Biggest Comebacks in Oscar Nomination History

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Many actors will tell you that being nominated for an Academy Award is as big an honor as winning the statue. For those who’ve been nominated more than once, the gap between nominations can sometimes be years, even decades – and some 37 famed performers have had Oscar nomination comebacks after 20 years or more. (Here are some actors who won an Oscar in their debut role.)

To determine the biggest comebacks in Oscar nomination history, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data on acting nominations from the Academy Awards Database of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Actors were ranked based on the gap in years between receiving nominations for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, or Best Supporting Actress. Honorary or special lifetime achievement awards were not considered. All actors with a nominations gap of at least 20 years were included.

Gaining a nomination after so many years is a testament to actors’ longevity and ability to maintain their acting skills over a sustained period. While all the actors on the list went at least 20 years between nominations, nine of them had a gap of more than 30 years. Those actors include Lynn Redgrave, Bruce Dern, Ralph Richardson, Helen Hayes, and Sylvester Stallone. 

Al Pacino has had nine Oscar nominations, more than anyone else on the list, yet even with that number, he had to wait 27 years after his nomination (and sole Best Actor win) in 1992’s “The Scent of a Woman” to be acknowledged for his role in “The Irishman.” Others with extended nomination gaps are Peter O’Toole and Glenn Close (eight); Robert De Niro (seven); and Ellen Burstyn, Paul Muni, and Anthony Hopkins (six). (These are the most nominated actors who still don’t have an Oscar.)

No one has gone longer between nominations than Judd Hirsch. He was nominated for best supporting actor for his role as Uncle Boris in “The Fabelmans” (2022), 42 years after he was nominated as the psychologist Dr. Berger in “Ordinary People.”

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