Since the first Best Actor Award was presented to Emil Jannings in 1927, 83 men have heard their names called on the big night, 10 of whom have won more than once in that category. Let’s take a look back at the 22 men in the 21st century who have taken this award. Each of those official acceptance speeches is available below to watch. We have also included one made by Anthony Hopkins, who wasn’t able to attend in 2021 to accept for “The Father,” even though it was recorded the following morning.
Katharine Hepburn is currently the only individual to win four acting Oscars, all in the leading category. However, Daniel Day-Lewis has come close, winning his third Best Actor statue in 2012, a feat Frances McDormand has accomplished on the Best Actress side. Laurence Olivier and Spencer Tracy hold the record for most Best Actor nominations at nine, while Jack Nicholson holds the record for most overall acting nominations for an actor at 12 (eight in lead, four in supporting). He took home two lead statues and one supporting.
Peter O’Toole holds the unfortunate record for most acting nominations (eight, all as a lead) without a win, a record Glenn Close tied this year (although as lead and supporting combined). O’Toole and Bing Crosby are also the only two actors nominated two different times for playing the same character, O’Toole as King Henry II in “Becket” (1964) and “The Lion in Winter” (1968) and Crosby as Chuck O’Malley in “Going My Way” (1944, winner) and “The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945).
Hopkins became the ninth performer to take home a second Best Actor trophy, and is also now the record holder for oldest winner and nominee in that category. The 2021 ceremony also saw Chadwick Boseman become the third individual to receive a posthumous nomination for Best Actor; James Dean is the only actor to receive a posthumous nomination at two separate ceremonies (1955 and 1956), and Peter Finch is the only one to actually win posthumously (1976) for Best Actor.
Here’s our full listing at the 22 men who have taken the statue home since 2000 (the year of the ceremony, not the film). Six won on their first Academy Award nomination, four won on their first nod in the lead category and 12 won from performances based on real-life people. In addition, 19 of these performances came from Best Picture nominees, four of which won the top prize.
Anthony Hopkins (2021), “The Father”
Almost 30 years after receiving his first Best Actor statue, Hopkins pulled out a surprise win for his realistic portrayal of a man stricken with dementia. At 83 years old, Hopkins broke records, becoming the oldest Best Actor nominee and winner. Gary Oldman received his third nomination for “Mank,” and the other three each received their first nominations: Riz Ahmed (“Sound of Metal”), Steven Yeun (“Minari”) and Chadwick Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”), becoming the eighth performer posthumously nominated for a competitive acting Oscar.
Joaquin Phoenix (2020), “The Joker”
After three acting nominations, it was the fourth that proved the charm for Phoenix, claiming victory for playing the DC Comics character in this dark psychological thriller. Three of his fellow nominees were first-timers: Antonio Banderas (“Pain and Glory”), Jonathan Pryce (“The Two Popes”) and Adam Driver (“Marriage Story”) — a previous supporting nominee. The 2016 Best Actor recipient, Leonardo DiCaprio (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”), received his sixth acting nomination.
Rami Malek (2019), “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Four men had been nominated multiple times in the past, in lead, supporting or both, but it was first-time nominee Rami Malek who won the prize for his role as legendary Queen frontman Freddie Mercury. Also competing were Christian Bale (“Vice”), Bradley Cooper (“A Star Is Born”), Willem Dafoe (“At Eternity’s Gate”) and Viggo Mortensen (“Green Book”); with the exception of Cooper, all men portrayed a real-life person.
Gary Oldman (2018), “Darkest Hour”
Oldman transformed himself into legendary Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and took home the statue on his second career nomination. Two prior Best Actor recipients each received his last acting nomination to date: Daniel Day Lewis (“Phantom Thread”) received his sixth after having announced his retirement, and Denzel Washington (“Roman J. Israel, Esq.”) received his eighth. There were two up-and-comers receiving their first consideration: Daniel Kaluuya (“Get Out”) and Timothee Chalamet (“Call Me by Your Name”), who became the third-youngest nominee ever in this category.
Casey Affleck (2017), “Manchester by the Sea”
It was a tough year to call a winner, but prior Supporting nominee Affleck pulled it off on his first nomination in lead for his role as a depressed loner forced to care for his teenage nephew. He faced tough completion from Andrew Garfield (“Hacksaw Ridge”), Ryan Gosling (“La La Land”), Viggo Mortensen (“Captain Fantastic”) and Denzel Washington (“Fences”).
Leonardo DiCaprio (2016), “The Revenant”
DiCaprio finally took home gold on his fifth acting nomination, winning for his role as frontiersman Hugh Glass. The previous year’s winner, Eddie Redmayne (“The Danish Girl”) received his second bid, while Bryan Cranston (“Trumbo”) and previous supporting nominee Michael Fassbender (“Steve Jobs”) each received their sole nomination to date. A previous nominee across multiple categories and prior Best Screenplay winner Matt Damon (“The Martian”) received his second lead nomination.
Eddie Redmayne (2015), “The Theory of Everything”
Redmayne won on his first nomination for his portrayal of renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, who was stricken with ALS at a young age. Redmayne wasn’t the only first-time nominee; in fact three each received his sole nomination to date: Steve Carell (“Foxcatcher”), Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Imitation Game”) and Michael Keaton (“Birdman”), while Bradley Cooper (“American Sniper”) received his third acting nomination.
Matthew McConaughey (2014), “Dallas Buyers Club”
McConaughey lost nearly 50 pounds for his role as real-life AIDS patient Ron Woodroof, and won the coveted statue on his sole nomination thus far. Out of five nominees, four received their first bids for Best Actor: previous supporting winner Christian Bale (“American Hustle”), prior supporting nominee Bruce Dern (“Nebraska”) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (“12 Years a Slave”). The lone veteran Best Actor nominee was future winner Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Wolf of Wall Street”).
Daniel Day-Lewis (2013), “Lincoln”
Day-Lewis pulled out his third Best Actor win, making him the record holder for most wins in this category, and making him second only to Katharine Hepburn for most wins in a lead acting category (Frances McDormand earned her third Best Actress this year). Bradley Cooper (“Silver Linings Playbook”) and Hugh Jackman (“Les Miserables”) each received their first nominations, Joaquin Phoenix (“The Master”) received his third and previous winner Denzel Washington (“Flight”) received his sixth.
Jean Dujardin (2012), “The Artist”
Dujardin became the first Frenchman to take home a Best Actor statue, winning for his role in the first silent film to claim Best Picture since the first ceremony in 1929. Also up were Mexican actor Demian Bichir (“A Better Life”) and English actor Gary Oldman (“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”), who received his first career nomination. Rounding out the category were two actors who have received numerous nominations and wins across several categories, and this year received their last nominations to date in the lead category: George Clooney (“The Descendants”) and Brad Pitt (“Moneyball”).
Colin Firth (2011), “The King’s Speech”
After losing to Jeff Bridges the year before, Firth went home victorious for his performance as the future British King George VI, who overcame speech difficulties due to a stammer. With the exception of Bridges (“True Grit”), who would receive a supporting bid in 2017, it is to date the last nomination for each actor who was up this year: Javier Bardem (“Uxbal”), Jesse Eisenberg (“The Social Network”) and James Franco (“127 Hours”).
Jeff Bridges (2010), “Crazy Heart”
Between 1972 and 2017, Bridges has earned a total of seven nominations between the lead and supporting categories, and his one win was for his riveting portrayal of an alcoholic country music star whose light has dimmed. Two of his fellow nominees also have made multiple appearances in the two categories: prior Best Supporting Actor winners George Clooney (“Up in the Air”) and Morgan Freeman (“Invictus”). Also up were Jeremy Renner (“The Hurt Locker”) and Colin Firth (“A Single Man”), who would go home much happier the next year.
Sean Penn (2009), “Milk”
Penn won his second statue in less than five years, this time for his portrayal of gay-rights activist and politician Harvey Milk. Two of his competitors, Frank Langella (“Frost/Nixon”) and Mickey Rourke (“The Wrestler”) each received their sole nomination, while Richard Jenkins (“The Visitor”) received his sole lead nomination, although he would received a supporting bid in 2018. Future supporting winner Brad Pitt (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”) received his first lead nomination.
Daniel Day-Lewis (2008), “There Will Be Blood”
Eighteen years after winning for “My Left Foot,” Day-Lewis added another trophy to his shelf for his performance of a ruthless oilman. Three of his fellow nominees received their first bids in the lead category: George Clooney (“Michael Clayton”) and Tommy Lee Jones (“In the Valley of Elah”), both of whom had previously won in supporting, and Viggo Mortensen (“Eastern Promises”). Johnny Depp was up for “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” marking his third nomination.
Forest Whitaker (2007), “The Last King of Scotland”
Whitaker won on his first Academy Award nomination for his role as brutal Ugandan President Idi Amin, and racked up several critic’s awards as well. Another first-time nominee was Ryan Gosling (“Half Nelson”), while Will Smith (“The Pursuit of Happyness”) and Leonardo DiCaprio (“Blood Diamond”) each received his second lead nomination. Peter O’Toole (“Venus”) received his eighth and final nomination, making him the record-holder for most nominations without any wins (which Glenn Close has now tied).
Philip Seymour Hoffman (2006), “Capote”
Hoffman swept the awards circuit for his portrayal of the eccentric writer Truman Capote, winning on his first Academy nomination and only bid in lead. Terrence Howard (“Hustle and Flow”) and David Strathairn (“Good Night, and Good Luck”) each received their first nominations, and Heath Ledger (“Brokeback Mountain”) received his sole nomination for lead. Future winner Joaquin Phoenix also received his first bid for Best Actor, for portraying a real-life figure, Johnny Cash, in “Walk the Line.”
Jamie Foxx (2005), “Ray”
Previously nominated in supporting, Foxx won on his first bid in the lead category for his portrayal of legendary musician Ray Charles. Don Cheadle (“Hotel Rwanda”) also received his sole nomination, Johnny Depp (“Finding Neverland”) received his second consecutive bid and future Best Actor winner Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Aviator”) received his second overall and first lead bid. The final name on the ballot was Clint Eastwood (“Million Dollar Baby”), who repeated his 1993 scenario by losing the Best Actor award, but taking home Best Picture and Best Director trophies.
Sean Penn (2004), “Mystic River”
On his fourth nomination, Penn finally won for his role in this tense mystery drama. Two actors, Jude Law (“Cold Mountain”) and Bill Murray (“Lost in Translation”) received their first bids in the lead category, while Johnny Depp (“Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curst of the Black Pearl”) received his first of three. Also up was 1983 Best Actor Ben Kingsley, who received his fourth overall nomination for “House of Sand and Fog.”
Adrien Brody (2003), “The Pianist”
Just 22 days shy of his 30th birthday, Adrien Brody became the youngest Best Actor winner for his poignant portrayal of a Jewish composer in Nazi-occupied Poland. This record stands almost 20 years later, and his passionate acceptance speech, including an exuberant kiss for presenter Halle Berry, is one the most memorable ever. The newcomer was up against three prior Best Actor winners: Nicolas Cage (“Adaptation”), Daniel Day-Lewis (“Gangs of New York”) and Jack Nicholson (“About Schmidt”), as well as two-time Supporting Actor winner Michael Caine (“The Quiet American”). With the exception of Day-Lewis, these were the last nominations to date for these actors; it was Nicholson’s 12th acting bid, making him the most-nominated actor in the history of the Academy.
speech no longer available to view
Denzel Washington (2002), “Training Day”
Washington added a Best Actor statue to go with his 1990 supporting victory, winning for his portrayal of a corrupt LAPD officer. As happened two years prior, Washington once again competed against Russell Crowe (“A Beautiful Mind”) and Sean Penn (“I Am Sam”), as well as two first-time lead nominees, Will Smith (“Ali”) and Tom Wilkinson (“In the Bedroom”).
Russell Crowe (2001), “Gladiator”
Crowe won on his second nomination in this category, claiming victory for his role of an enslaved gladiator seeking revenge in this Best Picture winner. He competed against two previous Best Actor winners, Geoffrey Rush (“Quills”) and double-winner Tom Hanks (“Cast Away”), who received his last lead nomination to date. Also up were Javier Bardem (“Before Night Falls”), who would win for supporting in 2008, and Ed Harris (“Pollock”), who received his only bid for Best Actor (he’s received three for supporting).
Kevin Spacey (2000), “American Beauty”
Spacey has been nominated twice, and walked home with a statue both times, winning for Best Supporting Actor in 1996, and then winning in the Best Actor category four years later for his portrayal of a man going through a mid-life crisis in this Best Picture winner. He was up against some of the most acclaimed actors of his generation, three of whom would eventually become Best Actor winners: Russell Crowe (“The Insider”), who received the first of three consecutive nominations; Sean Penn (“Sweet and Lowdown”), who received the first of five nominations; and previous Best Supporting Actor winner Denzel Washington “The Hurricane”), who received his fourth of eight overall nominations. The final nominee was former stuntman and previous supporting nominee Richard Farnsworth (“Straight Story,” his final film), who at 79 years old received his first nomination for Best Actor.