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14 Straight Actors Who Won Oscars For Playing LGBTQ+ Roles

While we love seeing LGBTQ+ characters on big screen, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that a lot of the most awarded—queer roles have gone to non-queer actors….

Peter Finch was the first to be nominated by the Academy for his role as a gay doctor in the 1971 film Sunday Bloody Sunday and the groundbreaking nomination paved the way for dozens of straight thespians to receive nods for taking on gay, lesbian and transgender roles. Before the 94th annual Academy Awards take place on Sunday March 27, here’s a look back at 14 standout performances (from straight actors) of LGBTQ+ characters that won Oscar gold.

William Hurt for Kiss of the Spider Woman
(Released: 1985)
William Hurt was the first actor to win an Oscar for playing a gay character on the big screen. Hurt portrayed Luis Molina, an incarcerated gay man, in the 1985 film Kiss of the Spider Woman.

Tom Hanks for Philadelphia
(Released: 1993)
Tom Hanks took home the Best Actor for his role in Philadelphia. The film was one of the first mainstream Hollywood films to explicitly address HIV/AIDS and homophobia.

Hilary Swank for Boys Don’t Cry
(Released: 1999)
Hilary Swank took home the Best Actress award for her portrayal of Brandon Teena, a transgender man who was beaten and murdered in the harrowing film, Boys Don’t Cry. Swank’s emotional win was a first for an actor portraying a transgender character.

Nicole Kidman for The Hours
(Released: 2002)
Nicole Kidman took home the Best Actress for her role of Virginia Woolf in The Hours. Woolf was married to Leonard Woolf (as shown in the film), but the tortured writer had a sexual relationship with acclaimed writer Vita Sackville-West in the late 1920s.

Charlize Theron for Monster
(Released: 2003)
Charlize Theron took home the Best Actress for her role as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster. Theron also took home top honours at the Golden Globe Awards, Screen Actors Guild Awards, the Actors Guild, National Society of Film Critics, Broadcast Film Critics Association, and Independent Spirit Awards.

Philip Seymour Hoffman for Capote
(Released: 2005)
Philip Seymour Hoffman took home the Best Actor for his role as American novelist Truman Capote. The historically sketchy film concentrated on the gay author as he was researching his true-crime masterpiece, In Cold Blood. Unfortunately Hoffman’s triumphant win deprived Heath Ledger from a much-deserved win for his role in Brokeback Mountain.

Sean Penn for Milk
(Released: 2008)
Sean Penn took home the Oscar for best actor in 2009 for his portrayal of slain San Francisco gay rights activist Harvey Milk in the movie Milk and used his win to call for equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community saying, “We’ve got to have equal rights for everyone.” He also used his speech to comment on gay marriage saying, “I think it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their grandchildren’s eyes if they continue that way.”

Penélope Cruz for Vicky Cristina Barcelona
(Released: 2008)
Penélope Cruz took home Best Actress in a Supporting Role at the 2009 Oscars for her role in Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Christopher Plummer for Beginners
(Released: 2010)

Christopher Plummer was awarded the Best Supporting Actor statue for his portrayal of a gay senior in the film, Beginners. The story of a man who comes out late in life after the death of his wife is based on the experiences of writer and director Mike Mills, whose own father came out at age 75.

Natalie Portman for Black Swan
(Released: 2010)
Natalie Portman took home the Best Actress award for her role in the psychological thriller Black Swan.

Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club
(Released: 2013)

Jared Leto won accolades and picked up the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his performance of Rayon, a transgender woman with HIV in Dallas Buyers Club. Leto’s character memorably joins forces with Matthew McConaughey’s character to bring lifesaving drugs to Texas during the early days of the AIDS epidemic.

Olivia Colman for The Favourite
(Released: 2018)
Olivia Colman took home the Oscar for best actress at the 2019 Academy Awards, for her role as Queen Anne in The Favourite.

Mahershala Ali for Green Book
(Released: 2018 )
Mahershala Ali took home the Best Actor Oscar in 2019 after playing gay pianist Dr. Don Shirley in the controversial film Green Book.

Rami Malek for Bohemian Rhapsody
(Released: 2018)
Rami Malek won the Best Actor in 2019 for playing bisexual rock icon and Queen frontman Freddie Mercury in Bryan Singer’s musical biopic Bohemian Rhapsody.

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