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The most surprising stars who have never won an Oscar, from Old Hollywood royalty to stars of beloved classics

 L-R: Marilyn Monroe, Margot Robbie and Michelle Pfeiffer .
L-R: Marilyn Monroe, Margot Robbie and Michelle Pfeiffer .

The Academy Awards - often known as the Oscars - is undoubtedly Hollywood's biggest night, and taking home a gong is a career-defining moment for any A-lister. But the winners are often a topic of controversy so it might surprise you that some of these big names have never won an award.

The Academy Awards have been going since 1929 and were first televised in 1953.

It's when the crème de la crème of the acting world brings their top fashion game, aware that, for one night only, all eyes are focused on Hollywood for the historic ceremony. When it comes to some of the best red carpet moments of all time, one no doubt thinks of the Oscars

And while no other award ceremony brings the same level of star power, there are plenty of icons who have yet to take home their own Oscar.

The surprising stars who have never won an Oscar

Amy Adams

Amy Adams
Amy Adams

Since making her breakthrough in the indie comedy Junebug back in 2005, Amy Adams has ascended the ranks to become bona fide Hollywood royalty. Starring in everything from critically hailed masterpieces, like the cerebral Arrival, to taking on iconic roles of pop culture like Superman's Lois Lane, she has been nominated for well over 100 awards.

However, the Academy Award win is something which continues to evade the six-time nominee.

First nominated in 2006 for Junebug, she has been nominated for Doubt in 2009, The Fighter in 2011, The Master in 2013, American Hustle in 2014 and Vice in 2019, Her track record has her tied with legendary actresses Deborah Kerr (An Affair to Remember) and Thelma Ritter (All About Eve) as the star with the second-most nominations without a win.

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Naomi Watts

Naomi Watts
Naomi Watts

British-Australian actress Naomi Watts has starred in some of the most talked about movies ever made - think the mind-bending masterpiece Mulholland Drive to horror classic The Ring.

While she's yet to win an elusive Oscar, she has been recognised by the Academy twice - nominated for Best Actress in 2004 for 21 Grams and again in 2013 for The Impossible.

Sarah Jessica Parker

Sarah Jessica Parker
Sarah Jessica Parker

Sure, Sarah Jessica Parker might best be known for her work on television (and her best looks on the red carpets over the years), sweeping the Emmys and the Golden Globes for Sex and the City, but there's more to her illustrious CV than CB (Carrie Bradshaw).

Which is why it might surprise some to learn SJP has yet to receive a nomination from the Academy Awards - though her work in film has received accolades elsewhere.

She was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actress (Comedy or Musical) for The Family Stone in 2006.

Sigourney Weaver

Sigourney Weaver
Sigourney Weaver

Regarded as one of the greatest movie stars of all time, Sigourney Weaver has been active in the industry for nearly five decades. From the sci-fi epic, Alien, to fan-favourites like Ghostbusters and Working Girl, Sigourney has won Golden Globes and a Grammy - but she's yet to win an Oscar.

Nominated three times with no win, Sigourney does hold an impressive record regarding the Oscars. She is one of 12 actors in history to receive two acting nominations in the same year, nominated for both Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress in the same year.

Sigourney achieved this coup in 1989, being nominated for both Gorillas in the Mist and Working Girl. Her other nomination was in 1987 for Aliens.

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise

Perhaps the most famous movie star in modern Hollywood, Tom Cruise has been filling out cinemas for decades - yet he's never secured himself an Oscar win.

He has, however, been nominated three times. His nominations have included nods for Best Actor for Born on the Fourth of July in 1990 and Jerry Maguire in 1997, and for Best Supporting Actor for Magnolia in 2000.

His films have grossed over $11.5 billion worldwide (as of February 2024), so it's highly likely the Top Gun star isn't too cut up about missing out on the Oscar.

Kristin Scott Thomas

Kristin Scott Thomas
Kristin Scott Thomas

Recognised for playing tough, no-nonsense women, Kristin Scott Thomas is one of the premiere British actresses.

Winning fans for beloved classics like Four Weddings and a Funeral and appearing in the very first Mission: Impossible, Kristin's career has included plaudits for film, television and theatre.

Dame Kristin - made a Dame Commander in 2015 - might not have an Oscar, but she was nominated for Best Actress for The English Patient. The award went to Frances McDormand for Fargo.

While no Oscar, her enviable career has seen her amass five BAFTA and five Olivier nominations.

Laura Linney

Laura Linney
Laura Linney

Manhattan-born and bred, Laura Linney is a popular choice for some of the most dynamic shows and movies.

She's perhaps best known to fans for starring in the television series The Big C as well as Netflix's Ozark. Film roles have included Love, Actually and The Truman Show.

Laura Linney has been nominated three times by the Academy - twice for Best Actress (You Can Count on Me, The Savages) and once for Best Supporting Actress (Kinsey).

While an Oscar evades her (for now), she has won two Golden Globe Awards and four Primetime Emmy Awards, plus received five Tony Award nominations.

Keira Knightley

Keira Knightley
Keira Knightley

Keira Knightley reigned as queen of the period drama for a while, wowing audiences and critics alike in films like Atonement (2007) and The Duchess (2008).

For her career, spanning major franchises like Pirates of the Caribbean, the British star has received nominations for two Academy Awards, two BAFTAs, three Golden Globe Awards, one Screen Actors Guild Award and one Laurence Olivier Award.

She was nominated for Best Actress in 2005 for her star turn as Elizabeth Bennet in Pride & Prejudice (the award went to Reese Witherspoon for Walk the Line) and Best Supporting Actress for 2014's The Imitation Game (the award went to Patricia Arquette for Boyhood).

Sir Ian McKellen

Ian McKellen
Ian McKellen

Sir Ian McKellen is considered one of the pre-eminent actors of the last 60 years, having starred in plays, television and films for over six decades.

Noted for his success in Shakespearean roles, some might consider it a tragedy that the English actor has never won an Oscar... though he has been nominated twice.

Sir Ian - who was knighted by the late Queen Elizabeth II in 1991 - was nominated for Best Actor in 1999's Gods and Monsters and Best Supporting Actor for 2002's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

No Oscar, but Sir Ian has scooped a Tony Award, six Olivier Awards, and a Golden Globe Award, plus, five BAFTA and five Emmy nominations.

Helena Bonham Carter

Helena Bonham Carter
Helena Bonham Carter

Famous for her quirky, unique fashion sense and love for similarly unusual roles, Helena Bonham Carter's career has been long and varied.

An unmistakable figure for thirty years, Helena Bonham Carter has starred in hits like Fight Club, Sweeney Todd and Alice in Wonderland.

For her work, she has earned two Oscar nominations: Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress for 1997's The Wings of the Dove and 2010's The King's Speech, respectively.

The Best Actress award went to Helen Hunt for As Good as it Gets and the Best Supporting Actress went to Melissa Leo for The Fighter.

Diane Lane

Diane Lane
Diane Lane

Diane Lane's road to stardom is something of a Hollywood story in itself.

The New York City native's first few roles weren't the successes many hoped for, and her career had a few false starts. But she quickly pivoted and won acclaim for roles in television, including picking up an Emmy nomination for the Western miniseries Lonesome Dove.

After this, Diane continued to find success in films like The Perfect Storm and Under the Tuscan Sun.

Her one and only Oscar nomination was for 2002's Unfaithful, starring alongside Richard Gere as a wife who throws her life awry with a dangerous and passionate fling.

Nicole Kidman won that year for her work in The Hours.

Toni Collette

Toni Collette
Toni Collette

Australian star Toni Collette has earned numerous accolades throughout her career - but taking home an Oscar is (for now) not one.

The Muriel's Wedding star has, however, picked up a Golden Globe Award from six nominations, a Primetime Emmy Award from four nominations, and a Screen Actors Guild Award from four nominations.

She was recognised by the Academy with a Best Supporting Actress nomination for 2000's The Sixth Sense, however, the award went to Angelina Jolie for her work in Girl, Interrupted.

Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford
Harrison Ford

In his career spanning seven decades, many might be surprised to learn Harrison Ford has only been nominated for one Oscar.

Despite having played some of the most iconic cinematic characters of all time, including Star Wars' Han Solo, Indiana Jones, and the protagonist of the Blade Runner films, Harrison's only Oscar nom came in 1986 for Witness.

That year, William Hurt took home the award for Kiss of the Spider Woman.

Julie Walters

Julie Walters
Julie Walters

An icon in British entertainment - having made her name in classic TV shows like Dinnerladies - Julie Walters is also a force in Hollywood, having starred in films like Mamma Mia! and the Harry Potter franchise.

Julie Walters has picked up two Oscar nominations over the years - one for Best Actress in 1984's Educating Rita (with the award ultimately going to Shirley MacLaine for Terms of Endearment) and one for Best Supporting Actress for 2001's Billy Elliot. Marcia Gay Harden won that year.

Despite no Oscar, she has won the BAFTA for Best Actress four times, more than any other performer. Julie Walters and Helen Mirren are the only actresses to have won this award three consecutive times, and Julie is tied with Judi Dench for most nominations in the category with seven.

Uma Thurman

Uma Thurman
Uma Thurman

Uma Thurman rose to prominence as a model, landing on the covers of British Vogue in 1985 and 1986. This led to her first film role, in 1988's Dangerous Liaisons, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Uma has become one of the most recognisable actresses working, starring in everything from 1997's Batman & Robin to 2003's Kill Bill.

Uma's one and only Oscar nomination came in 1995. She was up for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Pulp Fiction. Dianne Wiest won that year, for Bullets over Broadway.

Lily Tomlin

Lily Tomlin
Lily Tomlin

Arguably one of the most decorated names on this list - and working in the business today - Lily Tomlin has been nominated for the prestigious EGOT.

The Grace & Frankie star has won the Emmy, Grammy and Tony, but her only Oscar nomination came in 1976. She was up for Best Supporting Actress for Nashville. The award went to Lee Grant for Shampoo.

Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp's films have grossed over $8 billion worldwide, making him one of Hollywood's biggest box office draws.

Despite star turns in Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood and the Pirates of the Caribbean films, Johnny has yet to take home an Oscar.

He has been nominated three times for Best Actor - for the first Pirates of the Caribbean in 2004, for Finding Neverland in 2005 and for Sweeney Todd in 2008.

Taraji P. Henson

Taraji P. Henson
Taraji P. Henson

Taraji P. Henson has received countless awards and nominations throughout her career, but the Academy Award remains elusive (for now).

She was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in 2008's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. That year, the award went to Penelope Cruz for Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

Jennifer Aniston

Jennifer Aniston
Jennifer Aniston

Jennifer Aniston is perhaps one of the finest examples of a star transitioning from early fame in television to success in the movies.

Her films have earned over $1.6 billion worldwide and she was nominated for a Golden Globe for 2014's Cake. The role was a departure from the Jennifer Aniston fans had gotten used to with Friends, as she played a woman struggling with addiction in the face of chronic pain.

While many thought she could've landed a nomination that year, Jennifer has yet to win or be nominated for an Oscar.

Sharon Stone

Sharon Stone
Sharon Stone

Sharon Stone became one of the most popular symbols of Hollywood in the 1990s, thanks in part to her work in sexy thrillers like Basic Instinct.

While that is arguably her most well-known work, Sharon Stone received some of the best praise of her career for 1995's Casino, where she played the trophy wife of Robert De Niro's gangster.

For her work in the movie, Sharon was nominated for Best Actress. The Oscar went to Susan Sarandon for Dead Man Walking.

Judy Garland

Judy Garland
Judy Garland

From The Wizard of Oz to her timeless singing voice, Judy Garland is an enduring pop culture icon despite the shocking fact she never won an Academy Award.

Judy was nominated twice - for Best Actress in 1954's A Star is Born and Best Supporting Actress in 1961's Judgment at Nuremberg.

She lost in 1954 to Grace Kelly and in 1961 to Rita Moreno.

Madonna

Madonna
Madonna

While reactions to Madonna's acting career have been mixed (to say the least), there's no denying that when the Queen of Pop gets it right, she really delivers.

Madonna received widespread acclaim for her work in Evita, even scoring the Best Actress Golden Globe. However, despite being what many suspected was a frontrunner to be nominated for an Academy Award at the time, Madonna wasn't on the list.

If Madonna wants that elusive Oscar soon, she can always go the Lady Gaga or Elton John route. These musical stars have won for writing or composing an Oscar-winning song.

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe might just be the most famous woman in history - or, at least, one of the most recognisable.

An icon of pop culture with a legacy that only seems to grow as the decades go by, Marilyn is the embodiment of Hollywood's Golden Age - but she actually never scooped the most coveted award in the industry.

Marilyn did win a Golden Globe for Some Like it Hot, among other awards, but she was never nominated by the Academy.

Margot Robbie

Margot Robbie
Margot Robbie

Australian actress Margot Robbie started out on Aussie soap Neighbours, but quickly became one of Hollywood's newest leading ladies.

Her breakout role in Hollywood was opposite Leonard DiCaprio in 2013's Wolf of Wall Street, and she's been starring in box-office hits and critically acclaimed roles ever since.

Margot has been nominated for two Oscars - Best Actress for 2018's I, Tonya and Best Supporting Actress for 2020's Bombshell.

For the 2024 Academy Awards, Margot found herself in the eye of a storm after many suggested she should've been nominated for her work in Barbie.

Margot addressed her supposed snub during a SAG-AFTRA discussion saying "There’s no way to feel sad when you know you’re this blessed."

Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett Johansson
Scarlett Johansson

Another potential surprise on the list is Scarlett Johansson, who has starred in everything from box office juggernauts like the Avengers films to critically acclaimed masterpieces. Indeed, her films have collectively grossed over $14.3 billion worldwide, making her the highest-grossing box office star of all time.

That, it seems, isn't enough for her to claim an Academy Award though.

Scarlett's two nominations - for Best Actress in Marriage Story and Best Supporting Actress in Jojo Rabbit - both came in 2020, making her just one of twelve stars to be nominated twice for acting in the same year.

Jennifer Lopez

Jennifer Lopez
Jennifer Lopez

As her best looks over the years prove, Jennifer Lopez has been a fixture at awards shows for decades. However, the multi-faceted talent has yet to win an Oscar.

While she hasn't been nominated for her work in films like Hustlers and Out of Sight, she remains the only female entertainer to have a number-one album and film at the same time in the United States. Her album, J. Lo, topped the charts the same time her romcom, The Wedding Planner, ruled the box office.

Known for both music and acting, Jennifer Lopez's breakthrough role was in Selena (1997), which earned her a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Actress. With the role, JLo also became the first Latin actress to earn over $1 million for a film role.

Michelle Williams

Michelle Williams
Michelle Williams

A regular name at the major award shows each year, Michelle Williams has been nominated for seven Golden Globe awards (winning two), four BAFTA awards, two Emmy awards (winning one) and five Academy Awards.

Her Oscar nominations have included three for Best Actress and two for Best Supporting Actress. In order, they were...

  • 2006 - Best Supporting Actress for Brokeback Mountain. The award went to Rachel Weisz for The Constant Gardener

  • 2011 - Best Actress for Blue Valentine. The award went to Natalie Portman for Black Swan

  • 2012 - Best Actress for My Week with Marilyn. The award went to Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady

  • 2017 - Best Supporting Actress for Manchester by the Sea. The award went to Viola Davis for Fences

  • 2023 - Best Actress for The Fabelmans. The award went to Michelle Yeoh for Everything Everywhere All At Once.

Rachel McAdams

Rachel McAdams
Rachel McAdams

Canadian actress Rachel McAdams got her start working on shows in her home country before rising to worldwide fame in 2004, thanks to back-to-back roles in two iconic classics - Mean Girls and The Notebook.

Winning praise for her work in movies including Midnight in Paris (2011) and Are You There God, it's me, Margaret? (2023), Rachel McAdams' only Oscar nomination (so far) has been for 2015's Spotlight.

Playing a reporter for the Boston Globe as they broke the scandal of historic child sex abuse by the Catholic church, the film would win Best Original Screenplay at the ceremony, but Rachel lost out to Alicia Vikander for her performance in The Danish Girl.

Salma Hayek

Salma Hayek
Salma Hayek

The bombshell actress, Salma Hayek, made history as the first Mexican actress to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress in 2002's Frida, where she played legendary painter Frida Kahlo.

The award went to Nicole Kidman, for her performance in The Hours.

Still, Salma has defied typecast, going from roles heavily focused on her sex appeal to winning plaudits including a BAFTA nomination, a Golden Globe nomination, four Emmy nominations and one Emmy win.

Bette Midler

Bette Midler
Bette Midler

Perhaps another major shock inclusion is Bette Midler - a legend revered for both her acting and singing prowess.

Known for timeless classics including Beaches, The First Wives Club and The Rose, Bette has been nominated for the elusive and exclusive EGOT - winning three of the four.

With three Grammys, three Emmys and two Tonys to her name, Bette is just shy of an Oscar - though she has been nominated twice.

Her Best Actress nominations have been for 1979's The Rose (with the award going to Sally Field for Norma Rae) and 1991's For the Boys (the Oscar went to Jodie Foster for The Silence of the Lambs).

Michelle Pfeiffer

Michelle Pfeiffer
Michelle Pfeiffer

Michelle Pfeiffer is easily one of the most prolific film stars, having earned a dazzling reputation for her work over four decades.

Legendary turns in movies such as Scarface and The Witches of Eastwick have proven her versatility and refusal to be typecast in just femme fatale or sexier roles.

Throughout her career, Michelle has won one BAFTA from three nominations, one Golden Globe from nine nominations and been nominated for an Emmy. She has also been nominated for three Academy Awards.

Her first nomination was a Best Supporting Actress nod in 1989 for her performance in Dangerous Liaisons. The Oscar went to Geena Davis for The Accidental Tourist.

Her next two nominations were both for Best Actress. In 1990, she was nominated for The Fabulous Baker Boys, with the award instead going to Jessica Tandy for Driving Miss Daisy, and in 1993 she was nominated for Love Field, with the gong going to Emma Thompson for Howards End.

Glenn Close

Glenn Close
Glenn Close

Glenn Close holds a record which is both impressive and, no doubt, mildly frustrating for the star.

She ties with Peter O'Toole for holding the most ever Oscar nominations in acting categories without a win. Both stars have been nominated eight times. Her eight nominations also make her one of the most nominated actresses in Academy Award history, joint fourth.

Meryl Streep has a total of 21 nominations, Katharine Hepburn has 12, Bette Davis has 10 and Glenn - along with Cate Blanchett, Judi Dench and Geraldine Page - has eight.

It's a huge honour to even be nominated - never mind on eight separate occasions, and the Fatal Attraction star has talked openly about her streak of not winning.

Speaking to the Associated Press in 2021, Glenn said of headlines reportedly referring to her as a "loser", "First of all, I don’t think I’m a loser. Who in that category is a loser? You’re there, you’re five people honoured for the work that you’ve done by your peers. What’s better than that?”

"And I honestly feel that the press likes to have winners and losers. And then they say, ‘Who is the worst dressed?’ And, you know, ‘Who made the worst speech?’ Forget it. It’s not what it’s about. I say, f*** them!"

Glenn has been nominated for The World According to Garp in 1983, The Big Chill in 1984, The Natural in 1985, Fatal Attraction in 1988, Dangerous Liaisons in 1989, Albert Nobbs in 2012, The Wife in 2019 and Hillbilly Elegy in 2021.