Movie-goers and people who work in the film industry make predictions for who they think will be nominated when The Oscar Nominations are announced in mid-January each year. Across all 24 categories, the field is extremely competitive as there can only be 5 nominees in each category (except for Best Picture, where anywhere between 5-10 films can be nominated).
The debates on which actors will receive one gets the most amount of buzz. From the four acting categories (Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress), only 20 actors can obtain Oscar Nominations. The acting branch of The Academy is very unpredictable when it comes to voting for its 20 nominees (five for each of the four acting categories). It is not even guaranteed that performances that have won or been nominated for many accolades will obtain an Academy Award Nomination. As a result, there are several acting performances with raving reviews each year that don’t receive Oscar nominations.
From all the years The Academy has been in existence, here are 15 acting performances that were snubbed of Oscar nominations:
1. Anthony Perkins – Psycho:
The 1960 classic Psycho is one of the best horror films of all time. Despite its rave reviews, it failed to win any of its four Oscar Nominations. It comes as a surprise to many that Anthony Perkins didn’t earn a Best Actor Nomination for his brilliant performance as Norman Bates.
The level of madness and insanity Perkins brings while playing the main antagonist Norman Bates plays a major part in what makes Psycho the great film it is today. Perkin’s performance in Psycho is considered as one of the best performances that failed to earn an Oscar nomination.
2. R. Lee Ermey – Full Metal Jacket:
The 1987 war film Full Metal Jacket follows a platoon of US Marines from boot camp training to the battlegrounds during the Vietnam War. Initially, R. Lee Ermey, who is a former Marine, was hired as a technical advisor for the film.
However, after putting together an instructional tape in which he went on an extended tirade, director Stanley Kubrick was so impressed that he cast Ermey as Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, the ruthless boot camp drill instructor. Using his past experience from serving in the Vietnam War, Ermey adlibbed most of his dialogue throughout the film.
Although Sergeant Hartman appears in only the first half of Full Metal Jacket (after being killed by a mentally unstable recruit after his platoon graduates from boot camp), Ermey’s acting in the film earned nothing but the best reviews. Ermey brought a non-stop charge of intensity in his performance (the clip below is Sergeant Hartman’s opening speech to the new recruits) as the soulless drill instructor who will produce killing machines out of his recruits at any cost.
His performance earned him the Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor and a Golden Globe Nomination for Best Supporting Actor. However, the Academy failed to give the former Marine a well-deserved Oscar Nomination and Full Metal Jacket earned only one for Best Adapted Screenplay.
3. Bette Davis – Of Human Bondage:
From all 15 acting performances that didn’t receive Oscar Nominations to make this list, the earliest snub is Bette Davis’s performance in the 1934 film Of Human Bondage. Her performance is highly ranked amongst those that were snubbed of Oscar nominations. In Of Human Bondage, Davis plays Mildred Rodgers, a hateful and manipulative waitress who leads aspiring doctor Philip Carey (Leslie Howard) astray.
Despite playing a darker character, Davis’s role garnered tons of rave reviews from film critics and her fellow actors at the time. When the nominees for the 7th Academy Awards were announced, it was a complete shock to many that she didn’t make the final ballot for Best Actress. Academy members were so outraged that many wrote-in her name on the ballot. Norma Shearer, who received one of the Oscar Nominations for Best Actress that year, was even part of the group that supported the write-in votes for Davis. Despite the public support, Davis finished third (back then, the order of the votes for each category were announced at the ceremony) behind the winner Claudette Colbert and the runner-up Shearer.
As a result of Davis’s snub and the huge number of votes she received (despite not being among the official Oscar Nominations), The Academy banned write-in votes the following year. In addition, they hired accounting firm Price Waterhouse to tabulate the votes and keep the results hidden for the other nominees except for the winner.
Despite the snub, Bette Davis would go on to earn 10 Oscar Nominations (The Academy includes her on their website but doesn’t recognize her as a nominee for The 7th Academy Awards) throughout the rest of her career. From those ten Oscar Nominations (all for Best Actress), she would win two, the first for the film Dangerous, which she won a year after her infamous snub for Of Human Bondage.
4. Leonardo DiCaprio – The Departed:
The 2006 film The Departed won four of its five Oscar Nominations, including Best Picture. Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Wahlberg earned rave reviews for their performances in the film. The latter earned a nomination for Best Supporting Actor (which he lost to Alan Arkin for Little Miss Sunshine). DiCaprio also received a nomination that year for Best Actor, but for his performance in the film Blood Diamond instead.
Oscar rules prevent an actor from earning multiple nominations in the same category. However, actors can still obtain two Oscar Nominations (one for a leading role and one for a supporting role) in the same year, as it has happened 11 times.
DiCaprio earned excellent reviews for his work in the 2006 films The Departed and Blood Diamond. As a result of the rules stated above, only one of his performances could be nominated for Lead Actor, and Academy voters believed his work in Blood Diamond was better.
His snub for The Departed is ranked highly amongst the best performances that never got Oscar Nominations. While DiCaprio went on to win Best Actor for the 2016 film The Revenant, critics believe to this day that DiCaprio would have won The Best Actor Oscar over Forest Whitaker (for his work in The Last King Of Scotland) in 2006 had he been nominated for the right film (The Departed) that year.
5. Mila Kunis – Black Swan:
Mila Kunis already earned a lot of fame for her role as Jackie Burkhart on the iconic TV Show That ’70s Show, which aired from 1998-2006. After That ’70s Show ended, Kunis began focusing on her film career.
Fans and critics were surprised by her terrifying and raw performance in the 2010 thriller Black Swan as Lily, a rival ballerina dancer to Nina Sayers (played by Natalie Portman, who would win the Oscar for Best Actress for this film). Kunis’s positive reviews for her performance earned her several major award nominations for Best Supporting Actress, including nominations for a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award. When she failed to make the final ballot for the five Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actress, critics were stunned. While Melissa Leo won almost every major Best Supporting Actress Award for her role in The Fighter that year, Black Swan Director Darren Aronofsky said he was disappointed as he thought Kunis would be a shoo-in for the Acting Oscar nominations.
6. Jack Nicholson – The Shining:
The 1980 film The Shining is one of the greatest horror movies of all time. Jack Nicholson gave one of the best performances of his career as the film’s lead character, Jack Torrance. Throughout his entire acting career, Nicholson has received 12 Oscar nominations, which is the most for any male actor and tied for the 2nd most for any actor/actress.
From 12 Oscar nominations, he has won three times: once for Best Supporting Actor for the 1983 film Terms of Endearment; and twice for Best Actor for the 1975 film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and for the 1997 film As Good as It Gets. It is quite a huge shock that of his 12 Oscar Nominations, he failed to receive one for The Shining (the film was completely shunned by the Academy that year). Imagine if Nicholson was nominated (and won) for that role—the first thing he says in his acceptance speech is the iconic line “Here Comes Johnny!”
7. Kate Winslet – Revolutionary Road:
Like with the case of her close friend and Titanic and Revolutionary Road co-star Leonardo DiCaprio (on the left) (see #4), Kate Winslet (on the right) earned rave reviews for her performances in the 2008 films The Reader and Revolutionary Road. Depending on each Major Award Associations’ rules, Winslet won and received many awards and nominations for her work across the two films in both the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories. She famously won two Golden Globes that year for both The Reader (for Best Supporting Actress) and Revolutionary Road (for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama).
However, Academy rules prevented her from receiving two Oscar Nominations in either Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress categories. Had she earned enough votes, she could have gotten nominated for Best Actress for one film and Best Supporting Actress for the other.
In the end, Winslet earned an Oscar Nomination for Best Actress for The Reader, which she ended up winning. Her failure to earn a nomination for Revolutionary Road is only a snub depending on whether one thinks her acting in that film was better compared to her performance in The Reader.
8. Idris Elba – Beasts of No Nation:
The 2016 Academy Awards sparked huge controversy with the #OscarsSoWhite movement after for the second consecutive year in a row, all 20 Actors who received Oscar Nominations were white. No actors of color or other minorities were nominated both years.
From all the acting performances that failed to get Oscar Nominations that year (regardless of the actor’s race), the biggest snub belonged to Idris Elba for his role in the Netflix hit Beasts of No Nation. What makes his snub more shocking is that he ended up winning The Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Supporting Actor that year despite not receiving an Oscar nomination! That feat was the first time it ever happened in the Best Supporting Actor category.
9. Tilda Swinton – We Need To Talk About Kevin:
Despite winning an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for the 2007 film Michael Clayton, it is the only nomination Tilda Swinton had received. Since her victory, Swinton could have earned a few more Oscar Nominations for several of her film roles had the Academy not overlooked them.
The one she really should have gotten nominated for was for Best Actress for her role as Eva Khatchadourian in the 2011 film We Need To Talk About Kevin. The film constantly shifts back and forth from Eva’s memories of the past to her current reality as she struggles to cope with the terms of her son Kevin, who is in prison after committing a high school massacre (Kevin also killed his father Frank and younger sister Celia).
Swinton’s performance earned her rave reviews and she won several Film Critics Awards, including The National Board of Review Award for Best Actress. She also received Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, and BAFTA nominations for Best Actress as well. When she failed to make the final ballot for the Oscar Nominations for Best Actress, critics were stunned as she received nominations for the three Major Award Ceremonies that occur before The Oscars!
As the Best Actress category was extremely competitive that year, one could argue that as a reason why Swinton was snubbed. Given how much school shootings have dominated national headlines recently, it is plausible that if We Need To Talk About Kevin was released within the last two years (instead of 2011) that Swinton could have received an Oscar nomination (and possibly could have won) for her performance in the film.
10. Toni Collette – Hereditary:
Australian Actress Toni Collette has had a prolific career that has earned her a Primetime Emmy Award and a Golden Globe. Despite her talent, it comes as a shock that she has only been nominated for an Oscar once: Best Supporting Actress for the 1999 film The Sixth Sense.
Since then, she’s has starred in several films for which she didn’t receive any Oscar Nominations for, which include the 2002 film About a Boy, the 2006 film Little Miss Sunshine, and the 2018 film Hereditary. Her failure to get a nomination for Best Actress for the latter film had fans expressing their outrage on Twitter.
11. Nicole Kidman – To Die For:
The 1995 film To Die For starred future Oscar winners Casey Affleck and Nicole Kidman, in addition to future three-time nominee Joaquin Phoenix. All three actors earned positive reviews for their performances in the film.
Kidman’s stunning portrayal of Suzanne Stone, a sociopath who will do anything to achieve her dreams of becoming a world-famous news anchor, earned her several nominations for major awards, including a Golden Globe win for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. It came as a surprise to many when she failed to earn an Oscar nomination (which would have been her first) for her work in To Die For.
However, the only reason one could argue why Kidman didn’t get one was because the Best Actress category that year was competitive. Despite this snub, Kidman went on to receive 4 Oscar nominations, winning once for Best Actress for the 2002 film The Hours.
12. Tom Cruise – The Last Samurai:
From three Oscar nominations, Tom Cruise has yet to win the famous golden statuette yet. Cruise has been robbed of multiple Oscar Nominations throughout his prolific acting career, with the biggest snub being for his portrayal of Nathan Algren in the 2003 drama The Last Samurai.
Although his co-star Ken Watanabe garnered more attention for his role and earned Best Supporting Actor nominations for the Oscars, Golden Globes, and Screen Actors Guild, Cruise’s performance in The Last Samurai is underrated and should have been nominated for Best Actor that year at the Oscars.
13. Gong Li – Memoirs of a Geisha:
From all of the acting performances that failed to get Oscar Nominations, one said performance that doesn’t get mentioned a lot is Gong Li’s in the 2005 film Memoirs of a Geisha. In the film (based on the book of the same name), Li plays the villainous Hatsumomo, an older geisha who feels threatened by the arrival of Chiyo/Sayuri (Zhang Ziyi). Both Li and Ziyi earned positive reviews from critics for their performances.
Although she failed to get an Oscar nomination, Ziyi was nominated for several major awards for Best Actress, which included Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, and BAFTA Nominations. However, Li was overlooked for all the major awards for Best Supporting Actress, including an Oscar nomination! However, Li did win The National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actress.
In my opinion, Li’s performance was far better than Ziyi’s. Gong Li (who has never been nominated for an Oscar) is one of the best Asian Actresses of all time and she certainly, deserved to earn her first Academy Award nomination for Memoirs of a Geisha.
14. Alan Rickman – Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows- Part 2:
The Harry Potter film series has received 12 Oscar Nominations (no wins though), none of which were for acting. From the eight films, the one actor who should have gotten an Oscar Nomination is the late Alan Rickman for his portrayal of the complex Professor Severus Snape in the franchise’s final film Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2.
Throughout the series, Severus Snape comes off as a cold and hostile character whose loyalties are questioned. However, it is revealed in the last film (through a series of flashbacks after Snape’s death) that Snape’s true loyalty was to the good side, despite formerly being a Death Eater. The reason for the double-agent-like role and eventual defection from the Death Eaters was due to his long-life crush on Lily Potter, the deceased mother of Harry.
Rickman’s performance during the flashback scenes in the final Harry Potter film (see the clips below) earned universal praise from critics, who thought that his performance helped “Elevate a child’s tale of good and evil into a story of human struggle.” Fans started a grassroots campaign for Alan Rickman to get an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for the 84th Academy Awards in 2012. Even Daniel Radcliffe, who plays the titular character, stated that Rickman deserved to get an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Snape in the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. Ultimately, Rickman failed to earn one.
15. Tiffany Haddish – Girls Trip:
The 2017 hit comedy Girls Trip earned universal praise from critics, especially for Tiffany Haddish’s performance as Dina, the happy-go-lucky friend of the film’s four main characters. Haddish’s performance in Girls Trip was viewed by critics as excellent and screen-stealing like how Melissa McCarthy was in the 2011 comedy Bridesmaids. Many thought Haddish would follow in McCarthy’s footsteps by earning an Oscar Nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
However, that wasn’t the case as Haddish was not only overlooked of an Oscar nomination, but for other nominations for other major awards as well (Golden Globes, BAFTA, and Screen Actors Guild). Fans expressed disappoint with Haddish being overlooked for the major awards. Her co-star Jada Pinkett-Smith even posted a series of tweets after Haddish failed to get a Golden Globe nomination.
Despite this, Haddish still managed to win several awards for her work in Girls Trip, including two MTV Movie Awards for Best Comedic Performance and Scene Stealer and the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress. The latter honor is from one of the most prestigious film critic organizations in the country and Haddish won the award over two of the five eventual Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominees Allison Janney (the eventual winner) and Laurie Metcalf.