Meryl Streep has been nominated a record 20 times at the Oscars, but she’s only won three trophies: Best Supporting Actress for “Kramer vs. Kramer” (1979), Best Actress for “Sophie’s Choice” (1982) and Best Actress for “The Iron Lady” (2011). That means a whopping 17 times the award has gone to someone else, making her Oscar’s biggest loser among performers. Click through our photo gallery above that highlights all of Meryl Streep’s Oscar wins … and losses.
-By Robert Pius
Supporting Actress: ‘The Deer Hunter’ (1978)
Lost to: Maggie Smith, “California Suite”
In 1978 Streep received her first Oscar nomination for her second film, “The Deer Hunter.” She had made her film debut the year before in a small role in “Julia” and had also won an Emmy for the TV miniseries “Holocaust.”
In recent years Streep has been critical of her role in “The Deer Hunter” calling the role a standard girlfriend who waits for her man type role.
The academy must have agreed since Streep lost this year to Maggie Smith, who won her second Oscar playing an actress nominated for an Oscar in the Neil Simon comedy “California Suite.”
Supporting Actress: ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’ (1979)
Won Oscar #1
This was a big year for Streep with three acclaimed performances in Woody Allen’s “Manhattan,” “The Seduction of Joe Tynan” and “Kramer vs. Kramer,” for which she won her first Oscar.
Best Actress: ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’ (1981)
Lost to: Katharine Hepburn, “On Golden Pond”
This year marked Streep’s first lead actress nomination for “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” and it is really the only time in her Oscar history where she was favored to win and then didn’t take home the award. Hepburn scored a surprise victory that provoked gasps when presenter Jon Voight read her name. This was Hepburn’s fourth win as Best Actress and she still holds the record of most wins ever by an actor. (She never showed up to accept any of them, BTW.)
Best Actress: ‘Sophie’s Choice’ (1982)
Won Oscar #2
Five years into her film career Streep won her second Oscar and first lead award as the doomed concentration camp survivor. This performance remains one of her most acclaimed and often tops Oscar lists of the best performances by an actress ever. Streep swept all precursor awards this year and was a sure thing come Oscar night despite having strong competition from Jessica Lange for arguably her most acclaimed film work ever in the film “Frances.” Lange was given the supporting actress award this year for “Tootsie,” which was largely seen as a make-up for not being given the Best Actress trophy.
Best Actress: ‘Silkwood’ (1983)
Lost to: Shirley MacLaine, “Terms of Endearment”
Streep continued what would become a pattern of Best Actress nominations in the rest of the 80s, this year being nominated as the title character in “Silkwood,” a film about a nuclear power plant. She lost the award though to MacLaine as the domineering mother in that year’s Best Picture winner, “Terms of Endearment.”
Best Actress: ‘Out of Africa’ (1985)
Lost to: Geraldine Page, “The Trip to Bountiful”
Though Meryl’s film “Out of Africa” won Best Picture, Streep herself lost out on the Best Actress award to Page for “The Trip to Bountiful.” Page had been nominated seven previous times without winning.
Best Actress: ‘Ironweed’ (1987)
Lost to: Cher, “Moonstruck”
Streep was a surprise nominee this year for her work as a homeless alcoholic woman in the film “Ironweed.” She lost the Best Actress award to Cher, who had gained her first Oscar nomination and established herself as a serious actress opposite Streep in “Silkwood.”
Best Actress: ‘A Cry in the Dark’ (1988)
Lost to: Jodie Foster, “The Accused”
Foster’s performance as a rape victim in “The Accused” bested Streep this year who was nominated for her performance as a mother accused of murdering her child in “A Cry in the Dark.” The film was released in some countries as “Evil Angels” but is probably best remembered as the source of the quote “that dingo took your baby!”
Best Actress: ‘Postcards from the Edge’ (1990)
Lost to: Kathy Bates, “Misery”
Bates was named Best Actress for her work as the obsessed fan in Stephen King’s “Misery.” Streep was nominated as Best Actress for “Postcards from the Edge” which was based on actress Carrie Fisher’s biographical novel detailing her problems with drug addiction. This remains the only time Streep (who was pregnant) did not attend the ceremonies when nominated.
Best Actress: ‘The Bridges of Madison County’ (1995)
Lost to: Susan Sarandon, “Dead Man Walking”
Streep was nominated as Best Actress for the adaptation of the popular novel “The Bridges of Madison County,” but lost out to Sarandon as a nun crusading against capital punishment in “Dead Man Walking.”
Best Actress: ‘One True Thing’ (1998)
Lost to: Gwyneth Paltrow, “Shakespeare in Love”
Streep was again nominated as Best Actress this time as a terminally ill New Jersey housewife in “One True Thing,” a performance she saw as a tribute to her own mother who was also a New Jersey housewife. She lost the award though to Paltrow in the Best Picture-winning “Shakespeare in Love.”
Best Actress: ‘Music of the Heart’ (1999)
Lost to: Hilary Swank, “Boys Don’t Cry”
Streep lost to newcomer Swank for her role as a transgender murder victim in “Boys Don’t Cry.” Streep’s nomination this year for “Music of the Heart” is often cited as her least deserving of all 20 bids.
Supporting Actress: ‘Adaptation’ (2002)
Lost to: Catherine Zeta-Jones, “Chicago”
Oscar strategists tried to score Streep a double nomination this year by campaigning her for a lead actress nomination for “The Hours” and a supporting actress one for “Adaptation.” She failed to receive the leading nomination but was a contender for the supporting award which she lost to Zeta-Jones as the singing, dancing murderess of Best Picture winner “Chicago.”
Best Actress: ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ (2006)
Lost to: Helen Mirren, “The Queen”
Mirren as Queen Elizabeth was unstoppable for Best Actress this year, but Streep scored a nomination as Best Actress for the comedic favorite “The Devil Wears Prada.”
Best Actress: ‘Doubt’ (2008)
Lost to: Kate Winslet, “The Reader”
Streep won the Screen Actors Guild Award as Best Actress for her role as a conflicted nun in the film adaptation of the play “Doubt,” but she lost the Oscar this year to Winslet for her role in “The Reader.”
Best Actress: ‘Julie & Julia’ (2009)
Lost to: Sandra Bullock, “The Blind Side”
Streep won the New York Film Critics award this year for her role as Julia Child in “Julie & Julia,” but she lost out on the Best Actress Oscar to Bullock for her role in “The Blind Side.”
Meryl Streep The Iron Lady
“The right actors win Oscars, but for the wrong roles,” Katharine Hepburn once said. She should know. Her first of four still-record acting wins was in her third feature, 1933’s “Morning Glory,” when she played an aspiring actress — not exactly a stretch for her back then. Me, I like the Great Kate best when she is matched with a male sparring partner who is at her level, such as Humphrey Bogart in 1951’s “The African Queen” or Spencer Tracy in 1942’s “Woman of the Year.” But I can’t grouch too much over her later-life wins for 1967’s “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” 1968’s “The Lion in Winter” or 1981’s “On Golden Pond,” given that her co-stars were Tracy, Peter O’Toole and Henry Fonda.
Which 12 actresses won Oscars for the wrong roles? Our “right actress, wrong role” for leads photo gallery above features Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Kate Winslet and more. Who mostly deserves to be the source of raucous outrage and polite debate. Share your own example that you feel strongly about in the comments section below or make a case for the wins below.
Best Actress: ‘August: Osage County’ (2013)
Lost to: Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”’
After a well-publicized public debate as to whether Streep or co-star Julia Roberts were the lead of “August: Osage County,” Streep was deemed the lead actress and Roberts the supporting (at least for Oscar strategy) and both were nominated. But this was the year Blanchett was sweeping all the Best Actress prizes for the Woody Allen film “Blue Jasmine.”
Supporting Actress: ‘Into the Woods’ (2014)
Lost to: Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”
Streep received her first nomination in a musical for this adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods,” but lost the award to Arquette in “Boyhood.”
Best Actress: ‘Florence Foster Jenkins’ (2016)
Lost to: Emma Stone, “La La Land”
Streep received her 20th nomination for “Florence Foster Jenkins.” As Gold Derby predicted, she lost to Stone, but her place in the record books as the most nominated actress of all time looks to be quite secure for now.