Directors who’ve never won an Oscar

This year most people consider the battle for the Best Directing Oscar to be a straight out fight between the exes – Kathryn Bigelow for the Hurt Locker and James Cameron for Avatar. Over the Oscars history many great directors have won this accolade but plenty have also had the honour pass them by. We take a look at the most famous directors to never receive an Oscar for Directing.

Alfred Hitchcock
Although Hitchcock was nominated five times for Best Director (Rebecca, Lifeboat, Spellbound, Rear Window and Psycho) he never won the award. Although Rebecca did win the Oscar for Best Picture this award was picked up by the producer David O. Selznick so Hitchcock is often seen as the most famed and celebrated director to never get an Oscar nod. However in 1968 the Academy did award Hitchcock the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award (an irregular award given to ‘consistent high – quality’ film producers). Famously when Hitchcock picked up the award, his acceptance speech was two words ‘thank you’  – whether this was a dignified speech to mock the usual blubbing speeches or a disgruntled reaction to the fact he never received the directing award is unknown.

Stanley Kubrick
Kubrick has been nominated four times for the directing Oscar – for Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange and Barry Lyndon but he never won. However his films have won many Oscars in other categories and he did get to collect the Oscar won by 2001 A Space Odyssey for Best Visual Effects himself. The fact that Kubrick’s iconic films so often top best film and director polls across the media show that this his exclusion from the ranks of Best Director award holders is one of the Academy’s biggest mistakes, especially when considering the films it lost out to such as My Fair Lady and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which are well respected but not really on a par in terms of Kubrick’s directorial skills, and neither Geoge Cukor or Milos Forman have made a directorial impact elsewhere.

Robert Altman
As with Hitchcock, Altman also received 5 nominations for his directorial work. MASH, Nashville, The Player, Short Cuts and Gosford Park are the five films that he got the nominations for but he was repeatedly denied the win. However like Hitchcock the Academy did honour his work with one of their separate ‘honorary’ awards just before his death in 2006 for a ‘career that has repeatedly reinvented the art form and inspired filmmakers and audiences alike’. Altman had a renowned reputation for publicly bad-mouthing Hollywood and the studios so the cynical among us may believe this is why he was never recognised with the best director award.

Sergio Leone
Leone is even more notable than the other directors on our list as not only did he never receive an Oscar for direction he didn’t even once get a nomination despite producing such classic Spaghetti Westerns like the trilogy of A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The lack of any nominations for his films which are absolute classics and an integral part of cinemas genre history is much more shocking when other filmmakers have simply missed out at the final ballot stage whereas Leone didn’t even get to hear the starting pistol fire.

It seems that the Academy have often decided to issue ‘Honorary’ awards for great directors (and actors) that never received an Oscar during their screen career, although this is not a necessary requirement to receive this award. Directors that have received this award but missed out on Best Direction awards or even nominations have included Sidney Lumet (who received 4 nominations), Akira Kurosawa (I nom), Federico Fellini (4 noms), King Vidor (5 noms), Howard Hawks (1 nom) and Orson Welles (I nom). There are also a number of younger directors still making plenty of films that have yet to get a best directing award – Ridley Scott has been nominated 3 times (Thelma & Louise, Gladiator and Black Hawk Down), and Tim Burton has never received a directing nomination and neither has Spike Lee. Have we missed out any other directors you think should have received Oscars for their directorial work? Let us know in the comments below. This year one British film fan thought so highly of Sam Rockwells work on Moon that he started an internet campaign with petitions t shirts and a blog but alas Moon was completely ignored by the Oscars, althoguh it has received many awards elsewhere.

About The Author

3 Responses

  1. Max Goesle

    I think the point of all this is that the Academy Awards are complete nonsense. That James Cameron could win an academy for trite garbage like Titanic, while Kubrick, Kurosawa get nothing just means that the Oscar is simply an award for marketing to the lowest common denominator.

  2. konway87

    Ernst Lubitsch never won an Oscar. Anthony Asquith never won an Oscar. I think Asquith’s The Browning Version (1951) is one of the best films ever made.

  3. jdscissorhands

    I don’t think that Christopher Nolan ever got an oscar nomination for best director…. which is sad when considering that an overrated director like Darren Aronofsky already did.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.