30 Acting Performances That Should Not Have Won the Oscar

They might be known as Academy Award winning performances, but in reality that only serves to further just how overrated the work is. There is a huge misconception with the general mainstream audiences that an Oscar winning performance means a great performance. Not always. There have been just as many truly terrible performances awarded the Oscar as there have been those for the ages.

The Academy quite often gets it right, truly they do, but just as often if not more they get it wrong allowing sentiment or the fact they feel someone is owed (whatever that means). Sadly it has always been political, though more so now than ever before. It all changed drastically in the nineties when Miramax began to campaign heavily for their films and artists. It became so bad that it was said Miramax will get Martin Scorsese to wash your car for your Oscar vote for ‘Gangs of New York’ (2002). To think that Miramax was pimping out their artists for Oscar votes was beyond shameful. There was a time hitting campaign trail meant doing talk shows and interviews, now it is insane what they go through.

A great performance is something very special, it speaks to your soul, it does not diminish in power with the passing of time. In so many instances the performances listed bested better performances, brilliant work that was for the ages.

There was a time when the winners of the New York Film Critics Award for Best Actor, the winners of the Los Angeles Film Critics Awards and the National Society of Film Critics for Best Actor were the shoo ins for the award, now they are often not even nominated. Each member of each group receive screeners long before the film is released, allowing voting to take place before Oscar season really launches with the announcement of the Golden Globe nominees. Someone may be the leader for months, but then a film comes out at almost the last minute and snatches victory.

For me, it is very telling what they do onscreen after winning an Oscar. Do they do better work, do they find themselves in the race again or is it years before, or never? Was their win a one time thing and based on them being for a short time the flavor of the month? That can often be enough to win. If anything good has evolved, it is that sentimental Awards do not happen as frequently, no longer does being over seventy assure one of a win.

The list below explores the performances I believe to be unjust winners because somebody else should have won the Oscar that year.


30. Julianne Moore – Still Alice (2014)

Image result for julianne moore still alice

She won here because she had not won before, and should have, a few times, most notably for ‘Far from Heaven’ (2002). Supporting Awards should have come for ‘Boogie Nights’ (1997) and ‘Magnolia’ (1999), and she was tragically luminous in ‘Far from Heaven’ (2002) but because she was not awarded for great work, she gets it for lesser work. Average work. Timely in that she was portraying a woman struggling with Alzheimer’s but no way was this a better performance than Rosamund Pike in ‘Gone Girl’ (2014)…no way.


29. Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

Image result for dallas buyers club matthew mc

He was owed? It was his time? Seriously? Lose some weight, look gaunt, get the critics behind you and you win. Wow, over Di Caprio in ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’? Not in my world folks, but it certainly happens in the world of the Oscar. A fine actor, his career started with a bang and he was among the most sought after actors in the business. But a series of flops ended that and he climbed his way back with an array of good performances. Ironically the best work of his career was airing about the time he won the Oscar, as the haunted detective in ‘True Detective’. That final speech he delivers about the afterlife might be the finest moment he has ever acted.


28.  Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady (2011)

Image result for meryl streep the iron lady

Yep, you read right. Streep should have won several before this, for ‘Out of Africa’ (1985), ‘A Cry in the Dark’ (1988), ‘Julie and Julia’ (2009), but not for this. Tilda Swinton was far more deserving for ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’ (2011) or Viola Davis in ‘The Help’ (2001). Two decades had passed since Streep had last won an Oscar, and the most nominated actor in Academy history was on a huge losing streak. As aging former Prime Minister Thatcher, she is very good, she is always very good, but not astounding.


27. Judy Holliday – Born Yesterday (1950)

Image result for judy holliday born yesterday

She was brassy and funny but better than Gloria Swanson in ‘Sunset Boulevard’? Which performance is remembered? Not Judy. Swanson’s performance is among the finest ever put on film, folks. Holliday is among the rare comedic performances to win Best Actress, but seriously, Swanson has proven to be for the ages, and her performance was brave in that she portrayed an actress undone by talking films, which she had experienced first hand.


26. Jean Dujardin – The Artist (2011)

Image result for the artist jean dujardin

The entire premise of the film is built around a gimmick, which is that it is a silent film. A sensation upon release, I think people have gone back to it and wondered what all the fuss was about, I know I have. Dujardin is very good, but in hindsight George Clooney is astonishing in ‘The Descendants’, the best work of his career. Did the sweep of the awards push him into the winners circle? Maybe. Good, but not great and an Oscar winning performance should be great, should it not?

1 comment