Genre Geeks: 10 Actors in Upcoming Sci-Fi/Horror Films Hoping for Oscar Attention

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Every year a slew of award-worthy performances in genre movies go unrecognized, primarily from notable actors attempting to challenge their craft. Studios small and grandiose even incorporate their stars’ radical transformations into their respective marketing campaigns.

A concerted effort is put forth by all, and yet the Academy doesn’t budge for recognition’s sake. Hoping to enlighten the skeptics are ten actors who have yet to cross that Oscar-nomination bridge. Below you’ll find an assembly containing a mix of veterans, recent breakthrough performers and seasoned artists rearing for a comeback.

10Rosa Salazar for “Alita: Battle Angel”

(Released by 20th Century Fox on Feb. 14, 2019)

Should Have Been In Contention For: “The Kindergarten Teacher” (2018)

No stranger to science fiction, Rosa Salazar had a memorable turn in “The Maze Runner” film franchise as a fierce freedom fighter and preferable love interest, Brenda. Honorable mentions of her talent include an acclaimed lead role in the indie rom-com “Night Owls” and most recently a strong supporting turn in the Netflix character drama, “The Kindergarten Teacher.” However, she’s best known for starring in the aforementioned streaming service’s “Bird Box.” Her character’s mysterious (and random) disappearance without explanation has been a constant source of internet water cooler talk.

This year she’s back as the motion capture talent behind Alita, the titular heroine of the James Cameron-produced sci-fi dystopia, “Alita: Battle Angel.” Could Salazar capitalize on her newfound popularity by accomplishing what Zoe Saldana could not in James Cameron’s “Avatar”: being the first motion capture performer to ever be Oscar-nominated?

9Kimberly Elise for “Ad Astra”

(Released by 20th Century Fox on May 24, 2019)

Should Have Been in Contention For: “Beloved” (1998)

A consummate performer who’s gone unappreciated for decades, the force of nature that is Kimberly Elise might finally be magnified in James Gray’s “Ad Astra.” While the plot has been closely guarded, Gray never shortchanges his female characters, making Elise’s involvement potentially substantial enough for awards recognition. Elise managed to carve a permanent mark of critical acknowledgment thanks to a stirring performance in the little-seen Oprah Winfrey-produced drama, “Beloved.” Even poorly reviewed films such as “For Colored Girls” and “Tyler Perry’s Diary of a Mad Black Woman” singled out Elise’s incredible devotion to her craft.

8Linda Cardellini for “The Curse of La Llorona”

(Released by Warner Bros Pictures on April 19, 2019)

Should Have Been in Contention For: “Return” (2012)

Far more than Velma in the live-action “Scooby Doo” or Lindsay Weir in “Freaks and Geaks,” Linda Cardellini has been on the precipice of Academy embrace for some time now. Her open-hearted performance in this year’s “Green Book” might even coax a shocking last-minute “Best Supporting Actress” nomination. However, critics really elevated her into the “one to watch” club with career-best raves for the microscopically viewed “Return,” a Director’s Fortnight debut at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.

Now Cardellini is cementing herself as a household name, she’s utilizing 2019 as a means of chipping away at that glass ceiling for contemporary horror performances. Recently, Toni Collette and Essie Davis mustered maternal fortitude in their respective films “Hereditary” and “The Babadook.” Cardellini is attempting a similar display in “The Curse of La Llorona,” hoping to go the distance and curry Academy favor.

7Winston Duke for “Us”

(Released by Universal Pictures on March 15, 2019)

Should Have Been In Contention For: “Black Panther” (2018)

Winston Duke’s infectious comical bravado in “Black Panther” turned him into an instant breakout. Now with Jordan Peele’s upcoming “Us,” he’ll be able to demonstrate how his talents extend beyond his scene-stealing film debut. As one half of a family couple waging a domestic war of survival against some eerily familiar home invaders, Duke is sure to flex his acting muscles to M’Baku heights. Teaming alongside the Oscar-winning Lupita Nyong’o ensures he’ll be pushed past the brink of excellence.

6John Goodman for “Captive State”

(Released by Focus Features on March 29, 2019)

Should Have Been in Contention For: “10 Cloverfield Lane” (2016)

John Goodman’s performance in “10 Cloverfield Lane” should have been the exception to Academy genre bias. As a conspiracy theorist suffering severe “cabin fever,” the veteran actor has never been so terrifying in his career. Despite showing he’s more than just a supple presentation of wholesome American values, Goodman’s versatility has gone unnoticed by awards groups. This year he’s back leading another apocalyptic crisis in Rupert Wyatt’s sci-fi thriller, “Captive State.” Although releasing early in the year, Focus Features’ attachment suggests a higher quality than your average first-quarter genre fare. If Goodman can prove he’s still a commercial star defying expectations of actors his generation, he’ll reopen a case for that elusive first Oscar nomination.

5Bill Skarsgård for “It: Chapter 2”

(Released by Warner Bros Pictures on Sept. 6, 2019)

Should Have Been in Contention For: “It” (2017)

As the youngest member of the royal Skarsgård acting dynasty, Bill had a bit of a rough start with the critically-maligned Netflix horror series “Hemlock Grove.” Luckily he bounced back with a little help from some devious makeup and the horrifying imagination of Stephen King. For whatever reason, the Academy and various critics groups opted to ignore such a creepily perfect version of Pennywise the Clown. Seeping into our childhood fears by representing the worst occurrences and people encountered, Skarsgård became the psychological challenge audiences never expected to embrace. With the second chapter of “It” on the 2019 calendar agenda, Skarsgård poses a risk of overshadowing the competition with nightmarish force.

4Chris Evans for “Avengers: Endgame”

(Released by Walt Disney Studios on April 26, 2019)

Should Have Been in Contention For: “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011)

So much more than just a poster child of noble patriotism, Evans shows how altruism is an aspiration within mortal reach. As Steve Rogers, he exudes a gentle spirit of selflessness that’s indiscriminate and entirely purposeful. The Marvel Cinematic Universe might have begun with Robert Downey, Jr.’s Iron Man, but Captain America is the moral center of the Avengers. Therefore, Evans’s departure from the franchise is a sorrowful one considering his eminent benevolence is a rarity, even among superheroes. Perfectly on brand, Evans has taken the lead on changing the very definition of protagonist “masculinity,” demonstrating the bravery insensitivity and ego-shelving. This radical deconstruction of the “leading man” archetype might finally be recognized in the climactic “Avengers” conclusion.

3Daisy Ridley in “Star Wars: Episode IX”

(Released by Walt Disney Studios on Dec. 20, 2019)

Should Have Been in Contention For: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

Arguably one of the most impressive acting debuts ever considering the franchise hoisted on her shoulders, Daisy Ridley came in like a lightsaber and singed expectations. Audiences became instantly spellbound, totally convinced by Ridley’s hardened gaze expressing the weight of galactic strife. The young thespian oozes confidence and sophistication but is also vulnerable enough to allow Rey’s flaws to shine with identifiable warmth. Ridley’s next foray outside a galaxy far, far away is this year’s “Ophelia” where she tackles the difficult central role. However, it’s where she launched her stardom that the accolades should follow. If Abrams can rekindle the same spark of fiery determination as witnessed in “The Force Awakens” — but with amplified intensity – Ridley could possibly etch a spot for herself in the final “Best Actress” lineup.

2Tessa Thompson in “Men In Black: International”

(Released by Sony Pictures on June 14, 2019)

Should Have Been in Contention For: “Sorry To Bother You” (2018)

When it comes to versatility in Hollywood, no one quite measures up to Tessa Thompson. Complementing headstrong assertiveness with slick wit, Thompson keeps audiences on their toes with some high-wire unpredictability. In “Creed,” “Selma,” “Dear White People,” “Thor: Ragnarok,” “Annihilation” and especially “Sorry to Bother You,” Thompson ensures that her characters are even more memorable than their page beginnings. She’s a lightning rod that effortlessly cruises through a narrative, making her the perfect fit for the “Men in Black” series. Moviegoers have been waiting since Melissa McCarthy’s “Bridesmaids” nomination for the Academy to continue approving comedic work. Fighting aliens in style with wisecracks at the ready, Tessa Thompson’s Agent M is poised to pry open that grossly imbalanced acting qualification.

1David Oyelowo for “Relive”

(Released TBD from Universal Pictures)

Should Have Been in Contention For: “Selma” (2014)

David Oyelowo is a monolith of greatness but you wouldn’t know it from the consistent shunning by his peers. After the British thespian delivered a commanding, nuanced portrayal of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Ava DuVernay’s sublime “Selma,” the Academy acting branch decided to support safer work with marginal impact. Oyelowo’s rousing energy channeled the spirit and relevance of King, so convincing in passion and bombastic verve that it remains one of the forefront performances in a fairly unremarkable year at the movies.

This year Oyelowo has the full backing of genre hit-maker Jason Blum and his mighty Blumhouse banner. The pair are combing their talents for “Relive,” an intimate supernatural thriller that finds a man mourning the loss of his family…but then reconnecting with them in unforeseeable ways. Having its world premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival provides Oyelowo the advantage of igniting buzz ahead of the eventual pack. If he’s able to sustain such momentum throughout the year and through the throes of awards season, the Academy will finally have to unlock the keys to their kingdom and let his Majesty in.

Which actors deserving of Oscar attention are you most excited to see in 2019’s film slate of horror and science fiction? Let us know in the comments!

Be sure to check out the Official Oscar Predictions Page to see where 2018 movie contenders rank!