Top 10: Best Oscar-Nominated Comedic Performances

Diane Keaton

In honor of her upcoming film “Snatched,” today we celebrate Goldie Hawn‘s incredible comedic Oscar win in 1969 for “Cactus Flower.”

The Oscars often get skewered for not acknowledging comedic performances as often as they do the frowning side of the thespian mask; after all, the old adage goes that it’s harder to make someone laugh than it is to make them cry. And while this criticism is fair, to a point, there are at least 87 (more if you loosen your definition and expand to 2017) Oscar-nominated comedic performances as of 2015. A few performances have won, but a larger group has lost. Unfortunately, a Top 10 can contain only 10, so trimming must be done.

A point of reference: I’ve tried to include only true comedic performances, not “light” performances or “musical” ones or things like whatever Christian Bale was doing in “The Big Short.” I’m really trying to go for only gut-busters, here, folks. My main criteria is: Does the nomination or win seem like a hecking miracle? Most of the time, the answer is an emphatic “YES.”

Also, as a final full disclosure: This list skews newer rather than older, not because I have any ill will to black and white performances, but because they tend to be less fresh in my mind than the nominees listed. Sorry, Irenne Dunne and Carole Lombard! Oh, and I’ve excluded Hawn from the list as she inspired the whole article.

Am I crazy? Sound off in the comments with your Top 10 Oscar-Nominated Comedic Performances and tell me how much you love mine!



10. Diane Keaton, “Annie Hall” (1977) – Best Actress Winner

Perhaps the standard, shining light of comedic Oscar wins is Keaton’s title role in Woody Allen‘s Best Picture winner. Keaton delivers humanity between zingers that would make Grammy Hall proud.


9. Madeline Kahn, “Paper Moon” (1973) – Best Supporting Actress Nominee

Just watch the video and you’ll understand why Kahn’s Oscar nomination (and disappointing loss to her co-star who’s in every frame of the film) is a masterclass in comedic acting.


8. Gene Wilder, “The Producers” (1968) – Best Supporting Actor Nominee

I’m wet. I’m wet. I’m hysterical and I’m wet. I’m in pain. And I’m wet. And I’m still hysterical! (Forgive the video quality).


7. Jack Lemmon, “Some Like It H0t” (1959) – Best Actor Nominee

Sometimes comedy is about timing, or about truthfulness. For me, though, Lemmon nails his performance as Daphne in Billy Wilder’s classic comedy purely on physical comic gold.


6. Dudley Moore, “Arthur” (1981) – Best Actor Nominee

Consider Moore the representation for Great Comedic Drunk/Drunk Scene Performances Nominated for an Oscar, sharing this nomination informally with Peter O’Toole (“My Favorite Year”), James Stewart (“The Philadelphia Story”) and Lee Marvin (“Cat Ballou”) t0 name a few. But Moore’s title character is the CLASSIC, perfect cinema drunk.


5. Melissa McCarthy, “Bridesmaids” (2011) – Best Supporting Actress Nominee

Perhaps the most miracle of miracles is McCarthy’s Oscar nod for a summer breakout comedy. Why pick one clip when I can show the whole clip show. “I’m gonna climb that like a tree.”


4. Kevin Kline, “A Fish Called Wanda” (1988) – Best Supporting Actor Winner

How many Oscar-winning performances involve being run over by a steamroller? “You are the vulgarian, you fuck!”


3. Robert Downey, Jr., “Tropic Thunder” (2008) – Best Supporting Actor Nominee

How Downey, Jr. managed to get an Oscar nomination after being Hollywood poison for over a decade, WHILE playing a comic role in blackface? The world may never know, but it’s hard not to feel utter joy remembering the AMPAS nominating the dude playing a dude disguised as another dude. No trail donkeys here. Hot damn!


2. Jean Hagen, “Singin’ in the Rain” (1952) – Best Supporting Actress Nominee

Hagen’s brainless deadpan combined with her aloof cunning is a brilliant, hilarious combination. AND HER VOICE!


1. Marissa Tomei, “My Cousin Vinny” (1992) – Best Supporting Actress Winner

Sheer perfection.

Share your favorite comedic works that Oscar has noticed in the comments below!

What do you think?

Written by Sam Coffey

Attorney-at-law, Oscaroligist, coffee lover, Fantasy Football silver medalist, soccer fan (Orlando City SC), Geoffrey Rush enthusiast, and Time's 2006 Person of the Year.

Sam joined The Awards Circuit in January 2014, predicting all award shows with 100% accuracy ever since. A.K.A. "the stat guy."


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