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Top 20 Biggest Stars Who Never Won an Oscar

Benjamin is a former volunteer DJ at his local hospital radio station. He has been reviewing films online since 2004.

It's the biggest night in Hollywood and yet some of its biggest stars are yet to be recognised for their acting ability. Sort it out, Oscar!

It's the biggest night in Hollywood and yet some of its biggest stars are yet to be recognised for their acting ability. Sort it out, Oscar!

What's This About Then?

Given that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences only give out four awards for actors each year, it's perhaps understandable that many of them will never get their hands on that famous golden statue. For the overwhelming majority, this may be due to a lack of talent, but other reasons could be behind this failure: perhaps they were against another acting great delivering the performance of a lifetime or maybe their performance was missed due to the film's failure overall. Even taking this into consideration, there are some names missing from the list of winners that is truly staggering. Some of these are genuine Hollywood royalty, others have been box office draws for the majority of their careers but nearly all are surprising omissions.

However, the awards season of 2021 is shaping up to be one unlike any other previously held. With the near collapse of filmmaking in 2020 due to the global coronavirus pandemic, new films being released have been few and far between. Not only does this create several questions for the industry, such as whether the future for new releases is on streaming services, but it has also caused numerous major releases to be delayed, some on multiple occasions (I'm looking at you, No Time To Die). I suspect that among the few films released theatrically last year, Tenet might be the overall winner. But that's a conversation for another time - let's look at some of those huge Hollywood stars who have somehow failed to immortalise themselves by winning an Oscar.

Given the scope of this list, here are some honourable mentions: Edward Norton, Sigourney Weaver, Tom Cruise, Ian McKellen, Bill Murray, John Malkovich, Pam Grier, Angela Bassett, Woody Harrelson, Scarlet Johansson, Helena Bonham Carter, Lauren Bacall (I know she won an honorary statuette but she never won a competitive award), Greta Garbo, Kim Novak, Ed Harris, Keira Knightly, Steve Martin and Kurt Russell. All are worthy winners, but sadly, not one of them ever emerged victorious from the ceremony. And neither did...


Number 20: Mia Farrow

With a career starting way back in 1959, Farrow is most associated with Woody Allen's film during the Eighties which proved to be a fruitful period for the actress with heralded performances in films such as Broadway Danny Rose, Hannah And Her Sisters and The Purple Rose Of Cairo. But it's her outstanding performance in seminal horror film Rosemary's Baby that remains her best performance to date, securing her nominations for a Golden Globe and BAFTA award (ironically, her co-star Ruth Gordon did win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in the film). Given that she is now more renowned for her humanitarian work (she has appeared in a film since 2011) and her acting appears to be behind her, it's a shame that the Academy haven't nominated her for an award even once.

Nominations: none

Should have won for: Rosemary's Baby (1968)


Number 19: Jim Carrey

One of the unfortunate victims of the Academy's general disdain for comedy films, Carrey has still to secure a nomination for his dramatic roles despite nominations for Golden Globes (winning twice), BAFTAs and Screen Actors Guild awards. A huge star since his breakthrough year of 1994 when he blasted into the mainstream thanks to The Mask and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, he has since turned into a serious actor thanks to critically praised performances in The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. With total box office earnings of more than $5.33 billion worldwide, he remains a huge star - albeit one without an Oscar of any kind.

Nominations: none

Should have won for: Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004)


Number 18: Richard Gere

Gere has been a leading man since his star-making turn in 1980's American Gigolo and has remained one of Hollywood's most reliable and popular stars ever since. With a string of hits under his belt - An Officer And A Gentleman, The Cotton Club, Pretty Woman, Primal Fear and more - he did at least appear in the Oscar-winning musical Chicago as hot-shot lawyer Billy Flynn. Another humanitarian, Gere hasn't yet given up his acting career and even probably should have deserved another nod in 2016 for his portrayal of Jewish 'fixer' Norman Oppenheimer in Norman: The Moderate Rise And Tragic Fall Of A New York Fixer.

Nominations: none

Should have won for: Chicago (2002)


Number 17: Albert Finney

Five times! Finney was nominated a total of five times by the Academy but never won. With a career spanning seven decades, Finney was one of the biggest and most respected actors from the UK on stage and screen with numerous credits worthy of him picking up at least one Oscar. He did manage to win two BAFTA awards (forty two years apart), three Golden Globes and an Emmy and numerous nominations throughout his long career but sadly, he never won the big one.

Nominations: Tom Jones (1963, lost to Sidney Poitier in Lillies Of The Field), Murder On The Orient Express (1974, lost to Art Carney in Harry And Tonto), The Dresser (1983, lost to Robert Duvall in Tender Mercies), Under The Volcano (1984, lost to F. Murray Abraham in Amadeus) and Erin Brockovich (2000, lost to Benicio Del Toro in Traffic)

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Should have won for: Murder On The Orient Express, Erin Brockovich or Big Fish (2003)


Number 16: Amy Adams

If you though Albert Finney was hard done by then spare a thought for Ms Adams who has been nominated a staggering six times without picking up the victory. Despite being a two-time Golden Globe winner (and multiple time nominee) as well as countless other awards, the Academy has yet to award her for any of her film credits although there is still plenty of time for her to do so. In fact, if anyone on this list was to ever come off it in future then I'd argue that Adams is the most likely to.

Nominations: Junebug (2005, lost to Rachel Weisz in The Constant Gardener), Doubt (2008, lost to Penelope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona), The Fighter (2010, lost to Melissa Leo in The Fighter), The Master (2012, lost to Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables), American Hustle (2013, lost to Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine) and Vice (2018, lost to Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk).

Should have won for: American Hustle or Arrival (2016).


Number 15: Ralph Fiennes

When he isn't being Voldemort, Fiennes has the sort of acting pedigree you might assume comes with Oscar success attached to it. Granted, he did secure nominations for his roles in Schindler's List and The English Patient but he hasn't been recognised since then which seems a almost criminal oversight. Fiennes has grown as a performer and straddles the divide between indie productions like The Grand Budapest Hotel and big budget films like the Harry Potter series and even stars as the current M in the forthcoming Bond film No Time To Die.

Nominated for: Schindler's List (1993, lost to Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive) and The English Patient (1996, lost to Geoffrey Rush in Shine)

Should have won for: The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)


Number 14: Uma Thurman

An actress of such talent that Quentin Tarantino calls her his muse, Thurman's career has actually been fairly inconsistent for a number of years. Despite her career-making turn in Pulp Fiction as well as the wonderfully bad-ass Bride in Kill Bill, Thurman hasn't always made the best choice of roles - whether it's in implausible rom-coms like The Accidental Husband or campy villain Poison Ivy in the notorious Batman & Robin. Perhaps this lack of sustained success has meant that she is not considered for roles more likely to bring Academy award success but for now, we'll have to wait and see.

Nominated for: Pulp Fiction (1994, lost to Dianne Wiest in Bullets Over Broadway)

Should have won for: Pulp Fiction


Number 13: Richard Burton

Widely hailed as one of the greatest actors of his generation, Burton had a storied and respected career at the top of the industry for many years until his tragic passing at the age of just 58 in 1984. Nominated seven times by the Academy without winning, he did pick up BAFTAs, Golden Globes and Tony awards for his stage work and became one of the highest earning Hollywood stars by the mid-Sixties. He was also a perennial favourite of the tabloids thanks to his tumultuous relationship with Elizabeth Taylor although whether his public image put voters off is a matter for debate.

Nominated for: My Cousin Rachel (1952, lost to Anthony Quinn in Viva Zapata!), The Robe (1953, lost to William Holden in Stalag 17), Beckett (1964, lost to Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady), The Spy Who Came In From The Cold (1965, lost to Lee Marvin in Cat Ballou), Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? (1966, lost to Paul Scofield in A Man For All Seasons), Anne Of The Thousand Days (1969, lost to John Wayne in True Grit) and Equus (1977, lost to Richard Dreyfuss in The Goodbye Girl)

Should have won for: Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?


Number 12: Bradley Cooper

Given that his breakthrough appearance was in bawdy comedy The Hangover, it's perhaps surprising that Cooper has gone on to achieve the success he has. Nominated four times so far as an actor, he also has three nominations as a producer and one as a writer - albeit, he is still yet to win any Academy award for his work. But few performers can claim to have been nominated for three consecutive years and Cooper can consider himself unlucky to have missed out.

Nominated for: Silver Linings Playbook (2012, lost to Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln), American Hustle (2013, lost to Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club), American Sniper (2014, lost to Eddie Redmayne in The Theory Of Everything) and A Star Is Born (2018, lost to Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody)

Should have won for: I know Day-Lewis deserved it for Lincoln but Cooper was magnificent in Silver Linings Playbook. Bad timing is all that prevented Cooper from his victory that year.


Number 11: Kirk Douglas

Few stars enjoyed a career as long and storied as Kirk Douglas, star of iconic cinema classics like Spartacus, Lonely Are The Brave and Paths Of Glory as well as being a film producer and director. Douglas was nominated three times as an actor for his appearances in Champion, The Bad And The Beautiful and Lust For Life but failed to win on each occasion. However, he did win an honorary award in 1996 to celebrate his fiftieth year in the industry and his contribution to cinema overall. But for a star with the stature of Douglas, it's surprising that he never won a competitive award from the Academy.

Nominated for: Champion (1949, lost to Broderick Crawford in All The King's Men), The Bad And The Beautiful (1952, lost to Gary Cooper in High Noon) and Lust For Life (1956, lost to Yul Brynner in The King And I)

Should have won for: Spartacus (1960)


Number 10: Marilyn Monroe

Another cultural icon whose legacy on-screen remains as popular as her off-screen story, Monroe's star burned brightly during her brief career. Embracing her reputation as a sex symbol, Monroe's films may have caused her to be typecast but she grew as an actress and appeared in some of the most beloved comedies of the era - Some Like It Hot, Gentlemen Prefers Blondes, The Seven Year Itch and more. Some critics may have been unkind about her acting but the fact is that she was a massive star at the time (her career box office figures are estimated to be around $2 billion, adjusted for inflation in 2019) and remains one of the biggest cultural figures of the twentieth century. Despite this, she never received a single nomination from the Academy despite award success elsewhere.

Nominations: none.

Should have won for: Bus Stop (1956) or Some Like It Hot (1959)


Number 9: Peter O'Toole

O'Toole has perhaps the unenviable record for the most nominations without a single victory with a mind-blowing eight. Like Douglas, O'Toole won an honorary award celebrating his long and distinguished career in 2003 but proved that he wasn't finished as an actor when he secured his final nomination in 2007 for Venus. He was unlucky not to win for his legendary performance in Lawrence Of Arabia and was even nominated twice for playing the same character in different films, something only Bing Crosby had done up to that point. Consider his stage experience as well and it's a pity the notorious hellraiser never scooped the big prize.

Nominated for: Lawrence Of Arabia (1962, lost to Gregory Peck in To Kill A Mockingbird), Becket (1964, lost to Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady), The Lion In Winter (1968, lost to Cliff Robertson in Charly), Goodbye, Mr Chips (1969, lost to John Wayne in True Grit), The Ruling Class (1972, lost to Marlon Brando in The Godfather), The Stunt Man (1980, lost to Robert De Niro in Raging Bull), My Favourite Year (1982, lost to Ben Kingsley in Gandhi) and Venus (2006, lost to Forest Whitaker in The Last King Of Scotland)

Should have won for: Lawrence Of Arabia is the obvious choice but Peck is too good in To Kill A Mockingbird. I would therefore argue that he perhaps should have won for Goodbye, Mr Chips or The Lion In Winter.


Number 8: John Goodman

Now before you start, let me argue my case. I'm not saying that Goodman is a better or more deserving actor than those listed above because I don't believe he is. But I would make the case that he is one of Hollywood's most overlooked actors, frequently appearing in films that do enjoy a measure of success when it comes to awards season. Frequently working alongside the Coen brothers in films like Barton Fink, O Brother, Where Art Thou? and The Big Lebowski, Goodman also performs well as a voice artist - perhaps never better than as the furry and lovable monster Sully in Monsters Inc. Perhaps its his comic roles that cause this discrepancy (the Academy aren't known for their appreciation for comic films these days) but Goodman is just as good in dramatic parts and would make a worthy winner one day.

Nominations: none.

Should have won for: his borderline psychotic Walter Sobchak is both hilarious and terrifying in The Big Lebowski and I can't believe he wasn't even nominated for a Supporting Actor award.


Number 7: Steve Buscemi

And speaking of the criminally overlooked... Buscemi has long been one of the greatest character actors ever seen with countless appearances in films that span the divide in Hollywood between big budget blockbusters and indie curiosities. Buscemi is a seemingly ever-present personality at film festivals all over the world and yet, the Academy have failed to recognise a single one of his performances in films like Fargo, Reservoir Dogs, Trees Lounge (which he also wrote and directed) and Ghost World. No wonder that he spends most of his career these days on the small screen and secured multiple awards for shows like The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire. He also returned to his old job as a New York firefighter immediately after the September 11 attacks, working twelve hours shifts and helping to rescue people. That makes him a real winner in my book.

Nominations: none.

Should have won for: take your pick but personally, I loved his appearance in Reservoir Dogs.


Number 6: Annette Bening

Mrs Warren Beatty has long been established as a talented and versatile actress in her own right, both on stage and screens big and small. Nominated four times at the Oscars, her career has spanned films as diverse as LGBT-flavoured rom-com The Kids Are All Right, MCU mega-smash Captain Marvel and her blistering portrayal of a frustrated housewife in American Beauty. Again, there is still time for Bening to win the big one and she certainly has the ability to do so but thus far, she has had to make do with Golden Globes, BAFTAs and Screen Actors Guild awards.

Nominated for: The Grifters (1990, lost to Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost), American Beauty (1999, lost to Hilary Swank in Boys Don't Cry), Being Julia (2004, lost to Swank again in Million Dollar Baby) and The Kids Are All Right (2010, lost to Natalie Portman in Black Swan)

Should have won for: American Beauty or 20th Century Women.


Number 5: Martin Sheen

America's favourite fictional president has worked with some of the most celebrated directors in Hollywood, won several prestigious awards for his acting, been awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and celebrates his fiftieth year in the business in 2021. However, the man who cemented his place in cinema history as the desperate US Captain Benjamin Willard in Apocalypse Now has failed to secure a single nomination from the Academy throughout his long career. Given that Sheen gave so much of himself to that role that he suffered a heart attack after filming for over a year, it's a shocking oversight. Sheen continues to be at the top of his game, appearing in the award-winning drama Judas And The Black Messiah earlier this year.

Nominations: none

Should have won for: Apocalypse Now (1979)


Number 4: Deborah Kerr

One of the most bankable Hollywood stars of the Fifties and Sixties, Kerr held the record for a female performer with a total of six nominations without a win at the Oscars for many years. After wowing British audiences in Black Narcissus, she moved to the US and starting appearing in countless classic films like Quo Vadis, From Here To Eternity, The King And I, An Affair To Remember, the list goes on and on. In spite of her film career, she also enjoyed a prolific and successful stage profile as well and even enjoyed a late career renaissance in various TV roles as well. She finally won an honorary award from the Academy in 1994, a sure-fire sign that they acknowledged their mistakes.

Nominated for: Edward, My Son (1949, lost to Olivia de Havilland in The Heiress), From Here To Eternity (1953, lost to Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday), The King And I (1956, lost to Ingrid Bergman in Anastasia), Heaven Knows, Mr Allison (1957, lost to Joanne Woodward in The Three Faces Of Eve), Separate Tables (1958, lost to Susan Hayward in I Want To Live!) and The Sundowners (1960, lost to Elizabeth Taylor in Butterfield 8)

Should have won for: The King And I or From Here To Eternity


Number 3: Donald Sutherland

Canadian actor and patriarch Donald Sutherland has appearing in leading or supporting roles in some of the most famous films ever made such as war films like The Dirty Dozen and M*A*S*H, psychological horror classic Don't Look Now and cop thriller Klute. Now widely acknowledged as one of Hollywood's elder statesmen, Sutherland is often considered by critics as one of the greatest actors never to have received a nomination from the Academy despite his success and recognition from his peers. The fact that Sutherland still regularly appears in popular films like The Hunger Games franchise is testament to his talent.

Nominations: none

Should have won for: Don't Look Now and/or M*A*S*H


Number 2: Glenn Close

Close took the record in 2019 from Deborah Kerr for the most nominations by a female performer without a win with a heart-breaking seven nods. She dominated cinema in the Eighties with nominated appearances in films like Fatal Attraction and Dangerous Liaisons before becoming one of the most respected and versatile actresses working today, whether its on the big screen or small. Her recent successes have brought her back to the attention of a new audience with performances in films such as Albert Nobbs and The Wife while TV audiences have hailed her appearance in the legal drama Damages.

Nominated for: The World According To Garp (1982, lost to Jessica Lange in Tootsie), The Big Chill (1983, lost to Linda Hunt in The Year Of Living Dangerously), The Natural (1984, lost to Peggy Ashcroft in A Passage To India), Fatal Attraction (1987, lost to Cher in Moonstruck), Dangerous Liaisons (1988, lost to Jodie Foster in The Accused), Albert Nobbs (2011, lost to Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady) and The Wife (2019, lost to Olivia Colman in The Favourite).

Should have won for: Fatal Attraction


Number 1: Samuel L Jackson

One of the hard working and most beloved stars Hollywood has perhaps ever seen, Jackson has accomplished so much in his career that his sole nomination from the Academy - as the unforgettable Jules Winfield from Pulp Fiction - almost seems like an insult. Making his breakthrough in films like Goodfellas and Jurassic Park, Jackson became an instant star thanks to Pulp Fiction and has never looked back. His films are estimated to have earned a staggering $27 billion worldwide, easily making him the most successful actor at the box office. Nowadays, the star is the lynchpin of the cinematic juggernaut that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is set to produce a live-action version of Afro Samurai, an anime character Jackson has previously voiced. Given the success he's enjoyed and his almost constant demand from filmmakers, I'm sure this oversight doesn't bother him too much though.

Nominated for: Pulp Fiction (1994, lost to Martin Landau in Ed Wood)

Should have won for: Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained, A Time To Kill, Black Snake Moan

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