Oscars Oscar Winning Performances from the Past 50 Years, Ranked  

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42.9k votes 4.7k voters 37.3k views 102 items

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
2,513 400
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2
1,649 296
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Andrew Beckett Philadelphia, 1994

3
612 321
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4
384 215
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Louise Fletcher as Nurse Mildred Ratched One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, 1976

5
518 309
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6
352 198
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7
578 364
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Meryl Streep as Sophie Zawistowska Sophie's Choice, 1983

8
1,034 669
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9
872 522
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Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone The Godfather, 1973

10
756 477
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11
633 396
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Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling The Silence of the Lambs, 1992

12
402 245
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13
461 280
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14
536 324
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Robert De Niro as Jake LaMotta Raging Bull, 1981

15
624 372
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Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln There Will Be Blood, 2008

16
288 177
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Colin Firth as King George VI The King's Speech, 2011

17
360 214
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18
405 251
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19
314 190
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Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof Dallas Buyers Club, 2014

20
259 147
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21
336 205
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22
300 199
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23
246 129
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Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn Coal Miner's Daughter, 1981

24
255 154
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25
480 319
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Kevin Spacey as Lester Burnham American Beauty, 2000

26
243 129
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Jessica Tandy as Daisy Werthan Driving Miss Daisy, 1990

27
277 175
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28
245 142
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Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin The Last King of Scotland, 2007

29
207 131
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Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine The Lion in Winter, 1969 (tied with Barbra Streisand)

30
196 115
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31
331 216
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Elizabeth Taylor as Martha Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 1967

32
367 247
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Hilary Swank as Brandon Teena Boys Don't Cry, 2000

33
274 177
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34
251 163
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35
191 122
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36
179 109
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Sally Field as Norma Rae Webster Norma Rae, 1980

37
251 152
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38
428 259
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Marion Cotillard as Édith Piaf La Vie en Rose, 2008

39
190 124
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Jodie Foster as Sarah Tobias The Accused, 1989

40
194 110
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Shirley MacLaine as Aurora Greenway Terms of Endearment, 1984

41
286 208
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42
261 215
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Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich Erin Brockovich, 2001

43
154 106
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Katharine Hepburn as Ethel Thayer On Golden Pondd, 1982

44
255 194
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45
323 218
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46
191 112
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Paul Newman as Fast Eddie Felson The Color of Money, 1987

47
178 122
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Holly Hunter as Ada McGrath The Piano, 1994

48
174 126
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49
192 147
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Susan Sarandon as Helen Prejean Dead Man Walking, 1996

50
213 135
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Dustin Hoffman as Ted Kramer Kramer vs. Kramer, 1980