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The biggest sore losers in Oscars history: From Angela Bassett to Jack Nicholson

By Samantha Ibrahim,


Losers can be as sour as lemons and as sore as a pulled hamstring.

The dream of many A-listers in Hollywood is to win a coveted Academy Award and add it to their shelves of accolades.

However, there are only a handful of lucky winners who grab the gold every year, and sometimes fellow nominees appear a bit salty about their loss.

When the time comes during the Oscars ceremony, the camera pans to the entertainers sitting in the audience to catch their reactions to their career defeat.

Actors are sometimes caught heaving heavy sighs, looking upset or appearing downcast when they’re overlooked.

Not everyone can be a winner — and many can be sore losers.

Across the decades, silver screen icons like Angela Bassett, Lauren Bacall, Jack Nicholson and more have lost out on securing golden, glittery glory — with their attitudes captured by candid audience cameras and hilariously broadcast all over the world.

Keep reading to see all-time best (or worst?) runner-up reactions at the Oscars.

Angela Bassett
Angela Bassett at the 2023 Academy Awards on March 12.

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” actress Angela Bassett seemed defeated and appeared to look like she was about to break down in tears at the 2023 Oscars.

Bassett lost the Best Supporting Actress statue to Jamie Lee Curtis from “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”

Talia Shire
Talia Shire attends the 1977 Oscars.
Academy Awards

“Godfather” star Talia Shire looked visibly upset in 1977 when she was obliterated by Faye Dunaway for the award for Best Actress.

The “Bonnie and Clyde” star won for her role in “Network,” while Shire earned her nomination for “Rocky.”

Sally Kirkland
Glenn Close, Cher, Meryl Streep, Holly Hunter and Sally Kirkland were all nominated for best actress in 1988.
Academy Awards

Cher scored the Best Actress trophy in 1988 for “Moonstruck,” but one of her fellow contenders, Sally Kirkland, appeared irate, rolled her eyes and briefly pursed her lips when she didn’t win.

“JFK” star Kirkland received a nod for her role in “Anna.”

Robert Downey Jr.

The “Iron Man” superstar initially couldn’t mask his disappointment when Al Pacino won Best Actor for “Scent of a Woman” in 1993.

Downey nabbed an Oscar nomination for his role as Charlie Chaplin in “Chaplin.”

Samuel L. Jackson
Anna Paquin presented the award for Best Supporting Actor in 1995.
Academy Awards

In 1995, the “Pulp Fiction” icon Samuel L. Jackson was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the Quentin Tarantino feature.

However, he seemed irritated — and even may have uttered an expletive — for losing out to Martin Landau, who scored the award for “Ed Wood.”

Burt Reynolds
The 1998 ceremony had icons like Burt Reynolds and Anthony Hopkins competing with each other.
Academy Awards

For “Smokey and the Bandit” actor Burt Reynolds, the disappointment was readily apparent when he briefly contorted his mouth after he lost to Robin Williams at the 1998 ceremony.

The comedian secured the trophy for Best Supporting Actor for “Good Will Hunting,” while Reynolds was nominated for “Boogie Nights.”

Lauren Bacall
Joan Allen, Lauren Bacall and Barbara Hershey were among the stars who scored nods in 1997.
Academy Awards

The screen legend offered up a noticeable scowl when Juliette Binoche won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 1997.

French star Binoche won for “The English Patient,” while Bacall was in the running for “The Mirror Has Two Faces.”

Jack Nicholson and Nicolas Cage
Jack Nicholson appeared shocked at the 2003 Academy Awards.

Double defeated losers Jack Nicholson and Nicolas Cage were dismayed in 2003 when Adrien Brody nabbed the Best Actor statuette for the Holocaust drama “The Pianist.”

“Something’s Gotta Give” star Nicholson expressed wide-mouthed shock, and “National Treasure” alum Cage seemed to utter a shocked, “What?” as Brody walked up to the podium to receive his accolade.

Brody, meanwhile, was especially ecstatic: When he hit the stage, he embraced astonished presenter Halle Berry and gave a seconds-long kiss to the winner of the 2002 Best Actress Oscar.

Cage was nominated for “Adaptation,” while Nicholson earned a nod for “About Schmidt.”

Bill Murray
Bill Murray looked particularly annoyed when he didn’t win best actor in 2004.
Academy Awards

“Saturday Night Live” funnyman Bill Murray quietly sulked in 2004 when he lost the Best Actor award to Sean Penn.

Penn triumphed at that year’s Academy Awards for his work in “Mystic River,” while Murray was nominated for “Lost in Translation.”

Ellen Burstyn
Ellen Burstyn appeared at the April 2, 1974, ceremony.
Academy Awards

In 1974, Ellen Burstyn’s expression turned sour when Glenda Jackson emerged victorious in the Best Actress category for her flick “A Touch of Class.”

Burstyn was nominated for the classic horror flick “The Exorcist,” which won two Oscars on 10 nods.

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