12 War Movies Snubbed at the Academy Awards

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No matter the category, and whether for wins or nominations, dozens of war movies throughout the years have been snubbed at the Academy Awards. Several such movies are among the most famous and respected that their genre has ever seen, and, coming from a variety of filmmaking perspectives and even languages, they all hold up wonderfully today.

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You’ll likely recognize the majority of war movies featured on the list, while others herein may appear more unfamiliar. In any case, you can rest assured that they are of the utmost quality, featuring great directors, talented artisans behind the scenes, and star-studded casts. All that said, here are 12 war movies snubbed at the Academy Awards.

12 The Steel Helmet (1951) — Best Picture

Three soldiers crouch low to the ground.
Leppert Pictures

Despite widespread reverence across the board of reception — on Rotten Tomatoes, it currently holds a 100% approval rating — The Steel Helmet (1951) came up completely short at the 24th Academy Awards. Not a single nomination, despite an intelligent script and brilliant direction by Samuel Fuller. Set amid the Korean War, it follows a U.S. Army sergeant who forms an unlikely relationship with a Korean orphan while fending off the enemy in an abandoned Buddhist temple.

What Makes It a Snub

A relatively simple plot flourishes with emotional resonance through the keen directorial sense of Fuller, and its cast sees the project into perfect fruition. And while The Steel Helmet had stiff competition at the 24th Academy Awards with An American in Paris (1951) winning Best Picture, this war film should have nonetheless been nominated. A true injustice in hindsight. Stream on The Criterion Channel

11 The Battle of Algiers (1966) — Best International Feature Film

Four men, two armed with automatic rifles, huddle closely in the back of a truck.
Allied Artists

A famous work of Italian neorealist cinema, The Battle of Algiers (1966) saw direction by Gillo Pontecorvo. The plot follows a group of rebels during the Algerian War, with Pontecorvo co-writing the script alongside Franco Solinas. Its score was composed by Ennio Morricone, with everyone involved providing career-defining work.

What Makes It a Snub

As Pontecorvo’s masterwork, The Battle of Algiers could have easily landed him an Academy Award win for Best Director. Alas, the category that makes this entry a true snub would be Best International Feature. Though it’s a well-made project, A Man and a Woman (1966) has aged far less gracefully than the war film at hand. And though it’s not the biggest snub in the history of the association, The Battle of Algiers deserved the golden statuette. Stream on Max

10 Come and See (1985) — Best International Feature Film

Aleksei Kravchenko as Florya in Come and See
Sovexportfilm

At the 58th Academy Awards, an Argentine film called The Official Story (1985) walked away with gold for Best Foreign Language Film. Other nominees that year included Angry Harvest (1985), Three Men in a Cradle (1985), Colonel Redl (1985), and When Father Was Away on Business (1985). Though high-quality films in their own rights, they each pale in comparison to Elem Klimov’s masterpiece, Come and See (1985), which sees Florya (Aleksey Kravchenko) joining a troupe of Resistance fighters after his village is invaded by German forces.

What Makes It a Snub

Since its release, Come and See has been cited by critics as one of the greatest films of all time. But somehow, it wasn’t even nominated in the aforementioned category, where it should have won gold outright. For perfectly tackling its hard-hitting themes, the film as a whole should have been victorious. Stream on The Criterion Channel

9 Korczak (1990) — Best International Feature Film

A older man protectively hugs a group of children.
New Yorker Films

Another snub for Best International Feature Film came in the 1990s with a film called Korczak (1990). Thanks to a black-and-white palette, careful shot selection, and keen tactics of scene blocking, there’s enough worth writing home about in the beauty of its visuals alone. But with an intelligent script from Agnieszka Holland, the film excels across the board.

What Makes It a Snub

Its plot homes in on a Polish-Jewish humanitarian named Janusz Korczak, with Wojciech Pszoniak shining in the titular role. And considering Andrzej Wajda directs everyone with a tangible passion, there’s no telling how Korczak came up short for Best International Feature Film. Should it have won? Probably not. But, still: a nomination would have sufficed. Rent on Prime Video

8 Three Kings (1999) — Best Original Screenplay

Directed by David O. Russell, an auteur who writes the script for every film he directs, Three Kings (1999) is among the most intelligent movies of his entire career. Starring George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, and Spike Jonze, it chronicles four American soldiers who seek out Sadam Hussein’s hidden cache of gold near the end of the Gulf War.

What Makes It a Snub

Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, even Best Picture — in any other year, Three Kings would have been nominated for all three categories at the Academy Awards. But at the 72nd ceremony, this pitch-perfect war comedy came up short across the board. At the very least, its screenplay should have been recognized. Rent on AppleTV

7 Jarhead (2005) — Best Director

Among the most underrated war movies ever made is Jarhead (2005), directed by Sam Mendes. Its script was adapted by William Broyles Jr. from Corporal Anthony Swofford’s memoir of the same name. And playing Swofford is famous American actor Jake Gyllenhaal, who provides a powerful performance as the marine during his service in the Persian Gulf War.

What Makes It a Snub

From Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay to Best Actor and Best Cinematography, this war film was snubbed in various categories. Legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins captured a wonderful vision from his longtime collaborator Sam Mendes, who in turn directed everyone to perfection. From every fathomable perspective, Jarhead holds up wonderfully today. Rent on Prime Video

6 Waltz with Bashir (2008) — Best Animated Feature

Off the bat, it’s worth noting that Waltz with Bashir (2008) was never going to win Best Animated Feature Film at the 81st Academy Awards, as WALL-E (2008) was the clear-cut choice. But at the very least, it should have received a nomination. Israeli director Ari Folman crafted a compelling docudrama about his experiences as a soldier during the 1982 Lebanon War.

What Makes It a Snub

Sure, Waltz with Bashir was nominated for Best International Feature Film during the aforementioned ceremony. But really, it could’ve won like it did at the Golden Globes, and it should’ve been nominated in general for Best Animated Feature. Only three films were up for the category at the 81st ceremony — without a doubt, Waltz with Bashir deserved to be on that list. Rent on Prime Video

5 The Outpost (2020) — Best Director

Throughout his underrated career, Israeli-American director Rod Lurie has never been nominated for an Academy Award. One project that should have gotten the job done, specifically in the Best Director category, was The Outpost (2020), a war film set in Northern Afghanistan. It features an impressive cast, with stand-out performances from its leads: Scott Eastwood, Orlando Bloom, and Caleb Landry Jones.

What Makes It a Snub

While the project itself went under the public radar, The Outpost received widespread acclaim from critics and audiences alike. Its engaging battle sequences, perfect pacing, and accurate depiction of soldiers — all around, the direction of The Outpost deserved recognition at the Academy Awards. But just like every other film by director Lurie, it ultimately came up short. Stream on Netflix

4 Inglourious Basterds (2009) — Best Original Screenplay

With Inglourious Basterds (2009), writer-director Quentin Tarantino crafted a masterwork of cinema. It’s commonly considered among the best films of the century, with a star-studded cast and seamless execution of a rather absurd yet wildly entertaining story. Two revenge plots are executed on Adolf Hitler at the end of World War II, with Inglourious Basterds going down as a piece of historical fiction.

What Makes It a Snub

Tarantino has never won an Academy Award for Best Director, nor should he have for Inglourious Basterds. That honor went to Kathryn Bigelow for her work on The Hurt Locker (2009), and with good reason. But when it comes to Best Original Screenplay, the story by Tarantino should have been victorious. It’s a sprawling war epic that runs the gamut of emotion, with brilliant dialogue and perfect pacing until the fireworks of its finale. An obvious snub in hindsight. Stream on Prime Video

Related: The Disastrous Production of Inglourious Basterds

3 Underground (1995) — Best International Feature Film

Underground by Emir Kusturica
Pandora Film

Despite receiving widespread praise from critics, Underground (1995) wasn’t even accepted as a nominee for Best International Feature Film at the 68th Academy Awards. Directed by Emir Kusturica from a script he co-wrote alongside Dusan Kovacecic, it’s set in World War II Belgrade as a couple of black marketeers sell weapons to the communist resistance.

What Makes It a Snub

Its plot expands in drama and intrigue from there, with each actor involved seeing the plot come to perfect fruition. Kusturica could have been nominated for Best Director, let alone Best International Feature Film. His Palme d’Or win at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival is evidence enough. But in the end, his seminal work Underground joins the ranks of war movies that were snubbed at the Oscars. Not Currently Available to Stream or Purchase

2 Apocalypse Now (1979) — Best Picture

Among the most acclaimed war movies ever made is Apocalypse Now (1979), directed by Francis Ford Coppola. It’s also among the most revered movies of its decade. But at the 52nd Academy Awards, the coveted Best Picture Oscar went to Kramer vs Kramer (1978). Filmmaker Robert Benton also won a golden statuette for Best Director thanks to the same project — another snub in hindsight.

What Makes It a Snub

There’s a haunting essence in the beauty of Apocalypse Now‘s visuals, as if cinematographer Vittorio Storaro could hypnotize the audience with a camera alone. It also features powerful performances, with a compelling story and engaging dialogue to boot. Coppola’s film stands the test of time as not just one of the most impressive projects under his belt, but also as an all-time great of the medium in general. Without a doubt, it should have struck Best Picture gold at the Oscars. Rent on AppleTV

Related: Best Francis Ford Coppola Movies, Ranked

1 Saving Private Ryan (1998) — Best Picture

In hindsight, and even at the time, most film fans agreed: The Academy should be ashamed for letting Shakespeare in Love (1998) win Best Picture over Saving Private Ryan (1998). Directed by Steven Spielberg, the latter is among the finest war films ever made, and one of the most acclaimed movies of its decade. Let alone the best individual movie of its particular year.

What Makes It a Snub

A romantic comedy, Shakespeare In Love is almost exclusively remembered today for robbing Private Ryan of a win. Of course, it’s still a great movie, worthy of every nomination it received at the 71st Academy Awards. But without a doubt, the winner of Best Picture should have gone to Saving Private Ryan to match Spielberg’s statue for Best Director. That opening battle sequence alone warranted a win for both. Stream on Paramount+

If you liked this article, check out our video below about the best World War II movies ever made.

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