The Oscars don’t respect comedy. Full stop. The Academy rarely nominates comedies for the prestigious award. A non-musical comedy film hasn’t won Best Picture since 1977’s Annie Hall, but there was a slight uptake in the 1950s and 1960s when movies like Tom Jones, The Apartment, and Around The World in 80 Days all won Best Picture. 1930s romcoms like You Can’t Take It With You and It Happened One Night won over Academy voters. Somewhere along the way, comedies stopped being taken seriously as Oscar contenders.
The Academy of Motion Pictures releases a list of all Oscar-eligible movies every year and this year’s had 347 films. Most films on that list will never make it close to an Oscar nomination. There are a lot of reasons for this. Some are bad, some not enough people saw, but many will never get a nomination because “they just don’t feel like the type of films that get an Oscar.”
After seeing Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody win Best Picture at the Golden Globes, many award show watchers were disappointed and left thinking, “That was really the best?” With the hostless Oscars on the horizon, it is time to reflect on the best movies of the year.
Last year gave us some amazing comedies. Most are not nominated but, to their credit, several historical dramedies like BlacKkKlansman, The Favourite, Green Book, and Vice have snuck into the list of nominees. Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade continues to shock the industry scooping up coveted awards from the DGA and WGA. Eighth Grade is nominated for zero Oscars. Many pure comedies should be Oscar contenders, so Laughspin has a list of comedies that should be nominated for an Academy Award.
Best Actor/Actress Oscar
Elsie Fisher – Eighth Grade
Elsie Fisher is only 15 but gave a powerhouse performance in Bo Burnham’s directorial debut, Eighth Grade. Fisher is pitch perfect in every moment of this film and gives a mutated but intricate performance brimming with humor that deserved a nomination for Best Actress.
Regina Hall – Support the Girls
Support the Girls is not the best comedy of the year, but Regina Hall is amazing in it. She won the African-American Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress, the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress, and may win the Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead for this role later this year.
Daveed Diggs – Blindspotting
Blindspotting is a dramedy that really leans more toward comedy than drama. Daveed Diggs perfectly balances the dark subject matter of life after prison coupled with laugh-out-loud comedy. The movie scored big at Sundance and was a critical darling, making it harder to believe that the Academy showed it no love.
Jason Mantzoukas – The Long Dumb Road
Not many people saw The Long Dumb Road, but the buddy road movie starring Jason Mantzoukas and Tony Revolori. While the critical response to the movie wasn’t as high as some of the other comedies on this list, his performance garnered rave reviews at Sundance.
John C. Reilly – Stan & Ollie
John C. Reilly has had a wild year. He was nominated for both a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for his portrayal of Oliver Hardy and a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor for his work on Holmes & Watson. Stan & Ollie should have been Oscar bait. It’s a showbiz biopic—that’s the Academy’s bread and butter. However, unlike other comedian bio-pics like Man on the Moon or Chaplin, it might be too quiet of a film. The narrative is extremely tight and funnier than other more tragic tales. Empire said of the movie, “[Steve] Coogan and Reilly’s performances are among the best either has ever given. This film, which pays wonderfully funny tribute to two comic legends, richly deserves them.”
Best Original Screenplay Oscar
Boots Riley – Sorry to Bother You
If it isn’t the best screenplay of the year, it is certainly the most original. Often, the Academy uses this category to reward risks and Sorry to Bother You
could should be that film.
Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar
Peter Chiarelli, Adele Lim – Crazy Rich Asians
Based on the book of the same name, Crazy Rich Asians was something of a cultural phenomenon. The movie has already won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture and Best Comedy at the Critics’ Choice Awards. A Best Adapted Screenplay seems to fit right in line.
Elizabeth Berger, Isaac Aptaker – Love, Simon
Love, Simon was another book adaptation to make waves last year. Based on the novel, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Love, Simon is a pitch-perfect romcom with a funny and engaging script.
Best Foreign Film Oscar
Have a Nice Day
Sometimes comedies secretly slide into this category without many noticing because most Americans do not watch foreign films. Have a Nice Day shouldn’t be missed. This animated Chinese crime comedy tells the story of a driver who steals money from his boss in order to fix his girlfriend’s failed plastic surgery but is hunted down by a hitman, a gangster, and a thief. It is trippy and strange and highly addictive.
Best Director Oscar
Jacques Audiard -The Sisters Brothers
The Sisters Brothers is the first English-language film from legendary French director Jacques Audiard. With another great performance from John C. Reilly, the film was based on the novel of the same name by Patrick deWitt. The darkly comedic tone of books translates well into the film while Audiard also captures the natural beauty of Calfornia in stark contrast of the industrialization of the Gold Rush.
John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein – Game Night
Game Night is a really good movie, though it is one of the most traditional-looking comedies on this list—which makes it the least likely to ever get an Oscar nod. John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein have worked together on many comedy films including Horrible Bosses, National Lampoon’s Vacation, and Spider-Man: Homecoming. Game Night showed the two could direct a financially and critically successful picture together.
Jonah Hill – mid90s
The Academy already respects Jonah Hill, having nominated him for Best Supporting Actor twice. His directorial debut mid90s is a beautiful film that would feel at home in many categories including Best Cinematography or Best Original Screenplay, but Hill really proved himself as a director with this indie darling.
Bo Burnham – Eighth Grade
This list mentions Eighth Grade a lot, probably because some are calling it one of the biggest snubs of the year. Burnham has already taken home the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – First-Time Feature Film and the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay for his writing and directing. A Best Director Oscar makes total sense—if the Academy knew what they were doing.
Best Documentary Oscar
Okay, so it’s not a comedy in the traditional sense of the word, but it seems a shame that this beautiful tribute to legendary comedian Gilda Radner wasn’t honored.
Best Picture Oscar
As a writer-director, Burnham captured something that is innately human. The film is funny and somehow at the same time haunting. If a comedy could ever sweep an award show, it would be this film because every piece is so well done.
All About Nina
All About Nina takes the trope of tears of a clown and makes it feel so fresh and important. Movies about life in Hollywood are often front-runners for Best Picture, but most of those films focus on the film industry. All About Nina focuses on stand-up comedy. The film perfectly balances romance and humor and trauma and self-destructive behavior. From writer-director Eva Vives, All About Nina was well received at the Tribeca Film Festival. The film stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Common giving great performances.
The Death of Stalin
The Death of Stalin is a black comedy and while a comedy, does a fairly good job depicting the power struggle following Stalin’s death in 1953. The film feels a little bit like Dr. Strangelove and a little bit like Death at a Funeral. It somehow breaks up the politics with pure nonsense. Russia banned the film but it received high praise in the States.
The Land of Steady Habits
While premiering at the Toronto Film Festival, The Land of Steady Habits was released on Netflix. Many Netflix films appeared on the list of eligible films this year, but The Land of Steady Habits stands apart because of the team behind it. Nicole Holofcener wrote and directed the film and, while she did not receive a nomination for her efforts, she did receive a nod for Best Adapted Screenplay for Can You Ever Forgive Me? The Land of Steady Habits follows a family as their father leaves their mother because he is feeling stifled in Westport, Connecticut.
Thoroughbreds is a dark comedy/thriller in the style of Heathers. The movie garnered attention at Sundance and is the last U.S. theatrical release to star Anton Yelchin who passed away in 2016. Thoroughbreds is a surprisingly slow movie that is impossible to look away from.