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The 30 Greatest Movie Performances That Didn’t Receive Oscar Nominations (2000-2009)

11 December 2014 | Features, Other Lists | by Matthew Stanley


Award shows are mostly drawn out occasions to revere people for doing frivolous things. Acting is simply pretending to be something that you are not. Having said that, that does not mean we should overlook the terrific abilities of some performers out there. Some people have it and others do not. No matter if you are watching a big budget film or a film that costs less than $10,000 to produce, the acting has to sell the story.

Being able to see actors breathe life into characters is one of the biggest things that attracts us as cinephiles to each film. Actors are the ones who give us reasons to care, hate, empathize, and dream. So it is always interesting to see who is revered each year and who is forgotten. For every performance, good or bad, each actor is giving their all and laying it all out there for better or worse. Following up our previous 2010s list, here’s the list of Oscar snubbed performances of the 2000s.


30. Sam Rockwell in Moon


Few actors have built a career out of playing quirky types of characters as well as Rockwell. From his devilish turn as Wild Bill in The Green Mile to playing supposed real life C.I.A. operative/hitman Chuck Barris in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Rockwell always brings it in every role he takes on.

This is no different in Duncan Jones’ film, Moon. Duncan Jones being the son of rock n’ roll god David Bowie, has created a world in which Astronaut Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) has spent the last three years on the Moon, alone, with on his computer GERTY to converse with. They are there in order to try and research ways to help our quickly faltering power problems back on earth. Soon, Bell makes a startling discovery that changes everything about the mission. Now, all he desires is to return home to his wife and daughter.

This is the quintessential Rockwell performance. There is a moment late in the film involving Rockwell and well, Rockwell that is so beautifully haunting and perfectly scored by the criminally underrated Clint Mansell.


29. Michael Douglas in King of California

King of California

Writer/Director Mike Cahill first came on the scene with his first novel, A Nixon Man, which if you have not read and you are interested in Watergate, Nixon, and all the debauchery that took place. Well, then it is strongly suggested you seek it out.

With his first foray into writing and directing, he created a little modern masterpiece in King of California, which also happens to include probably the most overlooked and undervalued Michael Douglas performance of all time as recently released mental patient Charlie. Charlie wants to repair his relationship with his estranged daughter Miranda (the always welcome Evan Rachel Wood), and most importantly find the Spanish gold that is buried somewhere possibly beneath a local Costco store.

Douglas has always been a favorite of audiences. Mainly for playing tough no-nonsense guys at times. Here he achieves a poignancy and a sense of reality that few could, playing a man who was just released from a nuthouse. In fact, he plays it so well, that we are often right there along with Miranda in thinking, is there really Spanish gold?


28. Bruce Campbell in Bubba Ho-Tep

Bruce Campbell in Bubba Ho-Tep

Genre films are never seriously looked at by the academy and films like these are looked upon with disdained by most. We just never see films like these receive the notoriety that they deserve. Much of a case can be made for Don Cosscerali’s Bubba Ho-Tep.

The horror genre has always been known for ridiculous plots, but, in Ho-Tep, ridiculous cannot even describe it. In the film, based off of the immensely talented Joe R. Landsdale’s short story, we find Elvis (Bruce Campbell), alive and well living in a nursing home in East Texas. The home is dirty, rundown, and just downright depressing. Filled with the sounds of lost and forgotten dying souls. Who just so happen to be having their souls sucked out of their asses by a newly arisen mummy dressed as a Texas good ole’ boy.

When people start dying, no one at the home cares, these people are old, and that is what they do….they die. Elvis begins to suspect otherwise, along with an elderly black man who believes that he is J.F.K, played with earnest and dignity by Ossie Davis. The two unlikely heroes embark on a quest to find out just what is causing the deaths and how they can stop it.

Campbell proves that he is more than just a B movie actor here in ironically what is a B movie. The production values are scarce and the material is downright silly, but, it is handled in a way that makes it all seriously believable. With all that being said, Campbell brings a level of commitment that only he could and gives not only his best performance, but, one of the greatest performances in the genre ever.


27. John Cusack in Grace Is Gone

Grace Is Gone

The Iraq war divided a country and cost the U.S. not only billions of dollars, but more importantly, thousands of lives. There have been many films on the subject and few have even touched on the effect that it has had on individual families like in this film. The film was originally a Rob Reiner helmed film, but he backed out in the late stages which saw screenwriter James C. Strouse step in and direct a great first feature.

In the film, John Cusack plays Stanley Phillips, it is not long before a knock on the door brings Stanley and the lives of his two daughters to a halt. Upon hearing the news of his wife’s untimely death in Iraq, Stanley and his daughters embark on a road trip to the Enchanted Gardens amusement park in the hopes that he can hold on to some semblance of happiness for his children a little longer.

Cusack, using the real life loss of Warren Pellegrin’s wife Corrin as his basis for the role, gives a sentimental and heart wrenching performance as a father who has no idea how to tell his children about the loss of their mother. Side Note: this film features a score by Clint Eastwood. This is the only time Eastwood has scored a film that he has not starred in or directed. Incidentally, it is one of the most simplistically beautiful things he has ever created.


26. Andy Serkis in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers or The Return Of the King

Gollum in Lord of the Rings The Two Towers

He wants it, he needs it, and he deserved it. The academy just does not respect voice and motion capture performers at all. Andy Serkis as Gollum in Peter Jackson’s last two Lord of the Rings films gives a terrifically schizophrenic performance as Gollum and Sméagol.

The advances in the realm of motion capture performance have not been utilized in a better way than in these films and the most recent Planet of the Apes films, which incidentally star Andy Serkis. Serkis makes a sulking, spiteful, and deranged character sympathetic.


25. Nicole Kidman in Dogville


Lars Von Trier’s Dogville is in many ways his most straightforward and complex film at the same time.

The story follows Grace (played to perfection by Nicole Kidman) who shows up late in the night in mountains of Colorado in the town of Dogville. A fugitive from somewhere asking to be accepted by the townsfolk. The town knows what she is hiding from, and yet, they decide to allow her to stay only if she abides by their rules. Soon she finds herself being used by the seemingly nice folk in the town and her past slowly creeps into everyone’s lives.

Kidman is one of those actresses who divides most audiences. She has the ability to disappear completely or give one note performances that leave no impression on the viewer. Such is not the case with her turn as Grace. She inhabits this character better than any she has ever tackled.


24. Bill Murray in Broken Flowers

Bill Murray in Broken Flowers

For someone who has made a living of playing deadpan character after deadpan character, Murray has delivered one of his best performances here, playing an aging Don Juan in Jim Jarmusch’s film.

In the film, Murray is Don Johnston. Don is an introverted guy who is now reeling from his latest conquest leaving him all to his own. He receives a letter in the mail from one of his former conquests, telling him that he in fact has a son. This son also may be trying seek Don out. Don soon ventures out for a quest involving the search for his old flames and hopefully his son.

Murray uses what he does best here to heartbreaking degrees. Don should be unlikable, but Murray’s charm wins you over immediately.



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  • Bryton Cherrier

    Downfall should have been nominated…
    … Sorry… WON best picture. Without a doubt, the best World War II film ever made.

  • Byron Nuñez

    Hey…Where is Jack Nicholson for The Shining. Deam!

    • Brian Lussier

      This was from 2000 to 2009. The Shining was in 1980. Still think he was even better than De Niro in Raging Bull, which is saying a lot. I would have liked to see either Elijah Wood or Sean Astin for The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King. As well as Viggo Mortensen for A History Of Violence.

    • Jay Keith

      More like Jack Nicholson in The Departed

      • Brian Lussier

        Certainly deserved it more than Mark Wahlberg. Wahlberg was good in that film, but it was still Nicholson’s film.

        • Deanna

          Mark deserved because it was such a departure from what he normally did. Who knew, where Nicholson was good but really didn’t bring anything extra. Of course Nicholson is always a notch above but additionally DiCaprio kept up with him in every scene.

  • Xanian

    Great list. Really happy to see some love for Synecdoche New York. IMO, best performance from PSH apart from his role in Capote. I would have put his performance in Synecdoche at 3rd.

  • Cinema270

    I agree with nearly all the entries, just not their order…

  • vini marcon

    emile hirsch for into the wild

  • Javier Cornejo Subiabre

    I would change Gosling’s “Lars an the real girl” for “Blue Valentine”. And I can´t understand why you don’t put Vigo Mortensen for “The Road” in this list.

    • Brian Lussier

      Blue Valentine was in 2010, if I’m not mistaken. This list stops in 2009. I would have put Melanie Laurent for Inglourious Basterds. And you’re right about Mortensen and The Road. I would even add the kid who played with him in the film.

  • What about Scarlett Johansson for Lost in Translation and Girl with a Pearl Earring?

  • Max Conoley

    You forgot Brad Pitt in Burn After Reading. And I think Rockwell and Bacon should be MUCH higher.

  • Guest

    Gran lista!

    Al final, la actuación es arte y éste es tan subjetivo como cualquier otro. Sin embargo, sí creo que la buena actuación destaca por sus propios méritos y éstos son reconocidos por públicos de cualquier tipo. Además, definitivamente los criterios de la AMPAS no son absolutos para determinar cuál es la mejor actuación, aunque, a veces aciertan…

  • Can we really only think of five roles played by women for this list? A 1:4 ratio seems pretty sad to me. We must either have more amazing roles for women. . . or better list makers.

  • Richard McLin

    Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation
    Samuel L. Jackson in Django Unchained
    Bill Murray in Rushmore or Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

    • Brian Lussier

      Rushmore was before 2000.

      • Richard McLin

        Good point.

  • Klaus Dannick

    While I agree with most of these, Laura Dern’s performance in INLAND EMPIRE is sorely absent. Also, I disliked everything about American Psycho, including Christian Bale’s performance.

  • Brian Lussier

    Would have preferred seeing Colin Farrell for In Bruges, not Gleesson.

  • Patiod

    Val Kilmer as Doc Holiday in Tombstone

    • Harris K Telemacher


  • Nikola Stoyanov

    A fresh one: Jake Gyllenhaal for Nightcrawler

  • Klaus Dannick

    I agree with most of these, but I do not understand the amount of praise which American Psycho receives. Or any praise which it receives at all, for that matter.

  • Abhishek

    Oh please! Bale’s performance in Psycho was not that great to be included here. Rather than that they could have included some other foreign entry. Like most of the the times the movies which are nominated in foreign language category have much better performances than the best actor nominated ones.

  • Youssef

    Bjork in Dancer in The Dark!

  • Aadesh Puthran

    No Leonardo dicaprio?

  • zachlen

    Oliver Reed ,THE DEVILS. For sure.

  • Dimitri Poenaru

    I also liked Kevin Bacon in Mystic River, Jeff Bridges in Fearless, Christian Bale in The Machinist, Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips and Edward Norton in The Illusionist.

  • Arshad Khan

    Hey oscars fuck you..

  • Sumeet Kaur

    Keira Knightley and James McAvoy for Atonement.
    Imelda Staunton for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

  • Ricardo Correia

    You say that Synecdoche NY is maybe PSH best performance and then you just place it at number 20? He was fantastic in Owning Mahowny too, maybe the most underrated performance of the decade

  • Jim Jansen

    How about basically everything Michael Shannon has ever done?

  • ttt

    Rebecca Hall for Christine