Which actresses have yet to win their Oscar? Whose name makes a list like this, and why? Should it only be those who can deliver dramatic performances? Is there room for comedians and improv actors?

Some actors deserve their spot here because of a single powerhouse performance, while others find themselves here because of an entire career of worthy roles. Many have broken ground in opening up roles in which studios were once unwilling to cast women. Their work spans genres and all of them are still producing challenging work today.

Also check out the Best Living Actors Without an Oscar.

10. Annette Bening

Bening’s been nominated four times, but she’s lost all four (twice to Hillary Swank). Best known for her lead role in “American Beauty,” she creates powerful characters, often at the brink of losing control. Careers like hers are often awarded later in life, taking on a lifetime achievement feel, but sometimes they go completely unrecognized.

9. Salma Hayek

Hayek’s career spans an interesting range: between full, sexual dramas and wholesome children’s entertainment. Films like “Wild Wild West,” “From Dusk Till Dawn,” and “Spy Kids” have kept many from taking her seriously in more serious movies like “Follow Me Home” and “Frida.” Others have said it’s her Mexican heritage that has kept her from earning more critical acceptance.

8. Sigourney Weaver

Simply put, Weaver is one of the most powerful actors in film (man or woman). Her presence is powerful and she elevates genre fare to the point where critics absolutely must pay attention to anything with which she’s involved. She was nominated first in 1987 for “Aliens,” and then twice in 1989 for “Gorillas in the Mist” and “Working Girl.” She hasn’t been nominated in 26 years, and is more likely at this point to see a lifetime achievement award than recognition for any single performance.

7. Laura Linney

Linney’s an expert at making characters feel natural to whatever genre or environment they’re put into. From “You Can Count on Me” to “Kinsey” and “The Savages,” she’s mastered characters you can believe in even more than the film itself. She took a complete left turn in “Mystic River” and made it hers, and she delivered one of her most underrated performances in “The Truman Show.”

6. Isabella Rossellini

Rossellini’s just too strange for the Academy. Despite a spate of superb performances, she rarely makes straight dramatic choices. She prefers unexpected roles in off-kilter films. The Internet Age might know her best from “Green Porno,” a compilation of short films in which she dresses as insects to describe their mating habits.

5. Parker Posey

Read any interview with Posey and you’ll see her called an “Indie Queen.” She’s resisted the normal across her career, sticking to the fringes of comedy and drama. No one can match her unique ability to cut across the grain of a film, of acting both inside and out of it. She fuses an irreverent, audacious comedy to a subtle dramatic heft. Her characters are often tragic, but smile too much for you to take that tragedy seriously. In this way, she delivers performances that are at once very real and remarkably outlandish. She’ll never get an Oscar, but, my god, she deserves one.

4. Catherine Keener

Keener’s always recognizable, yet deceptively versatile. She never seems bigger than the roles she plays. She doesn’t act them so much as she lets them inhabit the world of the film around her. Best known as the love interest in “The 40 Year Old Virgin,” she’s been nominated for “Being John Malkovich” and “Capote.” The Academy’s been cold on her for eight years now, which isn’t promising.

3. Do-yeon Jeon

The name won’t be familiar to many, but the South Korean actress has won a host of awards in South Korea’s burgeoning yet oft-overlooked film industry. She also won Best Actress at the Asian Film Awards in 2008 for “Secret Sunshine,” in which she plays a mother grieving for her lost child. Simply put, she’s the kind of actress who carries films into the stratosphere. There are few better, with or without an Oscar.

2. Michelle Williams

Williams breaks your heart on a regular basis, but she can do it through such a wide array of approaches. She understands how a performance communicates across the camera like few others. Nominated for “Brokeback Mountain,” “Blue Valentine,” and “My Week with Marilyn,” it’s only a matter of time before she’s properly recognized. She’s simply too powerful an actress to ignore.

1. Viola Davis

The star of “How to Get Away with Murder” has somehow been overlooked for the very moments we tell stories to see. She can steal the breath out of an entire theater, and in both “Doubt” and “The Help,” she did just that. It’s rare that someone out-acts Meryl Streep. You can see into the minds of Davis’ characters in a scene, the eyes searching, the wrestling for control that we all do in our worst moments of panic. Yet she can also communicate such power in those moments as to capture an audience. She makes moments breathe, she makes you feel the quiet of it, and makes you chill at the wind on her skin. She makes you feel what she feels. She overwhelms you with it. She’s got to get an Oscar sooner or later, or it will be one of the greatest oversights in the Academy’s history.

10 Honorable Mentions: Amy Adams, Helena Bonham Carter, Jessica Chastain, Glenn Close, Rinko Kikuchi, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michelle Pfeiffer, Belen Rueda, Emily Watson, Alfre Woodard

Is your favorite actress named here? Who would you switch out?




Gabriel Valdez
Gabriel Valdez
Gabriel is a movie critic who's been a campaign manager in Oregon, an investigative reporter in Texas, and a film producer in Massachusetts. His writing was named best North American criticism of 2014 by the Local Media Association. He's assembled a band of writers who focus on social issues in film. They have a home base.