There are many actors who gave Oscar-worthy performances and several films that should have been honored. We’re breaking down 13 of those performances and films that we think were left out of contention for the 2023 awards:
Keke Palmer, Nope
Somehow, NOPE has been missed by the Oscars nominating committee. Or rather, it seems like they neglected it. Whether it’s because of a bias against sci-fi films or because the narrative didn’t include a white savior is up for debate. But what’s not up for debate is how engrossing Keke Palmer’s performance as the intrepid and brave Emerald Haywood. Palmer gave us a real sibling bond between her and Daniel Kaluuya, and her final fight with the alien Jean Jacket has earned its place in the “final girl” horror film canon.
Danielle Deadwyler, Till
Danielle Deadwyler gave an emotional, intense performance as Emmett Till’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, that should have appreciated by the Oscar’s voting body. As one of the few times the Till family’s story has been portrayed in the media, and possibly the first time the tragedy has been told from Till-Mobley’s point of view, the film gives audiences a deeper perspective about what the Till family had to deal with as they fought for justice. And with Deadwyler at the center, she keeps the film centered on Till-Mobley’s journey from grief to activism.
The Woman King
The Woman King gave audiences tour-de-force performances from Viola Davis, Lashana Lynch, John Boyega and others. Director Gina Prince-Bythewood has long proven herself as a director worthy of awards, and it doesn’t make sense for the Oscars to keep women directors out of the running for Best Director yet again.
Viola Davis, The Woman King
As the Dahomey general Nanisca, Viola Davis transfixes audiences in The Woman King. The training and the research, combined with Davis’ acting prowess, has led to a performance that was on everyone’s fantasy Oscars list. However, the performance has been left out of most of the awards ceremonies so far. Leaving Davis out of Oscars contention is possibly the biggest snub of all.
Lashana Lynch, The Woman King
Lynch’s performance as Izogie. Nanisca’s lieutenant is another strong, yet overlooked performance from the awards season. Like with Davis, Lynch transformed herself in such a way that viewers of the film were hoping she would get recognized by the Oscars. But, like with The Woman King as a whole, somehow Lynch’s performance has gone unacknowledged. Did The Woman King get boxed out because the film wasn’t about Black pain and subjugation? That’s a running theory on the internet, but you can make that call for yourself.
Jeremy Pope, The Inspection
Jeremy Pope has turned in one of his best performances yet as Ellis French in The Inspection. The semi-biographical film based on filmmaker Elegance Bratton’s experiences, brings audiences into the world of a gay Black man who joins the armed forces to find belonging and family. Pope’s emotional performance was, sadly, not given much throughout the awards season, even though it deserves the limelight just much as the other films from 2022.
Jonathan Majors, Devotion
Jonathan Majors is having a great 2023 already, but it could have been even better if the Oscars voting body recognized his role in Devotion as Jesse Brown, a real-life U.S. Navy pilot who became a hero during the Korean War. Majors talked about highlighting the humanity of Brown, especially after meeting his family, as he told Shadow and Act. Audiences felt like his focus on Brown’s humanity and heroism came through. While the Oscars aren’t the only form of validation, it would have been nice to see a Black hero’s life get recognized by the Academy.
Gabrielle Union, The Inspection
Alongside Jeremy Pope in The Inspection was Gabrielle Union, who played Inez French, a character based on filmmaker Elegance Bratton’s mother. It’s one of Union’s more unique roles. As she told Shadow and Act, the role pushed her beyond what she would have thought possible, particularly when it came to portraying a woman who is unwelcoming to her son’s sexuality at first. It’s unfortunate the Academy has overlooked Union’s performance during a year of amazing Black performances.
Janelle Monae, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Janelle Monae is no stranger to the Oscars, thanks to Hidden Figures, but she has yet to win an Oscar herself for a singular performance. What could have earned her a nomination was her role in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery as Andi Brand, a woman who has been overlooked in the tech industry because of racism and sexism while her business partner, Miles Bron (Edward Norton) gains “genius” status. Andi is a more complex character than she seems initially, and without spoiling the film, Monae turns out a fantastic performance as a woman scorned who finally gets her revenge.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
We know the Oscars voting body has certain biases, and superhero movies are allegedly among those biases. Even though Angela Bassett’s performance has broken through some of the bias, the entirety of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever didn’t, which is a shame. Co-written by Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole and directed by Coogler, the film is akin to a miracle, seeing how Chadwick Boseman’s death complicated much of the film’s development. Not only does Black Panther: Wakanda Forever have a gripping story, but it also has powerhouse performances from the cast including Letitia Wright, Danai Gurira, Tenoch Huerta Mejía and Lupita Nyong’o. The film also stands as a testament to Boseman’s legacy, making it one of the most impactful movies of 2022.
Gina Prince-Bythewood, The Woman King
Gina Prince-Bythewood deserves her flowers for the work she’s put into the movie and television industry. The Woman King serves as one of her biggest projects, proving her talents as a director. Balancing drama and action, Prince-Bythewood engrossed audiences with the story of the Dahomey Kingdom fending off its borders as it faces an existential question about its legacy. If the Oscars were as committed to uplifting women directors, you would think her work would have been better considered for a nomination.
John Boyega, Breaking
In Breaking, John Boyega plays a character that couldn’t be further from Finn from the recent Star Wars trilogy or The Woman King‘s King Ghezo. Boyega plays Brian Brown-Easley, a U.S. war veteran who hasn’t been able to reintegrate into civilian life. His struggles lead him to hold a bank hostage. The film shows a different layer to Boyega’s acting talent, making it one of the many standout performances from Black actors in 2022. It’s sad that his performance seemed to be forgotten by the Academy.
Regina Hall, Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.
Regina Hall’s turn as Trinitie Childs in Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. is one of the most underrated performances of 2022. Her performance as a woman who has been so indoctrinated in the toxic patriarchy of the Black church gave audiences a look at how women can perpetuate the mental and emotional abuse they were taught was godly behavior. Hall’s layered performance of a person who is both a victim and perpetrator was a beautiful critique of Black church culture, especially megachurch culture. But either the Academy didn’t connect to the film or didn’t understand its message, since Hall’s characterization was one for the books.
Which films and performances would you add to the list?