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The Very Best Oscar Winning Performances

Updated April 26, 2021 62.7k votes 13.5k voters 61.0k views142 items

List RulesVote for the greatest performances that won Academy Awards for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, or Best Supporting Actress

Over the years, there have been so many great actors and actresses who have won Oscars for portraying classic characters. Some of these best actor Oscar performances were for roles based on real people, while others were based on fictional characters.

Who are some of the best characters to win an Oscar? Randle Patrick McMurphy from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest made our list. Jack Nicholson won a Best Actor Academy Award for his portrayal of this not-so-crazy patient in 1975. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was based on the 1962 Ken Kesey book of the same name. Marlon Brando's iconic portrayal of Vito Corleone in the film The Godfather also made our list. Brando took home the Best Actor Oscar in 1972.

Several Best Actress performances also made this list. Julia Robert's portrayal of Erin Brockovich in the film of the same name, earned her an Oscar for Best Actress in 2000. Other Best Actress roles that are featured on this list include Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) from Black Swan and Clarice Starling (Jody Foster) from The Silence of the Lambs. Halle Berry was the first African American woman to win an Oscar for her performance as Leticia Musgrove in Monster's Ball.  

Which best actor Oscar-winning performance is your favorite? Vote up your favorite role, and be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section.
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  • 1
    8,803
    446

    Forrest Gump

    Forrest Gump
    Tom Hanks - Best Actor (1994).

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  • 2
    243
    226

    Lester Burnham

    American Beauty
    Kevin Spacey - Best Actor (1999).

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  • 3
    6,909
    385

    Andrew Beckett

    Philadelphia
    Tom Hanks - Best Actor (1993).

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  • 4
    133
    106

    Homer Smith

    Lilies of the Field, Christmas Lilies of the Field
    Sidney Poitier-Best Actor (1963)
  • 5
    141
    114
    Liza Minelli - Best Actress(1972)
  • 6
    137
    105

    Daisy Werthan

    Driving Miss Daisy

    Jessica Tandy - Best Actress (1989)

  • 7
    149
    43

    Mildred Hayes

    Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

    Frances McDormand - Best Actress (2017)

  • 8
    291
    273
    Frances McDormand - Best Actress (1996).
  • 9
    205
    172

    Brandon Teena

    Boys Don't Cry
    Hilary Swank - Best Actress (1999).
  • 10
    124
    80

    Adrien Brody - Best Actor (2002)

  • 11
    113
    87

    Margaret Thatcher

    The Iron Lady (2011)

    Meryl Streep - Best Actress (2011)

  • 12
    109
    42

    Edith Piaf

    La Vie En Rose

    Marion Cotillard - Best Actress (2007)

  • 13
    189
    165

    Helen Keller

    The Miracle Worker
    Patty Duke - Best Supporting Actress (1962).

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  • 14
    420
    399
    Charlize Theron - Best Actress (2003).
  • 15
    153
    130

    June Carter Cash

    Walk the Line
    Reese Witherspoon - Best Actress (2005).
  • 16
    236
    212
    Philip Seymour Hoffman - Best Actor (2005).

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  • 17
    133
    101

    Eddie Dupris

    Million Dollar Baby

    Morgan Freeman - Best Supporting Actor (2004)

  • 18
    267
    248

    Mahatma Gandhi

    Dear Friend Hitler
    Ben Kingsley - Best Actor (1982)

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  • 19
    403
    393

    Anton Chigurh

    No Country for Old Men
    Javier Bardem - Best Supporting Actor (2007).

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  • 20
    281
    260
    Jamie Foxx - Best Actor (2004).

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  • 21
    308
    288

    Mammy

    Gone with the Wind
    Hattie McDaniel-Best Supporting Actress (1939)
  • 22
    133
    107

    Ron Woodroof

    Dallas Buyers Club
    Matthew McConaughey-Best Actor (2013)
  • 23
    250
    233

    Daniel Plainview

    There Will Be Blood
    Daniel Day-Lewis - Best Actor (2007).

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  • 24
    236
    216
    Charlton Heston -- Best Actor (1959)
  • 25
    231
    213

    Pvt. Trip

    Glory
    Denzel Washington - Best Supporting Actor (1989).

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