With awards season in full swing, we’ve already covered Streampix’s Best Picture Oscar winners and nominees, so let’s take a look at some of the most memorable characters in the collection, some of whom took home top acting honors—including Denzel Washington, Jack Nicholson and Charlton Heston, while others were inexplicably overlooked, including John Wayne, Al Pacino, Elizabeth Blanchett and Kathleen Turner.
Here’s a look at 10 unforgettable performances in film history:
“Training Day”: Denzel Washington’s Oscar-winning performance as corrupt L.A. cop Detective Alonso Harris in director Antoine Fuqua and writer David Ayer’s 2001 crime drama is one of the most venal police officers this side of Orson Welles in “Touch of Evil.” Washington reveals his bad intentions the moment he forces his rookie partner, Ethan Hawke’s Jake Hoyt (nominated as Best Supporting Actor) to take a hit of pot from a confiscated haul to prove his loyalty. Washington bested Russell Crowe, the star of that year’s Best Picture, “A Beautiful Mind,” for top acting honors.
“Scarface”: Say hello to my little friend. Al Pacino’s Tony Montana has become a film icon in the role that launched a thousand hip-hop homages as the Cuban cocaine-crazed drug kingpin who seemingly mows down the entire city of Miami to achieve his dreams of grandeur. Brian De Palma’s 1983 classic has become the cult film to end all cult films thanks to Pacino’s over-the-top performance, the subject of much controversy over the years. Not hard to believe, but Pacino wasn’t even nominated for a Best Actor Oscar that year (won by “Amadeus” co-star F. Murray Abraham), though he did receive a Golden Globe nod for Best Actor in a Drama.
“Ben-Hur”: It doesn’t get more momentous than Charlton Heston, Mr. National Rifle Association himself, as Judah Ben-Hur, a prominent Jewish prince and merchant in Jerusalem, who falls afoul of his old pal, Stephen Boyd’s returning Roman tribunal Messala. William Wyler’s 1959 epic still holds the record for most Oscars, with 11, including a Best Actor nod to Heston, who beat out Jack Lemmon (“Some Like It Hot”), Lawrence Harvey (“Room at the Top”), Paul Muni (“The Last Angry Man”) and James Stewart (“Anatomy of a Murder”) for top honors and won a chariot race in one fell swoop.
“Elizabeth”: Cate Blanchett, the odds-on favorite to take home Best Actress for her role in Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine,” plays England’s Queen Elizabeth 1 in this sumptuous 1998 movie directed by Shekhar Kapur. The movie itself received a Best Picture nomination, losing out to “Shakespeare in Love,” which upset “Saving Private Ryan” for top honors, while Best Actress nominee Blanchett was edged by “Shakespeare” star Gwyneth Paltrow.
“Casablanca”: Play it again, Sam, and again. As for Hollywood legends, it doesn’t get any more historic than Humphrey Bogart’s role as the heroic American expatriate Rick Blaine in Michael Curtiz’s 1942 classic about World War II romantic drama. You might as well throw in Ingrid Bergman’s equally luminous Ilsa Lund as the object of his affection in one of the silver screen’s most beloved doomed love affairs. Incredibly, Bogart lost out for Best Actor to Paul Lukas in “Watch on the Rhine,” while Bergman wasn’t even nominated for “Casablanca,” though she did receive a nod for “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”
“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”: Jack Nicholson earned his first of two Best Actor awards for his portrayal of Randle Patrick “Mac” McMurphy in Milos Forman’s 1975 Best Picture-winning adaptation of the Ken Kesey novel. Who can forget the great scene where Nicholson’s McMurphy leads the inmates out for a day in the outside world, or his ongoing battle of wills with Louise Fletcher’s award-winning turn as the heavy, Nurse Ratched.
“Dirty Harry”: Clint Eastwood famously wondered if the punk caught in his crosshairs “felt lucky” that day while trying to calculate how many shots were left in his gun in this first installment of the long-running series about San Francisco police detective Harry Callahan, who enjoys taking matters into his own hands. Don Siegel’s 1971 film followed the adventures of the character first created in his 1968 movie “Coogan’s Bluff.” Eastwood didn’t even get nominated for his iconic performance, even if a fellow cop, Gene Hackman, won the top honors for his role as Detective Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle in “The French Connection.”
“Body Heat”: Kathleen Turner is the ultimate manipulative film noir femme fatale in writer-director Lawrence Kasdan’s tale of passion and murder as William Hurt’s small-town attorney becomes smitten with a young woman married to a rich and powerful older man. Despite its box office success, Turner, nor the film, received any Academy Award nominations that year, but anybody who remembers those steamy love scenes between Turner and Hurt will never forget them.
“The Graduate”: Oscar-winning Best Director Mike Nichols’ groundbreaking 1967 film classic might be remembered now as the film that helped launch Dustin Hoffman’s career, but it’s most memorable moment remains his seduction by the inimitable Mrs. Robinson, played by the alluring Anne Bancroft with heartbreaking angst. Hoffman, Bancroft and Katharine Ross all received Oscar nominations, with Bancroft losing out to Katherine Hepburn in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.”
“The Searchers”: It doesn’t get any more iconic than John Wayne’s turn as ex-Confederate soldier Ethan Edwards who brought the phrase, “That’ll be the day” into the public consciousness, and Buddy Holly’s songwriting head, as he tries to retrieve his niece Natalie Wood from the hands of the Comanches who massacred his family in John Ford’s enduring 1956 western saga. Although it’s now considered by critics one of the greatest movies ever made, it received not a single Academy Award nomination.