Many of the renowned Oscar winners have been an integral part of Marvel movies, one of the biggest superhero blockbuster franchises in cinema history. However, for some reason, the awards circuit usually does not see superhero films worthy of such esteemed accolades.
An Academy Award is regarded as the most prestigious honour in the world of cinema. On the other hand, a superhero film is more about drawing the masses to theatres for a few hours of pure entertainment.
Oscar winners starring in Marvel movies
Superhero films such as those of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) generate a lot of money because of their devoted fan base of millions around the world and are much wider in scale and concept than most movies.
The phenomenal success of the MCU movies (and shows) since 2008, when the first film in the franchise hit the screens, has helped make the superhero genre gain a new degree of repute and acceptance among the niche sections of film lovers.
Perhaps this is why some of the finest actors in cinematic history, who are also Academy Award winners, agree to play characters whose origins can be traced back to comic books instead of an award-winning literary masterpiece.
Oscar for: Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role — The Fighter (2010)
Bale plays Gorr the God Butcher in Thor: Love and Thunder (2022), appearing as an enemy of all the gods in the MCU.
The celebrated actor is renowned for undergoing shocking body transformations in most of his movies. This time too, fans get to see his amazing getup as the ruthless god killer in the film.
Apart from his Academy Award win, Bale has also received three Oscar nominations. Two of these were for the best actor category for the films Vice (2018) and American Hustle (2013).
Oscar for: Best Actress in a Supporting Role — Girl, Interrupted (1999)
Jolie played Thena, an ‘eternal’ in Eternals (2021). The film had an ensemble cast, comprising Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Barry Keoghan, Salma Hayek, Gemma Chan, Kumail Nanjiani, Lauren Ridloff and South Korean actor Don Lee in the main roles. Though the film was a critical failure, the cast’s performance was praised.
Jolie has also received an Oscar nod for in the best actress category for Changeling (2008) and won the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, which is given by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), in 2014.
Oscars for: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role — The Father (2020); Best Actor in a Leading Role — The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
One of the most significant Oscar winners in Marvel movies, Hopkins played the role of Odin in the MCU. In the films and the Nordic mythology on which Thor’s universe is based, Odin is the Allfather — the supreme god — and the father of the hammer-wielding God of Thunder.
Hopkins essayed the role in all three films — Thor (2011), Thor: The Dark World (2013) and Thor: Ragnarok (2017) — featuring Thor as the lead.
The illustrious actor has four other Academy Award nominations, two each in the best acting and the best supporting acting categories. When he won the award in 2021 for his performance in The Father, Hopkins became the oldest actor at 83 to win an Oscar in this competitive category.
Oscar for: Best Actress in a Leading Role — Shakespeare in Love (1998)
Starting with Iron Man (2008), Paltrow played Pepper Potts in seven MCU films. Potts begins as the personal assistant of Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and goes on to become his friend. Over the course of the films, the two fall in love and marry. Paltrow’s last appearance as Potts was Avengers: Endgame (2019), which marked the death of Tony Stark during the climacteric battle with Thanos (Josh Brolin).
Oscar for: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role — The Last King of Scotland (2006)
Whitaker played Zuri in Black Panther, the first superhero film to get a Best Picture nomination at the Academy Awards. He plays the character of a Wakandan elder who is also the keeper of the unique herb that grants the powers of the Black Panther to whosoever consumes it.
The film itself won three Oscars for the original score, costume design and production design, becoming the first MCU film to do so.
Oscar for: Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role — 12 Years a Slave (2013)
The Kenyan-Mexican is one of the biggest fan-favourite Marvel actors who are also Oscar winners.
Nyong’o has portrayed the intelligent, strong and confident Nakia in Black Panther and reprises her role in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022). Nakia is a spy for Wakanda and was once the romantic interest of T’Challa/Black Panther — a character essayed by Chadwick Boseman, who passed away in 2020.
Interestingly, Nyong’o has also appeared as Maz Kanata in all three films of the Star Wars sequel trilogy and is, thus, one of the few MCU actors who has also played an important role in another mega-franchise.
Oscar for: Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role — Blue Jasmine (2013); Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role — The Aviator (2004)
Blanchett is one of the most acclaimed Oscar winners in MCU movies. She appeared as the extremely powerful and ruthless Nordic goddess Hela in Thor: Ragnarok (2017). Her outstanding performance was one of the major factors behind the critical and commercial success of the film.
The Australian actress has garnered numerous accolades over her long career. Besides her two Oscar wins, she has also received five nominations in acting categories. Two of these came in a single year and three were for best actress, including one for the film Carol (2015).
Oscar for: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role — Crazy Heart (2009)
Bridges played the main antagonist Obadiah Stane/Iron Monger in Iron Man (2008), which was the first MCU film to hit the screens. Thus, he can be called the first of the Oscar winners in Marvel movies.
Interestingly, he is the only actor to have won an Oscar after starring in an MCU film. And though he has won an Academy Award only once, Bridges has been nominated in acting categories on six other occasions, including best supporting actor nods for The Last Picture Show (1971) and Hell or High Water (2016).
Oscar for: Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role — Room (2015)
Academy Award winner Brie Larson’s casting as Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel in Captain Marvel (2019) was welcomed by critics and fans alike. This was because she had already showcased her impressive acting range in both independent films and big-budget productions. The film was a hit and Danvers reprised her role the same year in Avengers: Endgame.
As one of the most powerful superheroes in the MCU, Captain Marvel fights to protect earth from alien forces as well as other intergalactic foes.
Oscar for: Best Actor in a Leading Role — Wall Street (1987); Best Picture — One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), with Saul Zaentz
Douglas is one of the most famous Oscar winners in Marvel movies. He played Hank Pym, the creator of the Pym Particle, which helps the body shrink or grow.
He first appeared as Pym in Ant-Man (2015) and followed it up with appearances in Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) and Avengers: Endgame (2019).
Tommy Lee Jones
Oscar for: Best Actor in a Supporting Role — The Fugitive (1993)
Acting titan Tommy Lee Jones has appeared in only one MCU film — Captain America: The First Avenger (2011). He played Colonel Chester Phillips, one of the characters who oversees the transformation of Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) into the supersoldier known as Captain America.
Jones has also received three Oscar nods, including one for best actor for In the Valley of Elah (2007). Perhaps this is why he was able to create an impact as Colonel Phillips despite having considerably less screen time in the MCU film.
Oscar for: Best Actor in a Leading Role — Gandhi (1982)
The legendary English actor is hailed as one of the greatest cinematic geniuses in the world. Apart from winning the best actor award for Gandhi, Kingsley earned nominations in acting categories at Academy Awards for Bugsy (1991), Sexy Beast (2000) and House of Sand and Fog (2003).
His first appearance in an MCU movie was in Iron Man 3 (2013). In the film, Kingsley played Trevor Slattery, an English actor who unwittingly poses as the terrorist group leader ‘Mandarin’. Kingsley returned as Slattery, with an expanded role in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021).
Oscar: Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role — Black Swan (2010)
Hailed as one of the greatest actresses, Portman garnered two more Oscar nominations besides her sole win. She brilliantly essayed physicist Jane Foster in Thor (2011) and Thor: The Dark World (2013) but did not appear in the third Thor film.
Portman is set to return as Foster in Thor: Love and Thunder (2022) and is seen wielding the Mjolnir, the enchanted hammer, in the trailers of the film.
Like Lupita Nyong’o, Portman is also among the few Oscar-winning MCU actors to have also appeared in Star Wars. She played Padmé Amidala in all three films of the prequel trilogy of Star Wars.
Oscar for: Best Director — Ordinary People (1980)
Redford is the only Academy Award-winning director to date to have played a classic antagonist in an MCU film.
He played Alexander Pierce, the leader of the covert terrorist group Hydra, who is also a top S.H.I.E.L.D. executive, in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014). Redford’s performance as Pierce was received well by critics. The actor also did a cameo as Pierce in Avengers: Endgame (2019).
Redford is widely hailed as one of the greatest actors of the 20th century, though most of his Oscar acclaims came for film-making. Apart from his win for Ordinary People, Redford earned nominations for Best Director and Best Picture for Quiz Show (1994). He also received a best actor Oscar nod for The Sting (1973). In 2002, Redford was given an Honorary Oscar by the Academy.
Oscar for: Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role — Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)
Before garnering an Oscar-level reputation, Rockwell played one of the two antagonists in Iron Man 2 (2010). He plays Justin Hammer, a weapons manufacturer who competes with Tony Stark and, rather foolishly, recruits Ivan Vanko to create an army of drones.
A year after he took home the best supporting actor Oscar statuette, Rockwell scored his second Academy Award nomination in the best supporting actor category for Vice (2018).
Oscar for: Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role — Michael Clayton (2007)
MCU fans consider Tilda Swinton one of the best superhero stars who are also Oscar winners.
Swinton entered the MCU with Doctor Strange (2016) as the Ancient One — an extremely powerful sorcerer who teaches Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) the art of wizardry. Although her character died in the film, Swinton returned as the Ancient One during the time travel sequence in Avengers: Endgame.
Oscar for: Best Actress in a Supporting Role — My Cousin Vinny (1992)
Tomei redefined the character of May Parker, or Aunt May, in all MCU films featuring Spider-Man, starting with Captain America: Civil War (2016).
Tomei’s Aunt May was much younger and active in the MCU films. However, the character in comic books and previous films has been depicted as a white-haired old lady in her 60s or 70s.
Besides winning the best supporting actress Oscar, Tomei earned Academy Award nominations in the same category on two more occasions.
Benicio Del Toro
Oscar for: Best Actor in a Supporting Role — Traffic (2000)
The Puerto Rican actor-producer appeared as Taneleer Tivan/The Collector during the mid-credit scene of Thor: The Dark World (2013). He had a slightly expanded role in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and again a cameo in Avengers: Infinity War (2018).
Del Toro has also once been nominated in the supporting role category for 21 Grams (2003).
Oscar for: Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen — Good Will Hunting (1997), with Ben Affleck
It is rare to have a multiple-Academy Award nominee do an uncredited cameo in MCU films. However, Matt Damon did that by playing an Asgardian actor as Loki in Thor: Ragnarok. And, he is set to reprise the role in Thor: Love and Thunder!
Damon was also nominated for best actor for Good Will Hunting. Since then, he has earned two more nominations in acting categories. He also got a best film nod for Manchester by the Sea (2016), of which he was one of the producers.
Oscar for: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role — Ray (2004)
Foxx played Electro, one of the antagonists in the MCU film Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021). Uniquely, he has the distinction of playing the same character in a non-MCU film.
The Oscar winner first played Electro in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014), which came from Sony’s stables. Thanks to the multiverse concept of the MCU, Foxx was able to play the same character in the 2021 MCU film.
Foxx is one of the few actors to have been nominated in multiple Academy Award categories in the same year. While he won the best actor for Ray, he was also in the running for best supporting actor for Collateral (2004) at the same ceremony.
Oscar for: Best Actor in a Leading Role — Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985)
The acclaimed screen icon played Thaddeus Ross, an American general who later becomes the Secretary of State in the MCU films.
His first appearance in the role was in The Incredible Hulk (2008), and he did not return as the character until Captain America: Civil War. Thereafter, he did cameos in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Black Widow (2021) was Hurt’s last MCU film before his death in 2022.
Hurt was nominated for Oscars three more times in his career, including best actor nods for Children of a Lesser God (1986) and Broadcast News (1987).
(Main and Featured images: © 2017 – Disney/Marvel/IMDb)