The Oscar Quest: Best Actors Who Didn’t Win Best Actor

Just as I did with Best Picture and Best Director, I’m going to list all the best performances nominated in the Best Actor category who didn’t win the Oscar. It’s my way of giving some ink to some performances that might otherwise get overlooked.

Here, I’m going to include great performances as well as iconic performances. And again, this has nothing to do with whether or not they should have won.

Many of these performances you’ll recognize. The ones you don’t — those are the ones you really should see. Trust me when I say these are really great performances.

Jackie Cooper, Skippy (1931)

William Powell, The Thin Man (1934)

Charles Laughton, Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

Gary Cooper, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936)

Walter Huston, Dodsworth (1936)

Frederic March, A Star is Born (1937)

Leslie Howard, Pygmalion (1938)

Clark Gable, Gone With the Wind (1939)

Jimmy Stewart, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

Charlie Chaplin, The Great Dictator (1940)

Henry Fonda, The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

Walter Huston, The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941)

Orson Welles, Citizen Kane (1941)

Gary Cooper, The Pride of the Yankees (1942)

Humphrey Bogart, Casablanca (1942)

Jimmy Stewart, It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Gregory Peck, Gentleman’s Agreement (1937)

Richard Todd, The Hasty Heart (1949)

John Wayne, Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)

William Holden, Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Jimmy Stewart, Harvey (1950)

Marlon Brando, The Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

Kirk Douglas, The Bad and the Beautiful (1952)

Montgomery Clift/Burt Lancaster, From Here to Eternity (1953)

Bing Crosby, The Country Girl (1954)

Frank Sinatra, The Man with the Golden Arm (1955)

Rock Hudson/James Dean, Giant (1956)

Tony Curtis/Sidney Poitier, The Defiant Ones (1958)

Jack Lemmon, Some Like It Hot (1959)

Jimmy Stewart, Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

Jack Lemmon, The Apartment (1960)

Spencer Tracy, Inherit the Wind (1960)

Paul Newman, The Hustler (1961)

Burt Lancaster, Birdman of Alcatraz (1962)

Jack Lemmon, Days of Wine and Roses (1962)

Peter O’Toole, Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Richard Harris, This Sporting Life (1963)

Paul Newman, Hud (1963)

Peter Sellers, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

Richard Burton, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965)

Rod Steiger, The Pawnbroker (1965)

Richard Burton, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

Michael Caine, Alfie (1966)

Dustin Hoffman, The Graduate (1967)

Paul Newman, Cool Hand Luke (1967)

Spencer Tracy, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)

Ron Moody, Oliver! (1968)

Richard Burton, Anne of the Thousand Days (1969)

Dustin Hoffman/Jon Voight, Midnight Cowboy (1969)

James Earl Jones, The Great White Hope (1970)

Topol, Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

Michael Caine/Laurence Olivier, Sleuth (1972)

Peter O’Toole, The Ruling Class (1972)

Jack Nicholson, The Last Detail (1973)

Al Pacino, Serpico (1973)

Robert Redford, The Sting (1973)

Albert Finney, Murder on the Orient Express (1974)

Dustin Hoffman, Lenny (1974)

Jack Nicholson, Chinatown (1974)

Al Pacino, The Godfather Part II (1974)

Walter Matthau, The Sunshine Boys (1975)

Al Pacino, Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

 Robert De Niro, Taxi Driver (1976)

William Holden, Network (1976)

Sylvester Stallone, Rocky (1976)

Woody Allen, Annie Hall (1977)

John Travolta, Saturday Night Fever (1977)

Robert De Niro, The Deer Hunter (1978)

Roy Scheider, All That Jazz (1979)

Peter Sellers, Being There (1979)

John Hurt, The Elephant Man (1980)

 Peter O’Toole, The Stunt Man (1980)

Dudley Moore, Arthur (1981)

Dustin Hoffman, Tootsie (1982)

Paul Newman, The Verdict (1982)

Peter O’Toole, My Favorite Year (1982)

Tom Hulce, Amadeus (1984)

 Tom Hanks, Big (1988)

Tom Cruise, Born on the Fourth of July (1989)

Warren Beatty, Bugsy (1991)

Robert De Niro, Cape Fear (1991)

Robert Downey, Jr. Chaplin (1992)

Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven (1992)

Denzel Washington, Malcolm X (1992)

Liam Neeson, Schindler’s List (1993)

Morgan Freeman, The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

John Travolta, Pulp Fiction (1994)

Richard Dreyfuss, Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995)

Anthony Hopkins, Nixon (1995)

Billy Bob Thornton, Sling Blade (1996)

Ian McKellen, Gods and Monsters (1998)

Edward Norton, American History X (1998)

Russell Crowe, A Beautiful Mind (2001)

Sean Penn, I Am Sam (2001)

Nicolas Cage, Adaptation. (2002)

Daniel Day-Lewis, Gangs of New York (2002)

Jack Nicholson, About Schmidt (2002)

Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

Bill Murray, Lost in Translation (2003)

Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler (2008)

Also check out:

Best Pictures That Didn’t Win Best Picture

Best Directors Who Didn’t Win Best Director

Best Actresses Who Didn’t Win Best Actress

Best Supporting Actors Who Didn’t Win Best Supporting Actor

Best Supporting Actresses Who Didn’t Win Best Supporting Actress

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