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Top 10 Actors Of Color Who Were Snubbed At The Oscars

VO: Rebecca Brayton

Written by Angelia Mercier

Actors and actresses of color with outstanding performances that were passed over for nominations and ignored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and snubbed for Oscars. WatchMojo presents Top 10 Actors of Color who were snubbed at the oscars. But who will take the top spot on our list?

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Transcript
These are the snubs that helped launch the #OscarsSoWhite social media campaign. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for Top 10 Actors of Color Who Were Snubbed at the Oscars.

For this list, we’re focusing on non-white actors and actresses who didn’t win an Academy Award for a certain role, but probably should have. We’re still considering it a snub if they were nominated but didn’t take home the golden statuette.

#10: Will Smith
“Concussion” (2015)

With an impressive lineup of actors and a highly controversial topic, this movie garnered high expectations – unfortunately, the reviews were lukewarm. Even so, most critics felt that Will Smith delivered a noteworthy performance. While it may not have been enough to carry the sports drama to box office supremacy, the fact that he wasn’t even considered for an Oscar still drew some attention, prompting calls for a boycott of that year’s Academy Awards ceremony. Smith himself has voiced that his Oscars boycott was not about his own role in “Concussion,” but about the general lack of diversity in Hollywood. With a performance that required the actor to stretch – and not just with regards to his accent – this snub had had people talking.

#9: Tessa Thompson
“Creed” (2015)

Though it could have been a very straightforward love interest role, Tessa Thompson’s performance opposite Michael B. Jordan was anything but typical: the character stood apart from Jordan’s as an individual with her own dreams, which isn’t always the case for secondary parts. Unfortunately, despite her stellar work, Thompson was one of many notable names missing from the Oscar nominations list that prompted the revival of the #OscarsSoWhite debate. Fortunately, since she’s starred in movies like “Dear White People” and “Selma,” we know that Thompson is not one to shy away from tough subjects and even tougher characters – which is probably why she’s made it clear that her snub motivated her rather than discouraged her.

#8: Jason Mitchell
“Straight Outta Compton” (2015)

Critics were blown away by Mitchell’s performance as rapper Eazy-E, putting his name on the map. And the critics weren’t the only ones impressed: costar Paul Giamatti praised Mitchell as well, saying he brought a certain something special to his work that not even the more experienced people he’s worked with have managed. That’s one of the reasons it was such a surprise when his performance was snubbed by the Oscars – something that became a much talked-about topic online. With a confident director and a solid cast, this film piled up a staggering number of positive reviews, but just one Oscar nod for Best Original Screenplay. Still, Mitchell said he didn’t feel robbed, and that he’s basically just happy to be part of the conversation.

#7: Graham Greene
“Dances with Wolves” (1990)

It’s rare there are roles available for indigenous peoples in Hollywood. It’s even more rare an indigenous actor gets nominated for an Academy Award. So, when Canadian First Nations actor Graham Greene was cast as Native American Kicking Bird in “Dances with Wolves,” the role could’ve easily been reduced to a stereotypical, even unnoticeable, character. Greene’s performance, however, completely brought the character to life, making this figure a man of complexity and depth. The film garnered many accolades from the Academy, including seven wins, and a nomination for Greene’s portrayal of Kicking Bird. Even though he didn’t win, his performance was one of the first in American film to portray indigenous peoples in a more well rounded way.

#6: David Oyelowo
“Selma” (2014)

Although “Selma” was one of the best-reviewed movies of the year, David Oyelowo did not receive a Best Actor nomination for his performance as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. While the film itself did score a Best Picture nod, it was only recognized in one other category. These snubs particularly troubled Oyelowo at the time, because he felt the film sent a powerful message about a powerful figure. Online discussion groups mostly agreed, greeting the snub of Oyelowo’s performance with disbelief. Fortunately there was a silver lining to the situation: Brad Pitt was apparently so mad about Oyelowo not winning the Oscar, Pitt advocated for him for a role in the project he was executive producing for HBO, “Nightingale.”

#5: Michael B. Jordan
“Creed” (2015)

Jordan took on this emotional whirlwind of a role in this sequel, and held his own next to Sylvester Stallone, who has extensive experience with playing the legendary Rocky. Despite the buzz surrounding the film’s many snubs, Jordan was supportive of Stallone’s nomination. But according to Sly himself, his performance would have been nothing without Jordan – and as a result, Stallone was ready to boycott that year’s Oscar ceremony. Jordan’s performance in “Creed” was hailed by many critics as solid, and the actor did receive many accolades for his work. The Academy, however, overlooked Jordan’s contributions to the film, not even nominating him.

#4: Sidney Poitier
“In the Heat of the Night” (1967)

After Sidney Poitier won an Oscar for “Lilies of the Field,” he starred in multiple critically acclaimed, race-conscious films, including “In the Heat of the Night,” which garnered seven Oscar nominations and five wins. However, none of these Oscar accolades recognized Poitier’s performance. Years after doing the film, Poitier claimed that he had only agreed to play the role of detective Virgil Tibbs if he could reciprocate the famous slap his character receives from a white plantation owner. Filmed at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, this film and Poitier himself were at the forefront when it came to giving American film a new way of looking at black Americans – but it didn’t win him Oscar gold this time.

#3: Will Sampson
“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975)

Will Sampson’s performance as Chief Bromden in this film is truly art, offering depth and dimension to the story. And, funnily enough, Sampson got the role almost by kismet: the production team had been looking for a Chief for some time, and even though he’d never acted before, Sampson won the team over immediately. While the role called for little dialogue, Sampson was still able to subtly develop his character throughout the film. Sampson was also one of the first to break the typically shady Native American stereotypes seen to that point. And throughout his career, Sampson remained true to his ambition of delivering cultural authenticity to American film. But he did so without an Academy Award.

#2: Samuel L. Jackson
“Pulp Fiction” (1994)

Despite being nominated as a supporting actor in this film, Jackson delivers such solid work that some critics have said he could arguably be dubbed a “co-lead” alongside John Travolta. Not only does his performance as Jules help carry the film; the character does change and develop by the end of the story as well, a trait usually reserved for lead roles. Tarantino wrote this role specifically for Jackson, and to this day Sam still has fans and peers alike recognizing him as the timeless character, and quoting his famous lines back to him. With the film winning a breathtaking number of awards, this role was one of the first to solidify Jackson’s place as an Oscar-worthy actor. And yet, no Oscar.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Shameik Moore
“Dope” (2015)

- Oprah Winfrey
“The Color Purple” (1985)

#1: Idris Elba
“Beasts of No Nation” (2015)

One of the bigger snubs in recent film history goes to Idris Elba. Riveting in the role of the Commandant, he is the first actor to win a SAG Award without even receiving an Oscar nomination – let alone winning the coveted statuette. An article in the Huffington Post argued that people of color usually only win Oscars for films that include many white celebrities, which supposedly boosts a movie’s so-called “star quality.” While “Beasts of No Nation” is made up of a largely black cast, there is no lack of stardom where Elba is concerned. Delivering a powerhouse performance and praised for his versatility as an actor, Elba’s snub, as well as the film itself, received the most Internet discussion for missed nominations.
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