In the glamorous realm of Hollywood, the Academy Award stands as the ultimate actor’s achievement. While many have been fortunate to hoist the coveted Oscar statuette, a pool of immensely talented individuals has yet to clinch this pinnacle of achievement. Here is a list of those talents (with a couple of recent winners who deserved one much sooner).
1. Johnny Depp
A Nightmare on Elm Street marked Depp’s first film role. But many remember him from the show 21 Jumpstreet. Nonetheless, his chameleon-like ability has since mastered a multitude of characters, from Edward Scissorhands to Jack Sparrow, from Sweeney Todd to Ichabod Crane, and everything in between; Depp brings depth to his roles. Some Oscar-worthy performances include his roles in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and as director Ed Wood.
2. Tom Cruise
Regardless of his ties to the cult of Scientology that keep many people away, there is no contesting that Tom Cruise is a sensational actor who has mastered the craft. Despite his many nominations, it’s a pity that he has yet to secure an Oscar win.
Before he was Jack Reacher and Mission Impossible’s Ethan Hunt, Cruise gave us a dynamite performance as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in Top Gun. A role he revived in Top Gun: Maverick. Some notable performances come from films including Jerry Maguire, A Few Good Men, and Rain Man. I’d suggest that playing Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder entirely made that film.
3. Samuel L. Jackson
I’ll never understand how Samuel L. Jackson’s performances in the films Pulp Fiction and A Time to Kill didn’t secure Oscar wins. Jackson has also blessed the Star Wars fandom with Mace Windu and the Marvel fandom with Nick Fury.
Many fans appreciate his performance in Django Unchained (I have not seen it), but he has an iconic death scene in one of my favorite cheesy films Deep Blue Sea.
4. Ralph Fiennes
Ralph Fiennes’ embodiment of convoluted characters, such as the chilling Amon Goeth in Schindler’s List to the inscrutable M. Gustave in The Grand Budapest Hotel, has showcased his exceptional talent.
The first role I watched Fiennes in was as a psychopath in Red Dragon, and he played it so convincingly that when I saw him next as a leading love interest in Maid in Manhattan, I could not move past it. Still, he has yet to secure an Oscar despite being nominated for his performances in The English Patient and Schindler’s List.
5. Ian McKellen
Ian McKellen is probably most recognized for his roles as Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies and Magneto in the X-Men films, securing his status as a pop culture icon. While he hasn’t had an Oscar win, he was nominated for his role in Gods and Monsters.
Other notable performances include Sir Leigh Teabing in The Da Vinci Code, Sherlock Holmes in Mr. Holmes, and Cogsworth in the live-action adaptation of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
6. Bill Murray
Bill Murray has crushed it in many notable comedy films, including Rushmore, Scrooged, Meatballs, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, and Caddyshack. However, my favorite of all time is him taking his “Baby steps” in What About Bob? While Murray was nominated for Best Actor in 2004 for his performance in Lost in Translation, he lost to Sean Penn in Mystic River.
7. Liam Neeson
Liam Neeson rose to stardom, starring in Schindler’s List in the titular role of Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist who saved the lives of 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust. He was nominated for Best Actor for the performance but lost to Tom Hanks in Philadelphia.
He has since dominated the action genre as Bryan Mills in the Taken series and films like The Grey, The Ice Road, and Honest Thief. I adore him in the holiday favorite Love Actually. He was also the only part of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace that I enjoyed playing Qui-Gon Jinn.
8. Willem Dafoe
“Can Spider-Man come out to play!?” I Love Willem Dafoe as The Green Goblin from the Toby Maguire Spider-Man Spider-verse. Willem Dafoe is a legend with incredible range and a captivating presence. Give this man an Oscar already. Some of his notable roles are in films including The Light House, Platoon, John Wick, The Boondock Saints, An Eternity’s Gate, and The Hunter.
9. Edward Norton
I’ve most recently watched Edward Norton in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, and he never fails to impress me. Nevertheless, his legendary performances in cult classics like Fight Club and American History X have proven his Oscar-worthiness.
How this remarkable actor hasn’t won an Oscar yet is beyond me. Other notable performances are The Grand Budapest Hotel, Moonrise Kingdom, Primal Fear, and Birdman.
10. Hugh Jackman
Hugh Jackman was nominated for Best Actor for Les Misérables but ultimately lost to Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln. While many people know him best as Wolverine from The X-Men fandom, he’s also starred in notable roles, including Kate & Leopold, The Greatest Showman, The Son, Bad Education, Prisoners, and The Prestige.
11. Bradley Cooper
Bradley Cooper is hilarious in several films, including Wedding Crashers, The A-Team, and The Hangover franchise. But he’s had some serious performances that have garnered Oscar nominations but not an Oscar win.
Some include Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, American Sniper, and A Star Is Born with Lady Gaga. Notably, Bradley Cooper voices Rocket Racoon from The Guardians of the Galaxy in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The third film centers around his character and requires tissues. So good.
12. Ethan Hawke
Ethan Hawke has received Oscar nominations for outstanding performances in Training Day, Before Sunset, Before Midnight, and Boyhood. However, he has yet to secure a win.
Hawke is also incredible in Great Expectations, White Fang, Dead Poets Society, The Black Phone, and Sinister. The latter is one of the creepiest scary films ever. It stays with you. And while I know it’s not popular, I love him in the 2005 remake of Assault on Precinct 13.
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Elizabeth Ervin is the owner of Sober Healing. She is a freelance writer passionate about opioid recovery and has celebrated breaking free since 09-27-2013. She advocates for mental health awareness and encourages others to embrace healing, recovery, and spirituality.