11 Great Filmmakers Who Have Never Won the Academy Award for Best Director

Photo via the Criterion Collection

With the 87th Academy Awards commencing this Sunday, we’re reminded that artistic merit does not always mean taking home a gold statue. Simply because a film wins the award of Hollywood’s elite, does not be that it creatively surpasses its contemporaries. And just because a film goes unrecognized by the Academy, the lack of appreciation in that regard says little to what it deserves. This year, director Ava DuVernay went sans nomination for Selma, but over the course of cinematic history, few categories have caused as much of a stir as Best Director. From Stanley Kubrick and Wim Wenders to Ingmar Bergman and David Lynch, some of the last century’s most brilliant artists have failed to move past a nomination, if even given that—which, of course, speaks namely to the politics of Hollywood and not to their respective genius. So, to get you thinking about who will find themselves with arms full of gold on Sunday, here are some of film’s most beloved and talented directors who’ve never garnered the coveted Academy Award for Best Director.

DAVID LYNCH

Cinematic Obsessions: Casual Voyeurism,  Everyday Detectives, Seedy Underbelly’s Lurking Behind Pleasant Facades, What’s Hiding Behind the Red Curtains, Flesh on Flesh, 1950s Music and Ephemera, Psycho-Erotic Discomfort, Multiple Personalities, Saccharine Indulgences, Trout, Coffee, The Mysteries of Love, The Secret of Night
Best Director Nominations: Mulholland Drive, Blue Velvet, Elephant Man
Best Films: Mulholland Drive, Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart

STANLEY KUBRICK

Cinematic Obsessions: Man versus Technology, Man versus Himself, The Theatrics of Violence, Psychological Journeys Through the Use of Color, Meticulous Planning and Shooting, Psychosexual Aggression
Best Director: Barry Lyndon, A Clockwork Orange, Dr. Strangelove or: How Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, 2001: A Space Odyssey
Best Films: A Clockwork Orange, Dr. Strangelove or: How Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, Eyes Wide Shut, The Shining

WONG KAR-WAI

Cinematic Obsessions: Dramatic Musical Cues, Languid and Beauitful Slow-Motion Shots, Wresting Weary Heads on Shoulders in the Back of Taxis, Endless Romantic Yearning, Food, Lonesome Cigarette Smoking, Deep and Impressionist Use of Color, The Torture of Love, Heartbreaking Matters of Timing
Best Director Nominations: None
Best Films: In the Mood for Love, Chungking Express, 2046

WIM WENDERS

Cinematic Obsessions: The Great American West, Existential Romantic Longing, The Barriers of Human Connection, Transient Spaces, Child/Parent Dynamics, The Psycholoigcal Effects of Neon, Spirituality and a Nostalgic Longing for an Absent Something, Emotional Isolation
Best Director Nominations: None
Best Films: Paris, Texas, Wings of Desire, Alice in the Cities, Pina

SIDNEY LUMET

Cinematic Obsessions: Exposed Realism, Psycho-Dramatic Character Studies, New York City Streets, Manicly Delivered Male Monologues, Exposure of Social/Societial Injustice/Disorder
Best Director Nominations: The Verdict, Network, Dog Day Afternoon, 12 Angry Men
Best Films: Dog Day Afternoon, Network, Serpico, 12 Angry Men

INGMAR BERGMAN

Cinematic Obsessions: Existential Questioning of Faith and Mortality, Female Sexuality and Desire, Looming Presence of Death, Moral Quandries and Crisis, Psychological Horror
Best Director Nominations: Fanny and Alexander, Autumn Sonata, Face to Face, Cries & Whispers, Through a Glass Darkly, Wild Strawberries
Best Films: Persona, The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, Cries & Whispers, Scenes from a Marriage, Winter Light

TERRENCE MALICK

Cinematic obsessions: Wheat fields Gently Blowing in the Wind at Magic Hour, Sweeping Philosophical Voiceovers, The Confounding Nature of Existence, The Evils of Man, The Divine Presence in Everyday Life, Examining Humility and Grace Through Love, Man’s Existence with Nature Through Time, Redemption and Forgiveness
Best Director Nominations: The Tree of Life, The Thin Red Line
Best Films: Days of Heaven, Badlands, The Tree of Life

ROBERT ALTMAN

Cinematic Obsessions: Rotating Character Studies, Emphasis of Atmosphere and Personalities Over Narrative Structure, Improvisation of Script, Multiple Plotlines, Intersection of Worlds, Music as a Driving Force
Best Director Nominations: Gosford Park, Short Cuts, Nashville, MASH, The Player
Best Films: 3 Women, The Long Goodbye, Nashville, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, MASH, Gosford Park

JOHN CASSAVETES

Cinematic Obsessions: The Psyche of Men, Matters of the Heart, The Struggle and Pain of Human Relationships, Alcohol, Volatility of Emotion, Expression of the Artistic Self, Characterization, Raw Performance, Love
Best Director Nominations: A Woman Under the Influence
Best Films: A Woman Under the Influence, Opening Night, Faces, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

LUIS BUÑUEL

Cinematic Obsessions: Surrealist Imagery, Exposure of Cinematic Experimentation, Bourgeois Dinner Parties That Never Go As Planned, Satiristic Comedies of Fantasy, Criticism of Morals and Religion, Mocking of the Church, Nonsynchronous Music
Nominations for Best Director: The Obscure Object of Desire, The Discreet Charm of the Boregeoisie
Best Films: The Exterminating Angel, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeois, Un Chien Andalou, Belle Du Jour

ALFRED HITCHCOCK

Cinematic obsessions: The Audience as a Voyeur, The Charms of Sociopathy, A Little Murder After Supper, Mommy Complexes, The Relationship Between Sex and Death
Nominations for Best Director: Psycho, Rear Window, Spellbound, Lifeboat, Rebecca
Best Films: Spellbound, Vertigo, North by Northwest, Rebecca, Psycho

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