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The Top 25 Best Actor Winners So Far

Believe it or not, this series is almost done with. We can mourn that soon, but for now, we press on. Continuing a tradition I’ve been keen on for years, I’m ranking the new crop of Academy Award winners. For nearly all of the Oscar categories, you’ll see me list the top 25 recipients of that prize. Sometimes, our newest winner will appear. Other times, they’ll be relegated to the Honorable Mention category. Who knows, maybe one or two won’t even make the cut? It’s a list series that I’ll do each and every single year, in the weeks after the ceremony concludes. So, while this is a fun way to think about the Oscars in the aftermath of the latest telecast, it’s also a beginning for another column here on the site. Of course, definitely show us your own lists as well, in the comments section below. We’re definitely keen to know what you think!

Another big one is coming today for you all…Best Actor! Yes, the Best Actor category, one of the most prestigious at the Academy Awards (so much so that it infamously came after Best Picture at the most recent ceremony). Actor often is where movie stars get to be honored, sometimes for their best work, but often in films that just happen to have them at the right place and the right time. My top picks, however, don’t fall into that trap. Perhaps controversially, my top two winners of this Oscar are Nicolas Cage for Leaving Las Vegas (my all-time favorite acting performance, overall) and Tom Hanks for Philadelphia. The next five on this list, in alphabetical order to maintain some mystery, would be Casey Affleck for Manchester by the Sea, Marlon Brando for On the Waterfront, Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln, Robert De Niro for Raging Bull, and Jack Nicholson for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. What of Anthony Hopkins, our most recent winner, you might ask? His performance in The Father does make my top ten, but you’ll have to read on below to find out exactly where it falls…

Here now are what I consider to be the 25 best winners of the Oscar for Best Actor, to date:

Nicolas Cage

25. Jack Nicholson – As Good As It Gets
24. Forest Whitaker – The Last King of Scotland
23. Dustin Hoffman – Rain Man
22. Gene Hackman – The French Connection
21. Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything
20. Kevin Spacey – American Beauty
19. Ernest Borgnine – Marty
18. Sean Penn – Milk
17. Laurence Olivier – Hamlet
16. Philip Seymour Hoffman – Capote
15. George C. Scott – Patton
14. Marlon Brando – The Godfather
13. Gregory Peck – To Kill a Mockingbird
12. Anthony Hopkins – The Silence of the Lambs
11. Peter Finch – Network
10. Tom Hanks – Forrest Gump
9. Daniel Day-Lewis – There Will Be Blood
8. Anthony Hopkins – The Father
7. Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea
6. Jack Nicholson – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
5. Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln
4. Marlon Brando – On the Waterfront
3. Robert De Niro – Raging Bull
2. Tom Hanks – Philadelphia
1. Nicolas Cage – Leaving Las Vegas

Honorable Mention: Colin Firth – The King’s Speech, Ben Kingsley – Gandhi, Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club, Joaquin Phoenix – Joker, and Cliff Robertson – Charly

Actor Tom Hanks receives his Oscar at the Academy Awards in Los Angeles, CA., March 29, 1995. (Photo by John Barr/Liaison)

Stay tuned for another category later on this week or early next week!


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Brian H.
Brian H.
2 years ago

Great job again and great list. I understand your two favorite performances. Obviously I loved them as well. I think my top 5 going to be that way at any time. 6 thru 15 can be moved all over depending on what I’ve seen recently. This was another one that is not very easy and goes deeper with great performances that what is listed here.

1. Jack Nicholson – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
2. Marlon Brando – On the Waterfront
3. Robert DeNiro – Raging Bull
4. Anthony Hopkins – Silence of the Lambs, The
5. Marlon Brando – Godfather, The
6. Sean Penn – Milk
7. Tom Hanks – Philadelphia
8. Daniel Day Lewis – There Will Be Blood
9. Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea
10. Kevin Spacey – American Beauty
11. Gregory Peck – To Kill a Mockingbird
12. Nicolas Cage – Leaving Las Vegas
13. Anthony Hopkins, Father, The
14. Humphrey Bogart – African Queen, The
15. Daniel Day Lewis – Lincoln
16. Laurence Olivier – Hamlet
17. Gene Hackman – French Connection, The
18. Sean Penn – Mystic River
19. Philip Seymour Hoffman – Capote
20. Jack Nicholson – As Good as it Gets
21. Paul Newman – Color of Money, The
22. Broderick Crawford – All the King’s Men
23. Gary Cooper – High Noon
24. Rod Steiger – In the Heat of the Night
25. Richard Dreyfuss – Goodbye Girl, The
H/M – Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart, Russell Crowe – Gladiator, Michael Douglas – Wall Street, Peter Finch – Network, Henry Fonda – On Golden Pond, Dustin Hoffman – Kramer vs Kramer, Jeremy Irons – Reversal of Fortune, Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club, Joaquin Phoenix – Joker, George C Scott – Patton



Written by Joey Magidson

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