But Nyong'o's versatile turn as a mother and her terrifying doppelgänger in the Jordan Peele film Us — which was so good that she even scared her costars on set — didn't make the final cut for the Best Actress category.
In an interview that aired Monday on BuzzFeed News morning show AM to DM, the actor said she wasn't aware of the perception that Academy voters are biased against horror films.
"I definitely heard a lot of that as I was promoting the film," she said. "People would say there's this bias against horror films — one that I was not aware of."
Peele's earlier film Get Out is among just six horror films that have ever been nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars (the others being The Exorcist, Jaws, The Sixth Sense, Black Swan, and The Silence of the Lambs, which is the only horror movie to win the top prize). Some actors have won for their work in horror films, such as Kathy Bates' win in Misery in 1990 or Natalie Portman in 2011's Black Swan, but the horror bias remains real.
Nyong'o's Us performance was honored as the year's best by the New York Film Critics Circle Awards, sparking major Oscars buzz, but she ultimately did not secure a nomination.
When asked by BuzzFeed News what she would say to people who believe she was snubbed, she responded only, "Thank you."
However, she urged Oscars voters not to turn their noses up at horror films.
"At the end of the day, I think the value of award shows is to show innovation in cinema," said Nyong'o. "So having a discrimination against a genre feels so silly really."
"I feel like there should be room for any genre to be eligible for that kind of recognition," she said.
As for this year's overwhelmingly white slate of nominees in the acting categories, Nyong'o offered a blunt call for her fellow Academy members to do better.
"I think it's just proof positive that there's a lot of work to do for us to get to a place of equity," she said. "Really, that's it."