Can Carey Mulligan win Oscar gold for ‘Promising Young Woman’? Nine thriller performances that have

“You didn’t think this was the end, did you?” 

Carey Mulligan’s role as the calculating Cassie in “Promising Young Woman” has already garnered critical plaudits and her second Oscar nomination.But in portraying a woman seeking revenge in writer-director Emerald Fennell’s Me Too drama, Mulligan’s performance is also one of the few thriller roles that could go on towin Oscar gold at the April 25 Oscars. It’s not an easy road.

“It’s tougher to win an acting Oscar for a thriller because those movies don’t lend themselves to the types of things Academy members usually vote for – prestige movies, theatrical adaptations or biopics,” says Dave Karger, special correspondent for “So when actors or actresses do score a nomination, or even more rarely, a win for a thriller, it means that they are really at the top of their game. Carey Mulligan certainly fits that description.”

If Mulligan holds on for a best-actress win against stiff competition that includes Viola Davis in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and Frances McDormand in “Nomadland,” the British star will join rare company. Here are nine thrilling performances that struck Oscar gold.

In ‘Promising Young Woman’: Carey Mulligan is not starring in the revenge movie you expect

Heath Ledger in ‘The Dark Knight’

Heath Ledger's performance in "The Dark Knight" lit up the Oscars. (Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros.)

“The Dark Knight” superhero saga was not even nominated for best picture for the 2009 Oscars. But Ledger’s unforgettable role as the disturbed Joker earned a best supporting actor nod on the one-year anniversary of the actor’s tragic death at age 28. When Ledger won the Oscar a month later, his parents, Kim Ledger and Sally Bell, and sister Kate Ledger accepted the statute on his behalf as the Academy Awards crowd gave a sustained, and tearful, standing ovation.

‘The Dark Knight’: How Heath Ledger’s Joker fueled our archvillain obsession

Jane Fonda in ‘Klute’

Jane Fonda in a scene from the 1971 film "Klute". (Photo: Warner Bros.)

Donald Sutherland’s private detective John Klute might have earned the name in the title. But Jane Fonda breathed life into “All The President’s Men” director Alan J. Pakula’s 1971 neo-noir crime thriller “Klute.” Portraying Bree Daniels, a self-assured, high-class call girl who helps solve a missing-persons case, Fonda’s performance received one of two Oscar nominations for the film, and earned Fonda the best actress award. 

Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins in ‘The Silence of the Lambs’

Anthony Hopkins, as imprisoned serial killer Hannibal Lecter, and Jodie Foster, as FBI rookie Clarice Starling, earned Oscars for their performances in "The Silence of the Lambs." (Photo: ORION PICTURES)

Jonathan Demme’s 1991 drama “The Silence of the Lambs” pulled off what enduring popular films like “The Exorcist” and “Jaws” could not, winning the freakiest best picture Oscar ever. Jodie Foster, as the film’s rookie FBI agent tapping into the expertise of imprisoned, cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter, earned a best-actress Oscar. Anthony Hopkins won the best-actor Oscar for Lecter, a performance that also earned the title of greatest American villain in cinema by the American Film Institute.

Joaquin Phoenix in ‘Joker’

Joaquin Phoenix in a scene from "Joker." (Photo: Warner Bros.)

Writer-director Todd Phillips’ 2019 psychological thriller “Joker” was the rare awards season heavyweight for a comic book character film, leading the 2020 Oscar nominations with 11 — including best picture, best director and best actor for Joaquin Phoenix as the tortured Arthur Fleck. Phoenix’s role in the Joker origin story would soar to victory at the Oscars, one of two for the film (along with best original score).

Denzel Washington in ‘Training Day’

Denzel Washington, left, and Ethan Hawke in a scene from the motion picture 'Training Day.' (Photo: ROBERT ZUCKERMAN, WARNER BROS.)

Denzel Washington taught all the wrong lessons as crooked LAPD narcotics detective Alonzo Harris showing Ethan Hawke’s Jake Hoyt the ropes in director Antoine Fuqua’s 2001 crime thriller “Training Day.” The hit movie scored with audiences and Academy voters as Hawke earned a best supporting actor nomination, and Washington won best actor, his second Oscar.

Kathy Bates in ‘Misery’

Kathy Bates played obsessive superfan Annie Wilkes in 1990's Stephen King adaptation "Misery." (Photo: SHOUT FACTORY)

Kathy Bates is forever seared in the public’s mind as Annie Wilkes after portraying the obsessive superfan in the 1990 Stephen King adaptation “Misery.” Wilkes might have not have been successful holding her beloved author Paul Sheldon (James Caan) captive in director Rob Reiner’s box office hit, but Bates would win best actress for the creepy performance, the only Oscar ever awarded to a Stephen King adaptation. 

Javier Bardem in ‘No Country for Old Men’

Javier Bardem was haunting as Anton Chigurh in "No Country for Old Men." The role earning Bardem a best supporting Oscar. (Photo: Courtesy of Hispanic Education And Media Group)

Playing a hitman devoid of remorse or conscience — or a decent hair stylist — Javier Bardem created one of film’s greatest villains portraying Anton Chigurh in Joel and Ethan Cohen’s 2007 crime thriller “No Country for Old Men.” Bardem was awarded best supporting actor at the 2008 Oscars for the dark performance. 

Tommy Lee Jones in ‘The Fugitive’

Tommy Lee Jones would played a seasoned, ornery U.S. Marshall in "The Fugitive." (Photo: STEPHEN VAUGHAN, XXX WARNER BROS.)

“I don’t care,” Tommy Lee Jones’ U.S. Marshall Samuel Gerard famously said about the expressed innocence of Harrison Ford’s fugitive Dr. Richard Kimble in the 1993 box office hit “The Fugitive.” But even Jones was honored to win best supporting actor, or, as he called it in his acceptance speech, “the finest award that any actor can receive.” While Kimble was proven innocent in the film, Ford did not receive an Oscar nomination.

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