As Oscar season gets into gear, I’ll be posting a bunch of Oscar-related content, both past and present. Here is a list of 50 great performers who’ve never been nominated, ordered alphabetically by first name. I tried to keep it current with folks who are somewhat active today and could very well be in for their first nom soon.
Adam Driver: Driver’s understated work in last year’s Paterson is one of the great screen performances I’ve ever seen, but I’m not going to get too upset about him being snubbed because his rising Star Wars fame makes it extremely likely he gets in for his next great performance. Perhaps Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote next year?
Anthony Mackie: I’m not sure how the hell Mackie hasn’t been nominated yet. He’s very talented, famous, handsome, and works interviews well. He was also every bit as good as his nominated co-star (Jeremy Renner) in The Hurt Locker. He just hasn’t really gotten any juicy, awardsy roles since. Fix that please, Hollywood producers.
Aubrey Plaza: Don’t laugh, she’s much more than just a deadpan comedy star. Performances in films like Safety Not Guaranteed and Ingrid Goes West prove such. She can bring it, and if she steps away from the mumblecore stuff for a bit, the Academy will see that.
Ben Foster: There may not be a better character actor working right now. Nobody does unhinged-but-still-human better than Ben Foster. 3:10 to Yuma, Alpha Dog, Hell or High Water…the list goes on. The latter of those three was a Best Picture nominee last year and he still couldn’t get in despite picking up a handful of critics awards. Ugh.
Brendan Gleeson: He’s either won or been nominated for virtually ever other major acting award there is; so Oscar continually ignoring his work is on them, not him. It’s starting to feel like one of his kids is going to get a nom before he does. I like Domhnall though, so that’s cool I guess.
Bruce Willis: Sure, he’s starred in some really bad movies, but so have plenty of other Oscar favorites. That shouldn’t erase his great performances, like being the best part of Pulp Fiction, for example.
Channing Tatum: The cinephile community continues to ignore just how good Tatum is. Maybe it’s because he was mostly cast in meathead, show-off-your-chest roles early in his career. But his Soderbergh collabs, hilarious work in the Jump Street movies, and all-in performance in Foxcatcher have proved he’s a great actor. He just needs people to stop seeing him as the guy from Step Up.
Chris Pine: Those dreamy eyes and chiseled jawline are both a blessing and a curse, as Pine is actually a versatile character actor trapped in a prototypical leading man’s body. He’s good in everything, whether it be lifting an otherwise bad movie like Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, or deftly blending in with his co-stars and scenery in something more serious like Hell or High Water.
Colin Farrell: Colin suffers (or, suffered) from the same curse as Pine. When he came up, Hollywood tried to make him their next Tom Cruise. But he’s not an action hero or leading man. He’s a remarkably unique actor capable of communicating deep depression and hilarity in the same line. I don’t think anyone else could’ve made films like In Bruges and The Lobster work.
Danny Glover: Glover has been such a staple in Hollywood for nearly four decades that people often forget about him. He just, is. While he doesn’t have that one performance that jumps out in an “how was he not nominated for that?” sort of way, his prolific filmography should be more than enough to get him noticed by a branch that often hands out career achievement awards disguised as nominations.
Donald Sutherland: I’m dead serious. Donald Sutherland, star of M*A*S*H and Klute and a dozen other classics, has never been nominated for an Oscar (8 Golden Globes though). At least the Academy has realized how wrong they are and decided to give him a Lifetime Achievement Awards this year.
Emily Blunt: This is starting to get ridiculous. You can probably count on one hand the actresses who’ve been more prolific than Emily Blunt over the last fifteen years. She can do it all; whether that be stealing scenes from Streep and Hathaway, making Tom Cruise seem like a sidekick in an action movie, or keeping an overly gritty film like Sicario human. Goddamnit, how does Emily Blunt not have a nomination?
Elizabeth Banks: She’s coming for one soon as she continues to break out of her comedy shell. Her work two years ago in Love & Mercy managed to stand out even surrounding by great actors like Cusack, Giamatti, and Dano. She’s also proven herself a capable director.
Elizabeth Olsen: The most talented Olsen sister has quietly become one of the most consistent working actresses. Martha Marcy May Marlene is a landmark performance for which she should’ve been nominated. She’s a scene-stealer in the Marvel movies. And she was great this year in Wind River. Still just 28, she’ll surely get one.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw: If Gugu isn’t a household name yet, she will be by this time 2018, after starring in two likely blockbusters (God Particle, A Wrinkle In Time). Her performances in both Belle and Beyond the Lights were nomination-worthy, the film’s just failed to land with general audiences. Her most notable work probably came in the Emmy-winning Black Mirror episode “San Junipero”. Like with Olsen, it feels like a foregone conclusion that she’ll get one sometime over the next five years.
Idris Elba: Hollywood producers have never really understood how to use Idris Elba. It’s not a coincidence that’s his best work has come on TV, although, he was certainly deserving of all the praise he received for Beasts of No Nation. It appears this could change this year, as he’s in the thick of the Best Supporting Actor race yet again for Aaron Sorkin’s Molly’s Game.
Jeff Goldblum: Perhaps he’s become more well known in recent years for his unique style of ranting than for his actual acting talent, but Goldblum can bring it. Just watch The Big Chill or The Fly if you don’t believe me. Goldblum needs a director to tailor a flashy supporting role in a Best Picture nominee to his talents, like what Whiplash did for J.K. Simmons.
Jim Carrey: Carrey proved himself as a dramatic actor years ago with films like The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Him missing for the latter is one of the worst Oscar snubs of the century so far. Since then, he hasn’t really *tried* to do something that would resonate with Oscar, which is fine, but if he wants one, he has to choose better/different scripts.
Joel Edgerton: Edgerton continues to churn out quality work in good films that can’t quite land with the Academy (his Loving co-star Ruth Negga got a nomination, but the film was snubbed beyond that). Focus Features is gearing up for an Oscar run with Boy Erased next year. It’s Edgerton’s latest directorial effort, but he’s not acting in this one. Maybe that’s where he finally finds Oscar love?
John Goodman: WHO DO I HAVE TO FUCK FOR GOODMAN TO GET AN OSCAR NOMINATION? Seriously, when you think of the term “best supporting actor”, is he not the first name that comes to mind? Pick your favorite Goodman role in a Coen Bros movie, and it’s more than a worthy performance.
John Turtorro: Yet another Coen muse named John who’s been grossly ignored by the Academy. Turturro is an actor who lifts every film he is in, even the dreadful Transformers movies.
Keanu Reeves: While his highest-profile work has come in action movies, Keanu has also proven himself time and time again a great dramatic performer. My Own Private Idaho drew raves mostly for the work of the late River Phoenix, but Keanu was every bit as good.
Kerry Washington: Everyone knows how great Washington is. She’s become very, very popular thanks to her work on Scandal. Now it’s just about finding the right role in an Oscar-friendly film. Some though that may be Django Unchained, but her character ended up sitting almost the whole movie out.
Kevin Bacon: Another performer whose lack of a nomination is genuinenly shocking. You can probably pick out 10+ Kevin Bacon turns that are worthy of awards attention. For a recent great Bacon performance, check out Cop Car (2015).
Kirsten Dunst: Maybe her frustrating work in the Spider-Man movies left a bad taste in the mouths of many, or maybe it’s just that her best performances come in art films that aren’t really in the Academy’s wheelhouse? I don’t know, but nobody as good as Dunst was in Marie Antoinette or Melancholia should be without an Oscar nomination.
Kristen Stewart: Ever since her Twilight duties ended, K-Stew has turned in exceptional performance after exceptional performance. She works with great directors. It’s probably a matter of being in something a bit more commercially friendly.
Kurt Russell: One of the great pure movie stars of all-time has never gotten his proper due as a serious actor. Perhaps he’ll find an old man role that can bring him one. We thought it may be The Hateful Eight, but some of his co-stars outshined him. He doesn’t currently have anything in the pipeline.
Léa Seydoux: Seydoux was so unbelievably good in Blue is the Warmest Colout, but it’s not very surprising the lengthy French romance didn’t land with Oscar. She’s a rising name though thanks to her appearances in major franchises such as Bond and Mission: Impossible, so perhaps her next transcendent work will have more American eyes on it.
Margot Robbie: Robbie’s sudden rise to the top of the game has been fascinating. It’s really been the result of just two roles; a seductive Brooklynite in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street and the iconic Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad. While those two films unfortunately portrayed Robbie’s character as little more than a sex object, she’s proven her dramatic capabilities in Z for Zachariah and (reportedly) in I, Tonya, which many pundits expect to land her a nomination this year.
Martin Sheen: Insane. The star of Badlands and Apocalypse Now, two landmarks in American cinema, has never been nominated for an Oscar (though he’s picked up a slew of Emmys and Globes for The West Wing). He’s also turned in a handful of strong support performances. At 77, the clock is, unfortunately, ticking. He’s playing Oral Roberts in a Netflix film coming next year. Maybe that’s the one?
Michael B. Jordan: Another guy who feels destined to be nominated sooner rather than later. He did deserving work in both Fruitvale Station and Creed, but neither film got a real awards push from their distributors. Once he finishes his duties for Creed II, expect him to find a project that’ll get him back in the awards discussion.
Michael Peña: Peña is one of the most versatile actors working today. He can be hilarious (Ant-Man, Observe and Report). He can be heartbreaking (he gave the best turn in Crash, a Best Picture winner). He can act next to huge movie stars and not get outshined (End of Watch with Gyllenhaal, Fury with Pitt). He’s another Michael who feels destined to get one soon. Maybe for the War in Afghanistan drama Horse Soldiers from Warner Bros next year?
Miles Teller: Miles Teller has been compared to a young Brando; both for his acting chops and the fact that he doesn’t appear to mind coming off as an asshole. That type of PR can work both ways. Whiplash saw an awards-worthy performance out of Teller, but all attention and campaign dollars were directed at J.K. Simmons.
Nicholas Hoult: Some questionable role choices in bad franchises have held Hoult back, but he can act. He was a standout in Mad Max: Fury Road, and he’s got a juicy role in the new Yorgos Lanthimos film coming next year.
Pam Grier: Most of her notable work came in 70s genre film, which never had a chance with Oscar, but Jackie Brown certainly should have. She held that rather crazy narrative together. Unfortunately, Greer doesn’t really work anymore and seems comfortable with her legacy. But if she does step back into serious work, I’d expect Oscar to take note.
Paul Dano: The fact that this didn’t happen after There Will Be Blood or Love & Mercy makes me think it never will. Maybe Oscar just doesn’t really know or care who Dano is. But he’s one of the very finest actors of his generation. I have no doubts he’ll give a dozen more worthy performances.
Peter Sarsgaard: Shattered Glass, An Education, Jackie. Get this man a damn nomination, please. He’s perhaps the most underrated actor working today.
Ray Liotta: I’d like to take a second to note how ridiculous it is that Liotta wasn’t nominated for Goodfellas, one of the great lead performances ever. Surrounded by flashier work, Liotta holds the film together with his enthusiastic turned paranoid performance. He does what DiCaprio did in The Wolf of Wall Street, but more human. He’s also done some very good supporting work since (The Place Beyond the Pines, Killing Them Softly).
Rebecca Hall: Hall’s work in Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Christine make for two of the best performances of this century. She understands the subtleties of her characters, and how to communicate them without speaking. She’s an automatic must-watch for me, as I’ve never not seen her lift a movie. She’s gonna be in Woody Allen’s 2018 film, maybe that’s the one? Allen directed her best performance in the aforementioned Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
Regina King: We as a collective need to stop under-using and underappreciating Regina King. Much of her major work has come on TV, but roles in Jerry Maguire and Ray should’ve garnered her more attention.
Robin Wright: Ever since she broke out with The Princess Bride, Wright has struggled to resonate with Oscar despite some really strong supporting work. Her stock is higher than ever thanks to House of Cards and Wonder Woman. Maybe her next turn in a prestige film will do the trick.
Rosario Dawson: While she’s known nowadays for the Marvel/Netflix shows and problematic comments, Dawson has proven herself a great actress. She gave a powerhouse performance in Kids at the age of just fifteen. #MakeRosarioDawsonGreatAgain.
Rose Byrne: She’s just so consistently great, whether it be in comedy or drama. I’d cite Paul Feig’s Spy as the clearest example. She shows up and steals the show from a very talented cast. She was also great opposite Susan Sarandon in The Meddler last year.
Scarlett Johansson: Crazy that ScarJo hasn’t been nominated. Despite still being just 32, she’s been one of the most prominent and acclaimed actresses of the last fifteen years, ever since her should’ve-been-nominated breakout turn in Lost in Translation. Films like A Love Song for Bobby Long, Under the Skin, and even her voice work in Her shouldve garnered more awards attention.
Shailene Woodley: How Jennifer Lawrence has 4 nominations while Woolley has 0 is beyond me. The Descendants, The Spectacular Now, The Fault in Our Stars. Whew. That’s a damn fine trio of performances for such a young actress. Bonus points for holding her own opposite three titans of the field on Big Little Lies.
Steve Buscemi: William H. Macy and Frances McDormand certainly deserved their nominations for Fargo, but Buscemi should’ve been nominated too. And for Mystery Train. And for Reservoir Dogs. And for Ghost World. AND FOR CON-AIR.
Oscar Isaac: I 100% buy the young Pacino hype. Oscar Isaac is incredible. His work in Inside Llewyn Davis, A Most Violent Year, and Ex Machina make for some of the best turns of this decade. All three should’ve been cited. Thanks to Star Wars fame, his next great turn likely will be.