Awards and nominations are certainly not the safest way to measure an artist’s caliber, and the Oscars are the epitome of this assumption, since there have been numerous occasions over the years where great actors were completely snubbed by the Academy.
Although it is a fact that sometimes there are too many noteworthy performances in the same season, and there can be only a few nominees for each acting category due to broadcasting reasons, it is also true that entertainment business politics play a pivotal part behind every year’s selections. For instance, some late/badly-timed “paying dues” type of acknowledgement of another actor’s career, or the Academy’s necessity to make a statement for American society and the world at the time.
In any case, what matters most is not trying to state all those reasons behind some of the Oscars’ great injustices, but instead paying tribute to some of those talented artists who should have received a bit of love from the Academy for their contributions over the years.
So, this list focuses on 30 active film actors – no actresses – who are well-respected by their peers and beloved by audiences, and have never been nominated for an Academy Award so far, despite having left their mark on cinema history through some of their roles.
P.S. Thanks for the memories, Alan Rickman.
30. Paul Dano
One of the younger members of the list (31 years old), Paul Dano started performing as a child actor on Broadway, before launching an impressive career in film, especially after portraying a voluntarily mute teenager in “Little Miss Sunshine” (2006).
He could have been nominated for “There Will Be Blood” (2007) or “Love & Mercy” (2014).
Selected filmography: L.I.E. (2001), Little Miss Sunshine (2006), There Will Be Blood (2007), Ruby Sparks (2012), Looper (2012), 12 Years A Slave (2013), Prisoners (2013), Love & Mercy (2014), Youth (2015)
29. Malcolm McDowell
A familiar physiognomy from the 60s and 70s, Malcolm McDowell received formal training at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, and started making a name for himself after starring in Lindsay Anderson’s “if….” (1968).
He could have been nominated for “A Clockwork Orange” (1971).
Selected filmography: if… (1968), The Raging Moon (1971), A Clockwork Orange (1971), O Lucky Man! (1973), Time After Time (1979), Cat People (1982), Blue Thunder (1983), My Life So Far (1999), Gangster No. 1 (2000), The Company (2003), The Artist (2011)
28. Guy Pearce
A quiet force of US and Australian cinema, Guy Pearce first became known to audiences as a drag queen in “The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert” (1994), and followed a pretty diverse career ever since.
He could have been nominated for “L.A. Confidential” (1997) or “Memento” (2000).
Selected filmography: The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert (1994), L.A. Confidential (1997), Memento (2000),The Proposition (2005), The Hurt Locker (2008), The Road (2009), The King’s Speech (2010), Animal Kingdom (2010), Prometheus (2012)
27. Shahab Hosseini
One of the most well-known modern Iranian actors, Shahab Hosseini stood out as an intense dramatic performer in the movies of the acclaimed auteur Asghar Farhadi.
He could have been nominated for “A Separation” (2011).
Selected filmography: The Fifth Reaction (2003), Niloofar (2008), About Elly (2009), A Separation (2011), Bé Omid É Didar (2011), Hush! Girls Don’t Scream (2013), The Painting Pool (2013)
26. Ewan McGregor
A graduate of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Scotsman Ewan McGregor is one of the most flexible actors of his generation, starring in many notable indie, arthouse or blockbuster movies of the last 20 years.
He could have been nominated for “Trainspotting” (1996), “Moulin Rouge!” (2001), or “The Ghost Writer” (2010).
Selected filmography: Trainspotting (1996), Moulin Rouge! (2001), Big Fish (2003), Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005), I Love You Phillip Morris (2009), The Men Who Stare At Goats (2009), The Ghost Writer (2010), Salmon Fishing In The Yemen (2011), The Impossible (2012), Last Days In The Desert (2015)
25. Steve Buscemi
An actor known for his portrayal of eccentric guys, Steve Buscemi has constantly moved with ease between major film studios and indie productions throughout his career, becoming a regular of such directors as the Coen brothers and Quentin Tarantino.
He could have been nominated for “Reservoir Dogs” (1992), “Fargo” (1996), or “Ghost World” (2001).
Selected filmography: Mystery Train (1989), Reservoir Dogs (1992), In The Soup (1992), Trees Lounge (1996), Fargo (1996), The Big Lebowski (1998), Animal Factory (2000), Ghost World (2001), Coffee And Cigarettes (2003), Big Fish (2003)
24. Kevin Bacon
Philadelphia native Kevin Bacon consolidated his passion for acting after attending a state-funded 5-week arts program at Bucknell University at the age of 16, and first came to prominence in the 80s with “Diner” (1982) and “Footloose” (1984). A decade later, his variety of roles was the reason why the whole acting universe was circling around him.
He could have been nominated for “Sleepers” (1996).
Selected filmography: Diner (1982), The Big Picture (1989), Tremors (1990), JFK (1991), A Few Good Men (1992), Apollo 13 (1995), Sleepers (1996), Mystic River (2003), The Woodsman (2004), Frost/Nixon (2008), X-Men: First Class (2011)
23. Zbigniew Zamachowski
A Łódź National Film School graduate, Polish actor Zbigniew Zamachowski is difficult to not notice each time he appears on screen, due to his ability to take full advantage of his average but comical physique to generate honest and affective performances.
He could have been nominated for “Three Colors: White” (1994).
Selected filmography: The Decalogue, X (1989), Korczak (1990), Three Colors: White (1994). Squint Your Eyes (2002), Distant Lights (2003), Jack Strong (2014)
22. John Cusack
John Cusack built his reputation as an 80s teen icon after starring in movies such as “The Sure Thing” and “Better Off Dead” (both in 1985), and gradually became a cult favorite quirky guy of the big screen.
He could have been nominated for “Being John Malkovich” (1999) or “High Fidelity” (2000).
Selected filmography: The Sure Thing (1985), Better Off Dead (1985), Say Anything… (1989), The Grifters (1990), Grosse Pointe Blank (1997), The Thin Red Line (1998), Being John Malkovich (1999), High Fidelity (2000), Hot Tub Time Machine (2010), Love & Mercy (2014)
21. Mads Mikkelsen
A former professional dancer, Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen started his film career as a drug dealer in Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Pusher” trilogy, before becoming a highly requested “bad guy” in Hollywood, and one of the center figures of his country’s cinema.
He could have been nominated for “The Hunt” (2012).
Selected filmography: Open Hearts (2002), Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself (2002), With Blood on My Hands: Pusher II (2004), Casino Royale (2006), After The Wedding (2006), Flame & Citron (2008), Valhalla Rising (2009), The Hunt (2012), A Royal Affair (2012)