Gay — and lesbian, bi, and trans — is gold! At least if you're talking about those statues handed out by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences every spring. Of course, this rule also does not apply to out actors, who, as Ian McKellen noted in 2016, have never taken home acting's top prize.
It's 2018, and there were still no LGBT actors nominated. #OscarsSoStraight? Regardless, here are 52 hetero actors and actresses who received Oscar nominations for playing LGBT characters.
At the tender age of 22, Timothée Chalamet was nominated for Best Actor in this year's Academy Awards. His character, Elio, is the heart of Call Me by Your Name, the acclaimed gay film by Luca Guadagnino centering on a 17-year-old's summer romance with a 24-year-old graduate student, Oliver (Armie Hammer). Through Elio's eyes, audiences have been brought to tears in reliving first love and heartbreak, in the stunning backdrop of "somewhere in Northern Italy." And thanks to Chalamet, many will never be able to see a peach the same way again.
Richard Jenkins was nominated this year for his role of Giles in The Shape of Water. The closeted character, living in Cold War-era America, feels trapped in time between the Golden Age of Hollywood musicals he worships and the era of gay liberation that is just over the horizon.
As narrator of the film, Giles tells the modern-day viewer of the fairy tale he witnessed, involving a mute young woman, Elisa (Sally Hawkins), and the amphibious being she falls in love with. Giles, who faces job discrimination as well as rejection by a man he loves due to societal stigma, knows what it's like to be an outsider. It is this understanding that allows him to empathize with Elisa's romance and help her overcome its obstacles.
In 1940, Alfred Hitchcock directed Rebecca, a story of a self-conscious bride who is tormented by the memory of her new husband’s first wife. Judith Anderson earned an Oscar nod for playing Mrs. Danvers, the chilling and obsessive caretaker who may or may not have been in love with the deceased wife.
Star! (1968) tells the real-life story of the rise of stage and film star Gertrude Lawrence, who at the beginning of the movie gets cast in London Calling, a new play penned by Noël Coward, who was brought to life for the film by Daniel Massey. Massey's portrayal of Coward, a gay actor-writer-composer-etc. known for his wit and flamboyance, garnered him his first and only Oscar nomination.
Peter Finch was nominated for his first Oscar for his performance in 1971's Sunday Bloody Sunday, in which he played Daniel Hirsh. The story revolves around a Jewish doctor, Hirsh, and a middle-aged woman, Alex Greville (Glenda Jackson), who are both having affairs with the same male artist, Bob Elkin (Murray Head).
Lenny Bruce is brought to life in the Bob Fosse–directed Lenny (1974). While the story centers on Dustin Hoffman’s Oscar-nominated portrayal of the groundbreaking comic, Valerie Perrine — who plays Lenny’s wife, Honey Harlowe, whom he forces into a couple of lesbian encounters — also received an Oscar nod. (In real life, Harlowe was bisexual.)
Al Pacino was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Sonny in 1975's Dog Day Afternoon. The character of Sonny is based on a real-life bank robber who attempted to hold up a bank in Brooklyn in order to pay for his partner’s gender-affirming surgery.
Only When I Laugh (1981) tells the story of Georgia Hines, a divorced Broadway actress who upon release from rehab for alcohol abuse,tries to put her life together. James Coco earned himself an Oscar nod playing Jimmy Perino, a fabulous gay actor and one of Georgia’s best friends.
Robert Preston was nominated for his first and only Oscar for playing gay cabaret singer Carole “Toddy” Todd in the gender-swapping comedy Victor/Victoria (1982).
John Lithgow earned his first Oscar nomination playing Roberta Muldoon, a transgender ex-football player, in the 1982 adaptation of John Irving’s The World According to Garp.
Silkwood (1983) tells the story of a brave woman who was poisoned at a plutonium processing plant and tried to expose workplace safety violations. It was also the vehicle that earned Cher her first Oscar nod, playing Karen Silkwood’s lesbian roommate, Dolly Pelliker.
Tom Courtenay was nominated for an Oscar for his turn as Norman, an effeminate dresser trying to get an aging veteran theater actor through a very difficult performance of King Lear in The Dresser (1983).
In 1984’s The Bostonians, a staunch feminist (Vanessa Redgrave) and a conservative Southern lawyer (Christopher Reeve) vie for the heart of a beautiful young girl. We aren't gonna tell you who walks away with the young woman, but Redgrave did walk away with an Oscar nod.
The Color Purple (1985) showed the world that comic Whoopi Goldberg was also a dramatic actress, and she was nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal of Celie Johnson, a woman who struggles to find her identity after suffering years of abuse at the hands of men in her life. Celie enters a relationship with her husband’s estranged mistress, a slinky blues singer named Shug.
Shug Avery was played by Margaret Avery, who was also Oscar-nominated for Steven Spielberg's adaptation of Alice Walker's The Color Purple.
William Hurt’s portrayal of a gay man imprisoned for “immoral behavior” in Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985) earned him the Oscar for Best Actor.
Longtime Companion (1989) tells the story of a group of gay friends from 1981 to 1988, as the AIDS crisis brings panic and terror. The film was the first movie about AIDS to get a wide release and earned Bruce Davison an Oscar nod for his role.
Tommy Lee Jones
You wouldn't think that a film about a U.S. president would have a gay orgy in it, but alas, we have Oliver Stone’s JFK (1991). In it we have conspirator Clay Shaw, played by Tommy Lee Jones, who was nominated for an Oscar for the role, engaging in a drug-filled sexcapade with several other men.
Tom Hanks won his first Academy Award for his portrayal of Andrew Beckett — a man wrongfully dismissed from his job because he has AIDS — in 1993's Philadelphia.
Greg Kinnear was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the role of Simon Bishop in 1997's As Good as It Gets. After being beaten up in an attempted burglary, Simon is left unable to take care of himself and calls upon his incredibly selfish, OCD neighbor — played by a cranky Jack Nicholson — for help.
Primary Colors (1998) follows a Clintonesque president on the campaign trail. Along the way we meet one of his trusted advisers, a gun-toting, potentially unstable lesbian, whose depiction by Kathy Bates earned the actress an Oscar nomination.
A transgender man trying to find himself and navigate love in a small Nebraska town is the premise of Boys Don’t Cry (1999), based on a true story. The powerful film earned Hilary Swank her first Academy Award.
Javier Bardem received an Oscar nomination for 2000's Before Night Falls, which tells the story of gay Cuban poet and novelist Reinaldo Arenas.
Kate Winslet & Dame Judi Dench
Iris Murdoch, one of England’s most prolific writers and secret lover of philosopher Phillippa Foot, is the subject of the 2001 film Iris, which earned Academy Award nominations for both actresses playing Murdoch; Kate Winslet and Dame Judi Dench.
The 2002 film Frida, a biopic about acclaimed artist Frida Kahlo, produced an Oscar nomination for Salma Hayek in the titular role, and does not shy away from the artist's bisexuality.
The Hours (2002) connects three women over multiple generations looking for meaning in their lives. The film earned several Oscar nominations, one of which resulted in a Best Actress win for Nicole Kidman, who played not-straight novelist Virginia Woolf.
Another Hours nominee was Julianne Moore, playing disappointed housewife Laura Brown, who shares an intimate kiss with her female neighbor before leaving her family behind.
Ed Harris was also nominated for his role in The Hours, as Richard Brown, a gay man dying of AIDS who wants to end his life on his own terms.
Charlize Theron won an Oscar for playing lesbian (or perhaps bisexual) Florida prostitute turned serial killer Aileen Wuornos in 2003's Monster.
Heath Ledger & Jake Gyllenhaal
Brokeback Mountain (2005) is the story of two ranch hands, Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal), who find love one summer while working together as sheep herders and then try to navigate this relationship over the years. Both actors were nominated for Academy Awards.
Felicity Huffman was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Bree, a transgender woman who learns she fathered a son who is now a hustler, in 2005's Transamerica.
Philip Seymour Hoffman
In Capote (2005), Philip Seymour Hoffman played the title character, the lauded In Cold Blood author who was openly gay when such openness was rare. Hoffman took home an Oscar.
Dame Judi Dench
Dame Judi Dench played the obsessive Barbara Covett in 2006’s Notes on a Scandal. Covett, a veteran schoolteacher, befriends a new colleague who is engaging in an affair with a student. It soon becomes clear that Covett may have more than a platonic interest in her fellow teacher.
Harvey Milk was a pioneer of the gay rights movement who became one of the nation's first openly gay elected officials. Sean Penn won a Best Actor Oscar for playing him in the critically acclaimed Milk (2008).
Based on the novel by Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man tells the story of an English professor who, a year after the sudden death of his boyfriend, is still reeling from the loss. Colin Firth was nominated for an Oscar for playing the beleaguered professor, George Falconer.
Penélope Cruz was nominated for her second (and won her first) Academy Award playing Maria Elena, the fiery and tempestuous ex-wife of an artist who enters into a relationship with the artist and his new girlfriend in 2008's Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
At 82, Christopher Plummer became the oldest winner of a competitive Oscar for his turn as Hal in Beginners (2010). The movie tells the story of a young man whose world is rocked when his aging father makes two announcements; He has terminal cancer and a young male lover.
A young dancer gets the lead role in Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake but soon struggles to maintain her sanity in Black Swan (2010). Natalie Portman won a Best Actress Oscar for playing the dancer, Nina Sayers, who shows some bisexual tendencies in one particularly steamy scene.
Annette Bening was nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award for her role as Nic, mother with her female partner, Jules, to two children conceived via artificial insemination in The Kids Are All Right (2010). When the kids want to meet their biological father, everything gets very complicated.
In The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011), Rooney Mara plays Lisbeth Salander, a bisexual, pierced, and tattooed computer hacker helping a disgraced journalist find a wealthy man’s niece who disappeared 40 years earlier. Mara was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for the performance.
Glenn Close was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for playing the title role in 2011's Albert Nobbs. Close plays a woman who, in order to make a better life for herself, poses as a man so she can work as a butler in one of Dublin’s most posh hotels.
Also nominated for Albert Nobbs was Janet McTeer, who played another woman posing as a man, a painter named Hubert Page. Page shows Nobbs another possibility besides the solitary life he was living — one with love and a family.
Jared Leto had his first Oscar nomination and win playing Rayon, an enigmatic and troubled HIV-positive transgender woman who teams up with a straight man to make expensive medications accessible in 2013's Dallas Buyers Club.
Alan Turing and his team of brilliant codebreakers must race against time to turn the tide of of World War II in The Imitation Game (2014). Turing, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, who was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar, was gay and treated reprehensibly by the British government.
In 1950s New York City, a young photographer finds herself in a love affair with an older woman in Carol (2015). Cate Blanchett was nominated for Best Actress for her portrayal of Carol Aird, the older woman escaping a loveless marriage.
Also nominated for Carol was Rooney Mara, who plays the aspiring photographer who meets Aird while working in a department store and dreaming of a better life.
The Danish Girl (2013) tells the story of an artist who becomes a transgender pioneer. Eddie Redmayne’s beautiful portrayal of Einer Wegener/Lili Elbe earned him a Best Actor Oscar nomination.
George Sanders won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his turn as dandy theater critic Addison DeWitt in the classic 1950 film All About Eve. Though DeWitt is never outright gay in the script, to many film scholars it’s the otherness of being gay that he recognizes in Eve Harrington that causes the two to team up.
Also nominated from All About Eve was Anne Baxter as the obsessive Eve Harrington. Whether the obsession Eve has for Margo Channing comes from a place of lust or insatiable ambition is up for debate.
There’s always been speculation about whether Katharine Hepburn was a lesbian or perhaps bisexual, but Cate Blanchett’s portrayal of the iconic actress, which garnered her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for The Aviator (2004), left out any hint of homosexual tendencies.
In A Beautiful Mind (2001) Russell Crowe plays John Nash, a real-life mathematician who becomes unable to differentiate the real world from fantasy. In the biography of the same name, Nash was described as bisexual, a fact left out of the biopic.