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
2,241 388
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2
1,380 291
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Andrew Beckett Philadelphia, 1994

3
603 309
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4
510 281
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5
375 210
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Louise Fletcher as Nurse Mildred Ratched One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, 1976

6
1,019 638
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7
345 194
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8
856 509
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Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone The Godfather, 1973

9
622 386
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Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling The Silence of the Lambs, 1992

10
568 359
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Meryl Streep as Sophie Zawistowska Sophie's Choice, 1983

11
744 470
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12
393 240
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48 Famous Couples with Huge Age Differences

13
530 319
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Robert De Niro as Jake LaMotta Raging Bull, 1981

14
616 365
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Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln There Will Be Blood, 2008

15
455 277
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16
354 212
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17
306 186
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Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof Dallas Buyers Club, 2014

The Very Best Oscar Winning Performances

18
279 176
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Colin Firth as King George VI The King's Speech, 2011

19
252 145
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20
329 203
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21
396 251
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22
293 194
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The Worst Best Picture-Winning Films

23
241 126
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Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn Coal Miner's Daughter, 1981

24
249 153
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25
473 312
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Kevin Spacey as Lester Burnham American Beauty, 2000

26
204 126
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Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine The Lion in Winter, 1969 (tied with Barbra Streisand)

27
239 127
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Jessica Tandy as Daisy Werthan Driving Miss Daisy, 1990

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28
273 173
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29
246 156
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30
362 243
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Hilary Swank as Brandon Teena Boys Don't Cry, 2000

31
240 142
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Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin The Last King of Scotland, 2007

32
191 114
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The Greatest Guilty Pleasure '80s Movies

33
271 176
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34
187 119
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35
322 214
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Elizabeth Taylor as Martha Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 1967

36
172 107
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Sally Field as Norma Rae Webster Norma Rae, 1980

37
420 258
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Marion Cotillard as Édith Piaf La Vie en Rose, 2008

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38
244 151
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39
190 107
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Shirley MacLaine as Aurora Greenway Terms of Endearment, 1984

40
183 122
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Jodie Foster as Sarah Tobias The Accused, 1989

41
282 204
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42
257 209
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Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich Erin Brockovich, 2001

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43
149 104
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Katharine Hepburn as Ethel Thayer On Golden Pondd, 1982

44
251 192
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45
188 110
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Paul Newman as Fast Eddie Felson The Color of Money, 1987

46
315 217
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47
188 143
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Susan Sarandon as Helen Prejean Dead Man Walking, 1996

48
173 121
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Holly Hunter as Ada McGrath The Piano, 1994

49
169 124
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50
251 184
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Diane Keaton as Annie Hall Annie Hall, 1978