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Not that Oscars are necessarily the definition of quality actors (I’m looking at you, Cuba Gooding, Jr.). But the very best actors throughout time have taken home the golden statue at least once, sometimes two or three times in the case of people like Jack Nicholson, Tom Hanks, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Meryl Streep.
These actors, widely regarded as some of the best of their craft, have yet to win an Academy Award, despite multiple nominations. And at least three of the names on this list have a legitimate shot to conquer that mountain at this year’s Oscar presentation…
1. Glenn Close – It seems like Close has a couple of Oscars on her mantle, but that is not the case. Close had a major run in the mid-80s, being nominated five times in seven years, for The World According to Garp, The Big Chill, The Natural, Fatal Attraction, and Dangerous Liaisons. Her most recent nomination came in 2011 for Albert Nobbs, where she was a decided longshot. No doubt Close is still seeking that magical part.
2. Tom Cruise – It seems that Cruise is happy being one of the biggest action stars in the world these days, having jettisoned those challenging roles from earlier in his career that got him nominated for films like Born on The Fourth of July and Jerry Maguire. In 1999, Cruise was the favorite for Supporting Actor for his brilliant turn in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia, but Michael Caine pulled an upset, beating him out for The Cider House Rules.
3. Julianne Moore – Now we get to the first actor on this list with a chance to win this year, and Moore is a favorite to win for her role in Still Alice. Previously, Moore has been nominated for Boogie Nights, The End of The Affair, The Hours, and Far From Heaven. She was never as big a favorite in those years as she is going into the 2015 ceremony.
4. Harrison Ford – Ford is another action star first and foremost, and the megastar has rarely even sniffed an Oscar. His only nomination came in 1984 for the police drama Witness, which he would lose to William Hurt for Kiss of The Spider Woman. It is unlikely to see Ford take home an Oscar at this point in his career, aside from a lifetime achievement award.
5. Edward Norton – Now we get to #2 on the list of non-winners with a legitimate shot to fall off this list. Norton is nominated for his supporting role in Birdman, but J.K. Simmons in Whiplash seems to be the leader int he clubhouse for that award. Previously, Norton was nominated for American History X (which he should have won), and Primal Fear, which was his breakout performance.
6. Leonardo DiCaprio – This one is such a shock to many that it has picked up some steam as a running joke online. DiCaprio has been nominated five times, like Glenn Close, and has gone home empty handed five times. He has been nominated for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Blood Diamond, The Aviator, and last year for The Wolf of Wall St. Perhaps more staggering are the times he has been overlooked for even a nomination, like in the cases of The Departed, Django Unchained, and of course, Titanic.
7. Annette Bening – Bening has been quiet in recent years, but is still consistently great in front of the camera. She was nominated four times, for The Grifters, American Beauty, Being Julia, and The Kids Are All Right. Being still has plenty of time and plenty of talent to chase down that elusive golden statue.
8. Gary Oldman – America’s best character actor has become more of a prominent presence as a leading man in recent years, but surprisingly his compelling work has rarely been recognized by the Academy. His lone Oscar nomination came only a few years ago for his role in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, but was a long shot. Something tells me Oldman may work his way off this its in a few years.
9. Ed Harris – The indelible, magnetic Harris has never won an Oscar, despite always delivering the goods in his performances. He has gotten close a few ties, being nominated four ties for Apollo 13, The Truman Show, Pollock, and The Hours. Harris is still churning out solid work these days, so he may not last many more years on this list.
10. Sigourney Weaver – Weaver disappeared for a few years into obscure independent films but is beginning to pop up in a few more films in recent years. Weaver was the first woman to be nominated for an action role in 1986s Aliens, and followed up in 1988 with TWO nominations for Working Girl and Gorillas in The Mist, where she lost Geena Davis and Jodie Foster, respectively.
11. Ralph Fiennes – The accomplished thespian has been in everything from comedy to drama throughout his celebrated career. In 1993, Fiennes seemed to be a shoe in for Supporting Actor for Schindler’s List, but was shockingly upset by Tommy Lee Jones from The Fugitive. He was nominated once more, for The English Patient, but didn’t win. Surely, Fiennes has an Academy Award coming up in his future.
12. Michelle Pfeiffer – Another actress who has, sadly, disappeared from view in recent years. Pfeiffer grabbed three nominations in five years, from 1989-1993, for Dangerous Liaisons, The Fabulous Baker Boys, and Love Field. She was never truly close in any of those three years, but it would be nice to see Pfeiffer return to the screen and take a shot at the Oscar one more time.
13. Albert Finney – This name is probably lost on the younger crowd, but Albert Finney has been one of the best actors in Hollywood for decades. His five nominations span five decades. His first was in 1964 for Tom Jones, then Murder on The Orient Express, The Dresser, Under the Volcano, and most recently in 2001 for Erin Brockovich, where he lost to Benicio Del Toro for Traffic.
14. Michael Keaton – Finally, we get to the man who will, by all predictions, take home his first Oscar in his very first nomination. Keaton hasn’t always been in the best films throughout his career, but his talent and magnetism has shone through even the worst movies. This year, however, Keaton nabbed the perfect role in a great film, and Birdman should earn him the golden statue.
NOTE: Brad Pitt may belong on this list, but he did technically win an Oscar last year as a producer of 12 Years a Slave.