Oscar Favorites: 20 Best Actor Winners

This weekend I’ll be posting my favorite wins for Best Actor and Actress. Originally for both, I was going to try for just 10, and then 15, but I couldn’t narrow it down! So from both categories, I’ll be presenting my top 20 (as of now, there are still plenty more Oscar-winning performances that I need to see).

In chronological order, my 20 favorite Best Actor winners!

Clark Gable

Clark Gable in It Happened One Night (1934)

Clark Gable as Peter Warne in It Happened One Night
Competition: Frank Morgan for The Affairs of Cellini; William Powell for The Thin Man
Other Nominations: Mutiny on the Bounty; Gone with the Wind

James Stewart

James Stewart in The Philadelphia Story (1940)

James Stewart as Macaulay “Mike” Connor in The Philadelphia Story
Competition: Charles Chaplin for The Great Dictator; Henry Fonda for The Grapes of Wrath; Raymond Massey for Abe Lincoln in Illinois; Laurence Olivier for Rebecca
Other NominationsMr. Smith Goes to Washington; It’s a Wonderful Life; Harvey; Anatomy of a Murder

Ray Milland

Ray Milland in The Lost Weekend (1945)

Ray Milland as Don Birnam in The Lost Weekend
Competition: Bing Crosby for The Bells of St. Mary’s; Gene Kelly for Anchors Aweigh; Gregory Peck for The Keys of the Kingdom; Cornel Wilde for A Song to Remember
Other Nominations: N/A

Humphrey Bogart

Humphrey Bogart in The African Queen (1951)

Humphrey Bogart as Charlie Allnut in The African Queen
Competition: Marlon Brando for A Streetcar Named Desire; Montgomery Clift for A Place in the Sun; Arthur Kennedy for Bright Victory; Fredric March for Death of a Salesman
Other Nominations: Casablanca; The Caine Mutiny

Gary Cooper

Gary Cooper in High Noon (1952)

Gary Cooper as Marshal Will Kane in High Noon
Competition: Marlon Brando for Viva Zapata!; Kirk Douglas for The Bad and the Beautiful; José Ferrer for Moulin Rouge; Alec Guinness for The Lavender Hill Mob
Other NominationsMr. Deeds Goes to Town; Sergeant York (WON); The Pride of the Yankees; For Whom the Bell Tolls

William Holden

William Holden in Stalag 17 (1953)

William Holden as Sgt. J.J. Sefton in Stalag 17
Competition: Marlon Brando for Julius Caesar; Richard Burton for The Robe; Montgomery Clift for From Here to Eternity; Burt Lancaster for From Here to Eternity
Other Nominations: Sunset Blvd.; Network

Marlon Brando

Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront (1954)

Marlon Brando as Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront
Competition: Humphrey Bogart for The Caine Mutiny; Bing Crosby for The Country Girl; James Mason for A Star is Born; Dan O’Herlihy for Robinson Crusoe
Other NominationsA Streetcar Named Desire; Viva Zapata!; Julius Caesar; Sayonara; The Godfather (WON); Last Tango in Paris; A Dry White Season (Best Actor in a Supporting Role)

Ernest Borgnine

Ernest Borgnine in Marty (1955)

Ernest Borgnine as Marty Piletti for Marty
Competition: James Cagney for Love Me or Leave Me; James Dean for East of Eden; Frank Sinatra for The Man with the Golden Arm; Spencer Tracy for Bad Day at Black Rock
Other Nominations: N/A

Gregory Peck

Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird
Competition: Burt Lancaster for Birdman of Alcatraz; Jack Lemmon for Days of Wine and Roses; Marcello Mastroianni for Divorce Italian Style; Peter O’Toole for Lawrence of Arabia
Other NominationsThe Keys of the Kingdom; The Yearling; Gentleman’s Agreement; Twelve O’Clock High

Jack Nicholson

Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

Jack Nicolson as Randle Patrick McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Competition: Walter Matthau for The Sunshine Boys; Al Pacino for Dog Day Afternoon; Maximilian Schell for The Man in the Glass Booth; James Whitmore for Give ’em Hell, Harry!
Other NominationsEasy Rider (Best Actor in a Supporting Role); Five Easy Pieces; The Last Detail; Chinatown; Reds (Best Actor in a Supporting Role); Terms of Endearment (Best Actor in a Supporting Role, WON); Prizzi’s Honor; Ironweed; A Few Good Men (Best Actor in a Supporting Role); As Good as It Gets (WON); About Schmidt

Richard Dreyfuss

Richard Dreyfuss in The Goodbye Girl (1977)

Richard Dreyfuss as Elliot Garfield in The Goodbye Girl
Competition: Woody Allen for Annie Hall; Richard Burton for Equus; Marcello Mastroianni for A Special Day; John Travolta for Saturday Night Fever
Other Nominations: Mr. Holland’s Opus

Robert De Niro

Robert De Niro in Raging Bull (1980)

Robert De Niro as Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull
Competition: Robert Duvall for The Great Santini; John Hurt for The Elephant Man; Jack Lemmon for Tribute; Peter O’Toole for The Stunt Man
Other NominationsThe Godfather: Part II (Best Actor in a Supporting Role, WON); Taxi Driver; The Deer Hunter; Awakenings; Cape Fear; Silver Linings Playbook (Best Actor in a Supporting Role)

Henry Fonda

Henry Fonda in On Golden Pond (1981)

Henry Fonda as Norman Thayer Jr. in On Golden Pond
Competition: Warren Beatty for Reds; Burt Lancaster for Atlantic City; Dudley Moore for Arthur; Paul Newman for Absence of Malice
Other Nominations: The Grapes of Wrath12 Angry Men (Best Picture)

Dustin Hoffman

Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man (1988)

Dustin Hoffman as Raymond Babbitt in Rain Man
Competition: Gene Hackman for Mississippi Burning; Tom Hanks for Big; Edward James Olmos for Stand and Deliver; Max von Sydow for Pelle the Conqueror
Other Nominations: The Graduate; Midnight Cowboy; Lenny; Kramer vs. Kramer (WON); Tootsie; Wag the Dog

Anthony Hopkins

Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lector in The Silence of the Lambs
Competition: Warren Beatty for Bugsy; Robert De Niro for Cape Fear; Nick Nolte for The Prince of Tides; Robin Williams for The Fisher King
Other NominationsThe Remains of the Day; Nixon; Amistad (Best Actor in a Supporting Role)

Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks in Philadelphia (1993)

Tom Hanks as Andrew Beckett in Philadelphia
Competition: Daniel Day-Lewis for In the Name of the Father; Laurence Fishburne for What’s Love Got to Do with It; Anthony Hopkins for The Remains of the Day; Liam Neeson for Schindler’s List
Other Nominations: Big; Forrest Gump (WON); Saving Private Ryan; Cast Away

Kevin Spacey

Kevin Spacey in American Beauty (1999)

Kevin Spacey as Lester Burnham in American Beauty
Competition: Russell Crowe for The Insider; Richard Farnsworth for The Straight Story; Sean Penn for Sweet and Lowdown; Denzel Washington for The Hurricane
Other NominationsThe Usual Suspects (Best Actor in a Supporting Role, WON)

Adrien Brody

Adrien Brody in The Pianist (2002)

Adrien Brody as Władysław Szpilman for The Pianist
Competition: Jack Nicholson for About Schmidt; Nicolas Cage for Adaptation.; Daniel Day-Lewis for Gangs of New York; Michael Caine for The Quiet American
Other Nominations: N/A

Philip Seymour Hoffman

Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote (2005)

Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote in Capote
Competition: Heath Ledger for Brokeback Mountain; David Strathairn for Good Night, and Good Luck.; Terrence Howard for Hustle & Flow; Joaquin Phoenix for Walk the Line
Other Nominations: Oddly enough, his other nominations came from performances in a supporting role!
Charlie Wilson’s War; Doubt; The Master

Daniel Day-Lewis

Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood (2007)

Daniel Day-Lewis as Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood
Competition: Viggo Mortensen for Eastern Promises; Tommy Lee Jones for In the Valley of Elah; George Clooney for Michael Clayton; Johnny Depp for Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Other NominationsMy Left Foot (WON); In the Name of the Father; Gangs of New York; Lincoln (WON)

Am I missing any good winners? Who are your favorite Best Actor winners in Oscar history?

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