Academy Award for Best Actor

The Academy Award for Best Actor is an award presented annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). It is given to an actor who has delivered an outstanding performance in a leading role in a film released that year. The award is traditionally presented by the previous year's Best Actress winner.

Academy Award for Best Actor
The 2021 recipient: Will Smith
Awarded forBest Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
CountryUnited States
Presented byAcademy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS)
First awarded1929 (for performance in films released during the 1927/1928 film season)
Most recent winnerWill Smith
King Richard (2022)
Most awardsDaniel Day-Lewis (3)
Most nominationsLaurence Olivier and Spencer Tracy (9)

The 1st Academy Awards were held in 1929 with Emil Jannings receiving the award for his roles in The Last Command (1928) and The Way of All Flesh (1927).[1] Currently, nominees are determined by single transferable vote within the actors branch of AMPAS; winners are selected by a plurality vote from the entire eligible voting members of the Academy.[2]

In the first three years of the awards, actors were nominated as the best in their categories. At that time, all of their work during the qualifying period (as many as three films, in some cases) was listed after the award.[3] During the third ceremony in 1930, only one of those films was cited in each winner's final award, even though each of the acting winners had two films following their names on the ballots.[4] The following year, this system was replaced by the current system in which an actor is nominated for a specific performance in a single film.[3] Starting with the ninth ceremony in 1937, the category was officially limited to five nominations per year.[3]

Since its inception, the award has been given to 84 actors. Daniel Day-Lewis has won the award a record three times. Spencer Tracy and Laurence Olivier were nominated a record nine times. Peter O'Toole is the most nominated actor in this category without a single win. James Dean is the only actor posthumously nominated more than once. Peter Finch is the only posthumous winner, for Network (1976). Italian actor Roberto Benigni gave the first winning non-English performance in Life Is Beautiful (1997). At 29, Adrien Brody of The Pianist (2002) is the youngest winner, and Anthony Hopkins, 83, is the oldest, for playing Anthony in The Father (2020).[5] As of the 94th Academy Awards, Will Smith is the most recent winner for King Richard.

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