Some movies are lucky to get an acting nomination at the Oscars, while others get nominations in multiple acting categories. But there are even fewer cases of costars nominated in the same category for the same film. While Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress are more likely than the two lead categories to have costars nominated for the same Academy Award, there are still 17 examples of leading stars achieving this.
The scarcity of this can often be attributed to how rare it is for two stars of the same gender in the same movie to have true leading roles. And even when they do, one star typically competes in the Supporting category, to maximize potential to win (a.k.a. "category fraud"). After all, costars nominated in the same category guarantees at least one loss unless there's the miniscule chance of a tie. However, the list of Oscar nominees for Best Actor in a Leading Role and Best Actress in a Leading Role for the same movie is made up of some of history's greatest actors and actresses, who wouldn't dare be caught dead in the measly supporting categories!
Here are 17 instances of costars who got Oscar nominations for the same movie in the same lead acting category.
Clark Gable, Charles Laughton and Franchot Tone were all nominated for Best Actor for playing Fletcher Christian, Captain Bligh and Byam in 1935's Mutiny on the Bounty. This is the only time three costars have been nominated in a lead category together, though it must be noted that supporting categories were not instated until the following year. Despite a 60% chance of winning, neither Gable nor Laughton nor Tone won the Oscar, losing to Victor McLaglen in The Informer.
Bing Crosby plays a young priest in 1944's Going My Way who has conflict with an elder priest played by Barry Fitzgerald. Both earned Oscar nominations for Best Actor, but Fitzgerald managed to also get nominated in Best Supporting Actor. The rules were then changed to prevent this from happening in the future. However, this allowed the Academy to reward both men, with Crosby winning Best Actor and Fitzgerald winning Best Supporting Actor.
Anne Baxter and Bette Davis were the first actresses from the same film nominated for Best Actress, for their performances as rival stars Eve Harrington and Margo Channing in 1950's All About Eve. Davis' performance in particular is widely regarded as one of the best in her career. However, neither she nor Baxter won the Oscar, losing to Judy Holliday for her performance in Born Yesterday.
Montgomery Clift and Burt Lancaster were nominated for Best Actor for playing Pvt. Robert E. Lee "Prew" Prewitt and 1st Sgt. Milton Warden in 1953's From Here to Eternity. While the film won eight Oscars including Best Picture, Clift and Lancaster were not among the winners. Best Actor went to William Holden for Stalag 17, who also plays a soldier.