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The Biggest Best Actor And Actress Oscar Snubs Of All Time

Since 1929, the Academy Awards have been considered the benchmark of cinema accolades. To win an Oscar is widely seen as the biggest stamp of approval any career in film can have. But it's definitely not a mandatory thing. Some of the greatest artists of all time, like Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock, and Marilyn Monroe, were never given golden statues, despite having had a hand in some of the best work of the 20th century. More modern Hollywood faces, like Bradley Cooper, Edward Norton, and Michelle Williams, have also never been recognized with an Oscars victory. Even though an Oscar is considered one of film's greatest honors, it's clearly not the end-all-be-all proof of talent.

However, the Academy has had some moments of unthinkable oversight when it comes to who wins the awards for best actor and best actress. Whether we're talking about a deserved win that fell through in the final hours or a performance that was overlooked altogether when nominations were announced, the Oscars are far from perfect. We're taking a look at the biggest best actor and best actress snubs of all time, from iconic horror movie performances to Hollywood legends' best work.

Anthony Perkins - 1961

The 33rd Academy Awards saw a number of great performers take home victories. Burt Lancaster won best actor for playing the title character in "Elmer Gantry," while Elizabeth Taylor won best actress for playing Gloria Wandrous in "BUtterfield 8." Billy Wilder's "The Apartment" took home five awards. But the best film of 1960 was shut out from taking home any trophies. "Psycho," Alfred Hitchcock's horror opus, did score four nominations, but it was ultimately snubbed across the board. 

It's no secret that Hitchcock is one of the best directors to never win an Oscar. But Anthony Perkins not getting a best actor nomination for his dark portrayal of Norman Bates is an egregious misfire. Perkins' performance is much better than nominee Trevor Howard's in "Sons and Lovers," and his name would have fit in nicely next to Lancaster, Jack Lemmon, Laurence Olivier, and Spencer Tracy.

The Oscars aren't very kind to horror films. The scariest movie to win a golden statue before "Psycho" was "The Phantom of the Opera" in 1943. But Perkins' turn as Norman Bates is so good, the American Film Institute ranked the character as the second-greatest villain in movie history. An Oscar nomination was more than deserved for a character that still influences cinema in the 21st century.

Judy Garland - 1955

Judy Garland was nominated for two Oscars in her career, for her roles in "A Star Is Born" and "Judgment at Nuremberg." Though she was given a special Oscar, the Academy Juvenile Award, in 1940, she never took home any other gold statues. This is a tremendous shame, as her performance as Esther Maine in "A Star is Born" is the best of her career. Though the film has been remade four times, George Cukor's 1954 masterpiece is the best version. It's a comfort that Garland was nominated for this work alongside Jane Wyman, Audrey Hepburn, Dorothy Dandridge, and Grace Kelly. Unfortunately, Kelly took home the prize for her milquetoast performance in "The Country Girl." Garland never returned to the best actress category.

As good as Kelly is, "The Country Girl" does not have the cultural longevity "A Star Is Born" enjoys. Garland's performance stands the test of time, serving as the blueprint for Barbra Streisand and Lady Gaga's work in subsequent adaptations. You could also make the argument that she should have been nominated in 1944 for "Meet Me in St. Louis," one of her finest features. Either way, the fact that Garland never took home the gold stands as one of the Academy's greatest misfires.

Al Pacino - 1975

At the 48th Academy Awards, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" won best actor and actress, best picture, best director, and best adapted screenplay. It's certainly an excellent movie. But there's an argument to be made that Jack Nicholson's performance as McMurphy is not better than Al Pacino's performance in "Dog Day Afternoon."

Based on a real 1972 robbery and hostage incident, Pacino plays Sonny Wortzik, who attempts to rob a bank in order to pay for his transgender partner's surgery. There's a lot to be said about how the Oscars have snubbed Pacino for his acting chops seven times, but picking Nicholson over him feels particularly wrong. Nicholson, by all means, gives a terrific performance — but it's not the best of his career. Pacino, however, is at his apex in "Dog Day Afternoon." He puts an immense amount of heart and empathy into Wortzik, toeing the line between hero and anti-hero in a story full of still-timely commentary. Pacino eventually won best actor for his performance in "Scent of a Woman," but it should have never come to that. His turn as Wortzik is one of the most emotional lead roles of the last 50 years. The fact that he lost the Oscar for it is still baffling.

Audrey Hepburn - 1964

George Cukor's "My Fair Lady" dominated the 37th Academy Awards. It won eight trophies over the course of the night, including the ones for best picture, best actor, and best director. Absent from the ceremony, however, was Audrey Hepburn, who wasn't nominated for best actress for her portrayal of Eliza Doolittle. Admittedly, this snub is controversial. Hepburn's singing required overdubbing from Marni Nixon, and she had to speak publicly on why she took the role over Julie Andrews (per Express.co.uk.) From 1956 to 1959, Andrews played Eliza in the Broadway production of the musical. She wasn't given the role in the film because Warner Bros. executive Jack Warner declared that Hepburn would bring in more money at the box office. In the end, Andrews would win best actress at the 37th Academy Awards for her turn as the titular character in "Mary Poppins."

Hepburn had already won an Oscar for her role as Princess Ann in 1953's "Roman Holiday, but leaving her off the nomination bill in 1965 feels calculated and intentional. How a movie can win eight Oscars, including best actor, without garnering a best actress nomination for the star of the film, can only be explained by the unpopularity of Hepburn getting the role over the mystical Andrews, who was nominated for a Tony Award for "My Fair Lady" in 1957.

Jack Nicholson - 1980

There is no world in which Jack Nicholson could have won best actor in 1981. Robert De Niro won the trophy for his portrayal of Jake LaMotta in "Raging Bull," which still stands as the best performance of his career. But Nicholson's omission from the nomination field is still unsettling.

As Jack Torrance in Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining," Nicholson gives one of the most sinister performances in horror movie history. Yet the Academy failed to give Nicholson props for translating Stephen King's character for the silver screen. Nicholson won best actor five years prior for "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and would win best supporting actor in 1984 for "Terms of Endearment." But snubbing "The Shining" still stands as an insult. Nicholson harnesses Torrance's soul and makes him as menacing as he is hopelessly out of control. Few leading turns in horror films have ever been as good, and it remains a travesty that Nicholson couldn't garner a nomination, at the very least.

Glenn Close - 1987

Glenn Close has been nominated for eight Oscars since 1983 and won zero. She is regularly regarded as one of the greatest actresses without an Academy Award win. Though her performances in "The Big Chill," "Dangerous Liaisons," and "Albert Nobbs" are all terrific, her work in 1988's "Fatal Attraction" is what truly deserves a win.

Close plays Alex Forrest, an editor who becomes obsessed with a New York City lawyer after having an affair with him. The thriller was nominated for best picture, best director, best actress, best supporting actress, and best adapted screenplay. But the Academy picked Cher over Close for best actress, and in so doing, made one of their biggest mistakes. Cher's performance in "Moonstruck" is charming, wholesome, and one of the best romantic comedy roles of the 20th century. But Close transforms the cinematic architecture of "Fatal Attraction." Forrest is a powerful, intimidating, and utterly chilling woman. Hopefully, Close will nab her first Oscar soon — though it should have happened more than 30 years ago.

Ray Liotta - 1991

Of all the Oscar snubs ever made, the biggest regards Ray Liotta, who didn't garner a nomination for playing Henry Hill in "Goodfellas" at the 63rd Academy Awards. There is much to say about how "Goodfellas" was snubbed entirely: It failed to win best picture, best director, or best adapted screenplay, among other nominations. But Liotta wasn't even considered for best actor. It remains one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in Oscar history.

Jeremy Irons took home the trophy for playing Claus von Bulow in "Reversal of Fortune." Irons' performance is fine, but can you remember what "Reversal of Fortune" is about? Probably not. On the other hand, "Goodfellas" remains one of the greatest mob films ever made, and Liotta is at the epicenter of the chaos. No other actor nominated in 1991, including Kevin Costner, Robert De Niro, and Richard Harris, gave a better performance than Liotta. Joe Pesci won best supporting actor for playing Tommy DeVito in "Goodfellas," and Lorraine Bracco got a best supporting actress nomination for playing Karen Hill. But Liotta's omission still stings — especially since the Golden Globes also failed to nominate him.

Pam Grier - 1998

Pam Grier was a titan of 1970s film. 23 years after she scored acclaim for "Foxy Brown," Quentin Tarantino tapped her to play the titular character in 1997's "Jackie Brown." Brown is a flight attendant who smuggles money for an arms dealer. After she gets busted by detectives, she must decide whether to become an informant, go to prison, or make off with the cash she smuggled. Grier absolute electrifies this movie, delivering an honest, charming, and A-list-worthy performance.

But Grier was left off the 70th Academy Awards' nomination list. Instead, Helena Bonham Carter, Helen Hunt, Julie Christie, Judi Dench, and Kate Winslet were put up for best actress, with Hunt taking home the hardware for her performance as Carol in "As Good as It Gets." Grier not getting acknowledged hurts, especially since she put forth a better performance than every nominee. Jackie Brown is one of Tarantino's best characters, and no other actress could have played the role. It's a shame that the Academy failed to recognize just how career-defining the performance is, especially since her co-star Robert Forster scored a best supporting actor nomination.

Adam Sandler - 2003

If you're only familiar with Adam Sandler's comedies, you're probably not surprised to learn that he hasn't been nominated for an Oscar. However, his performances in "Uncut Gems," "The Meyerowitz Stories," "Reign Over Me," and "Punch-Drunk Love" prove his dramatic chops. Paul Thomas Anderson's "Punch-Drunk Love" was completely shut out of the 75th Academy Awards, which is a mistake in its own right. Sandler not garnering a best actor nomination for what is probably the best performance of his entire career is a complete shame.

2003 was the year Adrien Brody won for "The Pianist," which is fine. But Jack Nicholson getting nominated for the abysmal "About Schmidt" over Sandler grates. Nicholson is a great actor, but it's hard to believe he was nominated for any reason other than the fact that his name has become synonymous with the ceremony itself, given his many nominations. As Barry Egan, a socially anxious businessman who wants to find love, Sandler channels his absurd wit into a sublime character. There's an argument to be made that Sandler was snubbed again for his performance in "Uncut Gems," but his role in "Punch-Drunk Love" garnering him love from the Golden Globes but not the Oscars still cuts deep.

Scarlett Johansson - 2004

Scarlett Johansson has been nominated twice at the Oscars for her performances in "Marriage Story" and "Jojo Rabbit." However, in 2004, Johansson was snubbed for her breakout role in Sofia Coppola's brilliant "Lost in Translation." It's one of the biggest best actress snubs of the 21st century.

"Lost in Translation" was nominated for four Oscars: best picture, best actor, best director, and best original screenplay. It won for screenplay, and you can argue that Bill Murray should have won best actor. However, the Academy's omission of Johansson's beautiful performance as Yale graduate Charlotte is a critical misfire. This was the year that Charlize Theron won best actress for "Monster," which is a good victory. However, to say that Diane Keaton's performance in "Something's Gotta Give" was better than Johansson's in "Lost in Translation" is outlandish. If Keaton's Oscars legacy vaulted her over Johansson, it's one of the Academy Awards' most foolishly self-centered moments.

Jim Carrey - 2005

Clint Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby" dominated the 2005 Oscars. In contrast, Michel Gondry's "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" only took home one Oscar, for best original screenplay. There's an argument to be made that it should have won best picture, but the movie's omission in another category actually feels like an even greater oversight. Jim Carrey, who absolutely dazzles as Joel Barish, was left off the nomination card entirely. Frustratingly, the best actor category wasn't brimming with great talent. Jamie Foxx won for his portrayal of Ray Charles in "Ray," which was earned. But nominating Johnny Depp for his performance as J.M. Barrie in "Finding Neverland" was an outrageous decision. 

It doesn't help that Carrey was also snubbed years earlier for his work on "The Truman Show." But beyond anything else, his performance in "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" is one of towering hope, charm, and depth. Like Adam Sandler, Carrey's comedic work overshadows his more serious roles, which is a huge shame. Joel Barish is one of his greatest-ever dramatic turns, and he has no Oscar recognition to show for it.

Gabourey Sidibe - 2010

The 82nd Academy Awards didn't contain many surprises. "The Hurt Locker" took home the most awards, including best picture, while Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock took home best actor and best actress. This slate would have been a lot less boring if it had honored the best performance of 2009: Gabourey Sidibe's portrayal of Claireece "Precious" Jones in Lee Daniels' heart-wrenching drama, "Precious." Sidibe's co-star Mo'Nique won best supporting actress, thankfully, but snubbing Sidibe is still unforgivable. Moreover, "Precious" should have also taken home best picture. There is no comparing Bullock's performance to Sidibe's: The former is a Disney-esque exercise in whitewashing, while the latter is a stirringly emotional portrait of a young Black woman trying to escape lifelong poverty and abuse.

Sidibe was an unknown actress at the time, and "Precious" was her first feature film. Few actresses have ever taken home the gold for their debut role. Still, Sidibe should be among that small pool of powerhouse names.

Chadwick Boseman - 2021

After posthumously winning a Critic's Choice, SAG, and Golden Globe award for his performance as Levee Green in "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," Chadwick Boseman seemed like a shoe-in for best actor at the 93rd Academy Awards. But then, Anthony Hopkins took home the statue for his role in "The Father." This sparked backlash (per The Hollywood Reporter). Boseman was the overwhelming favorite to win the award, and Hopkins did not even attend the ceremony. Producers even chose to announce best actor last, rather than best picture. Perhaps this was done to allow Boseman's family to accept the award in a touching conclusion. Instead, Joaquin Phoenix accepted the Oscar on Hopkins' behalf, and the night ended on an awkward note.

Hopkins' performance in "The Father" is great, but the question of whether or not it deserves an Oscar is not the issue. Boseman's posthumous awards circuit successes suggested he would become the third actor to win a posthumous Academy Award. The show assiduously milked these expectations. Moreover, Boseman's turn in "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" is spectacular. All the necessary boxes for a grand curtain call were checked ... but fans got nothing but an underwhelming finish.

Amy Adams - 2016

The 89th Academy Awards ceremony was one for the books. Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty mistakenly announced "La La Land" as the best picture winner over "Moonlight" (per CNN), and "Suicide Squad" somehow won an Oscar before the night's end. But the biggest gaffe typically goes unspoken: The Academy's snubbing of Amy Adams for best actress.

In Denis Villeneuve's sci-fi epic "Arrival," Adams plays Louise Banks, a linguist who must discover how to communicate with aliens who've come to Earth. Adams brings immense humanity to the role. Emma Stone's win is justified, but Adams' performance easily trumps those of Natalie Portman, Meryl Streep, and Ruth Negga.

Adams is no stranger to Oscars night. She's been nominated for best actress six times since 2006, but hasn't won yet. Her performances in "The Fighter," "The Master," and "American Hustle" are all incredible, but her turn in "Arrival" is her very best work. She did garner a Golden Globe nomination for the performance, but failed to win that one as well. On cinema's biggest night, Adams' contributions were overlooked.