It’s no secret that our beloved horror movies are often snubbed at the Academy Awards. The horror genre as a whole just doesn’t get all that much respect in the world of cinema, which is why it’s so important for us fans to support and spread the word on the movies we love. Quite frankly, if we're not doing it, nobody’s going to do it for us.
That said, there are a handful of horror movies over the years that have defied tradition, and have actually managed to snag themselves those little golden statues. With the 86th Academy Awards heading our way this weekend, today we shine the spotlight on 10 of those movies, which made all of us horror fans proud!
DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
Though the Academy Awards ceremony wasn’t televised until 1953, it actually began way back in 1929, held at a private dinner party. Just a few years after being established, the horror genre scored a win at the ceremony, with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde becoming the first horror film to scoop up an Oscar, in 1932. It was Fredric March’s performance as the title character(s) that earned the film a Best Leading Actor statue, and it was also nominated for Best Cinematography and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Rosemary’s Baby seemed poised and ready to become the first horror film nominated for Best Picture, but it did not receive such an honor, at the 1969 ceremony. It was, however, nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, and Ruth Gordon won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, for her role as Rosemary’s whacky neighbor Minnie. Oddly enough, Mia Farrow was not even nominated for her performance, which many consider to be a big time Oscar snub.
At the 1974 Academy Awards, The Exorcist was nominated in a whopping 10 categories, including Best Leading Actress (Ellen Burstyn), Best Supporting Actress (Linda Blair), Best Supporting Actor (Jason Miller) and Best Director (William Friedkin). It also scored a nomination for Best Picture, making it the very first horror movie to achieve such an illustrious honor. Unfortunately, the film didn’t win any of those awards, but it did scoop up statues for Best Sound and Best Adapted Screenplay.
In 1976, Jaws also scored itself a Best Picture nomination, but lost out to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The film made up for the loss by winning all three of the other categories it was nominated in, which included Best Editing, Best Original Score and Best Sound. Steven Spielberg was famously upset about not being nominated for Best Director, calling Jaws a “director’s movie,” and saying that he was hurt by the snub. There’s even video footage of Spielberg watching the announcement of the nominees with some friends, including Maniac’s Joe Spinell, which is definitely worth a watch!
The following year, The Omen was celebrated at the ceremony, thanks to the film’s memorable score. Composed by the legendary Jerry Goldsmith, the score won an Oscar for Best Original Score, and the iconic theme song ‘Ave Satani’ (aka Hail Satan) was also nominated for Best Original Song. It’s interesting to note that the 1976 Oscar win for The Omen’s score was the only Academy Award win in the late Goldsmith’s entire career, despite the fact that he was nominated for his work on 16 other films.
Speaking of Goldsmith, he also composed the score for Alien, which nabbed him a Golden Globe nomination in 1980. At the Academy Awards that year, however, Alien was only nominated for Best Visual Effects and Best Art Direction, and it took home the visual effects statue. Seven years later, in 1987, the sequel Aliens also won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects, as well as Best Sound Effects Editing. It was also nominated in another five categories, proving that sequels aren’t always inferior to original films!
AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON
A few horror films immediately come to mind when I think of practical effects, and one of those movies is without a doubt An American Werewolf in London. In 1982, Rick Baker was honored with the Best Makeup award for his incredible work on the film, which was actually the inaugural year for that specific category. Baker has since received a subsequent six Oscar wins in the makeup category, and his latest win was for The Wolfman in 2011, where he once again brought a memorable werewolf to the screen.
1987’s 59th annual Academy Awards was a ceremony that honored a handful of horror films, including the aforementioned Aliens, Little Shop of Horrors and even Poltergeist 2: The Other Side. In addition to the double win for Aliens, David Cronenberg’s remake of The Fly nabbed itself the Best Makeup award, for Chris Walas and Stephan Dupuis’ memorably grotesque transformation makeups.Shortly thereafter, Walas was put into the director’s chair for The Fly 2, which he also designed and created the effects for.
THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS
What’s the only horror film in the history of cinema to win an Oscar for Best Picture? That’d be Silence of the Lambs, which cleaned up at the 1992 event. As if the Best Picture win wasn’t impressive enough, Silence of the Lambs is one of only three films to win all of the ‘Big Five’ awards, which also include Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Screenplay. Though it was nominated for Best Editing and Best Sound, the film didn’t take home those awards, but that’s of little importance when you consider how many it did take home. We salute you, Silence of the Lambs, for being the biggest horror film success story in Oscar history!
The most recent win for the horror genre at the Academy Awards was Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, which was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Cinematography and Best Editing. In the Best Actress category, Natalie Portman was presented with the naked gold dude for her performance as a mad ballet dancer, in the dark re-telling of Swan Lake. Don’t even try and tell me that Black Swan isn’t a horror film, because I’d have a hard time finding a genre that it belongs in more than the horror genre!
Other horror and horror-themed films that have won Oscars; The Phantom of the Opera (1944), The Picture of Dorian Gray (1946), What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1963), King Kong (1977), Beetlejuice (1989), Misery (1991), Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), Jurassic Park (1993), Sleepy Hollow (2000), King Kong (2006), Pan’s Labyrinth (2007) and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2008).
Sick of the Oscars? Check out nine horror alternatives to this year's nominees!