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15 Actors Who Never Won an Oscar, and We Think We Know Why

March 27 is the magic date for The 94th Academy Awards, but way before that, movie critics had already created their lists of nominees. Of course, all Hollywood stars dream of winning an Oscar. There are those “lucky” actors who get nominated almost every year, but only the special chosen ones end up being the winner. We decided to find out why life and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are so unfair to them.

We at Bright Side decided to find the answer to this question. We believe that there are a few valid reasons why some actors haven’t won an Oscar yet. Below, you can find some of our observations and assumptions.

For example, some actors are still Oscar-less because they stay within a certain line of roles, some prefer to stay away from events that could give them points, like at the ceremony following the event, and some just aren’t lucky enough.

We put together 15 talented actors and actresses who have been nominated for an Oscar at least once but haven’t won this award yet.

1. Amy Adams

Amy Adams has been nominated for an Oscar 6 times for movies like Doubt, The Master, and American Hustle. In 2016, she was excellent in her part as Louise Banks in the sci-fi flick, Arrival. And she wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar for this part, which made her fans furious.

Perhaps the reason why Adams still hasn’t won this trophy is that she started her career in Hollywood rather late — she was already 25 years old at the time she began in the industry. By this age, many stars have been nominated for an Oscar a few times since it’s pretty normal to start an acting career at an early age. But Adams still has a lot of time ahead of her.

2. Bradley Cooper

Bradley Cooper was nominated for an Oscar 3 years in a row. The first time took place in 2013 when he was nominated for Best Actor for his leading role in Silver Linings Playbook, but the statuette went to Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln. The next year, Cooper was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in American Hustle, but it was Jared Leto who won the Oscar that time. The third time, he was nominated for his leading part in American Sniper, but he was overshadowed by Eddie Redmayne who played Stephen Hawking.

His 2019 project, A Star Is Born, where he was the movie director, the producer, the scriptwriter, and the leading actor, offered him multiple nominations and wins in every major award ceremony. We hope that he will eventually win this very long-awaited and well-deserved statuette.

3. Saoirse Ronan

Saoirse Ronan is only 27 but has already participated in the race for the most prestigious movie award 4 times. Her first nomination took place when she was only 13 years old and it was for her part in Atonement. Then she was one of the Best Actress nominees for her part in Brooklyn, and in 2019, she almost won the award for her leading part in Lady Bird.

Ronan is one of the examples of a successful, early acting career. But during 2019’s ceremony, she had to compete with power players like Frances McDormand (60 years old) and Meryl Streep (68 years old). Ronan said in her interview that she isn’t competitive about awards and that the nomination itself felt like a victory to her.

4. Helena Bonham Carter

Tim Burton’s muse and the leading star of his films has been nominated for an Oscar twice. The first time took place in 1998 when she got a Best Actress nomination for The Wings of the Dove. The second time, it was in 2011 when she was nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category for her part in the historical drama, The King’s Speech. Alas, both times, luck wasn’t on Carter’s side. It’s interesting that she didn’t win any awards and wasn’t even nominated for anything for her outstanding performance as Marla in Fight Club.

Carter’s stroke of bad luck when it comes to awards isn’t just with the Oscars. She’s also a 9-time Golden Globe nominee and never won. Is it possible that her image is too bodacious for conservative members of the Academy?

5. Johnny Depp

Throughout his long acting career, Depp has been nominated for an Oscar 3 times. In 2004, it was a Best Actor nomination for Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, but he lost to Sean Penn in the movie Mystic River. Next year he was nominated for his leading part in Finding Neverland but he lost again. In 2008, Depp was nominated again for his leading part in the musical drama Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, but he lost to Daniel Day-Lewis.

Depp says in his interviews that he isn’t interested in awards. After the Black Mass release, which was positively taken by European and American critics, he mentioned that “he never wanted to win an Oscar,” he acted not for the sake of winning awards, but for his fans.

6. Sharon Stone

Sharon Stone has starred in more than 40 feature films but she became a worldwide celebrity thanks to her part in Basic Instinct. As for the Oscars, she was nominated for an Oscar only once for her part in Casino but the award went to Susan Sarandon that year.

Stone began her acting career in Hollywood pretty late too. She became famous at the age of 34. Before that she used to work as a model and took acting parts in B movies. Since she couldn’t find recognition in the USA, she moved her focus to Europe. They say that it is her who made the Cannes Film Festival one of the most popular and highly-regarded movie festivals in the world, which is no less prestigious than the Academy Awards. In the 90s, Stone was the host and the encourager of the festival’s charitable event.

7. Bill Murray

This actor that is so loved by millions was nominated for an Oscar only once in 2004 in the Best Actor category for his part in Lost in Translation. At that time, he lost to Sean Penn. It’s interesting that despite Murray’s parts in such iconic movies, like Groundhog Day and Ghostbusters, he’s never won any awards for them.

In one of his interviews, Murray confessed that he had decided to not participate in the Oscars race anymore.

8. Keanu Reeves

It’s hard to believe, but Keanu Reeves has never been nominated for an Oscar. He became a worldwide celebrity after successful movies like Speed and Point Break, and The Matrix made him an iconic figure. Despite the fact that the movies he acted in won many awards, including the Oscar, he has only won MTV Movie Awards.

The reason why Reeves has never been nominated for an Oscar can be explained by the fact that he has a reputation for not being a really selective actor. He sometimes participates in projects that don’t have a lot of potential, like Knock Knock and Siberia.

9. Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Actor category in 1990 for the first time. It was for his part in the movie Born on the Fourth of July but he lost to Daniel Day-Lewis. The second time took place 7 years later when Cruise was nominated for the award for his part in Jerry Maguire, but it was Geoffrey Rush who took the win that time. His third nomination was in the Best Supporting Actor category for his part in Magnolia.

Cruise’s situation can be explained by a theory called the Pitt-Hanks Continuum which says that there are 2 types of actors in Hollywood. The first type resembles Brad Pitt, the second one resembles Tom Hanks. The actors of the first type can consistently show excellent performance but they’ll never win the award. While the actors of the “Hanks” type can win an Oscar for their first successful work. You can’t argue with science. But we hope that Tom Cruise still has a good chance to win an Oscar in the future, just like Leonardo DiCaprio who had to wait for 20 years for his first Oscar.

10. Jessica Chastain

Real success came to Jessica Chastain after The Help was released. She was immediately nominated for an Oscar in the Best Supporting Actress category. However, she didn’t win the golden statue that time. The next year, she was nominated again for the movie, Zero Dark Thirty, but she lost to Jennifer Lawrence. She was also nominated for Best Actress at the 2022 Academy Awards.

Jessica Chastain began her acting career in movies pretty late by industry standards, as she was 33 years old at the time she started. Besides, according to Chastain, she was told that she was too red and too old-fashioned at the beginning of her career. Luckily, she’s currently at the peak of her success and has a very good chance of winning a coveted Oscar in the near future.

11. Will Smith

It’s hard to believe, but Will Smith has won very few serious acting awards. At the same time, his acting has always been good no matter what genre he’s appearing in. His first nomination took place in 2002 when he was nominated in the Best Actor category for the biopic, Ali, but he lost to Denzel Washington. 5 years later, he was nominated again for his leading part in The Pursuit of Happyness where he acted together with his son, Jaden, but he didn’t win an Oscar then either.

In 2016, Smith and his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, accused the Academy Awards of racism and urged people of color to refrain from participating in the event. However, in 2022, he was once again nominated for Best Actor in the Academy Awards for his role in King Richard.

12. Michelle Williams

Williams has been an Oscar runner-up 4 times. 2 of the times she was nominated were in the Best Actress category for the movies Blue Valentine and My Week with Marilyn. Michelle had to gain 22 pounds for the part of Marilyn. The other 2 times she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in the movies Brokeback Mountain and Manchester by the Sea. And for her work last year on All the Money in the World, she wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar.

Recently, the actress decided to switch from deep and dramatic roles to more simple projects like I Feel Pretty and Venom.

13. Keira Knightley

At her current age of 37, Keira has starred in many successful films and has been nominated for an Oscar twice. The first nomination took place in 2006 for her part in Pride & Prejudice. The second one happened recently in 2015 for her part in the historical drama, The Imitation Game.

Despite her wide variety of roles and positive feedback from critics, she seems to be unlucky with the Oscars. However, she’s recently become a mother, and we hope her best roles and awards are yet to come.

14. Robert Downey Jr.

The situation with Robert Downey Jr. also seems unfair. He was first nominated for an Oscar a long time ago in 1993 for Best Actor in Chaplin. At that time he lost to Al Pacino. The second and the last time took place in 2009 when he was nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category for Tropic Thunder. However, during the 2009 ceremony, all the other nominees had no chance of winning, because Heath Ledger had been posthumously awarded the Oscar for his unforgettable part as the Joker in The Dark Knight.

Currently, Robert Downey Jr. is seen as Tony Stark by many. This is a classic example of how a good actor has become a hostage to one single character. However, he recently confessed that he wasn’t going to play Iron Man any longer. He said that at his current age of 53, he’d look pathetic in a superhero suit.

15. Glenn Close

Many people know Glenn Close for her part as Cruella De Vil in the 101 Dalmatians movies. But very few are aware that Close has been nominated for an Oscar 8 times during her 36-year-long career. It’s worth mentioning that her first 5 nominations took place back in the ’80s. Her last nomination took place in 2020 for her role as Bonnie “Mamaw” Vance in Hillbilly Elegy.

Perhaps the actress has been unlucky with who she’s gone up against because she’s been losing to actresses like Jessica Lange, Cher, and Meryl Streep.

Why do you think these actors haven’t won an Oscar? Share your ideas in the comments below.

Please note: This article was updated in March 2022 to correct source material and factual inaccuracies.
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