Winslet Should've Won for 'Eternal Sunshine'
Attentive Oscar fanatics were up in arms when Kate Winslet was nominated and eventually won for The Reader, a World War II drama that reeked of award-baiting. That doesn't mean Winslet isn't deserving of a Best Actress award — her role as a quirky, emotional wreck in Eternal Sunshine continues to define the first decade of the millennium.
The Weinstein Company; Focus Features
Crowe Should've Won for 'The Insider'
Crowe won his Best Actor statue for fighting off muscled men and lions in Ridley Scott's period drama Gladiator, but he should have won just for surviving The Insider, in which he shared the screen without he deadliest beast of all: Al Pacino.
Dreamworks; Spyglass Entertainment
Pacino Should've Won for 'The Godfather'
Speaking of Pacino, the legendary actor is often cited as a Best Actor winner who took home a statue after a career of incredible work rather than a pinnacle performance. He won for Scent of a Woman, a Barry Levinson dramedy that's good… but not Godfather good.
Universal Pictures; Paramount Pictures
Foster Should've Won for 'Taxi Driver'
Say what you will about her acceptance speeches, Jodie Foster's career gives her the clout to do whatever the heck she wants when she takes the podium. There's one speech we wish was in existence: 14-year-old taking home Best Actress for Taxi Driver. Even has a tween, Foster sported some of the best acting chops in Hollywood and her performance alongside Robert De Niro, as a child prostitute, is frightening and spellbinding.
Columbia Pictures; Orion Pictures
Nicholson Should've Won for 'Chinatown'
Nicholson has won three Oscars in his prolific career, but we would be much happier to swap out the saccharine As Good As It Gets for one of his earlier, meatier parts. The actor continues to wow as the snide, hard-nosed detective Jake Gittes in Roman Polanski's Chinatown. He takes it to Academy Award-worthy levels by spending half the movie underneath a nose bandage.
TriStar Pictures; Paramount Pictures
Witherspoon Should've Won for 'Election'
The biopic: an actor's ticket to the Oscars. Reese Witherspoon's first nomination became her first win when she portrayed June Carter in the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line. A handful of listenable tunes leveraged the performance, but when it comes to straight up chameleon work, nothing tops her performance in the 1999 black comedy Election. She embodied June Carter but lost herself in Tracey Flick, a driven high school president.
20th Century Fox; Paramount Pictures
Hoffman Should've Won for 'Midnight Cowboy'
Hoffman has won two Oscars over his 60-year career, nominated an impressive seven times. He picked up awards for Kramer vs. Kramer and Rain Man, two movies that highlight his softer side. But his most daring work — and the performance that deserves more recognition — is as the scummy Ratso Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy, a character that dreamt of escaping the hellhole that is New York City.
Columbia Pictures; United Artists
Lemmon Should've Won for 'The Apartment'
For whatever reason, the Academy has a hard time awarding talented comics until they've turned to straight drama. Jack Lemmon's downward spiraling character in Save the Tiger earned the actor his second Oscar, but only after years in comedy. His most complex role, that called upon both his timing and capacity as a dramatic performer, was as C.C. Baxter in Billy Wilder's The Apartment.
Paramount Pictures; United Artists
Sarandon Should've Won for 'Thelma & Louise'
Death row drama is code for "ultimate tearjerker" and Susan Sarandon surfed the tears of audiences all the way to the podium in 1995. It's a somber performance, one that appeals to voters who opt for high dramas. Which may explain why one of Sarandon's best roles, the vivacious latter half of Thelma & Louise, went overlooked. Strong women who live life by their own rules: scary! Strong woman who dedicates herself to helping a guy in prison: award-worthy.
Gramercy Pictures; MGM
Irons Should've Won for 'Dead Ringers'
What's better than one Oscar-worthy performance? Simple: Two Oscar-worthy performances. Irons is a master thespian who adeptly navigates the treacherous waters of the twisted drama Reversal of Fortune, but he does the same in the David Cronenberg's stranger Dead Ringers. In the fill, the actor plays identical twin gynecologists, often interacting with himself in pivotal dramatic moments.
Warner Bros. Pictures; 20th Century Fox