‘Star Wars’ Lost the Best Picture Oscar to This Comedy Movie

Star Wars is one of the most beloved and influential movies ever but the Academy wasn’t the biggest fan of it. The original Star Wars won a handful of Oscars, however, it lost the coveted Academy Award for Best Picture to a famous comedy film. Afterward, James Cameron had some choice words to describe the Academy’s decision.

Han Solo and C-3PO in front of snow
Han Solo with C-3PO | FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty Images

The film that beat ‘Star Wars’ in multiple Oscar categories

According to Oscars.org, Star Wars won a number of Academy Awards, bringing home the statuettes for Art Direction, Costume Design, and Film Editing, among others. It was also nominated for the Academy Awards, for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. It lost each of these awards to one of the most famous romantic comedies of the 1970s: Woody Allen’s Annie Hall.

Interestingly, Turner Classic Movies says Allen did not care about his wins. He said he simply didn’t care about the Academy Awards because he felt the people behind the ceremony were incompetent. However, he also said he was happy about Annie Halls’ Oscar wins because his co-star, Diane Keaton, was very invested in the Oscars.

A trailer for Star Wars

How the public reacted to ‘Star Wars’ vs. ‘Annie Hall’

The Academy reacted more positively to Annie Hall than the public did. According to USA Today, Annie Hall became the 10th most successful film of 1977, earning over $38 million. Meanwhile, Star Wars earned over $307 million at the box office. While the Academy preferred Annie Hall in 1977, audiences clearly preferred Star Wars. In addition, Star Wars launched an enduring franchise while Annie Hall remains a standalone film.

James Cameron’s take on ‘Annie Hall’ winning Best Picture

One could interpret Annie Hall’s triumph over a galaxy far, far away at the Oscars in a number of ways. It’s easy to see it as an example of elites looking down upon popular entertainment. According to IndieWire, James Cameron — the director of science fiction films like Avatar, The Terminator, and Aliens — sees it as an example of the Academy’s bias against science fiction.

James Cameron with a microphone
James Cameron | Michael Tran/FilmMagic

“The first time I noticed this was when I was just a movie fan and not a practitioner yet, when Star Wars, which to me was the ultimate science-fiction film of its day… lost to Annie Hall,” Cameron recalled. “This little cute relationship story and Star Wars. What the f*ck are you people thinking?”

Cameron said science fiction can be just as humanistic as any genre even if the genre is artificial. “All movies are artifice. Movies are innately artificial. The truth underlies the artifact,” he said. “The truth of what you’re saying is the connection with the audience. Science fiction can do that like any other genre.” Cameron feels the Academy never overcame its bias against science fiction.

Annie Hall wins Best Picture

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“It drives me nuts every year,” Cameron revealed. “There is science-fiction that plays by the rules of good drama and that is important conceptually and that says something about our society and that has great characters. The Academy just has a blindspot about it. They’ll award it technical stuff but not the real stuff, not the acting.” The public loves Star Wars and other science fiction films — even if the Academy doesn’t.