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The Top 25 Best Actor Winners So Far (Updated)

Welcome back! 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 SeaMarlon Brando for On the WaterfrontDaniel Day-Lewis for LincolnRobert De Niro for Raging Bull, and Jack Nicholson for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. What of Anthony Hopkins, one of our more recent winners, you might ask? His performance in The Father did initially make my top ten, but you’ll have to read on below to find out exactly where it falls now, just like with our newest winner in Will Smith for King Richard

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, Cliff Robertson – Charly, and Will Smith – King Richard

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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1 year ago

I have been watching some of the best actor winners and rewatching a few it caused some to move up the list while some have gone down. I watched Lincoln again and was surprised how affected I was by DDL’s performance. I always seem to remember the supporting cast more. Tommy Lee Jones,Sally Field, James Spadesr( stealing every scene he’s in ), Gloria Ruben . I always enjoy the scene where Secretary Seward I think it is can’t take one more of Lincoln’s stories! But I didn’t know how where I was going to place him. Many of the performances are on pretty equal level regardless of how different they are. Another time the list could change some.

1. Daniel Day Lewis- Lincoln
2. Russell Crowe- Gladiator
3. Adrien Brody- The Pianist
4. Eddie Redmayne- The Theory of Everything
5. F. Murray Abraham – Amadeus
6. Gregory Peck- To Kill A Mockingbird
7. Tom Hanks – Philadelphia
8. Sean Penn – Milk
9. Casey Affleck- Manchester By The Sea
10. Anthony Hopkins- The Silence of the Lambs
11. Daniel Day Lewis My Left Foot
12. Jack Nicholson- One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Next
13. Leonardo Di Caprio The Revenant
14 Humphrey Bogart – The African Queen
15, Colin Firth – The King’s Speech
16, Sidney Poitier- Lillies in the Field
17. Philip Seymour Hoffman/ Capote
18. Al Pacino- Scent of A Woman
19 Forest Whitaker- The Last King of Scotland
20 . Marlon Brando- The Godfather
21. Tom Hanks- Forrest Gump
22. Jose Ferrer – Cyrano de Bergerac
23. Henry Fonda – On Golden Pond
24 James Stewart- The Philadelphia Story
25. Rod Steiger- In The Heat of the Night

HM Ben Kingsley -Gandhi, Frederic March The Best Years of Our Lives , Robert DeNiro Raging Bull, Joaquin Phoenix – Joker , Peter Finch- Network, Burt Lancaster- Elmer Gantry, Gary Cooper- High Noon , Paul Lukas – Watch on the Rhine ,Jean Dijardin – the Artist, Jeff Bridges – Crazy Heart

1 year ago
Reply to  Joey Magidson

Totally! I always feel bad when a great performance goes lower than it deserves or are left off.

1 year ago
Reply to  Joey Magidson

I guess one way to look at is we are closing in on one hundred recipients for best actor and actress and ninety for the supporting categories and and anyone having a personal ranking doesn’t take anything away from them. It’s also good to see different preferences.

Brian H.
Brian H.
1 year ago

Like the other comment that was left, this is so hard. My list of beyond great performances went about 45 deep and it is splitting hairs. And I can’t even imagine if the academy got it right certain years (Washington for Malcolm X comes to mind) how much harder it would be.

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


[…] are here: by Joey Magidson July 25, 2022, 6:49 am 8 Comments Welcome back! Believe it or not, this series is almost done with. We can mourn that soon, but for […]


[…] are here: by Joey Magidson July 25, 2022, 6:49 am 9 Comments Welcome back! Believe it or not, this series is almost done with. We can mourn that soon, but for […]



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