"It's an honor just to be nominated." That line that gets tossed around so much that most viewers of the Academy Awards telecast think the phrase is just a meaningless gesture. But for this unfortunate batch of talented actors and filmmakers, it really is the best they've done.
For whatever reason -- be it bad luck or some grand Machiavellian conspiracy to deny these artists of their just rewards -- a grand total of 82 nominations have been amassed without one single, solitary win between them. After you see this list of Oscars' biggest losers, featuring men and women regarded as some of the most talented in Hollywood history, you'll be shaking your head in astonishment that they never won.
Most Crushing Loss: Brilliant yet unheralded for years, the future 'Contender' nominee (2001) snagged her first Oscar nod in 1995 with a stunning turn as Pat Nixon in 'Nixon,' only to suffer the outrage of being upset by Mira Sorvino, future guest star on 'Will & Grace.'
Record: 0–5, 1 honorary
Most Crushing Loss: While Altman was a true contender with each nomination (and later recognized with an honorary Oscar), he probably should have won for his first nod, for 'M*A*S*H' in 1971. Instead he lost to one-time nominee Franklin J. Schaffner for a more "serious" take on war, 'Patton.'
Record: 0–3 (So Far)
Most Crushing Loss: 'American Beauty' won five Oscars in 2000, but none were Bening's; the honor went to Hilary Swank for 'Boys Don't Cry.' And in 2005, she got kudos for 'Being Julia' but lost to ... Hilary Swank. She's nominated again this year for 'The Kids Are All Right' -- luckily for her, Hilary Swank isn't even nominated; unlucky for her, Natalie Portman has been the clear favorite for her part in 'Black Swan.'
Most Crushing Loss: Burton had two more nominations than he did marriages, but like those relationships, all ended in heartbreak. Losing for 'Virginia Woolf' to Paul Scofield ('A Man for All Seasons') had to be painful, but probably not as much so as his second divorce from Elizabeth Taylor.
Most Crushing Loss: Although she was great in 'Dangerous Liaisons,' she couldn't have been too upset about losing Best Actress to Jodie Foster for 'The Accused.' But when her intense turn in 'Fatal Attraction' was trumped by Cher's in 'Moonstruck,' she probably boiled a few rabbits.
Most Crushing Loss: While we dug him in 'Jerry Maguire,' Cruise's strongest shot at showing us the money (aka winning Best Actor) was as a Vietnam vet in 1989's 'Born on the Fourth of July.' Alas, Cruise lost to Daniel Day-Lewis, whose 'My Left Foot' kicked him in the groin (metaphorically).
Most Crushing Loss: Once known as one of the most unsung versatile actors working today, Depp has lately become ... well, sung, nominated for his now-iconic jaunt as Capt. Jack Sparrow in 'Pirates of the Caribbean.' But it's his 'Finding Neverland' loss that has us hoping "never" isn't a word we'll have to associate with him for long.
Most Crushing Loss: At 30, he was the leading man in a Scorsese epic, 'The Aviator,' but he was up against critical darlings Cheadle, Eastwood and Depp. (They all wound up losing to Jamie Foxx for 'Ray.') And just think about the movies he hasn't been nominated for: 'The Departed,' 'Titanic,' 'The Departed.' Did we mention 'The Departed'?
Most Crushing Loss: The veteran Brit has been nominated for Oscars for almost 20 percent of his major roles. Does that help quell the pain of losing the Best Actor race for classics like 'Tom Jones'? Yeah, probably. Finney's never appeared at an Oscar ceremony.
Record: 0–1 (So Far)
Most Crushing Loss: Firth lost last year's race to Jeff Bridges, who himself finally won after losing four times before that. And though 'A Single Man' marked his first Oscar nomination, Colin has long been a favorite of critics' choice lists and the BAFTA. If he doesn't win this year for 'The King's Speech' -- after being called the early front-runner, then somebody probably has it out for him.
Most Crushing Loss: Hollywood's sexiest bald guy, who got his first Best Actor nod for 'Pollock' in 2001, seemed like a lock in 1999 for his supporting role as God-like Christof in 'The Truman Show.' Alas, the award went to James Coburn. Guess the Academy must be atheist.
Record: 0–5, 1 honorary
Most Crushing Loss: Aside from an honorary trophy, Alfred freaking Hitchcock never won an Oscar -- seriously. Not for 'Psycho,' not for 'Spellbound,' not even for 'Rear Window' or 'Vertigo.' And while Hitchcock was up against some pretty killer competition for Best Director, we think the Academy is 'Psycho.'
Record: 0–6, 1 Honorary
Most Crushing Loss: We'll say 'From Here to Eternity,' just because that movie went on to win eight of its thirteen nominations. But unfortunately, the biggest slight against Kerr's career is her unfortunate distinction of being the woman with the most nominations for Best Actress -- without a single win. Luckily, the Academy fixed their mistake in 1994, with an Honorary Award "in appreciation for a full career's worth of elegant and beautifully crafted performances."
Most Crushing Loss: She made a big splash in a little film with 'You Can Count on Me'; she lost to another single mom (Julia Roberts as 'Erin Brockovich'). But after more great (and nominated) turns in 'Kinsey' and 'The Savages,' you can count on the fact that Linney will always be an actor to watch.
Most Crushing Loss: In 2003, she was nominated for both Best Actress ('Far From Heaven') and Best Supporting Actress ('The Hours'), but lost in both categories. Catherine Zeta-Jones took the award for Supporting, while her 'Hours' castmate Nicole Kidman won for Best Actress. The only way we can explain this, is that the Academy clearly got mixed up by who was nominated for what award, and somehow Moore got lost in the shuffle.
Record: 0–8, 1 honorary
Most Crushing Loss: The Academy gave him an honorary award in '03, but not a REAL Best Actor statue for 'Lawrence of Arabia' ('62) or 'Lion in Winter' ('68) or 'My Favorite Year.' ('83) His lousy streak held in '07, with another Best Actor loss for 'Venus.' At least he got to joke about it in the opening montage. ("Eight. Zilch.")
Most Crushing Loss: Like Kerr, Ritter holds a dubious distinction of most nominations for a Best Supporting Actress Award, without a single win. It had to hit hardest with 'All About Eve,' which won Best Picture, racked up fourteen nominations and forced Ritter to compete in the same category as her co-star Celeste Holm, who had already won the award in 1947.
Most Crushing Loss: Nominated for Best Actress ('Gorillas in the Mist') and Supporting ('Working Girl') in the same year, her truly stinging setback was her first Best Actress nod ('Aliens,' 1986) when she lost out to first-time actress Marlee Matlin ('Children of a Lesser God').
Most Crushing Loss: While there's no shame in losing to Sydney Pollack and Oliver Stone, the 'Dead Poet's Society' director came maddeningly close with 'The Truman Show' in 1999. The winner? Some guy named Spielberg. Aw, cheer up, Peter. They say sixth time's the charm.
Complete Oscars 2011 Coverage