The scariest movies ever nominated for an Academy Award

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Since it’s Halloween (Happy Halloween everyone), I wanted to do something horror centric but also still relating to Oscar in some way. As such, I wanted to take a look at which scary movies, to one degree or another, were embraced by the Academy Awards. Ideally I’d have focused on Best Picture, but as I’m sure you all know, the pickings there will be mighty slim. Instead, I’ll bounce around, trying to stick to bigger categories whenever possible, but still looking for the most overt examples of genre fare ever cited. I might bend the rules once or twice, but hey…it’s Halloween. I hope you all enjoy.

Here’s the ten scariest movies to catch the attention of Oscar:

1. The Silence of the Lambs – Any list like this has to start with this one, since it almost swept the Oscars in its year. Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay…it won five of the big eight categories, part of seven nominations in total. An iconic piece of cinema, it deserves a place at the top of any article of this nature. It’s a perfect representation of horror (though it’s hardly just that) that the Academy thankfully embraced.

2. The Sixth Sense – One of the Academy’s most overt embraces of horror, it received a whopping half dozen citations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Original Screenplay. It was a fleeting embrace as opposed to ushering in a more open minded line of voting by Oscar, but it’s still cool to remember nonetheless.

3. Black Swan – Psychological terror is still terror, so when this film that should be miles away from an Academy member’s tastes got five nods (including Best Picture and Best Director) and won Best Actress, it was an incredibly pleasant surprise. It does harken back to some other movies that they’ve been fond of in the past, so that was a plus, but still…can you believe this was a nominee alongside the likes of The King’s Speech and The Kids Are All Right?

4. The Exorcist – Let me blow your mind for a second…this horror film scored double digit Oscar nominations. Yes, it was nominated for ten Academy Awards (including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress) and won a pair of them, for Best Sound and Best Adapted Screenplay. That’s horrifically fond to look back on. Had it come out today, would the movie have gotten anything? It’s something to ponder.

5. Psycho – Often cited among the top tier of horror, it missed out in Best Picture, but actually scored four noms, including Best Director and Best Supporting Actress. It’s become an iconic classic, so at least the Academy didn’t shut it out. That would have been an embarrassment in this day and age.

6. Jaws – This horror blockbuster (it literally invented the summer blockbuster) was nominated for Best Picture (as part of four total nominations) and won every other category it was cited in, so that’s one of the high water marks (no pun intended) for scary movies and the Oscars. Rightly so too.

7. District 9 – This is definitely more science fiction than anything, but it’s pretty gory and actually got a Best Picture nomination, so I figured this was an adequate bending of the rules. Besides Picture, it scored three other citations, including Best Adapted Screenplay, so voters clearly liked it. They’re not exactly overly fond of sci-fi either, so it was a pleasing anomaly.

8. Rosemary’s Baby – Another psychologically tinged horror outing, this one was a winner in Best Supporting Actress and also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, so that’s a solid enough haul to be sure. Its reputation precedes it at this point, so if you’ve somehow slept on this one, correct that immediately.

9. Aliens – Perhaps as much an action film as anything else, it still received seven Oscar nominations (winning for Best Sound Effects and Best Visual Effects), including a Best Actress citation. It’s not as scary as its predecessor, but then again…few things are.

10. Misery – Less supernatural horror than something far more real and disturbing, the flick only got one nomination, but it was for Best Actress and proved to be a winner. As such, it snuck on to the bottom of this list, though its quality makes it deserving of a higher spot on your own “to watch” list.

Happy Halloween!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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