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Actors From The MCU Who Are Oscar Winners

Most of the actors and actresses who played leading roles in the Marvel universe have never won an Oscar.

Odys Korczyński

9 April 2024

Actors From The MCU Who Are Oscar Winners

Those Oscar winners, for the most part, aren’t even supporting characters, let alone main ones. They’re like the trinkets you buy to decorate empty spaces on shelves. They shine for a while, but then either gather dust or are replaced by other knick-knacks, or, less frequently, books. It looks artificial. One gets the impression it’s done more for show than for the fans. Nevertheless, there are cases when it’s a pity there were so few of these big Oscar-winning stars. I’ve chosen 10 names that, among those lucky ones awarded by the Academy, are the most important to me in the MCU. Of course, I remember the rest, but nothing bad would happen if those characters weren’t in Marvel at all, especially if they were played by actors without Oscars. Well, maybe except for Christian Bale, Benicio Del Toro, and Russell Crowe.

Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man in Iron Man), Best Supporting Actor for Oppenheimer, 2023

This is the moment when we’ve witnessed another Oscar win for a main character in the MCU. Brie Larson was the first, but she didn’t quite dominate the MCU like Downey Jr. Iron Man’s character is now a thing of the past, as Tony Stark reached his heroic peak and sacrificed himself to save the world. When Marvel designed this ending, they didn’t fully realize the consequences it would have. Robert Downey Jr. closed the entire MCU with his role and his deed. It won’t be possible to resurrect the universe in a satisfactory quality after him. We have to come to terms with this and cherish the legend of the superhero.

Natalie Portman (Jane Foster in Thor: Love and Thunder), Best Actress for Black Swan, 2010

At some point, I imagined she would replace Thor for good or be his equal. She appeared on screen in 1994 in Léon: The Professional, showcasing a maturity far beyond her years. She won an Oscar for her role as the unstable ballerina in Black Swan. She was also nominated for roles in Closer in 2005 and Jackie in 2016. After all this, her performance in the MCU had to be marked by some greater achievement, a turning point for her entire presence. She deserved this recognition in the universe. That moment came in Thor: Love and Thunder. Finally, Natalie Portman became an actual superhero, and I consider it one of the best-played supporting roles within the universe.

William Hurt (Thaddeus Ross in The Incredible Hulk), Best Actor for Kiss of the Spider Woman, 1985

I’ll always remember him not from Kiss of the Spider Woman, but from Altered States and Children of a Lesser God. However, I won’t argue that he didn’t deserve the Oscar. Within the MCU, he held great promise for a character who would endure in an equally expansive form, but things turned out differently because the entire MCU changed. The Incredible Hulk belongs to the universe, but it represents such a distinct thread that it’s hard to think of it as part of the MCU.

Anthony Hopkins (Odin in Thor), Best Actor for The Silence of the Lambs, 1991 and The Father, 2020

Hopkins’ appearance in the MCU was quite surprising to me. At first, it seemed like a complete mistake. Then, when I saw the actor in the role of Odin, I thought it wasn’t a bad idea to spend his acting retirement in a broader universe, with lighter themes, divine stylization, because who else could Hopkins play if not some deity. And he played Odin. Thus, he broke away from his image as the bloodthirsty Hannibal Lecter. I would have given Odin an even bigger role so he could work more closely with Thor in his adventures. However, the chief of all gods turned out to be too superficial and altruistic.

Ben Kingsley (Trevor Slattery in Iron Man 3), Best Actor for Gandhi, 1982

Since his portrayal of Gandhi, Ben Kingsley’s acting profile has indeed changed. He’s no longer an actor with potential for leading roles, not even supporting ones. Kingsley plays characters that are more morally ambiguous, rather than the traditional heroes, admirable and good. Thus was Trevor Slattery, evil yet not entirely, dangerous depending on how he was perceived, whether one settled for mere opinion or confronted him. Trevor was a kind of superheroic confabulation, a specialist in creating illusions, and Ben Kingsley convincingly portrayed both Trevor’s fictional personality and his true self. However, I fear that the MCU didn’t fully utilize this character. I would like to see him return as a new villain character, one that no longer relies on deception.

Robert Redford (Alexander Pierce in Captain America: The Winter Soldier), Best Director for Ordinary People, 1980, and Honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement

It’s bizarre that such a great actor never received an Oscar for the roles he portrayed. The honorary award, however, isn’t quite what one would expect. Unfortunately, the chances of him getting that coveted trophy have essentially dropped to zero. Redford’s time has passed. There’s no longer a place for him in the MCU either, but when he appeared in it, he could have done so much more. It was unthinkable – Redford in a superhero film – but he found his footing remarkably well in this world. He could have become a richly nuanced antagonist if only the writers had allowed him to.

Tilda Swinton (Ancient One in Doctor Strange), Best Supporting Actress for Michael Clayton, 2007

Tilda Swinton is truly an acting chameleon, but in the MCU, she didn’t fully utilize these abilities to change her appearance. Of course, she changed her appearance as usual, but unequivocally only once. She didn’t transform into someone else within the universe itself, being a key element to its events. I remember what she said about herself a few years ago. She described herself as an average actress. She explained that’s why she prefers to “be” on the screen all the time. Supposedly, it’s easier than trying to sense the moment and play a supporting character so as not to stand out from the atmosphere of the whole film. Besides, embodying even complex, dual characters is trivial and easy for her. It’s like a sprint to the finish line. You have to do it quickly, cheaply, without looking back, without too much analysis and fuss. The camera and all those artistic means that make an actor a star provide the rest of the magic. An interesting approach of a craftsman, not an artist.

Jeff Bridges (Obadiah Stane in Iron Man), Best Actor for Crazy Heart, 2010

Recently, I had the undisputed pleasure of watching him in the excellent series The Old Man, but in the history of cinema, this actor has already made a legendary mark many times over. The role of Obadiah Stane was just an adventure addition to this great career, summed up by an Oscar for Crazy Heart, paradoxically a film that isn’t as important to me in Bridges’ portfolio, apart from the Academy Award, of course. Some see his role in the MCU as marginal, even unnecessary, destroying other iconic creations of Bridges from the past. However, personality-wise, Stane is one of the best-portrayed actor antagonists of Iron Man.

Cate Blanchett (Hela in Thor: Ragnarok), Best Actress for Blue Jasmine, 2013, and Best Supporting Actress for The Aviator, 2004

Apparently, she doesn’t like watching herself on screen and usually avoids doing so. She exudes an aura of a dignified artist, a lady who won’t play everything, but that’s just appearances. Her career evolves, and proof of this change is her portrayal of Hela – in a way, also a dignified antagonist, but one who sheds the mask and becomes a bloodthirsty beast. It reminded me of Galadriel and her battle at Dol Guldur when she transformed into a very naughty water spirit, an elven demon, or a possessor. That’s how her portrayal resonates with me.

Taika Waititi (Korg and director in Thor: Love and Thunder), Best Adapted Screenplay for Jojo Rabbit, 2019

Waititi is important for the MCU because he brought immense freshness to the universe, and at the same time, he’s an individualistic and rebellious creator, making it difficult for Marvel’s producers and marketing experts to dominate him. They often use directors as tools to execute their own campaigns and ideas, which are sometimes far from the artistic realm of filmmaking. Today, we know that Taika Waititi has rather slim chances of revolutionizing the MCU, which is slowly fading, but it’s worth remembering him and looking at him as a ray of hope. Moreover, Taika played Korg in the MCU. What if, for example, he had portrayed the mad Thor in Love and Thunder? Would the production have been received differently?

And here are the remaining Oscar winners

And besides, we must mention these other greats. Their contributions to the MCU varied in magnitude. Sometimes their roles were wasted because they were so small, and sometimes they were forcibly attached to the MCU, but the films for which they won Oscars are certainly worth watching, and perhaps also realizing how far they are in genre from Marvel. A great actor will play anything…

Russell Crowe (Zeus in Thor: Love and Thunder), Best Actor for Gladiator, 2000

Sam Rockwell (Justin Hammer in Iron Man 2), Best Supporting Actor for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, 2017

Rachel Weisz (Melina Vostokoff in Black Widow), Best Supporting Actress for The Constant Gardener, 2005

Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts in Iron Man), Best Actress for Shakespeare in Love, 1998

Tommy Lee Jones (Chester Phillips in Captain America), Best Supporting Actor for The Fugitive, 1993

Benicio Del Toro (The Collector in Guardians of the Galaxy), Best Supporting Actor for Traffic, 2000

Matt Damon (Loki-actor in Thor: Love and Thunder), Best Original Screenplay for Good Will Hunting, 1997

Lupita Nyong’o (Nakia in Black Panther), Best Supporting Actress for 12 Years a Slave, 2013

Jamie Foxx (Electro in Spider-Man: No Way Home), Best Actor for Ray, 2004

Michael Douglas (Hank Pym in Ant-Man), Best Actor for Wall Street, 1987, and Best Picture for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, 1975

Marisa Tomei (May Parker in Spider-Man: No Way Home), Best Supporting Actress for My Cousin Vinny, 1992

Kenneth Branagh (director of Thor), Best Original Screenplay for Belfast, 2021

Jennifer Connelly (Karen in Spider-Man: Homecoming), Best Supporting Actress for A Beautiful Mind, 2001

Brie Larson (Captain Marvel in Captain Marvel), Best Actress for Room, 2015

Forest Whitaker (Zuri in Black Panther), Best Actor for The Last King of Scotland, 2006

Daniel Kaluuya (W’Kabi in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever), Best Supporting Actor for Judas and the Black Messiah, 2021

Angelina Jolie (Thena in Eternals), Best Supporting Actress for Girl, Interrupted, 1999

Jared Leto (Morbius in Morbius), Best Supporting Actor for Dallas Buyers Club, 2013

Christian Bale (Gorr in Thor: Love and Thunder), Best Supporting Actor for The Fighter, 2010

Mahershala Ali (Blade in Blade), Best Supporting Actor for Green Book, 2018, and Moonlight, 2016

F. Murray Abraham (voice of Khonshu in Moon Knight), Best Actor for Amadeus, 1984

Odys Korczyński

Odys Korczyński

For years he has been passionate about computer games, in particular RPG productions, film, medicine, religious studies, psychoanalysis, artificial intelligence, physics, bioethics, as well as audiovisual media. He considers the story of a film to be a means and a pretext to talk about human culture in general, whose cinematography is one of many splinters.

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