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Blockbuster Franchise Performances That Deserved An Oscar Nomination

Updated March 19, 2021 3.2k votes 325 voters 3.7k views21 items

List RulesVote up the franchise performances that were great enough to crash the Oscar party.

The Academy Awards tend to favor non-blockbuster films, but there have been plenty of Oscar-worthy performances in movie series. While it's true that so-called "nerd franchises" tend to have lots of action sequences and fancy visual effects, they could never achieve such immense popularity if they didn't contain acting that engaged audiences and made them care about the characters. Actors rarely getting nominated for these movies borders on cinematic snobbery. They fully deserve recognition.

This list will outline the most memorable, award-worthy performances from your favorite franchises. Of course, when you're talking about an entire series of movies, the quality level of each installment can vary. That said, each of the following performers has at least one entry in which they deliver particularly noteworthy work. Many of them have it across multiple pictures. In every case, this list will make the argument for why they deserved Oscar consideration.

Who gave the best performances in movie franchises? Vote up the ones you think deserved a chance at the gold.

  • A lot of people thought Robert Downey Jr. would get an Oscar nomination for Avengers: Endgame. For starters, it marked his final appearance as Tony Stark/Iron Man, so giving him a nod would have been a way of honoring his work throughout the MCU. Endgame also gives him the greatest opportunity to show Stark's tender side. Surprisingly, the nomination didn't happen, although it should have.

    Who could forget Tony sweetly telling his young daughter, "I love you 3000," or holding Pepper's hand as he expires? These powerhouse moments pack a punch because of the increasing depth Downey brought to the character over the course of the series. His turn in Endgame provides a meaningful summation of how far Tony Stark has come since the original Iron Man when he was an arrogant iron monger. 

    No other actor could have played Stark with the richness that Downey did.

  • Oscar voters love Michael Caine. He's been nominated for six Academy Awards in the course of his career, and he's won twice, as Best Supporting Actor in The Cider House Rules and Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters

    So, why was he not nominated for his work as Alfred Pennyworth in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, particularly The Dark Knight Rises? The answer is probably because it's easier to recognize the greatness in a big, showy performance like Heath Ledger gave as the Joker in The Dark Knight than it is to recognize one of subtlety. Caine brings a sense of faithfulness to Alfred but also a no-nonsense quality. He's unafraid to let Bruce Wayne know when he's off-base. That includes resigning from his position when he thinks Bruce is too weak to fight the gargantuan Bane.

    Alfred has always been a father figure to Bruce. His resignation, in particular, carries great significance thanks to Caine's work. His character may not be flashy, but he's an essential moral compass in the films.

  • Tim Curry famously played the evil clown Pennywise in the '90s TV miniseries of Stephen King's IT. Honestly, he was so good that it didn't seem anyone could be a more definitive Pennywise. Then Bill Skarsgård came along and asked Curry to hold his beer.

    Playing the character in two big-screen adaptations, the actor was legitimately terrifying. The first time we see him, in the opening minutes of IT: Chapter One, he's hiding in a sewer, using a sing-song voice to lure a young child closer to the drain. That's the first of many chilling things he does. Skarsgård has a unique makeup style, a distinct voice for the character, and an off-kilter physicality that makes viewers shiver whenever he comes on screen. 

    The Oscars are notoriously horror-averse, but it's undeniable that this is one of the premiere performances in the genre from the last quarter-century.

  • Michael Gambon had some huge shoes to fill when he boarded the train for the Harry Potter series. He took over the role of Dumbledore from Richard Harris, who passed after the first two installments. Gambon made the transition smooth, staying faithful to the vibe Harris established while also bringing some new facets to the role.

    In particular, the actor gets to shine in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Readers of J.K. Rowling's book series knew going in that Dumbledore was destined to be slain by Voldemort. Even with that knowledge, his death scene was extraordinarily emotional, thanks to all the goodwill Gambon generated during his time as part of the franchise. A veteran actor with tons of varied experiences under his belt, he was able to create a character the audience truly mourned for.