25 Great Actors Who Still Don’t Have an Oscar Nomination

[Note: This article was initially published at a prior date, but has been bumped up due to the relevancy of tomorrow’s 89th Academy Awards.]

Every year around Oscar time you’ll see the familiar lists of actors who still haven’t won their first Academy Award. And, as you’d expect, after the 88th Academy Awards there are a number of actors that are still on the outside of Hollywood’s most prestigious club even though they have been nominated previously a number of times before (we’re looking at you Mark Ruffalo, Rooney Mara and Michael Fassbender). What’s much more shocking are some of the familiar faces that haven’t received an invitation to the party in the first place.

Obviously, many of the world’s greatest actors on the planet are without any Academy Award recognition and that would make sense if most of them hadn’t been wowing audiences for almost three decades. In fact, we’ve ranked the 25 most deserving and there are still a number of names not on the list that will surprise. We’ll get to that in a moment, however. First, let’s go over how the list was compiled and ranked.

When ranking candidates the categories taken into account include number of Best Picture nominees an actor has appeared in, how many SAG Awards film nominations they’ve earned (ensemble or individual categories), Golden Globe film nominations,* and the remaining cinematic classics on an actor’s resume. The latter is arguably one of the more important qualifications because many films and performances that would have been on the Academy’s radar today would have been ignored 20 years ago. It’s often the body of work and an actor’s contributions to those films that demonstrate how deserving many winners are.

*This will be a tough one for many, but the thought process is if you earn a Golden Globe nod you’re likely to eventually earn an Oscar one for the same role or because you’re notoriety on the awards circuit has been elevated. Therefore, if you have four Globe nods and have not been recognized by The Academy something is clearly up.

A perfect example of this phenomenon was Leonardo DiCaprio’s coronation as Best Actor for The Revenant this year. Is it his best performance? Honestly, as fantastic as he is in the movie, we don’t even have it in his top five. That being said, combined with his incredible cinematic history it was clearly “his time.”

Additionally, if an actor earned an Oscar nomination in a non-acting category they won’t make this list. Sorry Julie Delpy and Jeff Goldblum. You are official Academy Award nominees even if it wasn’t for your work in front of the camera.

Who came close but couldn’t crack the top 25? In no particular order, Kerry Washington, Ben Foster, Elizabeth Banks, Liev Schreiber, Oscar Isaac, Colin Farrell, Thandie Newton, Isabella Rossellini and Zoe Saldana, among others. And, yes, it’s disheartening so many of those names are women. The fact that Saldana and Washington haven’t seen their roles significantly increase after successes such as Avatar, Star Trek, Django Unchained and Scandal is a huge indictment of the industry and, frankly, a topic we don’t have the appropriate space or time to cover here.

Now, as for who deserves future Academy recognition the most let’s begin, shall we?

25. David Oyelowo

Best Picture Nominees: The Help, Lincoln, Selma (3)

SAG Film Nominations: The Butler (1)

Golden Globe Film Nominations: Selma (1)

Other Resume Classics: The Last King of Scotland, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Red Tails, Middle of Nowhere, The Paperboy, Jack Reacher, Interstellar, A Most Violent Year

Lowdown: A member of one of the greatest Best Actor contender fields in recent memory with Selma (he was snubbed arguably along with four others), Oyelowo isn’t just one great role away from getting a nomination. He’s one great role away from winning.

24. Gael Garcia Bernal

Best Picture Nominees: Babel (1)

SAG Film Nominations: Babel (1)

Golden Globe Film Nominations: None

Other Resume Classics: Y Tu Mamá También, The Motorcycle Diaries, Bad Education, The Science of Sleep, Blindness, Rudo y Cursi, Mammoth, Even the Rain, The Loneliest Planet, No, Rosewater

Lowdown: Why does one of the finest actors of this generation – Spanish speaking or not – have so few Hollywood films on his resume?

23. Emily Blunt

Golden Globe Film Nominations: The Devil Wears Prada, The Young Victoria, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Into the Woods (4)

Other Resume Classics: My Summer of Love, The Jane Austen Book Club, Dan in Real Life, Charlie Wilson’s War, Sunshine Cleaning, The Adjustment Bureau, Your Sister’s Sister, Looper, Edge of Tomorrow, Sicario

Lowdown: Blunt has been superb in her last four films (which were also all great choices by the way). Will the upcoming Girl on a Train finally earn her some Oscar love?

22. Bill Nighy

Best Picture Nominees: None

SAG Film Nominations: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (1)

Golden Globe Film Nominations: None

Other Resume Classics: Alive and Kicking, Love Actually, Underworld, Shaun of the Dead, Enduring Love, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Constant Gardener, Notes on a Scandal, Hot Fuzz, Valkyrie, Rango, About Time, The World’s End, Pride

Lowdown: The veteran British actor doesn’t get much press, but considering he really didn’t breakout on the big screen until 2003 his big screen resume since then is somewhat remarkable.

21. Idris Elba

Best Picture Nominees: None

SAG Film Nominations: American Gangster, Beasts of No Nation (2)

Golden Globe Film Nominations: Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Beasts of No Nation (2)

Other Resume Classics: 28 Weeks Later, RocknRolla, Thor, Prometheus, Pacific Rim

Lowdown: Truly snubbed for Beasts of No Nation (although you can partially blame that on Netflix’s release strategy), Elba is coming on strong and won’t be on this list for long.

20. Gong Li

Best Picture Nominees: None

SAG Film Nominations: None

Golden Globe Film Nominations: None

Other Resume Classics: Jou Dou, Raise The Red Lantern, The Story of Qiu Ju, Farewell My Concubine, To Live, Shanghai Triad, The Emperor and the Assassin, 2046, Memoirs of A Geisha, Miami Vice, Curse of the Golden Flower, Coming Home

Lowdown: Chinese cinema icon may not be as familiar to American audiences as she should be, but one of the few living actors to receive honors at the Berlin, Cannes and Venice Film Festivals.

19. Anthony Mackie

Best Picture Nominees: Million Dollar Baby, The Hurt Locker (2)

SAG Film Nominations: The Hurt Locker (1)

Golden Globe Film Nominations: None

Other Resume Classics: 8 Mile, Brother to Brother, The Manchurian Candidate (2004), Half Nelson, We Are Marshall, Notorious, Night Catches Us, The Adjustment Bureau, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Night Before

Lowdown: Absolutely snubbed for his performance in The Hurt Locker.

18. Robin Wright

Best Picture Nominees: Forrest Gump (1)

SAG Film Nominations: Forrest Gump, She’s So Lovely (2)

Golden Globe Film Nominations: Forrest Gump (1)

Other Resume Classics: The Princess Bride, State of Grace, Unbreakable, The Pledge, Nine Lives, Beowulf, A Christmas Carol, State of Play, Moneyball, Rampart, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Congress, A Most Wanted Man, Everest

Lowdown: After getting back into the mix after working sporadically for a good 15 years it wouldn’t surprise anyone if Wright makes her way off this list sooner rather than later.

17. Peter Sarsgaard

Best Picture Nominees: An Education (1)

SAG Film Nominations: An Education (1)

Golden Globe Film Nominations: Shattered Glass (1)

Other Resume Classics: Dead Man Walking, Boys Don’t Cry, K-19: The Widowmaker, Garden State, Kinsey, The Dying Gaul, Flightplan, Jarhead, Year of the Dog, Knight and Day, Blue Jasmine, Night Moves, Pawn Sacrifice, Black Mass

Lowdown: A true talent who sometimes seems like he’s in the right movies at the wrong time.

16. Mia Farrow

Best Picture Nominees: Hannah and Her Sisters (1)

SAG Film Nominations: None

Golden Globe Film Nominations: Rosemary’s Baby, Broadway Danny Rose, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Alice (4)

Other Resume Classics: The Great Gatsby, The Haunting of Julia, Death on the Nile, A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy, Zelig, Radio Days, Another Woman, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Husbands and Wives, Miami Rhapsody, Be Kind Rewind

Lowdown: Sometimes being seen as a particular director’s muse doesn’t benefit you in the long run.

15. Martin Sheen

Best Picture Nominees: Apocalypse Now, Ghandi, The Departed, Selma (4)

SAG Film Nominations: Bobby, The Departed (2)

Golden Globe Film Nominations: The Subject Was Roses (1)

Other Resume Classics: Badlands, That Championship Season, The Dead Zone, Wall Street, The American President, O, Catch Me If You Can, Talk to Me, The Way, The Amazing Spider-Man

Lowdown: You have to wonder if his prominent television work has somehow overshadowed a lengthy list of film roles that certainly qualify him for an Honorary Academy Award.

14. Alfred Molina

Best Picture Nominees: Raiders of the Los Ark, Chocolat, An Education (3)

SAG Film Nominations: Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Chocolat, Frida, An Education (5)

Golden Globe Film Nominations: None

Other Resume Classics: Ladyhawke, Maverick, The Perez Family, Dead Man, The Imposters, Identity, Coffee and Cigarettes, Spider-Man 2, The Da Vinci Code, The Hoax, Rango, Love Is Strange, Little Men

Lowdown: At this point he may never earn an Oscar nomination, but boy, what a career.

13. Steve Buscemi

Best Picture Nominees: Pulp Fiction, Fargo (2)

SAG Film Nominations: None

Golden Globe Film Nominations: Ghost World (1)

Other Resume Classics: Miller’s Crossing, Barton Fink, Reservoir Dogs, Living in Oblivion, The Big Lebowski, The Imposters, Monster’s Inc., Romance & Cigarettes, Paris, je t’aime, The Messenger

Lowdown: An example of a great character actor who is waiting for the world’s top filmmakers to rediscover him.

12. Michael Pena

Best Picture Nominees: Crash, Million Dollar Baby, Babel, American Hustle, The Martian (5)

SAG Film Nominations: American Hustle (1)

Golden Globe Film Nominations: None

Other Resume Classics: World Trade Center, The Lucky Ones, Observe and Report, The Lincoln Lawyer, End of Watch, Fury, Ant-Man, War on Everyone

Lowdown: Want to talk about The Academy’s diversity problem? How is it that Pena has given incredible performances in five Best Picture nominees and somehow hasn’t landed an individual nomination yet? Especially since he’s the only person on this list with five Best Picture nominees to his credit?

11. Jeff Daniels

Best Picture Nominees: Terms of Endearment, The Hours, Good Night, and Good Luck, The Martian (4)

SAG Film Nominations: The Hours, Good Night, and Good Luck (2)

Golden Globe Film Nominations: The Purple Rose of Cairo, Something Wild, The Squid and the Whale (3)

Other Resume Classics: Ragtime, Heartburn, Radio Days, Speed, Fly Away Home, Dumb and Dumber, Pleasantville, Blood Work, State of Play, Away We Go, Looper, Steve Jobs

Lowdown: A legendary actor who rarely if ever has an off night.

10. Danny Glover

Best Picture Nominees: Places in the Heart, The Color Purple, Witness (3)

SAG Film Nominations: Dreamgirls (1)

Golden Globe Film Nominations: None

Other Resume Classics: Silverado, Lethal Weapon, To Sleep With Anger, Predator 2, Grand Canyon, The Saint of Fort Washington, Angels in the Outfield, Beloved, The Royal Tenenbaums, Saw, Manderlay, Bamako, Be Kind Rewind, Blindness, Beyond the Lights, Mr. Pig, Complete Unknown

Lowdown: In the span of two years, Glover starred in three of the 10 Best Picture nominees during that time. That’s an achievement that puts him alongside some of the greatest actors ever.

9. Paul Dano

Best Picture Nominees: Little Miss Sunshine, There Will Be Blood, 12 Years a Slave (3)

SAG Film Nominations: Little Miss Sunshine, 12 Years a Slave (2)

Golden Globe Film Nominations: Love & Mercy (1)

Other Resume Classics: L.I.E., Fast Food Nation, Where the Wild Things Are, Knight and Day, Meek’s Cutoff, Ruby Sparks, Looper, Prisoners, Youth, Swiss Army Man

Lowdown: Somehow Dano didn’t earn nominations for Best Picture honorees Little Miss Sunshine and There Will Be Blood, two films that would not have been nominated without his contributions.

8. John Turturro

Best Picture Nominees: Hannah and Her Sisters, Quiz Show (2)

SAG Film Nominations: Quiz Show (1)

Golden Globe Film Nominations: Quiz Show (1)

Other Resume Classics: Desperately Seeking Susan, To Live and Die in L.A., Gung Ho, The Color of Money, Do The Right Thing, Miller’s Crossing, Mo’ Better Blues, State of Grace, Barton Fink, Jungle Fever, Fearless, The Big Lebowski, He Got Game, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Thirteen Conversations About One Thing, Romance & Cigarettes, The Good Shepherd, Margot at the Wedding, Mia Madre

Lowdown: The opportunities have not been as bountiful over the past decade, but for a good decade Turturro consistently proved he was one of the finest actors on the planet.

7. Scarlett Johansson

Best Picture Nominees: Lost in Translation, Her (2)

SAG Film Nominations: None

Golden Globe Film Nominations: Lost in Translation, Girl with a Pearl Earring, A Love Song for Bobby Long, Match Point (4)

Other Resume Classics: The Man Who Wasn’t There, Ghost World, In Good Company, The Black Dahlia, The Prestige, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, The Avengers, Don Jon, Under the Skin, Chef, Lucy

Lowdown: It’s not hyperbole to suggest that Johansson’s jaw-dropping performance in Under the Skin will eventually go down as one of the Academy’s biggest individual acting snubs of all-time.

6. Ewan McGregor

Best Picture Nominees: Moulin Rouge! (1)

SAG Film Nominations: Little Voice, Moulin Rouge!, August Osage County (3)

Golden Globe Film Nominations: Moulin Rouge!, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (2)

Other Resume Classics: Trainspotting, Velvet Goldmine, Black Hawk Down, Young Adam, Big Fish, I Love You Phillip Morris, The Ghost Writer, Beginners, The Impossible, Miles Ahead

Lowdown: Seemingly always second fiddle to his co-stars, McGregor hasn’t really been the true centerpiece of a great film since his breakout role in “Trainspotting.”

5. Guy Pearce

Best Picture Nominees: The King’s Speech, The Hurt Locker, L.A. Confidential (3)

SAG Film Nominations: The King’s Speech, L.A. Confidential (2)

Golden Globe Film Nominations: None

Other Resume Classics: The Rover, Prometheus, The Proposition, Memento, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Lowdown: The Aussie actor has four undisputed classics on his resume. There are multiple Oscar nominees who can’t match that track record.

4. Allison Janney

Best Picture Nominees: American Beauty, The Hours, Juno, The Help (4)

SAG Film Nominations: American Beauty, The Hours, Hairspray, The Help (4)

Golden Globe Film Nominations: None

Other Resume Classics: Big Night, Private Parts, The Ice Storm, Primary Colors, The Imposters, Nurse Betty, Finding Nemo, Away We Go, Live During Wartime, Margaret, The Way Way Back, Get on Up

Lowdown: If John Goodman is the textbook example of a male supporting actor (more on him in a minute), than Janney has few rivals among the supporting actresses of the world. She may play a few too many moms these days (no disrespect to her critically acclaimed work on the CBS comedy), but she always elevates her characters beyond the page which is often hard to do with so little screen time.

3. Brendan Gleeson

Best Picture Nominees: Braveheart, Gangs of New York (2)

SAG Film Nominations: None

Golden Globe Film Nominations: In Bruges, The Guard (2)

Other Resume Classics: Michael Collins, The Butcher Boy, The General, The Tailor of Panama, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, 28 Days Later…, Cold Mountain, Troy, The Village, Kingdom of Heaven, Breakfast on Pluto, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Black Irish, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Beowulf, The Secret of Kells, Green Zone, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1, The Guard, Albert Nobbs, Safe House, Calvary, Edge of Tomorrow, Suffragette

Lowdown: An incredible actor whose resume doesn’t jump out at you at first, but when you actually look at it you realize he’s a global filmmaking treasure who simply hasn’t gotten his due.

2. Sam Rockwell

Best Picture Nominees: Frost/Nixon, The Green Mile (2)

SAG Film Nominations: Frost/Nixon, The Green Mile (2)

Golden Globe Film Nominations: None

Other Resume Classics: The Way Way Back, Moon, The Winning Season, Joshua, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Matchstick Men, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Heist, Galaxy Quest, Lawn Dogs, Last Exit to Brooklyn

Lowdown: Is no great actor more forgotten these days than Sam Rockwell? Before you saw his resume you probably completely forgot he appeared in not one, but two Best Picture nominees. Rockwell is so underappreciated that the stalwart of independent cinema didn’t receive his first Independent Spirit Award nomination until 2013, over 15 years since he first made a name for himself on the art house circuit.

1. John Goodman

Best Picture Nominees: Argo, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Artist (3)

SAG Film Nominations: Trumbo, Argo, The Artist (3)

Golden Globe Film Nominations: Barton Fink (1)

Other Resume Classics: Raising Arizona, Barton Fink, The Big Lebowski, Bringing Out The Dead, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Monsters, Inc., Flight, ParaNorman, Inside Llewyn Davis

Lowdown: It’s not just the fact Goodman has starred in so many classics, it’s the fact he was a key component of so many of them. He is the living definition of an ideal supporting actor and might be in line for an honorary Oscar sooner rather than later.

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