An Academy Award is the holy grail for any film actor. And while many will claim that it’s “just an honor being nominated,” the truth is that a win can put a huge gold star on your résumé. Actors get more bucks for their work once they’ve received a golden statue, not to mention the admiration of their peers and audiences.
While you might think that most big-name actors have won before, that’s not necessarily the case. Here’s a list of industry heavyweights who have yet to take home the big prize.
Oldman has been in a number of high-profile films during his 30-plus year acting career, from True Romance to The Fifth Element, Air Force One, and even the Harry Potter series. Yet, the English actor has never won an Oscar, and until this year only has one nomination to his name – in 2012, for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. This year, however, could finally end the streak. Oldman has been nominated for an Academy Award for Lead Actor for his role as British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour. He already took home the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Awards for the role, so his chances are looking good.
Holding the dubious record for the living actor with the most nominations but no wins, Close has six nods to her name dating back to 1983 for The World According to Garp. She was nominated as recently as 2012 for Albert Nobbs, as well as her iconic role as a spurned lover in Fatal Attraction in 1988, when she was beat out by Cher for Moonstruck. She has plenty of other awards to her name, most recently a Golden Globe and two Emmys for her role in the FX series Damages, which ran from 2007-12. But adding an Oscar to the list looks like an increasingly distant possibility for the actress.
Known as a tremendous character actor, Depp hasn’t been able to snag a statue for some of his most iconic roles. Nominated three times, once for playing Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl 2004), again for Finding Neverland (2005), and finally for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2008), he hasn’t gotten any Oscar recognition for a decade. With a number of projects in the works, the Academy may come knocking again soon, but for this year, Depp is out of the running.
In fairness, Pitt does have a statue occupying his mantel at home. But it’s for producing 12 Years a Slave back in 2014. His acting chops have led to a few accolades from the Academy, including nominations for his supporting role in 12 Monkeys (1996) and lead roles in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2009) and Moneyball (2012). But alas, he was left clapping for the winners, not walking onto the stage.
Wait, Gyllenhaal doesn’t have an Oscar? Nope. And he’s actually only been nominated once, back in 2006 for Brokeback Mountain. The actor hasn’t won a Golden Globe either, which means he’s ripe for some Hollywood respect. With lots of film projects in the works, it’s due time for Gyllenhaal to finally make the Oscar cut.
With five Oscar nods, Adams is already close to tying Close for the record for most nominations without a win. She has won tons of other awards, including Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, Golden Globes, and Screen Actors Guild Awards, but the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences keeps passing Adams by. First, it was for Best Supporting Actress in Junebug (2006), then Doubt (2009), The Fighter (2011), and TheMaster (2013). Most recently, she was nominated for Best Actress for 2013’s American Hustle at the 2014 ceremonies, but she lost to Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine. Can this gal catch a break?
Robert Downey Jr.
Clearly, it pays (literally) to be part of the Marvel universe, as Downey Jr. has consistently made it onto Forbes’ annual highest-paid actors list, even ranking first from 2012-2015. Yet, Oscar accolades have escaped him. He’s been twice nominated — once for Chaplin in 1993 and the second time for a very different role in the comedy Tropic Thunder in 2009. In ’93, he lost to Al Pacino for Scent of a Woman, and in 2009 to the late Heath Ledger for his role in The Dark Knight. At least Downey Jr. can say that he lost out to a pair of fine actors in incredible roles.
Williams has made a name for herself among the Hollywood elite, and has racked up a total of four Academy Award nominations. But despite getting nods for her lead and supporting roles in Brokeback Mountain (2006), Blue Valentine (2011), My Week with Marilyn (2012), and Manchester by the Sea (2017), she hasn’t yet earned a win. This year, Williams is out of the running. Will she ever take home a win, or overtake Close for the title of most nominations without one?
Despite being involved in many iconic action films and franchises, Cruise has never won an Academy Award. He has, however, been nominated three times, for Born on the Fourth of July (1989), Jerry Maguire (1996), and Magnolia (1999). But it has been almost two decades since Cruise has been seen anywhere close to the Oscar race. Given his focus on action-packed flicks, which don’t tend to earn nods, he may just have to say goodbye to any hope for an Oscar.
That weird mockumentary aside, Phoenix is a great actor who has been in a number of fine films. But when it comes to the Academy Awards, he’s fallen short a few times. He has been nominated three times for an Oscar, for Gladiator (2001), Walk the Line (2006), and The Master (2013). While his co-star Reese Witherspoon won for playing June Carter Cash in 2005’s Walk the Line, Phoenix, who played Johnny Cash, lost out that year to the late Philip Seymour Hoffman for his role in Capote.
With a long and successful career that includes key roles in box-office hits like Alien, Ghostbusters, and Avatar, Weaver has always taken a back seat come Oscar season. She has received three nominations, for Aliens (1987), Working Girl (1989), and Gorillas in the Mist (1989). In fact, the latter two nominations, as you’ll note, were in the same year, and she took home the Golden Globe for both roles that same year, making her the first person to accomplish that feat. Having shifted her focus recently to TV, an Academy Award doesn’t look to be on the horizon for Weaver. But with new Avatar films in the works, perhaps she might see a golden statue after all.
When you think of some of the most thought-provoking films of the past 20 years, chances are that Norton has been in a lot of them. Indeed, he has received a trio of Academy Award nominations, for Primal Fear (1997), American History X (1999), and Birdman (2015). But he hasn’t yet won. At the ceremony three years ago, the last time Norton’s face was shown in the nominee readings, he lost to J.K. Simmons for Whiplash.
From Cheers to fantastic films like Natural Born Killers, as well as TV anthology series True Detective, Harrelson has had a long and varied career. This year marks his third nomination for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, where he’s competing in the Best Supporting Actor race. He has been previously nominated for Best Actor for The People vs. Larry Flynt (1997) and for Best Supporting Actor for The Messenger (2010). To finally get a statue this year, Harrelson will have to beat out Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Christopher Plummer, and his Three Billboards co-star Sam Rockwell, who’s currently the favorite to win, having already taken home both the Golden Globe and the SAG Award for his role in the film.