When people think of the Oscars, they think of the best in the film industry. The best actors, the best movies, the best songs. It has long been the gold standard of achievement, and for 81 years, the Oscars have awarded this top prize to some of the most recognizable Hollywood icons of all time. Still, throughout the history of the Academy Awards, some of the greatest actors have gone without recognition. Here is a list of the ten best actors who were never awarded an Oscar.
Editor’s note: This list does not take into account the 2010 Oscar Awards for which Jeff Bridges finally won an Oscar.
10. Peter O’Toole
Now O’Toole did win an honorary Oscar in 2003 once the Academy realized that they have long shunned this magnificent actor, who has been waiting for his statuette since his first nomination for his role in Laurence of Arabia 47 years ago. O’Toole has been nominated 7 times since then, and helped to coin the phrase, “It’s a pleasure just to be nominated,” although you can hear the bitterness in his voice when he says it. Despite the constant and consistent snubbing by the Academy, O’Toole is no stranger to award wins. His performance in Laurence of Arabia was later recognized as the greatest performance of all time in Premiere Magazine.
Peter O’Toole Nominations
1962 – As T.E. Laurence in Laurence of Arabia – Lost to Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mocking Bird
1964 – As Becket in King Henry II – Lost to Rex Harrison as Professor Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady
1968 – As King Henry II in The Lion in Winter – Lost to Cliff Robertson as Charly Gordon in Charly
1969 – As Arthur Chipping in Goodbye, Mr. Chips – Lost to John Wayne as Marshal Reuben J. Cogburn in True Grit
1972 – As Jack Gurney in The Ruling Class – Lost to Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather
1980 – As Eli Cross in The Stunt Man – Lost to Robert De Niro as Jack LaMotta in Raging Bull
1982 – As Alan Swann in My Favorite Year – Lost to Ben Kingsley as Mohandas Gandhi in Gandhi
2006 – As Maurice in Venus – Lost to Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland
9. Cary Grant
Bogart, Stewart, and Grant. These three icons epitomize classic film, but Grant never earned the accolades that were bestowed upon Bogart and Stewart. He was nominated twice for an Oscar, and sits on almost all top ten actors of all time lists, but he never wrapped his hands around his own gold statue until an honorary award was bestowed on him at the 1970 Academy Awards. Grant, who was a regular in the films of Alfred Hitchcock, another Oscarless icon, starred in classic films like North by Northwest, and To Catch a Thief.
Cary Grant Nominations
1941 – As Roger Adams in Penny Serenade – Lost to Gary Cooper as Alvin c. York in Sergeant York
1944 – As Ernie Mott in None but the Lonely Heart – Lost to Bing Crosby as Father Chuck O’Malley in Going My Way
8. Leonardo Dicaprio
Dicaprio has never been in a role that didn’t deserve an Oscar nod. Yes, that is a little exaggerated, but Leo is known for taking on the difficult roles. From his first nomination in 1993 for his role as Arnie, in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Dicaprio has continually pushed his creative limits, taking on roles such as a drug addled high schooler, a runaway conman, a modern Romeo, and a vengeful New Yorker. He earned two more Oscar nods for his role in Blood Diamond and The Aviator. Still under the age of 40, Dicaprio has a long time before he has to succumb to the lifetime achievement award.
Leonardo DiCaprio Nominations
Best Supporting Actor
1993 – As Arnie Grape in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape – Lost to Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive
2004 – As Howard Hughes in The Aviator – Lost to Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles in Ray
2006 – As Danny Archer in Blood Diamond – Lost to Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland
7. James Dean
There is no doubt that if James Dean would have lived longer he would have nabbed at least one Oscar award. During his short lived movie career, Dean left a lasting impression on the cinema world. He was the first actor to ever be nominated for an award after his death, for his role in East of Eden, and is still the only actor to have earned a second posthumous award, for his work in Giant. And even though the Academy has developed a soft spot for the deceased, Dean is a rebel without an award.
James Dean Nominations
1955 – As Carl Trask in East of Eden – Lost to Ernest Borgine as Marty Piletti in Marty
1956 – As Jett Rink in Giant – Lost to Yul Brunner as King Mongkut of Siam in The King and I
6. Jeff Bridges Jeff finally won, Congratulations!
Let’s face it, the dude can act. Since 1971 when Bridges lost his first nomination to co-star Ben Johnson in The Last Picture Show, Bridges has been nominated three additional times. His role in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot was defeated in 1974 by Robert De Niro’s portrayal of the Godfather. He lost again in 1984 and 2000. Bridges has been a major player for the past four decades, and it is about time he got his due. His latest role in the movie Crazy Heart, has gathered plenty of buzz, and might finally help bridges over the Oscar hump. Editor’s Note. It did!
Jeff Bridges Nominations
Best Supporting Actor
1971 – As Duane Jackson in The Last Picture Show – Lost to Ben Johnson as Sam the Lion in The Last Picture Show
1974 – As Lightfoot in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot – Lost to Robert DeNiro as Vito Corleone in The Godfather Part II
2000 – As President Jackson Evans in The Contender – Lost to Beniciio del Toro as Javier Rodiguez Rodriguez in Traffic
1984 – As Starman/Scott Hayden in Starman – Lost to F. Murray Abraham as Antonio Salieri in Amadeus
5. Albert Finney
Finney is one of the finest actors on both stage and screen. He has been awarded Emmys, Golden Globes, SAG Awards, The Laurence Olivier Theatre Award, and many other prestigious prizes, but has never taken home an Oscar, despite being nominated five times. But don’t feel bad for Finney. He doesn’t seem to put much weight on the importance of awards, as he has never shown up to an Oscar Ceremony.
Albert Finney Nominations
Best Supporting Actor
2000 – As Edward L. Masry in Erin Brockovich – Lost to Benecio del Toro as Javier Rodriguez Rodriguez in Traffic
1963 – As Tom Jones in Tom Jones – Lost to Sidney Poitier as Homer Smith in Lilies of the Field
1974 – As Hercule Poirot in murder on the Orient Express – Lost to Art Carney as Harry Coombes in Harry and Tonto
1983 – As Sir in The Dresser – Lost to Robert Duvall as Mac Sledge in Tender Mercies
1984 – As Geoffrey Firmin in Under the Volcano – Lost to F. Murray Abraham as Antonio Salieri in Amadeus
4. Sam Rockwell
Not only has Rockwell never won an Oscar, but he has also never even been nominated. The versatile actor isn’t known by name to many, but his performances in movies like The Green Miles, Galaxy Quest, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Matchstick Men, and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, have continually garnered the attention of critics. Rockwell’s latest movie, Moon, which is basically a one man film, has sparked petitions to get this worthy actor a nomination.
Sam Rockwell Nominations
No nominations. Should have won or at least been nominated for Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. Should have been nominated this year for Moon.
3. Edward Norton
Norton hadn’t done much acting work before he received his first nomination. Primal Fear, in 1996, was Norton’s first major role and it led to his first major nomination. Two years later he would receive his second nod for his powerful work in American History X. Although he hasn’t been nominated since, Norton is still in the beginning stages of his career, with barely a decade under his belt, despite his established body of work.
Edward Norton Nominations
Best Supporting Actor
1996 – As Aaron Stampler in Primal Fear – Lost to Cuba Gooding Jr. as Rod Tidwell in Jerry Maguire
1998 – As Derek Vinyard in American History X – Lost to Roberto Benigni as Guido Orefice in Life is Beautiful.
2. Tom Cruise
So maybe Cocktail, Mission Impossible, and Top Gun, weren’t exactly Oscar quality, but the list of Cruise’s quality movies are endless. The Color of Money, Rain Man, Born on the Fourth of July. He is a Director’s favorite and one of the top grossing actors of all time. He has had three Oscar nominations, and no wins. As his craziness levels continue to rise, and his box office appeal begins to dwindle, Cruise might have missed out on his Golden Ticket.
Tom Cruise Nominations
Best Supporting Actor
1999 – As Frank T.J. Mackey in Magnolia – Lost to Michael Caine as Dr. Wilbur Larch in The Cider House Rules
1989 – As Ron Kovic in Born on the Fourth of July – Lost to Daniel Day-Lewis as Christy Brown in My Left Foot
1996 – As Jerry Maguire in Jerry Maguire – Lost to Geoffrey Rush as David Helfgott in Shine
1. Johnny Depp
Depp has done his best to stay out of the limelight, but in recent years, there wasn’t much he could do to avoid being showered with accolades. From the monstrous hit, Pirates of the Caribbean, Depp has earned three nominations. One for being a pirate, one for being an author, and one for being a demon barber. As Depp balances between quirky characters and box office hits, it is only a matter of time until the Oscar shows up at his door.
Johnny Depp Nominations
2003 – As Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean – Lost to Sean Penn as Jimmy Markum in Mystic River
2004 – As Sir James Mathew Barrie in Finding Neverland – Lost to Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles in Ray
2007 – As Sweeney Todd in Sweeney Todd – Lost to Daniel Day-Lewis as Daniel Plainview in There Will be Blood
This list was far to short to name all of the actors who deserve Academy Awards. Here are a few actors, and a few actresses, who weren’t even nominated for this list.
Paul Giamani, Robert Downey Jr., Matt Damon, William H. Macy, John Malkovich, Bill Murray, Marilyn Monroe, Steve Buschemi, Richard Burton, Fred Astaire, Glenn Close, Greta Garbo, Orson Welles, Jeff Daniels, and many, many more.
by Dan Evon