10 Classic Sci-Fi Performances Snubbed by the Oscars

10 Classic Sci-Fi Performances Snubbed by the Oscars

Oscar nominations will be announced later this month, and Poor Things’ Emma Stone and Barbie’s Margot Robbie are all but guaranteed to be in the Best Actress race. Last year, Everything Everywhere All at Once swept three of the four acting categories. That suggests sci-fi and fantasy films, whose stars don’t always get attention they deserve (same goes for horror; check out our list of recent horror snubs here), have fully entered into the realm of Academy Award prestige.

Since that hasn’t always been the case, we’re looking back at worthy performances from the past. Here are 10 actors who did outstanding and memorable work in sci-fi films—but still didn’t get any Oscar love.

Christopher Lloyd, Back to the Future (1985)

Screenshot: Universal Pictures

As it happens, a sci-fi movie did win Best Supporting Actor that year: Don Ameche in Cocoon. But Lloyd’s scene-stealing turn in a summer blockbuster that scored big with both critics and audiences and became a pop-culture sensation was passed over. If only eccentric inventor Doc Brown’s flux-capacitor technology really existed, we could zip back in time like Marty McFly and right this wrong.

Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Image: Warner Bros.

Fury Road was nominated for 10 Oscars (it won six), but somehow Theron’s fierce performance as a one-armed “War Rig” driver who sparks a post-apocalyptic revolution didn’t make the cut. Perhaps Anya Taylor-Joy’s take on the character in upcoming prequel Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga will have better luck?

Sigourney Weaver, Alien (1979)

Screenshot: Warner Bros.

She did get nominated for 1986’s Aliens—James Cameron’s more elaborate production which put more emphasis on the Ellen Ripley character from the start, while also putting her through the wringer both emotionally and physically—but Weaver could just as easily have gotten a nod for her intelligent, cool-headed turn in Ridley Scott’s first film, too.

Linda Hamilton, Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Image: Tri-Star Pictures

The jaw-dropping special effects earned plenty of honors, with Hamilton’s toned biceps also making an impression. But the nuances of her performance—the burden of knowing what agonizing horrors loom in the future has utterly transformed Sarah Connor, both as a mother and as a human being—should have gotten more praise, too.

Emily Blunt, Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Screenshot: Warner Bros.

Like Hamilton’s T2 turn, here’s another performance that transcends its action-movie setting. Blunt gives us a woman who is undeniably a badass fighter—but also someone who’s well aware of the complex baggage that comes with being a war hero, and far better-suited to unraveling the movie’s time-loop mystery than we realize at first.

Sam Rockwell, Moon (2009)

Image: Sony Pictures Classics

Sam Rockwell plays a man (also named Sam) doing a long-haul solo stretch at a mining colony on the moon; his loneliness and boredom soon give way to mental and physical deterioration—and things really get existentially hairy when Sam realizes he’s a clone. Rockwell is fantastic playing opposite mostly, well, himself—as well as a disembodied Kevin Spacey (who voices the moon base’s AI).

Scarlett Johansson, Under the Skin (2013)

Image: StudioCanal

Director Jonathan Glazer is getting major Oscar buzz for his current release, The Zone of Interest. But his previous project was this moody, almost experimental sci-fi tale about an alien who assumes the form of a woman and prowls for male victims as a way of learning about the human race. Released as Scarlett Johansson’s Avengers fame was ramping up, it shows her range and is still one of her eeriest, most intuitive performances.

Jodie Foster, Contact (1997)

Image: Warner Bros.

A big-budget sci-fi movie directed by Robert Zemeckis and based on Carl Sagan’s novel, Contact is a thoughtful exploration of what might happen if aliens reached out—seen through the lens of a determined scientist played by Jodie Foster, and with an examination of what “faith” really means in this context. Foster is great, as always—which is maybe why the Oscars forgot to notice.

Amy Adams, Arrival (2016)

Image: Paramount Pictures

Future Dune and Blade Runner 2049 helmer Denis Villeneuve’s first foray into sci-fi nabbed him a Best Director nomination; Arrival was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Cinematography, and Best Adapted Screenplay, and it won for Best Sound Editing). Perpetual Oscar bridesmaid Amy Adams (she’s been nominated six times to date) didn’t make the list, however, despite turning in an absolutely compelling performance in a movie that beautifully blends an alien-invasion tale with an examination of the power of language, as well as the importance of believing in one’s life choices.

Alan Rickman, Galaxy Quest (1999)


Galaxy Quest (1/9) Movie CLIP – How Did I Come to This? (1999) HD

Galaxy Quest is a cult favorite now, but this sci-fi comedy didn’t connect with audiences initially—which is maybe why Rickman’s hilariously droll performance as a Shakespearean actor mortified by his nerdy fame (complete with catchphrase) didn’t grab Oscar by… ahem… Grabthar’s Hammer.