Stars who have never won an Oscar
Better luck next year…
There are some names that seem like perennial fixtures on the Academy’s lists of acting nominees (or perennial fixtures on the internet’s lists of snubs). Year after year, they deliver performances that are universally admired in movies that are critically praised, but have never heard their name called when the presenter opens that little envelope. Here are some fan favorite actors and actresses who have come close but still, somehow, never taken home the top prize.
Six times nominated without a win to her name, Amy Adams has become something of a poster child for this cause. Five of her nods have been for Best Supporting Actress — for Junebug in 2006, Doubt in 2009, The Fighter in 2011, The Master in 2013, and Vice in 2019; she lost those to Rachel Weisz, Penélope Cruz, Melissa Leo, Anne Hathaway, and Regina King. In 2014, when American Hustle earned Adams her first nomination for Best Actress, Cate Blanchett took home the prize.
Despite three nominations, Edward Norton has never been awarded a little gold man. He’s gotten two nods for Best Supporting Actor, in 1997 for Primal Fear and 2015 for Birdman (losing to Cuba Gooding, Jr. and J.K. Simmons, respectively), and one for Best Actor in 1999 for American History X (Roberto Benigni won instead).
Samuel L. Jackson
Though Samuel L. Jackson’s impressive filmography would, one might think, have earned him an Oscar by now, he doesn’t have any — and in fact has only been nominated once. He lost Best Supporting Actor to Martin Landau in 1995, when he was nominated for Pulp Fiction.
Glenn Close holds the record of the actress who has received the most Oscar nominations without having ever won. She’s got eight in total — including one in 2021, for Best Supporting Actress in Hillbilly Elegy, which could knock her off this list for good (despite the film’s critical bashing). Before that, her first three came all in a row, and were all for Best Supporting Actress, for The World According to Garp in 1983, The Big Chill in 1984, and The Natural in 1985. She lost those races to Jessica Lange, Linda Hunt, and Peggy Ashcroft, respectively. Close’s other four nominations were all for Best Actress: In 1988 she was nominated for her performance in Fatal Attraction; in 1989, for Dangerous Liaisons; in 2012, for Albert Nobbs; and in 2019, for The Wife. She’s 0 for 4 in that category too, having lost to Cher, Jodie Foster, Meryl Streep, and Olivia Colman.
Sigourney Weaver has been nominated three times, including twice in the same year: At the 1989 ceremony, she was up for both the Best Actress (for Gorillas in the Mist) and Best Supporting Actress (for Working Girl) statuettes; they went to Jodie Foster and Geena Davis, respectively. This double disappointment came just two years after her first nomination, for Best Actress for Aliens. She lost that year to Marlee Matlin.
Robert Downey Jr.
Iron Man may have it all, but the man who plays him is still lacking some hardware. Robert DowneyJr. was first nominated in his 20s, for Best Actor in 1992’s Charlie Chaplin biopic Chaplin, and picked up his second nod 16 years later, for Best Supporting Actor for 2008’s Hollywood satire Tropic Thunder. He lost the awards to Al Pacino and Heath Ledger, respectively.
Tom Cruise may be one of the most iconic film actors of all time, but even he hasn’t collected any statuettes, despite three nominations. He’s been recognized in the Best Actor category twice, in 1990 for Born on the Fourth of July and 1997 for Jerry Maguire, but was passed over in favor or Daniel Day-Lewis and Geoffrey Rush, respectively. He got a nod again in 2000, for Best Supporting Actor for Magnolia, but Michael Caine took it home that year.
Johnny Depp has been nominated for Best Actor three times, but never won. He got his first nod for Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) but lost to Sean Penn; next he was nominated for Finding Neverland (2004), but fell to Jamie Foxx; and finally, he was recognized for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007), but the Oscar went to Daniel Day-Lewis.
Michelle Pfeiffer has picked up three Oscar nominations but no gold: She was first recognized in the Supporting Actress category for Dangerous Liaisons (1988), but lost to Geena Davis. Later, she was a Best Actress contender for The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989) and Love Field (1992), but was beaten by Jessica Tandy and Emma Thompson, respectively.
He’s got seven Horcruxes but zero Academy Awards, having lost Best Supporting Actor to Tommy Lee Jones in 1994, when Ralph Fiennes was nominated for Schindler’s List, and Best Actor to Geoffrey Rush in 1997, when he was in the running for his performance in The English Patient.
The beloved actor (and Wes Anderson regular) has only picked up one Oscar nod thus far. He was nominated for Best Actor in 2004, for Lost in Translation; Sean Penn took home the trophy instead.
Believe it or not, Sir Ian McKellen hasn’t gotten golden recognition from the Academy. He’s been nominated twice: First for his role in Gods and Monsters (1998) for Best Actor, which he lost to Roberto Benigni; second, for playing Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), he got a Best Supporting Actor nod, but Jim Broadbent took home the prize.
Despite four nominations, Michelle Williams has never won gold. She got a Best Supporting Actress nod in 2006 for Brokeback Mountain, but Rachel Weisz got the honor. In 2011, Williams was nominated for Best Actress for Blue Valentine but lost to Natalie Portman; she got a nod in the same category the following year for playing Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn, but Meryl Streep won that year (for playing a very different icon, Margaret Thatcher). In 2017, she was back in the Best Supporting Actress race with Manchester by the Sea, but was bested by Viola Davis.
Annette Bening picked up four Oscar nominations, but still doesn’t have an Academy Award. Her first was for Best Supporting Actress for The Grifters (1990), which she lost to Whoopi Goldberg. Her next three were all for Best Actress, first for American Beauty (1999), then Being Julia (2004), and finally The Kids Are All Right (2010). Hilary Swank bested her for both of the first two, and Natalie Portman beat her out for the honor the third time.
The Fresh Prince has gotten two Best Actor nominations but no Oscar glory thus far. He first got a nod in 2002 for Ali, but lost to Denzel Washington; the second nomination was for The Pursuit of Happyness in 2007, when Forest Whitaker took home the prize.
Naomi Watts has been nominated twice for Best Actress, but never gotten a statuette. The first time was for her role in 21 Grams in 2004, when she lost to Charlize Theron; she was recognized a second time for her performance in The Impossible in 2013, but Jennifer Lawrence won instead.
Despite a long career in Hollywood, Michael Keaton has no Oscar wins — and in fact had never been nominated until 2015, when he got his first and (so far) only nod for his singular performance in Birdman. Eddie Redmayne won that year, though Birdman took home Best Picture.
While it's a surprise that none of these accomplished actors and actresses have never won an Oscar, Steve Buscemi has never even gotten a nomination from the Academy. His work in television has been more widely recognized: For his roles on such acclaimed series as Boardwalk Empire and The Sopranos, he’s received multiple nominations at the Emmys and Golden Globes, and won one of the latter awards.
Like Buscemi, Jeff Daniels has never been nominated for an Oscar, but received greater recognition at other awards shows. He’s got four Golden Globe nominations to his name (three for films, and one for his role on The Newsroom), as well as three Emmy nominations, one of which resulted in a win.
Laura Linney has three Oscar nominations to her name, but has never managed to nab the award. The veteran star picked up Best Actress nominations for You Can Count on Me (2000) and The Savages (2007), and a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Kinsey (2004), falling each year to Julia Roberts, Marion Cotillard, and Cate Blanchett, respectively.
Though he’s been nominated twice for Best Supporting Actor, Malkovich has never taken home the gold. Recognized for Places in the Heart (1984) and In the Line of Fire (1993), he’s lost to Haing S. Ngor and Tommy Lee Jones, respectively.
The beloved funnyman Jim Carrey has never received an Oscar nomination, despite having appeared in such critically adored films as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Truman Show. He has picked up six Golden Globe nominations, however, two of which have resulted in wins.