The Oscars are right around the corner! If you’re wondering what you should watch to get ready, we’ve got the perfect list for you. Sure, you could watch movies with the most Oscar wins, like Titanic or Ben-Hur. Or, you could check out a string of hits from Katharine Hepburn, who earned the most acting Academy Awards at 4. But here’s a better idea: why not revisit some of The Oscars one-hit wonders?
We’ve collected some of the best actors that once won big, but haven’t returned to the Academy Awards since. Sometimes it’s for unknown reasons, other times its because the actor in question wanted to keep a low-profile. However, there’s no question that these are all fantastic creations that became cornerstones in American film history.
Joel Grey – Cabaret, Best Supporting Actor, 1973
Most people only remember Joel Grey for his appearance in the 1973 film adaptation of Cabaret. After winning the Best Supporting Actor category at the Oscars that year, he never returned. Afterward, Grey went off the Hollywood radar, appearing in various, relatively forgotten movies. Over the years he did pop up on television now and again, in shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Grey’s Anatomy.
However, after his win, Grey continued to have an incredibly fruitful career on Broadway. Over the years he performed in hits like Anything Goes, Chicago, and Wicked. Most recently, he directed Fiddler on the Roof at the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene in 2018.
Mo’Nique – Precious, Best Supporting Actress, 2010
It’s hard to stomach, beautifully shot, and features a fantastic cast, so Precious was bound to wind up at the Oscars that year. And it did! Precious received six nominations in 2010, winning two of them. One of the wins went to actress Mo’Nique for Best Supporting Actress.
The win was Mo’Nique’s first. It surprised many, as Mo’Nique started her career as a stand-up comedian! At the time, it seemed like the future held many dramatic opportunities for her. Many thought this would be the beginning of an incredible acting career for the young woman. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen her star in a studio motion picture since! However, she did appear in HBO’s 2015 TV movie, Bessie, winning an Emmy for her performance.
In 2018, Netflix reportedly offered the amazing actress half-a-million dollars for a comedy special. However, comedians like Chris Rock and Amy Schumer receive anywhere between $11-20 million for their specials, so she turned the opportunity down. We sure hope Mo’Nique gets her time in the sun again soon!
Adrien Brody – The Pianist, Best Actor, 2003
We don’t think anyone attending the Oscars in 2003 felt surprised when Adrian Brody won Best Actor. The actor snagged his first, and only, win for his role in the film The Pianist. The film moved audiences across the globe, talking about the love of music and the strength of the human spirit. Unfortunately, since then, Brody’s never received another nomination.
However, Brody’s career didn’t end with The Pianist. He’s starred in Grand Budapest Hotel, History Channel’s Houdini, as well as the British hit series Peaky Blinders, since his win. So it seems like the Oscar-winning actor is picking less-Hollywood-ish, Oscar-targeted projects these days.
Cuba Gooding Jr. – Jerry Maguire, Best Supporting Actor, 1996
In 1996, Cuba Gooding Jr. scored a role alongside Tom Cruise in the romantic, sports dramaedy Jerry Maguire. Little did he know, he also scored the part that would land him his only Oscar win. In Maguire, Gooding Jr. wowed audiences as the over-the-top (but deep) football player Rodney “Rod” Tidwell. The film also became a cornerstone of American pop culture, becoming a bonafide classic and receiving five Academy Awards nominations, including Best Picture. However, Gooding Jr.’s win was the only one of the movie.
Unfortunately, after Jerry Maguire, Gooding Jr.’s career took a turn for the worse. Between 2000 and 2014, the actor starred in 17 direct-to-video films and earned 5 Golden Raspberry Awards, the opposite of an Oscar. Thankfully, recently, Gooding Jr.’s turned it around. In 2014, he starred in the Best Picture-nominated film Selma. Then, in 2016, Gooding Jr. joined the cast of American Crime Story: The People v. O. J. Simpson, as the titular football player. He even earned an Emmy nomination for his role as Simpson!
You can watch The Oscars this Sunday, February 24th, on ABC.