The Biggest Oscar Snubs of All Time: Who Has Had the Most Nominations With No Win?
One of the main reasons we watch the Academy Awards with such interest is that the winners’ circle often comprises the talent we expect to see shaping our popular culture for the year to come. For those who get snubbed, the bitterness of exclusion is hard to ignore. Over time, some of the Academy’s decisions have come to create their own, dark history:
The Spielberg Snub
It started with the snub of Jaws in 1976 and escalated with The Color Purple’s snub 10 years later. Not until 1993’s Schindler’s List did the Academy cave in and let Steven Spielberg, creator of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial(which also saw its share of losses, only winning a few technical awards and Best Score for John Williams) walk across the stage. He made the trip again as Best Director for Saving Private Ryan five years later, but even television viewers felt the sudden cold snap when the Academy frosted Ryan out of Best Picture in favor of Shakespeare in Love. Now been in a slump again, he has had four nominations since, the latest being The Fabelmans (2022).
The Jim Carrey Snub
A Best Actor Golden Globe for his role in The Truman Show (1998) spurred his pursuit of that magic Oscar moment. So far, no dice for his parts as Truman, Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon (1999) or the Grinch.
British Director Snub
His films remain some of the best-crafted and most influential in cinema history, such as Rebecca (1940), Lifeboat (1944), Spellbound (1945), Rear Window (1954) and Psycho (1960), but Alfred Hitchcock never received an Oscar for any of them. When the Academy awarded him the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1968, the master director pointedly preserved his dignity by giving a curt “thank you” and cutting right out.
Fellow director Stanley Kubrick has had his fair share of letdowns too. The Dr. Strangelove (1964) director was nominated four times and only won for special effects on 2001: A Space Odyssey (1969). Big hits like A Clockwork Orange (1971) and The Shining (1980) weren’t enough to sway the Academy, but it was enough to sway the approach in directing, as he has been an inspiration to many.
The African American Snub
Many films that have won Best Picture are made of less stuff than the history of this particular snub. While the Academy insists that it bases its decisions solely on performances, the fact that any major African American Oscar win is big news arguably makes that a pretty tough allegation to support. The Color Purple (1985) was a complete shutout and from Denzel Washington’s numerous shutouts until his first win in 2002 for Training Day to a mere three nominations for Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing (1989), (although he did finally win for BlacKkKlansman in 2019) the African American snub reflects one of the most disturbing issues troubling the movie industry today. Recently coined #oscarssowhite on social media, the Academy acknowledges this is an issue and has been trying to get better over the past few years.
Most Nominations Snub
Glenn Close and British actor Peter O’Toole hold a tied record for the most Oscar nods without a win at eight each. Close’s closest calls were for The Big Chill (1983), Fatal Attraction (1987), The Wife (2018) and, most recently, 2020’s Hillbilly Elegy. O’Toole lost out for Lawrence of Arabia (1964) and for his portrayal of King Henry II twice, in was eventually given an honorary Oscar in 2003, but wanted a real win. He had one last chance in Venus (2006) before his death in 2013, losing out to Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland. Runners-up are Richard Burton with seven, plus Deborah Kerr and Thelma Ritter with six each.
Female Director Snubs
In the 95-year history of the Oscars, just a handful of women have been nominated for Best Director. A couple of big-named females like Barbra Streisand for The Prince of Tides (1991), which had seven nominations, but went home with zilch and Penny Marshall has never had any even with films like Big (1988) or Awakenings (1989) where both Tom Hanks and Robert Deniro took home best actor statues. This year’s nominations are no exception, as poor Barbie director Greta Gerwig also was snubbed, even though the film has been cleaning up at all the other awards shows. Just goes to show the Academy is not a fan of our next snub category either.
No Laughing! Comedy Snubs
They’re serious. It’s been decades since a full-on comedy has won Best Picture, the most recent was Woody Allen’s Annie Hall, in 1978.) It seems the Academy is intent on limiting its funny business to onstage banter at the ceremony and even that has been falling flat. Even teen titan John Hughes, the ’80s most beloved teen dramedy director and screenplay writer, known for The Breakfast Club (1985), Planes, Trains & Automobiles ( 1987) and National Lampoons Vacation (1983), never received a single nomination. The most he was ever recognized was a tribute the year he died.
Biggest Named Snubs
The biggest snubs of all may go to Judy Garland, Cary Grant and John Wayne. Garland was only nominated twice and lost both times. Ironically Renée Zellweger won the statue for her portal of Garland in 2020. The Duke made over 100 movies and was only nominated three times; he finally won in 1970 for True Grit (1969). As for Cary Grant? He was only nominated twice, for two films made in the ’40s. He was bestowed an honorary award the same year Wayne won his.
Maybe His Year?
Lastly, we have to bring up Taxi Driver (1976) director Martin Scorsese. The New Yorker is known best for his mob-themed films like Goodfellas (1990) and Gangs of New York (2002), plus biopic films such as The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) and The Aviator (2004). He has only won once, for The Departed (2006). He is up for his 10th nomination for Killers of the Flower Moon (2023).
So what do you think, what big snubs did we miss? Let us know in the comments!
The 96th Oscars will air March 10 on ABC at 7pm ET/4pm PT.