Fuji Television Network
In Hollywood, few honors are more coveted than those of Best Actor and Best Actress at the Academy Awards. To be nominated for a performance—let alone win the golden statue—is a stunning testament to an actor’s amazing work ethic and significant impact on audiences and critics.
To commemorate actors who have gained this accolade while readying for this year’s winner, Stacker found the Best Actor winner from every year since 1928.
Over the years, the winners of the Best Actor award have been symbols of the times—with each recipient marking that particular era of moviemaking. Maximilian Schell’s win in 1961 for “Judgement at Nuremberg” served as a reminder of the profound wound left on the world in the aftermath of World War II, and Sean Penn’s win for “Milk” in 2008 highlighted the continuing struggle for civil rights in the LGBTQ+ community.
Other victories have signified history for the winner himself: For his lead role in 1963’s “Lilies of the Field,” Sidney Poitier broke racial barriers, becoming the first Black actor to take home Oscars top honors.
More common are the plethora of Best Actor Oscars representing personal milestones. In 1981, for example, legend Robert De Niro took home his first win for playing boxer Jake LaMotta in “Raging Bull.” And two times in three years we saw a pair of acting greats go from being in the “best to never win” group to capping off heralded resumes with Best Actor Oscars: Matthew McConaughey, in 2014, for his depiction of AIDS patient Ron Woodroof in “Dallas Buyers Club”; and Leonardo DiCaprio, for his portrayal as frontiersman Hugh Glass in “The Revenant.”
Gary Oldman followed suit in 2017 for his turn as Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour,” the culmination of the 61-year-old Englishman’s four decades on the silver screen. Though 38-year-old Rami Malek broke that trend for “Bohemian Rhapsody” at the most recent show, winning Best Actor for Freddie Mercury over the likes of veterans Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Willem Dafoe, and Viggo Mortensen.
Continue reading to see which actor won the Oscar in your birth year.
You may also like: Best and worst Al Pacino movies