film Oscar Winning Performances from the Past 50 Years, Ranked  

The Wrap
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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
1,423 303
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Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump Forrest Gump, 1995

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2
1,114 259
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Tom Hanks as Andrew Beckett Philadelphia, 1994

3
479 236
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4
815 478
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Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter The Silence of the Lambs, 1992

5
278 149
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Louise Fletcher as Nurse Mildred Ratched One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, 1976

6
725 402
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Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone The Godfather, 1973

7
562 332
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Jack Nicholson as Randle Patrick "Mac" McMurphy One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, 1976

8
490 285
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Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling The Silence of the Lambs, 1992

9
393 220
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10
266 140
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11
354 202
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12
481 304
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Meryl Streep as Sophie Zawistowska Sophie's Choice, 1983

13
287 161
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14
443 273
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Robert De Niro as Jake LaMotta Raging Bull, 1981

15
306 193
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16
403 254
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Kevin Spacey as Lester Burnham American Beauty, 2000

17
177 87
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Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn Coal Miner's Daughter, 1981

18
254 159
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19
206 135
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Colin Firth as King George VI The King's Speech, 2011

20
188 91
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Jessica Tandy as Daisy Werthan Driving Miss Daisy, 1990

21
198 116
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22
191 114
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23
312 199
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Hilary Swank as Brandon Teena Boys Don't Cry, 2000

24
156 83
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25
160 94
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Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine The Lion in Winter, 1969 (tied with Barbra Streisand)

26
311 208
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27
227 138
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28
203 112
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Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin The Last King of Scotland, 2007

29
222 137
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30
434 281
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Daniel Day-Lewis as Daniel Plainview There Will Be Blood, 2008

31
260 179
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32
154 92
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Jodie Foster as Sarah Tobias The Accused, 1989

33
212 150
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34
191 119
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35
278 183
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Elizabeth Taylor as Martha Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 1967

36
219 151
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Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof Dallas Buyers Club, 2014

37
209 162
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Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich Erin Brockovich, 2001

38
382 227
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Marion Cotillard as Édith Piaf La Vie en Rose, 2008

39
202 137
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Jack Nicholson as Melvin Udall As Good as It Gets, 1998

40
205 121
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41
134 82
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Sally Field as Norma Rae Webster Norma Rae, 1980

42
227 149
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Diane Keaton as Annie Hall Annie Hall, 1978

43
140 94
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44
165 114
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Susan Sarandon as Helen Prejean Dead Man Walking, 1996

45
230 170
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46
144 93
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Holly Hunter as Ada McGrath The Piano, 1994

47
131 90
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Maggie Smith as Jean Brodie The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, 1970

48
175 104
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Dustin Hoffman as Ted Kramer Kramer vs. Kramer, 1980

49
155 88
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Paul Newman as Fast Eddie Felson The Color of Money, 1987

50
113 78
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Katharine Hepburn as Ethel Thayer On Golden Pondd, 1982