Heath Ledger

Winner: Heath Ledger
The Dark Knight

Heath Ledger's tragic death in January 2008 came just months after he completed filming The Dark Knight. In what has been called a triumphant performance, Heath's work as the Joker earned him a posthumous nomination—the second actor in history to earn one. His performance was also awarded with a Golden Globe® this year.

Heath earned his first Oscar® nomination for his work as Ennis Del Mar in 2005's Brokeback Mountain, though he was impressing critics long before then with roles in Monster's Ball, 10 Things I Hate About You and A Knight's Tale.
Josh Brolin

Photo: Focus Features

Josh Brolin

He's the son of actor James Brolin, stepson of Barbra Streisand and husband of Oscar® nominee Diane Lane, but Josh Brolin's accomplished family isn't his only claim to fame. Josh has made a name for himself in his 20 years in Hollywood, with roles in films like The Goonies, Hollow Man and Grindhouse.

Josh has spent the past several years wowing audiences and critics with his performances in movies such as American Gangsterand last year's Coen brothers hit No Country for Old Men.

This year, Josh continues his streak in Milk as San Francisco Supervisor Dan White, who assassinated follow Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. This is his first nomination.
Robert Downey Jr.

Robert Downey Jr.
Tropic Thunder

Robert Downey Jr. burst onto the scene in the '80s with his haunting portrayal of a drug-addicted teen in Less Than Zero. While his real-life struggle with addiction threatened to derail Robert's career, rehab and a series of comeback roles in the early 2000s have led him to reclaim his place among Hollywood's most sought-after actors.

In 2008, Robert proved himself as not only talented but bankable with his starring turn in the comic book adaptation Iron Man. It's his performance in Tropic Thunder, as an Australian actor who takes Method acting to the extreme, that earned him his second Oscar® nomination.

Robert was nominated in 1992 for Best Actor for his work as Charlie Chaplin in the movie Chapin.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman

Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP Wide World Photos

Philip Seymour Hoffman

When moviegoers recognized Philip Seymour Hoffman, it was usually for his roles as a scene-stealing character actor in movies like Boogie Nights, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Magnolia and Almost Famous. In 2005's Capote, Philip wowed audiences with his portrayal as famed author Truman Capote, for which he won Oscar® gold.
In Doubt, Philip plays Father Brendan Flynn, a priest who is suspected of abusing a black student.
Michael Shannon

Photo: Francois Duhamel Copyright: © 2008 DREAMWORKS LLC.

Michael Shannon
Revolutionary Road

A noted stage actor, Michael Shannon is a regular on the Chicago theater scene and has also starred in productions in London and New York. He made way into film in the early '90s and has since had roles in movies such as Pearl Harbor and Vanilla Sky.

Michael's Oscar®-nominated portrayal of John Givings in Revolutionary Road has piqued the interest of critics and theatergoers alike. Michael plays a mathematician suffering from a mental breakdown who makes a dinner party uncomfortable by sharing his brutally honest observations. This is Michael's first Oscar nomination.