Past Best Actor Oscar Winners

A list of the Best Actor Oscar winners must include all of the award winners since 1929, when the first ceremony took place. The first Oscar given for Best Actor was also the first Oscar ever awarded. Emil Jennings won for Best Actor, but was due to leave the country before the awards ceremony. He was given the award early, thus becoming the first recipient of what has become the most highly coveted award in Hollywood.


The actual Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is comprised of 15 branches. The Best Actor nominations come from the branch of Academy actors. This branch also determines the Best Actress nominations. Membership to the Academy is by invitation only. The chance to attend the Oscars is also by invitation only. 

Best Actor Oscar Winner Trivia

  • The most Best Actor Oscars any actor has won is two. The category has never been won three times by a single actor. This two-time winning honor is shared by Marlon Brando, Gary Cooper, Daniel Day-Lewis, Tom Hanks, Dustin Hoffman, Fredric March, Jack Nicholson, Sean Penn and Spencer Tracy.
  • Tom Hanks and Spencer Tracy are the only two actors to win the Best Actor Oscar category two years in a row. Hanks won for Philadelphia in 1993 and Forrest Gump in 1994. Tracy won for Captains Courageous in 1937 and Boys Town in 1938.
  • Peter Finch is the only actor to win the Best Actor Oscar posthumously. Finch won for his role in the 1976 film Network. The only other posthumous win was Heath Ledger. He won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in for his 2008 film The Dark Knight.
  • Sidney Poitier is considered the first African-American to win the Best Actor Oscar for his role in the 1963 film Lilies of the Field. However, Poitier is technically of Bahaman descent. Thus, Denzel Washington is considered by some as the true first African-American to win the Best Actor Oscar for his 2001 film Training Day.
  • Roberto Benigni was the first male to win the Best Actor Oscar for a foreign language film. He won for his 1998 role in the film Life Is Beautiful. The only other top winner for a foreign film was the Best Actress Oscar given to Sophia Loren.
  • Laurence Olivier and Roberto Benigni are the only two men who directed the movie they won a Best Actor Oscar for. Olivier won in 1948 for Hamlet and Benigni won in 1998 for Life is Beautiful.
  • Adrien Brody was the youngest actor, at 29 years old, to win a Best Actor Oscar for his role in the 2002 film The Pianist. The oldest actor to win a Best Actor Oscar was Henry Fonda, at 76 years old, for his role in the 1981 film On Golden Pond.
  • Wallace Beery and Fredric March are the only actors to have ever tied for the Best Actor Oscar. The tie occurred in 1932 for Berry's performance in The Champs and March's performance in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
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