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Biggest Oscar snubs of all time: 36 talented celebrities who still don’t have an Academy Award

From Glenn Close and Michelle Williams to Joaquin Phoenix and Edward Norton, some of Hollywood’s most acclaimed actors are yet to net that coveted gold man

Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio endured years of disappointment, and years of being the butt of jokes, until they finally clinched those elusive golden effigies.

They're just two long-touted actors enlisted to the ranks of Oscar winner in recent years, but many of their Hollywood peers haven't been so lucky.

Ahead of this year's Academy Awards, nominations for which will be unveiled on Monday, January 13, we take a look at some of the famous faces who are still yet to take one home in the four main acting categories. (That means even if they may have appeared, say, in a film that took home Best Picture).

Below, find 34 names that might surprise you...

1. Glenn Close

She's been nominated a whopping seven times for either Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress, including in 2019 for The Wife, but the Fatal Attraction star has been pipped to the post each time. After losing out to The Favourite's Olivia Colman at last year's Academy Awards, the overwhelmed Best Actress winner gave a shout-out to Close while accepting her trophy, exclaiming: "You’ve been my idol for so long and this is not how I wanted it to be and I think you’re amazing and I love you very much." The 72-year-old currently has two films in post-production, so here's hoping one finally nets her that long-awaited Oscar.

Nominations? Seven, for The World According to Garp, The Big Chill, The Natural, Fatal Attraction, Dangerous Liaisons, Albert Nobbs and The Wife

2. Edward Norton

The Best Actor category in 1999 was a tough one, with Norton going up against Tom Hanks, Ian McKellan and Nick Nolte – though the eventual winner was Roberto Benigni for Life Is Beautiful. In our humble opinion, Norton should have taken home the gong for his disturbingly brilliant performance in American History X, while his work in 2002's Red Dragon could have also been worth a nomination.

Nominations? Three, for Birdman, American History X and Primal Fear

3. Brendan Gleeson

Not an obvious choice, perhaps, but the Irish Cavalry actor (and dad of equally talented actor Domhnall) is one of those perennial stars that never fails to put in a worthy performance, whatever the film. He was robbed of a nomination for 2008's In Bruges, although the Golden Globes and the Baftas put him in their shortlists.

Nominations? None

4. Naomi Watts

While the right people (probably) won both years that the Australian actress was nominated (namely Charlize Theron for Monster and Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook), Watts will have her day. Her work in The Impossible was critically acclaimed, and her turn in 2001's Mulholland Drive should have gotten a nomination, too.

Nominations? Two, for The Impossible and 21 Grams

5. Paul Dano

Much like Gleeson, this Little Miss Sunshine star is never anything shy of superb in whatever role he takes on. There Will Be Blood, 12 Years a Slave, Wildlife ... the list of films he should have at least had a nomination for goes on.

Nominations? None

6. Michelle Williams

Williams has, unfortunately, been in strong categories every time she's been nominated (Meryl Streep in always hard to beat), but the fact she still doesn't have a little gold man on her mantlepiece is a travestry. She might have scored big at last week's Golden Globes, but her times at the Oscars will come, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Nominations? Four, for Brokeback Mountain, Blue Valentine, My Week With Marilyn and Manchester by the Sea

7. Annette Bening

Her nomination history has been strong – although she missed out for her turn in Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool but alas, the actress hasn't won one yet.

Nominations? Four, for The Grifters, American Beauty, Being Julia and The Kids Are All Right

8. Peter O'Toole

It's genuinely baffling that the Lawrence of Arabia star died without an Academy Award to his name. He actually holds the title for the most nominations in the acting categories without a win, but was given with an honourary award in 2002 for his life's work.

Nominations? Eight, for Venus, My Favorite Year, The Stunt Man, The Ruling Class, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, The Lion in Winter, Becket and Lawrence of Arabia.

9. Brad Pitt

This could be his year, after taking home a 2020 Golden Globe for his turn in Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood, but Pitt hasn't yet got an acting Oscar in his trophy cabinet. (His laugh-out-loud turn in Burn After Reading should have gotten a nod, too, although the Academy traditionally favours dramatic performances over the comedic).

Nominations? Three, for 12 Monkeys, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Moneyball

10. Woody Harrelson

Always the bridesmaid but never the bride: despite nearly everything he touches turning to gold, Harrelson has surprisingly few nominations to his name, and even fewer wins.

Nominations? Three, for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, The Messenger and The People vs. Larry Flynt

11. Sigourney Weaver

She was believed to have been a shoo-in in 1987 for Alien and 32 years later, audiences still believe she was done a disservice by the Academy.

Nominations? Three, for Gorillas in the Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey, Working Girl and Aliens

12. Ralph Fiennes

With films such as The Constant Gardener, The Reader, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The English Patient and Schindler's List in his back catalogue, we were genuinely surprised to discover the British actor hadn't yet nabbed an Oscar. With such acting prestige, surely his time will come (he's also been snubbed by the Golden Globes and Baftas in the past, so it's not only the Academy ignoring his dramatic capabilities).

Nominations? Two, for The English Patient and Schindler's List

13. Amy Adams

The American actress is chasing Glenn Close's heels when it comes to a record number of nominations without a win. The six-time-nominated star, of which five nominations are for Best Supporting Actress, has always lost out to equally worthy actresses but goodness, Academy, just give her one already.

Nominations? Six, for Vice, American Hustle, The Master, The Fighter, Doubt and Junebug

14. Ian McKellen

His work on stage may have netted him plenty of accolades over the years, but Gandalf, it seems, has always gone home empty-handed from the Oscars. Still, he's regarded a true veteran of the screen and stage, even without a statue to his name.

Nominations? Two, for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and Gods and Monsters

15. Scarlett Johansson

Things may change this year thanks to her star turn in Marriage Story, as well as her supporting role in Taika Waititi's Jojo Rabbit, but the American actress has not yet as much as scored a nomination, despite her lauded performances in Lost in Translation and Girl with a Pearl Earring.

Nominations? None

16. Jim Carrey

The Academy famously turns its collective nose up at slapstick actors, but Carrey should have been given a well-deserved mention for two of his more serious, heart-rending roles, namely in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Truman Show. His performance in Man on the Moon was also under-rated by Oscar voters.

Nominations? None

17. Robert Downey Jr

The Academy loves an underdog who has turned his life around, which makes it surprising that the American star hasn't yet grasped an Oscar in his clutches. He may have refused to campaign for an award for his role as Tony Stark in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but his turns in Chaplin and Zodiac proved he's not a one-trick superhero.

Nominations? Two, for Tropic Thunder and Chaplin

18. Rooney Mara

Sorry Alicia Vikander (who is a very deserving star in her own right), but Mara should have nabbed 2016's Best Supporting Actress for Carol. She's a very exciting, immersive talent who gives 100 per cent to a performance, so it's likely only a matter of time until she gets her turn in the Academy spotlight.

Nominations? Two, for Carol and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

19. Joaquin Phoenix

He'll almost certainly get a nod for Joker, but Phoenix has a history of missing out on eventual wins for his best performances. While no one would begrudge Philip Seymour Hoffman for beating him out for Best Actor in 2006, despite Phoenix's excellent take on Johnny Cash, his Commodus should have claimed the victory over Benicio del Toro's Best Supporting Actor in 2001.

Nominations? Three, for The Master, Walk the Line and Gladiator

20. Ryan Gosling

We can take or leave his nomination for La La Land, but Gosling should have scored nods, if not wins, for several other of his previous performances, chiefly in Blue Valentine, Drive and Lars and the Real Girl. He might be a blockbuster heavyweight, but it's his indie work which shows off the Canadian actor's real range.

Nominations? Two, for La La Land and Half Nelson

21. Laura Linney

Consistently rated as one of Hollywood's most nuanced and convincing actresses, the Ozark actress is yet to go home with the most coveted of Hollywood awards.

Nominations? Three, for The Savages, Kinsey and You Can Count on Me

22. Samuel L Jackson

While his omission from the list of Academy Awards winners is not as shocking as perhaps others on this list, the fact the prolific actor only has one nomination to date was unexpected. Admittedly, a lot of the titles on his filmography aren't exactly Oscar bait, but we're still rather surprised at the lack of recognition.

Nominations? One, for Pulp Fiction

23. John Malkovich

Wait, he wasn't nominated for being John Malkovich in Being John Malkovich? We are aghast. The fact he's also been overlooked for films such as The Killing Fields and Of Mice and Men is equally as shocking, with actor's talent for eccentricity, comedic timing and at times, refined subtlety, worth at least a nomination.

Nominations? Two, for In the Line of Fire and Places in the Heart

24. Willem Dafoe

Rami Malek was always going to win for his transformation into Freddie Mercury in 2019, but should Bohemian Rhapsody have been released another year, Dafoe's portrayal of Vincent van Gogh would likely have clinched a win.

Nominations? Four, for At Eternity's Gate, The Florida Project, Shadow of the Vampire and Platoon

25. Angela Bassett

She might be Queen of Wakanda, but Bassett is yet to reign at the Academy Awards, despite an acclaimed performance in 1994's What's Love Got to Do with It.

Nominations? One, for What's Love Got to Do with It

26. John Lithgow

One of Hollywood's most likeable on-screen actors hasn't managed to charm Academy voters, it seems – nor those of the Golden Globes, at which he was robbed for his performance as Winston Churchill in The Crown.

Nominations? Two, for Terms of Endearment and The World According to Garp

27. Robin Wright

Her role in Forrest Gump scored Wright a Golden Globe nomination, but not the equivalent at the 1995 Oscars. She has rightly been decorated with TV awards for her work on Netflix series House of Cards, however.

Nominations? None

28. John Goodman

As we've already mentioned, comedic actors aren't usually showered with affection by the Academy, but it's a real shame that the American great hasn't yet had at least one nod in recognition of his varied cinematic portfolio, with roles in Inside Llewyn Davis, Argo and 10 Cloverfield Lane.

Nominations? None

29. Richard Burton

Like O'Toole, the Welsh great was nominated an impressive number of times (seven in this case) but never lucked out, despite his bona fide Shakespearean clout.

Nominations? Seven, for Equus, Anne of the Thousand Days, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Spy Who Came In from the Cold, Becket, The Robe and My Cousin Rachel

30. Helena Bonham Carter

The queen of quirk is littered with nominations for the Golden Globes, but when it comes to the Oscars, her list of achievements is surprisingly scarce. Bonham Carter was incorrectly tipped to beat out Meryl Streep with her performance in The King's Speech, but alas, she has been destined to wait a little longer to take home a coveted Academy Award.

Nominations? Two, for The King's Speech and The Wings of the Dove

31. Jake Gyllenhaal

The fact that the American actor has not garnered nominations for his roles in Donnie Darko, Nightcrawler and Nocturnal Animals is a real pity. The fact that neither Gyllenhaal nor Heath Ledger took home an Oscar for Brokeback Mountain is even more bewildering.

Nominations? One, for Brokeback Mountain

32. Alan Rickman

The British screen legend, beloved for his performances in Sense and Sensibility, Love Actually and as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series, was sadly not Oscar anointed before his death in 2016.

Nominations? None

33. Robert Redford

He might have scored a Best Director statue for 1980's Ordinary People, but Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid's Redford has never managed to capture an award for acting. His performance as a real-life prison escapee in 2018's The Old Man & the Gun could have warranted a second nomination, if not a win.

Nominations? One, for The Sting

34. Jeff Goldblum

Again, Goldblum's mostly comedic, blockbuster-style body of work might not endear him to the Academy, but his off-beat approach has won him a legion of fans. One day, he might add a little gold statue to the mix.

Nominations? None

Updated: January 12, 2020 04:49 PM

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