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15.7k voters

The Best Oscar-Winning Actor Performances, Ranked

Updated April 26, 2021 72.0k votes 15.7k voters 58.7k views63 items

List RulesVote up the greatest performances that WON the Academy Award, either for Best Actor or Best Supporting Actor

Over the years, many great actors and actresses have been awarded the title of "Best Actor" for their portrayal of classic characters in film. Some of these Oscar-winning performances were based on real people, while other performances that won Oscars were based on fictional characters. 

Who are some of the best character portrayals that have earned actors Oscars? Forrest Gump from Forrest Gump made our list. Tom Hanks won a Best Actor Academy Award for his portrayal of this multi-talented man. Forrest Gump was based on the 1986 Winston Groom book of the same name. Anthony Hopkins's iconic portrayal of Hannibal Lecter in the film The Silence of the Lambs also made our list. Hopkins took home the Best Actor Oscar in 1991.

Several Best Supporting Actor performances also made the cut. Gregory Peck's performance as Atticus Finch in the film To Kill A Mockingbird, based on the novel by Harper Lee, earned him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 1962. Other supporting actor roles that are featured on this list include Tommy DeVito from Goodfellas, played by Joe Pesci, and Rod Tidwell from Jerry McGuire, played by Cuba Gooding Jr.

Which best actor performance is your favorite? Vote up your favorite Oscar-winning character below! 
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  • 26
    1,151
    1,041

    Randle Patrick McMurphy

    One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
    Jack Nicholson - Best Actor (1975).
  • 27
    506
    412

    Stephen Hawking

    The Theory of Everything
    Eddie Redmayne - Best Actor (2014).
  • 28
    337
    253
    Adrien Brody - Best Actor (2002).
  • 29
    395
    333

    Melvin Udall

    As Good as It Gets
    Jack Nicholson - Best Actor (1997).

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  • 30
    287
    230

    Ron Woodroof

    Dallas Buyers Club
    Matthew McConaughey - Best Actor (2013).
  • 31
    395
    359

    Alonzo Harris

    Training Day
    Denzel Washington - Best Actor (2001).

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  • 32
    244
    195

    T. E. Lawrence

    Lawrence of Arabia, A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia
  • 33
    449
    442

    King George VI

    The King's Speech
    Colin Firth - Best Actor (2010).
  • 34
    233
    189

    Homer Smith

    Lilies of the Field
    Sidney Poitier - Best Actor (1963).
  • 35
    216
    212
    Peter Finch- Best Actor (1976)
  • 36
    1,369
    1,678

    Vito Corleone

    The Godfather
    Marlon Brando - Best Actor (1972).

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  • 37
    280
    252

    Rooster Cogburn

    True Grit, Rooster Cogburn
    John Wayne - Best Actor (1969).

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  • 38
    251
    232

    Christy Brown

    My Left Foot

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  • 39
    379
    344

    Hugh Glass

    The Revenant
    Leonardo DiCaprio - Best Actor (2015).
  • 40
    232
    207
    Martin Landau - Best Supporting Actor (1994).

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  • 41
    385
    397

    Lester Burnham

    American Beauty
    Kevin Spacey - Best Actor (1999).
  • 42
    235
    216

    Pvt. Trip

    Glory
    Denzel Washington - Best Supporting Actor (1989).

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  • 43
    103
    109

    Freddie Mercury

    Bohemian Rhapsody

    Rami Malek - Best Actor (2018)

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  • 44
    1,791
    3,129

    The Joker

    The Dark Knight
    Heath Ledger - Best Supporting Actor (2008).

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  • 45
    150
    166

    Gordon Gekko

    Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Wall Street
    Michael Douglas - Best Actor (1987).
  • 46
    1,369
    2,552

    Hannibal Lecter

    The Silence of the Lambs
    Anthony Hopkins - Best Actor (1991).

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  • 47
  • 48
    238
    281

    Jimmy Markum

    Mystic River
    Sean Penn - Best Actor (2003).
  • 49
    200
    307
    Sean Penn - Best Actor (2008).

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  • 50
    168
    232

    Ben Sanderson

    Leaving Las Vegas
    Nicolas Cage - Best Actor (1995).