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
1,474 329
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Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump Forrest Gump, 1995

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3
514 254
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4
865 492
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Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter The Silence of the Lambs, 1992

5
655 367
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Jack Nicholson as Melvin Udall One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, 1976

6
761 411
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Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone The Godfather, 1973

7
308 164
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Louise Fletcher as Nurse Mildred Ratched One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, 1976

8
521 301
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Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling The Silence of the Lambs, 1992

9
424 235
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10
541 300
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Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln There Will Be Blood, 2008

11
384 217
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12
287 154
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13
506 322
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Meryl Streep as Sophie Zawistowska Sophie's Choice, 1983

14
305 175
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15
470 286
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Robert De Niro as Jake LaMotta Raging Bull, 1981

16
327 210
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17
276 171
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18
425 269
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Kevin Spacey as Lester Burnham American Beauty, 2000

19
196 99
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Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn Coal Miner's Daughter, 1981

20
208 124
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21
224 148
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Colin Firth as King George VI The King's Speech, 2011

22
204 100
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Jessica Tandy as Daisy Werthan Driving Miss Daisy, 1990

23
213 128
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24
331 221
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25
244 159
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Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof Dallas Buyers Club, 2014

26
238 148
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27
326 217
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Hilary Swank as Brandon Teena Boys Don't Cry, 2000

28
234 164
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29
166 95
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30
171 107
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Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine The Lion in Winter, 1969 (tied with Barbra Streisand)

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31
214 124
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Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin The Last King of Scotland, 2007

32
207 131
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33
238 155
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34
158 103
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35
287 197
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Elizabeth Taylor as Martha Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 1967

36
392 241
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Marion Cotillard as Édith Piaf La Vie en Rose, 2008

37
145 91
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Sally Field as Norma Rae Webster Norma Rae, 1980

38
221 178
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Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich Erin Brockovich, 2001

39
215 134
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40
159 107
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Jodie Foster as Sarah Tobias The Accused, 1989

41
234 163
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Diane Keaton as Annie Hall Annie Hall, 1978

42
244 182
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43
126 88
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Katharine Hepburn as Ethel Thayer On Golden Pondd, 1982

44
153 109
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45
158 96
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Shirley MacLaine as Aurora Greenway Terms of Endearment, 1984

46
157 107
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Holly Hunter as Ada McGrath The Piano, 1994

47
171 129
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Susan Sarandon as Helen Prejean Dead Man Walking, 1996

48
166 98
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Paul Newman as Fast Eddie Felson The Color of Money, 1987

49
220 174
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50
184 117
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Dustin Hoffman as Ted Kramer Kramer vs. Kramer, 1980