What a thrill it must be as an actor to be in a film that becomes a contender for the Academy Award for Best Picture. A few even develop such an impressive resume that they have seven, eight, nine, or more of these credits to their names. Who are the actors who have starred in the most number of Best Picture nominees?
Many of the performers on this list are not a surprise, with multi-Oscar-winners such as Meryl Streep, Robert De Niro, Cate Blanchett and Bette Davis making the cut. But there are also some fine character actors who appeared in hundreds of films over careers that spanned decades, including Henry Travers (Clarence the angel from “It’s a Wonderful Life) and Thomas Mitchell (Scarlett O’Hara’s dad from “Gone with the Wind”). Mitchell was such a sought-after actor, he appeared in five of the Best Picture nominees in 1940 and 1941. Two such actors are the only performers to appear in three back-to-back Best Picture winners. Wallis Clark appeared in “It Happened One Night,” “Mutiny on the Bounty” and “The Great Ziegfeld,” but is only credited in “Mutiny.” Harry Davenport achieved this same feat, all in credited roles, with “The Life of Emile Zola,” You Can’t Take It with You” and “Gone with the Wind.”
One actor has the distinction that every film in which he appeared went on to be nominated. John Cazale had roles in the first two “Godfather” films, as well as “The Conversation,” “Dog Day Afternoon” and “The Deer Hunter.” His career was tragically cut short when he passed away from lung cancer at the age of 42 in 1978.
During Hollywood’s Golden Age, studios employed multi-talented character actors and professional “extras,” many of whom have numerous appearances in Best Picture contenders, but mostly as “uncredited.” Bess Flowers and Ian Wolfe each appeared in more than 300 shorts and features over several decades. Wolfe was a familiar face from the 1930s until his final film “Dick Tracy” in 1990, and appeared in 15 films nominated for Best Picture, with more than half as “uncredited.” Dubbed the “Queen of Extras,” Flowers holds the record for most appearances (all uncredited) in Best Picture contenders at 23, five of which went on the win the golden statue.
For the sake of this article, we did not include actors whose appearances in these films were largely “uncredited,” as they were usually in bit parts or even extras. Our focus on inclusion was actors and actresses who starred or co-starred in Best Picture nominees.
This compilation has been narrowed down to people who have appearances in at least seven nominated films, all with credited roles (and some like the overall leader Ward Bond and even Elizabeth Taylor in some uncredited roles but not bit parts).
There are several performers who are still actively working, and I have no doubt will one day make the list – possibly this Oscar season. Bradley Cooper is at six; will “Maestro” be his seventh? Jesse Plemons has been in six nominated films in just the past eight years. “Killers of the Flower Moon” might give him his seventh. Meanwhile, performers already in our gallery like Tom Hanks (“Asteroid City”), Matt Damon (“Air,” “Oppenheimer”), plus Leonardo DiCaprio and De Niro (“Killers of the Flower Moon”) should get a bump up in their totals.
Tour our photo gallery above. The years listed indicate the years in which films were nominated, as opposed to released.
Make your predictions at Gold Derby now. Download our free and easy app for Apple/iPhone devices or Android (Google Play) to compete against legions of other fans plus our experts and editors for best prediction accuracy scores. See our latest prediction champs. Can you top our esteemed leaderboards next? Always remember to keep your predictions updated because they impact our latest racetrack odds, which terrify Hollywood chiefs and stars. Don’t miss the fun. Speak up and share your huffy opinions in our famous forums where 5,000 showbiz leaders lurk every day to track the latest awards buzz. Everybody wants to know: What do you think? Who do you predict and why?