The decade is over halfway through, giving longtime Oscar watchers the opportunity to look back on their favorite winning performances. The Best Actor category in particular has seen some strong winners as of late, so it’s a tough choice deciding the absolute best of the decade. (For a refresher of all the past winners, click through our extensive Best Actor photo gallery above.)
The 2010s have seen overdue actors finally earning their Oscars, like Leonardo DiCaprio and Colin Firth, while others took home Oscar glory on their first nominations, like Jean Dujardin, Matthew McConaughey, and Eddie Redmayne. This decade also saw Daniel Day-Lewis become just the sixth performer to win three Oscars for acting. Then there’s reigning champ Casey Affleck, who joined brother Ben Affleck in becoming one of the only pairs of siblings to win Oscars.
So who do you consider the greatest Best Actor winner of the 2010s? Take a look back at each of their performances, and then be sure to vote in our poll below.
Colin Firth — “The King’s Speech” (2010)
Firth’s performance as the stuttering King George VI in “The King’s Speech” helped carry the crowd-pleasing drama to a Best Picture victory. Firth swept the entirety of award season before the Oscars and for good reason. His interpretation of King George as a brilliant man frustrated by his stammer is poignant, particularly when he breaks free of his stately manners to proclaim that he has a voice.
Jean Dujardin — “The Artist” (2011)
Dujardin’s win for “The Artist” certainly stands out compared to the other Best Actor winners in recent years, considering his performance is almost entirely silent. Without meaty monologues, Dujardin is forced to emote through his facial expressions and body motions, and the actor uses his dashing good looks and charm to his advantage. He became the first French actor to win an Oscar.
Daniel Day-Lewis — “Lincoln” (2012)
Day-Lewis cemented his status as one of our finest actors with his performance as President Abraham Lincoln in “Lincoln.” The British actor spent months getting into character as America’s 16th president, and the dedication shows onscreen. Portraying Lincoln late in his life, Day-Lewis masterfully captures the president as a world-weary man who still has the tenacity to create real change in the country, and it’s no wonder he completely cleaned up with Best Actor prizes at every major organization.
Matthew McConaughey — “Dallas Buyers Club” (2013)
The McConaissance was in full effect when McConaughey won his Oscar for “Dallas Buyers Club.” After years of not-so-critically acclaimed movies he emerged with a stellar performance in the drama based on the true story of Ron Woodroof, who created his own under-the-counter business to provide AIDS medication for himself and his community. McConaughey lost several pounds for the role and shows a more sensitive side in the film than many are used to seeing from the charismatic actor.
Eddie Redmayne — “The Theory of Everything” (2014)
At 33, Redmayne became one of the youngest Best Actor winners ever when he prevailed for playing theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything.” The part required Redmayne to depict a man succumbing to the symptoms of ALS, making this a very physical performance that could have easily gone wrong in lesser hands. The actor lets Hawking’s brilliance show through despite his physical inabilities, giving a touching, thoughtful performance.
Leonardo DiCaprio — “The Revenant” (2015)
After years of losses and snubs, DiCaprio finally had his day in the sun for playing Hugh Glass in “The Revenant,” for which he won every major award including that elusive Oscar. DiCaprio really worked for it with this performance, braving the bitter cold and a particularly unfriendly bear in a largely silent role. “The Revenant” provided a very different side of DiCaprio we have not seen before, given his typical handsome leading man types of roles.
Casey Affleck — “Manchester by the Sea” (2016)
Affleck, the most recent Best Actor winner, gives one of the more restrained performances in this category in “Manchester by the Sea.” His character, Lee Chandler, is full of repressed emotion and guilt with a haunting past, which makes his occasional outbursts all the more powerful. Like with many performances in this category, Affleck shows the subtle power of creating a character of little words.
Be sure to make your Oscar nomination predictions so that Hollywood studio executives can see how their films are faring in our Academy Awards odds. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominees are announced on January 23.