Who has the most Oscar nominations in history?

28 March 2022, 15:25

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

A legendary film composer holds the record for being the most Oscar-nominated living person.

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The Academy Awards, more widely dubbed the Oscars, are the pinnacle ceremony of awards season, honouring some of the greatest contributors to the film world – from the actors and directors to those behind the music, sound, and costumes – every year since 1929.

An Oscar nomination holds such status, that a single nod is virtually guaranteed to precede an actor or composer’s name for the rest of their career.

In the lead-up to the 94th Academy Awards ceremony, one of the most searched questions on the Internet was “who has the most Oscar nominations?”. And so, here are the most Oscar-nominated people in history.

Read more: Which scores have won best soundtrack at the Oscars?

Oscar awards
Oscar awards. Picture: Alamy

Who is the most Oscar-nominated living person?

The individual with the most Academy Award nods is not an actor, but a behind-the-scenes talent. With 52 Academy Award nominations to his name, Star Wars composer John Williams is the most Oscar-nominated person alive.

Williams’ first nomination came in 1968 for Valley of the Dolls, and his first of five wins came four years later in 1972, when Fiddler on the Roof won Best Scoring: Adaptation and Original Song Score.

Despite being nominated 21 times since, Williams last won an Academy Award in 1994 for Schindler’s List. His three other wins were for Jaws (1975), Star Wars (1977) and E.T. The Extra Terrestrial (1982).

The highly decorated composer has also won seven BAFTAs, four Golden Globes, 25 Grammys (from a whopping 72 nominations) and three Emmy Awards.

For Oscar wins, fellow American composer Alfred Newman holds the record with nine wins for his scores to some of the 20th century’s most iconic films including Wuthering Heights (1939) and The Hunchbank of Notre Dame (1939).

Read more: Which film composers have won the most Academy Awards?

John Williams is the most Oscar-nominated living person
John Williams is the most Oscar-nominated living person. Picture: Getty

Who is the most Oscar-nominated person in history?

John Williams’ record comes second only to Walt Disney, who received 59 Oscar nods during his lifetime and won 22 of them.

The pioneering animator and producer created some of the world’s best-loved animated characters including Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck and founded the Disney Company – now one of the world’s largest entertainment companies.

Walt Disney, who died in 1966 in LA, California, continues to hold the all-time Oscars record.

Walt Disney is history's most Oscar-nominated person
Walt Disney is history's most Oscar-nominated person. Picture: Getty

Who is the most Oscar-nominated actress?

Meryl Streep’s 21 nominations make her the most Oscar-nominated female actor in the Academy’s history.

Of her nominations, Streep has won three, taking her first lead actress Oscar for Sophie’s Choice (1982) and the second for her portrayal of former UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady (2011). Her first win was for her supporting actress role in Kramer vs. Kramer (1979).

Katharine Hepburn, the late star of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967) and The Philadelphia Story (1940), was honoured with four awards in her lifetime and currently holds the record for the most Oscar wins.

Read more: Meryl Streep reciting poetry to Yo-Yo Ma’s cello is the lockdown tonic we all need

Meryl Streep has more Oscar nominations than any actress in history
Meryl Streep has more Oscar nominations than any actress in history. Picture: Getty

Who is the most Oscar-nominated actor?

Jack Nicholson, star of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), The Shining (1980) and Batman (1989), has received 12 Academy Award nominations and three wins, making him the most nominated male actor ever.

Who has the record for the most Oscar nominations without a win?

For every serial winner like Walt Disney, comes an actor with a series of nominations but no final accolade. Fatal Attraction star Glenn Close is tied with the late Peter O’Toole for the most Oscar nominations without a win; both have been nominated eight times.

Another much-nominated star is Amy Adams, a six-time Oscar nominee for her work in films including Junebug (2005) and Doubt (2008), with no wins so far.