Have you ever heard that pity-inducing saying “always the bridesmaid, never a bride”? Well, every awards season, a slightly amended version of that becomes a nightmarish reality for a ton of celebs: always the nominee, but never the winner. In all the excitement of red carpets, acceptance speeches, awards show gaffes and shock wins, it’s easy to forget that there’s a whole crowd of people who end up going home from the Academy Awards empty-handed. Just look at Leonardo DiCaprio: before his 2016 Best Actor win for The Revenant, he’d been nominated five times without success. We’d started to wonder if poor Leo would ever get his time to shine.
In fact, a whole host of famous faces have never had their name read out from that all-important card. Despite being some of the biggest names in Hollywood, they’ve never been able to translate their success into actual Oscars. Spare a thought for these surprising award-less actors and actresses. Will 2018 be their year? Who knows…
1. Amy Adams
A-List actress Amy Adams has received five Academy Awards nominations, but not a single prize. Despite delivering incredible performances in movies like Junebug, Doubt, and American Hustle, she’s yet to be recognized by the Academy for her achievements. In fact, she’s one of Hollywood’s most prolific unsuccessful nominees. She’s won just two of the seven Golden Globes she’s been nominated for and has failed to win six prestigious British Academy Film Awards. But… how? She’s such a good actress! She seems like a genuinely nice person too! Can’t somebody just give Adams an award for being a great human? To be fair, she probably doesn’t mind her lack of wins too much: she’s still one of the highest paid actresses in the world. Who needs statues when your films have grossed over $4.7 billion worldwide?
2. Tom Cruise
Sure, Tom Cruise may not be the best classically-trained actor in the world, but he’s been a huge star for decades now. How has he not won a single Academy Award yet? Despite being nominated for three, he’s yet to win a single one. To be fair, the last time Cruise was nominated was in 2000, and his standing in the film industry has declined since then. While he’s still churning out cheesy action film after cheesy action film, Cruise’s outspoken and often aggressive support of the Church of Scientology has made him a somewhat controversial figure. It also doesn’t help that Cruise is a good actor who chronically stars in bad films that all have identical plots. It’s a real curse.
3. Emily Blunt
Emily Blunt’s filmography is basically a list of highly successful and much-loved films. The Devil Wears Prada, The Young Victoria, Looper, The Girl On The Train… She’s acted in them all, and done a pretty good job of it too. However, despite her immense success and numerous awards from other boards, Blunt is yet to even be nominated for an Academy Award, let alone win one. It’s a total travesty! Who else could have nailed the role of Miranda Priestly’s long-suffering assistant Emily? Not many actresses could have sung and acted so well in Into The Woods, and Blunt’s performance in The Girl On The Train was chillingly wonderful. Get it together, Academy! Give Emily the recognition she deserves!
4. John Travolta
Despite being one of the world’s best-known actors since the 1970s, John Travolta hasn’t bagged an Academy Award just yet. He’s been nominated for two, becoming the fifth-youngest Best Actor nominee in history when Saturday Night Fever hit screens in 1977. However, he didn’t even manage to bring home the gong for Pulp Fiction, arguably one of his best films. It’s not like Travolta has stayed out of the spotlight or cut down on work. He’s still incredibly active in the industry and has two films coming out this year. Maybe he’s just been unlucky: after all, he’s only won one Golden Globe out of seven nominations. Oh well – there’s still time for him yet!
5. Gary Oldman
Out of everyone on this list, Gary Oldman’s status as serial Academy Award avoider is the most likely to change. While nothing is certain, it’s highly likely he’ll be recognized this year for his role as Winston Churchill in war movie Darkest Hour. If Oldman does win, it’ll put an end to nearly forty years of waiting for an Oscar! Despite being one of the industry’s most well-regarded and successful actors, this year’s Oscar nomination is only Oldman’s second. While he couldn’t quite clinch the Best Actor win for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy in 2012, Oldman has never been bitter about his lack of Academy Awards. In fact, he’s publically praised the ceremony as the only one that matters, frequently calling the rival Golden Globe Awards a total waste of time. Well, at least he’s honest about his feelings…
6. Glenn Close
Despite her difficult start in life, Glenn Close has gone on to become one of Hollywood’s most successful stars. She didn’t begin her acting career until she reached her twenties for the strangest of reasons: until then, she was trapped in a cult that her family supported. However, Close didn’t let that stop her, and is now widely acclaimed in her field. She’s received no less than six Academy Award nominations: three for Best Supporting Actress, and three for Best Actress. The fact she’s won none of them is frankly a travesty. Okay, losing to Oscar-winning machine Meryl Streep in 2011 probably wasn’t much of a surprise, but missing out for Fatal Attraction in 1987? That must have been a bitter pill to swallow. Hopefully, the Academy will soon realize its error and give Close all the awards.
7. Michelle Pfeiffer
For someone who started out in the diabolical musical sequel Grease 2, Michelle Pfeiffer hasn’t done too badly. With movies like Scarface, Dangerous Liasons, and The Fabulous Baker Boys under her belt, she’s carved out a significant place in the film industry over the past forty years. However, despite garnering Academy Award nominations on three occasions, she’s yet to win one. Still, it’s not all bad: Pfeiffer still has a steady stream of movies being released, and will soon be joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Ant-Man and the Wasp. She was widely acclaimed for her role in the drama film The Wizard of Lies, gaining Emmy and Golden Globe nominations. We’re sure her Academy Award day will come.
8. Sir Ian McKellen
How on earth has Sir Ian McKellen never won an Oscar? He was literally knighted by the Queen of England for his services to the performing arts. Is that not good enough for the Academy?! Clearly not, since he hasn’t even been nominated for one since 2002. McKellen is a total legend of the acting world. He’s played the lead in countless Shakespeare plays both on stage and screen, won all of our hearts as Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings series, and most recently brought life to Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast. He’s a fervent gay rights activist and is part of the world’s most adorable bromance with Patrick Stewart. Can’t someone just give this man an Academy Award already? Two nominations with no wins simply isn’t enough!
9. Helena Bonham Carter
Best known to millennials as Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter films, Helena Bonham Carter has been one of Britain’s most eminent actresses for decades. Her long partnership with now ex-husband Tim Burton has given us such gems as Corpse Bride, Sweeney Todd, and Alice and Wonderland. She’s starred in Oscar-winning movies like The King’s Speech and Les Misérables. However, she’s yet to bag an Academy Award win herself. Bonham Carter has been nominated twice over the years, including for The King’s Speech, but with no success. It looks like that situation could stay the same for a while: the actress is most likely going to focus on TV work, having allegedly bagged the role of an older Princess Margaret in The Crown.
10. Jessica Chastain
Despite only really breaking into the mainstream acting scene in 2011, Jessica Chastain has made quite a name for herself. She’s famous for portraying strong-willed, feminist women, and is one of Hollywood’s most in-demand actresses. Despite starring in numerous critically acclaimed movies like Zero Dark Thirty, The Martian, Interstellar, and The Help, Chastain has received just two Academy Award nominations and no wins. She hasn’t had much better luck at the Golden Globes, having one win out of five nominations. Still, Chastain was one of Time’s 100 most influential people in the world back in 2012, so she’s probably not too upset. She doesn’t need golden statues to prove how successful she is!
11. Harrison Ford
That’s right: long-time Hollywood favorite and every mom’s heartthrob Harrison Ford has never won an Academy Award. That’s despite his major roles in the Indiana Jones series, the Star Wars saga, Blade Runner, Witness, The Fugitive… I could go on. In his fifty years in the acting business, Ford has received just one Academy Award nomination for his leading role in Witness. He’s criminally underrated by the Academy and other awards boards, despite being hugely popular especially in the sci-fi world. These days, Ford seems more focused on his aviation exploits than winning tons of awards. Just as long as he doesn’t crash his plane again… He’s also far too busy raising awareness of climate change and rolling his eyes at Donald Trump to care what the Academy thinks. Fair play to him!
12. Keira Knightley
Keira Knightley is one of those actresses who crops up in at least one blockbuster each year. Whether you fell in love with her Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice, enjoyed her swashbuckling turn as Elizabeth Swann in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, or have been a fan since her Love Actually days, you’ll have seen her in something. Despite this omnipotence, Knightley is yet to win an Academy Award. She’s come close on two occasions – for Pride and Prejudice and again in 2014 for The Imitation Game – but she’s never quite secured the win. Still, she’s got plenty of time to change that: being just 32, she doubtless has decades of success ahead of her in the acting business.
13. Naomi Watts
If Academy Awards were given out for pure effort and perseverance, Naomi Watts would surely have a dozen of them. Her road to acting success definitely wasn’t an easy one! For the first fifteen years of her career, Watts tried and failed to break into the Hollywood scene. She did numerous commercials, starred in soaps, and had a fair few minor film roles. However, her ascent to stardom didn’t come until her appearance in the 2001 psychological thriller Mulholland Drive. While Watts’s career has only strengthened since then, she’s yet to receive that coveted Best Actress gong. She’s been nominated twice in 2003 and 2012, but faced stiff competition from Charlize Theron and Jennifer Lawrence. While she’s currently focusing more on TV work, we’re sure her Oscar-winning day will come.
14. Bill Murray
Beloved Ghostbusters actor Bill Murray has a bit of a chequered history when it comes to Academy Awards. He’s been nominated for the Best Actor award once, back in 2004 for Lost in Translation. However, Murray raised eyebrows on the night for being a bit of a sore loser. When Sean Penn beat him to the award for his role in Mystic River, Bill was NOT pleased. The camera panned to his miserable and pretty pissed-off face, and things got even more awkward. Murray actually refused to applaud Penn as he collected the award. Since it’s Bill Murray we’re talking about, his sore losing could have been an act to make us laugh, right? Nope. He later confirmed that he really was pretty irate about losing and that his cold response was genuine. He hasn’t been nominated for an Academy Award since. Oh dear.
15. Michelle Williams
The multi-talented Michelle Williams has come a long way since her Dawson’s Creek days. She’s become a star of both stage and screen, with a Tony Award and a Golden Globe to her name. In her illustrious career so far, she’s starred in huge hits like Brokeback Mountain, Shutter Island, and Manchester By The Sea. However, despite her critically acclaimed skills and general success, she’s never won an Academy Award. Williams has received four nominations in her time, most recently last year. Everyone thought she’d get another one this year for All The Money In The World. However, the controversy surrounding co-star Kevin Spacey and subsequent reshoots led to the film being largely snubbed. It doesn’t seem fair that Williams should suffer due to the transgressions of a male colleague, but hey. That’s how the world works.
16. Benedict Cumberbatch
Since his meteoric rise to stardom upon Sherlock’s 2010 release, Benedict Cumberbatch has been one of Hollywood’s most in-demand stars. He’s bagged more lead roles in five years than most actors can hope for in a lifetime and shows no sign of slowing down. In his varied career, Cumberbatch has played kings, a codebreaker, a dragon, and a superhero. He’s starred in numerous critically-acclaimed movies. However, he’s yet to win an Academy Award. He’s been nominated once for his role as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game but lost out to fellow blockbuster-loving Brit Eddie Redmayne. It was thought Cumberbatch might bag another nomination this time around for his portrayal of Thomas Edison in The Current War, but that never materialized. Better luck next time, Benny.
17. Clint Eastwood
It seems strange that a Hollywood legend like Clint Eastwood would be Oscar-less in terms of his acting. He’s been in the business for over sixty years and is highly distinguished. He’s won five Academy Awards for his directing and producing. However, Eastwood is yet to clinch that all-important Best Actor award. He’s been nominated twice, just missing out on wins for his roles in Million Dollar Baby and Unforgiven. Sure, maybe hoping for ALL the awards would be a bit greedy. He does already have a fair few. Still, it’d be nice for him to have one of each in the Best Actor, Best Picture, and Best Director trio. Then again, at the age of 87, it might be time for Clint to wind down a bit.
Brad Pitt — Winner!
While Brad Pitt had won one Academy Award, it wasn’t for his acting skills: it was a Best Picture nod as the producer of Twelve Years A Slave. Acting-wise, he’s received three nominations but no wins. It’s surprising for an actor who’s been one of the most famous faces in the world since his 1991 breakout in Thelma and Louise! Pitt has starred in a load of successful films, including Fight Club, the Oceans series, and war movie Fury. However, his acting ability has been somewhat overshadowed by his headline-making personal life. Let’s face it: do you remember him more for his work, or for Brangelina? I think we all know the answer.
Fortunately as most people reading this know, Brad Pitt has now won an Oscar for Best Supporting role in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.