Don Cheadle: Devil In A Blue Dress and 4 Other Movie Performances That Deserved An Oscar

Don Cheadle in Devil in a Blue Dress, Miles Ahead, and Rosewood
(Image credit: Sony Pictures/Warner Bros.)

Don Cheadle’s movie career is more than Tony Stark's sidekick-turned-superhero James “Rhodie” Rhodes in multiple Marvel movies. Playing a superhero is the culmination of decades of outstanding movie performances, starting with 1985’s Moving Violations. Cheadle has captivated audiences with his vast acting range, from acclaimed films like Boogie Nights and Crash to franchises like Iron Man and Ocean’s to cult classics like Bulworth

One would think garnering critical praise and numerous honors over his decades-long career would translate into an Academy Award or two on Don Cheadle’s mantel. Unfortunately, that hasn't been the case for the actor, who scored one Best Actor Oscar nomination for Hotel Rwanda. That doesn’t mean the MCU star hasn’t delivered more Oscar-worthy performances. So, here are some Oscar-worthy Don Cheadle performances.

Mouse Alexander (Don Cheadle) in Devil in a Blue Dress

(Image credit: Sony Pictures)

Devil in a Blue Dress (1995)

Don Cheadle proved he could play against acting heavyweights in the book-to-screen adaptation Devil in a Blue Dress. Cheadle served as Easy Rawlins' (Denzel Washington) right-hand man and small-time hood Raymond “Mouse” Alexander.

Cheadle performed the rare feat of stealing scenes from Washington as he tapped into the essence of the neo-noir and thriller genres. He played into the genre’s tropes while subverting them with his acting choices. He served as a vehicle for Rawlins’ first case by giving a fleshed-out and nuanced performance.

Of course, the actor worked best with Washington in every scene. His time with leading lady Jennifer Beals was worthwhile as well. Cheadle’s performance received critical acclaim and film festival recognition with NAACP Image and SAG award nominations for his beloved performance. Unfortunately, this fanfare and praise didn’t translate into a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination.

Watch the intriguing and twisty neo-noir classic streaming with a Netflix subscription.

Miles Davis (Don Cheadle) in Miles Ahead

(Image credit: Sony Pictures)

Miles Ahead (2016)

Don Cheadle hopped on the musical biopic-about-Black-musicians train with Miles Ahead. Cheadle became influential and acclaimed jazz musician Miles Davis for the 2016 film.

Don Cheadle became the influential jazz artist while handling every aspect of Davis’s life as both performer and director. Drawing from Davis’s 1970s comeback allowed the MCU star to show the troubled musician’s multi-layered life. It proved necessary as he developed a nuanced performance of the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer during a difficult time.

His onscreen chemistry with his co-stars strengthened the Ocean’s Eleven star’s performance. Cheadle was amplified by co-stars Emayatzy Corinealdi and LaKeith Stanfield as the film examined his turbulent professional and personal life. His performance received critical acclaim from viewers and critics alike, but that didn’t translate into a Best Actor Oscar nomination.

Don’t forget to catch the unconventional biopic with an Amazon Prime Video subscription.

Petey Greene (Don Cheadle) in Talk to Me

(Image credit: Focus Features)

Talk To Me (2007)

Before he took on the legendary Miles Davis’s life story, Don Cheadle dipped his toe in the biopic waters with 2007’s Talk to Me. Cheadle balanced comedic and dramatic elements when playing iconic radio personality Ralph “Petey” Greene.

The Oscar nominee channeled the late radio jock’s personality as Greene’s story interwoven with manager Dewey Hughes (played by fellow Oscar nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor). Cheadle gave the radio legend layers as the film explored the good, bad, and ugly of Greene’s personal and professional life. His layered performance proved crucial as the film documented his rise and eventual fall. 

Again, Cheadle shined best with his co-stars. The Hollywood A-lister showed impeccable chemistry with Ejiofor in multiple scenes while blending a romantic and toxic relationship with Taraji P. Henson. His performance received critical acclaim and paved the way for NAACP Image, Satellite, and Independent Spirit Award nominations. Despite love from reviewers, he failed to secure a Best Actor Oscar nomination.

You can watch the portrait of a radio pioneer by getting a Hulu subscription.

Sylvester Carrier (Don Cheadle) in Rosewood

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Rosewood (1997)

Don Cheadle found his niche by diving into history, and Rosewood -- the historical dramatization of the 1923 Rosewood massacre -- was no exception. As Rosewood resident and victim Sylvester Carrier, the actor brought the tragic event to life in the 1997 historical drama.

Like many real-life-inspired stories, Cheadle took some liberties with his character since he served as a representative for residents of the disseminated Black town. The Hollywood veteran played a small but powerful role in Mann's (played by Ving Rhames) revolt against the white mob. Sylvester became the film’s backbone as Mann’s associate and catalyst.

The scenes shared by Cheadle and Rhames were palpable as they played off each other. The historical drama and its cast received critical recognition despite not being a box-office success. The acclaim translated to a single NAACP Image Award nomination but not a Best Supporting Actor nom from the Academy Awards.

Get into the retelling of this historical massacre through an Amazon Prime Video subscription.

Montel Gordon (Don Cheadle) in Traffic

(Image credit: Focus Features)

Traffic (2000)

While delving into history served as his niche, Don Cheadle wasn’t afraid to tackle modern issues in the Oscar-nominated film Traffic. He tapped into the world of drug trafficking as DEA agent Montel Gordon.

Cheadle drew from the real-life crisis by giving a fleshed-out portrait of a DEA agent’s work and home life. He walked the delicate line between law enforcement and the drug game as his character’s story evolved. The actor stood out amongst an all-star ensemble as he gave a nuanced performance throughout the movie.

While multiple Hollywood stars made an impression, the Oscar nominee did his best work with co-star Luis Guzman. They were believable as law enforcement partners. The historical drama and its cast received critical recognition despite not being a box-office success. The cast received acclaim, translating to multiple Oscar nominations and a SAG Award. However, Cheadle failed to secure a Best Supporting Actor nom from the Academy, with his co-star Benicio del Toro winning the category.

Get a Netflix subscription to watch the acclaimed Steve Soderbergh-directed crime drama.

The above performances proved that Don Cheadle has delivered Oscar-worthy roles for the Academy recognition. The No Sudden Move actor racked up film projects despite no recognition at the Academy Awards, beyond the one nomination. The actor has multiple projects lined up, including the biopic Unstoppable. Maybe one of those films will finally see him receive a well-deserved Oscar. And, of course, Cheadle isn't done with the MCU. He’ll play Rhodie again in the TV series-turned-film Armor Wars

Adreon Patterson
News Writer

A boy from Greenwood, South Carolina. CinemaBlend Contributor. An animation enthusiast (anime, US and international films, television). Freelance writer, designer and artist. Lover of music (US and international).