Oscars Oscar Winning Performances from the Past 50 Years, Ranked  

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List Rules List includes all actors and actresses who won an Oscar for a leading role after 1965.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences issues the be-all and end-all of acting awards in the United States: the coveted Oscar. Only one man and one woman get to win the Academy Awards for leading roles every year, but which of the performances turned in by the talented and highly-praised actors below are truly the best of the best? This list ranks the best Oscar-winning performances by actors and actresses in leading roles over the last 50 years - since 1966.

These performances were (according to the Academy) the absolute best that each year had to offer. But which of those is the absolute best? Is it the iconic portrayal of Vito Corleone turned in by Marlon Brando in The Godfather? Maybe it's Meryl Streep in Sophie's Choice? Or is it a more recent recipient? Maybe Julianne Moore in Still Alice or Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything? Use your votes to decide!

Below you'll find the best leading performances since the 1966 Academy Awards - honoring films released in 1965, through to today. Vote up your the leading performances by an actor or actress you think were the best and see your picks rise to the top!

1
2,249 399
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2
1,385 296
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Andrew Beckett Philadelphia, 1994

3
610 313
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4
516 286
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5
382 215
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Louise Fletcher as Nurse Mildred Ratched One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, 1976

6
1,030 641
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7
868 512
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Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone The Godfather, 1973

8
351 196
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9
631 389
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Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling The Silence of the Lambs, 1992

10
752 471
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11
577 364
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Meryl Streep as Sophie Zawistowska Sophie's Choice, 1983

12
622 366
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Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln There Will Be Blood, 2008

The Worst Oscar-Winning Actors Ever

13
399 244
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14
459 279
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15
534 324
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Robert De Niro as Jake LaMotta Raging Bull, 1981

16
286 177
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Colin Firth as King George VI The King's Speech, 2011

17
358 214
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The Greatest American Writers of All Time

18
403 251
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19
258 147
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20
311 190
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Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof Dallas Buyers Club, 2014

21
333 205
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22
244 128
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Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn Coal Miner's Daughter, 1981

The Best Oscar-Winning Actor Performances, Ranked

23
297 198
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24
254 154
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25
480 317
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Kevin Spacey as Lester Burnham American Beauty, 2000

26
242 128
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Jessica Tandy as Daisy Werthan Driving Miss Daisy, 1990

27
207 130
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Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine The Lion in Winter, 1969 (tied with Barbra Streisand)

The 12 Most Extreme Actor Transformations

28
276 175
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29
195 114
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30
243 142
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Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin The Last King of Scotland, 2007

31
251 161
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32
366 247
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Hilary Swank as Brandon Teena Boys Don't Cry, 2000

The Best Performances to Not Win an Oscar

33
273 177
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34
328 216
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Elizabeth Taylor as Martha Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 1967

35
190 122
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36
178 108
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Sally Field as Norma Rae Webster Norma Rae, 1980

37
249 152
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15 Things You Didn't Know About Your Own Mouth

38
426 259
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Marion Cotillard as Édith Piaf La Vie en Rose, 2008

39
190 123
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Jodie Foster as Sarah Tobias The Accused, 1989

40
193 110
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Shirley MacLaine as Aurora Greenway Terms of Endearment, 1984

41
284 206
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42
261 213
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Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich Erin Brockovich, 2001

The Very Best Oscar-Winning Movies

43
152 106
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Katharine Hepburn as Ethel Thayer On Golden Pondd, 1982

44
254 193
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45
322 217
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46
190 111
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Paul Newman as Fast Eddie Felson The Color of Money, 1987

47
177 122
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Holly Hunter as Ada McGrath The Piano, 1994

48
173 126
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49
192 146
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Susan Sarandon as Helen Prejean Dead Man Walking, 1996

50
213 134
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Dustin Hoffman as Ted Kramer Kramer vs. Kramer, 1980