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Actors Who've Been Nominated For Multiple Oscars But Never Won

Every year at the Academy Awards, 20 actors are nominated across the four acting categories: Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress. Each year, only four of those 20 nominees can walk away victorious. Add up those nominees throughout well over 90 ceremonies and it becomes clear that there's a staggering number of Oscar-nominated actors who never walked home with a statue. During the long history of the Academy Awards, a unique class of Oscar-nominated actors has emerged. Specifically, these are performers who've managed to garner more than two Oscar nominations in their respective careers yet have never won an Oscar. 

The Academy is clearly aware of these actors — hence why they keep showing up as nominees — yet there's somehow not enough passion for them to secure a win. The performers in this subgroup include everyone from modern-day legends to vintage movie stars of the past. No matter what decade they delivered their iconic performances, they're all united in having the peculiar, but by no means disgraceful, honor of scoring a deluge of Oscar nominations but never securing an Academy Awards victory.

One note before going forward: this list only covers actors who've never secured an Oscar of any kind. Performers like Peter O'Toole who never won a proper acting Oscar but did later score an Honorary Award from the ceremony are not included here. 

Glenn Close

Arguably the most famous modern example of a performer who's secured countless Oscar nominations yet never scored a win is Glenn Close. Starting with a Best Supporting Actress nod for her work in "The World According to Garp," Close has secured a total of eight Academy Awards nominations. Even after a little over two decades of being snubbed by the ceremony, Close scored three further nominations over ten years, starting with a Best Actress nomination for "Albert Nobbs." Given how she's popular enough to secure constant nominations, it's more than a bit puzzling that Close hasn't received an Oscar win over the years.

It looked like Close would finally snag a victory in the Best Actress category for her work in "The Wife," but in a grand upset, she ended up losing that year to Olivia Coleman in "The Favourite" (via CNN). As for her other nominations, a key thing holding Close back is that several of her acting nods have often been for movies that didn't have much Oscar momentum beyond Close's performance. "Hillbilly Elegy," for example, was reviled despite getting Close a Best Supporting Actress nomination while "Albert Nobbs" only secured two other Oscar nominations beyond Close's lead work. Without a rising tide from a Best Picture frontrunner, for example, to lift up more of her nominated works, Close has often been left on the sidelines as an Oscar player.

Sigourney Weaver

Considering how often genre fare gets ignored by the Academy Awards, it's quite impressive that Sigourney Weaver scored her first-ever acting Oscar nomination for her second turn as Ellen Ripley in "Aliens." Normally, fighting off otherworldly monsters wouldn't be the kind of material the Academy Awards would gravitate to, but the sheer might and power of Weaver was impossible to ignore. Her time with the Oscars would not end there, though, as she managed to score two further acting nods — in one year, no less — for "Working Girl" and "Gorillas in the Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey," at the 61st Academy Awards.

That's an impressive three nominations, but this action movie icon has never won a statue, which isn't surprising. "Aliens" was already a trailblazer by getting the Academy's attention as a sci-fi movie. Actually winning an acting Oscar was asking too much. Meanwhile, Weaver having two nominations at the 61st Academy Awards (in the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories) likely split the attention span of awards voters. That opened the door for other performers to take home those prizes that year. Even if she's never scored an Oscar despite multiple nominations, though, Weaver's had no trouble cementing herself as a groundbreaking figure in the world of cinema.

Bradley Cooper

Bradley Cooper began his acting career as a fixture of fluffy comedies, but once he hit the ground running as a dramatic performer, the Academy Awards took notice. Cooper scored his first acting nod at the Oscars with his work in "Silver Linings Playbook," which began a streak of acting Oscar nominations for three consecutive years. After that streak ended, Cooper scored a fourth acting nomination by garnering a Best Actor nod for "A Star is Born." Cooper's even beloved enough by the Academy to secure five further Oscar nominations in non-acting categories, including four Best Picture nods for his producing work.

The Academy Awards love nominating Bradley Cooper almost as much as James Cameron loves digital 3D, so how come this former "All About Steve" leading man has never secured an Oscar? Most of it has come down to bad timing. Cooper's often been up for Academy Awards the same year another actor gains momentum for emulating an iconic real-world figure — a favorite tactic among Oscar voters. That "Silver Linings Playbook" Best Actor nomination, for instance, coincided with the year Daniel Day-Lewis was racing his way to a Best Actor win for "Lincoln." Similarly, Cooper's "A Star is Born" performance had to compete against Rami Malek in "Bohemian Rhapsody." Even if the timing has never worked out to assure Cooper a win, his number of nominations is still a staggering accomplishment. 

Woody Harrelson

Part of what makes Woody Harrelson such an enjoyable actor is his enduringly breezy vibe. He's perfectly capable of doing unforgettably intense performances, but often, Harrelson excels in playing nonchalant human beings who still manage to capture your attention. His overall persona is so relaxed that it can be easy to forget that he's secured multiple Oscar nominations. Harrelson has scored three Oscar nominations, starting with a Best Actor nod for his work in "The People vs. Larry Flynt." Since then, he's garnered additional Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominations for his performances in "The Messenger" and "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri." Harrelson doesn't show up at the Oscars ceremony every year, but he's still managed to regularly deliver remarkable performances that the Academy just can't ignore.

The reasons Harrelson has never won vary, but none of them are that scandalous. Sometimes, it's been as simple as Harrelson losing to a performance that was always guaranteed to win the Oscar, like his "The Messenger" work losing to Christoph Waltz in "Inglourious Basterds."  Meanwhile, for "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri," Harrelson was competing in Best Supporting Actor against fellow "Missouri" actor Sam Rockwell, and if there was anyone from that movie Oscar voters were going to support in this category, it was going to be Rockwell. Even with these recurring defeats, it's doubtful Harrelson and his iconic relaxed mental state ever pay them much mind.

Viggo Mortensen

Former "Lord of the Rings" leading man Viggo Mortensen has managed to secure three Best Actor Oscar nominations over the years. Interestingly, two of these are for very tiny indies and the third is for a very well-known Best Picture winner. The first of these nominations came for the David Cronenberg feature "Eastern Promises," the only Oscar nomination that crime thriller received. Nine years later, Mortensen returned to the Oscars with a Best Actor nomination for "Captain Fantastic," a small dramedy that also earned no other Academy Awards nominations. Mortensen's committed work as an actor is more than enough to help smaller-scale features get onto the radar of Academy Awards voters.

His most recent Oscar nomination came for a movie that didn't need any help garnering attention from the Academy. Mortensen was up for Best Actor for "Green Book," a movie that scored four further Oscar nods beyond Mortensen. The feature would go on to win three Oscars, including one for Best Picture, though Mortensen would go home empty-handed. Mortensen failing to secure any Academy Awards victories for "Green Book" can likely be chalked up to competing against Rami Malek in "Bohemian Rhapsody." His other two losses are due to "Eastern Promises" and "Captain Fantastic" just not being enough on people's radar to secure a major Oscars victory, though three nominations over 11 years are certainly nothing to sniff at.

Willem Dafoe

Ask a hundred people what their favorite Willem Dafoe performance is and you're bound to get a hundred different answers. Some will gravitate towards Dafoe's work as Norman Osborne/Green Goblin in the "Spider-Man" movies, while others will be devotees of his various turns in the works of Wes Anderson. Dafoe has gone all over the map in his career, with that artistic boldness allowing him to be excitingly unpredictable. No wonder he's managed to score a quartet of Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominations in his expansive career, with the first of these nods coming for his performance in "Platoon." Since then, Dafoe's scored a trio of further nominations in this category for the movies "Shadow of the Vampire," "The Florida Project," and "At Eternity's Gate."

Dafoe's inability to win for acting in a Best Picture Oscar winner like "Platoon" can be chalked up to the classic situation of two actors from the same movie showing up in the category. With Dafoe sharing that Best Supporting Actor category with "Platoon" co-star Tom Berenger, the duo was bound to split the vote and pave the way for Michael Caine to win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for "Hannah and her Sisters." Meanwhile, the other three movies Dafoe was nominated for didn't have much award-season love beyond his performance, with "Shadow of the Vampire" being the only movie of the trio to score an additional non-acting Oscar nod, thus robbing Dafoe of a chance to score a richly-deserved Oscar.

Claude Rains

Throw a rock at the cinematic landscape between 1939 and 1949 and you're bound to hit a beloved movie that featured a notable acting turn from Claude Rains. A British character actor, Rains managed to secure appearances in projects ranging from "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" to "Casablanca." Even after the 1940s came to a close, Rains extended his legacy by appearing in mid-20th-century classics like "Lawrence of Arabia." Rains has a filmography any actor would be jealous of, and his most acclaimed roles led to a whopping four Oscar nominations, all of them secured between 1940 and 1947.

Despite his notoriety and presence in Best Picture winner "Casablanca," Rains never did win an Academy Award. There doesn't appear to be anything too drastic informing the snubbing of Rains beyond classic Oscar unpredictability. For the year he was up for an Oscar for "Notorious," for instance, he, like so many others, was overlooked in favor of a nominee from the eventual Best Picture winner, "The Best Years of Our Lives." His first Oscar nomination for "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," meanwhile, saw him competing with a co-star from the same movie, in essence splitting the vote. These events ensured that the legendary Claude Rains never won an Oscar, but his legacy as a cinematic icon has been fully secured nonetheless.

Michelle Pfeiffer

Sitting down to watch a movie featuring Michelle Pfeiffer always comes with a certain degree of palpable excitement. Pfeiffer's performances are always unpredictable, even as she remains consistently dedicated. You never know what you're going to get with her, but you always know that, whatever she's playing, she's going to give the role everything she's got. This incredible quality in her work has powered a trio of performances that have each scored Oscar nominations. Pfeiffer's first Oscar nod came with a Best Supporting Actress nomination for the 1988 movie "Dangerous Liaisons," while she would quickly follow that award season victory with two further Best Actress Oscar nominations for The Fabulous Baker Boys" and "Love Field." 

An Oscar win has always eluded Pfeiffer, mostly because of bad timing. Each of her nominated performances was overwhelmed by turns from other, buzzier films, most notably when her "Baker Boys" Best Actress nomination lost to Jessica Tandy's turn in eventual Best Picture winner "Driving Miss Daisy." Meanwhile, the Oscar victories for "Dangerous Liaisons" were limited to the visuals and the writing, with Pfeiffer and fellow "Liaisons" acting nominee Glenn Close walking away without any Oscars. Still, even with no Academy Awards victories under her belt, Pfeiffer has endured as a reliably gutsy performer who can do anything and everything under the sun.

Ed Harris

For a little while there in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Ed Harris was a fixture of the Academy Awards. Harris has secured four Oscar nominations, with three of these four nods being in the Best Supporting Actor category. With movies ranging from "Apollo 13" to "The Hours," the Oscar nominations Harris has secured reflect his versatility as a performer and the creative hot streak he was in for nearly a decade in his career. Despite being nominated so many times, Harris never did win an Academy Award, with this streak of losses being partially due to how the movies Harris was nominated for didn't secure a ton of Oscars. "Apollo 13," for instance, only garnered two Oscar wins in below-the-line categories, with no victories for acting or Best Picture.

Similarly, "The Truman Show" didn't win any of the three Oscars that it was nominated for, while "Pollack," the movie that gave Harris his sole Best Actor Oscar nomination, was only up for one other Oscar, Best Supporting Actress (though Marcia Gay Harden did win in that category for "Pollock"). With none of the movies he was nominated for becoming unstoppable juggernauts in their Oscar wins, Harris never got the hype needed to clinch an Oscar win. Even without emerging victorious at the Academy Awards, though, scoring so many nominations in a brief period is a remarkable feat for Ed Harris.

Nick Nolte

Considering just how long Nick Nolte's been showing up in major movies, it's surprising to realize that it took until the 1990s for him to secure his first Oscar nomination. After garnering a Best Actor nod for "The Prince of Tides," Nolte would score two further nominations over the next two decades, one for Best Actor in "Affliction" and the other for Best Supporting Actor in "Warrior." 

Nolte's Oscar track record is impressive, though it's easy to see why he's never won an award for his work. This isn't a reflection on Nolte's Oscar-nominated performances being bad, but rather that his turns have often been overshadowed by other award-season darlings, including cast members from movies he appeared in. His Best Actor nod for "Affliction," for instance, was undoubtedly eclipsed in popularity by James Coburn's Oscar-winning supporting performance from the same movie. With all the hype surrounding Coburn in "Affliction," there was just no room for Nolte to break out.

Meanwhile, Nolte in "Warrior" had to go up against Christopher Plummer in "Beginners." Plummer securing his first-ever Oscar after being a notable presence in film since the 1950s was too good of an opportunity for voters to pass on, thus sealing Nolte's fate as an also-ran that year. Securing three Oscar nominations is still a remarkable accomplishment and a testament to how much of an impact Nolte has left on pop culture over his lengthy career.

Albert Finney

If there's any name on this list that's especially surprising to see, it has to be Albert Finney. This man was nominated five times throughout his staggering career, four of which were in the Best Actor category while his final nomination was in Best Supporting Actor. Finney's lack of an Oscar is especially shocking given that he headlined a movie that won the Academy Award for Best Picture, "Tom Jones." Apparently, the Academy loved that British feature, but just didn't feel as passionate about its leading man. His further nominations would see him getting recognized for anchoring further Best Picture nominees like "The Dresser" and "Erin Brockovich." 

Part of the issue with Finney may have just been that his performances occurred in movies that didn't score many Oscar victories to begin with, considering "The Dresser" won none of the five categories it was nominated for and "Erin Brockovich" only won one. Finney just tended to show up in motion pictures that were invited to the Academy Awards but, save for "Tom Jones," weren't given an avalanche of statues. Even with none of his five Oscar nominations resulting in a win, it's doubtful Finney was fixated on these snubs. With a career so lengthy and influential, he didn't need Oscar wins to seal his fate as a legendary performer.

Edward Norton

Edward Norton isn't just "a truth-teller," he's also an actor whose been nominated for three Academy Awards. Two of those, his nods for "Primal Fear" and "American History X," came when he was first breaking out as a leading man in the late 1990s, with these Oscar nominations reflecting just how much hype Norton had cultivated in a short amount of time. His third nomination would come roughly 15 years later in the form of a Best Supporting Actor nod for his work in "Birdman." It's no surprise that this Alejandro González Iñárritu movie secured Norton's return to the Academy Awards, given just how many nominations were bestowed upon this eventual Best Picture winner. 

Norton's acting chops are clearly on the radar of the Academy, but why hasn't he won for any of these performances? Part of the issue is that he's been very public about how he's not interested in Hollywood, with this detachment extending to open critiques on how award season itself operates (per IndieWire). His comments and complaints raise very valid points about how award season can suffocate challenging works in repetitive promotional blitzes. However, that kind of candor, combined with his controversial on-set persona in films like "American History X" (per The Guardian), has likely alienated viewers away from making him their first choice when it comes time for Oscar voting.

Mark Ruffalo

Various film genres and types of roles seem to resonate with Academy Awards voters more than others. Mark Ruffalo's trio of Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominations indicate that one type of role the awards body really gravitates towards is performances that have a sense of timely urgency to them. Ruffalo's acting is often defined by crusading for the little guy or highlighting severe societal problems hiding in plain sight. That's certainly the perfect way to describe his work in "Spotlight" as a reporter trying to crack the story about the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal. His two other nominations, for "The Kids Are All Right" and "Foxcatcher," are a bit different, though the latter still simmers with resentment towards injustices perpetuated by the rich and powerful.

Ruffalo is so often calling people to action on the silver screen, so how come his performances haven't been enough to get Oscar voters to leap into a frenzy? The problems vary greatly from film to film, with the rampant darkness of "Foxcatcher" likely being why it lost all five Oscars it was up for, while "The Kids Are All Right" was first and foremost a comedy, a genre infamously overlooked by the Academy (as The Atlantic points out). His "Spotlight" turn, meanwhile, got the cold shoulder when that year's Best Supporting Actor race turned into a duel between Mark Rylance and Sylvester Stallone. At least Ruffalo hasn't let these Oscar losses dilute his fiery on-screen persona.

Michelle Williams

If you want to truly appreciate how staggering a career Michelle Williams has had, just look at her Oscar-nominated performances and realize what iconic turns didn't get Oscar love. These nominated performances are already a murderer's row of acting credits, yet they still don't include outstanding work in movies like "Wendy and Lucy," "Take This Waltz," and "Synecdoche, New York." Williams has a towering list of credits to her name and any other actor would kill to have just one Oscar-nominated performance like her brief but unforgettable work in "Manchester by the Sea" under their belt. Yet, despite knocking homeruns each time she steps up to bat (she even exudes a sense of cheeseball fun in her "Venom" performances), Williams has somehow never won an Oscar. That's despite getting a combined five nominations across the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories.

Her lack of wins can be partially chalked up to Williams often just getting overwhelmed by competing performances that dominate the award season conversation, such as her "Blue Valentine" and "Manchester by the Sea" performances getting overshadowed by Natalie Portman in "Black Swan" and Viola Davis in "Fences," respectively. No actor, not even one of Michelle Williams' caliber, could overcome those kinds of unstoppable award-season players. While it seems inevitable that she'll eventually score an Oscar win, this performer doesn't need a tiny statue to be known as an acting legend.

Amy Adams

Close your eyes and picture what an Amy Adams performance looks like to you. Some might immediately go for her lightheartedly lyrical work as Princess Giselle in "Enchanted." Another might be taken by her quietly commanding performance as Peggy Dodd in "The Master." Then there are those moved to tears just thinking of her vulnerable work in "Arrival." From "Catch Me If You Can" to "Her" to "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian," Amy Adams grabs your attention and keeps on redefining your expectations of what she's capable of as a performer. Unsurprisingly, that kind of talent has led her to plenty of awards recognition, securing six Oscar nominations starting with a Best Supporting Actress nod for her work in the 2005 indie "Junebug." 

However, none of those half-dozen nods have led to a win, a turn of events so inexplicable that it's inspired essays from outlets like The Ringer demanding that Adams finally be given a statue. Across those six nominations, a variety of factors have converged to ensure that she's never won, including her loss in 2014 for "American Hustle," a movie that failed to win any of the ten categories it was nominated in. Adams has also often been dwarfed in buzz by her own co-stars, as when her "The Fighter" nomination was overshadowed by eventual Oscar-winning performances from Christian Bale and Melissa Leo. It's a crime she's never won, but that injustice can't dilute the unstoppable power of Amy Adams.