Ranking Best Actor nominees, 1990s edition

As the studios hired more Griffin Mills to “green light” “projects,” the nominations careened from terrific to unwatchable, sometimes year to year. Except for Jeremy Irons’ droll turn as Claus Von Bulow — I still can’t believe the Academy rewarded what is in essence a comic performance — the 1990 nods are worthless. Other actors got nominations in the usual sweep: Stephen Rea, Ralph Fiennes, Liam Neeson, Massimo Troisi.

Let me write a few words about the nominees. Assuming he deserved a third Oscar, Academy voters rewarded Jack Nicholson for his turn in As Good As It Gets as an Asperger-hobbled writer who, in a delightful twist, is also a homophobe; Nicholson, for all his skill, can’t quite hold this collection of tics together. Nixon’s Anthony Hopkins, for whom the Academy had a real yen, can’t eclipse the memory of Glenda Jackson in Nasty Habits, Philip Baker Hall in Secret Honor, or, later, Dan Hedaya in Dick. On the plus side, Daniel Day-Lewis in In the Name of the Father and Robert Duvall in his writer-director debut The Apostle gave performances undiscussed and underappreciated today. “Undiscussed” is where I hope to leave Roberto Benigni.

The Hague

Al Pacino – Scent of a Woman
Jack Nicholson – As Good As It Gets
Kevin Costner – Dances with Wolves
Robert De Niro – Awakenings
Roberto Benigni – Life is Beautiful
Tom Hanks – Forrest Gump
Massimo Troisi – Il Postino


Dustin Hoffman – Wag the Dog
Richard Dreyfuss – Mr. Holland’s Opus
Denzel Washington – The Hurricane
Matt Damon – Wag the Dog
Geoffrey Rush – Shine
Robin Williams – The Fisher King
Warren Beatty – Bugsy
Robert De Niro – Cape Fear
Tom Hanks – Philadelphia
Matt Damon – Good Will Hunting
Nigel Hawthorne – The Madness of King George
Edward Norton – American History X
Kevin Spacey – American Beauty

Solid, Sound Entertainments

Anthony Hopkins – The Silence of the Lambs
Nick Nolte – Affliction
Liam Neeson – Schindler’s List
Nicholas Cage – Leaving Lost Vegas
Tom Hanks – Saving Private Ryan
Peter Fonda – Ulee’s Gold
Clint Eastwood – Unforgiven
Gerard Depardieu – Cyrano de Bergerac
Ralph Fiennes – The English Patient
Morgan Freeman – The Shawshank Redemption
John Travolta – Pulp Fiction
Billy Bob Thornton – Sling Blade
Nick Nolte – The Prince of Tides
Stephen Rea – The Crying Game
Anthony Hopkins – Nixon
Laurence Fishburne – What’s Love Got to Do with It

Good to Great

Jeremy Irons – Reversal of Fortune
Robert Duvall – The Apostle
Denzel Washington – Malcolm X
Daniel Day-Lewis – In the Name of the Father
Richard Farnsworth – The Straight Story
Anthony Hopkins – The Remains of the Day
Sean Penn – Sweet and Lowdown
Paul Newman – Nobody’s Fool
Ian McKellen – Gods and Monsters
Robert Downey, Jr. – Chaplin
Sean Penn – Dead Man Walking
Russell Crowe – The Insider

Jury’s Out

Richard Harris – The Field

1 thought on “Ranking Best Actor nominees, 1990s edition

  1. Jukebox

    Nicholas Cage – Leaving Lost Vegas

    Thanks for remind me of the “lost” movie I hated it back then bit I didn’t remember. Directly to my list of movie abherrations. And where’s Figgis now? One of those “indies” Oscar loves once in a while. Poor Poor Pitiful Nic.


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