Contrary to popular belief, a large number of B-movie actors are easily some of the most beloved artists on the planet. This is why I find it quite perplexing that huge names like Tom Hanks and Russell Crowe take home awards year after year while some of our favorite entertainers seem to go unnoticed by the mainstream. So why no love from the Academy? It’s time to take this into our own hands and dish out some much-deserved honors…
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7. Bruce Campbell
Oscar-winning Roles: Elvis in Bubba Ho-Tep and Ash in Evil Dead 2 (Can’t believe I just typed that)
Does this really need any explanation? We all know every fan of Ash would get a serious kick out of seeing someone as awesome as Bruce get acknowledged by one of the snootiest of all award shows.
I’ve always felt that most award shows get it wrong on how they choose a winner when it comes to the acting categories. They seem to single out skill instead of focusing on how entertaining the actor is in the role. In my opinion, just being flat-out entertaining can truly outshine someone with more technical skill. Bruce is the perfect example of this. The man really hasn’t been in any critically-acclaimed films, but the everlasting devotion of his fans proves how far slapstick physicality, classic one-liners, and some serious charisma can get you. The man is a legend in my book and deserved some kind of an award for his work in the Evil Dead series as well as his awesome portrayal of Elvis in Bubba Ho-Tep. I’m f***ing serious, people.
6. David Carradine
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Oscar-winning Role: Bill in Kill Bill: Vol. 2 and Woody Guthrie in Bound for Glory
The late, great David Carradine was in a lot of movies. Some good and some bad. The only constant has been Carradine himself. Most only know him for his role as Kwai Chang Caine in Kung Fu and as Bill in the now-classic Kill Bill series, but Carradine’s talents run just a tad deeper.
Cult/B-movie-lovers will most fondly remember Carradine for his work with Roger Corman. Death Race 2000, Deathsport, and Thunder and Lightning are just a few of the cult classics Carradine starred in. My personal favorite has to be Death Race 2000. As Frankenstein, David Carradine plays the most celebrated racer of the Annual Transcontinental Road Race and racks up points for the number of innocent pedestrians that are murdered by his killer car. Badass. These movies aren’t the greatest ever made, but they are damn entertaining and Carradine has a huge part to play with his natural charisma. Lots of s**t blowing up also helps.
Carradine’s work as Woody Guthrie in 1976’s Bound for Glory also shows his versatile skills as a thespian. I think people have thrown Carradine into a very basic acting category because of his calm demeanor and subtle delivery. Either way, the man is a legend in the game and deserved something for his endless string of amazing work.
5. Christopher Lee
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Lifetime Achievement Award
With over 266 films under his Dracula belt, Christopher Lee has been entertaining sci-fi and horror fans since 1948 and is still going strong today. Lee is one of the screen's true cult icons and has really deserved a worldwide tip of the hat to his legendary career for quite some time. From his numerous portrayals of Count Dracula to giving Yoda a serious run for his money as Count Dooku in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Lee has entertained fans the world over.
4. Harry Dean Stanton
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Oscar-winning Role: Bud in Repo Man
What a pleasure it is to give Harry Dean his just due. From Repo Man to Escape from New York, Mr. Stanton is easily one of the most underrated actors of all time and hasn’t gotten nearly enough acclaim for his unlimited talents. Even with small roles in films like Wild at Heart, Stanton shows off depths that most actors only dream of having. Harry Dean is basically the equivalent of a blue collar actor and I’ve always felt that he’s so consistent as an actor that movie watchers tend to take him for granted. I know I’m not alone here when I say that Harry Dean Stanton’s Brain in Escape from New York and Bud in Repo Man are two of the greatest characters cult cinema has to offer. Harry Dean is a true class act.
3. Vincent Price
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Oscar-winning Role: Edward Lionheart in Theater of Blood
What a talent. I recently saw Theater of Blood and it made me realize how brilliant of an actor Vincent Price really was and why he deserved more recognition for his skills at the craft.
Most know Price’s work from the low budget horror genre. Classics like The Fly, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, and The Masque of the Red Death made him a household name. His Edgar Allan Poe adaptations in the ‘60s are also some of his most notable works. The only downside to this success was that it typecast Price and didn’t allow him to venture outside the genre.
That’s why it’s really amazing to watch him go to work in Theater of Blood. Apparently working on the movie was a delight for Price because he always wanted the chance to do Shakespeare on film. If an actor today was given a role like this they wouldn’t even know where to start. It’s no easy task to recite numerous passages of Shakespeare the way Vincent Price did in the film. I’m not saying that he doesn’t have other great film roles. I just think that Theater of Blood shows an acting range that audiences rarely got to see from him.
RIP Vincent Price.
2. Dennis Hopper
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Oscar-winning Roles: Frank Booth in Blue Velvet and Actor/Director in Out of the Blue
For those who say Hopper was not a B-movie actor, you are very wrong. Dennis was a B-movie actor in every sense of the word. On the other hand, he was also an A-lister in every sense of the word. That’s what made him so unique. He was able to jump back and forth his entire career.
Hopper was nominated for two Oscars, but the dude never once toke home the gold. How he didn’t win or even get nominated for Blue Velvet is beyond me. Maybe his notorious behavior in the late-'60s and early-'70s had something to do with it. At least it relaunched his career.
Hopper was a cult icon who graced the screen in some the greatest films of all time, as well as some the grittiest and raw pieces of cinema ever created. If Mad Dog Morgan isn’t one of the best B-movies of all time, I don’t know what is.
I also would've given Hopper some kind of an award for his independent acting and directing work in Out of the Blue. The movie is far from perfect, but it’s haunting and disturbing essence is true artistic expression at its purest. Hopper was one of the most gifted actors of all time.
1. Bela Lugosi
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Oscar-winning Role: Count Dracula in Dracula
As seen in the film Ed Wood, Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi had things pretty rough. Not only did he turn down the part of Frankenstein, he pretty much had to live in Boris Karloff’s shadow for almost his entire career. This and being typecast in an unlimited number of B horror movies seemed to overshadow his brilliant skills as an actor.
I’m basing Lugosi’s #1 position on this list primarily on his work in Dracula. He portrayed one the most classic horror characters off all time and single-handedly created the formula that every single actor after him copied from. This groundbreaking work alone deserved some kind of recognition.
I’m sure some people are going to read this and wonder why Boris Karloff didn’t make it on the list. There is no doubt that Karloff was a great talent, but he had long-term success, consistently got top-billing for his films, and even had the ability to get solid roles outside the horror world. Lugosi on the other hand, was unable to break outside the genre.
Bela Lugosi was a brilliant actor and his skills are undeniable. Fools need to recognize that s**t, son.