For some film buffs, Oscar night can involve as much yelling at the TV as even the most intense sporting events.
Mixed in with all the celebration of a year in film, there are always a handful of curveballs, political maneuvers and compensation awards that cause serious cinephiles to question the legitimacy of the entire program.
If your faith in the Academy as a body of voters will be forever shattered should so-and-so not take home an award this year, just consider the long list of prestigious films and filmmakers the Academy has nominated and then voted against in the past. Whoever doesn’t win is at least guaranteed to be in good company.
Thus, compiled with the huge benefit of hindsight and in no particular order (other than a roughly ascending level of egregiousness), here is a list of 10 of the biggest Oscar nominees that didn’t win in their respective categories.
As an actor, Chaplin only received one nomination in his entire career (for “The Great Dictator” in 1940, which he lost to Jimmy Stewart), although he was honored with special awards for his contributions to cinema in 1927 and 1971.
The prolific composer of Academy Award-winning scores like “Jaws” (1975) and “Star Wars” (1977) has been nominated a staggering 47 times (second only to Walt Disney). Of those, however, only five have won him Oscar gold. Among Williams’ iconic scores that the Academy overlooked are 1977's “Close Encounters of the Third Kind," 1978’s “Superman,” 1981’s “The Empire Strikes Back” (which introduced Darth Vader’s theme, “The Imperial March,” and lost to “Fame” of all things) and each of the “Indiana Jones” movies.
Like John Williams, Meryl Streep is as much a fixture at the Oscars as the golden statuette itself, having received 17 nominations — more than any other actor in the program’s history. However, it was 30 years between when she won her second Oscar for “Sophie’s Choice” (1982), and "Iron Lady" (2011). She left empty-handed 13 times in the three decades. Streep received a nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her work in "Into the Woods."
It may not be high art, but the children’s fantasy series based on J.K. Rowling’s books has consistently received nominations in categories like art direction, cinematography and visual effects beginning with 2001’s “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” It just hasn’t ever won any of them.
In 1976, the same year that Sylvester Stallone first stepped into the ring in his Oscar-nominated turn as Rocky Balboa (in “Rocky”), Robert De Niro created one of the greatest screen performances of all time in “Taxi Driver.” Both actors lost to Peter Finch (“Network”).
Generally unrecognized at the 1952 Academy Awards, “Singin’ in the Rain” was only nominated for two Oscars — one for Jean Hagen as Best Supporting Actress and one for Best Score. It lost in both categories. The music awards that year instead went to “With a Song in My Heart," for Best Score, and "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin')," for Best Original Song.
After a first nomination for 1962’s historical epic “Lawrence of Arabia” (O’Toole lost to Rex Harrison in “My Fair Lady”), the British thespian went on to receive seven more Academy Award nominations without ever winning. When it was announced he would be presented with an honorary Lifetime Achievement Oscar in 2003, O’Toole wrote a letter to the Academy explaining that he did not want it because he still planned to win an award "outright.”
Having garnered nominations for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Writer for the majority of his films, including “Dr. Strangelove” (1964), “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968), “A Clockwork Orange” (1971) and “Full Metal Jacket” (1987), Kubrick was only ever awarded a single Oscar: for visual effects on “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
The Academy’s formal recognition of Hitchcock’s influence and immense popularity was spotty to say the least. While films like “Rear Window” (1954) and “Psycho” (1960) were nominated for Best Director (Hitchcock earned six nominations altogether), he went home empty-handed each time, and classics like “Vertigo” (1958) and “The Birds” (1963) were completely snubbed by Academy voters.
It is not uncommon to see Orson Welles’ masterpiece topping lists of the greatest films of all time (for example, the American Film Institute’s “100 Years 100 Movies” list released in 1998). But in 1941, even though “Citizen Kane” was nominated for nine Oscars, including Best Director, Best Picture and Best Actor, Welles only walked away with one award for Best Original Screenplay. He was never nominated again in any category.