10 Biggest Best Director Snubs of the 2010s, Ranked


The Academy Awards have proven themselves to be the be-all-end-all awards body in the film industry. The amount of attention and weight placed upon the nominees is astronomical, as the Oscars have acted as Hollywood’s ultimate form of recognition for almost 100 years. Alas, the Academy is far from perfect and has often had numerous glaring omissions from their nominations over the years.

Best Director, especially, is one of the most prolific and coveted awards, providing recognition to the auteur who weaved together a film with expertise and ability. However, with so many amazing and powerful movies released year after year, the Academy simply can’t recognize every great director’s work, especially with only five nominations to choose from. The 2010s were filled with numerous glaring omissions in the Best Director category that, even years later, continue to baffle and confuse audiences worldwide.

10 Quentin Tarantino

‘Django Unchained’ (2012)

Image via Sony Pictures Releasing

Quentin Tarantino has always been hailed as something of a golden boy, and Django Unchained is one of his most iconic and beloved films to date. The mixture of Tarantino’s signature directing style with the Western genre made for a match made in heaven, earning heaps of praise from audiences and critics. While the film secured five nominations at the 85th Academy Awards, Tarantino was strangely ignored in Best Director.

Tarantino was certainly a strong contender, if not necessarily a favorite, especially because the film did so well in other areas. He was also no stranger to the ceremony, receiving Best Director nods for Inglourious Basterds and Pulp Fiction and winning Best Original Screenplay for the latter; still, he failed to make the cut for Django. It wasn’t all disappointment for Tarantino, as he would ironically get the last laugh when Django won him a second Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

Django Unchained Movie Poster

Django Unchained

With the help of a German bounty-hunter, a freed slave sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal plantation owner in Mississippi.

Release Date
December 25, 2012


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9 Barry Jenkins

‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ (2018)

Fonny and Tish touching foreheads in 'If Beale Streets Could Talk'
Image via Anapurna Pictures

If Beale Street Could Talk was easily one of the most strangely overlooked and snubbed films during the 91st Academy Awards, despite its massive, seemingly unanimous critical praise. Director Barry Jenkins‘s follow-up to the Best Picture-winning Moonlight was an instant contender, with everyone expecting it to rack up nominations in the same vein as his previous film. However, the film only received three nominations, with the most glaring omission being that of Jenkins in Best Director.

What made this snub so heartwrenching and shocking is that If Beale Street Could Talk‘s biggest strengths can be easily attributed to the power of Barry Jenkins’s directing style. He breathed life, soul, and passion into nearly every sequence, an accomplishment that empowers nearly every aspect of the film, from the stellar performances to the out-of-this-world score. At the very least, the film didn’t go home empty-handed at the end of the day, as Regina King would take home the award for Best Supporting Actress.

If Beale Street Could Talk Film Poster

If Beale Street Could Talk

A young woman embraces her pregnancy while she and her family set out to prove her childhood friend and lover innocent of a crime he didn’t commit.

Release Date
December 25, 2018

119 minutes

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8 Kathryn Bigelow

‘Zero Dark Thirty’ (2012)

Maya with wind blowing in her face looking to the distance in Zero Dark Thirty
Image via Sony Pictures Releasing

Kathryn Bigelow was a standout name in terms of directors of the late 2000s and early 2010s. She was the first woman to win Best Director for her film The Hurt Locker, which went on to win Best Picture. So even as far back as the announcement of Bigelow directing Zero Dark Thirty, a thriller focusing on the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden, everyone and their mother assumed she would, at the very least, be nominated again. However, while the film was a major player at the 85th Academy Awards with 5 nominations, Bigelow was omitted from Best Director.

The Academy always tends to give directors credit and props to the larger and more critically acclaimed action-oriented films in the running, making it even more shocking when her work in Zero Dark Thirty didn’t make the cut. The glaring omission hit even harder because it meant that there would be no women directors nominated at the 85th Academy Awards, despite Bigelow seemingly being a frontrunner for the entire awards circuit.


Zero Dark Thirty

A chronicle of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden after the September 2001 attacks and his death at the hands of the Navy S.E.A.L.s Team 6 in May 2011.

Release Date
December 19, 2012


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7 Paul Greengrass

‘Captain Phillips’ (2013)

Richard Phillips with a scared expression while in looking ahead in Captain Phillips
Image via Sony Pictures Relasing

It’s hard to understate just how much of a massive hit Captain Phillips was with both audiences and critics upon its release. The film effectively blended the action directing of Paul Greengrass, most commonly associated with his work in the Bourne films, with a compelling narrative that made it as effective a drama as it was a thriller. While Captain Phillips received numerous accolades and 6 nominations at the 86th Academy Awards, Greengrass shockingly failed to secure a Best Director nomination.

Greengrass had been nominated for his directing in the past for the film United 93. However, Captain Phillips remains the most recognized and most successful film he’s directed. Yet even with the technical and directing prowess on display, the film simply had too much steep competition that year. Also notable was the snub for Tom Hanks‘ incredible performance, which made the cut in most major precursors but was ignored by the Academy.


Captain Phillips

The true story of Captain Richard Phillips and the 2009 hijacking by Somali pirates of the U.S.-flagged MV Maersk Alabama, the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in two hundred years.

Release Date
October 10, 2013


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6 Ridley Scott

‘The Martian’ (2015)

Mark Watney in his spacesuit in Mars looking down in The Martian (2015)
Image via 20th Century Studios

Ridley Scott is among the most iconic directors in modern film history, with numerous acclaimed films under his belt. Despite his numerous Best Director nominations in the past, including one for Gladiator, which won Best Picture, he has never won an Academy Award. Seeing how The Martian was his biggest film in years, a massive hit among audiences and critics that excelled thanks to his directorial vision, it was a massive shock when he wasn’t even nominated for Best Director at the 88th Academy Awards.

What made this snub worse was that, up until the nominations were announced, Scott was considered to be the frontrunner, having checked every box to secure the nomination. While The Martian was still able to pick up a number of other nominations, the lack of a Best Director nomination completely shifted the tides and predictions of the entire ceremony, leaving a ripple effect that affected much more than just the Best Director category.

The Martian Film Poster

The Martian

An astronaut becomes stranded on Mars after his team assume him dead, and must rely on his ingenuity to find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive and can survive until a potential rescue.

Release Date
October 2, 2015

144 minutes

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5 Ava DuVernay

‘Selma’ (2014)

Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Abernathy, and Andrew Young leading a march in Selma
Image via Paramount Pictures

Selma was easily one of the most critically acclaimed dramas of 2014 and has since been regarded as one of the most powerful and resonating historical dramas of the 2010s. By seemingly all metrics, the film appeared to be a shoo-in at the 87th Academy Awards, yet it was famously snubbed in a massive number of categories, only earning two nominations: Best Picture and Best Original Song.

There’s a strange and disappointing history behind Selma‘s infamous snubbing, yet all these years later, Ava DuVernay’s snub for Best Director hurts the hardest. Especially for such a politically charged yet highly resonating and powerful story, its blatant omission from numerous categories remains among the Academy’s biggest misfires ever. The failure on the Academy’s part to nominate DuVernay is especially painful, considering she would have been the first Black female director in the category, a feat that still hasn’t been met almost a decade later.



A chronicle of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965.

Release Date
December 25, 2014


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4 Greta Gerwig

‘Little Women’ (2019)

The March sisters embracing in Little Women
Image via Sony Pictures

While Greta Gerwig‘s Best Director snub for Barbie is currently the talk of the town, it’s important to note that this is far from the only time the acclaimed female director has been snubbed for a nomination. Gerwig’s adaptation of the classic Louisa May Alcott novel Little Women was a major player at the 92nd Academy Awards, earning 6 nominations, although strangely missing a nomination for Best Director.

Seeing as how Gerwig had previously been nominated in the award for her acclaimed debut, Lady Bird, many saw her nomination for Little Women as a major possibility. Alas, while Gerwig secured a nomination for the film’s adapted screenplay, she missed the directing category. The lack of Gerwig as a contender for Best Director majorly hurt the selection, as no women directors would be nominated that year. Many fans were quick to point out the egregious choice in nominating Joker for Best Director instead of Gerwig’s directorial achievement.

Poster for Greta Gerwig's Little Women

Little Women

Jo March reflects back and forth on her life, telling the beloved story of the March sisters – four young women, each determined to live life on her own terms.

Release Date
December 25, 2019


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3 Bradley Cooper

‘A Star is Born’ (2018)

Ally and Jackson singing on stage in A Star is Born.
Image via Warner Bros. Pictures

The directorial debut for A-list actor Bradley Cooper, 2018’s A Star is Born wowed audiences with its poignant and powerful adaptation of a classic Hollywood story. The film was easily one of the most prominent frontrunners for the entire awards season, earning 8 nominations at the 91st Academy Awards. Yet, Bradley Cooper was egregiously absent from the Best Director category. This came after Cooper secured best director nominations in nearly every other awards body leading up to the Academy Awards.

Especially for a film that was in the running for actually winning Best Picture for the majority of the awards circuit in 2018, missing out on Best Director came as a massive shock. Cooper’s surprisingly effective turn and capabilities in the director’s chair heightened A Star is Born to new heights, yet he was sadly not given justice for his hard work in directing. Even to this day, Cooper has still never won an Oscar, making his snubs for A Star Is Born seem more ridiculous in hindsight.

a star is born poster

A Star is Born

A musician helps a young singer find fame as age and alcoholism send his own career into a downward spiral.

Release Date
October 3, 2018


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2 Christopher Nolan

‘Inception’ (2010)

Cobb sitting down and looking at his totem while holding a gun in Inception
Image via Warner Bros. Pictures

One of the most iconic and recognizable original action films of the 2010s, Christopher Nolan‘s Inception laid the groundwork and surmounted a powerful legacy for the style of action thrillers for the rest of the decade. However, while the film earned a total of 8 nominations at the 83rd Academy Awards, even being tied for winning the most awards at the end of the night, Christopher Nolan was strangely absent from the Best Director category.

With Nolan’s previous film, The Dark Knight, infamously being snubbed in a majority of categories, it seemed highly likely that Inception would act as a redemption, finally giving Nolan his first nomination for Best Director. However, despite the technical prowess and undeniable skill displayed throughout the film, it was overlooked in favor of more dramatic and less blockbuster-style films. To this day, Nolan has still never won an Academy Award, although this is assumed to change with Oppenheimer being the frontrunner for Best Picture.



A thief who steals corporate secrets through the use of dream-sharing technology is given the inverse task of planting an idea into the mind of a C.E.O., but his tragic past may doom the project and his team to disaster.

Release Date
July 15, 2010


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1 Ben Affleck

‘Argo’ (2012)

Tony reviewing some papers in Argo (2012)
Image via Warner Bros.

Argo was easily one of the biggest surprises of 2012, with Ben Affleck continuing to prove his capabilities as a director with an intense and enthralling dramatic thriller, even if its ‘real-life story’ wasn’t entirely true. But the film exceeded all expectations and instantly became critically acclaimed thanks in part to the expert directing talents of Affleck. However, despite the clear love that the Academy had for the film, Affleck was strangely left out of the nominations for Best Director.

Affleck’s snub has aged like milk, considering he won the Golden Globe and the DGA for Best Directing. Argo even won the award for Best Picture at the 85th Academy Awards! It’s extremely rare for a Best Picture winner to not even be nominated in the second most prestigious award of the night, especially when said Best Picture winner is a blockbuster thriller as is the case of Argo. While Ben did end up winning an Academy Award as a producer, the lack of recognition for his directing still stands out over a decade later.

Argo movie poster featuring Ben Affleck


Acting under the cover of a Hollywood producer scouting a location for a science fiction film, a CIA agent launches a dangerous operation to rescue six Americans in Tehran during the U.S. hostage crisis in Iran in 1979.

Release Date
March 22, 2012


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NEXT: 10 of the Biggest Oscar Snubs of All Time, According to Reddit


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