The Oscars are all about the red carpet, the outfits, the host, the winners – and the snubs. Yes, whether the Academy rewards a career over an individual performance or shies away from recognizing a more controversial performance, its decisions aren’t always “right.” As these 20 luckless stars have found out.
20. Leonardo DiCaprio – What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)
Leonardo DiCaprio has been overlooked at the Oscars far too many times. His first snub came after his brilliant portrayal of Arnie in 1993’s What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. Despite him confirming his character-actor credentials early on, Leo lost out to Tommy Lee Jones in the 1994 Best Supporting Actor category.
19. Vanessa Redgrave – Howards End (1992)
Many were charmed by Marisa Tomei’s character in My Cousin Vinny, but few could believe that the then largely unknown actress beat Vanessa Redgrave, who played Ruth Wilcox in 1992 Howards End, to 1993’s Best Supporting Actress award. Apparently announcer Jack Palance read out the wrong name.
18. Meryl Streep – Julie & Julia (2009)
Many believe Meryl Streep’s spot-on portrayal of quirky chef Julia Child in 2009’s Julie & Julia should have landed her 2010’s Best Actress gong. Instead, Streep – who has received a greater number of Academy Award nominations than any other thesp – lost out to The Blind Side’s Sandra Bullock.
17. Glenn Close – Fatal Attraction (1987)
Cher was a delight to watch in 1987’s Moonstruck, but her character portrayal arguably wasn’t up there with Glenn Close’s chillingly good performance as Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction. It was Cher, however, who picked up the following year’s Best Actress award.
16. Judy Garland – A Star is Born (1954)
Most critics predicted that Judy Garland would comfortably win 1955’s Best Actress award – her performance as up-and-coming singer Esther Blodgett in the previous year’s A Star is Born was widely praised, after all. But she inexplicably lost out to Grace Kelly, whose role in The Country Girl hasn’t aged well.
15. Al Pacino – The Godfather (1972)
Al Pacino’s stunning performance in 1972’s The Godfather depicted criminal mastermind, tragic hero and iconic movie villain Don Michael Corleone. What was really criminal, however, was that the actor lost out to Joel Grey, who played the M.C. in Cabaret, in the following year’s Best Supporting Actor category.
14. Tom Cruise – Magnolia (1999)
The “slap the stud’ rumor suggests that pretty boys don’t win Oscars. And perhaps Tom Cruise fell victim to it in 2000, when he lost out to Michael Caine in the Best Supporting Actor category – despite the American actor’s dynamic performance as embittered theater performer Frank T.J. Mackey in 1999’s Magnolia.
13. Jim Carrey – Man on the Moon (1999)
Jim Carrey’s superb portrayal of Andy Kaufman in 1999’s Man on the Moon earned him widespread critical acclaim. Almost inexplicably, however, the performance didn’t even see him nominated for the Best Actor award – despite many believing he should have won it.
12. Julianne Moore – Boogie Nights (1997)
Julianne Moore received her first Oscar in 2014 – but she should have arguably been awarded one for her role in 1997’s Boogie Nights, in which she played sensitive, maternal porn star Amber Waves. It was L.A. Confidential’s Kim Basinger, however, who walked away with 1998’s Best Supporting Actress award.
11. Samuel L. Jackson – Pulp Fiction (1994)
Jules Winnfield, the Bible-reciting hitman played by Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction, rocked the cinematic world in 1994. The character didn’t, however, leave such a big impression on the Academy, who favored Ed Wood’s Martin Landau in the following year’s Best Supporting Actor category.
10. Mila Kunis – Black Swan (2010)
Mila Kunis got pretty dark when playing Lily, a dancer and tormentor to Natalie Portman’s character Nina in 2010’s Black Swan. Yet while Portman was awarded the following year’s Best Actress statuette, Kunis for some reason didn’t even receive a nomination.
9. Lauren Bacall – The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996)
Everyone thought Lauren Bacall’s Oscar time had finally arrived after her brilliant performance as Barbara Streisand’s washed-up, bossy mom in 1996’s The Mirror Has Two Faces. But despite Bacall being the favorite to pick up 1997’s Best Supporting Actress, the award went to The English Patient’s Juliette Binoche.
8. Judi Dench – Mrs Brown (1997)
In 1999 Judi Dench won Best Supporting Actress despite just eight minutes of screen time in Shakespeare in Love. Perhaps this was to counter her having been “robbed” the previous year, when her genius portrayal of Queen Victoria in Mrs Brown lost out to As Good As it Gets’ Helen Hunt.
7. Cate Blanchett – Elizabeth (1998)
Most movie buffs agree that Cate Blanchett’s stunning portrayal of a young queen grappling with her rising power in Elizabeth was the finest movie performance of 1998. Yet while the Australian was nominated for Best Actress in 1999, the award ended up with Shakespeare in Love’s Gwyneth Paltrow.
6. Ellen Burstyn – Requiem for a Dream (2000)
Julia Roberts took home the Best Actress Oscar in 2001 for her portrayal of a tough-as-nails single mom in Erin Brockovich. But many felt the real winner should have been nominee Ellen Burstyn, whose performance as a hopeless, pill-popping mother in 2000’s Requiem for a Dream won many plaudits.
5. Edward Norton – American History X (1998)
Edward Norton’s super-intense portrayal of a conflicted neo-Nazi in 1998’s American History X is as incredible as it is unforgettable. Many thought his performance worthy of the Best Actor award in 1999, but Norton was beaten to it by Robert Benigni for the latter’s role as Guido in Life Is Beautiful.
4. Mickey Rourke – The Wrestler (2008)
After his heart-wrenching comeback performance as Randy “The Ram” Robinson in 2008’s The Wrestler, Mickey Rourke was believed to be a real contender for the Best Actor award in 2009. Despite Rourke being nominated, however, the gong was presented to the relatively unfancied Sean Penn for his performance in Milk.
3. Denzel Washington – Malcolm X (1992)
Malcolm X director Spike Lee was not impressed with the Academy’s decision to overlook Denzel Washington for Best Actor in 1993. In spite of it being one of the actor’s most iconic roles, the award ended up going to Al Pacino for his starring role in Scent of a Woman.
2. Russell Crowe – A Beautiful Mind (2001)
When Russell Crowe’s brilliant performance as celebrated mathematician John Nash in A Beautiful Mind was overlooked by the Academy in 2002, it got people thinking. Was the decision to present Denzel Washington with the Best Actor award for his role in Training Day atonement for his being snubbed in 1993?
1. Ralph Fiennes – Schindler’s List (1993)
Leonardo DiCaprio wasn’t the only one to miss out on 1994’s Best Supporting Actor award. So too did Ralph Fiennes, whose performance as sadistic Nazi captain Amon Goeth in 1993’s Schindler’s List was terrifyingly brilliant. And the snub was all the more surprising given that the movie won seven Oscars.