The great Fritz Lang never so much as sniffed at an Oscar.

So here is the explanation behind the asterisk.  Because it would be too long to fully qualify this list in the title.  Here is the real list: The Top 10 English-Language Directors Who Have Never Been Nominated for An Academy Award Nor Had Any of Their Films Ever Nominated for Best Picture.

So here’s how we get that list.  We take every director who’s ever got any award points, any director who has ever made a film to show up on the Top 1000, every director who’s ever made what I consider a **** film and any director that I give points to for their direction for a particular film (the starting point for my update of the Top 100 Directors of all-time).  That leaves us with a list that has approximately 700 names on it.  First, eliminate the 210 directors who have been nominated at some point for Best Director at the Academy Awards.  Then eliminate the 72 directors who have had one of their films nominated for Best Picture but not but nominated for Best Director.  So now we have a list that is a little over 400 long.

Now, the Academy is primarily an American organization and though it does occasionally nominate Foreign films for Best Director (or Picture), it is still not all that common.  So, we can start getting rid of the directors at the top of the list that it would be unreasonable to expect the Academy to ever nominate.  So we can say goodbye to Eisenstein, Buñuel, Yimou, Juenet, Tarkovsky or Leone (his films were primarily made in Italian even if they were dubbed into English).  We can also eliminate Griffith and Von Stroheim because their careers were pretty much done by the time the Academy came around.

So what does that leave?  Well, the following list, all of whom should have been nominated at one point or another.

10  –  Ed Zwick

Zwick should have been nominated (and should have won) for Glory (he was nominated for a Golden Globe).  He won the NBR for The Last Samurai and his Blood Diamond earned 5 nominations.  But he still hasn’t made that big jump yet.

9  –  David Cronenberg

A major contender for A History of Violence and worthy of nomination for either Dead Ringers or Eastern Promises.  He still stands a shot at some point of getting a nomination for himself or one of his films.

8  –  James Whale

Whale’s Frankenstein, The Invisible Man and Bride of Frankenstein are all classics and were all among the best films of each year.  But the Academy doesn’t take to Horror and the three films combined for just one Oscar nomination (Best Sound for Bride).  It would take decades before his reputation finally reached the spot that it is at now.

7  –  John Sayles

If there was any justice Sayles would have at least been nominated for Lone Star.  He actually deserved to win.  It’s the only time he’s actually broken into my top 5, but certainly a career of films like Matewan, Eight Men Out, City of Hope and Silver City is worthy of admiration.

6  –  Sam Peckinpah

Another director who directed the best film of a year and failed to get nominated.  Like Sayles for Lone Star, Peckinpah earned an Oscar nomination for The Wild Bunch for its Screenplay.  He also deserved a nomination for Ride the High Country and his direction was fantastic in Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.

5  –  Tim Burton

Ed Wood was nominated for two Oscars and won both but Burton wasn’t one of them.  Nor was he nominated when he went for more Academy minded fare as Big Fish (which earned him BAFTA and BFCA noms) or Sweeney Todd (which got him Globe and BFCA noms and won him the NBR).  Both Big Fish and Sweeney Todd were nominated at the Globes (where Todd won) and the BFCA and Big Fish was also nominated at the BAFTAs but neither found their way to the Academy shortlist.  His films have received 6 Oscars and 19 nominations but his only Oscar nom came for Best Animated Film for The Corpse Bride.

4  –  Alfonso Cuaron

Cuaron has actually been nominated for 3 Oscars – two for Screenplay and one for Editing and his films have been nominated for five more.  But he deserved nominations for Picture and Director for both Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (by far the best of the Harry Potter films) and for Children of Men and only misses out for Y Tu Mama Tambien because of it being in one of the great film years of all-time.

3  –  Terry Gilliam

In 1985, Brazil became the first film to ever win Best Picture at the L.A. Film Critics and fail to earn an Oscar nomination.  Similarly, every winner of Best Director at the LAFC had also been nominated and 5 of the previous 7 winners had gone on to win the Oscar, but Gilliam also didn’t make the cut.  Then in 1991, Gilliam and his film, The Fisher King, also failed to make the cut.  Though Gilliam has been cursed with some horrible luck (the problems with Don Quixote, the death of Heath Ledger part way through Parnassus), and also has had his own messes to deal with (notably Tideland), but there is still hope for him to finally have a film embraced by the Academy.  The Fisher King provided the one Oscar win from the 15 nominations from his films, but Brazil provided him with his only nomination (for Screenplay).

2  –  Preston Sturges

Alone among the people on this list, Sturges actually has an Oscar – Best Original Screenplay for The Great McGinty.  But in a burst of activity in a few years that included McGinty, The Lady Eve, Sullivan’s Travels, Hail the Conquering Hero and The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, he never was nominated for Director and none of his films were nominated for Best Picture (even though Sullivan’s Travels was the best film of 1942 – one of the rare times that the Academy has failed to give any nominations to the best film of the year).

1  –  Fritz Lang

Lang’s two best films were the best films of the era – Metropolis and M.  But both were German and understandably not nominated.  But after coming to America he made You Only Live Once, which should have won him Best Director in 1937 but failed to even earn a single nomination.  Lang would continue to make strong films for years and would eventually again make a film worthy of an Oscar nomination; however, The Big Heat, like You Only Live Once, in spite of being one of the best films of the year, failed to earn a single nomination.  In the end, directing mostly in the era before the DGA, the Globes, the BAFTAs or the BFCA, Lang would never end up getting any nominations.  Just a reputation for being one of the greatest directors of all-time.

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