The Best Actors and Actresses Who Have Yet to Win an Oscar

Now that the 2019 Academy Award nominations have been announced, it’s time to begin the handwringing over what the Oscars got wrong. Since, for the first time in decades, I haven’t watched any of the movies nominated (I tried to watch Black Panther, but found it so boring I fell asleep about twenty minutes in), I am going to direct my outrage at the continued snubs of actors and actresses who are really good at their craft.

Ranked below are the best living actors and actresses who have yet to win an Oscar for acting. Frankly, it’s astounding that Jared Leto has an Academy Award for acting (Best Supporting Actor, 2013) and the brilliant actors and actresses listed below account for a grand total of zero Oscars. I mean, while reading through the list of names below, remember that Renee Zellweger has an Oscar for her supporting role in 2003’s Cold Mountain.

Honorable mentions: Before we get to the top ten, though, here is a list of great actors and actresses who have surprisingly never won an Oscar for their work: Michael Keaton, Helena Bonham Carter, Liam Neeson, Patrick Stewart, Sigourney Weaver, Sam Neill, Albert Finney, William H. Macy, Annette Bening, Emily Watson, Donald Sutherland, Clint Eastwood, Joan Cusack, Brenda Blethyn, Ralph Fiennes.

10. Bill Murray

To be honest, this may be a sentimental pick on my part. Don’t misunderstand: while I love Murray, I also consider him an incredible talent. He’s starred in some of the most iconic films ever produced and created some of the most enduring characters to have graced a movie screen. But I’m not entirely sure that several of the above honorable mentions don’t deserve the ten-spot over the beloved Bill Murray. Regardless, I think we can all agree that Murray not having won an Oscar is a national embarrassment.

9. Ed Harris

Like many on this list, Ed Harris is an actor who many people probably assume has an Oscar. Nope. He’s been nominated four times, though: Apollo 13, The Truman Show, Pollock, and The Hours. Harris has also given standout performances in The Right Stuff, Glengarry Glen RossA Beautiful Mind, and Gone Baby Gone, to list just four out of a possible many. Working against him is Harris’ understated yet powerful performances that steer clear of histrionics that are often overshadowed by the more overwrought Oscar-bait performances trotted out by studios year after year.

8. Jennifer Jason Leigh

If the acting gods were just, and they’re not, Jennifer Jason Leigh would be a household name. She is a brilliant actress. Her breakthrough role was her performance in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and she went on to star in movies like Single White Female and Backdraft. Besides her work in those relatively well-known movies, Leigh has starred in The Hudsucker Proxy, eXistenZ, and Short Cuts. Her work in those three films is award-worthy, but it’s a crime that she didn’t even get nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal of the title character in Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle. Most recently, she was nominated for her work in The Hateful Eight, but failed to nab the golden man.

7. Edward Norton

Notoriously difficult to work with, Edward Norton sinks himself into his roles. As an unknown actor, he landed his breakout role in Primal Fear because he was the only actor who nailed both sides of the character in the audition. That role secured Norton his first Oscar nomination, and his first loss. He has also been nominated for American History X and Birdman. As the youngest actor on this list, I would imagine that it won’t be long before his name will no longer belong among the best actors who have never won an Oscar.

6. Glenn Close

While I’m not a big fan of Glenn Close, it’s impossible to deny her power as an actress. Combining gravitas with sensitivity, Close makes each character her own. It’s hard to imagine any other actress in the roles she played in Fatal Attraction, 101 Dalmatians, and Mel Gibson’s Hamlet. Since she appears to be the odds-on-favorite to win Best Actress this year for her turn in The Wife, I have a feeling that this list is going to be outdated in a few weeks.

5. Kenneth Branagh

Kenneth Branagh is an actor’s actor. By that, I mean that actors love Branagh. The thespian love is no doubt due to Branagh’s making a name for himself by directing and starring in some of the best film versions of Shakespeare ever produced. His productions of Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, and Hamlet are almost sacrosanct in some circles. Shamefully, Kenneth Branagh has yet to win an Oscar for his acting.

4. Willem Dafoe

I’ll forgive Willem Dafoe’s recent work with the creepily perverted Lars von Trier because he’s such a great actor. How he failed to win the Oscar for his acting in 2000’s Shadow of the Vampire is beyond me. He lost to Traffic‘s Benicio del Toro that year. Nothing against Benicio, who is a fine actor in his own right, but that year’s Oscar for Best Supporting Actor rightfully belongs to Willem Dafoe.

3. John Malkovich

Did you know that John Malkovich wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar for his role in Being John Malkovich? Look, no one, and I mean no one, doubts Malkovich’s acting chops. But if you can’t even get an Oscar nomination for playing yourself (sort of), it’s obvious that the Academy has it in for you. Perennially appreciated and enjoyed, John Malkovich even turns roles in fluff action films (Con Air) into iconic characters. He’ll probably never win an Oscar for his acting, which is a very John Malkovich thing to happen to John Malkovich.

2. Ian McKellen

Some of you are now googling Ian McKellen to see if I’ve made a mistake. I’ll wait.

To your surprise and possible dismay, you just found out that the great Ian McKellen has never won an Oscar for his acting. In fact, Sir Ian McKellen has only ever been nominated twice by the Academy — for Gods and Monsters and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. I think we can chalk this terrible oversight up to the fact that McKellen has put far more energy and effort into his stage career than his film career. I doubt he even cares about the Oscars because he has five Olivier Awards and one Tony — real acting awards.

1. Paul Giamatti

While it’s probably more surprising that Ian McKellen doesn’t have an Oscar, it’s more shameful that Paul Giamatti doesn’t have one. Giamatti never misses a beat and has yet to give a sub-par performance. Even in dreck like Private Parts, he knocks it out of the park. Movies like Private Parts and The Hangover II aside, Giamatti has a resume filled with some of the most critically acclaimed films of his era — American Splendor, Sideways, Cinderella Man, Man on the Moon, Saving Private Ryan, Cold Souls, 12 Years a Slave, and Straight Outta Compton, to go with a host of blockbusters and indie films. Like Edward Norton, I imagine that it won’t be long before the inestimable Paul Giamatti has his name removed from this list.

(Before commenting, please know that I didn’t include Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, and Johnny Depp in the honorable mentions section on purpose.)