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The Very Best Oscar Winning Performances

Updated February 10, 2020 62.7k votes 12.7k voters 59.8k 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
    8,425
    441

    Forrest Gump

    Forrest Gump

    ActorTom Hanks

    Tom Hanks - Best Actor (1994).

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  • Rudolf Abel2
    143
    90

    Rudolf Abel

    Bridge of Spies
    Mark Rylance-Best Supporting Actor (2015)
  • Roger 'Verbal' Kint3
    266
    244

    Roger 'Verbal' Kint

    The Usual Suspects

    ActorKevin Spacey

    Kevin Spacey - Best Supporting Actor (1995).

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  • Lester Burnham4
    239
    217

    Lester Burnham

    American Beauty

    ActorKevin Spacey

    Kevin Spacey - Best Actor (1999).
  • Anton Chigurh5
    397
    380

    Anton Chigurh

    No Country for Old Men

    ActorJavier Bardem

    Javier Bardem - Best Supporting Actor (2007).

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  • Nina Sayers6
    316
    294

    Nina Sayers

    Black Swan

    ActorNatalie Portman

    Natalie Portman - Best Actress (2010).

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  • Tommy DeVito7
    378
    362

    Tommy DeVito

    Goodfellas

    ActorJoe Pesci

    Joe Pesci - Best Supporting Actor (1990).

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  • Jake LaMotta8
    328
    307

    Jake LaMotta

    Raging Bull

    ActorRobert De Niro

    Robert De Niro - Best Actor (1980).
  • Andrew Beckett9
    6,545
    381

    Andrew Beckett

    Philadelphia

    ActorTom Hanks

    Tom Hanks - Best Actor (1993).
  • Truman Capote10
    227
    197

    ActorPhilip Seymour Hoffman

    Philip Seymour Hoffman - Best Actor (2005).
  • Brandon Teena11
    201
    156

    Brandon Teena

    Boys Don't Cry

    ActorHilary Swank

    Hilary Swank - Best Actress (1999).
  • Marge Gunderson12
    283
    261

    ActorFrances McDormand

    Frances McDormand - Best Actress (1996).
  • Anita13
    140
    115

    Anita

    West Side Story

    ActorRita Moreno

    Rita Moreno, Best Supporting Actress (1961)
  • Maggie Fitzgerald14
    200
    176

    Maggie Fitzgerald

    Million Dollar Baby

    ActorHilary Swank

    Hilary Swank - Best Actress (2004).
  • Aileen Wuornos15
    415
    390

    ActorCharlize Theron

    Charlize Theron - Best Actress (2003).
  • Daisy Werthan16
    123
    92

    Daisy Werthan

    Driving Miss Daisy

    ActorJessica Tandy

    Jessica Tandy - Best Actress (1989)

  • Stephen Hawking17
    280
    260

    Stephen Hawking

    The Theory of Everything
    Eddie Redmayne-Best Actor (2014)
  • Mildred Hayes18
    115
    37

    Mildred Hayes

    Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

    Frances McDormand - Best Actress (2017)

  • Edith Piaf19
    88
    41

    Edith Piaf

    La Vie En Rose

    ActorMarion Cotillard

    Marion Cotillard - Best Actress (2007)

  • Homer Smith20
    125
    97

    Homer Smith

    Lilies of the Field, Christmas Lilies of the Field

    ActorSidney Poitier, Billy Dee Williams

    Sidney Poitier-Best Actor (1963)
  • Daniel Plainview21
    245
    226

    Daniel Plainview

    There Will Be Blood

    ActorDaniel Day-Lewis

    Daniel Day-Lewis - Best Actor (2007).

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  • Eddie Dupris22
    125
    91

    Eddie Dupris

    Million Dollar Baby

    ActorMorgan Freeman

    Morgan Freeman - Best Supporting Actor (2004)

  • Ray Charles23
    273
    250

    ActorJamie Foxx

    Jamie Foxx - Best Actor (2004).

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  • Wladyslaw Szpilman24
    110
    76

    ActorAdrien Brody

    Adrien Brody - Best Actor (2002)

  • Katherine Hepburn25
    202
    180

    ActorCate Blanchett

    Cate Blanchett - Best Supporting Actress (2004).