Most all of the actors below continued to work after winning Oscars, but none of them have delivered a performance that is on par with the one that merited them an Academy Award.
Note of distinction: Because the Oscars are for film, I’m concerned only with the movie careers of the people listed below. Whether they went on to find success as musicians or painters or reality TV stars is not of issue.
Louise Fletcher – Best Actress, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
Fletcher has been in plenty since searing herself into our heads as Nurse Ratched. But I’m hard pressed to actually remember her in anything.
Possible Redemption: 2 Days in the Valley. Maybe…?
Cher – Best Actress, Moonstruck (1987)
I’m not entirely sure Cher deserved this award in the first place (my vote would’ve been Glenn Close, Fatal Attraction) but either way, after winning the Oscar, Cher faded into acting obscurity, never to return.
Possible Redemption: She’s not bad in If These Walls Could Talk.
Mercedes Ruehl – Best Supporting Actress, The Fisher King (1991)
Mercedes Ruehl is great as Jeff Bridges’ faithful yet frustrated love interest in The Fisher King, flexing her sultry, brazen charm all the way to the Oscar stage. But then what? The mom in Last Action Hero (which I love), two episodes as Vincent Chase’s mom on Entourage?
Possible Redemption: Other than the roles mentioned above…?
Mira Sorvino – Best Supporting Actress, Mighty Aphrodite (1995)
Sorvino’s Linda Ash in Mighty Aphrodite is a tough role. Ditzy, moronic, crude and hilarious. If she pushed any farther, she would’ve been too much. But she hit at just the right level. She’s been memorable in a few things since, but never like that.
Possible Redemption: Funny in Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, dead serious in Summer of Sam.
Cuba Gooding, Jr. – Best Supporting Actor, Jerry Maguire (1996)
Before being cast as the egotistical Rod Tidwell in Jerry Maguire, Gooding had noteworthy roles in Boyz in the Hood, A Few Good Men, Judgment Night, and Outbreak. Post-Oscar: Chill Factor… Instinct… Rat Race…. Pearl Harbor… Boat Trip… Norbit. His post-Oscar resume reads like a flop list from hell.
Possible Redemption: His small but volatile role as Nicky Barnes in American Gangster.
Kim Basinger – Best Supporting Actress, L.A. Confidential (1997)
People forget this now, but there was a time when Curtis Hanson’s masterful film rested almost solely on the shoulders of Kim Basinger. L.A. Confidential was pre-Gladiator Russell Crowe and pre-Memento Guy Pierce. To be fair, the film was post-The Usual Suspects Kevin Spacey, but it was Basinger’s face who was plastered all over the marketing material for this film. The effort paid off. The movie was a hit, thanks in part to Basinger’s swift performance.
Possible Redemption: I love 8 Mile, but she didn’t really own her role. The Door in the Floor is pretty good as well.
Roberto Benigni – Best Actor, Life is Beautiful (1998)
I’ve always felt that Best Foreign Film would’ve sufficed for Roberto Benigni. Given his competition, his Best Actor win still does not make sense to me.
Possible Redemption: You might say Coffee and Cigarettes, but his segment was filmed 12 years before he won the Oscar for Life is Beautiful.
Jennifer Hudson – Best Supporting Actress, Dreamgirls (2006)
She sang, she screamed, she cried, she won. Honestly, I was pretty blown away by Hudson’s performance the first time I saw Dreamgirls. But after letting it sit for years, her competition remains far more memorable. Hudson’s win is an example of Oscar voters being temporarily buzzed by the sugar high of a flashy performance.
Possible Redemption: None.
Halle Berry – Best Actress, Monster’s Ball (2001) and Adrien Brody – Best Actor, The Pianist (2002)
I’m putting these two together (and last), because I need your help. Brody’s win for The Pianist is one of my favorite wins in Oscar history. And Berry’s fearless turn in Monster’s Ball is something Oscar voters crave. But has anything either has done since lived up to their respective performances? For Brody, one could argue The Village, Darjeeling Limited, The Brothers Bloom, and Midnight in Paris as redemptions. For Berry, Things We Lost in the Fire and/or Cloud Atlas. What do you think?
22 thoughts on “Top 10 Oscar Winners Whose Careers Faltered Post-Win”
I am so saddened by Brody’s career. I do like the films that you have listed and his performances in them, but the dude needs films according to his talent.
Yes, exactly. He can do so much more. We know it, he knows it. I’d love to see him in more amazing roles.
Alex — Notice all the women on the list. This brings up a sad trend in Hollywood. Unless your name is Meryl Streep, good parts for actresses older than 40 in Hollywood films are almost non existent. I would argue that even such superstars as Sandra Bullock and Julia Roberts are seeing their careers sputter. I think you could add Hilary Swank to the list. Aside from her two wins, has she done anything remotely interesting? Finally, I would argue Berry most definitely ‘redeemed’ herself with “Cloud Atlas.”
As I was making this, I became really disheartened by the fact that most of these were women. So yeah, I couldn’t agree with you more – a very sad trend indeed.
I definitely considered Bullock, but I didn’t think enough time had past yet. Glad to hear you think Berry is back on track.
I want to comment about how MERMAIDS was 1990 and Cher’s supreme performance, but I won’t.
Sadly, that movie (and her performance) does nothing for me.
How about Renee Zellweger? I haven’t seen anything she did since Cinderella Man but I don’t think any of her work was worth noticing. I really don’t know what happened to her?
Yep, that’s another one. Although I did think she was better in Cinderella Man than Cold Mountain.
Sir, I’m italian and i think that Benigni is one of the worst actor-winners ever. The academy literally robbed carrey and/or norton
You have no idea how happy it makes me to hear you say that. Thanks for stopping by!
Good list Alex! Forest Whitaker I would add too. Good point about Louise Fletcher, I don’t remember her in anything either. Of these, I think Adrien Brody has the best chance of a comeback, simply based on his acting ability, plus he’s still fairly young.
Some of the others kind of have themselves to blame a little bit by taking on bad movies(Halle Berry, Kim Basinger, Cuba Good Jr) . But I guess if you want to make a living, you have to take what’s offered.
Thanks Chris! Was very close to adding Whitaker as well. Who knows, maybe he’ll surprise us all with The Butler. (Or maybe not…)
I really hope Brody stages a comeback soon.
I think Adrien Brody could have a comeback as well though his choices are more eccentric though some of them like “High School” were really bad. I liked Halle Berry in “Cloud Atlas” and hope she can do better films. As for the rest… I don’t think so. Though I would like to applaud Kim Basinger for taking credit in creating a daughter who is very hot.
Hahah shit man. Yes, let’s give Basinger credit for that at least. Hoping for a Brody comeback as well. He’s got it in him.
Berry was good in Cloud Atlas. Not Oscar-worthy, but it’s a promise of a return to form.
I’m especially disappointed in Fletchers’ lack of good roles post Nurse Ratched and Cuba’s inability to capitalize on his win. Cuba had far better roles/movies before his Oscar win. His to me is the most obvious case of the Oscar curse since he wasn’t just a one-hit wonder. He had several good hits before Jerry Maguire and then nothing. He should have gone indie tbh. Although I do love Rat Race…
I don’t respect Mira Sorvino as an actress. Romy & Michelle, however fun, wasn’t exactly a vehicle to show off your acting chops. And have you seen her as Marilyn? For people who say MM was a bad actress, Sorvino’s performance was a hundred times more god awful. I cringed through that film. I need to see her in Mighty Aphrodite just to see if she could at least change my mind.
I’m with you all the way on Gooding. It’s as if his win ruined his career. I mean… he is amazing in Boyz in the Hood. Amazing. And what now?
Mira is damn bad as MM, no two ways about it. Just awful. I do like her in Mighty Aphrodite though. It’s almost as if she’s cashing in on the public perception of her. A risk, but a worthy one.
If you haven’t seen Detachment, you may want to check that out. Brody just doesn’t fit many roles for some reason, so I can understand how he hasn’t really wowed.
I actually didn’t like that movie. Felt too, well, Detached (which, yeah, was probably the point). Brody was decent in it but the movie as a whole didn’t work for me.
If you’re willing to talk about roles on TV, Mercedes Ruehl was pretty fantastic in the third season of ‘Frasier’ as a contentious new station manager.
Good stuff. I’ve never seen that show, but I’m glad to hear she’s good in it. If only she could get some solid work from this century…
Alex, I’m curious, have you seen “Union Square” with Mira Sorvino? It kinda slipped by unnoticed. I really liked it and I really, really liked her in it. Granted, it was not a part that was a stretch at all for her, but at least it was her getting back to interesting acting.
I have not. But if anything gets any sort of praise from you, then I’m all over it. Thanks for the reco!