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20 Stars Who’ve Never Won Oscars

From Samuel L. Jackson to Marilyn Monroe, the Hollywood legends who’ve been routinely dissed by the Academy

actor; actress; never won; oscar; Director

From Samuel L. Jackson to Marilyn Monroe, Sergio Leone to Ridley Scott — 20 movie legends who've surprisingly never won Oscars.

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences may have their origins in self-congratulatory PR (and, if you dig deeper, union-busting) but, by and large, it does a reasonably good job of providing a signal boost for quality films. Brooklyn isn’t going to win anything this year — but more people are going to know about that modest little story of an Irish immigrant making her way to America as a result of this year’s broadcast. Maybe they’ll give it a stream some night and enjoy a worthwhile drama that would have otherwise been forgotten. See? The Bataan Death March of “awards season” press events may have been worth it after all.

But the organization is far from infallible. This is a relatively small group of industry insiders who skew to a particular demographic, and they make mistakes. Many of cinema’s true masters have never won the award they deserved. Alfred Hitchcock never took home an Oscar for directing; neither did Stanley Kubrick. (Hitch got a lifetime achievement, however, and Stanley won for the special effects in 2001: A Space Odyssey.) Don’t bellyache for Brad Pitt ignored as a thespian – he’s got his trophy for producing 12 Years a Slave.

But what about those worthy film artists who never got anything — not even a category curveball or the end-of-career salute? Who will recognize the Hollywood greats standing in the shadow of the Full Oscar Diss? Many of them still have a shot, while some have already left this mortal coil, forever denied access to that Great Luncheon in the Sky.

So let’s commiserate with the tragically, perpetually Oscar-Denied. We list them in alphabetical order, because why shame them any more with a countdown?

actor; actress; never won; oscar

AMERICAN HISTORY X, Edward Norton, 1998, © New Line/courtesy Everett Collection

Everett Collection

Edward Norton

He can do drama and comedy, play heroes and villains, carry indie dramas and Marvel movies … he even did an entire movie under a mask (Kingdom of Heaven), and actors hate not having you look at their face! Plus he directs. But the Academy have yet to reward Edward Norton's versatility with the gold statuette. If Mark Ruffalo gets one before him, it'll be all-out war.

Nominations: Two for Best Supporting Actor (his screen debut Primal Fear and Birdman) and one for Best Actor (American History X).
Should Have Won For: American History X.
Maybe This Is All Punishment For: Getting a nomination for his first picture out of the gate.

actor; actress; never won; oscar

Everett Collection

Sergio Leone

The man who made squinting cool got no love from the Academy. He had the wisdom to cast Henry Fonda as a villain, brought Ennio Morricone's themes into popular culture, cut together some of the finest gunslinger sequences in cinema — and oh, gave the world Clint Eastwood. Did he get even an honorary Oscar? No, he got a bullet in the back from those mean sumbitches and was left out in the rain to die.

Nominations: Nothing.
Should Have Won For: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Maybe This Is All Punishment For: Proving that the Western, Hollywood's go-to genre, could be perfected by an Italian shooting in Spain.

actor; actress; never won; oscar

TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY, Gary Oldman, 2011. ph: Jack English/©Focus Features/Courtesy Everett Collection

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Gary Oldman

Emerging as one of the best British actors of the 1980s with Sid and Nancy and Prick Up Your Ears, Oldman segued into Hollywood fare in supporting roles that time and again were the most electric parts of the movie. His recurring role as Jim Gordon in Christopher Nolan's Batman films is probably the best acting you'll see in the modern superhero genre. His 2011 performance as George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a master class of subtlety and that doofus Jean Dujardin won for The Artist so, come on, let's all go smash something.

Nominations: One for Best Actor (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy).
Should Have Won For: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Watch that movie a second time, it's just incredible.
Maybe This Is All Punishment For: Tiptoes, in which he plays a little person with a heart of gold. You read this correctly.

actor; actress; never won; oscar

DIE HARD, Alan Rickman, 1988 TM and Copyright © 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved. Courtesy: Everett Collection.

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Alan Rickman

Before Die Hard, many serious thespians might have rolled their eyes at playing of a crazed terrorist in an action picture. After Die Hard, they wisely recognized it was an opportunity to steal every scene. Alan Rickman was more than a villain, though. He was wonderful at drawing room comedies, in romances and tweaking sci-fi in the cult masterpiece Galaxy Quest. Good Lord, would Tumblr even exist without Severus Snape?

Nominations: Nothing.
Should Have Won For: By Grabthar's Hammer, it should have been Galaxy Quest.
Maybe This Is All Punishment For: Kevin Smith's Dogma.

actor; actress; never won; oscar

GLADIATOR, Russell Crowe, Ridley Scott, 2000. ©DreamWorks/courtesy Everett Collection

Everett Collection

Ridley Scott

Some artists work with paint, others with clay — Ridley Scott, however, works with beams of light pouring into rooms. Even his worst movies (and he's made some stinkers) are gorgeous to look at. But when he's got his teeth sunk into a good script, like with Alien, Blade Runner, Thelma & Louise, The Martian and yes, even The Counselor, there's no stopping him.

Nominations: Three for Best Director (Thelma & Louise, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down) and one for Producer (The Martian).
Should Have Won For: Alien.
Maybe This Is All Punishment For: The sappy Russell-Crowe-sips-wine drama A Good Year.

actor; actress; never won; oscar

ALI, Ron Silver, Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, 2001, (c) Columbia/courtesy Everett Collection

Everett Collection

Will Smith

Will no one recognize Big Willie Weekend? This incredibly likable leading man feels like he's been one of the most reliable purveyors of quality mainstream entertainment for years. How is it that his peers have yet to reward him with the little golden man? Is someone using some futuristic flashing device to make them forget how much they love him when it comes time to vote?

Nominations: Two for Best Actor (Ali, The Pursuit of Happyness).
Should Have Won For: Ali.
Maybe This Is All Punishment For: Wild Wild West.

actor; actress; never won; oscar

ALIENS, Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Henn, 1986 TM & Copyright (c) 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved.

Everett Collection

Sigourney Weaver

As time marches on it becomes clearer just how revolutionary the Sci-Fi Queen's role of Ripley in the Alien films really were, especially in James Cameron's sequel. And Weaver's dramatic turns in Death and the Maiden and The Ice Storm prove she isn't just about Hollywood blockbusters, either. We're betting she's eventually taken off this list, and not just for an honorary award.

Nominations: Two for Best Actress (Aliens, Gorillas in the Mist) and one for Best Supporting Actress (Working Girl).
Should Have Won For: Aliens.
Maybe This Is All Punishment For: Chappie.

actor; actress; never won; oscar

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011) Directed by Stephen Daldry Shown: Max von Sydow


Max von Sydow

When European arthouse cinema was the height of modernist intellectual topics, Max von Sydow was its face — its tormented, Nordic face. Starring in many of Ingmar Bergman's masterpieces (The Seventh Seal, Through a Glass Darkly, The Passion of Anna), Von Sydow transitioned to Hollywood by creeping us all out in The Exorcist, Flash Gordon, Minority Report, Shutter Island … the list goes on. Somehow, the actor has managed to be a go-to old man for over 40 years.

Nominations: One for Best Actor (Pelle the Conquerer) and one for Best Supporting Actor (Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close).
Should Have Won For: Hannah and Her Sisters or Winter Light.
Maybe This Is All Punishment For: Beating death at chess.

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