It’s frustrating when the Oscars don’t recognize fan-favorite actors or filmmakers. There are too many times to count, throughout history, when people deserving of an Academy Award have never received one. Many times, it’s people who were ahead of their time, or actors and filmmakers who aren’t from America that seem to have a harder time getting recognition.
At the very least, the following people do have Oscars. As such, they can’t be considered the most snubbed people in Oscars history, but, arguably, all were awarded for their contributions to the world of film later than deserved. Below are patient award winners, what they were eventually awarded for, and what they should have won for much earlier.
Al Pacino – Best Actor in a Leading Role for ‘Scent of a Woman’ (1992)
Al Pacino played numerous iconic roles throughout the 1970s and 1980s (including the lead role in the beloved Godfather trilogy), but had to wait until 1992 before winning an Oscar for the good – but not quite great – Scent of a Woman.
In it, he plays a larger-than-life blind man who strikes up a bond with a young student. It’s a good performance, of course, and it lets Pacino go over the top in classic Pacino style, but the performance – and movie – is no The Godfather, Dog Day Afternoon, or Scarface, to name just a few of the actor’s most notable roles.
Ennio Morricone – Best Original Score for ‘The Hateful Eight’ (2015)
Ennio Morricone was one of the greatest composers of all time, and the fact he only got six nominations in nearly 60 years – during which he composed over 400 scores – is ludicrous. Everyone knows his theme from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, for example, but that was one score he wasn’t even nominated for!
Thankfully, just five years before he passed away, he received a long-overdue Oscar win at the age of 87. Quentin Tarantino had used Morricone’s pre-existing scores before, but got Morricone to craft an original one for his 2015 western, The Hateful Eight, ensuring Oscar recognition at last for the brilliant composer.
Martin Scorsese – Best Achievement in Directing for ‘The Departed’ (2006)
Martin Scorsese was very much a legendary director for almost 40 years before winning a Best Director Oscar for The Departed. With so many great movies (not all of them gangster films, either) made before 2006, Scorsese finally getting some Oscar gold was long overdue.
It’s one of those cases where the movie he won for was not one of his absolute best, even if The Departed is still very good. Cynical followers of the awards show may call it a sympathy or pity Oscar, or something of an apology for decades of not winning anything for classic films, but it’s better than nothing at least.
Julianne Moore – Best Actress in a Leading Role for ‘Still Alice’ (2014)
Julianne Moore‘s belated Oscar success might not be the most notable instance of the Oscars dragging their feet when it comes to acknowledging the best of the best, but she’s one of her generation’s best actresses, and was working steadily for over a quarter of a century before her win for Still Alice.
Worth pointing out is how close Moore came to an Oscar win before 2014. For the year 2002, she was nominated twice for two different performances (one supporting, one leading), but wasn’t able to score a win for either. Still Alice may not stand as one of her most memorable roles, but it was ultimately a chance for the Academy to recognize her powerhouse acting talents at last.
Leonardo DiCaprio – Best Actor in a Leading Role for ‘The Revenant’ (2015)
Of all the “snubbed” actors in history, Leonardo DiCaprio would have to be one of the most notable. Before 2015, it was even something of a meme to comment on how the Oscars seemed to be in the habit of nominating him (if he was lucky) without it ever resulting in a win.
But his commitment to his role in The Revenant was so jaw-dropping and in your face that there might have been riots if he’d come away from Oscar Night empty-handed. No one could call it one of his most subtle performances, but it was a gutsy one, and finally allowed DiCaprio to get that long-awaited golden trophy.
Henry Fonda – Best Actor in a Leading Role for ‘On Golden Pond’ (1981)
Despite being one of the biggest Hollywood stars throughout the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, it took until the early 1980s for Henry Fonda to win an Oscar, for his part in On Golden Pond. Strangely enough, he was also looked over many times when it came to nominations, with his only other acting nomination being from all the way back in 1940.
His On Golden Pond co-star, on the other hand, didn’t have to deal with continual Oscar snubs; Katherine Hepburn is the most frequently awarded actor or actress in Oscar history, having won four Oscars throughout her career, including her final one also for On Golden Pond.
Spike Lee – Best Adapted Screenplay for ‘BlacKkKlansman’ (2018)
Given he’s also a skilled director and has been making great movies since the 1980s, he ought to have some recognition for that, too. Or maybe he shares the sentiment of his frequent collaborator, Samuel L. Jackson, and thinks awards shows themselves are all a bit overrated, and therefore doesn’t mind so much.
Kate Winslet – Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for ‘The Reader’ (2008)
Just like her Titanic co-star, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet had to wait awhile before winning an Oscar for her acting. She was nominated five times before 2008, before ultimately winning her sixth nomination for The Reader.
Notably, she played a caricature version of herself in the show Extras –several years before The Reader – which predicted she would win for a serious, historical film that was tied to the Holocaust, like The Reader. While the movie itself has its problems, Winslet does give a good performance, so the win makes sense… even if the idea of it was predicted by (and parodied in) a British sitcom written by Ricky Gervais.
Sean Connery – Best Actor in a Supporting Role for ‘The Untouchables’ (1987)
Sean Connery earned a single nomination which led to a single win at the Oscars throughout his over 40-year-long career. While that might not make him look as obviously snubbed as actors who were nominated numerous times before winning, it is still an example of a legendary figure within the film world needing to wait patiently for an Academy Award.
His supporting turn in The Untouchables is one of his best performances, too, given he steals just about every scene he’s in. He may not have won an Oscar for a James Bond movie, but at least he got to win an award for playing another larger-than-life hero; this time, one who helped take down Al Capone!
Paul Newman – Best Actor in a Leading Role for ‘The Color of Money’ (1986)
One of the biggest Hollywood stars of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s (and one of the most overlooked at the Oscars), the legendary Paul Newman had to wait until his eighth nomination for The Color of Money before getting an Oscar statue at last.
Interestingly, it was a sequel to one of Newman’s most iconic movies, 1961’s The Hustler, and given that one is more beloved, it’s strange he ultimately won for its sequel. It might be another case of an apology Oscar, but Newman did still earn it in The Color of Money, as he was very good. And it’s to his credit he didn’t coast along breezily after 1986, picking up two more nominations in the last two decades of his career (in 1994 and 2002).