The Most Frustrating Horror Movie Snubs In Oscars History

Each year Hollywood unites around a peculiar tradition as actors, filmmakers, and members of the press gather for a reading of the highly-anticipated Oscar nominations. This list is always met with excitement, but recent years have seen plans for the annual awards ceremony stir up an increasing amount of controversy. Each new rundown of honorees sparks the inevitable discussion of filmmakers and performers overlooked by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the dissection of these "Oscar snubs" becoming the norm rather than the exception.

Academy leaders have attempted to combat these complaints by diversifying the roster of industry voters and expanding the best picture category to allow for up to 10 entries. However, the institution has a long history of ignoring horror movies and performances that should have been nominated, and each year's announcements bring with them increasingly frustrating snubs. 

Mia Goth recently stated she believes these continued omissions are "very political" and that "a shift should take place if they wanted to engage with the wider public." Ignored for her much-praised performance in Ti West's "Pearl," she joins a growing list — including Toni Collette, Lupita Nyong'o, and Jordan Peele's third film, "Nope" — of talent shut out of every category. However aggravating these snubs may be, they are far from the only horror films to be overlooked by the Academy. The following are 14 films definitely worthy of Oscar love that were left out in the cold.

Actress in a Leading Role: Anya Taylor-Joy, The Witch

The term "Oscar bait" generally refers to a type of movie all but designed to attract the attention of Academy voters. From tragic biopics to harrowing period pieces to notoriously unglamorous performances, certain films emerge as immediate frontrunners for Oscar nominations. The horror genre's version of this distinction has been dubbed "elevated horror," a term many fans find infuriating due to the implication that mainstream horror is in some way inferior. Surprisingly, the film that inadvertently triggered this distinction was also ignored by the Academy.

Robert Eggers' 2015 debut film "The Witch" features a stunning dedication to authenticity, impressive natural lighting, and a near-flawless performance by its young star. In her feature film debut, Anya Taylor-Joy plays Thomasin, a Puritan teenager blamed by her family for the horrific acts of a witch living in the nearby woods. The shocking picture received widespread praise from critics, with many pinpointing Taylor-Joy's performance, delivered in Early Modern English, as an undeniable highlight. She reportedly turned down a role on a Disney Channel pilot to star in the dark tale and has since become one of Hollywood's most exciting leading ladies. With a bright future on the horizon, Taylor-Joy seems destined for forthcoming awards, but official recognition for her star-making turn as Thomasin remains a glaring omission in her early career.

Director: John Carpenter, The Thing

One of the most celebrated horror films of all time was completely ignored by the Academy and almost universally disregarded upon its release. John Carpenter's "The Thing" follows a group of U.S. researchers stationed in Antarctica who are attacked by a shape-shifting alien hiding in plain sight. The claustrophobic movie has now become known for jaw-dropping special effects sequences, wickedly dry humor, and a palpable feeling of paranoia that carries through to its ambiguous ending. Carpenter's first studio feature, "The Thing" was skewered by critics and avoided by audiences likely due to the success of both "ET" and "Poltergeist," released just weeks earlier, saturating the market for horror and alien fare.

Though frequently listed among the famed director's best outings, Carpenter notes that the film's initial failure nearly tanked his own career. In an interview with Variety, he remembered, "It was a hated, cursed movie for a very long time. And I was out of work and feeling pretty bleak." In 2019 Carpenter was awarded the French Directors' Guild Carrosse d'Or Award at the Cannes Film Festival after a screening of "The Thing," now considered a masterpiece. Though he has never been recognized by the Academy, Carpenter names this frozen horror and its nihilistic ending as one of the entries in his long catalog of which he's most proud.

Actor in a Leading Role: Anton Yelchin, Green Room

Posthumous Oscars are a rarity in Hollywood and have been awarded only a handful of times in the past 90 years. Though just two actors have won the coveted award after passing away, Anton Yelchin arguably deserved to be the third. Already established as one of the most likable young actors in Hollywood, Yelchin was beginning to make a name for himself in the genre world by starring in a remake of the classic "Fright Night," playing the titular "Odd Thomas," and appearing in the indie darling "Only Lovers Left Alive." He'd recently completed the press tour for his newest film, Jeremy Saulnier's "Green Room," when he was killed in a freak accident in his own driveway.

Yelchin stars opposite Patrick Stewart in this harrowing film about a punk rock band on a shoestring tour of the Pacific Northwest. After reluctantly accepting a gig at a rural skin-head club, bassist Pat (Yelchin) witnesses a murder and the band becomes trapped in the venue's green room. Describing this devastating performance, Zack Sharf of IndieWire wrote that "Yelchin showed the tension between these two dynamics brilliantly in an unexpected plot twist that is equal parts Jean Yanne in 'Godard's Weekend' and Martin Sheen in 'Apocalypse Now.'" Yelchin did live long enough to see praise for "Green Room," but the Academy missed its chance to honor this promising young actor gone way too soon.

Director: Bob Clark, Black Christmas

Four years before Michael Myers first stalked babysitters, a mysterious killer named Billy lurked in the shadows of a snowy sorority house. Bob Clark's "Black Christmas" follows Jess (Olivia Hussey) and her sorority sisters as they fend off attacks from a stealthy killer making lewd phone calls from the attic. The groundbreaking film is recognized as a proto-slasher and likely inspired John Carpenter's debut effort, "Halloween." Beyond this influential reputation, "Black Christmas" is a phenomenal and terrifying film in its own right. Clark treats his young characters like adults and shows Final Girl Jess resisting repeated proposals from her domineering boyfriend and planning to have an abortion, a plotline still controversial nearly 50 years later.

"Black Christmas" perfectly blends holiday imagery and mounting dread, but Clark's impressive restraint is what propels the film to new levels of terror. Experimenting with a unique point of view, Clark explained, "I wanted to do something I didn't think had been done before which is to play my killer as a subliminal character. You never see him except as a shadow or one other time. Otherwise, he is the camera." Clark's deft handling of this cinematic device sparked a slasher craze still raging, and his refusal to show the killer leads to one of the most haunting conclusions in horror history.

Music (Original Score): Michael Nyman and Damon Albarn, Ravenous

The horror genre is filled with lesser-known releases that never got their due, but among the most criminally underrated movies of the last quarter century is Antonia Bird's "Ravenous." This black comedy cannibal western stars Guy Pearce as Capt. John Boyd, a 19th-century soldier stationed in the Sierra Nevada who runs afoul of a mysterious flesh-eater using the mountains as his own personal buffet. Plagued by a tumultuous production, "Ravenous" bombed at the box office, arguably due to a confusing marketing campaign that failed to highlight Bird's daring tonal juxtapositions. Using the consumption of human flesh as a metaphor for Manifest Destiny, "Ravenous" brilliantly balances sharp satire, extreme gore, and dark humor to highlight the insidious nature of the American Dream. Today it would be perfect for a studio such as A24 and would surely turn heads within the Academy.

Those who have seen "Ravenous" invariably mention its stunning score. Composed by Michael Nyman and Damon Albarn, the soundtrack matches the film's jarring tone and blends traditional orchestral arrangements with a discordant fiddle and the rustic instruments of Appalachia. Like the film it accompanies, the score to "Ravenous" is a rare cinematic delicacy that remains largely unfamiliar to mainstream audiences.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay): Mike Flanagan, Doctor Sleep

Adaptations of Stephen King novels tend to be a mixed bag. For every "The Shawshank Redemption," there's a "Dreamcatcher;" for every "Carrie," a "Maximum Overdrive." Stories from the Master of Horror's vast catalog can be tricky to translate to the big screen, but few novels are as challenging as "Doctor Sleep." A sequel to King's third book, "The Shining," the story hones in on an adult Danny Torrance decades after escaping the sinister Overlook Hotel as a child. Any adaptation of this novel would also be a sequel to Stanley Kubrick's film "The Shining,” considered one of the greatest horror films of all time. Kubrick's version of the story differs wildly from the original novel and King famously hates it. That's a lot for any filmmaker to contend with.

Fresh off a successful adaptation of "Gerald's Game," a novel long thought to be unfilmable, Mike Flanagan decided to try his hand at the challenging text. Faithfully adapting the first half of the novel, Flanagan veers towards Kubrick's film in the final act and sets his climactic battle in the abandoned (but still standing) Overlook Hotel. By marrying two respected but disparate stories into a cohesive narrative, Flanagan seemingly achieved the impossible and even managed to get King on board with his changes. The world-famous author told EW, "I read the script very, very carefully and I said to myself, 'Everything that I ever disliked about the Kubrick version of "The Shining "is redeemed for me here.'"

Actress in a Leading Role: Florence Pugh, Midsommar

When most horror fans lament a horror snub for an Ari Aster film, they think of Toni Collette's heartwrenching turn as a grieving mother and daughter in "Hereditary." Aster chased this impressive debut with the more polarizing "Midsommar," which features an equally powerful lead performance also overlooked by the Academy. The sunny fright film centers on Florence Pugh as Dani, a grad student recovering from a horrific trauma, who goes to Sweden on a research trip with her lackluster boyfriend and his fellow Ph.D. candidates. They join the Harga village for their traditional Midsommar celebration and slowly realize that they may be more than honored guests at the increasingly violent rituals.

Pugh delivers a powerhouse turn in which she struggles to contain a tidal wave of complex emotions before finally breaking down into screaming sobs among the Harga women. The film concludes with her now iconic smile as she surveys the pieces of her shattered life while wearing the flower-strewn crown of the May Queen. Pugh immediately transitioned into production for "Little Women" as the headstrong Amy March. While this impressive work earned a nod for best supporting actress, nothing will ever quite match the range of emotional intensity she delivers in "Midsommar."

Actress in a Leading Role: Beatrice Dalle and Alysson Paradis, Inside

Few films of any genre are lucky enough to feature one Oscar-worthy performance, and only the rarest cinematic gems are graced with two. The French horror film "Inside" from writing-directing team Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury boasts a pair of breathtaking performances from Béatrice Dalle and Alysson Paradis as women fighting to the death over an unborn child. Set on Christmas Eve, pregnant widow Sarah (Paradis) is preparing to give birth early the next morning when she's attacked by a mysterious Woman (Dalle) determined to steal her baby. Called the "crown jewel of the new wave of extreme French horror films” by Bloody Disgusting, "Inside" delivers an unrelenting nightmare filled with grisly violence and intense gore.

Dressed in old-fashioned black and toting a pair of steel scissors, Dalle gives the showier performance as the deranged Woman, but the film is grounded by an exceptional turn as reluctant mother-to-be Paradis, whose dread at the impending birth is only matched by her 11th-hour determination to save her child's life. Both actresses were honored with Fangoria Chainsaw Awards for their brilliant work but were sadly overlooked at the Oscars. No doubt, the extreme nature of the film scared away Academy voters, creating a textbook example of award-worthy performances ignored due to intense subject matter.

Music (Original Score): Christopher Young, Hellraiser

Another legendary horror film with a reputation for gore was also ignored by the Academy. Everyone remembers "Hellraiser" for its iconic villain, the sadomasochistic Hell Priest commonly known as Pinhead, but the meat of the story is a toxic love triangle. Adapted from Clive Barker's novella "The Hellbound Heart," the tale tracks Julia (Clare Higgins) in her bloody quest to rebuild the ruined body of her lover while helping him escape a hellish realm of painful pleasure.

"Hellraiser" is a beautifully realized dark fantasy brought to life by an intoxicating orchestral score. Barker originally tapped the experimental group Coil to score the production, but the studio rejected their electronic soundtrack. Christopher Young took over accompaniment duties and created a gorgeous and evocative soundtrack that perfectly highlights themes of lust and forbidden pleasure. Tired of watching his stories misinterpreted on the big screen, Barker helmed the production himself and famously went to the library searching for books on how to direct a feature. Fortunately, Young's gorgeous score smooths over the film's admittedly rough edges and The Film Scorer notes that it foreshadows "the inconceivable and otherworldly portal to hell that will be opened and the ancient evil waiting to be unleashed."

Actor in a Leading Role: Christian Bale, American Psycho

Though the Academy has a history of spurning horror-film performances, when they do honor genre actors, it's often for playing charismatic villains. Kathy Bates won a best actress Oscar for her disturbing portrayal of a crazed fan in "Misery" and Anthony Hopkins took home the best actor statuette when "The Silence of the Lambs" swept the Big Five awards at the 1992 ceremony. However, one of horror's most thrilling baddies never achieved this distinction. After more sensitive roles in "Newsies" and "Little Women," Christian Bale picked up an ax to portray yuppy serial killer Patrick Bateman, a narcissistic investment banker by day and bloodthirsty misogynist by night in Mary Harron's adaptation of the ultra-violent satire "American Psycho" by Bret Easton Ellis.

Bale dug into the role with a ferocious intensity, rarely breaking character, and working out extensively to forge Bateman's chiseled physique. Co-star Willem Dafoe praised his performance, remembering, "I think he's excellent in the movie. It's one of his best roles. He was like a machine." Roger Ebert lays most of the film's success on Bale's shoulders, writing in his initial review that the actor "is heroic in the way he allows the character to leap joyfully into despicability; there is no instinct for self-preservation here, and that is one mark of a good actor." Bale has since been honored with four Academy Award nominations and one win, though many consider his role as the music-loving murderer to be a career-high... so far. 

Best Picture: 28 Days Later

Seven years before winning an Academy Award for directing "Slumdog Millionaire," Danny Boyle lit the horror genre on fire with the game-changing horror entry "28 Days Later." Though Boyle does not consider it a zombie movie, there's no denying that his apocalyptic tale reignited the sub-genre. The story centers on a bike courier who wakes from a coma 28 days after London becomes ground zero for a horrifying plague known as the Rage virus. Boyle introduced the world to the concept of fast zombies and kicked off an undead craze that would dominate Hollywood for the next 15 years.

"28 Days Later" operates on all cylinders with a heart-wrenching script and standout performances from Naomie Harris, Brendan Gleeson, Christopher Eccleston, and a then-unknown Cillian Murphy. Boyle highlights the nerve-shattering terror with a jarring narrative style shot mostly on a digital video. The movie won a handful of genre awards including the title of Best Horror Film by the US Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, but was ignored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. However, the impact of Boyle's groundbreaker can still be felt today, and Jake Kleinman from Inverse describes "28 Days Later" as "an all-time classic that belongs in the pantheon of great cinema."

Director: Karyn Kusama, The Invitation

Karyn Kusama is an artist with a lamentable track record of being unappreciated. After sharing the Grand Jury Prize and winning an award for dramatic directing at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival for her debut, "Girlfight," Kusama helmed the critically panned "Æon Flux," which landed her in what she describes as "director's jail," and the criminally maligned "Jennifer's Body," a picture currently in the midst of a massive cultural reevaluation.

More grounded in reality, Kusama's fourth effort, "The Invitation," follows a grieving father who attends a dinner party thrown by his ex-wife and her new lover. The evening slowly devolves into shocking acts of violence as Kusama explores grief, paranoia, and the reality of death. Many fans mention John Carroll Lynch's unnerving performance and a taut script by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, but the lion's share of praise has been reserved for Kusama, with Heather Wixson calling it, "some of the most assuredly confident and nuanced work from [Kusama] to date and one of the most devastating horror films I've seen in years." Despite this praise, the versatile director has so far been completely neglected by the Academy, which is perhaps not surprising given its notorious lack of nominations for female filmmakers.

Actor in a Leading Role: Rutger Hauer, The Hitcher

Magnetic villains abound in the horror genre, but few remain as mysterious as John Ryder (Rutger Hauer) in the 1986 road horror film, "The Hitcher." Jim Halsey (C. Thomas Howell), while on a cross-country trip, tries to stay awake one rainy night when he makes the worst decision of his life and picks up a mysterious stranger hitchhiking along the road. Ryder is the epitome of a land shark, a bloodthirsty murderer with no discernable motive for his crimes besides the perverse joy of watching others squirm. The two men engage in a cat-and-mouse game across Texas highways that pushes Jim to the very limit of his endurance and challenges him to decide what kind of a person he wants to be.

Ryder resembles similar classic slasher villains like Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, for whom killing comes as naturally as breathing. However, Hauer embodies this particular archetype without the benefit of an iconic mask in a deceptively straightforward performance that draws the audience into the mind of a character with virtually no backstory. Hauer earned a Saturn Award nomination for his role in the sci-fi classic "Blade Runner," but the Oscars slighted him. It's possible the bleak and violent film was just too unsettling for Academy voters, leading them to pass over a villainous turn for the ages.

Writing (Original Screenplay): Joel Anderson, Lake Mungo

The Academy loves to reward films that push the envelope and make important social statements, often giving bonus points to stories that rip our hearts out along the way. The Australian production "Lake Mungo" perfectly fits this description and remains one of the most unique and emotionally complex horror flicks of the past few decades. Written and directed by Joel Anderson, this faux documentary focuses on a family still reeling from the drowning death of their teenage daughter Alice (Talia Zucker). When she seems to appear in photos taken by her brother, Alice's family starts to unravel the mystery of her tragic demise.

Anderson uses the expository format to lay out the facts of this twisting story while highlighting the emotional impact of each event. Operating from an unscripted outline, Anderson guided his performers through their talking-head interviews with an uncredited role as the faceless interviewer. Few who have seen "Lake Mungo” can forget its devastating exploration of grief and depression, wrung out in a series of shocking reveals. Unfortunately, the film came and went with virtually no fanfare and was likely missed by many Academy voters. Recent campaigns to garner Oscar nominations have generated controversy, but "Lake Mungo" is a prime example of an award-worthy film overlooked without the backing of a major studio.

Best Picture: Alien

It's difficult to underestimate the cultural impact of Ridley Scott's "Alien." The sci-fi horror mash-up spotlights the blue-collar crew of the Nostromo, a commercial spaceship attacked by a parasitic alien life form. Many consider the infamous chest-burster scene the genre's single most terrifying moment and few marketing departments have been able to top the chilling tagline, "In space no one can hear you scream." Aside from its power to terrify, "Alien" has aged incredibly well, and Peter Howell from the Toronto Star calls it one of the most influential films ever made. In addition to originating the "save the cat" and "truckers in space" tropes, star Sigourney Weaver inspired a new generation of female action heroes. Conversing with co-star Veronica Cartwright about the monster (and not a man) led to the creation of the Bechdel Test, still utilized to measure a film's female representation.

Academy voters did take notice of the film's aesthetics. Spectacular creature design by Swiss artist H.R. Giger and special effects technician Carlo Rambaldi resulted in a nomination for best art direction-set decoration and a win for best visual effects. With its flawless execution of a deceptively simple premise, "Alien" continues to stand the test of time despite never receiving the numerous accolades it deserved.