The annual Academy Awards are tonight, a ceremony which will see heaps of praise and high honors directed towards a slew of movies and actors that shined on the big screen last year. Not surprisingly, not a single horror movie has been nominated for an award of any sort this year, which is something that’s unfortunately not all that uncommon in the world of the Academy Awards.
Tonight, we honor those horror movies that did manage to score themselves nominations at Oscar ceremonies past, by shining the spotlight on ten of them that almost brought home the gold. So read on for the list!
At the 1941 Academy Awards, Universal’s Invisible Man sequel, The Invisible Man Returns, was nominated for the Best Special Effects award. The film marked Vincent Price’s debut on the horror scene, a genre that he of course shined in, throughout his long and illustrious career. It didn’t take home the award, losing out to The Thief of Bagdad.
It’s interesting to note that the spin-off entitled The Invisible Woman was also nominated for its special effects, the following year, though it too failed to take home the golden statue. The effects on both films were produced by the late John P. Fulton, who also worked on 1932’s Mummy and several Alfred Hitchcock films.
Proving that the Academy likes movies about invisible people, Hollow Man was nominated for Best Special Effects in 2001, which is one of only a few recent nominations for the horror genre.
Would you believe me if I told you that once upon a time, a zombie movie was actually nominated for an Academy Award? It only happened once, and that honor belongs to 1941’s King of the Zombies, which is one of the earliest zombie movies ever made. At the 1942 Academy Awards, the movie was nominated for Best Music, a category that the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde remake was also nominated in, the same year. Two decades later, George Romero came along with Night of the Living Dead, forever changing the landscape of zombie cinema, and turning the undead from mindless slaves into flesh-hungry monsters.
Speaking of being nominated in more than one category, Psycho arrived at the 1961 event armed with four nominations, which included Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Best Director, Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction. In what can only be considered a major snub, the film left with zero awards, the same way The Bad Seed did four years prior. Fortunately, Janet Leigh won the Best Supporting Actress trophy at the Golden Globes that year, and the film also won Best Picture at the Edgar Allen Poe Awards.
Three years later, at the 1964 Academy Awards, Hitchcock’s tale of avian terror also found itself with an Oscar nomination, in the Best Visual Effects category. Again, it has to be considered a snub that the film didn’t win, considering the elaborate work that went into creating the sequences of the titular birds gone wild. Though dated nowadays, the effects are nevertheless incredibly impressive for the time, considering tools like CGI were in the far distant future, back in the 1960s.
1972 saw the release of Ben, a sequel to the previous year’s Willard. The film ended up with an original song of the same name, which was written by Don Black and performed by a young Michael Jackson. The loving ode to a pet rat nabbed the film a nomination for Best Original Song at the 1973 Academy Awards, which Jackson performed live at the ceremony. It didn’t end up winning, but had previously taken home the Golden Globe earlier that year.
The two best things about the original adaptation of Carrie are no doubt the performances by Sissy Spacek, as Carrie, and Piper Laurie, as Carrie’s mother Margaret White. And so it’s only right that both Spacek and Laurie were nominated for Oscars in 1977, for Best Leading Actress and Best Supporting Actress. Though both lost, Carrie is nevertheless one of the few horror films to score nominations in the actor categories, and that’s a win for the genre no matter how you slice it.
Legendary composer Lalo Schifrin has been nominated for six Academy Awards throughout his incredible career, and it was his memorably creepy score that secured The Amityville Horror a nomination, in 1980. Just as it lost in the Best Original Score category at the Golden Globes, so too did it fail to win the Oscar that year, losing to the romantic comedy A Little Romance. A bit more Oscar-friendly than a horror movie based on brutal real life murders, to say the least!
One of the most memorable things about Ghostbusters is of course Ray Parker Jr’s incredibly catchy theme song, which has become as iconic an element of the movie as anything else. The tune was nominated for Best Original Song at the 1985 awards and the film also received a nomination for Best Visual Effects. It won neither, but a film like Ghostbusters need not be awarded with high honors, to be considered a truly stand-out piece of American cinematic history. So keep your awards, Academy!
Just one year after Aliens scooped up Visual Effects and Sound Effects awards, Predator found itself with a nomination in the Best Visual Effects category, in 1988. Though it was competing with only one other film, Joe Dante’s Innerspace, Predator left with no awards under its arm, despite the host of impressive effects it boasted – including the title character’s invisibility cloaking and thermal vision. It was one of the many Oscars that the late Stan Winston was nominated for in his career, which also included the aforementioned win for Aliens.
Though his films have rarely been nominated for Best Picture, and though he’s never been nominated for Best Director, Tim Burton has nevertheless proven himself to be a bit of an Oscar darling over the years, with his films racking up an impressive number of nominations and wins. It all began with a Best Makeup win for Beetlejuice in 1989, and was followed up with a Best Visual Effects nomination in 1994, for Nightmare Before Christmas. It was Jurassic Park that won the award that year, so no complaints from me about that.
A slew of Burton films received nominations in subsequent years, including Sleepy Hollow, The Corpse Bride, Sweeney Todd and Frankenweenie.
Other horror and horror-themed films that have been nominated for Academy Awards; The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941), THEM!, The Bad Seed (1956), Phantom of the Paradise, Young Frankenstein, The Swarm, Little Shop of Horrors (1986), Poltergeist 2, The Addams Family, Addams Family Values, Interview with a Vampire, Se7en, Jurassic Park: The Lost World, The Sixth Sense, The Mummy (1999), Shadow of the Vampire, The Cell, Monster House, Coraline and Prometheus.