The scariest movies ever nominated for Academy Awards

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With Halloween being this coming weekend, I wanted to have a little fun here and talk about scary movies and Oscar. As a general rule, the Academy doesn’t go for horror, but they have occasionally slipped on in here and there. This year, there’s a fringe contender in It Follows to consider, but mostly that candidacy is an excuse to look quickly at some of the fright flicks that have scored with the Academy. It’s not a particularly long list, but there are horror films that have been nominated for Academy Awards and even a handful from the genre that have won Oscars. Who knows, maybe It Follows can shock the world?

As a refresher for those of you have aren’t familiar with the title, It Follows is a hybrid character study/coming of age tale/horror film from earlier this year. Written and directed by David Robert Mitchell, it tells the story of a 19 year old girl named Jay (played wonderfully by Maika Monroe in a star making turn) who sees a sexual encounter lead to terror. After sleeping with her new boyfriend for the first time, he basically kidnaps her in order to safely inform her of what he’s passed on to her. Until they had sex, he was plagued by something monstrous following him slowly wherever he went. It started when he slept with someone on a one night stand, and now that he’s given it to her, he’s free from its clutches. Jay is warned that if it catches you, you die. Worse yet, it’ll take the form of people you know in order to get close to you. After he lets her go and runs off, she groups up with her friends, neighbor, and sister to figure out if there’s any way to survive. Monroe is the undisputed star of the flick, but the cast has some solid supporting players, including Keir Gilchrist. Besides Monroe, you’ll be blown away by Mitchell’s work behind the camera, especially when it pairs with the contention worthy cinematography by Mike Gioulakis and the score from Rich Vreeland.

While any Oscar attention is a real long shot, I still believe that this flick is truly worthy of consideration in a number of categories, regardless of likelihood. Beyond the ultimately fruitless endeavor of pushing it for a Best Picture, Best Actress (for Monroe), or Best Original Screenplay (for MitchellI nomination, the technical work is so good that it bears remembering as we head deeper into the fall. While I doubt voters would go for It Follows in Best Original Score, I do believe that it can at least hang around for a little while longer in Best Cinematography. The long shots and widescreen compositions are magnificent, creating easily the most beautiful horror film that I can ever remember seeing. High praise indeed, but worth it.

In any event, here now is a look at the horror films that Oscar hasn’t ignored in the past…

Alien – Nominated for Best Art Direction and Won for Best Visual Effects

Aliens – Nominated for Best Actress (Sigourney Weaver), Best Art Direction, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, and Best Sound. Won for Best Sound Effects Editing and Best Visual Effects

An American Werewolf in London – Won for Best Makeup

Black Swan – Nominated for Best Picture, Best Director (Darren Aronofsky), Best Cinematography, and Best Film Editing. Won for Best Actress (Natalie Portman)

The Exorcist – Nominated for Best Picture, Best Director (William Friedkin), Best Actress (Ellen Burstyn), Best Supporting Actor (Jason Miller), Best Supporting Actress (Linda Blair), Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction and Best Film Editing. Won for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Sound

The Fly – Won for Best Makeup

Jaws – Nominated for Best Picture. Won for Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, and Best Sound

Misery – Won for Best Actress (Kathy Bates)

The Omen – Nominated for Best Original Song and Won for Best Original Score

Psycho – Nominated for Best Director (Alfred Hitchcock), Best Supporting Actress (Janet Leigh), Best Cinematography, and Best Art Direction

Rosemary’s Baby – Nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. Won for Best Supporting Actress (Ruth Gordon)

The Silence of the Lambs – Nominated for Best Film Editing and Best Sound. Won for Best Picture, Best Director (Jonathan Demme), Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins), Best Actress (Jodie Foster), and Best Adapted Screenplay

The Sixth Sense – Nominated for Best Picture, Best Director (M. Night Shyamalan), Best Supporting Actor (Haley Joel Osment), Best Supporting Actress (Toni Collette), Best Original Screenplay, and Best Film Editing

As you can see from the list above, depending on how loose you use the term horror (and I was somewhat loose here for sure), a couple of titles have even managed to crack the Best Picture and/or Best Director lineups. There’s been no winners yet in Picture or Director for fright flicks, but outings in the horror genre have won in acting categories, screenplay ones, and in the tech fields. Scary movies certainly have a harder road than others, but they still can break through from time to time. In a way, it makes the honor even bigger for those films, if you ask me…

Stay tuned for more Halloween related posts this week and to see if It Follows can defy the Oscar odds!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He also contributes to several other film-related websites.

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