You’re watching a movie, and a trailer comes on that makes you think, “Oh, I bet that will win an Oscar.” However, once it’s released, it fails to connect with critics or audiences. Maybe the script is weak or the acting wasn’t up to snuff. For whatever reason, there are certain movies that look great at first glance, but end up falling flat. Here some of the most famous (or infamous) Oscar bait movies that failed.
The Lovely Bones (2009)
Director: Peter Jackson
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Stanley Tucci, Rachel Weisz
Hot on the heels of the LOTR films, powerhouse team Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens took on the 2002 novel about a murdered girl. People expected big things, considering the subject matter and the fact that the team had experience adapting books into film. However, Jackson chose to emphasize his main character’s experiences in heaven (which he rendered beautifully in CGI) rather than on the actual plot. These fantastical sequences contrasted starkly with the disturbing reality of child murders, so the tone of the film was off-kilter. Many viewers also felt the movie was just “too much” on an emotional level, with over-the-top sentimental moments. While Jackon’s LOTR: The Return of the King swept the Oscars, the only nod for Bones went to Stanley Tucci, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. The Lovely Bones has a 32% from critics on Rotten Tomatoes.
Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts
Though it turned a decent profit on its $35 million budget, J. Edgar was not the award-winning film people expected. It had huge names attached, especially director Clint Eastwood, but the story failed to show just how interesting the first FBI director really was. Viewers found the plot dragging – Rotten Tomatoes described it as “humdrum” – and the age makeup on its stars was especially jarring. It currently holds a 42% on Rotten Tomatoes from critics. The only big award was a Golden Globe nomination (not a win) for Leo.
Collateral Beauty (2016)
Director: David Frankel
Starring: Will Smith, Kate Winslet, Helen Mirren
With Oscar bait movies, some try way harder than others. In Collateral Beauty, Will Smith stars as a successful New York businessman reeling from the death of his daughter. He withdraws from his friends and writes letters to “Love,” “Time, and “Death.” Three mysterious figures show up, seemingly the personifications of Love, Time, and Death, and give Smith’s character the opportunity to question them in person. Even with that description, the movie is trying really hard. However, without spoiling too much, there are some bizarre twists that turn this sentimental exploration on love and loss into something needlessly problematic. Critics and viewers alike didn’t appreciate being duped. Richard Roeper wrote that the film was “built on a foundation so contrived, so off-putting, so treacly, the most miraculous thing about this movie [that it] was actually made.” It only managed to achieve a 14% on Rotten Tomatoes and became the lowest box office opening of WIll Smith’s film career.
Welcome to Marwen
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Steve Carrell, Leslie Mann, Janelle Monae
Based on a documentary, Welcome to Marwen follows the story of a man who uses dolls and photography to deal with PTSD and memory loss following an attack. The film moves between the real-life actors and realistic animations of the doll scenarios, so on the surface, it’s a lot more creative than many Oscar bait movies. However, despite the interesting visuals, viewers did not connect with the story, which fell flat compared to the original documentary. It changed some of the facts, as well. Welcome to Marwen did not receive a warm welcome at the box office and bombed. Critically, it failed, too, and ended up with a 33%. It did not get any major award nominations.
A lot of Oscar bait films are based on real people. Here are some newly-released and still upcoming movies with real-life inspiration.