10 Actors You Won’t Believe Have Never Been Nominated for an Oscar

leo dicaprio oscar gif

With the Oscars now (thankfully) behind us we can look back and criticize other Oscars. While the entire internet is up in arms over Leo DiCaprio having never won, I’m going to make the case that being nominated several times is plenty of honor (last years long overdue recognition of Gary Oldman robbed me of #1 most disrespected).

Yes, winning is better, but at least you’ve been recognized as one of the best. Unlike the unfortunate actors I’m about to cover. The majority of them you probably would assume they’ve won or at least been nominated, however, for some strange reason, despite an impressive performances, star power, and overall body of work, they’ve never gotten the recognition they deserve. Let’s get snubby, shall we?



Steve Buscemi is one of the most recognizable character actors out there right now. He seamlessly hops from big budget flicks to indies, working with the best each has to offer. He’s a regular for Quentin Tarantino, the Coen Brothers, Michael Bay, Robert Rodriguez, and Adam Sandler. He’s like the Nic Cage of supporting actors, he can be completely nuts and over the top with his bug eyes appropriately bugging out. But given the opportunity he can also be completely human and heartbreaking. And like Nic he hops between saying yes to a lot of garbage, and showing his chops when called on. Recently, He’s since been recognized by the Emmy’s for his work on Boardwalk Empire. 

Roles He Should’ve been Nom’d for:

Fargo is a given, the cooky crime/black comedy from the Coens. Frances McDormand got the recognition, but I don’t think the film would’ve been the same with Buscemi’s unreplicatable brand of strangeness that is so singular to that movie. Resevoir Dogs, the testosterone fueled debut of Tarantino about a bunch of crooks who are sabotaged from within, is another example of a film where he just shines, playing Mr. Pink. Buscemi has a gift in the Rodney Dangerfield area of poor schlob comedy. He just gets beat up and you can’t help but laugh at him. He and William H. Macy pretty much have that character monopolized in Hollywood.  And I’m going to throw Ghost World into consideration as well. He went a long way to making a creepy guy into a person, and it’s one of his more favorable roles, where he gets to take his type and flesh it out a bit. He’s really tender and you end up caring for him despite yourself.

Will he ever get a nomination? Possible, but I’m going more likely not. Because he’s a giving actor, he never makes the scene about himself. He works with hip directors rather than prestigious ones, and isn’t choosy about roles. He’ll likely never get a leading actor nomination, but he’s always a threat to pop up in a really strong supporting part. I don’t think his time has passed because his appeal never relied on looks or age, and HBO is really giving him a showcase part, which may lead to a role he wouldn’t have got beforehand. So here’s to hoping.


Jim Carrey 2013

Jim Carrey may seem like an unlikely choice for this article, but when you compare him to multi-nominee Robin Williams, it seems more necessary he be included. He’s done the same thing Williams has, established a shtick and rode it to success. Then branched out into dramatic roles that show another side of him. While Williams scored with Fisher King, Dead Poets Society, and Good Will Hunting Carrey has been left out in the rain. Now with his star power fading, might it be too late?

Roles He Should’ve Been Nom’d for:

The first has to be Man on the Moon and his spot on portrayal of Andy Kaufman. It played to the strengths of Carrey’s gift for comedy, but also showed his dramatic chops in playing a real person and dealing with problems. Perhaps it was a little too close to home for the academy to take notice (however that didn’t stop them from nominating Jonah Hill twice). The Truman Show was a critical darling and an unlikely hit that became more relevant as time has gone on, it seems downright prophetic looking back with it’s look at reality TV and a man’s whose entire life is a TV show. Carrey is again the center of all attention, and while it allows him to break into his mania at times, Carrey also showed the ability to be heartbreaking by the end. Finally, you have to give Eternal Sunshine a nod as well, in the heartbreaking comedy about a man who has a past love erased from his memory. Playing totally against type as a man hurting, heartbroken. Yes, there is humor, but it’s so much more subtle than what you’d think he was capable of 10 years prior.

Will Carrey ever get the recognition? I’m going to say it’s unlikely unless someone takes an interest in reviving his career like Jim Jarmusch, Wes Anderson, and Sofia Coppola did in Bill Murray. But he seems to be slipping further into paychecks for family films. But the statue loves a good comeback story. He just needs an opportunity.


Posted on March 4, 2014, in Movies and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.

  1. What the hell??? Steve Buscemi and John Goodman never nominated?? I have officially lost all faith in humanity…
    Goodbye cruel world.


    • They are both great character actors. But what movies could they have been nominated for? Their lead roles are usually in awful movies. In good movies, they are usually in parts too small to be considered supporting roles. They both have received recognition for their TV work which is probably as it should be.


  2. Excuse me?????


  3. Supposedly Johnny Depp has never won an oscar either.  How about an article (WTHHT), even, about him? You haven’t mentioned anything about him yet.  Truly a remarkable actor. lebeau’s


  4. daffystardust

    Although Reservoir Dogs is a little overcrowded with other actors doing good work, I will agree that Buscemi was the indispensable supporting performer in it. I would gladly knock out David Paymer (Mr Saturday Night) to get Buscemi a nod that year. Unfortunately, sometimes actors get screwed by the studio who made the film because they place somebody in the wrong category. Fargo’s supporting actor nomination went to William H Macy. Not sure who I’d knock out to slide him in in 2002. Paul Newman? Christopher Walken? John C Reilly? That’s a tough field. I like Buscemi a lot and hope he’ll be nominated sometime.

    I was not particularly impressed with Jim Carrey’s work in The Truman Show. They appeared to hide his biggest opportunities for real emotion behind music and edits. Who would he knock out in 2000? Maybe Geoffrey Rush (Quills) or maybe the eventual winner Russell Crowe (Gladiator)? I’m an enormous fan of Eternal Sunshine…but again, I’m not sure who he edges out that year.

    The Jeff Daniels role that really knocks me out is from 1998’s Pleasantville, but he would have to replace somebody like Robert Duvall or Ed Harris to get the nom.

    While Kilmer’s performance in The Doors was truly exceptional and in my book could replace any of the nominees except the eventual winner Hopkins (Silence of the Lambs), I think he was ill-served by the otherwise tiresome film it was a part of. In 1994 he was up against a VERY strong field. Martin Landau (Ed Wood), Samuel L Jackson (Pulp Fiction), Gary Sinise (Forrest Gump), Paul Scofield (Quiz Show), and Chazz Palminteri (Bullets Over Broadway) all gave wonderful performances. Meanwhile, the Best Actress nominees were pretty weak that year.

    Pearce was also facing an intimidating field for Supporting Actor in 1997. I don’t see any I would choose him over. Not at all. The Oscars were a little screwy in general in 2000, and Memento and Pearce did not get nearly the attention they should have.

    Bacon was excellent in 1995’s Murder in the First, but the film was only decent, and Sean Penn was the inmate of choice that year for the Academy. I don’t think many people would argue with booting winner Cuba Gooding Jr from the ’96 field in retrospect.

    I liked Wright quite a lot in The Conspirator (which was criminally underrated) and would probably have taken her over Bening that year.

    Ewan McGregor is one of those actors who is always good, but just has never had the right combination of part and film to land the nomination. I liked him quite a lot in The Beginners, but that film belongs to his costar Christopher Plummer. I’m glad you didn’t push for Moulin Rouge.

    Unfortunately, John Goodman’s signature performance so far is in The Big Lebowski, which is a comedy which was considered a disappointment at the time and has only become a classic in later years. His supporting nod for Barton Fink got lifted by Michael Lerner. Otherwise, I don’t see anything else on his resume that just cries out to be nominated.

    The 2008 field was a crowded one for In Bruges and it got overlooked along with its stars. Can I suggest that Gleeson should have been nominated for his performance in Harry Potter in 2006, bumping out either Wahlberg or Hounsou?

    There are always unfortunate oversights, but it is fun to talk about.


    • Yes it is. I didn’t really look into the fields each year to see who I would kick out, so that may change some things. But I like your insight. Also agree with McGregor in Beginners, probably my favorite movie of his. Just beautiful.


    • Why does no one like Tombstone? I put it in my top 3 Westerns (Rio Bravo, Magnificent Seven for those asking). Kilmer superb,Jason Priestley’s best role and features the best thing to come out of the 80’s, Michael Biehn (well ok, Michael Dudikoff is probably the best thing to come out of the 80’s)!


      • daffystardust

        My impression is that a lot of people like Tombstone. I like it. Most of the writers and commenters here seem to like it. I’m not sure who it is that you’re perceiving as not liking it.


  5. Cary Grant never won an Oscar and he’s got them all beat in terms of talent and star power.


  6. lebeau, I love reading your reviews, always very insightful, and extremely enjoyable reading to those of us, who followed these actors careers.


  7. BTW, are we going to get a companion piece on actresses who have never been nominated?


    • I thought about it, with only Robin Wright gracing the list as a female. There were a coupe other female candidates (I pared the list down from 18) but honestly a lot of the actresses that hadn’t been I wasn’t surprised about. Kirsten Dunst almost made the cut, but people like Meg Ryan and Jamie Lee Curtis etc. I didn’t expect to have noms. So it’s possible, or if you’re so inclined, you can. It’s probably due to not having as many interesting roles for females in Hollywood, the certain prestige actresses snatch up all the good ones.


      • Fair enough. I forgot Robin Wright was already on your list. I was thinking it was 100% male. I do find it somewhat surprising Ryan wasn’t ever nominated. It wasn’t for lack of trying. There are roles I think Jamie Lee Curtis should have been nominated for. I’m not all that surprised she wasn’t though.


  8. I’m glad you put Kilmer on the list. Some of his choices have been off. The Doors (1991), Salton Sea (2002), and Wonderland (2003) were off-putting (with Wonderland, especially, as a downbeat, incoherent film about an incoherent life.) In 1993, however, there was his incredible turn as Doc Holiday, which should certainly have been nominated. In fact in that year I would have bumped the eventual winner, Tommy Lee Jones, from the list in order to make room for Kilmer.
    As for Buscemi, his Fargo should have gotten a BSA. Other than that, I don’t think he has had the roles. I liked him in Armaggedon, thought he was an off-beat casting decision for that, and did well. I always check out whatever movie or tv show he is in.
    Robin Wright has only truly come into her own with House of Cards, where she is wonderful.


    • Kilmer’s choices have been off, though the 3 you mention are 3 of my favorite roles of his. I’d put Red Planet, At First Sight, and Island of Dr Moreau as prime candidates for dumb choices.


      • (Almost) hate to admit it, but I liked Red Planet. I tend to like sf, though, and will forgive a great deal. I should probably give Salton Sea another chance. It is difficult, and I may have been in the wrong mood for it; I’ve thought about it enough since to merit a second watch.


        • Wonderland is a great performance in a seedy film. Salton Sea is actually very good though, I think. It sometimes has too many flourishes, but its solid. The Doors is a bit of a mess, but his performance carries the film. I also like Red Planet more than I should, because its SF and Val.


  9. Thomas Osgoode

    Wow, I didn’t realize Jonah Hill had two noms. WTF?! I don’t find his ‘acting’ engaging…


    • Normally, no. But he was far & away the best thing in the thoroughly overrated “Wolf of Wall Street”.


    • Actors With the Biggest Hit and Miss Projects?

      In terms of intervals between great and absolute beep I’m not sure if anyone beats Jonah Hill. Just look at some of these examples.

      He starred in arguably the *beep animated series on a major network in history and the same year earned his first Academy Award nomination with Moneyball.

      *He capped 2011 off with a minor box office bomb in The Sitter. He then followed it up with the wildly successful 21 Jump Street only to next appear in The Watch, a film that barely made its budget back.

      *Hill followed up a small part in the utter flop that was Strange Wilderness with a small part in Horton Hears a Who, which grossed nearly $300 million.

      Probably plenty of more examples out there for Hill and even more to come!


  10. Ewan: wonderful performer, always watchable, not a great actor. Never has & will never be deserving of an Oscar. Charisma is not the same as skill.

    Jim: I love, I love, I love. Give the man credit for range of determination & flexibility, at least, & once overlooking the easy dislike based on earlier performances, acknowledge that he’s actually a bloody good actor when outside the mainstream. Nonetheless I have my doubts about ‘… Truman …’ & ‘ Man on the Moon’, which seem to be standard ‘overlooked’ opinons. However, ‘Eternal Sunshine … ‘ & ‘ … Philip Morris …’ are both utterly worthy of nomination, and I think he was cheated on getting neither of those. Particularly given that Winslet (who was just poncing about being showy) got a nomination for ‘Eternal Sunshine … ‘.

    Steve Buscemi, I adore, tho’ he’s never yet been a leading man. Why he’s not had some sort of supporting nomination I don’t know, other than that I can’t think of a specific role that would deliver it; he seems to be more a 3rd level part at best. Tim Roth certainly outdid him in ‘Reservoir Dogs’, which was probably his best shot.

    But Guy Pearce? What the F???? HOW HAS HE NEVER BEEN NOMINATED??????


  11. Hey!

    I know I’m late on this, but I think Christopher Lee should be on the list too. He’s a legendary actor, but he’s never been nominated.


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