The 10 Best Actresses Who’ve Never Won an Oscar
Back in 2012, while promoting “The Master,” actor Joaquin Phoenix created a bit of controversy calling the Oscar’s “bullshit.” Noting that, pitting people against each other is the stupidest thing in the world. And to be honest, it’s not hard to see his reasoning.
There’s no way that any awards show will satisfy everyone; after all, everyone has their own opinion on who should be nominated or win. It’s always bittersweet when you put all your heart and soul into something, and then get someone with an opinion deciding if your work is better than someone else’s, who also put their heart in soul in it.
It’s all up to the universe as to how your work is received. You can put all your effort into something, but once you send it out into the world you have no control over how it’s received, if it’s received at all. At the end of the day, the Oscars are the industry’s holy grail of success. Whether we agree with them or not, there’s a reason they’re the measuring stick of awards show.
While Phoenix was eventually nominated for his performance in “The Master” (how could he not), he ended up losing. Whether his comments had an impact on the final decision of him winning or not, we’ll never know.
But as actor Morgan Freeman once stated in an interview, receiving an Oscar nomination is a pat on the back for good work.
10. Keira Knightley
It’s hard to believe that Keira Knightley is only 32 years old with a career that makes it seem like she’s been around much longer than she’s been alive. Knightley started acting at a young and got her breakout performance in the 2002 sports smash “Bend it Like Beckham.”
Since then she’s built an impressive career appearing in all types of films, from indie arthouse films to blockbuster franchises, and of course, a string of period pieces.
Knightley is an impressively gifted actress with a British charm that makes her easy to love. Whether playing an outcast or royalty, whether starring in a drama or comedy, she switches effortlessly with a presence you can’t stop watching.
She’s been nominated twice, first for the Jane Austen adaption of “Pride and Prejudice” for Best Actress where she plays everyone’s favorite Bennet sister. Knightley brought a fresh spin to the beloved character, embodying her wit and quirkiness to perfection.
Nomination number two came from “The Imitation Game” for Best Supporting Actress for playing a code breaker. While Benedict Cumberbatch stole the show, Knightley brought a certain warmth and charm to the film.
She was shockingly snubbed for her part in Joe Wright’s “Atonement” along with co-star James McAvoy for their devastating turns. A strong performance that’s arguably her best, Knightley and McAvoy are engaging and make a great film even better.
Her other great performances that show her range coming from “The Edge of Love,” “Begin Again,” “A Dangerous Method,” “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” and “Never Let Me Go.”
9. Carey Mulligan
After her breakthrough performance in the “An Education,” Carey Mulligan has become the queen of the indie circuit, playing explosive characters that can be both raw and powerful, with a mysterious depth you can’t quite put your finger on. Whether she’s playing the lead or a supporting character, Mulligan always shines and carries a certain prestige with her appearances.
Her performance in “An Education,” of course, landed her first and to date only nomination for Best Actress. A year later she was invited to join the Academy as a new member, but has yet to receive another nomination since.
The year 2011 saw her give two knockout performances, first in Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Drive.” Her silent and intense chemistry with Ryan Gosling became the heart of the whole film as she played the girl next door our hero falls for. She admirably conveyed every emotion, thought, desire and sorrow with the simplest of looks and body language.
Her second was Steve McQueen’s “Shame,” where she plays Michael Fassbender’s dependent and needy sister, who shares an ambiguous and horrific past with her brother and deals with it in a similar but different way. These two performances should’ve gotten her two more nominations, with the latter having the edge.
Two years later she appeared again with her “Drive” co-star Oscar Isaac (another great modern actor who’s yet to win an Oscar) in another doomed relationship in the Coen brothers’ folk ballad masterpiece “Inside Llewyn Davis,” playing a foul-mouthed and hilarious folk singer who the lead character can’t seem to make happy no matter what he does. The film would sadly get snubbed in a number of deserving categorize.
With the upcoming Netflix period drama “Mudbound,” Mulligan will no undoubtedly continue giving great performances that hopefully won’t go unrecognized by the Academy.
8. Michelle Pfeiffer
While some people didn’t care too much for Anne Hathaway’s portrayal of Catwoman in Christopher Nolan’s final Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises,” Hathaway did, in fact, do an amazing job. However, Catwoman will always belong to Michelle Pfeiffer, whose sex appeal, mysteriousness and femme fatale combinations have made her stand out from other Hollywood actresses.
It’s always amazing to watch how Pfeiffer can play typical blond bombshells and instill so much life and depth into them that they become more than that, and you end up actually caring for them.
Pfeiffer has earned three Oscar nominations in a career that, while impressive, can sometimes go underappreciated. She earned her first nomination for Best Supporting Actress in “Dangerous Liaisons,” where she stood her ground against the theatre experience of co-stars Glenn Close and John Malkovich.
Further proving that she’s not just a sex symbol but a natural talent, “The Fabulous Baker Boys,” released a year later, earned her a Best Actress nomination. She got rave reviews for her performance, with Roger Ebert declaring it “one of the movies they will use as a document years from now when they begin to trace the steps by which Pfeiffer became a great star.”
While “Love Field” has aged terribly, it’s still an enduring film because of Pfeiffer’s performance. Playing a housewife so obsessed with the Kennedys that she decides to travel to Washington DC for the President’s funeral, this film earned the actress her third nomination.
Oscar nominations aside, Pfeiffer has arguably played more iconic characters than any other living actress in films like “Scarface,” “Batman Returns,” “The Witches of Eastwick,” “The Age of Innocence,” and countless others.
7. Helena Bonham Carter
Besides being Tim Burton’s go-to actress for wild, wacky and eccentric female characters (the males being Johnny Depp, of course), Helena Bonham Carter has a diverse body of work that features more than just the oddball and insane female character.
Garnering her first nomination for “The Wings of the Dove,” this was at that point her most critically acclaimed performance. Her second nomination came in “The King’s Speech” as Queen Elizabeth, in a restrained and supportive role that was overshadowed by Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush’s bromance.
Bonham’s other noteworthy roles were in “Fight Club” where she held her own in a world filled with male bonding and testosterone as the chain-smoking, perverse (and if Brad Pitt is to be believed), in dire need of a bath but inherently charming Marla Singer. She was fun playing her trademark weirdo with a bloodlust in the Harry Potter series and equally so with Sacha Baron Cohen in “Les Miserables.”
Her best work with Tim Burton may be “Sweeney Todd,” where she made the worst pies in all of London. And her work in “Planet of the Apes” would’ve been better received if the film itself was better.
6. Kirsten Dunst
How can an actress as great as Kirsten Dunst have zero Oscar nominations? She’s undoubtedly one of the most underrated actresses working today. She’s definitely paid her dues with years in the industry, appearing in her breakthrough film at the age of 12 in “Interview with the Vampire.” Since then she’s appeared in a wide array of films where she’s become known for her troubled characters who seem innocent on the outside but troubled on the inside.
She should already have a string of Oscar nominations, firstly for “Interview with the Vampire” when at the age of 12, she played an immortal vampire in a child’s body who’s as fierce as the older vampires. Then there’s “The Virgin Suicides,” where her character may have been too far out to be considered.
But two of the most head-scratching snubs are for Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette” and Lars von Trier’s “Melancholia.” The films themselves may have played a role in Dunst’s performances being overlooked; “Marie Antoinette” was too uneven with some considering it flat out terrible, and “Melancholia” was too pessimistic, nihilistic and uncompromising. And it’s a Lars von Trier film, so there’s that as well. It did, however, win her an award for Best Actress at Cannes in what’s perhaps her most critically acclaimed performance.
And if you needed more proof of Dunst’s criminally underrated talent, look at the anthology TV series “Fargo.” She gave another amazing performance that’s one of her best, but would go on to lose the award for Best Actress – Miniseries or TV Film at the Golden Globes to Lady Gaga.
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