[Note: This article was initially published at a prior date, but has been bumped up due to the relevancy of the impending 91st Academy Awards Nominations. Happily, we were able to remove Sam Rockwell and Allison Janney from the list.]
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 the 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 your 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. Was 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?