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The Very Best Oscar Winning Performances

Updated February 10, 2020 62.2k votes 12.6k voters 59.7k 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
    8,409
    451

    Forrest Gump

    Forrest Gump

    ActorTom Hanks

    Tom Hanks - Best Actor (1994).

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  • Judah Ben-Hur2
    241
    208

    ActorCharlton Heston

    Charlton Heston -- Best Actor (1959)
  • Andrew Beckett3
    6,522
    388

    Andrew Beckett

    Philadelphia

    ActorTom Hanks

    Tom Hanks - Best Actor (1993).
  • Nurse Ratched4
    420
    389

    Nurse Ratched

    One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

    ActorLouise Fletcher

    Louise Fletcher - Best Supporting Actress ( 1975)

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  • Dickie Eklund5
    119
    92

    Dickie Eklund

    The Fighter

    ActorChristian Bale

    Christian Bale - Best Supporting Actor (2010)

  • Homer Smith6
    130
    96

    Homer Smith

    Lilies of the Field, Christmas Lilies of the Field

    ActorSidney Poitier, Billy Dee Williams

    Sidney Poitier-Best Actor (1963)
  • Stephen Hawking7
    285
    261

    Stephen Hawking

    The Theory of Everything
    Eddie Redmayne-Best Actor (2014)
  • Maximus Decimus Meridius8

    ActorRussell Crowe

    Russell Crowe - Best Actor (2000).

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  • Brandon Teena9
    206
    160

    Brandon Teena

    Boys Don't Cry

    ActorHilary Swank

    Hilary Swank - Best Actress (1999).
  • Zofia "Sophie" Zawistowski10
    338
    312

    ActorMeryl Streep

    Meryl Streep-Best Actress (1982)
  • Marge Gunderson11
    290
    264

    ActorFrances McDormand

    Frances McDormand - Best Actress (1996).
  • Mary Poppins12
    350
    328

    Mary Poppins

    Mary Poppins

    ActorJulie Andrews

    Julie Andrews -- Best Actress (1964)

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  • Aileen Wuornos13
    425
    390

    ActorCharlize Theron

    Charlize Theron - Best Actress (2003).
  • Daisy Werthan14
    127
    93

    Daisy Werthan

    Driving Miss Daisy

    ActorJessica Tandy

    Jessica Tandy - Best Actress (1989)

  • Truman Capote15
    233
    200

    ActorPhilip Seymour Hoffman

    Philip Seymour Hoffman - Best Actor (2005).
  • Anton Chigurh16
    406
    387

    Anton Chigurh

    No Country for Old Men

    ActorJavier Bardem

    Javier Bardem - Best Supporting Actor (2007).

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  • Maggie Fitzgerald17
    205
    177

    Maggie Fitzgerald

    Million Dollar Baby

    ActorHilary Swank

    Hilary Swank - Best Actress (2004).
  • Ray Charles18
    279
    250

    ActorJamie Foxx

    Jamie Foxx - Best Actor (2004).

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  • Mildred Hayes19
    106
    34

    Mildred Hayes

    Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

    Frances McDormand - Best Actress (2017)

  • Minny Jackson20
    245
    214

    ActorOctavia Spencer

    Octavia Spencer - Best Supporting Actress (2011).
  • Katherine Hepburn21
    206
    182

    ActorCate Blanchett

    Cate Blanchett - Best Supporting Actress (2004).
  • Edith Piaf22
    88
    41

    Edith Piaf

    La Vie En Rose

    ActorMarion Cotillard

    Marion Cotillard - Best Actress (2007)

  • Mammy23
    315
    289

    Mammy

    Gone with the Wind

    ActorHattie McDaniel

    Hattie McDaniel-Best Supporting Actress (1939)
  • Blanche DuBois24
    196
    169

    Blanche DuBois

    A Streetcar Named Desire, A Streetcar Named Desire

    ActorJessica Lange, Vivien Leigh, Ann-Margret

    Vivien Leigh-Best Actress (1951)
  • Eddie Dupris25
    129
    92

    Eddie Dupris

    Million Dollar Baby

    ActorMorgan Freeman

    Morgan Freeman - Best Supporting Actor (2004)