My look back at the major Oscar categories from 1990 to the present arrives at Best Actor today! If you missed my posts covering Actress and the Supporting races, you can find them here:
As with those previous entries, I am picking the three least surprising winners of the last 28 years, along with the three biggest upsets. Additionally, you’ll see my personal picks for strongest and weakest fields overall.
As a primer, here are the winners from 1990 to now:
1990 – Jeremy Irons, Reversal of Fortune
1991 – Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs
1992 – Al Pacino, Scent of a Woman
1993 – Tom Hanks, Philadelphia
1994 – Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump
1995 – Nicolas Cage, Leaving Las Vegas
1996 – Geoffrey Rush, Shine
1997 – Jack Nicholson, As Good As It Gets
1998 – Roberto Benigni, Life is Beautiful
1999 – Kevin Spacey, American Beauty
2000 – Russell Crowe, Gladiator
2001 – Denzel Washington, Training Day
2002 – Adrien Brody, The Pianist
2003 – Sean Penn, Mystic River
2004 – Jamie Foxx, Ray
2005 – Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote
2006 – Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland
2007 – Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
2008 – Sean Penn, Milk
2009 – Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
2010 – Colin Firth, The King’s Speech
2011 – Jean Dujardin, The Artist
2012 – Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
2013 – Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
2014 – Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
2015 – Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
2016 – Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
2017 – Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Let’s begin with the three that I’m deeming as the non-surprise winners. Whittling this down to that number was a challenge. The double wins by Hanks and Penn and even last year’s winner Oldman could’ve easily been named here, too. Here goes…
3. Al Pacino, Scent of a Woman
The legendary thespian was 0 for 6 when it came to nominations and wins entering 1992. He picked up his 7th and 8th nods that year with his supporting role in Glengarry Glen Ross and lead role as a blind former colonel in this Martin Brest directed drama. By Oscar night, it was clear he was finally going to make that trip to the podium.
2. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Like Pacino, DiCaprio had been an Academy bridesmaid before… four times. His fifth nod for The Revenant guaranteed he’d finally be a winner against weak competition (more on that below).
1. Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
I could have named the Method actor’s victory in 2007 for There Will Be Blood as well, but his win five years later as the nation’s 16th President edges it out. From the moment the Steven Spielberg project was announced, Day-Lewis was the odds on favorite and it never changed.
Now – my selections for the upsets:
3. Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs
While it might seem an obvious win nearly 30 years later, Nick Nolte’s work in The Prince of Tides had nabbed him the Golden Globe. Additionally, there was some controversy about Sir Anthony’s inclusion in the lead race due to his approximate 16 minutes of screen time. This is truly evidence of a performance so towering that it couldn’t be ignored.
2. Roberto Benigni, Life is Beautiful
The Italian director/writer/actor was an underdog against competition that included Nick Nolte (once again) for Affliction and Ian McKellen in Gods and Monsters. Mr. Benigni seemed a bit shocked himself when his name was called, as he famously bounded exuberantly to the stage.
1. Adrien Brody, The Pianist
The smart money in 2002 was with Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt or Daniel Day-Lewis in Gangs of New York. Brody’s win was pretty shocking, as was the giant smooch he planted on presenter Halle Berry.
When it comes to overall fields, I’m going recent history with both. For strongest, I’ll give it to 2012. That’s the year Day-Lewis won for Lincoln. All other nominees were rock solid as well with Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook), Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables), Joaquin Phoenix (The Master), and Denzel Washington (Flight).
For weakest, I’m picking 2015. This is the aforementioned year of DiCaprio’s overdue win. The rest of the field, however, was a bit lacking. It consisted of Bryan Cranston (Trumbo), Matt Damon (The Martian), Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs), and Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl).
And there’s your Actor look back, folks! Keep an eye out for Best Picture soon as the final post in this series…