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The Very Best Oscar Winning Performances

Updated February 10, 2020 62.8k votes 12.2k voters 59.1k views138 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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  • Forrest Gump1
    8,277
    465

    Forrest Gump

    Forrest Gump

    ActorTom Hanks

    Tom Hanks - Best Actor (1994).

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  • Andrew Beckett2
    6,376
    400

    Andrew Beckett

    Philadelphia

    ActorTom Hanks

    Tom Hanks - Best Actor (1993).
  • Annie Wilkes3
    620
    585

    ActorKathy Bates

    Kathy Bates - Best Actress (1990).

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  • Helen Keller4
    190
    156

    Helen Keller

    The Miracle Worker

    ActorPatty Duke

    Patty Duke - Best Supporting Actress (1962).

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  • Truman Capote5
    239
    200

    ActorPhilip Seymour Hoffman

    Philip Seymour Hoffman - Best Actor (2005).
  • Aileen Wuornos6
    438
    394

    ActorCharlize Theron

    Charlize Theron - Best Actress (2003).
  • Gen. George S. Patton7

    ActorKirk Douglas, George C. Scott

    George C. Scott- Best Actor (1970)
  • Raymond Babbitt8
    401
    368

    ActorDustin Hoffman

    Dustin Hoffman - Best Actor (1988).
  • Anton Chigurh9
    424
    392

    Anton Chigurh

    No Country for Old Men

    ActorJavier Bardem

    Javier Bardem - Best Supporting Actor (2007).

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  • Ray Charles10
    288
    253

    ActorJamie Foxx

    Jamie Foxx - Best Actor (2004).

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  • Brandon Teena11
    211
    161

    Brandon Teena

    Boys Don't Cry

    ActorHilary Swank

    Hilary Swank - Best Actress (1999).
  • Queen Elizabeth II12
    240
    207

    ActorHelen Mirren

    Helen Mirren-Best Actress (2006)
  • Daisy Werthan13
    126
    89

    Daisy Werthan

    Driving Miss Daisy

    ActorJessica Tandy

    Jessica Tandy - Best Actress (1989)

  • Mahatma Gandhi14
    283
    251

    Mahatma Gandhi

    Dear Friend Hitler

    ActorAvijit Dutt

    Ben Kingsley - Best Actor (1982)

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  • Zofia "Sophie" Zawistowski15
    349
    316

    ActorMeryl Streep

    Meryl Streep-Best Actress (1982)
  • Mammy16
    319
    285

    Mammy

    Gone with the Wind

    ActorHattie McDaniel

    Hattie McDaniel-Best Supporting Actress (1939)
  • Homer Smith17
    130
    96

    Homer Smith

    Lilies of the Field, Christmas Lilies of the Field

    ActorSidney Poitier, Billy Dee Williams

    Sidney Poitier-Best Actor (1963)
  • Melvin Udall18
    164
    133

    Melvin Udall

    As Good as It Gets

    ActorJack Nicholson

    Jack Nicholson-Best Actor (1997)
  • Stephen Hawking19
    296
    264

    Stephen Hawking

    The Theory of Everything
    Eddie Redmayne-Best Actor (2014)
  • Mildred Hayes20
    91
    36

    Mildred Hayes

    Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

    Frances McDormand - Best Actress (2017)

  • Wladyslaw Szpilman21
    117
    74

    ActorAdrien Brody

    Adrien Brody - Best Actor (2002)

  • Edith Piaf22
    87
    39

    Edith Piaf

    La Vie En Rose

    ActorMarion Cotillard

    Marion Cotillard - Best Actress (2007)

  • Nurse Ratched23
    427
    393

    Nurse Ratched

    One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

    ActorLouise Fletcher

    Louise Fletcher - Best Supporting Actress ( 1975)
  • Dickie Eklund24
    120
    90

    Dickie Eklund

    The Fighter

    ActorChristian Bale

    Christian Bale - Best Supporting Actor (2010)

  • Sister Helen Prejean25
    164
    133

    Sister Helen Prejean

    Dead Man Walking

    ActorSusan Sarandon

    Susan Sarandon - Best Actress (1995).