25 greatest Best Actor nominees who lost the Oscar, ranked

Since the first ceremony in 1929, the Academy has nominated over 400 performances for Best Actor, with 83 actors claiming victory. Inevitably, the debates of who “should have” won follow, some of which have lasted decades. There’s no doubt that campaigning and popularity often play roles in who wins, but in many cases there’s more than one deserving winner.

For instance, it’s unbelievable that Peter O’Toole lost for his portrayal of the title character in “Lawrence of Arabia,” until you realize the winner – another legendary performance, from Gregory Peck in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The 1941 ceremony included five performances that are still considered some of the best acting put on film, with four of the movies now classics: Charlie Chaplin for “The Great Dictator,” Henry Fonda for “The Grapes of Wrath,” Raymond Massey for “Abe Lincoln in Illinois,” Laurence Olivier for “Rebecca” and the winner, James Stewart for “The Philadelphia Story.” There’s really not a loser in that bunch.

In this article, we honor some of the most memorable Oscar-nominated performances for Best Actor that didn’t win. It’s not implying that the winner was undeserving, but that there are times multiple performers are equally deserving, with several that have withstood the test of time as some of the finest in cinema history. Quite a few actors have had numerous roles that were Oscar-worthy, but we only picked one performance per actor for this ranking. It’s a real shame our choices as the 25 greatest Best Actor losing nominees didn’t arrive in other years or against slightly less stellar competition. Years in the captions refer to the ceremonies and not the films’ releases.