Biggest oscar losers

The unlucky actors, crew members and films that have the most nominations without winning

It's simple statistics: there are more Oscar losers than winners. For every one moment glory, there must be four sour faces, awkwardly clapping and holding back disappointment. It may be "an honour just to be nominated," but come on, you wanna win right?

So spare a thought for the poor souls for whom a fresh loss is but the latest in a long line of let downs. Imagine getting suited and booted in your glad rags, only to repeat the same Oscar night process again and again over the course of a career, but never getting to take that little gold statue home.

Join us as celebrate the bravery of some of Oscar's biggest losers...

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Close but no cigar... Glenn + nemesisGlenn Close, actor
6 nominations, no wins


With the buzz of this year's Best Actress race favouring Viola Davis and Meryl Streep, it looks like Close's sixth nomination, for her lead role in cross-dressing period pic 'Albert Nobbs', will be as unrewarded as her previous five.

As a supporting actress, she failed to score with 'The World According to Garp', 'The Big Chill' and 'The Natural'. And her step up to leading parts didn't help her claim gold for 'Fatal Attraction' or 'Dangerous Liaisons'.

Richard Burton, actor
7 nominations, no wins


Richard Burton died in 1984 with not a single slice of Oscar gold in his trophy cabinet. He was nominated first for his supporting role in 'My Cousin Rachel', before clocking up an impressive six Best Actor nominations, including turns in 'Becket',  'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?'  and 'Equus'.

We suspect he deserved some special recognition for surviving the shoot of 'Cleopatra', but he couldn't even score a nomination for that one: Rex Harrison pipped him to the Best Actor nod. And lost anyway.

Robert Altman, director
7 nominations, no wins. Awarded honorary Oscar in 2006

One of the most beloved American directors in film history, Robert Altman died in 2006, just months after being given an honorary Oscar for his distinguished career. As a producer and director he clocked up four nominations for 'Nashville' and 'Gosford Park', and as a director he went home empty-handed for 'MASH', 'The Player' and 'Short Cuts'.

Peter O'Toole, actor
8 nominations, no wins. Awarded honorary Oscar in 2003


Poor Peter O'Toole has failed to take the stage despite a whopping 8 Best Actor nominations. He was apace with his 'Becket' co-star Richard Burton (coincidentally, that year the award went to Rex Harrison for 'My Fair Lady') until receiving a 2006 nod for 'Venus'. He did win an honorary Oscar in 2003, though he gave a good try of snubbing it, saying he wanted more time to “win the lovely bugger outright”. The chaps at the Academy said they'd give him the honorary award whether he wanted it or not, so he finally agreed to accept it. O’Toole is the most nominated actor without a win.

Purple pain... Whoopi Goldberg in 'The Color Purple' (Credit: Rex)

'The Turning Point' and 'The Color Purple', films
11 nominations, no wins

Proof that Oscar can be as cruel as it can be kind, both these films went into their respective 1978 and 1986 ceremonies with the most nominations ('The Color Purple' tied that year with 'Out of Africa', which ended up winning 7 awards) and left with not a jot.

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Alex North, composer
15 nominations, no wins. Awarded honorary Oscar in 1985


What to say of the composer with such breathtaking scores as 'Spartacus', 'Cleopatra', 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?' and 'A Streetcar Named Desire' on his CV? Each of these, along with eleven more, was recognised with Oscar nominations, but none materialised. He's one of only two composers – the other was Ennio Morricone – to receive the Lifetime Achievement Oscar.  We’re not sure of this made up for all those snubs though.

Roland Anderson, art director
15 nominations, no wins


The noted art director got his first Oscar nomination in 1933, for 'A Farewell To Arms', but died in 1989 with no Academy gold on the mantel piece. Along the way, he picked up fifteen nominations, for films like 'Carrie', 'Red Garters', 'It Started in Naples' and 'Breakfast at Tiffany's'.

'A' for effort... Kevin O'Connell (Credit: PA)

Kevin O'Connell, sound re-recording mixer
20 nominations, no wins


Surely Oscar's greatest runner up, Kevin O'Connell's name has been on the final ballot 20 times, though with 175 credits to his name, perhaps it's unsurprising. His first credit came in 1980, for 'Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back', and he's been nominated for Best Sound on films such as 'Dune', 'Days of Thunder', 'Armageddon', 'Spider-Man' and 'Transformers'. With 'American Reunion' and 'Get the Gringo' released earlier this year, maybe the 2013 Oscars will finally take note...

Honourable Mentions

There are plenty of big names for whom Oscar night has invariably yielded disappointment – sometimes in greater volume than those above – but that can take comfort in previous wins. There's Laurence Olivier, who won only one of his ten nominations, though he did manage to take home special awards another two times.

Meryl Streep has earned her 17th nomination for 'The Iron Lady' last year, though she won two of the coveted little men in previous years. And, finally, spare a thought for composer John Williams. While he has five Oscars to call his own, he's also clocked up the largest number of disappointments, going home empty handed a further 42 times!

Any multiple nominees who always lose that we've missed out? Let us know below...