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Darren Aronofsky and Christopher Nolan: Filmmakers most overdue to win an Oscar

As I like to say when doing these sorts of articles, of the many storylines that begin during awards season, few are usually as compelling as the ones centered around who’s most due for an Academy Award. I think that it’s usually a pretty satisfying thing to see a former bridesmaid finally become a bride, as it were. As such, below I’ve made up another list, this one a list of ten filmmakers who’ve previously been nominated for Oscars but have yet to win one. Most of them have been in contention recently too, either last year or in the couple of ones prior to that. I’ve more or less ranked them by how due they are, and just to be fair, I’ve excluded anyone who has already won a prize elsewhere (Ben Affleck for example), or any of the myriad contenders who are seeking their first ever nomination by the Academy (we’ve already done that one a few weeks ago). Take a look at the writers/directors below and I hope you all enjoy!

Here now are the ten writers and/or directors most due for their first Oscar win:

10. Nick Hornby – I’ve long had a suspicion that Hornby is going to win an Oscar one day. He’s already been nominated in Best Adapted Screenplay for An Education and just missed more recently for Wild, though following that Brooklyn three years ago put him right back in play. Whether he gets into Adapted Screenplay again in the near future remains to be seen, but he’s putting forward the type of work that the Academy could easily give him a statue for within the next couple of years. Keep a close eye on him. His work is awards friendly, so he’s going to win eventually.

9. Todd Haynes – I feel like if Haynes had worked more over the past decade, he’d almost assuredly have had a win by now. In fact, he’s never even been up for Best Director, only having a Best Original Screenplay nod to his credit for Far From Heaven. Three years though, he seemed like an early favorite to get into Director with a nom for Carol. That citation didn’t happen, and Wonderstruck fell short last year. Sit tight fans, his time might will eventually come, even if it doesn’t always feel like it.

8. Jason Reitman – 2018 could be big for Reitman. Even though many are not huge fans of his more recent output, I remain of the opinion that he’s among the best storytellers in Hollywood. Reitman is a two time nominee in Best Director and nearly won Best Adapted Screenplay for Up in the Air. His last few efforts have met with less acclaim, but he’s not just due a comeback, but a statue. One more hit and he’ll be close to the front of this list. I still believe in him…very much so, in fact. Tully has already had strong reviews, so that could be a player, but he has some big time Oscar bait later on this year with The Front Runner. That’s the one that might just get him hugged by the Academy at last.

7. Richard Linklater – In a just world, Last Flag Flying would have been a bigger player for the man. One truly hopes that the closest to a win that Linklater will get won’t have been when Boyhood came up just short. Aside from his Before trilogy (and especially Before Midnight and Before Sunset), the Academy has had trouble worming up to his work. One suspects that Boyhood broke them of that, so something soon should entice them again. Everybody Wants Some didn’t do it two years ago, but Linklater still seems like a safe bet to be on that stage one day. He certainly deserves to be there. Where’d You Go Bernadette? is his 2018 hopeful, and that has a ton of potential..

6. David O. Russell – Very few artists in Hollywood seem more determined to finally win an Oscar than Russell. I don’t mean it as a bad thing either, just that his work of late is so Academy friendly, his candidacy feels inevitable. There was a run where three outings in a row got him his first nominations, totaling five (Best Adapted Screenplay for Silver Linings Playbook, Best Original Screenplay for American Hustle, and Best Director for American Hustle, The Fighter, and Silver Linings Playbook). He wasn’t able to crack the code with Joy, so perhaps now he might seem more due to voters? Sit tight and we’ll find out if whatever’s next is finally Russell’s time!

5. David Fincher – Ladies and gentlemen, is there a more exacting director out there than Fincher? The air of perfection surrounds him in a way not seen since Stanley Kubrick. As such, a Best Director prize seems a given for him one of these days. A two time nominee, for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button as well as for The Social Network, Fincher will win eventually. Honestly, it just really takes him deciding on a new film to make. Once he does, he’ll be even closer to the top of this list.

4. Ridley Scott – Believe it or not, many folks are shocked to learn that Scott has always been a bridesmaid but never a bride. A three time Best Director nominee (for Black Hawk Down, Gladiator, as well as Thelma & Louise), Scott has been in a bit of a funk of late, but The Martian was undoubtedly his comeback. A fourth nomination in Director just missed happening, and had he gotten nominated, there was a chance he would have won. Will he be back? That may or may not happen, given his inconsistent nature, but there’s no question that he’s among the most due directors in the business. All the Money in the World didn’t do it (and the less said about Alien: Covenant, the better), but he’s such a hard worker, he won’t lack for contenders going forward.

3. Paul Thomas Anderson – No longer a wunderkind, Anderson is simply just one of the masters out there. He has a half dozen nominations to his credit (Best Original Screenplay for Boogie Nights and Magnolia, Best Adapted Screenplay as well as Best Director and Best Picture There Will Be Blood, plus Best Adapted Screenplay for Inherent Vice), but no win, which makes him incredibly overdue for a victory. Phantom Thread gave him another Best Director nomination, so he’s inching ever closer. Frankly, it seems like the next film of his will do it, doesn’t it?

2. Darren Aronofsky – For a great many, Aronofsky is one of the most talented filmmakers in the industry. He’s only been cited by Oscar once, and that’s with a nominee in Best Director for Black Swan. Last year saw him back competing again for a spot at the table, though mother! ultimately was too divisive to really go anywhere. Who knows what he’ll do next, but it should have him in play. Stay tuned!

1. Christopher Nolan – Here we have the rare filmmaker who has as many comic book fanboys worshipping him as art house patrons. Nolan is the most due director in the business, even with last year’s success. A five time nominee (Best Original Screenplay for Inception and Memento, as well as Best Picture for the former flick, plus Best Picture and Best Director for Dunkirk), he’s now finally been cited in Best Director, so that’s even more so where to look for an eventual victory. Nolan will be on all of the short lists for whatever he opts to do as his Dunkirk follow up, so we’ll just have to see how that ends up playing out. It would make a ton of sense for him to win for this next one, but it all depends on the quality of the film, right? Right.

Stay tuned to see if anyone here can pull off a win in the years to come!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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