Best Actor Winners Who Were Generally Deemed Undeserving

Posted on 26 Jun 00:00


1.  Roberto Benigni, Life Is Beautiful (1998)

It began as a play that earned recognit ion in America, and has maintained popularity since then.  It became the second-highest profiting foreign language film in the United States, and it is ranked in the top 5 best foreign films. 


Life is Beautiful depicts a Jewish-Italian man (Guido) who arrives in Arezzo, Italy to open a bookstore and becomes a waiter in a restaurant where his uncle Eliseo works. Guido meets a woman, a schoolteacher from a rich Italian family.

Although Dora was already in another relationship with a wealthy man, Guido successfully convinces her to marry him, and they have a son, Giosue. On Giosue’s fifth birthday, the Germans take Guido, Eliseo, and Giosue to a labor camp. Not ready for separation from her family, Dora insists on being taken too, but she is instead retained in the women’s camp.  In the process, Eliseo dies. While in the camp, Guido tries his best to protect his son, convincing the kid that the camp is merely a game they must win.

Giosue abides by his father’s rules, determined to win a tank at the end of this contest. Guido succeeds in keeping everything under control and, when the camp shuts down, he directs Giosue to a sweat-box where he should stay until everyone leaves. The boy innocently follows his father’s directions, knowing that it is the competition’s final round before winning the tank. Unfortunately, Guido is caught and shot by a German soldier while searching for Dora. His poor child would never see him again. The next day Giosue leaves the box after the US army liberates the detainees from the camp. This young boy is excited to win the complicated game, unaware that his fellow player, his father, is dead. The American soldier allows him to ride on the tank, and in his mind, everything is as perfect as his father had assured. While being driven to a safe place, Giosue spots his mother, Dora leaving the camp. The two finally reunite, and Guisou joyfully explains to his mother how he emerged the winner and received a tank exactly how his father had promised him. As an adult, Giosue realizes all the sacrifices his father made for him.

The Director

The director of Life is Beautiful is Roberto Benigni (Guido). He is a talented Italian actor admired for his comedy work. He was born on October 27, 1952, and his script, Life is Beautiful, made a name for him in the acting industry.

The Main Cast

Nicoletta Braschi (Dora), is an Italian actress and producer, popular for her amazing work in the film industry with her husband, Roberto Benigni.  She has appeared in several movies, some of which were produced by her husband. Her two most successful movies, were with Roberto titled 'Johnny Stracchino' (1992) and 'Life is Beautiful' (1998).

Giorgio Cantarini (Guisue), first appeared on the screen in 'Life is Beautiful' (1998), playing the role of Guisue.  His trust in his father and unquestionable obedience made him a favorite for many viewers.

Giustino Durano (Eliseo), is a movie actor best known for his part in 'Life is Beautiful'. He was in the film industry from 1954-2001 and probably would have stayed longer in the acting field were it not for cancer which took his life in 2002. His amazing talent will never be forgotten because he made some unforgettable movies.

Special Awards

'Life is Beautiful' received 3 awards from the Academy Awards. It also won the Grand Prix at the 1998 Cannes film festival, received 9 awards in David di Donatello, and was labeled as the best film. In Italy, it won 5 Nastro d’Argento. It received two European film awards, including the best foreign-language film and Roberto Benigni as the best male non-English performer.

Why Not Deserved: It is because that year, Edward Norton gave a searing portrayal of seething skinhead Derek Vinyard in American History X' and blew everyone away.

2.  Grace Kelly, Best Actress, Country Girl (1954)

County girl is a 1954 drama movie that describes the struggles individuals go through while trying to let go of their bad habits to rebuild their Life.


Director Bernie Dodd desperately searches for a male character for his new play and wants to hire Frank Elgin, who was once a top star in the film industry. However, Frank is an irresponsible alcoholic that lets his wife Georgie make all decisions because he also suffers from low self-esteem. Bernie feels that Georgia is to be blamed for Frank's insecurity and confidence issues. However, he realizes he’s wrong and finds out Georgia is also tired of her husband’s lack of spirit and doing her best to help him.


The director is George Seaton.

Main Cast

Bing Crosby (Frank Elgin)
Grace Kelly (Georgia Elgin)
William Holden (Bernie Dodd)

The Special Awards

'The Country Girl' won two Oscars, and Grace Kelly received an Oscar for best actress in a leading role. George Seaton was awarded for the best screenplay.  'The Country Girl' received 11 nominations and 5 wins from The Writers Guild of America, New York Film Critics Circle Awards, National Board of Review, Directors Guild of America, Cannes Film Festival, BAFTA Awards, Golden Globes, and Academy awards.

Why Her Oscar Was Not Deserved

Grace Kelly did not deliver as per the expectations and did not deserve the award. Although she was highly talented, Oscar-worthy actress, Grace did not perfectly portray an unhappy wife of an alcoholic man. On the other hand, Judy Garland nailed her part in 'A Star is Born', portraying a woman in a similar situation and deserved the award. It was a 'head scratcher' win that year.

3.  Helen Hunt, As Good as It Gets (1998)


Melvin Udall is an intelligent, successful writer with OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder), which causes him to act erratically. His homosexual neighbor, Simon, has a dog named Verdell, which Udall hates. Simon becomes seriously injured during a home robbery which necessitates Udall temporarily and reluctantly caring for Simon's dog. With time, Melvin begins to like the dog, and they form a strong bond. When Simon is losing his apartment due to his impairment, and Melvin comes to his rescue and gives him a place to stay in his home. Simon helps Melvin come out of his shell to approach Carol, his daily waitress, on whom he has a crush, and he eventually wins her over.


 The director is James. L. Brooks, born on May 9, 1940, in Brooklyn. He is a passionate writer and producer and starred in the popular movie 'Broadcast News'.

Main Cast

Jack Nicholson portrayed Melvin Udall. An American actor, producer, director, and screenwriter. He has won 3 Academy Awards and 9 nominations.

Helen Hunt perfectly played her role as Carol.  She began acting at the age of 8. Since then, she has appeared in many films and television roles.

Greg Kinnear portrayed Simon. His first screen role was hosting a talk show, and he has starred in numerous movies, including romantic, comedy, and romance.


The movie received two Oscar awards, 36 wins, and 54 nominations. In the Oscar award, Jack Nicholson won the best male actor and Helen Hunt, the female leading actress. It has also received the following awards; Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild Awards, 20/20 Awards, ALMA Awards, American Cinema Editors, BMI Film and TV Awards.

An Interesting Fact About the Movie

It is among only '7' films that have won Oscars in both the best actor and actress category.

Why Not Deserved: This romantic comedy that features a misanthropic, racist, obsessive-compulsive novelist Jack Nicholson, and Helen Hunt, a single mother with an ill son, is among the best movies of the '90s. Hunt was not as great in this movie as Judi Dench in "Mrs. Brown." Her portrayal of Queen Victoria in "Mrs. Brown" was mesmerizing and brilliant that even the critics praised her icy yet tender depiction of Victoria. Hence, Helen Hunt did not deserve the award that year though her part was brilliantly showcased.

Judy Dench, Shakespeare in Love (1998)

It is a romantic, comedy-drama film that became a big hit in the film industry.


Henslowe, the owner of Rose theatre, has a huge debt. He convinces the lender that he would pay off the debt immediately the comedy written for him by Will Shakespeare earns him money. However, Shakespeare is blank and has written nothing. Henslowe believes the play is almost ready, and he holds auditions. One of the candidates fakes her gender to play the role of Romeo. Shakespeare discovers the actor playing the part of Romeo is the girl who had hidden her gender, and the two fall in love.


The director is John Madden, he is also a  producer in the movie industry.

Main Cast

Joseph Fiennes portrayed Shakespeare, and is a talented and popular actor.

Gwyneth Kate Paltrow portrayed Viola de Lesseps.  She is a long time box office draw, and a highly successful entrepreneur.

Geoffrey Rush portrayed Philip Henslowe, and has been featured in many other films, including millennium movies.

Tom Wilkinson portrayed Huggy Fennyman. He became active in the film industry in the mid-1970s, and became internationally popular 7 years later. 

Judy Dench portrayed Queen Elizabeth. She has worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company, the national and old Vic theatres, receiving several awards as the best actress, best-supporting actress, and many more.

Special Awards

The movie has won 7 Oscars, 57 wins, and 87 nominations.

Why Not Deserved: Judy Dench deserved the Oscar for her performance in "Mr. Brown" but did not merit the Best Actress award "Shakespeare In Love." The Best Actress award should have been given to Brenda Blethyn for "Little Voice. Perhaps the Academy voters were blown away by Dench's versatility, power, and how she displayed her authority in "Shakespeare In Love." But, her 8-minute appearance in this movie was not enough to warrant a win according to many.

6.  Marisa Tomei, My Cousin Vinny (1992)


Bill Gambini and Stan, college students from New York, are back home and enter a robbed shop. The two are arrested and charged with murder. Vinny, Bill’s cousin takes charge of the case. Fortunately, Vinny with the help of his girlfriend find enough evidence which proves his cousin’s innocence, and all the charges are dismissed.


The director is Jonathan Lynn, he is also an English stage and film director, producer, writer, and actor.

Main Cast

Marisa Tomei portrayed Monalisa Vito.  She began her career in minor roles, and was quickly elevated by her Oscar win (though controversial) in this movie. 

Joe Pesci portrayed Vinny Gambini.  He is a talented actor and musician. Many of his memorable roles portray him as a tough gangster.

Ralph Macchio portrayed Bill Gambini.  He began his career starring in 'The Karate Kid' films.

Special Awards

My cousin Vinny won one Oscar, 4 wins, and 6 nominations and the Awards Circuit Community award.

Interesting Fact

Will Smith auditioned for the role of Stan, but it was given to Mitchell Whitfield.

Why Not Deserved: Marisa Tomei was relatively new with only 5 movies on her resume and was not considered the favorite winner. Many critics rallied behind Joan Plowright in 'Enchanted April', an Oscar-worthy movie, or Vanessa Redgrave in 'Howard's End'.  It is theorized that Marisa was accidentally announced as the winner, and it was unanimously decided by the academy board not to make the correction.  A situation similar to when Steve Harvey announced the wrong winner of the 2015 Miss Universe Pageant. However, he quickly announced his mistake and regifted the crown to the correct winner.

6.  Anna Paquin, The Piano, 1993


Ada is sent with her daughter to New Zealand. Ada’s father sells her into a marriage with Alisdair. She has been mute since childhood and uses her piano to express herself. She warms up to George, and this brings many changes in their lives.


The director is Jane Campion, nominated as the best director and she has received many other awards.

Main Cast

Holly Hunter portrayed Ada.  Holly began her acting journey in her fifth-grade play. Her parents supported her talent, which helped her become successful in the film industry at an early age.

Sam Neill portrayed Alisdair. Sam and is recognized worldwide for his great contribution to film acting and television shows.

Special Awards

'The Piano' has won 1 Oscar, 54 wins, and 50 nominations from Golden Globes, Primetime Emmy Awards, BAFTA Awards, and AFI Awards.

Interesting Fact

Jane Campion was the first woman to win the Palme d'Or at the Cannes film festival but did not receive the award in person because she was due to give birth.

Why Not Deserved: In 1994, some popular performers were nominated for Best Supporting Actress, including Rosie Perez (Fearless), Winona Ryder (The Age of Innocence), Emma Thompson (In the Name of the Father), and Holly Hunter (The Firm). However, it was a shock when 11-year-old Anna Paquin beat all of them for her turn in 'The Piano'.

7.  Renee Zellweger, Judy (2019)


Judy is a talented musician, and her voice is unmatched. However, her performances begin to deteriorate. She meets Mickey Rooney at a party, who helps her get to the UK to restart her music career, and she is forced to leave her two children under her ex-husband’s care. While there, substance abuse affects her performance, her singing contract is terminated, and she is given one last chance to perform. On her last performance, she sings emotionally and asks her fans not to forget her. The film ends with her death 6 months later after that memorable performance.


The director is Rupert Goold.

Main Cast

Renee Zellweger portrayed Judy Garland.  Renee's interest in acting began while still in high school. She began acting classes in the university and pursued it as a career. She began with few independent films until she finally became a character in highly-budgeted Hollywood films.

Finn Wittrock portrayed Mickey Dean.  Finn began acting after high school and appeared in soap operas, drama movies, as well as other genres.

Special Awards
The movie won 1 Oscar, 22 wins, and 63 nominations.

Interesting Fact
Renee is a top 10 actress in Oscar history to win awards for both the lead and supporting categories.

Why Not Deserved: Zellweger's gives a cringe-worthy performance as a big-mouthed farm girl. She mauls the scenery and overacts in her role, which quickly becomes annoying.


The actors and actresses mentioned above are talented and have made the film industry a great success. While others may feel that they were deemed undeserving of their Oscar wins for certain roles, their great works in acting still deserve appreciation.

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