Only 3 People in History Rejected an Oscar, and the Reason's Still Relevant in 2024

Only 3 People in History Rejected an Oscar, and the Reason's Still Relevant in 2024
Image credit: Legion-Media, RKO Radio Pictures

Few have received this prestigious award, and almost none have refused it.


  • These actors bravely stood firmly behind their beliefs to make a statement.
  • Their arguments can still be made today, as the same issues continue to plague the industry.
  • It has been 50 years since an Oscar was refused.

Winning an Oscar is the pinnacle of a career in the entertainment industry and a feat many can only dream of. Since the inception of the Academy Awards in 1929, a staggering 3,140 Oscars have been awarded, and only 3 of them have been refused by the recipient.

These three individuals received the industry's highest honor, and while their refusals were met with shock and outrage, their reasons are hard to argue with.

1. Dudley Nichols

Only 3 People in History Rejected an Oscar, and the Reason's Still Relevant in 2024 - image 1

1935 Oscar for Best Screenplay

Nichols turned down the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for The Informer because of an ongoing feud between the SGA and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

When he went on stage to accept the Oscar, Nichols used his moment in the spotlight to address the dispute, saying that he felt 'to accept it would be to turn my back on nearly 1,000 members of the Screen Writers Guild.'

Nichols was involved as a founding member of the Screen Writers Guild and was an advocate for writers in the industry who faced abuse and unfair treatment. He went on to serve as the group's president in 1937 and 1938, and finally accepted his Oscar three years after it was awarded to him.

In 2023, the entertainment industry came to a standstill for nearly 5 months when the Writers Guild of America went on strike over unfair treatment in the industry, lower pay and unstable work, eventually reaching an agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

2. George C. Scott

Only 3 People in History Rejected an Oscar, and the Reason's Still Relevant in 2024 - image 2

1971 Oscar for Best Actor

He won despite warning the Academy against nominating him.

Scott, who was considered one of the greatest actors of all time, famously called the Oscars 'a two-hour meat parade, a public display of contrived suspense for economic reasons.'

Scott strongly believed that all dramatic performances were unique and that those in the film industry should not compare themselves to others and compete with each other. The actor had previously sent a telegram to the Academy asking that his name be withdrawn from the list of nominees, and had stated in the past that he would not accept an Oscar if he won it.

Despite his vocal stance, Scott was nominated twice for Best Supporting Actor for Anatomy of a Murder and The Hustler, and then for Best Actor for Patton, which he won in 1971 at the 43rd Academy Awards.

True to his beliefs, Scott did not accept the award at the ceremony. Instead, it was accepted by the film's producer and promptly returned the next day. Over the years, few have shared Scott's views, and the Oscars seem to have only become more commercialized and competitive with each ceremony.

3. Marlon Brando

Only 3 People in History Rejected an Oscar, and the Reason's Still Relevant in 2024 - image 3

1973 Oscar for Best Actor

His role in The Godfather won him an Oscar, but his reaction to the award made for one of the most famous moments in Academy Awards history.

In an act of boycott, Brando did not attend the 45th annual ceremony to receive his statuette. In his place was Sacheen Littlefeather, a Native American activist and actress sent by Brando to raise awareness and protest the misrepresentation and abuse of American Indians in Hollywood.

Littlefeather took the stage to politely decline Brando's award and read a statement on his behalf. There is no doubt that their actions were impactful, but little progress has been made in eliminating the stereotyping and mistreatment of minorities in the Hollywood industry. Mexicans, African Americans and American Indians still often suffer from misrepresentation and lack of representation in the interest of 'entertainment.'

Brando was the last person to turn down an Oscar, and every winner after him has eagerly and graciously accepted the honor, although the Academy Awards have since had their fair share of upsets, onstage slaps and scandals.