Oscar Worthy Performances In Iconic Horror Films

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EJ Moreno discusses Oscar-worthy acting performances in horror…


Any film fan knows that it’s rare your personal favorite makes it to the biggest award show of the year. The Academy Awards voters are a tough crowd, especially when it comes to horror films. It feels like some major genre film is overlooked every year, and a great performance goes unrecognized by the masses.

In many ways, an Oscar nomination will “legitimize” a movie, and it could really help an actor up their game. So for this countdown, let’s look at just a few of the most outrageous horror acting snubs at The Oscars. This list’s requirements include the simple fact it needs to be a snubbed horror performance and truly high-caliber acting. We need to see performances that transcend the blood and scares and truly shakes us to our core.

Honorable Mentions:

Jeff Goldblum in The Fly
Marcia Gay Harden in The Mist
Michael Pitt in Funny Games

10. Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby


It still surprises me to this day that Mia Farrow never got a nomination for Rosemary’s Baby. Minus the obvious genre biased, this seemed like a sure-fire nomination due to the impressive work Farrow did and her transformation for the film. And even wilder knowing another actress got nominated and won for the same film.

Taking away nothing from the Oscar-winning Ruth Gordon, but feels so strange to award just one acting performance from this film, and it was not for Farrow’s harrowing take on a mother and her paranoia. It honestly feels like the Oscar voters couldn’t get past their own bias to get behind this woman fearing the growing oppression around her.

9. Nicole Kidman in The Others


Nicole Kidman’s journey to the Oscars is interesting if you know your history. Her win for The Hours proved she was the mega-star we all knew, but there’s a film from the year before that stands out just as much to me. No, I am not talking bout the camp classic Moulin Rouge for once, but rather her gothic masterpiece, The Others.

Another strong look at a mother’s plight that voters, who feel too out of touch, ignore. If this version of The Others came out in 2020, it would be dubbed “elevated horror” and have people pushing for Kidman to get a nomination. Or it could end up like other examples and remained grossly overlooked by their peers.

8. Dwight Frye in Dracula


This list isn’t just about leading performance as it takes a true powerhouse actor to support the story. That’s exactly what Dwight Frye does in 1931’s Dracula. Frye’s mastering of the titulars obsessed servant’s role is something that actors still try to replicate. His Renfield is the golden standard of so much in this genre.

If you haven’t gone back and watched Dracula in a while, you’ll instantly love Bela Lugosi in the film but then go straight to Frye’s wonderful role. Sadly no one from this wonderful film saw a nomination, not even its striking art department. But for horror getting some love in the Supporting category, it’s surprising Frye never made it.

7. Shelley Duvall in The Shining


We all know Jack Nicholson chews up The Shining, and it’s truly one of his best performances ever. But you can’t talk about this film without paying respect to the work Shelley Duvall put in. She plays an insanely scared woman defending herself and her child against a crazed man. It’s a powerful turn that Duvall sells with every tear.

Ironically enough, Duvall would go on to see a Razzie nomination at the very first edition of the Golden Raspberry Awards. This is sad as her performance is truly one of the film’s highlights. But this does make a great case for the importance of a critical re-evaluation. Now, we can see this as the masterclass that it feels like.

6. Jessica Harper in Suspiria


Going for a left-field pick here, but Jessica Harper deserves far more respect and critical love for her turn in Suspiria. For anyone who has seen this 1977 Italian masterpiece, you know why Harper is included here as she offers up one of the best performances in all of the 70s horror films.

Dario Argento never made it to the Academy Awards, being even too European for the “liberal” crowd of 70s Academy voters. But it’s insane to think that Harper never fully made it over to the states after this film, as it was truly a tour-de-force in horror acting. Give her a bigger platform, and I feel she could’ve been the next big scream queen.

5. Robert Shaw in Jaws


You can honestly nominate every single actor from Jaws, and I’d be fine with it. Hell, nominate Bruce, the Mechanical Shark, for Supporting even though he was infamously difficult. But if there’s one person in this iconic Steven Speilberg film that sells it, that would be Robert Shaw as Captain Quint.

Shaw gave a performance that feels perfectly crafted for an awards season run like Speilberg understood how to make an Oscar-bait performance long before it was trendy to do so. Again, everyone does well here, but it feels like their efforts were out-matched by just the infamous Quint monologue alone.

4. Boris Karloff in Frankenstein


Another Universal Horror film that never got the Academy Awards recognition it deserves. Boris Karloff is one of the best actors of his time, a character actor trapped inside a leading man’s body. Karloff could get lost in a role, and he did that here, becoming one of cinema’s most iconic characters.

Critics enjoy the performance and the film, it brought in large sums of money for 1931, but it never translated to anything more than “well, it’s good for a horror film.” An idea that sadly feels like an Oscar voters sentiment today, but if there were ever one-time classic awards voters needed to get past their bias, it was Karloff in Frankenstein.

3. Lupita Nyong’o in Us


The most recent WTF horror snub came at last year’s Academy Awards when they somehow ignored the masterful work of Lupita Nyong’o. When Us first came out, and critics started to praise her turn, we all felt it was a shoo-in. Nyong’o even has a favorable history with the Academy, which surely should’ve put her in the race.

And the dual performance of Lupita Nyong’o was a contender, but sadly she missed out on a chance at the game’s biggest prize. It’s hard to say if this was due to the Oscars’ long-standing bad history recognizing Black actors or the horror issue, probably a bad combo of both, but this is truly one of the saddest modern snubs.

2. Toni Collette in Hereditary


When this snubbed happen, it took the internet by storm and put a spotlight on The Academy’s long-standing beef with horror movies. Toni Collette surely deserved an Oscar nomination for this, if not a win for this masterclass in acting. No disrespect to the other woman that year, but this was, without a doubt, the year of Collette.

Hereditary, as a whole film, deserved more awards love, but that can be excused if its wonderful lead got more recognition. Even when horror is trying to elevate itself to some pretentious, prestige level, the Academy still turns a blind eye to it. That’s made more apparent when Collette got a nomination at almost every other award show.

1. Anthony Perkins in Psycho


Ignoring acting in horror films in the early days of the Academy made some sense, but by 1960, it seemed strange to keep up this tradition. Especially with performances like Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates just screaming for recognition. This was a genre-defining role that actors still can’t perfect as well as Perkins did.

Psycho is regarded as not only one of the best horror films of all time but one of the best films. And while it’s partially due to the Hitchcock’s directing and Janet Leigh’s supporting role – both of which did get nominated – the film is nothing without its ground-breaking leading performance. Snubs like this could drive a person mad…

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Do you have any other horror movie performances you believe were worthy of an Oscar nomination? Let us know on our social channels @FlickeringMyth…

EJ Moreno

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