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!
list ordered by

1
2,232 385
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2
1,375 284
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Andrew Beckett Philadelphia, 1994

3
596 303
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4
505 280
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5
371 208
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Louise Fletcher as Nurse Mildred Ratched One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, 1976

6
1,008 637
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7
616 383
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Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling The Silence of the Lambs, 1992

8
564 356
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Meryl Streep as Sophie Zawistowska Sophie's Choice, 1983

9
529 315
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Robert De Niro as Jake LaMotta Raging Bull, 1981

10
341 194
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11
846 508
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Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone The Godfather, 1973

12
738 470
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The Worst Oscar-Winning Actors Ever

13
613 365
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Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln There Will Be Blood, 2008

14
449 276
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15
387 240
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16
348 212
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17
326 202
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The Best Fundraising Websites

18
275 176
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Colin Firth as King George VI The King's Speech, 2011

19
298 186
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Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof Dallas Buyers Club, 2014

20
389 250
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21
245 145
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22
286 193
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The Best Oscar-Winning Actor Performances, Ranked

23
235 126
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Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn Coal Miner's Daughter, 1981

24
468 309
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Kevin Spacey as Lester Burnham American Beauty, 2000

25
236 124
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Jessica Tandy as Daisy Werthan Driving Miss Daisy, 1990

26
243 153
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27
201 125
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Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine The Lion in Winter, 1969 (tied with Barbra Streisand)

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28
268 173
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29
358 242
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Hilary Swank as Brandon Teena Boys Don't Cry, 2000

30
238 142
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Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin The Last King of Scotland, 2007

31
240 156
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32
184 119
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The Best Performances to Not Win an Oscar

33
187 114
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34
265 176
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35
317 213
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Elizabeth Taylor as Martha Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 1967

36
169 106
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Sally Field as Norma Rae Webster Norma Rae, 1980

37
418 258
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Marion Cotillard as Édith Piaf La Vie en Rose, 2008

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38
242 151
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39
181 122
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Jodie Foster as Sarah Tobias The Accused, 1989

40
186 107
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Shirley MacLaine as Aurora Greenway Terms of Endearment, 1984

41
253 208
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Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich Erin Brockovich, 2001

42
278 204
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The Very Best Oscar-Winning Movies

43
146 103
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Katharine Hepburn as Ethel Thayer On Golden Pondd, 1982

44
246 191
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45
186 110
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Paul Newman as Fast Eddie Felson The Color of Money, 1987

46
313 217
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47
186 142
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Susan Sarandon as Helen Prejean Dead Man Walking, 1996

48
209 132
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Dustin Hoffman as Ted Kramer Kramer vs. Kramer, 1980

49
171 120
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Holly Hunter as Ada McGrath The Piano, 1994

50
250 184
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Diane Keaton as Annie Hall Annie Hall, 1978