Skip to content


The 10 Best Actresses Who’ve Never Won an Oscar

17 November 2017 | Features, People Lists | by Allan Khumalo


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

The Penguin (Batman Returns)

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

Helena Bonham-Carter fight club

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.



Pages: 1 2


Other Brilliant Movie Posts On The Web

Like Our Facebook Page and Get Daily Updates
  • Zwei

    -Isabelle Huppert
    -Catherine Deneuve

    • Franco Gonzalez

      Catherine Deneuve?? Really?

      • Cristian Muñoz Levill

        ¿Por qué no?

        • Franco Gonzalez

          Nunca la vi como una gran actriz, si poseedora de una belleza indescriptible

    • I know!!!! In fact, I think Huppert should’ve gotten the Oscar instead of Emma Stone.

      • AmazingAmy

        Emma Stone won for being Emma Stone -_-

        • I did like her in La La Land and thought she was great but I honestly felt Huppert deserved it more.

          • AmazingAmy

            Huppert should won Oscar many times esp for Piano Teacher

          • Oh fuck yeah.

          • Mortimer

            And Portman also.

    • Vincenzo Politi

      And ISABELLE ADJANI!!!!!!

      • Mortimer

        Why are you always screaming ?

  • No Scar-Jo 3:16?

  • AmazingAmy

    Sorry many actresses in this list should ranked above Adams like Pfeiffer, Watts, Bening, Close and Huppert and Williams should be included. Amy is talented for sure but i felt she is so thirsty. There many actresses more overdue than her.

    Deborah Kerr, Garbo, Judy Garland never won competitive Oscar during her life while legend Huppert only recognized recently.

    And Wtf Gaga win over Kiki

  • Peter Parker

    No Huppert or Maggie Cheung ?

    Nothing against any of the women on the list but it should be retitled “Hollywood actresses” since it’s a list of mostly well known UK/US actresses.

  • Mortimer

    In my opinion Rooney Mara deserves place on this list. She was nominated twice (same as Knightley and more than Mulligan). After she won Best Actress in Cannes she was later robbed for an Oscar in 2015 despite being a favorite the whole season (Alicia Vikander for the Danish Girl ? Really ?)

  • Mortimer

    Also…where is Michelle Williams ? Four nominations.

  • Ricardo Correia

    If Amy Adams was the best actress never to win an Oscar it would all be fine, but she isn’t, nor is she even close

    • Ricardo Correia

      There were a lot of actresses better than Amy last year

  • Ricardo Correia

    When Jeanne Moreau, probably the best actress in the history of cinema, isn’t here this list is meaningless

    • Mortimer

      Jeanne Moreau doesn’t have an Oscar ? Oh I forgot that. Ccc…
      Liv Ullmann also ?
      But Jennifer Hudson has one, that’s most important (sarcasm).

      • Ricardo Correia

        I was never a fan of Ulmann, I have always find her quite a heavy pusher

  • sadburbia

    Emmanuelle Riva, if deceased actresses count

    • brothernamederised

      Yes. Nothing against Jennifer Lawrence, but Riva gave the performance of a lifetime in “Amour”. That award should have been hers.

  • Ricardo Correia

    Gena Rowlands should be here, of all due respect to what Klaus Kinski made in the 70s but her performance in A Woman Under The Influence is maybe the best of that decade
    Setsuko Hara was tremendous in almost everything she ever did
    Irene Jacob is probably the actress working today with the most tragic charm
    Gong Li was phenomenal in the early stages of her carrer
    Isabelle Huppert despite sometimes being quite a heavy pusher has at least 4 or 5 performances worthy of top 3 at any Oscar race, and is probably the best actress in the world right now
    So many names to list, horrible list

    • Mortimer

      Gena Rowlands for sure. A Woman Under the Influence isn’t only one of the very best female performances of the 1970s but of all time also.
      I hope she has at least some honorary statue but alas, that’s probably not the case.
      Not sure what Keira Knightley is doing on this list. Yeah, she made her breakthrough pretty early but honestly I’m little tired of her posh accent and period dramas. She is capable actress but nothing special in my opinion.

      • Ricardo Correia

        I agree

  • Ted Wolf

    Rita Haworth, Tallulah bankhead, Barbara stanwyck

  • jamako

    – Essie Davis
    – Emily Blunt (her Sicario performance is way underrated)

  • David

    Amy Adams should have won for Arrival. She wasn’t even nominated, and they decided to reward Emma Stone. What the hell is wrong with these people???

    • Ricardo Correia

      There were quite a few actresses better than Amy Adams last year

    • Mortimer

      Huppert and Portman were most deserving last year but they were both overlooked because of La La Land behemoth.

  • Vincenzo Politi

    I earnestly think Keira Knightley is one of the worst actresses ever. Glenn Close was stollen the statuette several times and I do hope that Michelle Pfeiffer will get a nomination for Best Actress in a Supportive Role for her phenomenal interpretation in Aronofski’s “Mother!” — and, of course, I do hope she will win too. As for the rest of the list, it is very English-speakers centred. That’s why because the Oscar is an extremely English-speakers centred award. It is an award for the Hollywood industry, NOT for cinema. It has nothing to do with REAL festivals of cinema such as those of Cannes, Venice or Berlin. One of the proofs is last year award to Emma Stone. Ok, she acted in a nice movie (which I really like), but was her role really that difficult to play? was her character really that complex? She had to smile and she had to cry: that was Acting 101. She was basically rewarded for playing your usual American sweetheart, and she was preferred to Isabelle Huppert, a living legend, someone who has been on the big screen since the 70s and who is unarguably one of the greatest actresses of all times. Other actresses who are or have been systematically ignored by the Academy Awards simply because they are not Hollywood-based are: Isabelle Adjani, Monica Vitti, Gong Li, Emmanuelle Béart, Jeanne Moreau, Romy Schneider, Carmen Maura, Victoria Abril, Marisa Paredes, Claudia Cardinale, Silvana Mangano, Bibi Andersson, Liv Ullmann, Ingrid Thulin , etcetera, etcetera, etcetera…

    • Mortimer

      All leading ladies from Bergman’s films deserved one Oscar at least.

  • Klaus Dannick

    Laura Dern

  • Allister Cooper

    Oscar or not Oscar, my vote goes to Stacey Travis!

  • Special_One

    Keira Knightley?! Yeah, there’s no way anyone’s gonna take this list seriously. Probably the worst actress Hollywood has seen the last 20 years.

  • Mahmood Sheikhi

    Sigourney Weaver at least deserve an oscar

  • Dimitrije Stojanovic

    If we were to make a real list of actresses who never won Oscar, that list would be much stronger than the list of actresses who won Oscar.
    Anyway, this is a list of a person who doesn’t watch old movies, so it is better for me not to say anything else.