Entertainment

The Ten Worst Golden Globe Winners of the Last Ten Years

From the Simply Strange to the Downright Egregious

By Sam Eichner ·
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Photo: Handout/Getty Images

The Golden Globes, with a voting body that consists of less than 100 critics from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, is infamous for making some interesting, if not downright egregious, choices. This was, after all, the polity that deemed the 2010 action-comedy The Tourist worthy of not one, but three nominations. (For reference, The Tourist has a 20% on Rotten Tomatoes; I personally watched it on a plane and lived to regret that decision.)

Part of the reason the Globes is often out of step with the Emmys and the Oscars is that the HFPA, given its size, is particularly susceptible to politicking. Since it’s an international association, they also tend to favor movies and shows that have a global appeal—which is perhaps why, for example, this year’s Globes adorned Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water with a somewhat ridiculous seven nominations and almost completely shut out Sean Baker’s much quieter, more uniquely American film, The Florida Project. It’s just hard to imagine the latter translating to foreign audiences the way the former—a painterly love story between a deaf woman and a creature of the deep with a penis—might. Great romances like those have universal appeal, I guess.

All of which is to say, these guys make mistakes. And in honor—or the opposite of honor?—of this Sunday’s 75th annual Golden Globes, we’re highlighting some of the biggest. More precisely, the ten worst Golden Globes winners of the last ten years...

Film

Year: 2008
Award: Best Drama
Winner: Atonement
I’ll start out by saying that Atonement, Joe Wright’s period drama based on the popular Ian McEwan book of the same name, starring a fantastic Kiera Knightley, is not a bad movie. It’s a good movie. But it is not even close to the best movie of 2008, which is one of the best years in film of the 21st century. Other films nominated that year include Michael Clayton, Eastern Promises, No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood—and that’s just in the drama category. The Coen Brothers’ Western, No Country for Old Men, took home the Oscar that year, but two other films—Tony Gilroy’s perfectly written Michael Clayton and Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood, featuring one of the best performances in the modern film era from Daniel Day-Lewis—have aged particularly well. (There Will Be Blood was even named the best film of the 21st century by A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis.) When you look back on 2008, Atonement is barely a footnote.

Year: 2010
Award: Best Drama
Winner: Avatar
Here’s a perfect example of the type of movie an international press association would be inclined to recognize as its best. James Cameron’s blockbuster is certainly deserving of accolades (it also received a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars). But pretty much any other movie nominated in this category is more deserving: The Hurt Locker (which won the Oscar), Inglorious Basterds, Up in the Air, Precious...This one’s a big mistake.

Year: 2012
Award: Best Director
Winner: Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Martin Scorsese deserves—and has won—many awards. He’s one of the greatest filmmakers of all-time. But did we really need to give him an award for Hugo, the least memorable of Scorsese movies? Sure, it’s good. And yes, he’s Scorsese. But the Globes overlooked two directors best work, in Alexander Payne (for The Descendants) and Michel Hazanavicius (who won the Oscar for his silent film, The Artist). And they didn’t even bother nominating Terrence Malick for The Tree of Life—a masterpiece that I think history will look back on fondly.  

Year: 2017
Award: Best Supporting Actor
Winner: Aaron-Taylor Johnson, Nocturnal Animals
It was strange, in the first place, that Johnson would’ve received this nomination over the much stronger Michael Sheen (who received the nomination in this category at the Oscars). But it was even stranger—nay, indefensible—that Johnson pulled out the win in a particularly strong field, including Mahershala Ali (who would win the Oscar for Moonlight) and Jeff Bridges (for Hell or High Water).

TV

Year: 2005
Award: Best Drama
Winner: Nip/Tuck
This is a true anomaly for the soapy medical drama, in a decade dominated by the forbearers of prestige television, like The Sopranos and Deadwood, both of which were nominated in 2005 (along with J.J. Abrams’s Lost). David Simon’s The Wire, it should be noted, wasn’t even nominated this year at the Globes.

Year: 2012
Award: Best Performance in a Drama—Actor
Winner: Kelsey Grammar, The Boss
Do you have any fucking clue what The Boss is? Me neither. And for good reason: the drama, which starred Grammar as a mayor of Chicago with a degenerative neurological disorder, was only on the air for two seasons. This isn’t to say it was bad; The Boss actually garnered pretty good reviews (and T.I. was in it!). But the show was shut out of the Emmys. And look who Grammar beat out: Bryan Cranston (for Breaking Bad), Steve Buscemi (for Boardwalk Empire) and Damian Lewis (for Homeland, during its prime).

Year: 2015
Award: Best Drama
Winner: The Affair
Disclaimer: I'm one of the few people on earth who loved Showtime’s short-lived drama, The Affair, which featured a unique narrative structure and compelling performances from Dominic West and Ruth Wilson. I particularly loved its first season, which won in 2015. My personal feelings aside, though, it was a flawed show. It had no place winning an award over the likes of Game of Thrones and House of Cards.

Year: 2016
Award: Best Comedy
Winner: Mozart in the Jungle
How such a grossly mediocre show could win this award—over Orange is the New Black, Veep, Transparent and Silicon Valley—is anyone’s guess. I think, historically, the Globes are biased towards Amazon (it also awarded Billy Bob Thornton a Globe for his performance in the little-watched Amazon drama, Goliath, the following year).

Year: 2016
Award: Best Actor—Comedy
Winner: Gael García Bernal, Mozart in the Jungle
See above explanation. Bernal is solid in this show, but it’s inconceivable how he could top Jeffrey Tambor (for Transparent) or Aziz Ansari (for the first season of Master of None).

Year: 2017
Award: Best Actor—Miniseries or TV Film
Winner: Tom Hiddleston, The Night Manager
The Globes had a clear fetish for BBC’s The Night Manager last year, awarding it three of the four acting prizes for miniseries/TV film. Even so, to not recognize either Courtney B. Vance (for his nuanced portrayal of Johnny Cochran in The People vs. O.J. Simpson) or Riz Ahmed (for The Night Of) is ludicrous.    

Sam Eichner likes literature, reality television and his twin cats equally. He has consistently been told he needs a shave since he started growing facial hair.

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