There are 97 Oscar nominations and 17 wins for acting among the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) cast

Avengers: Endgame is getting all the money, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) as a whole has turned into a pop culture juggernaut so huge that if you told my 12-year-old self how big it would eventually be, I’d probably have thought you were drunk and delusional. I have no idea how Norse gods and red, white & blue heroes slinging shields ended up being bigger than Star Wars, but I sure as hell ain’t complaining.

We can zero in on one way the MCU has come to dominate the box office, though: with excellent casting.

It all began back in 2008, when the then fledgling studio took a chance on Robert Downey Jr., a guy who is now a global superstar but who at the time was trying to rebuild a badly damaged career. It was seen as a risky move.

But that story is well-worn and frequently visited. We know it already. Instead, let’s look at the work of the MCU’s most unsung superhero, Sarah Halley Finn. Finn is Marvel’s casting director, and she’s got a resume a mile long. Look at every MCU movie except The Incredible Hulk and you’ll see her credited with casting. Yeah, all of them. That means if there is a Marvel actor you like, you probably have her to thank for it.

She’s done a damn good job, too. Forget about the geek angle usually discussed among fans. Fans obsess about actors looking like their comic counterparts but rarely dig much deeper when discussing casting wish lists, yet that’s just surface level chatter that is often pretty misguided. Finn has been focused on quality actors and, for the most part, on people who fit with the growing Marvel family. (A lot of these folks have become genuine off-screen friends, which certainly contributes to their on-screen chemistry.) Finn has been called Marvel’s Secret Weapon for a reason.

The numbers speak for themselves. I’ve long been curious about this, so for shits and giggles I went through all the MCU movies to see how many Oscar nominations and wins for Best Actor/Actress (and supporting) there are in the MCU cast.

It’s a lot.

Granted, Oscar nominations mean only as much as you want them to mean. They are not the be all, end all. Certainly the Oscars have their flaws. Regardless, they are widely seen as the award in Hollywood, the one elevated above all others, so as a measuring stick for casting well-respected actors, it’s as good as any other. And the numbers are big.

The cast of ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ at the world premiere in Los Angeles (photo courtesy Citizen)

Obviously this is all for stuff these actors did in non-MCU movies (and in a few cases, for stuff they did after their first MCU appearance). No MCU movie has yet garnered an acting nomination, and though I love the movies, I’m doubtful one ever will. Still, the numbers are impressive and go to show that Marvel takes casting seriously. Check out the details below.

Some may have slipped through the cracks, but here’s what I’ve got. This list includes Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress nominations and wins. Note that I DID include people who did only voice work, though I believe Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Connelly are the only two in that category. I did NOT, however, include Kenneth Branagh, who has an uncredited voice cameo in Infinity War. (He did the Asgardian distress call at the beginning.) That would have added two more nominations, but I didn’t think it was right to include it.

Grand Total
Nominations: 97 nominations
Wins: 17 wins

 

Here are the movies, actors, and noms/wins broken down by movie. For this list, I did NOT do the totals for each individual movie. Rather, I just went with the first appearance of each character/actor, not including credits sequences. I’ll leave it to you folks to figure out which single movie has the most noms and wins among the cast (though using Infinity War or Endgame is cheating; the casts are huge!).

If I missed anyone, please let me know!

IRON MAN

  • Robert Downey Jr. – 2 noms
  • Terrence Howard – 1 nom
  • Jeff Bridges – 7 noms, 1 win (Crazy Heart)
  • Gwyneth Paltrow – 1 nom, 1 win (Shakespeare in Love)
  • Samuel L. Jackson – 1 nom

THE INCREDIBLE HULK

  • Edward Norton – 3 noms
  • Tim Roth – 1 nom
  • William Hurt – 4 noms, 1 win (Kiss of the Spider Woman)

IRON MAN 2

  • Don Cheadle – 1 nom
  • Sam Rockwell – 2 noms, 1 win (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
  • Mickey Rourke – 1 nom

THOR

  • Natalie Portman – 3 noms, 1 win (Black Swan)
  • Anthony Hopkins – 4 noms, 1 win (The Silence of the Lambs)
  • Jeremy Renner – 2 noms

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER

  • Tommy Lee Jones – 3 noms, 1 win (The Fugitive)
  • Stanley Tucci – 1 nom

THE AVENGERS

  • Mark Ruffalo – 3 noms

IRON MAN 3

  • Ben Kingsley – 4 noms, 1 win (Ghandi)

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER

  • Robert Redford – 2 noms

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

  • Bradley Cooper – 4 noms
  • Djimon Hounsou – 2 noms
  • John C. Reilly – 1 nom
  • Glenn Close – 7 noms
  • Benicio del Toro – 2 noms, 1 win (Traffic)
  • Josh Brolin – 1 nom

ANT-MAN

  • Michael Douglas – 1 nom, 1 win (Wall Street)

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR

  • Marisa Tomei – 3 noms, 1 win (My Cousin Vinny)
  • Alfre Woodard – 1 nom

DOCTOR STRANGE

  • Benedict Cumberbatch – 1 nom
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor – 1 nom
  • Rachel McAdams – 1 nom
  • Tilda Swinton – 1 nom, 1 win (Michael Clayton)

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 2

  • Sylvester Stallone – 2 noms

SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING

  • Michael Keaton – 1 nom
  • Jennifer Connelly – 1 nom, 1 win (A Beautiful Mind)

THOR: RAGNAROK

  • Cate Blanchett – 7 noms, 2 wins (The Aviator, Blue Jasmine)

BLACK PANTHER

  • Daniel Kaluuya – 1 nom
  • Angela Bassett – 1 nom
  • Forest Whitaker – 1 nom, 1 win (The Last King of Scotland)

ANT-MAN & THE WASP

  • Michelle Pfeiffer – 3 noms
  • Laurence Fishburne – 1 nom

CAPTAIN MARVEL

  • Brie Larson – 1 nom, 1 win (Room)
  • Annette Bening – 4 noms
  • Jude Law – 2 noms

 

Whoa! So, so, so many Oscars scattered throughout the MCU.

Note that I did not include Infinity War and Endgame. That’s because neither movie introduced any new characters played by Oscar-nominated actors. Still, the casts are HUGE, so out of curiosity, let’s see how many noms & wins there are in any single one of those movies. Working from the lists above, here’s what I have (and note that this does include small cameos):

INFINITY WAR

  • Robert Downey Jr. – 2 noms
  • Gwyneth Paltrow – 1 nom, 1 win (Best Actress, Shakespeare in Love)
  • Samuel L. Jackson – 1 nom
  • William Hurt – 4 noms, 1 win (Kiss of the Spider Woman)
  • Don Cheadle – 1 nom
  • Jeremy Renner – 2 noms
  • Mark Ruffalo – 3 noms
  • Bradley Cooper – 4 noms
  • Benicio del Toro – 2 noms, 1 win (Traffic)
  • Josh Brolin – 1 nom
  • Benedict Cumberbatch – 1 nom

Nominations: 22

Wins: 3

ENDGAME

  • Robert Downey Jr. – 2 noms
  • Gwyneth Paltrow – 1 nom, 1 win (Best Actress, Shakespeare in Love)
  • Samuel L. Jackson – 1 nom
  • William Hurt – 4 noms, 1 win (Kiss of the Spider Woman)
  • Don Cheadle – 1 nom
  • Natalie Portman – 3 noms, 1 win (Black Swan)
  • Jeremy Renner – 2 noms
  • Mark Ruffalo – 3 noms
  • Robert Redford – 2 noms
  • Bradley Cooper – 4 noms
  • Josh Brolin – 1 nom
  • Michael Douglas – 1 nom, 1 win (Wall Street)
  • Marisa Tomei – 3 noms, 1 win (My Cousin Vinny)
  • Benedict Cumberbatch – 1 nom
  • Tilda Swinton – 1 nom, 1 win (Michael Clayton)
  • Michelle Pfeiffer – 3 noms
  • Brie Larson – 1 nom, 1 win (Room)

Nominations: 34

Wins: 7

So there you go. Some numbers. None of this is important, of course. It doesn’t suddenly make these movies into Lawrence of Arabia or anything like that. It doesn’t mean you have to like them or respect them.

But what it does show is that Marvel Studios, with the help of Sarah Halley Finn, has helped their movies rise above the four-color cape pack with a focus on strong casting and quality actors and personalities audiences are proven to like. And that’s not just me saying it. Based on the numbers above, it’s their peers in the film industry saying it.

And this is why “superhero fatigue,” itself a tired discussion that has been beaten to death for a decade, won’t be a thing any time soon. Because when you root your flicks in people who can deliver the goods, well, if you build it, they will come.