15 Oscar-Losing Sports Films
Sports films have done pretty well at the Oscars over the years, relatively speaking. Many have racked up nominations for acting, directing, or best picture, and four— Rocky, Raging Bull, Chariots of Fire, and Million Dollar Baby —even won best picture.
Last night, Moneyball had a chance to join these films in the pantheon of classic Oscar-winning sports films. Unfortunately, Brad Pitt and company were shut out. Instead, the big awards went to The Artist, which—being a silent French film—is pretty much the antithesis of an all-American baseball flick.
But Moneyball isn’t alone in being snubbed by the Academy. In fact, it now joins a long list of Oscar-losing sports films. And here are 15 of them.
This year, the wonderfully grizzled Nick Nolte received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Warrior, an MMA film starring Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton. Unfortunately, he lost out to Captain von Trapp (i.e., Christopher Plummer).
15. Warrior (0 for 1)
If they gave out Academy Awards for Best Catchphrase, The Karate Kid would have won in a landslide with such classics as “Wax on, wax off” and “Sweep the Leg!” Unfortunately, there is no such category.
The film did receive one real nomination, however—Pat Morita (Mr. Miyagi) for Best Supporting Actor.
14. The Karate Kid (0 for 1)
The original 1975 version of The Longest Yard was great, unlike the Adam Sandler abomination. It was nominated for Best Editing, but lost to The Towering Inferno (which just so happened to star this athlete-turned-actor named OJ Simpson).
13. The Longest Yard (0 for 1)
Robert De Niro won a Best Actor Oscar for a little sports film called Raging Bull in 1981. However, a sports film he starred in 7 years earlier didn’t do as well. Bang the Drum Slowly (about a dying dim-witted major league catcher) received a nomination in the Best Supporting Actor (Vincent Gardenia) category, but obviously did not win.
12. Bang the Drum Slowly (0 for 1)
Often cited as one of the all-time great sports films, and rightly so, Bull Durham was nominated for Best Original Screenplay in 1989. Unfortunately, it lost out to Rain Man—a good movie that got an unfair bump at the Oscars because of the ridiculously good performance by Dustin Hoffman.
11. Bull Durham (0 for 1)
Denzel (no last name required) got a nod for Best Actor in 2000 for his portrayal of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter in Hurricane. But it was Kevin Spacey (American Beauty) who went home with the little golden naked dude that night.
10. Hurricane (0 for 1)
The Wrestler received two Oscar nominations for Best Actor (the grotesque Mickey Rourke) and Supporting Actress (the lovely Marisa Tomei) in 2009, but many critics believed it deserved more. That was a tough year, however, what with Sean Penn playing a gay rights activist, the late Heath Ledger playing the Joker, and movies like Slumdog Millionaire and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
9. The Wrestler (0 for 2)
Hoosiers is another one that many consider the greatest sports flick of all time. Sadly, it only received two Oscar nominations in 1987. Dennis Hopper lost to Michael Cain in the Best Supporting Actor category, and Round Midnight won for Best Original Score.
8. Hoosiers (0 for 2)
The Muhammad Ali biopic garnered two acting nominations in 2002. However, Will Smith and Jon Voight lost out to Denzel and Jim Broadbent in Actor and Supporting Actor, respectively. It’s a shame, because a legend like Ali deserves a much better cinematic tribute, doesn’t he?
7. Ali (0 for 2)
It’s probably the least famous sports film on this list, but This Sporting Life received Oscar nominations for Best Actor (Richard Harris) and Best Actress (Rachel Roberts) in 1964.
In case you were wondering, the film is about a brutish coal miner-turned-rugby player who falls in love with his emotionally distant landlady and is exploited by his rugby team. It’s considered one of the best British films of all time, so it’s probably worth checking out.
6. This Sporting Life (0 for 2)
In this classic sports film, James Earl Jones plays a black boxer in the early 20th century struggling for a shot at the heavyweight title, despite the fact that the media and boxing establishment want him to fail—and thus seek “a great white hope,” or a white boxer who can defeat him. Jones received a nomination for Best Actor, and his co-star, Jane Alexander, received one for Best Actress.
5. The Great White Hope (0 for 2)
Field of Dreams is every sentimentalists pick for best baseball movie of all time. Unfortunately, it was not the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ pick for best anything in 1990. The film was nominated for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Score, but it lost to Driving Miss Daisy in the first two categories and The Little Mermaid in the third.
4. Field of Dreams (0 for 3)
One of the artsiest baseball pictures of all time, The Natural got 4 nominations in 1985, including Supporting Actress (Glenn Close), Art Direction, Cinematography, and Original Score. It lost in each of these categories to A Passage to India (Sally Field), Amadeus, The Killing Fields and, once again, A Passage to India.
So Roy Hobbes had a storybook ending, but his movie? Not so much.
3. The Natural (0 for 4)
Moneyball received 6 nominations this year: Best Picture, Actor, Supporting Actor, Editing, Sound Mixing, and Adapted Screenplay.
Your glass-is-half-full types would say this is a pretty great accomplishment. However, since it didn’t win any of those Oscars, the glass-is-half-empty folks among us might be inclined to say that, among sports flicks, it’s the second-biggest Oscar-loser of all time.
Personally, I wouldn’t be that harsh. I actually thought it deserved to win Editing, and it could have won Adapted Screenplay, given the monumental challenge of turning Michael Lewis’ book into an entertaining movie.
2. Moneyball (0 for 6)
The biggest Oscar-losing sports film of all time is 2003’s Seabiscuit. The feel-good horse racing movie was nominated for Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, and Sound Mixing at the 2004 Oscars. It didn’t win jack squat.
The Hustler also lost 7 Oscars back in 1962, but of course is also won 2.