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THE HISTORY of the Oscars is peppered, not just with the careers of those who took home so many statuettes they may as well name the stage at the Kodak after them, but those whose prolonged absence only became more conspicuous over the years. Some, like Brad and Leo, eventually received their desserts. Other gigantic names, despite claiming Golden Globes, Emmys, Tonys and BAFTAs alike, never claimed what’s widely regarded as the top gong in the profession—some eventually being awarded honorary awards in one of those not-so-subtle admissions of guilt on behalf of the Academy.

So who are the greatest thespians never to claim an Oscar? Here’s a not-so-comprehensive list of the robbed, the perpetually snubbed, and those for whom the seemingly endless wait continues.


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Glenn Close

Number of nominations: 8


Glenn Close has sadly become synonymous with the topic of Oscar snubs, sharing with Peter O’Toole the unenviable record of receiving the most nominations in history without a win. Some, it can be said, were understandable on the part of the Academy. Others, like her iconic turns in Fatal Attraction and The Big Chill, were more than deserving of an Oscar.

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Amy Adams

Nominations: 6

One of the most critically acclaimed actors of her generation, Adams is shaping up to be this century’s Glenn Close unless she can finally break her ever-growing streak of racking up Oscar nominations without closing out the win. The 49-year-old is now up to six nominations in total without having her name called out at the Kodak, with her snubs for American Hustle and Big Eyes feeling particularly egregious, but hey. There’s still time.

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Angela Bassett

Number of nominations: 2


Yes, she’s set to receive an Honorary Oscar next year, but after more than three decades routinely turning in performances regarded among the greatest of all time, it doesn’t feel like enough. One of the defining black talents of her generation, Bassett has nonetheless largely been a nonfactor come awards season, during which time she’s received two golden globes and a pair of Oscar nominations. The decision to award Best Supporting Actress to Jamie Lee Curtis last year despite her triumphant performance in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever felt like a particular insult.

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Samuel L. Jackson


Number of nominations: 1

In fairness to SLJ, few of his projects over his three decades in Hollywood have really fallen under the distinct category of Oscar-bait, but the second highest-grossing actor of all time does have a single Oscar nomination to his name thanks to his part in Pulp Fiction. Should he have received more nods over the years? Perhaps, and given the Academy awarded him the honorary oscar in 2022, they seem to think so too.

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Tom Cruise

Number of nominations: 2

Arguably the most bankable star of his generation, Cruise is another actor for whom big box office numbers have often taken precedent over individual acclaim. That’s not to say that he doesn’t have some serious acting chops, however, with the 80s and ‘90s in particular bringing a golden period of nominations for the Top Gun star. With Cruise now seemingly content playing the part of the gracefully aging action hero, however, it doesn’t look like his Oscar drought will end anytime soon.

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Johnny Depp

Number of nominations: 3


Love him or hate him, there’s no denying that Johnny Depp, with his uncanny ability to mould himself into just about any role, fits the dictionary definition of an actor who should hoover up Oscars. Yet despite portraying some of the most iconic characters of his day and racking up a hat-trick of nominations during his mid-2000s heyday, he’s never taken home acting’s greatest honour.

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Robert Downey Jr.

Number of nominations: 1

While you can chalk much of RDJ’s lack of award success up to the addiction issues that robbed him of much of his prime, the Iron Man star pulled off one of the great career revivals of all time, which is enough to cement him as a Hollywood legend whether he ever wins an Oscar or not. His sole nomination over the years has come for his now-notorious role in Tropic Thunder, which is perhaps understandable, but who knows? Maybe Downey Jr.’s life after Tony Stark could bring some gold with it.

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Sir Ian McKellan

Number of nominations: 2

One of the great pure thespians of all time, McKellan’s choice of roles has tended to revolve more around the stage and Shakespeare than the screen, leaving only his legendary portrayal of Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings franchise as a realistic Oscar shout. Will it feel like a shame if McKellan never wins an Oscar? Maybe, but given his already stacked trophy cabinet after more than six decades on stage and screen, we’re sure he’s not too concerned.

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Michelle Williams

Number of nominations: 5

Auteur magnet-turned-mainstream darling Michelle Williams already has a reputation as one of the most skilled screen actors of her generation, chalking up a healthy five Oscar nominations while simultaneously somehow eluding the spotlight that typically shines on an A-lister of her prowess. That she hasn’t won yet is probably more down to straight bad luck than anything else, with Williams’ nominations coming in particularly strong years for her categories, but with so many nods to her name at the age of just 43, it’s near-impossible to imagine she won’t eventually.

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Bill Murray

Number of nominations: 1

The poster boy for the fact that comedians typically don’t win Oscars, it’s fitting that Murray’s solo Academy Award nomination came for perhaps his most dramatic role. His work in Lost In Translation is still considered among his finest, and despite being an odds-on favourite to take home Best Actor in 2003, he lost out to Sean Penn in one of the awards’ great all-time upsets.

 


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