16 Best Horror Movie Performances That Deserved Oscars. Ranked

Hey Academy, don’t be scared to invite horror performances to the Oscars.

Horror movies embrace humanity’s fear, but what’s truly frightening is the lack of recognition they get from the Academy Awards. Only six horror movies have been nominated for best picture in the history of the Oscars: “The Exorcist” (1973), “Jaws” (1975), “The Sixth Sense” (1999), “Black Swan” (2010), “Get Out” (2017) and the only winner of the lot, “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991). 

Regarding acting, it’s even more challenging to find awards traction. Some horror flicks see adoration only in hindsight, as for the iconic performances from Jamie Lee Curtis and Jack Nicholson in “Halloween” (1978) and “The Shining” (1980), respectively. Other factors, such as violence and graphic imagery, can keep others at a distance. See Belén Rueda in J.A. Bayona’s “The Orphanage” (2007) or Charlotte Gainsbourg in “Antichrist” (2009). To celebrate the spookiest day of the calendar year, Variety ranks the 16 best horror movie performances of the last 30 years (after 1993), the Academy should have recognized.

Read: Variety’s Awards Circuit for the latest Oscars predictions in all categories.

Common obstacles for horror also include poor box-office performance (i.e., “Doctor Sleep” with Ewan McGregor), genre bias (“The Shaun of the Dead” with Simon Pegg), or simply being too weird for voters to partake in (“28 Days Later” with Cillian Murphy, which Pedro Pascal has told Variety he loves). 

PEARL, Mia Goth, 2022. ph: Christopher Moss /© A24 /Courtesy Everett Collection
Courtesy Everett Collection

In recent times, fans have already fallen in love with newer entrants such as Mia Goth’s masterful turn in “Pearl,” or either of the new leading ladies from the next iteration of the “Scream” franchise with Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega, coming from directing duo Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett. There will surely be more worthy additions in the future.

Read Variety’s ranking of the 16 best Oscar-snubbed horror movie performances below, along with a clip of the best scene from each film, demonstrating their worthiness. 

Honorable mentions: Joel Edgerton, “It Comes at Night” (2017); Ashley Judd, “Bug” (2006); Barry Keoghan, “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” (2017); Nicolas Cage, “Mandy” (2019); Song Kang-ho, “The Host” (2006); Kathleen Turner, “Serial Mom” (1994) 

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