When we think of the Oscars, we all remember who won. We remember the tearful speeches, the triumphant photos, the joy or the outrage that followed. But hey, let’s not forget the overlooked nominees — especially those who have missed out on having their moment in the spotlight multiple times. Here are the artists who have gotten the most nominations without ever taking home the gold in competitive categories.
Sound engineer Greg P. Russell has racked up the most nods without a win, having received 16 nominations. But there are a few others in that department who have had repeat disappointments: Sound engineers Rick Kline (11 nominations) and Anna Behlmer (10 nominations) have also never had their moment at the podium.
Tied for second place among the repeat losers are art director Roland Anderson and composer Alex North, both of whom received 15 nominations that never culminated in a competitive victory (though North did receive an Academy Honorary Award in 1986).
North isn’t the only composer who’s had a difficult time sealing the deal with Oscar. Thomas Newman’s work has earned him 14 nominations but no golden accolade, Walter Scharf remained empty-handed after 10 nominations, and Diane Warren picked up her 10th nod this year but is still waiting for that final recognition. Now that the 14th time was the charm for legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins, the record in his category belongs to fellow DP George J. Folsey, whose 13 appearances on the shortlist never ended in Oscar glory.
Among actors, Peter O’Toole holds the record for the most nominations without a trophy, having made the list eight times. In 2002, however, the actor’s long career was recognized with an Academy Honorary Award. Following O’Toole is Richard Burton, whose seven nominations never resulted in any hardware, and Glenn Close, who lost for the seventh time (in a major upset) in 2019. Thelma Ritter and Deborah Kerr both have six nods to their names but no competitive wins (though Kerr too received an Academy Honorary Award in 1994), and Amy Adams caught up with them with her sixth loss in 2019.
Shockingly enough, when it comes to directors (and writer-directors), neither Federico Fellini (with 12 nominations) nor Ingmar Bergman (with nine) ever took home a statue with their name on it in a competitive category. However, Fellini received an Academy Honorary Award in 1993, and Bergman was honored with the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1971, and four of Fellini’s pictures and three of Bergman’s won Best Foreign Language Film, which is technically awarded to the film’s country of origin rather than its director.
A few other beloved filmmakers have experienced Oscar disappointment in the single digits, including Stanley Kramer, whose nine competitive nods never netted him a trophy (but whose long career did get him an Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1962); Robert Altman, who won an Academy Honorary Award in 2006 after seven unsuccessful nominations; Clarence Brown, who was left hanging six times; and Sidney Lumet, King Vidor, and Alfred Hitchcock, all of whom got five fruitless nods (though Lumet won an Academy Honorary Award in 2005, Vidor was awarded the same in 1979, and Hitchcock received the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1968).
Among contemporary filmmakers, we can still hold out hope for Christopher Nolan, who joined the club last year when Oscar eluded him on his fourth and fifth nods (both for Dunkirk); and Ridley Scott, who’s still waiting after being nominated four times.