The 'Best Actor' the year you were born

From handsome leading men to unparalleled character players, the Academy Awards have recognized some of the most iconic Hollywood luminaries of our time with the award for best actor. Each February, only one man (and one woman) takes home the statue for the best performance of the year. Winning the highly coveted award can launch actors to new heights in their career, or cement the legacy of some of the industry's long-recognized artists.

It's not just the actors who care about the coveted statue. Fans have become greatly invested in the status and acclaim the award brings as well. Before the 2016 ceremony, there was a widely trending hashtag campaign for Leonardo DiCaprio to finally be recognized with an Oscar for his work in "The Revenant," after being nominated over half a dozen times in his lifetime.

See the full list of winners:

The best actor the year you were born
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The best actor the year you were born


Best actor: Broderick Crawford

Film(s): "All the King's Men"
Film Smart Rating: 87.91
Role in film: Willie Stark

Synopsis: Drama about the rise and fall of a corrupt southern governor who promises his way to power. Broderick Crawford portrays Willie Stark, who, once he is elected, finds that his vanity and power lust prove to be his downfall. The film is based on the 1946 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Robert Penn Warren.



Best actor: José Ferrer

Film(s): "Cyrano de Bergerac"
Film Smart Rating: 89.33
Role in film: Cyrano de Bergerac

Synopsis: Poet, romantic and sword fighter Cyrano de Bergerac (José Ferrer) loves the beautiful Roxane (Mala Powers), but although he is proud enough of his bulbous proboscis that he regularly duels those who dare mock it, he fears she could never love a man with such an enormous nose. When he learns that she loves the handsome guardsman Christian (William Prince), Cyrano provides the tongue-tied young man with the words of love and devotion he wishes he could say to Roxanne himself.

(Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)


Best actor: Humphrey Bogart

Film(s): "The African Queen"
Film Smart Rating: 91.86
Role in film: Charlie Allnut

Synopsis: After religious spinster's (Katharine Hepburn) missionary brother is killed in WWI Africa, dissolute steamer captain (Humphrey Bogart) offers her safe passage. She's not satisfied so she persuades him to destroy a German gunboat. The two spend most of their time fighting with each other rather than the Germans. Time alone on the river leads to love.

 (Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images)


Best actor: Gary Cooper

Film(s): "High Noon"
Film Smart Rating: 93.34
Role in film: Marshal Will Kane

Synopsis: Former marshal Will Kane (Gary Cooper) is preparing to leave the small town of Hadleyville, New Mexico, with his new bride, Amy (Grace Kelly), when he learns that local criminal Frank Miller has been set free and is coming to seek revenge on the marshal who turned him in. When he starts recruiting deputies to fight Miller, Kane is discouraged to find that the people of Hadleyville turn cowardly when the time comes for a showdown, and he must face Miller and his cronies alone.

 (Photo by ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)


Best actor: William Holden

Film(s): "Stalag 17"
Film Smart Rating: 92.38
Role in film: Sgt. J.J. Sefton

Synopsis: One night in 1944 in a German POW camp housing American airmen, two prisoners try to escape the compound and are quickly discovered and shot dead. Among the remaining men, suspicion grows that one of their own is a spy for the Germans. All eyes fall on Sgt. Sefton (William Holden) who everybody knows frequently makes exchanges with German guards for small luxuries. To protect himself from a mob of his enraged fellow inmates, Sgt. Sefton resolves to find the true traitor within their midst.

 (Photo by Paramount Pictures/Archive Photos/Getty Images)


Best actor: Marlon Brando

Film(s): "On the Waterfront"
Film Smart Rating: 94.11
Role in film: Terry Malloy

Synopsis: Dockworker Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) had been an up-and-coming boxer until powerful local mob boss Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb) persuaded him to throw a fight. When a longshoreman is murdered before he can testify about Friendly's control of the Hoboken waterfront, Terry teams up with the dead man's sister Edie (Eva Marie Saint) and the streetwise priest Father Barry (Karl Malden) to testify himself, against the advice of Friendly's lawyer, Terry's older brother Charley (Rod Steiger).

(Photo by Columbia Pictures/Archive Photos/Getty Images)


Best actor: Ernest Borgnine

Film(s): "Marty"
Film Smart Rating: 91.7
Role in film: Marty Piletti

Synopsis: This acclaimed romantic drama follows the life of Marty Piletti (Ernest Borgnine), a stout bachelor butcher who lives with his mother (Esther Minciotti) in the Bronx. Always unlucky in love, Marty reluctantly goes out to a ballroom one night and meets a nice teacher named Clara (Betsy Blair). Though Marty and Clara hit it off, his relatives discourage him from pursuing the relationship, and he must decide between his family's approval or a shot at finding romance.

(Photo by United Artists/Getty Images)


Best actor: Yul Brynner

Film(s): "The King and I"
Film Smart Rating: 90.65
Role in film: King Mongkut of Siam

Synopsis: In this film adaptation of the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, widowed Welsh mother Anna Loenowens (Deborah Kerr) becomes a governess and English tutor to the wives and many children of the stubborn King Mongkut of Siam (Yul Brynner). Anna and the king have a clash of personalities as she works to teach the royal family about the English language, customs and etiquette, and rushes to prepare a party for a group of European diplomats who must change their opinions about the king.

Photo Credit: Getty 


Best actor: Alec Guinness

Film(s): "The Bridge on the River Kwai"
Film Smart Rating: 92.59
Role in film: Lt. Colonel L. Nicholson, D.S.O.

Synopsis: Adaptation of the Pierre Bouelle novel about POWs in Burma forced to build a bridge to aid the war effort of their Japanese captors. British and American officers plot to blow up the structure, but the commander of the bridge's construction has different plans.

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)


Best actor: David Niven

Film(s): "Separate Tables"
Film Smart Rating: 88.28
Role in film: Major Angus Pollock

Synopsis: During the offseason at the Beauregard Hotel, the secrets of some guests are exposed. Lovely but vulnerable Ann Shankland (Rita Hayworth) travels to the hotel in hopes of starting over with her ex-husband, John (Burt Lancaster), but she does not know that he is already engaged to Pat Cooper (Wendy Hiller), the manager of the hotel. Meanwhile, Mrs. Railton-Bell (Gladys Cooper) and her daughter Sibyl (Deborah Kerr) discover the hidden truth about war veteran Major Pollack (David Niven).

(Photo by National Press Features/Archive Photos/Getty Images)


Best actor: Charlton Heston

Film(s): "Ben-Hur"
Film Smart Rating: 91.57
Role in film: Judah Ben-Hur

Synopsis: Charlton Heston plays a Palestinian Jew who is battling the Roman empire at the time of Christ. His actions send him and his family into slavery, but an inspirational encounter with Jesus changes everything. Heston finally meets his rival in a justly famous chariot race and rescues his suffering family.

(Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)


Best actor: Burt Lancaster

Film(s): "Elmer Gantry"
Film Smart Rating: 91.28
Role in film: Elmer Gantry

Synopsis: When hedonistic but charming con man Elmer Gantry (Burt Lancaster) meets the beautiful Sister Sharon Falconer (Jean Simmons), a roadside revivalist, he feigns piousness to join her act as a passionate preacher. The two make a successful onstage pair, and their chemistry extends to romance. Both the show and their relationship are threatened, however, when one of Gantry's ex-lovers (Shirley Jones) decides that she has a score to settle with the charismatic performer.

Photo Credit: Getty 


Best actor: Maximilian Schell

Film(s): "Judgment at Nuremberg"
Film Smart Rating: 91.9
Role in film: Hans Rolfe

Synopsis: In 1947, four German judges who served on the bench during the Nazi regime face a military tribunal to answer charges of crimes against humanity. Chief Justice Haywood (Spencer Tracy) hears evidence and testimony not only from lead defendant Ernst Janning (Burt Lancaster) and his defense attorney Hans Rolfe (Maximilian Schell), but also from the widow of a Nazi general (Marlene Dietrich), an idealistic U.S. Army captain (William Shatner) and reluctant witness Irene Wallner (Judy Garland).

 (Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)


Best actor: Gregory Peck

Film(s): "To Kill a Mockingbird"
Film Smart Rating: 92.83
Role in film: Atticus Finch

Synopsis: Scout Finch (Mary Badham) and her older brother, Jem (Phillip Alford), live in sleepy Maycomb, Alabama, spending much of their time with their friend Dill (John Megna) and spying on their reclusive and mysterious neighbor, Boo Radley (Robert Duvall). When Atticus (Gregory Peck), their widowed father and a respected lawyer, defends a black man named Tom Robinson (Brock Peters) against fabricated rape charges, the trial and tangent events expose the children to evils of racism and stereotyping.

Photo Credit: Getty 


Best actor: Sidney Poitier

Film(s): "Lilies of the Field"
Film Smart Rating: 91.47
Role in film: Homer Smith

Synopsis: When traveling African-American handyman Homer Smith (Sidney Poitier) stops by a farm in rural Arizona, he is welcomed by a group of Roman Catholic nuns who have emigrated from Germany. Realizing that the farm needs a lot of work, Homer takes on a number of repair projects for the women, who are led by the headstrong Mother Maria (Lilia Skala). Impressed by Homer's kindness and strong work ethic, the nuns come to believe that he has been sent by God to help build them a chapel.

(Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)


Best actor: Rex Harrison

Film(s): "My Fair Lady"
Film Smart Rating: 91.9
Role in film: Professor Henry Higgins

Synopsis: In this beloved musical, pompous phonetics professor Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison) is so sure of his abilities that he takes it upon himself to transform a Cockney working-class girl into someone who can pass for a cultured member of high society. His subject turns out to be the lovely Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn), who agrees to speech lessons to improve her job prospects. Higgins and Eliza clash, then form an unlikely bond -- one that is threatened by an aristocratic suitor (Jeremy Brett).

(Photo by George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images)


Best actor: Lee Marvin

Film(s): "Cat Ballou"
Film Smart Rating: 87.23
Role in film: Kid Shelleen, Tim Strawn

Synopsis: When hired gun Tim Strawn (Lee Marvin) kills her rancher father, Cat Ballou (Jane Fonda) becomes an outlaw set on vengeance. Enlisting the help of washed-up gunslinger Kid Shelleen (also Marvin) as well as the handsome bandit Clay Boone (Michael Callan), Cat strikes back at the land-development company that employed Strawn, and eventually targets the assassin himself. Adding to the lively comedic mood of the film are narrative song performances by Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye.

Photo Credit : Getty 


Best actor: Paul Scofield

Film(s): "A Man for All Seasons"
Film Smart Rating: 90.09
Role in film: Sir Thomas More

Synopsis: When the highly respected British statesman Sir Thomas More (Paul Scofield) refuses to pressure the Pope into annulling the marriage of King Henry VIII (Robert Shaw) and his Spanish-born wife, More's clashes with the monarch increase in intensity. A devout Catholic, More stands by his religious principles and moves to leave the royal court. Unfortunately, the King and his loyalists aren't appeased by this, and press forward with grave charges of treason, further testing More's resolve.

 (Photo by ?? John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)


Best actor: Rod Steiger

Film(s): "In the Heat of the Night"
Film Smart Rating: 92.18
Role in film: Police Chief Bill Gillespie

Synopsis: African-American Philadelphia police detective Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier) is arrested on suspicion of murder by Bill Gillespie (Rod Steiger), the racist police chief of tiny Sparta, Mississippi. After Tibbs proves not only his own innocence but that of another man, he joins forces with Gillespie to track down the real killer. Their investigation takes them through every social level of the town, with Tibbs making enemies as well as unlikely friends as he hunts for the truth.

 (Photo by United Artists/Getty Images)


Best actor: Cliff Robertson

Film(s): "Charly"
Film Smart Rating: 83.26
Role in film: Charly Gordon

Synopsis: Charly Gordon (Cliff Robertson), who has an IQ of 69, is constantly derided by his boss and fellow employees at the bakery where he works. His efforts to read and write prove fruitless. But when Dr. Straus (Lilia Skala) offers Charly an opportunity to participate in a radical medical experiment, he becomes a certified genius. The newly educated Charly develops feelings for his teacher, Alice Kinian (Claire Bloom), but their happiness is threatened by an unforeseen complication.

 (Photo by ?? John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)


Best actor: John Wayne

Film(s): "True Grit"
Film Smart Rating: 90.22
Role in film: Reuben "Rooster" Cogburn

Synopsis: After hired hand Tom Chaney (Jeff Corey) murders the father of 14-year-old Mattie Ross (Kim Darby), she seeks vengeance and hires U.S. Marshal "Rooster" Cogburn (John Wayne), a man of "true grit," to track Chaney into Indian territory. As the two begin their pursuit, a Texas Ranger, La Boeuf (Glen Campbell), joins the manhunt in hopes of capturing Chaney for the murder of a Texas senator and collecting a substantial reward. The three clash on their quest of bringing to justice the same man.

 (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)


Best actor: George C. Scott (refused award)

Film(s): "Patton"
Film Smart Rating: 93.65
Role in film: General George S. Patton Jr.

Synopsis: Biography of controversial World War II hero General George S. Patton. The film covers his wartime activities and accomplishments, beginning with his entry into the North African campaign and ending with his removal from command after his outspoken criticism of U.S. post-war military strategy.

(Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)


Best actor: Gene Hackman

Film(s): "The French Connection"
Film Smart Rating: 93.87
Role in film: Detective Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle

Synopsis: New York Detective "Popeye" Doyle (Gene Hackman) and his partner (Roy Scheider) chase a French heroin smuggler.

 (Photo by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)


Best actor: Marlon Brando (refused award)

Film(s): "The Godfather"
Film Smart Rating: 100
Role in film: Vito Corleone

Synopsis: Widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time, this mob drama, based on Mario Puzo's novel of the same name, focuses on the powerful Italian-American crime family of Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando). When the don's youngest son, Michael (Al Pacino), reluctantly joins the Mafia, he becomes involved in the inevitable cycle of violence and betrayal. Although Michael tries to maintain a normal relationship with his wife, Kay (Diane Keaton), he is drawn deeper into the family business.

(Photo by Paramount Pictures/Courtesy of Getty Images)


Best actor: Jack Lemmon

Film(s): "Save the Tiger"
Film Smart Rating: 86.24
Role in film: Harry Stoner

Synopsis: Clothing manufacturer Harry Stoner (Jack Lemmon) mourns the loss of his youthful idealism even as he seals his fate by arranging to have an arsonist (Thayer David) torch his faltering factory for the insurance settlement. Stoner's conflicts with himself, his business partner (Jack Gilford), his distant wife (Patricia Smith) and a demanding client (Norman Burton) boil over during a nightmarish presentation at a fashion show, while a free-spirited hippie girl (Laurie Heineman) offers escape.

(Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)


Best actor: Art Carney

Film(s): "Harry and Tonto"
Film Smart Rating: 89.72
Role in film: Harry Coombes

Synopsis: Harry Coombes (Art Carney) is a man in his seventies who is evicted from his Manhattan apartment when the building is set to be demolished. After staying briefly with his son Burt (Phil Bruns), Harry decides to travel across the country, accompanied by his cat, Tonto, to visit his other grown children. However, his visits to a former love (Geraldine Fitzgerald), his daughter, Shirley (Ellen Burstyn) in Chicago, and his youngest son, Eddie (Larry Hagman), in Los Angeles, defy his expectations.

(Photo by 20th Century-Fox/Getty Images)


Best actor: Jack Nicholson

Film(s): "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"
Film Smart Rating: 95.31
Role in film: Randle Patrick "Mac" McMurphy

Synopsis: When Randle Patrick McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) gets transferred for evaluation from a prison farm to a mental institution, he assumes it will be a less restrictive environment. But the martinet Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) runs the psychiatric ward with an iron fist, keeping her patients cowed through abuse, medication and sessions of electroconvulsive therapy. The battle of wills between the rebellious McMurphy and the inflexible Ratched soon affects all the ward's patients.

(Photo by Mondadori Portfolio by Getty Images)


Best actor: Peter Finch (posthumous win)

Film(s): "Network"
Film Smart Rating: 92.12
Role in film: Howard Beale

Synopsis: In this lauded satire, veteran news anchorman Howard Beale (Peter Finch) discovers that he's being put out to pasture, and he's none too happy about it. After threatening to shoot himself on live television, instead he launches into an angry televised rant, which turns out to be a huge ratings boost for the UBS network. This stunt allows ambitious producer Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway) to develop even more outrageous programming, a concept that she takes to unsettling extremes.

 (Photo by MGM Studios/Courtesy of Getty Images)


Best actor: Richard Dreyfuss

Film(s): "The Goodbye Girl"
Film Smart Rating: 89.74
Role in film: Elliot Garfield

Synopsis: Former Broadway hoofer Paula McFadden (Marsha Mason) and her young daughter, Lucy (Quinn Cummings), are outraged to find that Paula's former lover has fled to Europe and subleased their apartment to hyper Chicago actor Elliot Garfield (Richard Dreyfuss). Neither Marsha nor Elliot is prepared to acknowledge the other's right to the apartment, but they reluctantly agree to share it. Despite their opposite natures and constant bickering, when Elliot's play fails, Marsha is surprisingly affected.

(Photo by Warner Brothers/Getty Images)


Best actor: Jon Voight

Film(s): "Coming Home"
Film Smart Rating: 88.87
Role in film: Luke Martin

Synopsis: The wife of a Marine serving in Vietnam, Sally Hyde (Jane Fonda) decides to volunteer at a local veterans hospital to occupy her time. There she meets Luke Martin (Jon Voight), a frustrated wheelchair-bound vet who has become disillusioned with the war. Sally and Luke develop a friendship that soon turns into a romance, but when her husband, Bob (Bruce Dern), returns unexpectedly, she must decide between staying with him and pursuing her new love.

 (Photo by Herbert Dorfman/Corbis via Getty Images)


Best actor: Dustin Hoffman

Film(s): "Kramer vs. Kramer"
Film Smart Rating: 91.55
Role in film: Ted Kramer

Synopsis: On the same day Manhattan advertising executive Ted Kramer (Dustin Hoffman) lands the biggest account of his career, he learns that his wife, Joanna (Meryl Streep), is leaving him and their young son, Billy (Justin Henry). Forced to raise his son alone, Ted loses his job but gains a stronger relationship with the child with the help of another single parent, Margaret (Jane Alexander). When Joanna returns to claim custody of Billy, the ensuing court battle takes a toll on everyone concerned.

 (Photo by Columbia Pictures/Getty Images)


Best actor: Robert De Niro

Film(s): "Raging Bull"
Film Smart Rating: 94.56
Role in film: Jake LaMotta

Synopsis: The story of a middleweight boxer as he rises through ranks to earn his first shot at the middleweight crown. He falls in love with a gorgeous girl from the Bronx. The inability to express his feelings enters into the ring and eventually takes over his life. He eventually is sent into a downward spiral that costs him everything.

(Photo by United Artists/Archive Photos/Getty Images)


Best actor: Henry Fonda

Film(s): "On Golden Pond"
Film Smart Rating: 90.85
Role in film: Norman Thayer Jr.

Synopsis: Cantankerous retiree Norman Thayer (Henry Fonda) and his conciliatory wife, Ethel (Katharine Hepburn), spend summers at their New England vacation home on the shores of idyllic Golden Pond. This year, their adult daughter, Chelsea (Jane Fonda), visits with her new fiancée and his teenage son, Billy (Doug McKeon) on their way to Europe. After leaving Billy behind to bond with Norman, Chelsea returns, attempting to repair the long-strained relationship with her aging father before it's too late.

Photo Credit: Bettmann via Getty


Best actor: Ben Kingsley

Film(s): "Gandhi"
Film Smart Rating: 91.9
Role in film: Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Synopsis: This acclaimed biographical drama presents major events in the life of Mohandas Gandhi (Ben Kingsley), the beloved Indian leader who stood against British rule over his country. Dedicated to the concept of nonviolent resistance, Gandhi is initially dismissed by English officials, including the influential Lord Irwin (John Gielgud), but eventually he and his cause become internationally renowned, and his gatherings of passive protest move India towards independence.

 (Photo by Nancy Moran/Sygma via Getty Images)


Best actor: Robert Duvall

Film(s): "Tender Mercies"
Film Smart Rating: 89.44
Role in film: Mac Sledge

Synopsis: Down-on-his-luck country singer Mac Sledge (Robert Duvall) has nowhere to turn when he wakes up in a motel, short on cash. So he takes a job from Rosa Lee (Tess Harper), the kindly widow who runs the place. Mac begins to fall for Rosa, who helps him confront his drinking, and also finds an unexpected bond with Rosa's young son (Allan Hubbard). When the opportunity for a career comeback surfaces, Mac must choose between his new life and the life he let slip through his hands.

 (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)


Best actor: F. Murray Abraham

Film(s): "Amadeus"
Film Smart Rating: 94.75
Role in film: Antonio Salieri

Synopsis: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce) is a remarkably talented young Viennese composer who unwittingly finds a fierce rival in the disciplined and determined Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham). Resenting Mozart for both his hedonistic lifestyle and his undeniable talent, the highly religious Salieri is gradually consumed by his jealousy and becomes obsessed with Mozart's downfall, leading to a devious scheme that has dire consequences for both men.

 (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)


Best actor: William Hurt

Film(s): "Kiss of the Spider Woman"
Film Smart Rating: 88.48
Role in film: Luis Molina

Synopsis: In a prison cell somewhere in Latin America, two very different men warily confront each other. Molina (William Hurt) is first seen wrapping his head in a towel, in the shape of a turban, while Valentin (Raul Julia), bearded and classically macho in appearance, watches with a mixture of fascination and revulsion. During the time spent together, the two men come to understand and respect each other.

 (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) 


Best actor: Paul Newman

Film(s): "The Color of Money"
Film Smart Rating: 86.46
Role in film: Fast Eddie Felson

Synopsis: Former pool hustler "Fast Eddie" Felson (Paul Newman) decides he wants to return to the game by taking a pupil. He meets talented but green Vincent Lauria (Tom Cruise) and proposes a partnership. As they tour pool halls, Eddie teaches Vincent the tricks of scamming, but he eventually grows frustrated with Vincent's showboat antics, leading to an argument and a falling-out. Eddie takes up playing again and soon crosses paths with Vincent as an opponent.

 (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)


Best actor: Michael Douglas

Film(s): "Wall Street"
Film Smart Rating: 86.14
Role in film: Gordon Gekko

Synopsis: On the Wall Street of the 1980s, Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) is a stockbroker full of ambition, doing whatever he can to make his way to the top. Admiring the power of the unsparing corporate raider Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), Fox entices Gekko into mentoring him by providing insider trading. As Fox becomes embroiled in greed and underhanded schemes, his decisions eventually threaten the livelihood of his scrupulous father (Martin Sheen). Faced with this dilemma, Fox questions his loyalties.

 (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)


Best actor: Dustin Hoffman

Film(s): "Rain Man"
Film Smart Rating: 92.1
Role in film: Raymond Babbitt

Synopsis: When car dealer Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) learns that his estranged father has died, he returns home to Cincinnati, where he discovers that he has an autistic older brother named Raymond (Dustin Hoffman) and that his father's $3 million fortune is being left to the mental institution in which Raymond lives. Motivated by his father's money, Charlie checks Raymond out of the facility in order to return with him to Los Angeles. The brothers' cross-country trip ends up changing both their lives.

(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)


Best actor: Daniel Day-Lewis

Film(s): "My Left Foot"
Film Smart Rating: 92.14
Role in film: Christy Brown

Synopsis: No one expects much from Christy Brown (Daniel Day-Lewis), a boy with cerebral palsy born into a working-class Irish family. Though Christy is a spastic quadriplegic and essentially paralyzed, a miraculous event occurs when, at the age of 5, he demonstrates control of his left foot by using chalk to scrawl a word on the floor. With the help of his steely mother (Brenda Fricker) -- and no shortage of grit and determination -- Christy overcomes his infirmity to become a painter, poet and author.

(Photo by CHRISTOPHE D YVOIRE/Sygma via Getty Images)


Best actor: Jeremy Irons

Film(s): "Reversal of Fortune"
Film Smart Rating: 89.51
Role in film: Claus von Bülow

Synopsis: When socialite Sunny von Bülow (Glenn Close) inexplicably slips into an irreversible coma, police suspect foul play -- and the obvious suspect is her urbane husband, Claus (Jeremy Irons). After being found guilty of murder, Claus is granted a retrial and hires showboat Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz (Ron Silver) to represent him. Though unconvinced of Claus' innocence, Dershowitz enjoys a challenge and -- along with a group of his students -- fights to have the verdict overturned.

 (Photo by Warner Brothers/Getty Images)


Best actor: Anthony Hopkins

Film(s): "The Silence of the Lambs"
Film Smart Rating: 96.37
Role in film: Dr. Hannibal Lecter

Synopsis: Jodie Foster stars as Clarice Starling, a top student at the FBI's training academy. Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) wants Clarice to interview Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), a brilliant psychiatrist who is also a violent psychopath, serving life behind bars for various acts of murder and cannibalism. Crawford believes that Lecter may have insight into a case and that Starling, as an attractive young woman, may be just the bait to draw him out.

 (Credit : Phil Bray/ Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures)


Best actor: Al Pacino

Film(s): "Scent of a Woman"
Film Smart Rating: 90.81
Role in film: Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade

Synopsis: Frank is a retired Lt. Col. in the U.S. army. He's blind and impossible to get along with. Charlie is at school and is looking forward to going to college. To help pay for a trip home for Christmas, he agrees to look after Frank over Thanksgiving. Frank's niece says this will be easy money, but she didn't reckon on Frank spending his Thanksgiving in New York.

(Photo by Barry King/Liaison)


Best actor: Al Pacino

Film(s): "Scent of a Woman"
Film Smart Rating: 90.81
Role in film: Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade

Synopsis: Frank is a retired Lt. Col. in the U.S. army. He's blind and impossible to get along with. Charlie is at school and is looking forward to going to college. To help pay for a trip home for Christmas, he agrees to look after Frank over Thanksgiving. Frank's niece says this will be easy money, but she didn't reckon on Frank spending his Thanksgiving in New York.

 (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)


Best actor: Tom Hanks

Film(s): "Forrest Gump"
Film Smart Rating: 95.86
Role in film: Forrest Gump

Synopsis: Slow-witted Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) has never thought of himself as disadvantaged, and thanks to his supportive mother (Sally Field), he leads anything but a restricted life. Whether dominating on the gridiron as a college football star, fighting in Vietnam or captaining a shrimp boat, Forrest inspires people with his childlike optimism. But one person Forrest cares about most may be the most difficult to save -- his childhood love, the sweet but troubled Jenny (Robin Wright).

 (Photo by MEGA/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)


Best actor: Nicolas Cage

Film(s): "Leaving Las Vegas"
Film Smart Rating: 91.57
Role in film: Ben Sanderson

Synopsis: Adapted from the novel by John O'Brien, this acclaimed drama follows alcoholic screenwriter Ben Sanderson (Nicolas Cage) as he drinks himself into oblivion in Las Vegas. When Ben meets the beautiful prostitute Sera (Elisabeth Shue), they strike up an unconventional relationship -- one where she can't ask him to curb his drinking, and he can't fault her for her job. Though they offer each other support, Ben's self-destruction threatens to eclipse their bond.

 (Photo by ?? Steve Starr/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)


Best actor: Geoffrey Rush

Film(s): "Shine"
Film Smart Rating: 92.38
Role in film: David Helfgott

Synopsis: As a child piano prodigy, David Helfgott's (Geoffrey Rush) musical ambitions generate friction with his overbearing father, Peter (Armin Mueller-Stahl). When Helfgott travels to London on a musical scholarship, his career as a pianist blossoms. However, the pressures of his newfound fame, coupled with the echoes of his tumultuous childhood, conspire to bring Helfgott's latent schizophrenia boiling to the surface, and he spends years in and out of various mental institutions.

Photo Credit: Reuters 


Best actor: Jack Nicholson

Film(s): "As Good as It Gets"
Film Smart Rating: 88.84
Role in film: Melvin Udall

Synopsis: Melvin Udall (Jack Nicholson) is an obsessive-compulsive writer of romantic fiction who's rude to everyone he meets, including his gay neighbor Simon (Greg Kinnear), but when he has to look after Simon's dog, he begins to soften and, if still not completely over his problems, finds he can conduct a relationship with the only waitress (Helen Hunt) at the local diner who'll serve him.

(Photo by TriStar Pictures/Getty Images)


Best actor: Roberto Benigni

Film(s): "Life Is Beautiful"
Film Smart Rating: 57.05
Role in film: Guido Orefice

Synopsis: A gentle Jewish-Italian waiter, Guido Orefice (Roberto Benigni), meets Dora (Nicoletta Braschi), a pretty schoolteacher, and wins her over with his charm and humor. Eventually they marry and have a son, Giosue (Giorgio Cantarini). Their happiness is abruptly halted, however, when Guido and Giosue are separated from Dora and taken to a concentration camp. Determined to shelter his son from the horrors of his surroundings, Guido convinces Giosue that their time in the camp is merely a game.

(Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)


Best actor: Kevin Spacey

Film(s): "American Beauty"
Film Smart Rating: 95.43
Role in film: Lester Burnham

Synopsis: Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) is a gainfully employed suburban husband and father. Fed up with his boring, stagnant existence, he quits his job and decides to reinvent himself as a pot-smoking, responsibility-shirking teenager. What follows is at once cynical, hysterical and, eventually, tragically uplifting.

(Photo by DreamWorks SKG/Getty Images)


Best actor: Russell Crowe

Film(s): "Gladiator"
Film Smart Rating: 92.85
Role in film: Maximus Decimus Meridius

Synopsis: Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) takes power and strips rank from Maximus (Russell Crowe), one of the favored generals of his predecessor and father, Emperor Marcus Aurelius, the great stoical philosopher. Maximus is then relegated to fighting to the death in the gladiator arenas.

 (Photo by Universal/Getty Images)


Best actor: Denzel Washington

Film(s): "Training Day"
Film Smart Rating: 88.27
Role in film: Detective Alonzo Harris

Synopsis: "Training Day" is a police drama about a veteran officer who escorts a rookie on his first day with the LAPD's tough inner-city narcotics unit. The film is a blistering action drama that asks the audience to decide what is necessary, what is heroic and what crosses the line in the harrowing gray zone of fighting urban crime. Does law-abiding law enforcement come at the expense of justice and public safety? If so, do we demand safe streets at any cost?

(Photo by Warner Brothers/Getty Images)


Best actor: Adrien Brody

Film(s): "The Pianist"
Film Smart Rating: 95.09
Role in film: Władysław Szpilman

Synopsis: In this adaptation of the autobiography "The Pianist: The Extraordinary True Story of One Man's Survival in Warsaw, 1939-1945," Władysław Szpilman (Adrien Brody), a Polish-Jewish radio station pianist, sees Warsaw change gradually as World War II begins. Szpilman is forced into the Warsaw Ghetto, but is later separated from his family during Operation Reinhard. From this time until the concentration camp prisoners are released, Szpilman hides in various locations among the ruins of Warsaw.

(Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)


Best actor: Sean Penn

Film(s): "Mystic River"
Film Smart Rating: 92.98
Role in film: Jimmy Markum

Synopsis: When the daughter (Emmy Rossum) of ex-con Jimmy Marcus (Sean Penn) is murdered, two of his childhood friends from the neighborhood are involved. Dave (Tim Robbins), a blue-collar worker, was the last person to see her alive, while Sean (Kevin Bacon), a homicide detective, is heading up the case. As Sean proceeds with his investigation, Jimmy conducts one of his own through neighborhood contacts. Eventually, Jimmy suspects Dave is the culprit and considers taking the law into his own hands.

(Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)


Best actor: Jamie Foxx

Film(s): "Ray"
Film Smart Rating: 90.45
Role in film: Ray Charles

Synopsis: Legendary soul musician Ray Charles is portrayed by Jamie Foxx in this Oscar-winning biopic. Young Ray watches his 7-year-old brother drown at age seven. When he loses his sight at the age of 9, his hardworking mother (Sharon Warren) urges him not to feel sorry for himself. He rises through the ranks of the Seattle jazz scene, struggling with drug addiction and infidelity while on the road. Supported by his wife (Kerry Washington), Ray Charles redefines soul music and inspires a generation.



Best actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman

Film(s): "Capote"
Film Smart Rating: 91.58
Role in film: Truman Capote

Synopsis: Reading of the murder of a Kansas family, New York City novelist Truman Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman) decides to cover the story himself, and travels to the small town with his childhood friend, aspiring novelist Harper Lee (Catherine Keener). When Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.) and Dick Hickock (Mark Pellegrino) are arrested and charged, Capote forms an emotional bond with Smith during his jailhouse interviews despite the young criminal's apparent guilt.



Photo Credit: Reuters


Best actor: Forest Whitaker

Film(s): "The Last King of Scotland"
Film Smart Rating: 89.22
Role in film: Idi Amin

Synopsis: While in Uganda on a medical mission, Scottish doctor Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy) becomes the personal physician and close confidante of dictator Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker). Although at first Dr. Garrigan feels flattered by his new position of power, he soon comes to realize that Amin's rule is soaked in blood, and that he is complicit in the atrocities. Garrigan faces the fight of his life as he tries to escape Amin's grasp.

 REUTERS/Gary Hershorn 


Best actor: Daniel Day-Lewis

Film(s): "There Will Be Blood"
Film Smart Rating: 93.82
Role in film: Daniel Plainview

Synopsis: Silver miner Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) leads a hardscrabble life with his son, H.W. (Dillon Freasier). When he hears about oil oozing from the ground near the Western town of Little Boston, Daniel takes his son on a mission to find their fortune. Daniel makes his lucky strike and becomes a self-made tycoon but, as his fortune grows, he deviates into moral bankruptcy.

(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)


Best actor: Sean Penn

Film(s): "Milk"
Film Smart Rating: 92.51
Role in film: Harvey Milk

Synopsis: In 1972, Harvey Milk (Sean Penn) and his then-lover Scott Smith leave New York for San Francisco, with Milk determined to accomplish something meaningful in his life. Settling in the Castro District, he opens a camera shop and helps transform the area into a mecca for gays and lesbians. In 1977 he becomes the nation's first openly gay man elected to a notable public office when he wins a seat on the Board of Supervisors. The following year, Dan White (Josh Brolin) kills Milk in cold blood.

 REUTERS/Mike Blake 


Best actor: Jeff Bridges

Film(s): "Crazy Heart"
Film Smart Rating: 88.67
Role in film: Otis "Bad" Blake

Synopsis: With too many years of hazy days and boozy nights, former country-music legend Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) is reduced to playing dives and bowling alleys. In town for his latest gig, Blake meets Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a sympathetic reporter who has come to do a story on him. He unexpectedly warms to her and a romance begins, then the singer finds himself at a crossroads that may threaten his last shot at happiness.

REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson 


Best actor: Colin Firth

Film(s): "The King's Speech"
Film Smart Rating: 94.69
Role in film: King George VI

Synopsis: England's Prince Albert (Colin Firth) must ascend the throne as King George VI, but he has a speech impediment. Knowing that the country needs her husband to be able to communicate effectively, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) hires Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), an Australian actor and speech therapist, to help him overcome his stammer. An extraordinary friendship develops between the two men, as Logue uses unconventional means to teach the monarch how to speak with confidence.

(Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)


Best actor: Jean Dujardin

Film(s): "The Artist"
Film Smart Rating: 93.49
Role in film: George Valentin

Synopsis: In the 1920s, actor George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is a bona fide matinee idol with many adoring fans. While working on his latest film, George finds himself falling in love with an ingenue named Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) and, what's more, it seems Peppy feels the same way. But George is reluctant to cheat on his wife with the beautiful young actress. The growing popularity of sound in movies further separates the potential lovers, as George's career begins to fade while Peppy's star rises.

REUTERS/ Mike Blake 


Best actor: Daniel Day-Lewis

Film(s): "Lincoln"
Film Smart Rating: 91.86
Role in film: Abraham Lincoln

Synopsis: With the nation embroiled in still another year with the high death count of Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) brings the full measure of his passion, humanity and political skill to what would become his defining legacy: to end the war and permanently abolish slavery through the 13th Amendment. Having great courage, acumen and moral fortitude, Lincoln pushes forward to compel the nation, and those in government who oppose him, to aim toward a greater good for all mankind.

(Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)


Best actor: Matthew McConaughey

Film(s): "Dallas Buyers Club"
Film Smart Rating: 93.56
Role in film: Ron Woodroof

Synopsis: In mid-1980s Texas, electrician Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) is stunned to learn that he has AIDS. Though told that he has just 30 days left to live, Woodroof refuses to give in to despair. He seeks out alternative therapies and smuggles unapproved drugs into the U.S. from wherever he can find them. Woodroof joins forces with a fellow AIDS patient (Jared Leto) and begins selling the treatments to the growing number of people who can't wait for the medical establishment to save them.

(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)


Best actor: Eddie Redmayne

Film(s): "The Theory of Everything"
Film Smart Rating: 90.44
Role in film: Stephen Hawking

Synopsis: In the 1960s, Cambridge University student and future physicist Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) falls in love with fellow collegian Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones). At 21, Hawking learns that he has motor neuron disease. Despite this — and with Jane at his side — he begins an ambitious study of time, of which he has very little left, according to his doctor. He and Jane defy terrible odds and break new ground in the fields of medicine and science, achieving more than either could hope to imagine.

REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson 


Best actor: Leonardo DiCaprio

Film(s): "The Revenant"
Film Smart Rating: 92.01
Role in film: Hugh Glass

Synopsis: While exploring the uncharted wilderness in 1823, frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) sustains life-threatening injuries from a brutal bear attack. When a member (Tom Hardy) of his hunting team kills his young son (Forrest Goodluck) and leaves him for dead, Glass must utilize his survival skills to find a way back to civilization. Grief-stricken and fueled by vengeance, the legendary fur trapper treks through the snowy terrain to track down the man who betrayed him.

 (Photo credit should read ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)

PrettyFamous, an entertainment data site by Graphiq, looked back at the best actor award winners each year since 1929. The data experts also included each actor's Actor Score for context. This is a score out of 100 that takes into account the total number of IMDb ratings for the TV shows and movies an actor has appeared in, an actor's Wikipedia page views over the past 30 days and the total number of award nominations an actor has received. Also noted is the movie the actor won for and its Smart Rating -- a score out of 100 that takes into account a movie's IMDb rating, Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer and Audience Score, Gracenote rating, Metacritic Metascore and the inflation-adjusted U.S. box office gross.

From legends like Clark Gable to new Hollywood royalty like Eddie Redmayne, each leading man represented the best work of the year -- and for some of the greats, their influence would last for decades to come.

Note: Movie descriptions were sourced (with minor edits) from Gracenote.

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