Always the Nominee, Never the Winner: A Who’s Who in Oscars History

The Oscars

As award season edges us closer to the unveiling of this year’s Academy Award winners, it brings to mind those that repeatedly grace our TV screens during the nominee sequence, but have never made it to the podium. While these serial nominees have made a name for themselves on the silver screen in a big way, as evidenced by long lists of nominations, their time hasn’t come just yet. In the meantime, us common folk will continue to bet on these talented actors, convinced that our parents must be losing it because how has Leo not walked away with a statuette – he froze to death to save Rose for God’s sake!

Here are some of the most well-known Oscar serial nominees. To those nominated this year, may the odds be ever in your favor.

Glenn Close

Six Oscar Nominations, spanning from 1983 to 2012

With six nominations under her belt over the span of thirty-three years, Glenn Close has proven herself not only as an Oscar-worthy actress, but also one of sound patience. Close began her onscreen career as Jenny Fields in the film The World According to Garp opposite Robin Williams. However, in my millennial heart, she will hold a place for her ferociously feline performance as Cruella De Vil in the 1996 version of 101 Dalmations. Prior to accepting her first award-winning role, Close was a prominent actress on Broadway, earning herself three Tony Awards to date. She also won Best Actress in a Musical for her performance as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. Close is considered an “EGOT” nominee as she has been nominated for at least one Emmy, Oscar, Tony, and Grammy. While 2016 will not be her year to dawn the title, Close has a number of films in post-production, including a film role opposite actors Owen Wilson and J.K. Simmons that is set to be released this fall. Until then, Glenn. After all, “Cruella De Vil has the last laugh,” right?

  • 1983: Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role – The World According to Garp
  • 1984: Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role – The Big Chill
  • 1985: Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role – The Natural
  • 1988: Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role – Fatal Attraction
  • 1989: Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role – Dangerous Liaisons
  • 2012: Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role – Albert Nobbs
Leonardo DiCaprio

Five Oscar Nominations, spanning from 1994-2016

At just forty-one years old, the darling Leo DiCaprio that we know and love has logged a diverse amount of acting hours, from the humble beginnings of the ’80s sitcom Growing Pains (Leo plays an adorable lost puppy type taken in by the Seaver family) to his breakout role on the silver screen as Johnny Depp’s developmentally disabled little brother in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, which earned him his first Oscar nomination. Since then, he has continued to stretch his acting repertoire with heart-wrenching roles such as Romeo in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet opposite a brunette (say what?) Claire Danes and the iconic Jack Dawson in Titanic. This year, DiCaprio is up for Best Performance for his role as a frontiersman on a fur trading expedition in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant, set in the 1820s. We’ll keep our fingers and toes crossed for you Leo, but of course we’ll never let go of the Oscar dream.

  • 1994: Best Actor in a Supporting Role – What’s Eating Gilbert Grape
  • 2005: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role – The Aviator
  • 2007: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role – Blood Diamond
  • WOlf of wall street
  • 2016: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role – The Revenant
Amy Adams

Five Oscar Nominations, spanning from 2006-2014

In 1999, it was a pulled muscle that snatched Amy Adams off the dance floor and thrust her into an audition for her first film role as a beauty pageant contestant in Drop Dead Gorgeous, opposite Kirsten Dunst and Kirstie Alley. After moving to Los Angeles, she scored her first major role, opposite Leonardo DiCaprio, in Catch Me If You Can, putting her on the map for her first Oscar nomination in the film Junebug. Adams has gone on to win our hearts as a wistful princess in Enchanted, a devoted writer and foodie in Julie & Julia, and boxer Micky Ward’s girlfriend in The Fighter. She continues to surprise with the roles pulled out of her magical acting top hat. After all, would we have predicted her to be cast as the studious, star reporter Lois Lane in one of the newest superhero franchises, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice? We’ll have to wait until March 25 to make the call.

  • 2006: Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role – Junebug
  • 2009: Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role – Doubt
  • 2011: Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role – The Fighter
  • 2013: Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role – The Master
  • 2014: Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role – American Hustle
Ed Harris

Four Oscar Nominations, spanning from 1996 to 2003

College footballer turned actor Ed Harris has shown off his acting chops through an array of diverse roles that are peppered throughout his over forty years as a film star. His booming, God-like voice set the tone in Field of Dreams, declaring “if you build it, they will come.” In Apollo 13, his portrayal of retired NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz made us (and the Academy members) feel in our bones that failure is not an option. He even lent his voice to play John McCain in a TV movie. Harris has appeared in six films that were nominated for Best Picture and has earned four individual nominations for both supporting and leading roles. Expect to see him in two upcoming film productions, including an untitled Warren Beatty project and a drama co-starred and directed by James Franco (*double swoon*).

  • 1996: Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Apollo 13
  • 1999: Best Actor in a Supporting Role – The Truman Show
  • 2001: Best Actor in a Leading Role – Pollock
  • 2003: Best Actor in a Supporting Role – The Hours
Mark Ruffalo

Three Oscar Nominations, spanning from 2011-2016

In my softy, chick flick-loving heart, Mark Ruffalo will always be Matty, the boy next door who built a dollhouse for his best friend’s 13th birthday, complete with a doll-sized Rick Springfield, magic wishing dust, and Razzles. While my fellow chick flick fiends may consider 13 Going on 30 his breakout role, Ruffalo had actually been seen in over 20 films prior to signing on for this ’80s flashback film opposite Jennifer Garner in 2004. That same year, he played a memory-erasing technician in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind opposite Jim Carrey and an LAPD detective in Collateral opposite Tom Cruise. In recent years, we’ve seen the sweet, the sensitive, and the steadfast with roles such as a sperm donor turned father in The Kids Are All Right (Oscar Nom #1), professional wrestler David Schultz in Foxcatcher, (Oscar Nom #2), and The Hulk in The Avengers. Ruffalo will be back in the nominee hot seat this season with his third nomination for a supporting role in Spotlight, a biopic recounting the Boston Globe‘s role in uncovering the child molestation and cover-up scandal within the local Catholic Archdiocese. Win or lose Mark, Jenna Rink (and I) will always love you. 

  • 2011: Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role – The Kids Are Alright
  • 2015: Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role – Foxcatcher
  • 2016: Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role – Spotlight
Edward Norton

Three Oscar Nominations, spanning from 1997 to 2015

Yale graduate Edward Norton had an interest in acting from an early age, leading him initially to theater. During a stint in Hollywood, he accepted his first film role (and later his first Oscar nomination) in the courtroom thriller Primal Fear opposite Richard Gere, who nearly abandoned the project after a prolonged casting search to fill Norton’s role (which was initially turned down by our very own Leo DiCaprio). His test screenings for the film commanded the attention of Hollywood, scoring him a role in Woody Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You and The People Vs. Larry Flynt, ultimately making 1996 the year of the Norton. However, many will consider his role as an insomniac-turned-psychopath in Fight Club as his defining role (not to mention, the only existing role that calls for Brad Pitt to be its Nietzschean Übermensch. Yeah, they went there).  While his most recent nomination was during last year’s Oscar season for his supporting role in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Norton has three films in the works, including a (you guessed it) Wes Anderson project.

  • 1997: Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role – Primal Fear
  • 1999: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role – American History X
  • 2015: Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Michelle Williams

Three Oscar Nominations, spanning from 2006 to 2012

Michelle Williams was born and raised in rural Montana, making her acting debut as bad girl Jen Lindley in the ’90s TV series Dawson’s Creek a seamless transition from small town girl to small town star. After six seasons of adolescent angst, William segued into the sphere of independent films, appearing in The Station Agent and The Baxter, before accepting her breakout role and first Oscar nomination in Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain opposite Jake Gyllenhaal and her late ex-fiancé, Heath Ledger. In recent years, Williams braved a tumultuous marriage with Ryan Gosling in Blue Valentine and truly dazzled onscreen as Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn, snaring Eddie Radmayne’s naive heart and snatching up her second and third Oscar nominations. As a girl crushed admirer, I am thrilled to see her back in the Sundance groove with Manchester by the Sea opposite Casey Affleck and Kyle Chandler (clear eyes, full hearts, Michelle and Kyle can’t lose) and Certain Women, based on the short stories of Maile Meloy.

  • 2006: Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role – Brokeback Mountain
  • 2011: Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role – Blue Valentine
  • 2012: Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role – My Week With Marilyn

Photos by Shari’s Berries and GIPHY

I'm a suburban-raised gal living and working in New York City. In the spirit of Oprah, my favorite things include cozy sweaters, pain au chocolat (the few french words in my vocabulary), 80s brat pack movies, and bottomless mugs of coffee.