The Academy Awards, commonly referred to as the Oscars, have been recognized by many as the most prestigious awards that individuals in the film and entertainment industry can obtain. However, the awards are known for having a poor record of selecting worthy winners, more so in recent years. As a result, some performances that have been praised by audiences and critics alike have failed to garner a nomination, let alone an Academy Award, raising questions, accusations, and allegations. In that spirit, we will list ten performances by actors and actresses that deserved an Academy Award but never received one.
10. Peyman Maādi – A Separation (2011)
Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation was well received by critics and audiences worldwide, and it came as no surprise that it received the 2011 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. A lot of the credit for this win was attributed to the exceptional performance of its cast, particularly Peyman Maādi, who played Nader, the lead male role. For his magnificent performance, he won the Silver Bear for Best Actor at the Berlin Film Festival, but he didn’t even get a nomination for Best Actor at the 83rd Academy Awards.
9. Vincent Van Gogh – At Eternity’s Gate (2018)
Willem Dafoe has long been touted as one of the most talented actors of our generation, and yet the Academy Awards have failed time and again to recognize his achievements in the film industry. Unfortunately, at Eternity’s Gate was yet another award-deserving performance that the Academy Awards overlooked despite nominating him for the Best Actor award. Rami Malek gave an incredible performance as Freddie Mercury, but it was no match for Dafoe’s performance as the prominent Dutch Post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh.
8. Amy Adams – Arrival (2016)
One of the world’s highest-paid actresses, Amy Adams, has been nominated for the Academy Awards six times but has never won on any of the six occasions. In 2016, when she starred in the lead role of Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi film Arrival, many people thought that this was finally the performance that would earn her an Oscar win. Therefore, it came as a huge shock for many when she wasn’t even nominated for the Best Actress award, becoming one of the most significant Academy Awards snubs in recent history.
7. Toni Collette – Hereditary (2018)
Rarely, if ever, do you see exceptional performances in a horror film role, the likes of which deserve a nomination and an award from the Academy Awards committee. Toni Collette’s performance as Annie Graham in Ari Aster’s 2018 psychological horror film, Hereditary, was highly deserving of a Best Actress award. The weight she puts on her role as a mother who discovers that her recently deceased mother was involved in the occult is possibly her best performance to date and one that is criminally underrated.
6. Edward Norton – American History X (1998)
Many audiences recognize Edward Norton for his role as the narrator in David Fincher’s 1999 film Fight Club, which is currently a cult classic. However, Norton’s best performance was from a few years earlier when he starred as Derek, a neo-Nazi skinhead, in the 1998 crime drama American History X. Critics highly praised his performance, and it garnered him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, which he eventually lost out to Roberto Benigni for his role as Guide Orefice in the Italian film, Life is Beautiful.
5. Hugh Jackman-Logan (2017)
Hugh Jackman retired from the X-Men film franchise after 17 years as Wolverine, with his final appearance coming in James Mangold’s 2017 R-rated film, Logan, which follows the story of an aged Wolverine and a mentally ill Charles Xavier struggling to live in a world without superheroes. Going out with a bang, Hugh gave fans of the X-Men franchise the best Wolverine performance. However, that performance seemed not to resonate with the Academy Awards committee since Hugh never received a nomination for his unique role.
4. Adam Sandler – Uncut Gems (2019)
A lot has been said about Adam Sandler’s incredible performance in Josh and Benny Safdie’s 2019 film Uncut Gems, but everyone can unanimously agree that it was the best performance of his career. Therefore, the Oscar snub to not even get a nomination for his role remains one of the worst decisions the Academy Awards committee has made to date.
3. Andy Serkis – The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
For an actor who pioneered an entire genre of filmmaking, Andy Serkis sure doesn’t get the respect he deserves. A lot of people have claimed that his role as Gollum is a result of the excellent motion capture work done by the VFX department of The Lord of the Rings production, but what they fail to realize is that Andy Serkis is the one who brings Gollum to life. Without him, there wouldn’t be a Gollum.
2. Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler (2014)
Between Prisoners and Nightcrawler, explaining how Jake Gyllenhaal never received an Oscar nomination for either role would be one of the hardest things to do. However, Louis “Lou” Bloom, a charming sociopath stringer whose ambition shows the dark glaring face of unethical journalism and consumer demand, was without a doubt the best performance of 2014 by a male actor regardless of what the Academy Awards had to say.
1. Al Pacino – The Godfather (1972)
The Academy Awards were in comical fine form in 1972 when they nominated Al Pacino for Best Supporting Actor despite having the more significant share of the screen time in The Godfather and nominated Marlon Blando for Best Actor, which he went on to win. Then they upped the ante by having Pacino go up against two more of his co-stars, James Caan and Robert Duvall, but awarding the Oscar to Joel Grey for Cabaret. How Al Pacino didn’t win an Oscar in both 1972 and 1974 for bringing to life the iconic mobster Michael Corleone is a question that puzzles everyone to date.