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Wednesday
Dec042013

Team Top Ten: Oscar's Greatest Losers (Actor Edition)

Al Pacino won his Oscar on his eighth nomination. He deserved it more the other seven times!Amir here, back with another monthly team poll. Back in May, we had a look at the Best Actress Oscars and picked what we thought were the greatest losers in history. Since we all love symmetry, it’s only fair to give the losing gentlemen their chance to shine. And it's also quite topical in December 2013. This year's Best Actor race has so many worthy choices that the losers are inevitably worth celebrating in advance. 

This was an incredibly arduous task. Though we may all have our regular disagreements with AMPAS, there’s no denying the wealth of talent on display in their record of movie history. These are some of the most iconic performances in film history and to narrow them down to just ten is a fool’s errand. List-making always is! How does one judge Mickey Rourke’s brooding anti-hero Wrestler against Chaplin’s satirical Great Dictator?  Is tortured Joaquin Phoenix in The Master too fresh in the memory to compare to tortured James Mason? Jack Lemmon in The Apartment or Jack Lemmon in Some Like It Hot? It’s heartbreaking to leave anyone out, but now it’s done. Have a look for yourself and let us know who would have made your list. 

THE 10 GREATEST BEST-ACTOR-LOSING PERFORMANCES
after the jump

why is there *always* a tie for 10th place?

10 [TIE]  Peter O’Toole (Lion in the Winter, 1968)
Lost to Cliff Robertson in Charly

You might argue that O’Toole has been better elsewhere and I’d challenge you on that, but he has never been as unbridled in his vivacity, moving in his profundity, fun or funny as he is as the eponymous Lion in Winter. Harvey’s film is an ensemble at heart, and Peter has to wrestle for attention when every facet and almost every actor is doing top-notch work; he succeeds. If Hepburn is the film’s soul, he is its muscle and sinew. He bellows with aplomb, but it’s not just a performance of effete posturing. O’Toole, who was twenty-five years her junior, pulls off two particularly formidable tasks. He expertly matches Hepburn in peak form, luxuriating in that dialogue. What's more he convinces you that, yes, this is a man that Katharine the Great would have left her first husband for, and for whom she’d spend decades of embattled marriage with. Even when wrecked by his savvy wife, his not too loving children or himself, we never doubt that this man is a lion both in action and in thought – powerful and magnetic.
-Andrew Kendall

10 [TIE] Robert De Niro (Taxi Driver, 1976)
Lost to Peter Finch in Network

Do you ever forget that Travis Bickle was a fictional character, not a historical figure?  He hovers like a ghost of the recent past, closer to a Susan Smith or an O.J. Simpson than a Vito Corleone: radioactive with painful and unresolved contradictions, an inevitable product of grotesque national trends and yet totally, unnervingly singular. Bickle feels more real and deserving of analysis than John Hinckley, the man who horribly, pathetically took up his already-pitiful mantle.  Yes, much credit goes to Scorsese and Schrader, but it mostly devolves to his flawless, poignant, and fearsome interpreter. De Niro’s fundamental isolation, from others and seemingly from himself, has never been put to better use.  Nor has his ability to bond restlessly and eccentrically with dissimilar actors (Foster, Shepherd) or to simultaneously blend into and stand out from colorful crowds.  Winners or losers, this might be my favorite performance ever nominated in this category.
-Nick Davis

9. Peter Sellers (Dr. Strangelove, 1964)
Lost to Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady

Financiers Columbia Pictures stipulated that, after the success of Kubrick's Lolita, Peter Sellers play at least four major roles in Dr. Strangelove. One, Air Force Major T. J. "King" Kong, fell by the wayside, but Sellers still dominates the screen in three distinctive, brilliant performances: President Muffley's cold, superior attitude makes the straightness with which the satirical dialogue is told both hilarious and chilling; Strangelove's singular absurdity and sharp, jumpy mannerisms are compulsively brilliant; and Mandrake's clipped, proper British tones disguise a suspicious, righteous and fearful soul desperately trying to placate the madness of a global crisis. Rarely has an actor shown in such close proximity how dexterous their approach to performance can be.
-David Upton

8. Jack Lemmon (Some Like It Hot, 1959)
Lost to Charlton Heston in Ben Hur

Dying is easy. Comedy is hard. But more often than not, Oscar forgets that old adage choosing to reward doom and gloom over an expertly executed one-liner or pratfall. That was certainly the case in 1959, when the Academy decided to bestow that year's Best Actor statue to Charlton Heston's humorless performance in Ben-Hur over one of the greatest comedic performances ever captured on film. Taking what could have easily delved into a tired one-joke gag of a man in a dress, Lemmon, as jazz musician Jerry, hiding out from gangsters in an all-girls band disguised as the vivacious Daphne, is so fully committed that at one point in the film you believe him when he actually has to remind himself that he's not a girl. From his quick-witted banter with fellow drag sister, Tony Curtis, to a hilarious moonlit mambo with Joe E. Brown's randy suitor, Lemmon effortlessly steals the show. (no easy feat when your co-star is Marilyn Monroe at the height of her sex-kitten stardom.) And it all leads up to Lemmon's perfectly timed reaction to what is arguably the all-time best closing line in a Comedy. Nobody's perfect, but Jack Lemmon as Jerry/Daphne sure comes close.
-Andrew Stewart

7. Heath Ledger (Brokeback Mountain, 2005)
Lost to Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Capote

In the vast array of great performances, I confined my votes to those I simply could not forget, and I will never forget Ennis del Mar. Ledger did more than give an indelible performance, he gave an illuminating one. I left the theater understanding something about a relationship gone wrong in my own life that I had not before. "Did Ennis remind you of Bob?" I asked a mutual friend. The way he drew himself in. The way his body, as Ennis aged, endeavored to take up less and less space. The way, finally, he could only hold a shirt. It was not just that this was memorable, not just that it was heartbreaking, it was that Ennis showed me a man whom I had never been able to quit, showed him in a way that shed light. To do that is truly gifted, as Heath Ledger was truly gifted.
-Deborah Lipp 

6. Montgomery Clift (A Place in the Sun, 1951)
Lost to Humphrey Bogart in The African Queen

Gloriously captured by William C. Mellor’s enraptured camera, Montgomery Clift’s dazzling beauty and moody intensity were never so transcendent as in A Place in the Sun. But what makes the tragic George Eastman such an indelible creation is the actor’s subtle, insightful blurring of the line between passionate lover and social climber, which constantly challenges the audience’s perception of him and gives George Stevens’ 1951 masterpiece most of its unsettling ambiguity. Whether falling for Elizabeth Taylor’s luminous heiress or hesitating to kill Shelley Winter’s pathetic factory girl, Clift delved into his character’s weaknesses and insecurities like no other Hollywood star before him, thus reshaping the masculine ideal for the postwar generation. Paving the way for the likes of Marlon Brando, James Dean and Paul Newman, Monty Clift’s iconic turn as George Eastman arguably remains the defining male performance of the 50’s.
-Julien Kojfer

5. Dustin Hoffman (Tootsie, 1982)
Lost to Ben Kingsley in Gandhi

Dustin Hoffman won two Oscars but if I could creatively rewrite history, he'd win both for his greatest performance: One for Michael Dorsey and one for Dorothy Michaels. The beauty of this twinned star turn is in its elaborate cartography. Dustin maps out both Dorothy and Michael with brilliantly precise lines and topography, expertly drawing up the (comic) borders between them and the places where they (dramatically) overlap. Sometimes he does both at once as when you're watching Michael, as Dorothy, looking at a woman with Michael's eyes, while the body language remains pure Dorothy. Hoffman never lets you forget that Dorothy is a (fussy) performance of Michael's that springs from caricature or that Michael himself is more than a little bit of a cliché, a womanizing starving artist actor/waiter. Tootsie was justly appreciated in 1982 as a brilliant movie about gender but it's so much more than a topical moment in its time. It's also a brilliant romantic comedy about the art of acting. My apologies to Jessica Lange but the love affair is between the actor and his creation. That's what makes Tootsie's final scenes so seismic when Michael and Dorothy finally merge by separating, as the mask (read: wig) is dropped. How hard must it be to let your defining role go, just as its finally real to you, to take that final curtain call and move on.
-Nathaniel R  

4. James Stewart (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, 1939)
Lost to Robert Donat in Goodbye Mr Chips

Frank Capra saved his best characters for Jimmy Stewart. You can see Stewart's mighty endurance and versatility in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, a great performance that stands out even in a year as crowded as 1939. It shows Stewart's persona as the middle-American lanky man child managing to be the only actor dead or alive who fits in with a bunch of boy rangers. It takes a lot of shamelessness to imitate bird calls for millions to see on the silver screen. It also shows the other side of the thespian, strong enough to sweat through a whole day of filibustering to convince a legislative body not to turn a local campsite into a dam. Stewart takes advantage of his physical persona to trick his audience into thinking that he might lose, then helps us rejoice when the little man like him wins.
-Paolo Kagaoan 

3. Peter O’Toole (Lawrence of Arabia, 1962)
Lost to Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird

Lawrence of Arabia is a paradox: it is a large epic about a legend and a war, but it is also a character study of the man who built the legend. In order for this to work, the actor playing T.E. Lawrence had to be larger than the four-and-a-half long CinemaScope movie itself. Peter O'Toole fills every vast, unending inch of desert in the 70mm frame with the sheer intensity of his performance. O'Toole's dashing good looks and romantic British drawl are offset by his terrifyingly blue eyes - I say "terrifyingly" because there's always a hint of madness behind them. As Lawrence, he's always too little and too much - a man uncomfortable in a drab army uniform who swells to fit his white savior's robes. Lawrence is not a Good Man, but he makes himself a Great Man, and O'Toole embodies egomania and charisma required to be Great. It's possible to argue that Peter O'Toole's first leading role and first Oscar nomination was his best role. Certainly, it set a precedent for O'Toole to continue to be nominated (and lose - eight times total!) for playing madmen. Peter O'Toole role as Lawrence remains an explosive introduction to Oscars history.
-Anne Kelly 

2. Al Pacino (Dog Day Afternoon, 1975)
Lost to Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

These days Pacino is most associated with the over-the-top hamminess of his post-Scent of a Woman shout-acting, but the truth is Al was going for the gusto since back in ’75 when he starred in Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon. It’s just that in those days he backed up his performance with a live-wire conviction that sold every bold choice and grand gesture. As the bank robber growing unhinged over the course of a stickup gone disastrously wrong, Pacino plays Sonny as a compulsive people pleaser struggling to placate everyone as the situation unravels, his eyes screaming with desperation even as he summons the lunatic will to plow forward. When Sonny lets loose with his famous cries of “Attica!” the thrill isn’t just one of defiance, but of a man who is in control of a situation for the first time in what must be ages.
-Michael Cusumano

1. Marlon Brando (A Streetcar Named Desire, 1951)
Lost to Humphrey Bogart in The African Queen

Many performances are good. Some are great. A precious few are truly iconic. Marlon Brando's Stanley Kowalski in Elia Kazan's A Streetcar Named Desire is one of those few. Exuding easy manly sex appeal from his very first second onscreen, it's easy to sympathize with Vivien Leigh's Blanche DuBois as she looks at him with the eyes of a hungry cat. But it's more than just sex that Brando brings to the role. Stanley is one of the most vulnerable and volatile men Tennessee Williams ever wrote, and Brando gets that his brutishness covers up the fact he needs Stella's love on a deeper level than he knows how to express. Stanley may be a simple man, but in Brando's hands, he's never less than a fully-rounded human being - a man with desires and a code that he protects just as fiercely, and with more physical force, as Blanche does hers. Brando's Stanley is perfectly life-size, a man who alternately inspires terror, pity, and devotion not just from the women in his life, but from the audience.

Roger Ebert wasn't joking around when he said that Brando's performance had more impact on screen acting than any other. Streetcar, and Brando's performance within it, upped the ante. To prove it, the film deservedly won three of the four acting Oscars in 1951 - the first of only two films in history to do so. But the monumental performance Brando gives here should have made it four.
-Daniel Bayer

WHAT DO YOU MAKE OF OUR LIST and what's yours like?
(Thursday we'll share memorable also rans and trivia)

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Reader Comments (61)

I have to go on record as being legitimately shocked that Richard Burton didn't make the top 11. I was even thinking that he'd be the one to top the list, although that's part-ways personal preference since it's maybe my favourite performance by a male actor.

That being said, differences in choice and all - how lovely to see so many comedic performances. Unsurprised to see Brando rank so high, but I don't begrudge Bogey that Oscar - that 1951 Best Actor lineup is one of the category's best, it's a string of great work from great actors (although, history hasn't been kind to poor Arthur Kennedy).

(Was Brando as clear a winner as Judy was for the women?)

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew K.

Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon!! That's all I was looking for. I'm satisfied with this list now. :)

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSquasher88

Great topic!

My second thought on seeing this post was of Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternon, my third thought was Peter O'Toole in everything (Lion in Winter, My Favorite Year, and Becket being my favorites). But my first thought was Joaquin Phoenix in The Master. To me, it was the best male performance of this century.

Fourth thought was Paul Newman/The Verdict.

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAR

"Monty Clift’s iconic turn as George Eastman arguably remains the defining male performance of the 50’s."

Oh, please.

Marlon Brando, Streetcar. That's all.

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGustavo

It's tough to choose between O'Toole and Peck that year, but I think I would go with Peck. These Sophie's choice situations are tough!

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRaul

Andrew, Burton was *definitely* high in my top 10. I'm disappointed to see he didn't make the cut. Great list, though!

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Marie

Great list! I would also add Peter Sellers for Being There from 1979. He lost to Dustin Hoffman for Kramer Vs. Kramer. I liked Sellers so much more and it would have been a great lifetime achievement.

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRobert

TENTH? What is happening.

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNick Davis

I agree with every word said about, "Tootsie" and Dustin Hoffman's performance in it. For me, its one of those films you are just return to, time after time and still find something new. All of the performances are so finely tuned (thought I would give Teri Garr the supporting win not Lange) and the writing was exquisite. I've lost count with how many repeat viewings I have done.

I also concur with the previous comment about liking all of the mentions for comedic turns. They truly do not get the credit they deserve. This is the main reason I defend Marisa Tomei's win so much, because at least a rare win for a comedic role happened..

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterZacary

If any actor was going to make this list twice, I thought for sure it was going to be Sellers - I personally found it very difficult to choose between Strangelove and Being There (I only allowed myself one pick per actor to be fair). I honestly thought that votes for O'Toole would be too spread out among his many great losing performances for any one to make the list. But I sure am glad that both Lawrence and Henry are present.

Also glad that my personal Top Four (and my number six) all landed on the list - and in the order (if not the rank) that I had them!

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

2012 — Phoenix
2011 — Anyone But The Buffoon Who Won
2003 — Murray
2002 — Cage
2000 — Hanks
1999 — Penn
1998 — Anyone But The Buffoon Who Won
1994 — Freeman
1993 — Fishburne
1992 — Washington

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

Nick - I know!! I had my money on him coming out on top.

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmir

I don't know most of the Team Experience gang, so I'm not sucking up to friends when I say I really love what everyone wrote.

Here was my ballot:

1 De Niro, Taxi Driver
2 Stewart, Mr Smith Goes to Washington
3 Pacino, Dog Day Afternoon
4 Brando, A Streetcar Named Desire
5 Muni, I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang
6 Rourke, The Wrestler
7 Hopkins, The Remains of the Day
8 Lemmon, Some Like It Hot
9 Hoffman, Tootsie
10 Hopkins, Nixon

With huge regrets to Washington in Malcolm X, who I suspect belongs here but I haven't seen the film in 20 years; and My Sean in Dead Man Walking, who always always always loses the '95 race by a hair, possibly a pompadoured hair, both in real life and in my fantasy league.

Other runners up: Huston, Dodsworth; Bogart, Casablanca; Clift, From Here to Eternity; Mason, A Star Is Born.

I've seen 345 of the 420 nominated performances. Here are my Top 10 performances I was most regretful of not having watched before making this ballot, although some I am deliberately saving so that I don't have to wrap up such an august lineage with something bleak:

1 Steiger, The Pawnbroker
2 Olivier, Richard III
3 Finney, Under the Volcano
4 Olivier, The Entertainer
5 March, Death of a Salesman
6 Tracy, Bad Day at Black Rock
7 Cagney, Love Me or Leave Me
8 Pacino, Serpico
9 Nicholson, The Last Detail
10 Burton, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNick Davis

Paul Muni - I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang
William Powell - My Man Godfrey
James Cagney - Angels with Dirty Faces
Laurence Olivier - Richard III
Jack Lemmon - Some Like It Hot
Peter Sellers - Dr. Strangelove
Peter O'Toole - The Lion in Winter
Peter Finch - Sunday Bloody Sunday
Dustin Hoffman - Lenny
Ian McKellen - Gods and Monsters
Colin Firth - A Single Man

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoe (uk)

My favorite five best male performances of all time all went unrewarded: Richard Burton in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", Peter Finch in "Sunday, Bloody Sunday", Oskar Werner in "Ship of Fools", Heath Ledger in "Brokeback Mountain" and Jack Lemmon in "Some Like It Hot".

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTirppy Trellis

My Personal Top Ten 10:

10.) Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker- Such a year where the momentum of THL on upswing somehow did not befall on its leading man. Call it a crowded field but the oddity of 'Jeff Bridges as due' for that performance annoyed the heck out of me. Easily pill to swallow if it was Firth, heck even Clooney and I found that film off-putting (not to the fault of him but the script and Reitman).

9.) Russell Crowe, The Insider- Those 1999 Oscars..... Spacey was somehow undeniable and somehow Denzel for one of his worst 'Oscar' movies (Rag on Flight, he was great in Flight while this was bizarrely perfunctory) was #2 because he was 'due' for Best Actor. Richard Farnsworth also had support that would've been a worthy winner but this is one of the best performances Crowe has ever given.

8.) Denzel Washington, Malcolm X- The treatment of Malcolm X by Oscar was infuriating. Unforgiven sweeping is fine, it's a great Best Picture winner, but the film deserved a worthy opponent and it's obvious how Denzel's whole campaign was cut at the knees with no Picture or Director nod while Pacino got help by Brest and the film being nominated.

7.) Marlon Brando, A Streetcar Named Desire- This is somewhat forgivable because between this first nomination and his win for On the Waterfront, he got nominations for two rather contained performances in Viva Zapata and Julius Caesar (I know, he was so hungry for Oscar gold he did Shakespeare). Plus Bogart is really good in The African Queen and that is a good film. The performance is iconic, even if it still influences some of my pet peeves in method acting, but his level of competition was very strong that year. I think Montgomery Clift in A Place in the Sun would have been just as worthy of a winner.

6.) Richard Burton, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold- It's a really hard performance in being so cynical and world-weary from the word go to the final, painful scene. It's one of his best roles, and maybe it is because I love Le Carre and good spy fiction that I was so bullish about this performance. That said, it would've saved us from one of the worst Oscar wins, poor Lee Marvin for Cat Ballou.

5.) Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain- I hated Capote and never really found PSH's Capote to feel like any true characterization of the man. Toby Jones in Infamous, is much better. I realize that is a minority opinion. Anyway, Ledger's Ennis does feel very much like a type of man who existed at a certain time and place.

4.) Peter O'Toole, The Lion in Winter- I get why even in its sweep that his T.E. Lawrence did not win. This, however, is puzzling. The tension between him and Hepburn, his contempt for everything and everyone around him, and being so larger than life that the screen can hold.

3.) Al Pacino, Serpico- One of the strongest competitions in the category (Nicholson, Brando, Pacino, and Redford) and Jack Lemmon wins it for..... can people even name the movie? I favor Pacino because in the decade of anti-heroes he is playing the reversal. An unconventional-looking do-gooder and exposer of corrupt institutions.

2.) John Travolta, Saturday Night Fever- This exposes what is wrong with the category. Like Brando not getting it for Streetcar, the category just never seems to honor the 'He's a movie star!' turn in the way the Best Actress category can go. And beyond the polyester and disco, the movie and the performance have a lot more going on. Also, Richard Dreyfuss. Really?

1.) Al Pacino, The Godfather Part II- Art Carney is like a Jessica Tandy win. I think the Academy was told how much they were suppose to love him. That said, he is great in a very small movie. To beat one of the greatest characterizations in American film, however? NOPE!

I left out DeNiro for Taxi Driver because him and the movie were never going to win in 1976. I still think his best turns, Mean Streets and The King of Comedy, were his not-nominated work.

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

I second all the Burton laments. So wrong that he was never honored.

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

Respectfully disagree about Hoffman in Tootsie (that navigation between two roles got lost into the sea of monstrous parody by the second act for me) and I need to watch A Place in the Sun again. Ian McKellan in Gods & Monsters, Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca and Richard Burton in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? would be in my list. Never seen Lawrence of Arabia. One of those films I know I should watch but keep putting off as Peter O'Toole, while I respect, isn't the most essential of onscreen personas to connect with me so much so that I always thought that the Lion was Eleanor.

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSanty.C

Great list. However, with the exception of Heath Ledger in BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN and Jack Lemmon in SOME LIKE IT HOT, the other eight actors lost to deserving winners. I'll have to agree with Andrew K: 1951 was an incredible year for men in what is now, very iconic roles; I really can't decide who was the best!

Loved the TOOTSIE write-up. In my own pantheon of great movies and performances.

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPam

Crap! My listings have not shown up.

Al Pacino, The Godfather Part II
Al Pacino, Serpico
John Travolta, Saturday Night Fever
Marlon Brando, A Streetcar Named Desire
Denzel Washington, Malcolm X
Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain
Richard Burton, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold
Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
Russell Crowe, The Insider
Peter O'Toole, The Lion in Winter

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

I agree with AR regarding 1982. Tootsie definitely should have won Best Picture, but I would have voted for Paul Newman for Best Actor in The Verdict. It was his best performance - so against type. (What was going on with the Academy that year?)

And 3rtful's choices for 2011 and 1998 made me laugh.

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Santy - McKellen got at least one vote, from yours truly.

I'll publish my full list later tonight.

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Cusumano

1, 2, 6, 7, 9 and DeNiro would all be in my top 10, which would probably also include (with ties) Clark Gable in Gone With the Wind, Montgomery Clift in From Here to Eternity, Richard Burton in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf or Becket, Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy or Lenny, Peter Finch in Sunday Bloody Sunday, Tom Courtenay in The Dresser and Sean Penn in Dead Man Walking.

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Deborah Lipps write up on Heaths Ennis Del Mar brought a tear to my eye.
I'll never get over Brokebacks loss at the Oscars, for me it was Picture, Actor, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress. I doubt I'll ever be so upset with the academy as I was that Oscar night. but people remembering the film and its performances and writing about them so beautifully, is something at least.

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKeegan

I'm going to do a post over at my site with my own ten when I have a minute to do so, but I'm super surprised that Roy Scheider in All That Jazz didn't make the cut - I figured he was a shoo-in if I had to put him on my list and I'm so musical uninclined.

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJA

Completely agree with whoever mentioned Newman in The Verdict.

How about 1974, when two of the most iconic film performances ever both lost (Nicholson in Chinatown and Pacino in Godfather II)?

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered Commentergwynn1984

I'm going to do publish my personal list later tonight. I can tell you that McKellen in Gods and Monsters and Nicholson in Chinatown got at least one vote in this poll.

I also strongly considered Newman in Verdict but I went with a different Newman performance.

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Cusumano

Dustin Hoffman is SO much better in "Tootsie" than in his winning roles. He was quite good in "Kramer vs. Kramer" and he was fine, I suppose, in "Rain Man," but I was more impressed with Tom Cruise in that movie than Dustin Hoffman. But Hoffman is brilliant in "Tootsie" -- absolutely brilliant. Guess I'll have to actually watch "Gandhi" to see if Kingsley really deserved that Oscar.

Oh, and Peter O'Toole's performance in "Lawrence of Arabia" never ceases to amaze me. I'd be angrier about his Oscar loss if I didn't also have affection for Peck's Atticus Finch. O'Toole probably should have won, but I'm OK with the outcome. I find that happens often enough with the Oscars.

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercash

Newman in Verdict, Burton in Woolf, Brando in Streetcar, Finney in Volcano are all WAY up there. I also have to single out 1974 as having the most brilliant lineup for Best Actor ever: Finney, Nicholson, Pacino and Hoffman, all are classic performances. Even Carney, who comes in fifth and who should not have won, is pretty damn great.

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Pam - Heath Ledger is no exception. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is absolutely brilliant in Capote and a totally deserving winner. In fact, had Ledger won that year, Hoffman would be third on my personal ballot for this poll.

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmir

Nathaniel, I have never heard such beautiful words written about Hoffman in "Tootsie." It's my favorite male performance of all time so I jumped when I saw it was #5 and not at least #3, but then your words made it seems like #1. It's just how I would describe his performance.

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

This is a great list. I agree with all of the choices although I would add Paul Newman in HUD to the list.

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterStan

Stan -- i missed him on this list, too!

December 4, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I love, love,... your choices,Nat with the exception of Hoffman... to me he was not convincing!?!

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterrick

Nick -- i know. we're going to have to come up with some sort of tie-breaking system. It's driving me batty because you know how much i love ties

BVR -- thank you so much. It's maybe my favorite performance of the 80s (male division) so yes. it was #1 on my list.

JA -- i was hoping Scheider would make the list. Love that perf so much.

December 4, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Not being a big list lover as most people here, I'll reduce it to two: Brando's Streetcar and DeNiro's Taxi Driver. If there are two performances for the ages, bigger than life, heavily influential for different generations of actors, and that have entered popular culture even for people who know very little about movies, it's those two. I love, love, love some of the ones you mention, but those two are just in a different league.

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteriggy

Uhh, is no one going to say Edward Norton for 'AmerIcan History X'?

Amen about O'toole. Amen

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoe Gouveia

Toby Jones was a better Capote just like Sandra was a better Harper Lee. If only they were in a better film albeit it at least had a soul./Minority opinion

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

I think these sorts of articles just brings up what many of us already know about the film awards - some years there are two, three even 5 award worthy performances and in other years the best of a mediocre bunch wins.

I thought Heath Ledger was superior to Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Heck even Toby Jones in the other Capote film that year was better.

Kingsley in Gandhi was brilliant and thoroughly deserving that year. And he beat out 4 other super performances - Hoffman, Newman, O'Toole and Lemmon - for Missing.

Pacino and Washington - both won for unworthy performances ie. Scent and Training Day respectivelly. These were clear examples of 'It's time' and 'We're sorry for before' awards.

This year there will be a few actors who will miss out on a nomination - not because they aren't worthy - but because there are so many fine performances this year.

And we will have this discussion again in a few years time eg.

Did Bruce Dern deserve his Oscar over Chiwetel Ejiofor? Oscar is racist.
Did Robert Redford deserve it over Bruce Dern? C'mon - Rob already has a couple of Oscars and Dern has been around just as long!
Leonardo Di Caprio has been snubbed again - when will he get his 'It's time' Oscar?
Forrest Whittaker, Michael B Jordan and Idris Elba were all snubbed! - Oscar is racist!

Actually some of these questions will be asked on the night the nominations are announced. You can predict it can't you?

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBette Streep

Ashamed to admit: I still haven't seen half of these. I'm missing LION O'Toole, Clift, Brando, Stewart and Lemmon. Oy.

Still, always happy to see one of my favorites, Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon, make it onto one of these. One for the ages.

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWalter L. Hollmann

I’ve seen every Oscar nominated and winning performance in the Best Actor category except Lewis Stone in The Patriot and Emil Jannings in The Way of All Flesh (two lost films) and also Richard Barthlemess in both The Patent Leather Kid and The Noose, Paul Muni in The Valiant and Lawrence Tibbett in The Rogue Song.

From what I’ve seen my favorite performance ever is Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront, but thankfully he won. As for those who did not, here’s my list:

1. Al Pacino - The Godfather Part II (1974)
2. Dustin Hoffman - Tootsie (1982)
3. Robert De Niro - Awakenings (1990)
4. John Hurt - The Elephant Man (1980)
5. Al Pacino - Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
6. Burt Lancaster - Atlantic City (1981)
7. Nicolas Cage - Adaptation. (2002)
8. Tom Wilkinson - In the Bedroom (2001)
9. James Stewart - It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
10. Jack Lemmon - The China Syndrome (1979)

The 1970s and ‘80s sure do have some great choices. Honorable mentions for me would be Paul Muni in I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind, Spencer Tracy in Father of the Bride and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and Alec Guinness in Lavender Hill Mob.

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSean Troutman

I like everyone on your list EXCEPT Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie (Midnight Cowboy would be way, way better). I would include Anthony Hopkins for The Remains of the Day, Ian McKellan for Gods and Monsters, Burt Lancaster for Atlantic City, Richard Burton for Virginia Woolf and Robert De Niro for King of Comedy.

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrandz

Although I would never bump 1972's worthy winner, I do love Peter O'Toole's performance in The Ruling Class.

Sometimes it seems there's a clump of fabulous nominees and sometimes the category seems so weak. But when I look back at the films of a particular weak year, there are many great performances - they just weren't nominated.

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteradri

All great choices my list matches half of yours, my top choice for most deserving is Peter O'Toole in The Lion in Winter.

My choices in chronological order:
Henry Fonda-The Grapes of Wrath
Montgomery Clift-From Here to Eternity
James Mason-A Star Is Born
Jack Lemmon-Some Like It Hot
Spencer Tracy-Inherit the Wind
Peter O'Toole-The Lion in Winter
Al Pacino-Dog Day Afternoon
Dustin Hoffman-Tootsie
Ian McKellan-Gods and Monsters
Heath Ledger-Brokeback Mountain

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

Of all the Team Top Tens I've participated in, this one had the greatest overlap with my own final list.

1. Heath Ledger - Brokeback Mountain - Ennis Del Mar
2. Al Pacino - Dog Day Afternoon - Sonny Wortzik
3. Humphrey Bogart - Casablanca - Rick Blane
4. Peter O'Toole - The Lion in Winter - King Henry II of England
5. Clark Gable - Gone with the Wind - Rhett Butler
6. James Stewart - It's a Wonderful Life - George Bailey
7. James Mason - A Star Is Born - Norman Maine
8. Dustin Hoffman - Midnight Cowboy - "Ratso" Rizzo
9. Walter Matthau - The Sunshine Boys - Willy Clark
10. Michael Caine - Sleuth - Milo Tindle

December 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Lipp

It will take me a while probably to come up with a list, so for now:
Dog Day Afternoon is probably my #1. Incredible performance in an incredible movie. Why on earth did they wait all those years with Pacino, damnit.

December 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPitry

Just to see the picture of him holding that shirt makes me teary-eyed.

December 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterIvonne

I don't wanna think now, but half of my list would be Jack Lemmon (the best actor of all time):

1 Some Like it Hot
2 The Apartment (the lack of mentions here meabs oeopke want to soread tge wealth, but both perfornances are equally amazing)
3 Tribute
4 The China Syndrome
5 Missing

December 5, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Cal -- I totally agree!!!

December 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Good list. Can't deny the top 3. The only one I can think of off the top of my head that I would DEFINITELY add is Hopkins in The Remains of the Day.

December 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSawyer

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