Every Best Actor Winner in the History of the Oscars

From Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington to Sidney Poitier and Brendan Fraser, a list of every man who has ever won the Best Actor award at the Oscars

13th April 1964: EXCLUSIVE American actor Sidney Poitier looks into a mirror and smiles while holding his Best Actor Oscar for director Ralph Nelson's film, 'Lilies of the Field,' backstage at the Academy Awards, Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Gene Lester/Getty Images); (Original Caption) Los Angeles, California: Best actor winner, Tom Hanks in "Philadelphia", at the 1994 Oscar Academy Awards. (Photo by  Steve Starr/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images); HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 02: Actor Matthew McConaughey accepts the Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role award for 'Dallas Buyers Club' onstage during the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre on March 2, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Photo: Gene Lester/Getty; Steve Starr/CORBIS/Getty; Kevin Winter/Getty

Since the first ceremony nearly 100 years ago, the Academy Awards have recognized some of the greatest performances both in front of — and behind — the camera in film.

As part of each year's celebration, dating all the way back to 1929, a select group of actors and actresses are honored for their performances in some of the previous year's most lauded films.

From Sidney Poitier becoming the first Black man to win the title in 1964 to Daniel Day-Lewis' reign as the winningest actor in the category, here's a look back at every actor who has won the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

2023: Brendan Fraser, The Whale

Following a decades-long break from the industry, Oscar winner Fraser made a triumphant return in The Whale, which follows the story of a reclusive man trying to repair his relationship with his teen daughter.

2022: Will Smith, King Richard

Will Smith
Will Smith. ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty

Smith won his first Oscar in 2022 for his performance as Richard Williams — Venus and Serena's father — in King Richard. The moment was overshadowed, though, as earlier in the night the actor slapped comedian Chris Rock on stage following a joke about Smith's wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.

2021: Anthony Hopkins, The Father

Hopkins became the oldest star to win the Best Actor title when he was awarded the prize for his performance in The Father at age 83.

2020: Joaquin Phoenix, Joker

Phoenix won the award for his role as the titular villain. The actor is currently filming the movie's sequel, Joker: Folie à Deux.

2019: Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody

Malek's performance as Freddie Mercury in the biographical Bohemian Rhapsody, about Queen's rise to stardom, won him the award in 2019.

2018: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

90th Annual Academy Awards, Show, Los Angeles, USA - 04 Mar 2018
Gary Oldman. Rob Latour/REX/Shutterstock

Oldman took home the award in 2018 for his role as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour.

2017: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

Affleck won the Best Actor title in 2017 for his performance as Lee Chandler in Manchester by the Sea.

2016: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

More than two decades after his first Oscar nomination, DiCaprio took home the award for Best Actor for his role as frontiersman Hugh Glass in The Revenant in 2016.

2015: Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

Redmayne won the award for his performance as theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, alongside Felicity Jones.

2014: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

In 2014, McConaughey won his first Oscar for his performance as Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club. The film was based on Woodroof's real-life story of being diagnosed with HIV and smuggling medicine into Texas to give to others living with the disease.

2013: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

Day-Lewis scored his third Oscar in 2013 for Best Actor for his performance as Abraham Lincoln; the feat made him the winningest actor in the category's history.

2012: Jean Dujardin, The Artist

In the silent, black-and-white film, The Artist, Dujardin's performance as a screen star, George Valentin, won him the award in 2012.

2011: Colin Firth, The King's Speech

Firth won the award in 2011 for his performance as King George VI in The King's Speech.

2010: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart

Jeff Bridges (L) and Susan Geston arrive at the 2010 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon Carter held at Sunset Tower on March 7, 2010 in West Hollywood, California
Jeff Bridges and wife Susan. Michael Buckner/WireImage

Bridges' performance as country singer Otis "Bad" Blake in Crazy Heart won the actor the award in 2010. Bridges also sang on the soundtrack for the film, covering Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire."

2009: Sean Penn, Milk

Penn's portrayal of Harvey Milk — California's first openly gay elected official — won him his second Oscar for Best Actor in 2009.

2008: Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood

Day-Lewis' second Oscar came in 2008 for his performance as Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood.

2007: Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland

Whitaker's portrayal of Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland won him the award in 2007.

2006: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote

The 78th Annual Academy Awards - Press Room
Philip Seymour Hoffman. Steve Granitz/WireImage

Seymour Hoffman's first Oscar nomination also yielded his first, and only, win in 2006 for his performance as Truman Capote in Capote. The actor died less than a decade later in 2014 at the age of 46.

2005: Jamie Foxx, Ray

Foxx won the award for his portrayal of the iconic musician, Ray Charles, in Ray in 2005.

2004: Sean Penn, Mystic River

Penn picked up his first Oscar for Best Actor in 2004 for his performance as Jimmy Markum in Mystic River.

2003: Adrien Brody, The Pianist

Brody's portrayal of Wladyslaw Szpilman in the autobiography adaptation, The Pianist, won him the award in 2003.

2002: Denzel Washington, Training Day

Denzel Washington
Denzel Washington. TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images

Washington took home his second Oscar in 2002 for his performance in Training Day as Alonzo Harris. In 2022, he received his 10th Oscar nomination for his work in The Tragedy of Macbeth and extended his record as the most-nominated Black actor in Academy Awards history.

2001: Russell Crowe, Gladiator

Crowe scored the award in 2001 for his role as Maximus in Ridley Scott's Gladiator.

2000: Kevin Spacey, American Beauty

Spacey's performance as Lester Burnham in American Beauty won him the title in 2000.

1999: Roberto Benigni, Life Is Beautiful

Benigni both starred in and directed 1998's Life Is Beautiful ,which won him the award for Best Actor in 1999.

1998: Jack Nicholson, As Good as It Gets

Actor Jack Nicholson waves his Oscar which he received for best actor in the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest at the 48th Annual Academy Awards.
Jack Nicholson. Bettmann Archive

Nicholson's performance as Melvin Udall in As Good As It Gets won him his second Best Actor award — and third overall Oscar including his Best Actor in a Supporting Role in 1984 for his performance in Terms of Endearment.

1997: Geoffrey Rush, Shine

Rush took him the award in 1997 for his role as piano prodigy David Helfgott in Shine.

1996: Nicolas Cage, Leaving Las Vegas

Cage won the award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Ben Sanderson in the film adaptation of the novel of the same name, Leaving Las Vegas.

1995: Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump

Hanks won back-to-back awards in the category, first for his role in 1993's Philadelphia and second for his role as the titular character in Forrest Gump.

1994: Tom Hanks, Philadelphia

Tom Hanks Holding His Oscar for "Philadelphia"
Tom Hanks. Steve Starr/Corbis/Getty

Hanks took home his first Oscar in 1994 for his portrayal of Andrew Beckett in Philadelphia.

1993: Al Pacino, Scent of a Woman

Pacino won his sole Oscar in 1993 for his performance in Scent of a Woman as Lt. Colonel Frank Slade, a veteran who unbeknownst to his caretaking niece, persuades a young man she's hired to look after him to drive him to New York City.

1992: Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs

Portraying the psychopathic killer Hannibal Lecter, Hopkins' performance in The Silence of the Lambs won him the award in 1992.

1991: Jeremy Irons, Reversal of Fortune

Irons' starring role as Claus von Bülow in Reversal of Fortune won him the title in 1991.

1990: Daniel Day-Lewis, My Left Foot

Day-Lewis took home his first Oscar in 1990 for his role as Christy Brown in My Left Foot.

1989: Dustin Hoffman, Rain Man

Hoffman received his second Oscar in 1989 for his performance as Raymond Babbitt in Rain Man.

1988: Michael Douglas, Wall Street

Douglas' role in the first Wall Street film as Gordon Gekko won him the award for Best Actor in 1988. Douglas reprised the role more than two decades later in the 2010 sequel Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

1987: Paul Newman, The Color of Money

After decades in the industry, Newman won his first competitive Oscar in 1987 for his performance as Eddie Felson in The Color of Money. The year prior, he won an honorary award for his career as a whole.

1986: William Hurt, Kiss of the Spider Woman

William Hurt. ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty

Hurt won the award in 1986 for his performance as Luis Molina in Kiss of the Spider Woman.

1985: F. Murray Abraham, Amadeus

White Lotus star Abraham scored an Oscar in 1985 for his performance in Amadeus as a composer, Antonio Salieri, whose rival is none other than Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

1984: Robert Duvall, Tender Mercies

Duvall's performance as Mac Sledge in Tender Mercies won the actor the award in 1984.

1983: Ben Kingsley, Gandhi

Kingsley's portrayal of the titular character in the biographical film won him the Best Actor honor in 1984.

1982: Henry Fonda, On Golden Pond

(Original Caption) Hollywood: Actor Henry Fonda and his daughter, Jane Fonda, at the actor's home after she presented him with the Oscar awarded him as Best actor at the 54th Annual Academy Awards 3/29.
Henry Fonda. Bettmann Archive

Though Fonda was unable to attend the 1982 ceremony in person, his daughter, Jane, accepted the award on his behalf and delivered it to the actor for his performance as Norman Thayer Jr. in On Golden Pond. At the time was the oldest actor to have received the honor.

1981: Robert De Niro, Raging Bull

De Niro's performance as Jake LaMotta in Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull won the actor the title in 1981.

1980: Dustin Hoffman, Kramer vs. Kramer

Hoffman took home the Oscar in 1980 for his performance as Ted Kramer in Kramer vs. Kramer.

1979: Jon Voight, Coming Home

Voight's performance in Coming Home as Luke Martin won him the Oscar in 1979. Jane Fonda also won the Oscar this year for her performance opposite Voight.

1978: Richard Dreyfuss, The Goodbye Girl

Dreyfuss' performance as Elliot Garfield in The Goodbye Girl won him the Oscar in 1978.

1977: Peter Finch, Network

Finch took home the award in 1977 for his performance as anchorman Howard Beale in Network.

1976: Jack Nicholson, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Nicholson won his first Oscar in 1976 for his performance as Randle Patrick McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

1975: Art Carney, Harry and Tonto

Carney won the award in 1975 for his performance as Harry Coombes in Harry and Tonto.

1974: Jack Lemmon, Save the Tiger

Lemmon's performance as Harry Stoner in Save the Tiger won him the title in 1974.

1973: Marlon Brando, The Godfather

Sacheen Littlefeather
Sacheen Littlefeather. Bettmann Archive/Getty

Native American activist Sacheen Littlefeather famously appeared on Brando's behalf in 1973 and refused to accept the award for his performance as Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather due to the film industry's treatment of Native Americans.

1972: Gene Hackman, The French Connection

Hackman's performance as detective Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle in The French Connection won him the award in 1972.

1971: George C. Scott, Patton

Scott took home the award in 1971 for his performance as General George S. Patton in Patton.

1970: John Wayne, True Grit

Wayne won the Oscar in 1970 for his performance as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit.

1969: Cliff Robertson, Charly

Robertson's portrayal of the titular character in Charly earned him the award for Best Actor in 1969.

1968: Rod Steiger, In the Heat of the Night

(Original Caption) 4/12/1968-Santa Monica, CA- Hugged by his wife, Claire Bloom, and congratulated by veteran Master of Ceremony, Bob Hope, Rod Steiger is shown holding his Oscar after winning Best Supporting Actor in, "In the Heat of the Night".
Claire Bloom, Rod Steiger and Bob Hope. Bettmann Archive

Steiger took home the award in 1968 for his performance as Police Chief Bill Gillespie in In The Heat of the Night, which he starred in with Sidney Poitier.

1967: Paul Scofield, A Man for All Seasons

Scofield's performance as Sir Thomas Moore in A Man for All Seasons won him the award in 1967.

1966: Lee Marvin, Cat Ballou

Marvin nabbed the award in 1966 for his performance as both Kid Shelleen and Tim Strawn in Cat Ballou.

1965: Rex Harrison, My Fair Lady

Harrison's performance as Professor Henry Higgins alongside Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady won the award in 1965.

1964: Sidney Poitier, Lilies of the Field

Sidney Poitier
Sidney Poitier. Gene Lester/Getty

Poitier became the first Black man to win Best Actor in 1962 for his performance as Homer Smith, a handyman building a chapel in the desert, in Lilies of the Field.

1963: Gregory Peck, To Kill a Mockingbird

Peck's performance as Atticus Finch in the screen adaptation of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird won the award in 1963.

1962: Maximilian Schell, Judgement at Nuremberg

Schell took him the award in 1962 for his portrayal of defense attorney Hans Rolfe in Judgement at Nuremberg.

1961: Burt Lancaster, Elmer Gantry

Lancaster's performance as the titular character in Elmer Gantry earned him the award in 1961.

1960: Charlton Heston, Ben-Hur

Charlton Heston with the Oscar he won for Best Actor in Ben Hur, after the awards ceremony. 1960.
Charlton Heston. Bettmann Archive

Heston's performance as Judah Ben-Hur in Ben-Hur won him the award in 1960.

1959: David Niven, Separate Tables

In 1959, Niven took home the award for Best Actor for his performance as veteran Major Angus Pollack in Separate Tables.

1958: Alec Guinness, The Bridge on the River Kwai

Guinness earned the award in 1958 for his performance as Colonel Nicholson in the war film The Bridge on the River Kwai.

1957: Yul Brynner, The King and I

Brynner's portrayal of King Mongkut in the film adaptation of the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, The King and I, won him the award in 1957.

1956: Ernest Borgnine, Marty

LOS ANGELES - MARCH 21: Actor Ernest Borgnine backstage at the Academy Awards ceremony after winning the Oscar for Best Actor in a leading role for the film 'Marty' on March 21, 1956, at the RKO Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Earl LeafMichael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Ernest Borgnine. Earl LeafMichael Ochs Archives/Getty

Borgnine's performance as the titular character in the romance film, Marty, won the award in 1956.

1955: Marlon Brando, On the Waterfront

Brando's role of Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront won the actor his first Oscar.

1954: William Holden, Stalag 17

Holden won the award for Best Actor in 1954 for his performance as Sgt. J.J. Sefton in Stalag 17.

1953: Gary Cooper, High Noon

Cooper's performance as Will Kane in High Noon, alongside Grace Kelly, won him the title in 1953.

1952: Humphrey Bogart, The African Queen

1952: American actor Humphrey Bogart (1899-1957) receives a kiss from actor Claire Trevor (1909 - 2000) while standing backstage with the Best Actor Oscar he won for his role in director John Huston's film, 'The African Queen,' RKO Pantages Theatre, Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Humphrey Bogart and Claire Trevor. Hulton Archive/Getty

Bogart's performance as Charlie Allnut in The African Queen earned the award in 1952.

1951: José Ferrer, Cyrano de Bergerac

Ferrer took home the award in 1951 for his performance as the titular character in the film adaption of the play of the same name by Edmond Rostand.

1950: Broderick Crawford, All the King's Men

Crawford's portrayal of Willie Stark in 1949's All the King's Men won him the award in 1950.

1949: Laurence Olivier, Hamlet

Olivier's performance as the titular character in Hamlet — which he also directed and wrote the screenplay for — won him the Oscar for Best Actor in a leading role. The film also won the award for Best Picture.

1948: Ronald Colman, A Double Life

(Original Caption) Loretta Young and Ronald Colman pose with the Oscars they received as Best Actor and Actress of 1947. Miss Young received hers for her acting in The Farmer's Daughter, while Colman's acting in A Double Life earned him his Oscar.
Loretta Young and Ronald Colman. Bettmann Archive

Colman won the award in 1948 for his performance as Anthony John in A Double Life.

1947: Fredric March, The Best Years of Our Lives

March's performance as Al Stephenson in The Best Years of Our Lives won him the Oscar in 1947.

1946: Ray Milland, The Lost Weekend

Milland's starring role as Don Birnam in the film adaptation of the novel of the same name earned the actor the award in 1946.

1945: Bing Crosby, Going My Way

Crosby won the award in 1945 for his performance as Father O'Malley in Going My Way.

1944: Paul Lukas, Watch on the Rhine

Actor Paul Lukas holding his Best Actor award for the film 'Watch on the Rhine' with actress Jennifer Jones holding her Best Actress award for the film 'The Song of Bernadette', at the 16th Academy Awards, Hollywood, CA, March 2nd 1944. (Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images)
Paul Lukas and Jennifer Jones. Archive Photos/Getty

Lukas won the award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Kurt Muller in Watch on The Rhine.

1943: James Cagney, Yankee Doodle Dandy

Cagney's portrayal of real-life composer, playwright and performer George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy won him the title in 1943.

1942: Gary Cooper, Sergeant York

Cooper took home the award in 1942 for his performance as Alvin C. York in Sergeant York.

1941: James Stewart, The Philadelphia Story

Stewart's performance as Macaulay Connor in The Philadelphia Story alongside Katharine Hepburn won him the Oscar in 1941.

1940: Robert Donat, Goodbye, Mr. Chips

Donat took home the award in 1940 for his role as Arthur Chipping in Goodbye, Mr. Chips.

1939: Spencer Tracy, Boys Town

(Original Caption) Hollywood, Calif.: Spencer Tracy and Bette Davis shown with their trophies for the Best Motion Picture of 1938 at recent Morton's Academy Awards Dinner. Miss Davis won for her performance in Jezebel and Mr. Tracy for his acting in Boys Town.
Spencer Tracy and Bette Davis. Bettmann Archive

Tracy won the award in 1939 for his performance as Father Flanagan in Boys Town.

1938: Spencer Tracy, Captains Courageous

Tracy's starring role as Manuel Fidello in Captains Courageous won the award in 1938.

1937: Paul Muni, The Story of Louis Pasteur

Muni took home the award in 1937 for his starring role as Louis Pasteur in The Story of Louis Pasteur.

1936: Victor McLaglen, The Informer

McLaglen's performance as Gypo Nolan in The Informer won him the award in 1936.

1935: Clark Gable, It Happened One Night

(Original Caption) "It Happened One Night..." and the night was dated Feb. 27, 1935, when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded their little gold statuettes at a dinner in the Biltmore Bowl, Los Angeles. The Columbia production, "It Happened One Night," carried off the honors for the year. Gold statuettes were awarded to Harry Cohn, producer of the film; Frank Capra, director; Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. Photo shows Gable and his award.
Clark Gable. Bettmann Archive

Legendary actor Gable took home his first and only Oscar in 1935 for his performance as Peter Warne in It Happened One Night.

1934: Charles Laughton, The Private Life of Henry VIII

Laughton's role as the titular character in The Private Life of Henry VIII won him the award in 1934.

1933: Wallace Beery, The Champ

Beery earned the award in 1933 for his performance as Champ in The Champ.

1932: Lionel Barrymore, A Free Soul

Marie Dressler holds her Oscar for Best Actress and Lionel Barrymore holds his for Best Actor during the 1931 Academy Awards Ceremony.
Marie Dressler and Lionel Barrymore. Bettmann Archive

Barrymore won the award for his performance as Stephen Ashe in A Free Soul.

1931: George Arliss, Disraeli

Arliss' portrayal of British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli won the actor the title.

1930: Warner Baxter, In Old Arizona

Baxter won the award for his performance as the Cisco Kid in the Western film, In Old Arizona.

1929: Emil Jannings, The Way of All Flesh and The Last Command

Jannings won the award for best actor in a leading role for his performances in two films: The Way of All Flesh and The Last Command. Following his win, which was announced three months before the first annual ceremony, the German actor returned to his home country and later starred in pro-Germany films and campaigned for Hitler, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

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