Ten Great Oscar-less Hollywood Icons

Going back to last year’s Academy Awards, I remember thinking how nice it was for Martin Scorsese to finally win his long overdue golden statue. Then I wondered what other film icons, past and present, have yet to or never did win an Oscar? With a couple hours of research on IMDb, I found ten very well-known filmmakers, actors and directors alike. Some of them may surprise you if you’ve never given this any thought.

It should be noted up front that, yes, I do realize there are not any women on this list. I tried, oh how I tried, but I was unable to find any name of significance. It seemed like every well-known actress I could think of did indeed receive an Academy Award(s). So I guess that’s a good thing. The closest was Mariyln Monroe and yes, she was a major icon of her time, but I didn’t feel her resume was good enough to knock one of the other candidates off the list (she wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar). So consider this an honorable mention.

Note: The Honorary Oscar Award, of which several members of this list received, doesn’t count. This list is restricted to the Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Adapted Screenplay, and Actor categories.

Robert Altman
At the very least we witnessed an extraordinary moment when the legendary director received a career honorary Oscar. Sadly, after the release of his last film, A Prairie Home Companion, Altman passed away at the age of 81. Altman hit it big when he was asked to direct the movie adaptation of MASH in 1970. He collected seven Oscar nominations over his career and was nominated for Best Director five times. His most notable film is Nashville, held by many as a masterpiece. Other notable films include 2001’s Gosford Park, 1993’s Shortcuts, 1992’s The Player and 1971’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller.

Ingmar Bergman
It is no surprise, that almost half of this list features famous foreign filmmakers. The Sweedish director passed away over the summer of 2007 but proved in 2003 that he could still make an impact with the critically acclaimed Saraband, which was his first feature film in almost twenty years. Bergman was not only considered one of the very best foriegn filmmakers of all-time, but one of the best filmmakers in general. He has directed a handful of widely regarded masterpieces including 1982’s Fanny and Alexander, 1973’s Scenes From a Marriage, 1957’s Wild Strawberries and The Seventh Seal. Bergman was nominated for nine Oscars and two of his films are on the IMDb Top 250 list.

Federico Fellini
Fellini is also considered a foreign master behind the camera and made many of his films around the same time as Bergman. I will admit, having viewed 1963’s 8 1/2 for myself, that I’m not a fan of Fellini’s style; though I will also admit, that his vision was unlike any other director of that time. 8 1/2 is considered by many critics to be one of the greatest films of all-time. Other well-known Fellini works include 1973’s Amarcord, 1960’s La Dolce Vita, and 1957’s Nights of Cabiria. Fellini is tied for the highest number of Oscar nominations on this list with 12 total. He has helmed three films on the IMDb Top 250 list.

Harrison Ford
This may seem like a head scratcher, considering Mr. Ford has, for the most part, avoided working in films aimed at Oscar gold throughout his career; but to any fanboy, he is a hero. George Lucas was the director that made Ford’s career. After 1973’s popular American Graffiti, Lucas invited Ford to play in a groundbreaking motion picture called Star Wars. Then Lucas recommended Ford to his pal Steven Spielberg and in 1981, we were introduced to one of the most famous characters in movie history (and one of my personal favorites): Indiana Jones. Then in 1982 Ford headlined, along with Star Wars, one of the most acclaimed sci-fi films of all-time: Blade Runner. So that’s three cult phenomenons Ford played in in a span of less than a decade. Is there another actor who has accomplished such a feat that you can think of? And now we are eagerly awaiting (and that’s putting it lightly) to see if Ford has something left in him with the return of Indiana Jones in this summer’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Ford has garnered one Academy Award nomination and has played in six films listed on the IMDb Top 250.

Cary Grant
This came as the biggest surprise to me. Grant was, or at least in my opinion, one of the three most popular, if not the greatest actors of his time; the other two being Humphrey Bogart and Jimmy Stewart. Those two legends got their Oscars, but Grant was never given the honor. Grant was most well known for being one of Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘golden boys.’ 1946’s Notorious is as much of a classic as Casablanca and is also, as of right now, on my ten greatest films of all-time list. He also starred in 1959’s ridiculously entertaining North by Northwest. Other of his famous films include 1941’s Suspicion, 1940’s The Philadelphia Story and 1940’s His Girl Friday. Grant was nominated for an Academy Award twice and has played in four films listed on the IMDb Top 250 list.

Sergio Leone
This Italian filmmaker was considered a master of the Western genre and very likely the most underappreciated director on this list. Leone helped make Clint Eastwood a rival to John Wayne by making such prestigious Westerns as 1964’s A Fist Full of Dollars, 1965’s For a Few Dollars More, and 1966’s The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. He also made 1968’s Once Upon a Time in the West, starring Henry Fonda. In 1984 he directed his final film, Once Upon a Time in America, an acclaimed gangster picture starring Robert Di Niro. Aside from directing his own films, Leone also served as an assistant director on such Academy Award winning films as 1959’s Ben Hur and 1948’s The Bicycle Thief. Leone was never even nominated for an Oscar. How does the Academy sleep at night? He has four films listed in the IMDb Top 250 and two in the Top 20.

Sidney Lumet
The 82-year old director proved he still had some gas left in the tank after directing one of 2007’s very best films, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. Unfortunately, that film didn’t collect one single Oscar nomination, further stating my disliking for the Academy. Lumet made his first classic with 1957’s 12 Angry Men and that is probably the only film outside of the 70’s, along with Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, that the director is well known for. Much like Robert Altman, Lumet dominated the 70’s with films like Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon and Network. He has been nominated for five Academy Awards and has directed two films on the IMDb Top 250 list. Hopefully, Lumet will have one more chance to win his Oscar as IMDb has him listed as the helmer for a 2009 production called Getting Out.

Stanley Kubrick
Along with Cary Grant, this one made me the angriest. Kubrick and his special effects team won an Oscar for best special effects (take a guess as to which film) but the visionary saint never won for best director or best screenplay. It is an absolute blunder as to how this happened because there are very few directors that you could argue are better filmmakers. Kubrick has directed a few classics that you may have heard of such as 1957’s Paths of Glory, 1960’s Spartacus, 1965’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, 1968’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, 1971’s A Clockwork Orange, 1975’s Barry Lyndon, 1980’s The Shining, and 1987’s Full Metal Jacket. Kubrick topped off his career with one of my favorites: Eyes Wide Shut, a film that Martin Scorsese himself as a guest critic with Roger Ebert called one of the best films of the 1990’s. Kubrick was nominated for 12 Academy Awards and helmed eight pictures listed on the IMDb Top 250. Damn you Academy!

Akira Kurosawa
The Japenese legend Kurosawa directed what is today considered possibly the greatest foreign language film, if not film in general, of all time: Seven Samurai. He is one of few directors who consistently, and by consistently I mean once every year or two, turned out great movie after great movie. Out of all the people on this list, no one had more films with an IMDb average rating of 8 or higher (14 in total). Kurosawa’s masterpieces include 1950’s Rashomon, 1952’s Doomed, 1961’s Yojimbo the Body Guard, 1962’s Sanjuro, and 1985’s Ran. He was nominated for one Academy Award and has five films on the IMDb Top 250 list.

Peter O’ Toole
During last year’s Academy Awards, Peter O’ Toole had to watch a golden statue be handed to someone else for the eighth time in his career. Forget about the last seven times, the Academy should’ve gotten it right the first time when O’ Toole played in 1962’s Lawrence of Arabia, my personal favorite classic film. O’ Toole was perfect in that film but I guess the Academy passed him over because they thought since it was his film debut, he would have plenty of chances to win his Oscar. Boy did he ever, but the Academy continued to pass him over time after time again. He did win an Honorary Oscar, but that’s beside the point. O’ Toole has been nominated for Best Actor eight times: Lawrence of Arabia, 1964’s Beckett, 1968’s The Lion in Winter, 1969’s Goodbye, Mr. Chips, 1972’s The Ruling Class, 1980’s The Stunt Man, 1982’s My Favorite Year, and 2006’s Venus.

Sound Off: Who do you think is the most deserving from this list? Or, is there someone that I left out that you think deserves to be on the list?

Nate Deen is a 20-year old aspiring film critic/essayist from Pensacola, Fla. He just graduated with an AA degree in journalism from Pensacola Junior College. He will be attending the University of Florida soon to continue his studies in journalism and film. His goal is to either pursue a writing career in entertainment, sports or perhaps both, but his dream is to write and direct his own movies. Recently, he's been devouring classic films, American and foreign. His favorite directors include Stanley Kubrick, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and Alfred Hitchcock. If he had to make a top 10 list of the greatest films of all time, they would be: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Lawrence of Arabia, The Godfather I and II, Vertigo, The Third Man, Schindler's List, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Raging Bull, The Passion of Joan of Arc, and City Lights. He runs his own movie review website,

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