Best Meryl Streep Oscars Snubbed Movies and Performances, Ranked

Having Meryl Streep for over five decades just isn’t enough. We need more. And with three Oscars (so far) and the most nods in history, you’d think there wouldn’t be too many “snubs” for the legendary actor, but alas, there are many.

More from Variety

Variety ranks Streep’s 10 best film performances that were not nominated for an Academy Award.

Streep has been a film industry staple, often described as our greatest living actress, and shows no signs of slowing down. With three Oscars (supporting actress for “Kramer vs. Kramer” and lead actress for “Sophie’s Choice” and “The Iron Lady”), three Emmys (lead actress limited for “Holocaust” and “Angels in America” and outstanding narrator for “Five Came Back”), six Grammy nominations, and just a single Tony mention in her career, Streep has had plenty of awards recognition.

As we venture through the history of Streep’s impressive work, connecting the term “snub” to the most decorated actress of all time is a strange predicament. A magnet for awards since she started, her first feature acting credit was in Fred Zinnemann’s “Julia” (1977), which picked up 11 Oscar nominations, including best picture, winning three for supporting actor (Jason Robards), supporting actress (Vanessa Redgrave), and adapted screenplay (Alvin Sargent).

Looking through her awards history, a few performances have been nominated by BAFTA, Golden Globes, and other bodies that haven’t received Academy recognition. Turns in films like “She-Devil” (1989), “The River Wild” (1993), “Marvin’s Room” (1996), and “The Hours” (2002) have all come up short on Oscar nomination morning, despite critical acclaim. Even performances that didn’t find any awards traction — like “Still of the Night” (1982) opposite Roy Scheider and “Falling in Love” alongside Robert De Niro — have their fans, though they may not be as widely seen as others.

While not an EGOT yet (maybe one day?), Streep is undoubtedly one of the best in the business.

Read Variety’s list of Streep’s non-Oscar-nominated best performances below.

Honorable mentions: “Mamma Mia!”(2008); “Marvin’s Room” (1996); “Ricki and the Flash” (2015); “She-Devil” (1989)

10. The Prom (2020)

10. The Prom (2020)
10. The Prom (2020)

Role: Dee Dee Allen

Distributed by: Netflix
Directed by: Ryan Murphy
Written by: Bob Martin, Chad Beguelin (based on the Broadway musical by Matthew Sklar)

As the infectious and hilarious Dee Dee Allen, Streep leads an all-star cast that includes newcomer Jo Ellen Pellman, James Corden (her second collaboration with him after “Into the Woods”), Andrew Rannells, Nicole Kidman, Ariana DeBose and her on-screen love interest Keegan-Michael Key. One of the victims of a production shutdown during the pandemic, the film proved to be divisive — as Ryan Murphy films tend to be — but her zany and glitzy performance was well-received. Shockingly, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association ignored the turn in their lead actress comedy or musical category, which could have been a result of vote splitting with her role in Steven Soderbergh’s “Let Them All Talk.”

A singing (or rapping) Streep can never do wrong.

9. Manhattan (1979)

Role: Jill Davis

Distributed by: United Artists
Directed by: Woody Allen
Written by: Woody Allen, Marshall Brickman

Probably one of the few times that Streep was ousted due to one of her co-stars, the romantic comedy from Woody Allen found two nominations from the Academy for original screenplay and supporting actress for Mariel Hemingway. On the circuit, Streep did find noms from BAFTA and big wins from LAFCA, NYFCC and National Society of Film Critics Awards. Portraying the ex-wife of Woody Allen’s character Isaac, Jill Davis, Streep finds a lot of her dramatic and moving beats opposite her lesbian partner Connie (played terrifically by Karen Ludwig). With an impeccable ensemble including Diane Keaton, Michael Murphy and Anne Byrne, “Manhattan” is still one of her premier standouts.

8. Hope Springs (2012)

Role: Kay

Distributed by: Sony Pictures
Directed by: David Frankel
Written by: Vanessa Taylor

Reuniting with David Frankel, the director of “The Devil Wears Prada” that brought her a Golden Globe win and Oscar nomination, she takes on the words of Vanessa Taylor (“The Shape of Water”) and shows some infectious comedic chops opposite Oscar-winner Tommy Lee Jones (“The Fugitive”). The romantic comedy follows an empty nest couple who are looking to reignite the spark in their marriage, which brings about some hilarious results. Nominated for a Golden Globe, the Academy didn’t wise up to her comedic brilliance.

7. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Role: Mrs. Fox (voice)

Distributed by: 20th Century Fox (now 20th Century Studios)
Directed by: Wes Anderson
Written by: Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach

Let’s get this out of the way. Voice performances are acting.

Now that we have addressed that, Streep’s vocal work opposite the likes of George Clooney, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson is intoxicating in the Oscar-nominated animated feature. Dare I say, Wes Anderson’s single best work (yet), Streep’s Felicity Fox offers that dead pan humor we love, that can only be matched with her infusion of emotion and laughs. It’s a beautiful turn that hopefully Academy members would want to cite in the near future.

6. A Prairie Home Companion (2006)

Role: Yolanda Johnson

Distributed by: New Line Cinema
Directed by: Robert Altman
Written by: Garrison Keillor

Streep under the thumb of the Oscar-nominated filmmaker Robert Altman was such a treat, especially when displaying her fantastic chemistry with Lily Tomlin. As the singing Johnson Girls, Streep and Tomlin bring a beauty and naturalistic nature to the fictional representation of the behind-the-scenes of the public radio show. Next to other standouts like Virginia Madsen, Kevin Kline and John C. Reilly, a supporting actress nomination would have been more than appropriate, though she did have her other turn in “The Devil Wears Prada” bring her attention the same year.

5. The Manchurian Candidate (2004)

Role: Eleanor Shaw

Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Directed by: Jonathan Demme
Written by: Daniel Pyne, Dean Georgaris (based on “The Manchurian Candidate” by Richard Condon)

The Senator from hell is on full display in this political thriller from the late and great Jonathan Demme (Oscar-winner for “The Silence of the Lambs”). Her performance going toe-to-toe with two-time winner Denzel Washington is incredibly charged, but it’s her interaction with her congressman son, played brilliantly by Liev Schreiber, that has Streep stretching her legs and stealing the show. The Golden Globes bit for a supporting actress nomination but nothing else followed. Taking on the same role that many feel Angela Lansbury should have won her Oscar for back in 1962 could have derailed the campaign.

4. The Hours (2002)

Role: Clarissa Vaughan

Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Directed by: Stephen Daldry
Written by: David Hare (based on “The Hours” by Michael Cunningham)

Another example of Streep having multiple vehicles in the awards conversation and partnered with the category debate dilemma, this year marks one of her biggest fights for a nomination. Given the historic lineup in both lead and supporting actress, you can understand it. In 2002, Streep also starred in Spike Jonze’s “Adaptation,” which did bring her an Oscar nomination in supporting actress. However, leading up to the ceremony, Streep was double nominated at the Globes, winning for “Adaptation,” and then was snubbed by the SAG Awards for both performances. Besides her nomination for “The Post,” it’s the only modern performance nom of hers that didn’t get cited by all the televised award shows.

With her co-star Nicole Kidman’s Oscar-winning turn as Virginia Woolf taking up the oxygen, Julianne Moore playing the same double dip card for “Far from Heaven” in lead and being campaigned in supporting for “The Hours,” Streep’s work as a woman looking to throw a party for her old flame eventually went ignored despite its hefty nomination tally.

Her breakdown opposite Jeff Daniels is one of the pivotal scenes of the film.

3. The River Wild (1994)

Role: Gail Hartman

Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Directed by: Curtis Hanson
Written by: Denis O’Neill

Streep in an action-thriller is such a delight, especially with a terrifying turn from Kevin Bacon to accompany it. Just three years shy of Curtis Hanson delivering his masterpiece “L.A. Confidential” (1997), he utilized the fight or flight persona of a mother and wife, who will stop at nothing to ensure her family’s survival. The movie actually provides a great back-to-back mid-90s Streep-a-thon paired with “The Bridges of Madison County,” which she would be nominated for in the following year.

“The River Wild” also marks the only time Streep received Globe and SAG nominations and failed to be recognized by the Oscars.

2. It’s Complicated (2009)

Role: Jane Adler

Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Directed by: Nancy Meyers
Written by: Nancy Meyers

Streep doesn’t just turn the heads of her on-screen beaus Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin in Nancy Meyers’ luscious comedy, but at 60, she showed female empowerment in a way we hadn’t seen in quite some time. Double nominated at the Globes for this and “Mamma Mia!,” 2009 was a year to remember for the three-time winner as she took Hollywood by the horns and redefined what a role for a woman in her later years could look like. With her interactions with her kids, future son-in-law (played by John Krasinski) and girl talk (with new Academy Board Gov. Rita Wilson), the BAFTA-nominated performance stands near the top of not just her non-recognized career, but nominated as well.

1. Death Becomes Her (1992)

1. Death Becomes Her (1992)
1. Death Becomes Her (1992)

Role: Madeline Ashton Menville

Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Written by: Martin Donovan, David Koepp

To know me is to know that I think “Death Becomes Her” is one of the top two best films of 1992, featuring two career-best performances from Goldie Hawn and Bruce Willis, as well as Meryl Streep’s second greatest performance of her career. An Oscar-winner for visual effects, the dark comedy looks at the promises of eternal youth and what it can actually give you when you “fall” down a flight of stairs.

As the “bad actress” Madeline Ashton, who steals the men from her bestie Helen Sharp, we see Streep diving into a role that, quite frankly, I would have never expected her to take on at that point in her career. During her five-year hiatus with the Academy, she was already a two-time winner and it had been two years since her role in “Postcards from the Edge” found Academy attention. Some of her best gifts to cinema happened in that five-year “Oscar drought” with “Defending Your Life,” “The House of the Spirits” and “The River Wild” all coming to theaters. Though the Globes noticed her work, not much else bit for her monstrous performance as Miranda Priestly (“The Devil Wears Prada”).

Best of Variety