with his R-rated version of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s horror musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The film was a full-on opera – which truth be told I didn’t expect – but it was still bloody as hell and a work of cinematic art. The Academy concurred and the film earned another three nominations including Best Costume Design (Colleen Atwood), Best Art Direction (Dante Ferretti, Francesca Lo Schiavo), and Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Johnny Depp). But yet again, like Burton’s Sleepy Hollow above, the film only snagged one win for Best Art Direction.
This is how Universal should have chosen to kick off their Dark Universe. Joe Johnston’s gritty and gory remake of the classic Universal monster movie The Wolfman starring Benicio del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, and Hugo Weaving is one of the better examples of a remake done right. In fact, the film is one of the few shining examples of an Epic Horror movie as well. Good times! Thankfully, the film was recognized by the Academy and was nominated for – and won – Best Makeup at the 83rd Academy Awards for Rick Baker and Dave Elsey’s killer work. Amen.
Darren Aronofsky’s psychological horror-thriller Black Swan starring Natalie Portman is one of the best films of the past few years, horror or not. I love the way Aronofsky’s film jumps back and forth between Portman’s high-stress reality and her psychosexual fantasies until a violent conclusion is the only way things can climax. The ballad of blood and ballerinas was nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Actress (Natalie Portman), Best Cinematography (Matthew Libatique), Best Director (Darren Aronofsky), Best Film Editing (Andrew Weisblum), and Best Picture. While the film would only go home with a win for Portman’s performance, that was enough for most of us out there as Portman absolutely killed it in this flick. Slow clap.
And there you have it, those are the horror films that have been nominated for and/or won Academy Awards. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that Del Toro’s The Shape of Water and/or Jordan Peele’s Get Out join the ranks of the winners come this Sunday!
The 90th annual Academy Awards take place on Sunday, March 4.