The Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars, are the most prestigious awards in the film industry. Each year, the awards recognize the best actors, actresses, directors, and other film professionals for their outstanding achievements in the previous year.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the winners of the Best Actor category, from the first winner to the most recent.

The First Best Actor Winner

The first Academy Awards ceremony was held on May 16, 1929, at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Emil Jannings, a German actor, was named the first winner of the Best Actor category for his performances in the films “The Last Command” and “The Way of All Flesh.”

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Jannings was considered one of the greatest actors of the silent era, and his win helped establish the prestige of the Academy Awards.

Notable Winners of the 20th Century

Over the course of the 20th century, many legendary actors won the Best Actor award. Some of the most notable winners include:

  • Clark Gable, who won for his role in “It Happened One Night” in 1935.
  • Marlon Brando, who won for his performances in “On the Waterfront” in 1955 and “The Godfather” in 1973.
  • Sidney Poitier, who became the first African American actor to win the award for his role in “Lilies of the Field” in 1964.
  • Dustin Hoffman, who won for his performances in “Kramer vs. Kramer” in 1980 and “Rain Man” in 1989.
  • Tom Hanks, who won back-to-back awards for his roles in “Philadelphia” in 1994 and “Forrest Gump” in 1995.

Recent Winners

In recent years, the Best Actor category has been dominated by a few actors who have consistently delivered powerful performances. Some of the recent winners include:

  • Daniel Day-Lewis, who has won three times for his performances in “My Left Foot” in 1990, “There Will Be Blood” in 2008, and “Lincoln” in 2013.
  • Denzel Washington, who has won twice for his performances in “Glory” in 1990 and “Training Day” in 2002.
  • Gary Oldman, who won for his performance as Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour” in 2018.
  • Joaquin Phoenix, who won for his performance in “Joker” in 2020.

Controversies and Snubs

Like any awards ceremony, the Academy Awards have not been without controversy. In some cases, the Best Actor award has been criticized for overlooking deserving performers or giving the award to actors who were not considered to be the best of their year. Some notable controversies and snubs include:

  • In 1990, many critics felt that the Best Actor award should have gone to Edward James Olmos for his performance in “Stand and Deliver” instead of Daniel Day-Lewis for “My Left Foot.”
  • In 1999, many felt that Russell Crowe should have won for his performance in “The Insider” instead of Kevin Spacey for “American Beauty.”
  • In 2019, many felt that the Best Actor award should have gone to Bradley Cooper for his performance in “A Star is Born” instead of Rami Malek for “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

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The Best Actor award is one of the most prestigious honors in the film industry, and the winners have included some of the greatest actors of all time.

From the first winner, Emil Jannings, to recent winners like Joaquin Phoenix, the award has recognized performances that have left a lasting impact on the industry and audiences alike. However, the Academy Awards are not without controversy, and there have been instances where deserving performers were overlooked or snubbed.

Regardless of controversies and snubs, the Best Actor category remains a hallmark of the Academy Awards and a testament to the power of exceptional performances.

Each year, the award showcases the best that the film industry has to offer, and the winners are forever enshrined in film history. As the industry continues to evolve and change, we can only wait and see who will join the ranks of the greats in the years to come.


  • Vipul Kapoor

    I am a final year student pursuing Btech degree in Computer Science. Talking about my skillset I am well versed with technologies like Machine Learning, Blockchain. Apart from this, I also have a passion of content writing

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