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Sweep the awards, these films shall not. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the "Top 10 Failed Oscar Bait Movies of 2018."
For this list, we’ll be looking at films released in 2018 that, on paper, seem tailor-made to attract the attention of the Academy Awards but which, in execution, widely missed their mark. We’re not saying these are all terrible movies; some of them are actually pretty good. But in terms of any presumed Oscar aspirations, they fell noticeably short.
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#10: “Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far On Foot” (2018)
These days, Joaquin Phoenix is just about as close as a film producer can get to a sure thing when casting the leading role. He’s not a guarantee at the box office, but he seems to be synonymous with quality movies. Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far On Foot is no exception; it’s actually the highest rated film on our list today with a solid 76% on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s an inspiring but quirky biopic, and with a supporting cast including Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara and Jack Black, it’s certainly came armed with an award show ready cast. The thing is, not that many people saw it, or even heard of it, and we suspect that includes Academy voters.
#9: “White Boy Rick” (2018)
Gone are the days of Matthew McConaughey, romcom star. In the last decade or so, he has reinvented himself as a serious actor, known for taking on tough, engaging and gritty roles. Since he won best actor at the 2014 Academy Awards for Dallas Buyers Club, his involvement alone is reason enough to watch a film. 2018’s White Boy Rick is based on the unbelievable true story about a 14 year old FBI informant and drug dealer in 1980s Detroit. From the trailers, the film promised to be engaging and stylish. While it’s well worth a watch, the movie is dragged down by uneven pacing and poor creative choices, undermining the strong performances of its cast and an Oscar-ready story.
#8: “7 Days in Entebbe” (2018)
From Narcos producer José Padilha, 7 Days in Entebbe tells the true story of a 1976 plane hijacking and the ensuing counter-terrorist rescue mission. Watching the trailer you start to get a vibe reminiscent of Argo and Captain Phillips, both of which got plenty of Academy attention come award season. With talents like Rosamund Pike and Daniel Brühl in the leading roles, 7 Days in Entebbe felt like the logical successor to the aforementioned films—that is until people actually saw it. What should have been a compelling story is lost in bad dialogue and mishandled action sequences. Most damning however, it fails to imbue the events with any sort of significant meaning or reflection.
#7: “The Seagull” (2018)
Saoirse Ronan has established herself as one of the most talented actors of her generation, despite her young age. She’s already been nominated by the Academy three times for her roles in Atonement, 2015’s Brooklyn and 2017’s Lady Bird. Though the latter film earned her much critical praise, as did 2018’s Mary Queen of Scot”, The Seagull didn’t fly quite so high—at least in terms of the attention it received. At 67% on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s actually better reviewed than Mary Queen of Scots, but adaptations of historic plays can be very hit or miss, and unfortunately, The Seagull doesn’t do enough to stand out from other historical dramas, or past adaptations of playwright Anton Chekhov's work.
#6: “The Catcher Was a Spy” (2018)
Excellent though he is in comedic roles, Paul Rudd isn’t the first name that comes to mind when you think Academy Awards. However, in the context of a biographical spy drama that includes the likes of Mark Strong, Sienna Miller, Jeff Daniels, Tom Wilkinson, Giancarlo Giannini, Hiroyuki Sanada, Guy Pearce, and Paul Giamatti? Well, then an Oscar contender begins to take shape. Based on the unbelievable true story of Moe Berg, a baseball veteran turned spy for the US during WWII, The Catcher Was a Spy had the makings of an Oscar darling and a potential fork in the road for Paul Rudd. Unfortunately, despite its riveting source material, the film was a swing and a miss, with critics calling it “dry” and “watered down.”
#5: “12 Strong” (2018)
Armed with a strong cast including Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon and Michael Peña, this patriotic, modern American action war drama very well could have been the next American Sniper or Hurt Locker. Or maybe even the next Saving Private Ryan. The thing is, all of those films had something in common—a real sense of heart and a message to go along with a compelling story. Though 12 Strong is well acted and not lacking material to work with, it fails to properly mine the complex setting that is the war in Afghanistan. There was a great, Oscar-worthy film to be made about the titular Declassified True Story of the Horse Soldiers, but sadly, 12 Strong just isn’t it.
#4: “Operation Finale” (2018)
This film is a historical drama set in 1960, that follows Israeli intelligence officers as they pursue infamous SS Officer and war criminal Adolf Eichmann. Interested? Absolutely! That’s a seriously compelling premise. Place Oscar Isaac and Ben Kingsley in the leading roles, and you’ve got a knockout one-two punch aimed right at the Academy Awards. So… what happened? Well, it’s by no means a BAD movie, and stands at 60% on Rotten Tomatoes. The acting is solid and the story entertaining. Unfortunately, from start to finish, the film feels good but not great, a well-built movie that never becomes more than the sum of its parts. It’s definitely worth a watch, it just might not leave a lasting impression.
#3: “Life Itself” (2018)
With his smash hit series This Is Us, Dan Fogelman has forever left his mark on the television landscape. Armed with that confidence and an incredible ability to connect with viewers on an emotional level, Fogelman seemed set to deliver 2018’s tear-jerking Oscar darling with Life Itself. Oscar Isaac and Olivia Wilde led a strong cast of proven talents, and the plot had the sort of charms and quirks that audiences generally love. Though the film surely prompted some tears from sentimental cinemagoers, it was EXTREMELY heavy-handed, with some critics calling the melodrama overwrought to the point of becoming "inadvertently hilarious." Ouch. So…probably no Oscar nominations then.
#2: “The 15:17 to Paris” (2018)
There are few directors who connect with the Academy quite like Clint Eastwood. He’s been nominated for Best Director four times, and five of his films have been nominated for Best Picture. With this 2018 biographical drama, Eastwood aimed to celebrate the bravery of three Americans who helped to foil a 2015 attack terrorist aboard a passenger train. In a bold move, he chose to honor the real life heroes by casting them to play themselves. Unfortunately, the result just doesn’t really work. The pacing is uneven and though the untrained actors give it their all, the performances aren’t award-worthy. Unfortunately for Eastwood this year, his other 2018 film, The Mule, while solid, also received mixed reviews.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
- Alpha (2018)
- A Kid Like Jake (2018)
- Gotti (2018)
- Papillon (2018)
- A Wrinkle In Time (2018)
#1: “Welcome to Marwen” (2018)
Were we the only ones who thought this film might be great? From Back To The Future director Robert Zemeckis, Welcome to Marwen looked like a return to form after a few more experimental films. Though an admittedly very different film, Welcome to Marwen seemed to aim for a similar balance between drama and comedy as Zemeckis’ 1994 masterpiece, Forrest Gump, which took home six Academy Awards. Sadly, despite its stellar cast, this wasn’t the spiritual sequel to Forrest Gump we were hoping for. Welcome to Marwen reinforces Zemeckis’ reputation as a pioneer in visual effects, but as a moving, compelling and well-told story, it fell well short of its full potential.