Some of the most gifted Hollywood stars have always been overlooked when it comes to awards season. The homes of Daniel Day-Lewis, Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson are so full of esteemed golden statuettes that it’s left little room for others to be recognised during the annual Academy Awards ceremony – and so it’s left to us to honour those who have their winner’s speech still firmly tucked away in the pocket of their designer dress or tuxedo. Listed below are 20 great Hollywood talents of recent times who have never won an Academy Award.
20. Kevin Bacon
Since breaking into the business with a bit part in Animal House, American actor Kevin Bacon has enjoyed an enduring and wide-ranging career. While he probably remains most recognised for his breakthrough hit Footloose, Bacon has also taken on more than his share of dramatic roles in some hugely respected feature films.
Bacon’s resume includes supporting roles in such acclaimed movies as JFK, A Few Good Men, Apollo 13 and Mystic River. Many of these films wound up being heavily nominated at the Academy Awards; notably, Mystic River saw Bacon’s co-stars Sean Penn and Tim Robbins named Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor respectively. Alas, Bacon himself has still yet to land a single Oscar nomination.
19. Annette Bening
Annette Bening had spent almost a decade working in the theatre before she made her film debut in 1988 comedy The Great Outdoors. It wouldn’t take long before she moved on to bigger and better things, garnering widespread acclaim for her dramatic performances, and getting the attention of the Academy – without ever getting the gold.
Bening got her first Oscar nomination all the way back in 1991, for Best Supporting Actress for The Grifters. She has since been nominated in the Best Actress category on three separate occasions, for American Beauty, Being Julia and The Kids Are All Right. Sadly for Bening, she’s gone home empty handed from the Oscars every time so far.
18. Glenn Close
After almost 50 years in the business, Glenn Close is one of the most esteemed actresses of her generation. Unfortunately, she also holds one of the least coveted records in the acting business: at the time of writing, she holds the most number of Academy Award nominations in acting categories without ever getting a single win.
Close was nominated for Best Supporting Actress three years in a row for The World According to Garp, The Big Chill and The Natural. 1988 and 1989 saw her receive two consecutive Best Actress nods for Fatal Attraction and Dangerous Liaisons; years later she would have another two Best Actress nods for Albert Nobbs and The Wife, and most recently a Best Supporting Actress nod for Hillbilly Elegy. That’s eight nominations without a win. Ouch!
17. Bradley Cooper
Bradley Cooper had been a jobbing actor for over a decade when he finally broke big with 2009 comedy smash The Hangover. This might not have pointed to an especially dramatic future for the actor, but to the surprise of many Cooper soon metamorphosed into one of the most respected thespians of his generation, with a string of acclaimed performances.
Cooper landed his first Oscar nomination in the Best Actor category for Silver Linings Playbook alongside Jennifer Lawrence; she won, but he didn’t. Cooper and Lawrence were both nominated again the following year for American Hustle, but neither won. Since then Cooper has been Oscar-nominated for his performances in American Sniper and A Star is Born; he’s also been nominated three times as producer, and once as screenwriter. Alas, he hasn’t landed a win yet.
16. Johnny Depp
Since breaking into movies in the early 90s, former 21 Jump Street star Johnny Depp quickly gained a reputation as one of the most daring actors of his generation, giving bold performances in often risky material. As such, there was a certain irony when Depp landed his first ever Oscar nomination for his performance in the big budget blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.
From there, the floodgates were open, and Depp received two further Best Actor Oscar nominations in the five years that followed, for his work in Finding Neverland and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Unfortunately for Depp, he failed to win any of these awards – and given his current persona non grata status in Hollywood after allegations about his relationship with Amber Heard, it doesn’t look likely Depp will get an Oscar any time soon, if ever.
15. Robert Downey Jr
Very few actors have enjoyed as spectacular a rise, fall and rebirth as Robert Downey Jr. After breaking through in teen comedies in the early 80s, Downey soon established himself as one of the most versatile talents of his generation. Sadly, by the late 90s his high profile addiction issues saw him run afoul of the law, and his career looked doomed. But as we all know, Marvel Studios took a chance by giving Downey the title role in 2008’s Iron Man, and this successfully relaunched the actor as a megastar.
Downey may have enjoyed acclaim, adulation and massive paychecks in abundance, but he has still yet to land himself an Academy Award. This despite the two nominations he’s received to date: Downey was first nominated for Best Actor in 1992 for his performance in Chaplin, and he later earned a Best Supporting Actor nod for his audacious turn in the provocative satirical comedy Tropic Thunder.
14. Tom Hardy
Of all the major acting talents to have emerged from Britain in the past two decades, Tom Hardy is one of the best-loved of them all. His bold turn in 2008’s Bronson announced him as a force to be reckoned with; soon thereafter he reached a wider audience with Inception, Warrior, The Dark Knight Rises and Mad Max: Fury Road, amongst other celebrated films.
Yet while critics, audiences and studios recognised Hardy as one of the biggest talents of his generation, the Academy has yet to follow suit. Despite the praise heaped on the actor, he has only received a single Oscar nomination to date, for The Revenant, in the Best Supporting Actor category. His co-star Leonardo DiCaprio took home the gold that night, but sadly Hardy left empty-handed.
13. Ed Harris
A mainstay of the stage and screen since the late 1970s, Ed Harris is another actor who has long commanded widespread respect in the film industry, as well as enjoyed no shortage of mainstream success. It may come as a bit of a surprise, then, that Harris has still yet to receive any Academy Awards in recognition of his talent.
At the time of writing, Harris has been an Academy Award nominee on four separate occasions: three times in the Best Supporting Actor category for Apollo 13, The Truman Show and The Hours, and once in the Best Actor category for Pollock (which he also directed). Alas, Harris wound up going home empty-handed every time.
12. Samuel L. Jackson
Renowned as one of the most prolific actors around, Samuel L. Jackson had been a jobbing bit part guy for years when he finally hit the big time in the early 90s. After brief but scene-stealing appearances in Goodfellas and Jurassic Park, Jackson was firmly established as one of the coolest actors around with his astonishing turn as hitman Jules Winfield in Pulp Fiction.
This turn justly saw him land a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination, but a visibly displeased Jackson missed out on the award to Martin Landau for Ed Wood. More than 25 years on, Jackson has yet to garner a second Academy Award nomination, though he’s given scores of memorable performances since, and his Pulp Fiction role remains truly iconic.
11. Ian McKellen
With a career dating all the way back to the 1960s, Sir Ian McKellen has long been one of the most admired and respected British stars of the stage and screen. After concentrating on theatre for many years, McKellen slowly but surely worked his way up to bona fide movie star status, enjoying blockbuster success in his 60s with the X-Men and Lord of the Rings movies.
Despite all this, McKellen has only been nominated for an Academy Award on two occasions. First, he landed a Best Actor nomination for 1999’s Gods and Monsters, which he lost to Roberto Benigni in Life is Beautiful; next, he was up for the Best Supporting Actor award for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, but lost to Jim Broadbent for Iris.
10. Bill Murray
Bill Murray is world-renowned for his comedy work, having broken through on TV’s Saturday Night Live and rising to big screen fame with such hits as Stripes, Caddyshack and of course Ghostbusters. However, in more recent years Murray has also built up a very respectable body of work as a dramatic actor, working with such filmmakers as Jim Jarmusch, Wes Anderson and Sofia Coppola.
Murray’s first collaboration with Sofia Coppola, the 2003 drama Lost in Translation, earned him the most enthusiastic reviews of his career, revealing layers to the actor that few had seen before. Murray received his one Oscar nomination to date for this performance, and he was hotly tipped to win, but this was not to be. The actor was noticeably upset when he lost out to Sean Penn for Mystic River.
9. Tom Cruise
Ever since he broke through in the early 80s, Tom Cruise has been one of the biggest names in the movie business, enjoying unprecedented success not only as an actor but also as a producer. He’s long since earned his place among the greatest film stars of history, but there’s still something Cruise has yet to receive: recognition from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Cruise earned his first Best Actor Oscar nomination for his acclaimed performance in Born on the Fourth of July and was nominated in that category a second time for Jerry Maguire. Later, he was hotly tipped to land the Best Supporting Actor award for his against-type turn in Magnolia. Alas, Cruise failed to win on all these occasions, and in recent years he’s concentrated squarely on blockbusters rather than awards-bait material.
8. Amy Adams
After making her screen debut in 1999 comedy Drop Dead Gorgeous, Amy Adams gradually worked her way up the ladder as a jobbing actress before really breaking big with 2006’s Junebug. This breakthrough performance landed Adams her first Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress, and her star has only continued to rise since then.
However, while Adams has enjoyed huge success and widespread critical acclaim for her diverse performances, one thing she still doesn’t have is an Oscar. This in spite of the fact that, since Junebug, Adams has been nominated five more times, with four further Best Supporting Actress nods for Doubt, The Fighter, The Master and Vice, and one Best Actress nomination for American Hustle.
7. Harrison Ford
In the eyes of many, Harrison Ford is one of the greatest leading men in cinema history. This of course has a lot to do with him playing two of the most iconic big screen heroes ever in Han Solo and Indiana Jones, but beyond this Ford has long since proven himself as an actor of uncommon charisma and gravitas, which he has demonstrated in many well-loved films.
Both 1977’s Star Wars and 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark received Best Picture and Best Director nominations, but Ford’s name didn’t come up in any acting categories. Later, The Fugitive got a Best Picture nod and a Best Supporting Actor win for Tommy Lee Jones, but again Ford himself didn’t make the cut. To date, Ford has only received one Academy Award nomination, for 1985’s Witness, which he didn’t win.
6. Edward Norton
After his meteoric rise in the mid-90s, Edward Norton was hotly tipped to become one of the great actors of his generation. However, hand-in-hand with the justifiable acclaim he’s received for his work as an actor, Norton has also built up an unsavoury reputation for being difficult to work with, and trying to exert creative control on his films.
It’s firmly established that Norton’s demanding nature lost him the role of Bruce Banner/Hulk in the Marvel Cinematic Universe; it might also be speculated that it’s kept him from winning an Academy Award. Norton has been Oscar-nominated three times – twice as Best Supporting Actor for Primal Fear and Birdman, and once as Best Actor for American History X – but he hasn’t been a winner yet.
5. Michelle Pfeiffer
Since breaking through in the early 80s with her supporting role in Scarface, Michelle Pfeiffer has been one of the most admired actresses in Hollywood, as well as one of its most bankable stars. 1989 and 1990 were big years for the actress, as she received two consecutive Academy Award nominations: Best Supporting Actress for Dangerous Liaisons, and Best Actress for The Fabulous Baker Boys.
Unfortunately for Pfeiffer, she missed out on that first Oscar to Geena Davis for The Accidental Tourist, and the second to Jessica Tandy for Driving Miss Daisy. In 1993 Pfeiffer was again named among the Best Actress nominees for Love Field, but went home empty-handed a third time, missing out to Emma Thompson for Howard’s End. Pfeiffer hasn’t been Oscar-nominated again since.
4. Alan Rickman
Before leaving us far too early in 2016, the sadly missed Alan Rickman became an acting legend. A seasoned stage star before he made the move to movies, Rickman famously made his film debut with one of the greatest bad guy performances ever in Die Hard. A slew of terrific performances followed in a wide variety of films ranging from thrillers, to dramas, to comedies.
In the eyes of many, it was a tremendous injustice that Rickman was never even nominated for a single Oscar throughout his entire career. Happily, Rickman was recognised by BAFTA, where he landed four nominations and one win (Best Supporting Actor for Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves). He also won a Golden Globe, an Emmy and a Screen Actors Guild Award.
3. Winona Ryder
Since the success of Stranger Things, Winona Ryder is best known today for her TV work, but for some time she was one of the brightest stars of the big screen. After breaking through as a child actress, Ryder really came to prominence with Beetlejuice and Heathers, and from then on was famed as one of the most daring actresses of her generation.
The Academy nominated her two years in a row: Best Supporting Actress for The Age of Innocence in 1994, and Best Actress for Little Women in 1995. Sadly for Ryder, she failed to take home the gold on either occasion, and she hasn’t been nominated again since – not even for 1999’s Girl, Interrupted, a passion project which she also produced. Instead, that film landed Angelina Jolie the Best Supporting Actress Oscar.
2. Sigourney Weaver
Since breaking through with her signature role as Ellen Ripley in 1979’s Alien, Sigourney Weaver has been one of the most respected stars of her generation, breaking a lot of new ground thanks to her knack for landing the kind of strong roles traditionally earmarked for men. Her second performance as Ripley in Aliens was groundbreaking in another way: it made Weaver the first actor nominated for an Oscar for a performance in a science fiction film.
Weaver lost out on that particular award, but the 1989 Oscars were a major landmark for the actress, as she became one of the few performers to be nominated for two acting awards for two different films in the same year: Best Supporting Actress for Working Girl, and Best Actress for Gorillas in the Mist. Sadly, Weaver was not awarded the Oscar for either performance, and she’s yet to be nominated again.
1. Michelle Williams
Back in the 90s, when Michelle Williams first rose to prominence as a cast member on TV teen drama Dawson’s Creek, few could have anticipated what a powerhouse actress she would become in the years that followed. However, after her appearance in the acclaimed 2005 drama Brokeback Mountain (alongside her then-partner, the late Heath Ledger), everything changed for Williams.
Brokeback Mountain saw Williams receive her first Academy Awards nomination for Best Supporting Actress. She went on to take many more edgy dramatic roles, and has been Oscar nominated for three of these: Best Actress for Blue Valentine and My Week with Marilyn, and Best Supporting Actress for Manchester by the Sea. Even so, there has been no gold for Williams thus far.