1962: The Year Oscar Really Needed 10 Nominees

Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey i i

hide captionIn the political thriller The Manchurian Candidate, Frank Sinatra (left) and Laurence Harvey turn out to be pawns in a global conspiracy. It's just one of a double handful of 1962 classics that could easily have rounded out a 10-slot Best Picture list.

Getty Images
Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey

In the political thriller The Manchurian Candidate, Frank Sinatra (left) and Laurence Harvey turn out to be pawns in a global conspiracy. It's just one of a double handful of 1962 classics that could easily have rounded out a 10-slot Best Picture list.

Getty Images

Ten Oscar nominees for Best Picture! It's as if Hollywood's reaction, after The Dark Knight got passed over for a nomination last year, was to create its own year-end Ten Best list.

Sound radical? In fact it's just what the movie capital used to do routinely. Until 1943, there were always somewhere between eight and 12 nominees in the category. (Oddly, there were sometimes only a couple of nominees for Best Actor or Best Actress.)

Then, during wartime, everything was revised and made uniform. (You should pardon the pun.) Five nominees in every category was the rule that held sway for 65 years. Arguably, in most of those post-1943 years, five slots were plenty to keep up with the quality product.

But there were exceptions. We'd love to hear your choice for the year that most needed 10 nominees — tell us below, in the comments — but for me it's no contest. It's 1962 in a walk.

The five Best Picture nominees that year were Lawrence of Arabia (the eventual winner), The Longest Day, The Music Man, Mutiny on the Bounty and To Kill A Mockingbird. Not a bad list for any year, certainly.

But even if none of those pictures had ever been produced, the Motion Picture Academy could still have assembled a perfectly respectable 1962 list. One possible slate: The Manchurian Candidate, Birdman of Alcatraz, Days of Wine and Roses, The Miracle Worker and Long Day's Journey into Night. Believe it or not, they were all among the year's also-rans.

And if none of those had been produced either? There'd still have been plenty of worthy candidates: Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, Billy Budd, Divorce Italian Style, Last Year at Marienbad, Gypsy, Sweet Bird of Youth, Period of Adjustment, Jules and Jim, Lolita, Advise and Consent, Peeping Tom and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance ... just to name a few.

So: Is there a year that can top that?

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