This year has seen Lupita Nyong’o winning her first Academy Award, this also being the first time she has been nominated for one. Furthermore, 12 Years a Slave is also her first full-length feature film, which is something quite impressive, given the fact that she has won against the much more experienced Julia Roberts and even against America’s new beau Jennifer Lawrence.
While it is too soon to say that this year’s award is just a glitch in her career, there were plenty of cases in which actors have won only to sink again in the anonymity which characterized their entire careers. Given the fact that Lupita Nyong’o’s next movie seems to be a rehash of Taken (starring the one and incomparable Liam Neeson), we don’t know how good her prospects are.
Here are our top choices of actors that have won an Oscar despite having totally unremarkable careers.
10. Tatum O’Neal
In 1973 the 10 years old Tatum O’Neal took home the Academy Award for best actress in a supporting role for the movie Paper Moon, in which she starred alongside her father Ryan O’Neal. Since then she has fallen off the grid, playing in movies like Nickelodeon and Basquiat. Drug addiction, a messy divorce, and a very revealing book complete the picture.
9. Timothy Hutton
In 1981 Ordinary People trumped Raging Bull, and had Timothy Hutton win the Oscar for best supporting actor. While he has had plenty of movies made since then, the actor didn’t confirm his status, playing mostly in B movies. The Secret Window could be a movie which wouldn’t be on these less-successful films, but he played in there a very small role.
8. Mira Sorvino
Yet another best actress in a supporting role winner, Mira Sorvino convinced the Academy that her role in Mighty Aphrodite deserves to take the cake in 1995. While she has had soon after a few movies which did good at the box-office (Mimic and Replacement Killers), her career became as bland as any other actor’s on this list. She now sticks to TV productions and straight to video releases.
7. Mercedes Ruehl
For her role in Fisher King, Mercedes Ruehl took home the Oscar in 1991 for the best actress in a supporting role. However, immediately after that she starred in the critically trashed Lost in Yonkers and in one of the biggest flops of all times Last Action Hero. Since then she has starred mainly in TV movies and series, and the occasional straight to DVD release.
6. Linda Hunt
In 1982, Linda Hunt was amazing in The Year of Living Dangerously, convincing everybody that her role as a diminutive man deserves an Oscar. However, since then, she has starred mainly in TV series and straight to video releases, with the occasional Kindergarten Cop and Pocahontas on the side. Also, she can be heard as a narrator in one of the most successful video games series of all time: God of War.
5. Roberto Benigni
For Life is Beautiful Roberto Benigni won the Academy Award for the best actor in a leading role, and more than that (2 other nominations for best director and best screenplay). Immediately after that he went and played Catastrofus in Asterix and Obelix vs. Caesar and Pinocchio, which was also the movie that completely buried his career. He was seen in To Rome with Love, but this is just too little and too late.
4. Keisha Castle-Hughes
Keisha Castle-Hughes is also an actress that has won the Oscar at her first appearance on the silver screen, although she has won for the best actress category and not for the supporting one, at the age of 12. Since then she has had brief appearances in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith and that’s about it. There is almost no recognizable movie on her entire filmography.
3. Jennifer Hudson
Jennifer Hudson won the Oscar for the best supporting actress in 2006 in Dreamgirls. But when you are considering that she has since played in movies like The Three Stooges and Black Nativity, things don’t look so good. However, her career as a singer has flourished – maybe one should stick to what one knows best, don’t you think?
2. Adrien Brody
One of the most surprising appearances on this list is the one of Adrien Brody, who has won the Oscar for best actor for his riveting performance in The Pianist (the year was 2002). While his career didn’t just wither and die, people were expecting much more from him then movies like Predators or InAPPropriate Comedy. And as that saying goes, spring doesn’t arrive with only just one movie (The Darjeeling Limited). We still want to see him, however, in this year’s The Grand Budapest Hotel.
1. Cuba Gooding Jr.
Was there any doubt? After making it big with Show me the… Sorry: After making it big with Jerry Maguire in 1996, Cuba Gooding Jr. appeared briefly in As Good as it Gets, as well as in several other high profile movies. But other than that, he has made Daddy Day Camp, Boat Trip, and Snow Dogs. Pretty disappointing, don’t you think?
Special Mention: Halle Berry
Former Bond Girl, Halle Berry has quite a few movies under her belt. But when we are considering that she has been Catwoman, that her role in the X-Men franchise is probably the most despised by the fans, and that she hasn’t had a big release in quite some years (besides the aforementioned movies), we may say that her Monster Ball best actress award was just a mishap.
So what do you think of our list? Did we mention everybody who deserved to be in here, or did we forget any big recent names? Although we wanted to say that Marisa Tomei should have been in here, she has proved time and again that she has the acting chops and that she indeed won in 1993 with My Cousin Vinny (the word is that it was Jack Palance who read her name on the card, although it was the name of another actress).
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