Eighteen Brilliant But Unawarded Acting Performances

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The greatest actors in Hollywood are often recognized for their best performances by the Academy, with the Oscar Award as the highest honor an actor can receive.

Here are eight actors who missed out on their chance for the Oscar despite playing in some of the most challenging and moving roles of their careers.

1. Tom Cruise – Magnolia

As Frank TJ Mackie in PT Anderson’s “Magnolia,” Tom Cruise portrayed confidence and energy – all the characteristics we have come to expect from Cruise.

What we didn’t see coming was the one well-timed question from a reporter that was all that it took to break through his mask, letting the audience see him slowly and quietly crumble on screen.

His cocky, self-assured, chauvinistic attitude couldn’t have been better played by any other actor, and his whole-hearted enthusiasm makes you want to cheer him on despite his arrogance.

The character of Mackie absolutely captivates the audience, pumping up everything we love about the typical Tom Cruise character to extravagant proportions while stretching his acting ability to its very limit with a few intensely emotional scenes. This performance earned Cruise a Golden Globe award, but he lost out on the coveted Oscar, although he did receive a nomination.

Never before nor since have we had the pleasure of seeing Tom Cruise in such a fitting role – not surprising, when you consider that the role of Frank TJ Mackie was written specifically for Cruise. Although he missed his chance for an Oscar, “Magnolia” will always be one of Cruise fans’ favorite films.

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  • suzych

    Hated that move. HATED it. And nothing of von Trier’s that I’ve seen since — which is not a lot, given that I loath his misogyny — has changed that opinion. Which is not to say that Watson failed. But I don’t like seeing gifted actors (of either gender) exploited by directors who are afflicted by deep, barely conscious terror and loathing of femaleness and a corresponding urge to fill their films with scenes of degradation and torture of women, usually by men.

  • Cy-man

    You forgot Jim Caveizel’s incredible performance as Jesus in Mel Gibson’s PASSION OF THE CHRIST — but then that’s so politically incorrect to honor something religious — regardless, an incredible performance.

    • sfwm.son

      yes, THATS the reason, of course it is…so persecuted….give me a break. anyone can scream as they are being brutally fake tortured.

      • Shits_and_Giggles

        Way to over simplify things, sfwm.son. You don’t seem to want to acknowledge the face that he did all his lines in a dead language too.

  • Melwing

    Unrewarded? I’d say their paychecks were more than a fair reward ;) (I know, I know.)

  • Antisocial_ism

    I would go with Val Kilmer in ‘Tombstone’.

    • Shits_and_Giggles

      Good Choice. That whole film is underrated.

  • rdw

    russel crowe a beautiful mind
    a real travesty!

    • Shits_and_Giggles

      Yeah, but he won the year before for Gladiator so I’m not feeling too bad for him :)

  • UN

    This list could add Al Pacino as Michael Corleone and Marlon Brando in atleast 3 of his performances

  • JD101

    Gary Oldman hands down best portrayal ever.

    • Choclitcheeka

      Loved him as Beethoven in “Immortal Beloved”

    • Shits_and_Giggles

      He’s never been better in “Leon: The Professional”

    • Antisocial_ism

      Gary Oldman in just about everything he’s ever been in. ‘State of Grace’ comes to mind.

  • Al

    Cruise’s performance in magnolia was highly overrated. He played his usual Cruise character. Then when it came time for his character to cry, Cruise just turned his back to the camera and moved his shoulders. Lame.

    • Shits_and_Giggles

      What are you talking about? The scene with his dad is very powerful and his face is facing the camera. Lame and invalid criticism.

  • Charles Ames

    Heath Ledger as The Joker.

    • Liam Burns

      He won the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award, Golden Globe, BAFTA and many other awards for that role… I wouldn’t say he was ‘unrewarded’ for it.

  • Belloc

    Ben Foster, 3:10 to Yuma.

  • Stephen Malm

    I agree that the Tom Hanks ‘Cast Away’ role was overlooked, as well as Macy in ‘Fargo’. Both excellent. Some of the others I have yet to see.

  • kikojones

    Sid Vicious…possibly the most well-known British musician of the ’70s.

    Huh? What?

    David Bowie, Robert Plant, Pete Townshend, etc. etc. etc.

    • Ixnay66

      Remember, they’re not talking about talent, records sold, etc…
      Everyone knew who he was, even if he was a drug addled douche with absolutely no talent.

  • http://mcdermid.deviantart.com/ Al McDermid

    Tom Hanks in Cast Away? That’s a joke, right?

  • seattlenerd

    You know, I’m inclined to not like Bruce Willis, but

    12 Monkeys,

    Pulp Fiction

    worth a look.

    Also, Leonardo di Caprio in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?” unbelievably amazing.

  • seattlenerd

    And Ethan Hawke, in Traffic and Hamlet … wow.

    And it has to be said, Andy Serkis in “Lord of the Rings” … (Gollum)

  • luxfer

    Falconetti is by far the best **** version of Joan of Arc.

  • Jack Meoffer

    The worst snub was Jim Carrey in “The Truman Show”.

    • Tim

      And “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”

  • Fabio

    Have to have on your DVD shelf? Only if you want to fit in. Only if you want to be approved. Hey,,, my friggen shelf has what I like, no matter what critics say.

  • Tertiumquid

    Gary Oldman is one of the most brilliant, versatile, compelling, riveting, hypnotically brilliant, and — in a perversely odd fashion — underrated actors of our time. There is quite simply NOTHING HE HAS NOT ACCOMPLISHED IN EVERY ROLE HE UNDERTOOK! There are very few actors that belong on film or stage with him.

  • Tertiumquid

    Tom “The Thetan” Cruise in Magnolia?!?!?!?! He wasn’t even the 6th or 7th most compelling actor on that BRILLIANT movie! Hoffman, Robards, the whiz kid, John C. Reilly, the dying talk show host…. they all were performing absolute clinics while TommyBoy was yucking/hamming/stock angering his way to mediocrity. Even the fucking frogs hitting the windshield were more believable!

  • Tertiumquid

    Oh, and Orson Welles?! Puh-leeze! Quite simply even besmirching him by slumming him with these modern actors (save a few) is thespian sacrilige! Orson Welles deserves a SHRINE for his plenary brilliance in everything he touched, acted, produced, directed or even farted at!!!! He was — with not a farthing of hyperbole or stock over-emoting — a genius and EVERY actor should watch EVERYTHING that is even minimally connected with that great man!!

  • Davis

    I have tried twice in my life of 40 something years to watch Citizen Kane. I know that critics love it now, but for the life of me, I can’t stand to watch it. Orson Welles’s performance comes across as nothing but pretentious drivel. In fact, most of Welles’s work comes across like that. I know, I know, his take with War of the Worlds fooled a lot of people, but it still doesn’t take away the fact that Citizen Kane is one of the most boring and pretentious pieces of crap to come out in the 20th Century. There is a reason why you never really see any networks ever play it.