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10 Oscar-Worthy Performances That Didn’t Get A Nomination

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For many actors, an Academy Award win constitutes the apogee of their careers – but for every actor that takes home the famous statuette, there are countless more that, despite turning in once-in-a-lifetime performances, don’t even get a nomination. Here are ten unmissable performances that should have gotten more love at the Oscars.

10. Gene Wilder, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Timothée Chalomet’s soon-to-be-revealed portrayal may yet surprise us all, but until then, you have to go to the 1971 adaptation for the definitive Wonka, for which Wilder bagged a Golden Globe nomination, but no Oscar. Wilder is equal parts playfulness and sinisterness as the eccentric factory owner who takes the penniless Golden Ticket holder Charlie Bucket under his wing.

9. Michelle Yeoh, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Before Yeoh received a deserved Academy Award earlier this year for her work in Everything Everywhere All At Once, there was the small matter of her imperious performance in Ang Lee’s 2000 classic. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon walked off with four Academy Awards, but from the major award ceremonies, Yeoh received nothing but a BAFTA nomination for her work as Yu Shu Lien, whose work with Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun Fat) means their love for one another remains unrequited. The movie’s breathless fight scenes have yet to be bettered.

8. Jim Carrey, The Truman Show

Having come to prominence in Hollywood for his out-there comedy performances in movies such as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994) and Batman Forever (1995), by the late 1990s Carrey was looking for a chance to show his range. He got it in Peter Weir’s 1998 comedy drama The Truman Show, and while Carrey’s comedic chops get a chance to shine through, the really affecting scenes are his two-handers with his so-called wife and best friend, not to mention the extraordinary final scenes, in which Truman discovers that his entire life has been lived on a gigantic television set.

7. Jonathan Pryce, Regeneration

Before he came to wider attention in films such as Tomorrow Never Dies and the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Pryce already had a great deal of A-lister work under his belt, including collaborations with Terry Gilliam on Brazil (1995) and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1998). But Pryce also acted in a number of high-quality low-budget dramas through the 1980s and 1990s. 1997’s Regeneration is the pick of the bunch: a tragic First World War drama about the famous war poets Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. Pryce gives a pitch-perfect performance as the progressive-minded doctor who treats Owen and many other wounded soldiers for shellshock – and, in the process, begins to suffer from the same symptoms. An Academy Award nom finally came his way for his work opposite Anthony Hopkins in 2019’s The Two Popes.

6. Chiwetel Ejiofor, Red Dust

Years before his Academy Award nomination for 12 Years A Slave, Chiwetel Ejiofor’s quality was obvious. In 2004’s Red Dust, Ejiofor plays Alex, a South African politician who was tortured during the apartheid era. With able support from Hilary Swank and excellent direction from Tom Hooper in his feature film debut, Ejiofor delivers an unmissable performance that laid bare the terrible injustices of apartheid, and the power of forgiveness.

5. James Earl Jones, Field of Dreams

1989’s Field of Dreams is compelling from start to finish, but while Kevin Costner’s troubled relationship with his father forms the backbone of the plot, it is James Earl Jones’ magisterial performance as 1960s activist-turned-recluse Terrence Mann that is the undisputed highlight of the film. Jones nails each and every line reading, and his transformation from cynical ex-hippy to true believer in the transcendent power of the baseball diamond is an absolute joy to watch.

4. Andy Serkis, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

In Tolkien fandom, it’s taken for granted that Serkis was robbed of an Academy Award on a technicality. As everyone who has seen Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy knows, Andy Serkis’ face is never visible during his work as Gollum – clever CGI rendered the tortured creature’s features on screen – but Serkis’ inhabitation of the role via the then novel technology of motion capture is absolute.

3. James Dean, Rebel Without A Cause

Dean received Academy Award nominations for both East of Eden (1955) and Giant (1956), but his arguably finest role – as leather-clad teenage delinquent Jim Stark in 1955’s Rebel Without A Cause – was ignored by the Academy. Dean’s ease in front of the camera, and his insouciant line readings, still shine through almost 70 years later.

2. Bruno Ganz, Downfall

Swiss actor Bruno Ganz did a little work in Hollywood during his later years, including an impressive supporting role as a university professor in The Reader (2008), but it’s his mesmerizing work as Adolf Hitler in the Academy Award-nominated Downfall (2004) for which he is chiefly remembered in English-speaking countries. Ganz’ faultless performance encapsulated the mood swings and fragile grasp on reality that characterized the Nazi leader’s final days to perfection.

1. Björk, Dancer In The Dark

Only the Icelandic singer’s second foray into acting, Björk’s turn as the Czech immigrant Selma, whose encroaching blindness compromises her ability to care for her son, in 2000’s Dancer In The Dark is all the more remarkable for the fact it resulted from an exceptionally troubled working relationship with Danish auteur Lars von Trier. But her committed, naturalistic performance, which won the Best Actress award at Cannes, remains as utterly compelling now as it was then.


For many actors, an Academy Award win constitutes the apogee of their careers – but for every actor that takes home the famous statuette, there are countless more that, despite turning in once-in-a-lifetime performances, don’t even get a nomination. Here are ten unmissable performances that should have gotten more love at the Oscars.

10. Gene Wilder, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Timothée Chalomet’s soon-to-be-revealed portrayal may yet surprise us all, but until then, you have to go to the 1971 adaptation for the definitive Wonka, for which Wilder bagged a Golden Globe nomination, but no Oscar. Wilder is equal parts playfulness and sinisterness as the eccentric factory owner who takes the penniless Golden Ticket holder Charlie Bucket under his wing.

9. Michelle Yeoh, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Before Yeoh received a deserved Academy Award earlier this year for her work in Everything Everywhere All At Once, there was the small matter of her imperious performance in Ang Lee’s 2000 classic. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon walked off with four Academy Awards, but from the major award ceremonies, Yeoh received nothing but a BAFTA nomination for her work as Yu Shu Lien, whose work with Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun Fat) means their love for one another remains unrequited. The movie’s breathless fight scenes have yet to be bettered.

8. Jim Carrey, The Truman Show

Having come to prominence in Hollywood for his out-there comedy performances in movies such as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994) and Batman Forever (1995), by the late 1990s Carrey was looking for a chance to show his range. He got it in Peter Weir’s 1998 comedy drama The Truman Show, and while Carrey’s comedic chops get a chance to shine through, the really affecting scenes are his two-handers with his so-called wife and best friend, not to mention the extraordinary final scenes, in which Truman discovers that his entire life has been lived on a gigantic television set.

7. Jonathan Pryce, Regeneration

Before he came to wider attention in films such as Tomorrow Never Dies and the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Pryce already had a great deal of A-lister work under his belt, including collaborations with Terry Gilliam on Brazil (1995) and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1998). But Pryce also acted in a number of high-quality low-budget dramas through the 1980s and 1990s. 1997’s Regeneration is the pick of the bunch: a tragic First World War drama about the famous war poets Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. Pryce gives a pitch-perfect performance as the progressive-minded doctor who treats Owen and many other wounded soldiers for shellshock – and, in the process, begins to suffer from the same symptoms. An Academy Award nom finally came his way for his work opposite Anthony Hopkins in 2019’s The Two Popes.

6. Chiwetel Ejiofor, Red Dust

Years before his Academy Award nomination for 12 Years A Slave, Chiwetel Ejiofor’s quality was obvious. In 2004’s Red Dust, Ejiofor plays Alex, a South African politician who was tortured during the apartheid era. With able support from Hilary Swank and excellent direction from Tom Hooper in his feature film debut, Ejiofor delivers an unmissable performance that laid bare the terrible injustices of apartheid, and the power of forgiveness.

5. James Earl Jones, Field of Dreams

1989’s Field of Dreams is compelling from start to finish, but while Kevin Costner’s troubled relationship with his father forms the backbone of the plot, it is James Earl Jones’ magisterial performance as 1960s activist-turned-recluse Terrence Mann that is the undisputed highlight of the film. Jones nails each and every line reading, and his transformation from cynical ex-hippy to true believer in the transcendent power of the baseball diamond is an absolute joy to watch.

4. Andy Serkis, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

In Tolkien fandom, it’s taken for granted that Serkis was robbed of an Academy Award on a technicality. As everyone who has seen Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy knows, Andy Serkis’ face is never visible during his work as Gollum – clever CGI rendered the tortured creature’s features on screen – but Serkis’ inhabitation of the role via the then novel technology of motion capture is absolute.

3. James Dean, Rebel Without A Cause

Dean received Academy Award nominations for both East of Eden (1955) and Giant (1956), but his arguably finest role – as leather-clad teenage delinquent Jim Stark in 1955’s Rebel Without A Cause – was ignored by the Academy. Dean’s ease in front of the camera, and his insouciant line readings, still shine through almost 70 years later.

2. Bruno Ganz, Downfall

Swiss actor Bruno Ganz did a little work in Hollywood during his later years, including an impressive supporting role as a university professor in The Reader (2008), but it’s his mesmerizing work as Adolf Hitler in the Academy Award-nominated Downfall (2004) for which he is chiefly remembered in English-speaking countries. Ganz’ faultless performance encapsulated the mood swings and fragile grasp on reality that characterized the Nazi leader’s final days to perfection.

1. Björk, Dancer In The Dark

Only the Icelandic singer’s second foray into acting, Björk’s turn as the Czech immigrant Selma, whose encroaching blindness compromises her ability to care for her son, in 2000’s Dancer In The Dark is all the more remarkable for the fact it resulted from an exceptionally troubled working relationship with Danish auteur Lars von Trier. But her committed, naturalistic performance, which won the Best Actress award at Cannes, remains as utterly compelling now as it was then.

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