The actors who have won the most Oscars

For most actors, winning an Oscar is seen as the absolute pinnacle of a Hollywood career. For a select group of performers, though, one simply isn’t enough.

There have been 44 different actors to have won multiple awards, the first coming in 1937 when Luise Rainer became the original two-time Oscar darling.

Some manage to win every time they are nominated. Others, such as the inimitable Meryl Streep, have careers peppered with nominations, winning only when the so-called narrative dictates.

In 2021, Anthony Hopkins took home his second statuette, for his role in The Father. The year before, Renée Zellweger took home her second Oscar after playing Judy Garland in Judy.

In 2020, Mahershala Ali picked up his second Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Best Picture winner Green Book. He previously won for Moonlight in 2017.

Here are the actors with the most Oscar wins.

Anthony Hopkins

Anthony Hopkins picked up his second Oscar for The Father, beating the late Chadwick Boseman in a shock victory in 2021. Hopkins, who was unable to attend the ceremony in person, had previously won for his chilling portrayal of serial killer Hannibal Lector in Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs.

Renee Zellweger

Renée Zellweger won her second Oscar for portraying Judy Garland in 2019’s Judy. The actor had previously won a Best Supporting Actress award for her role in Cold Mountain, back in 2004.

Mahershala Ali

Mahershala Ali became the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar after taking home best Supporting Actor his Barry Jenkins' Moonlight. Two years later, he'd win the same trophy for eventual Best Picture winner, Green Book.

Christoph Waltz

Christoph Waltz is known for his collaborations with Quentin Tarantino (AFP/Getty)
Christoph Waltz is known for his collaborations with Quentin Tarantino (AFP/Getty)

It was the Austrian-born actor’s long-running collaboration with controversial filmmaker Quentin Tarantino that brought him to the mainstream public consciousness. In Inglourious Basterds, Waltz plays terrifying Nazi colonel Hans Landa, while in Django Unchained, he seems a world apart playing benevolent dentist-cum-bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz. Both roles were rewarded with Oscars for Best Supporting Actor.

Kevin Spacey

Spacey won two Oscars, for The Usual Suspects in 1996 and American Beauty in 2000. After numerous allegations of sexual assault emerged in 2017, the actor was removed from the Ridley Scott film All the Money in the World, and Christopher Plummer was given a Best Supporting Actor nomination after reshooting Spacey’s scenes in his stead.

Hilary Swank

TV-New Season (© 2021 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.)
TV-New Season (© 2021 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Swank won two awards for Best Actress, for Boys Don’t Cry and Million Dollar Baby. Accepting the award for the former, Swank neglected to thank her then-husband, Chad Lowe. Girls star Lena Dunham would later thank Lowe when she received a Golden Globe in 2013, tweeting that she did it “because Hilary Swank forgot.”

Vivien Leigh

Leigh’s performances as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind in 1939 and as Blanche DuBois in the Tennessee Willimas adaptation A Streetcar Named Desire in 1951 stand as two of the most iconic in film history. The actress was fittingly rewarded for the roles, taking home a Best Actress trophy each time.

Dianne Wiest

Wiest appeared in five films by writer-director Woody Allen, winning Best Supporting Actress awards for her roles in Hannah and Her Sisters and Bullets Over Broadway. She is currently a regular on the CBS sit-com Life in Pieces.

Peter Ustinov

Peter Ustinov (Getty)
Peter Ustinov (Getty)

Ustinov was a highly acclaimed performer – with two Academy Awards to his name, for Spartacus and Topkapi – but was in no way limited to acting. Ustinov held a panoply of other occupations, including as a writer, a dramatist, a filmmaker, a director of theatre and opera, a humorist, a newspaper columnist, a radio broadcaster and a TV presenter.

Jason Robards

The son of a stage and silent film actor who was a victim of Hollywood’s transition to sound, Jason Robards was blessed with more success in the industry, eventually winning two Academy Awards. The actor appeared in numerous stage and screen adaptations of Eugene O’Neill plays, but it was his work in All the President’s Men that bagged him his first Best Supporting Actor statuette, doubling his tally the next year, in 1977, with Julia.

Melvyn Douglas

Douglas won two Oscars, for Hud (1963) and for acting alongside a revelatory Peter Sellers in Being There (1969). The actor was known for being an outspoken anti-fascist ever since visiting Europe in 1931 with his wife, Helen Gahagan, who served three terms as a US Congresswoman, running against Richard Nixon for Governor in 1950.

Shelley Winters

Over the course of her 63-year career, Winters appeared in successful blockbusters such as The Poseidon Adventure. But it was her more nuanced supporting roles in 1960’s The Diary of Anne Frank and 1965’s A Patch of Blue that would win over Academy voters, for which she collected two awards in the category.

Anthony Quinn

Quinn is something of an anomaly in the ranks of multiple Oscar-winners. The actor was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, in 1915, to a Mexican mother and an Irish father, and is one of one only five actors with a Latin-American background to win an acting Oscar – the others being Rita Moreno, José Ferrer, Mercedes Ruehl, and Benicio del Toro – and the only one to win twice. Roma nominees Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira are in contention this year.

Glenda Jackson

Glenda Jackson (PA)
Glenda Jackson (PA)

Jackson was one of the most accomplished actors of her generation, with two Best Actress wins under her belt by the age of 37 (for Women in Love and A Touch of Class). But starting in 1992, she took a 23-year sabbatical from the industry, serving as the Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn.

Maggie Smith

Long before she was captivating younger audiences with her roles in the Harry Potter franchise and popular TV series Downton Abbey, Dame Maggie Smith had wowed Oscar voters with The Prime of Miss Jean Brody (1969), adding a Best Supporting Actress win for California Suite in 1978.

Bette Davis

Davis won her only two Best Actress Oscars in 1935 and 1938 – for Dangerous and Jezebel respectively –but over the course of her hugely successful six-decade career, she would continue to accrue more nominations, eventually becoming the first actor to reach a milestone of 10.

Fredric March

Along with Helen Hayes, March is one of only two actors to win two Oscars and two Tony Awards. The multi-talented star won Best Actor for the bifurcated titular role in 1931’s horror adaptation Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, winning again in 1946 for The Best Years of Our Lives, a post-WWII drama about soldiers returning home from the war.

Sally Field

Sally Field (AFP/Getty)
Sally Field (AFP/Getty)

Field’s Oscar win for Places in the Heart in 1985 has been immortalised by her acceptance speech – which included the infamous lines “you like me, right now, you really like me” - but the actor had already proven she was more than just a soundbite having won the same trophy for her star turn in Norma Rae five years earlier.

Elizabeth Taylor

Taylor gained 30 pounds for the 1966 black comedy Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, a film which sees her trapped in a poisonous marriage with a character played by her off-and-on real-life paramour Richard Burton. The star had previously nabbed a Best Actress award for her portrayal of a sex worker in BUtterfield 8, a film she claimed to dislike.

Sean Penn

After scooping up the Best Actor prize in 2003 for Mystic River, Penn won another for portraying iconic LGBT campaigner and US politician Harvey Milk, who was assassinated in 1978. Penn opened his victory speech with “Thank you. Thank you. You commie, homo-loving sons-of-guns!”

Frances McDormand

Fargo Oscar-winner McDormand delivered a rousing address at the 2018 Oscar ceremony, demanding an end to Hollywood’s gender imbalance. The speech, made while accepting her second Best Actress prize - for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri - brought all the women in the audience to their feet in solidarity. She ended her speech with the phrase “inclusion rider,” a stipulation that can be put into a performer’s contract to ensure equal opportunity hiring on set. McDormand subsequently won again in 2021 for her leading turn in Nomadland.

Gene Hackman

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Hackman won his first Oscar playing “Popeye” Doyle in William Friedkin’s The French Connection – a taboo-busting cop thriller that was hardly the stuff of Academy tradition. 19 years later, his supporting turn as the villain in Clint Eastwood’s revisionist Western Unforgiven made it a double.

Tom Hanks

Hanks made his name in romantic comedies with some successes in the 1980s, but his first Oscar win – for AIDS drama Philadelphia - was a big departure. The next year, in 1995, he won again, for the hugely popular Forrest Gump.

Olivia de Havilland

Dame Olivia de Havilland, now 102 years old, is perhaps best known for her role in Gone with the Wind. Garnering five nominations across her career, de Havilland took home two statuettes in the 1940s, for To Each His Own and The Heiress.

Jodie Foster

Next to Luise Rainer, Jodie Foster is the only other actor to have won two Oscars before the age of 30, for The Accused in 1988, and Silence of the Lambs in 1991. It’s a fitting record for an actor whose career took off while she was still a child, with breakout roles in Bugsy Malone and Taxi Driver.

Michael Caine

Michael Caine (Getty)
Michael Caine (Getty)

Sir Michael Caine, familiar around the globe for his distinctive cockney accent, once confessed that 1983’s Educating Rita was “the last good picture I made before I mentally retired.” In spite of this, the actor managed to win Oscars for Hannah and Her Sisters in 1986 and The Cider House Rules in 1999.

Gary Cooper

Cooper won his first Best Actor Oscar in 1942 for Sergeant York. The famously stoic star didn’t turn up to collect his second award – for an understated turn in the classic Western High Noon – instead sending John Wayne, who said: “Coop and I have been friends, hunting and fishing, for more years than I like to remember. He’s one of the nicest fellows I know. I don’t know anybody any nicer.”

Jessica Lange

In 1982, Jessica Lange became the first star in nearly four decades to be nominated for two films in the same year, for Tootsie and Frances, the former of which yielded a win. Lange is currently tied as the sixth most nominated Actress in history.

Dustin Hoffman

Initially winning at the same time as co-star Meryl Streep for Kramer Vs Kramer, Hoffman’s second Best Actor Oscar came for Rain Man in 1988, in a role which has been recognised as important in raising awareness of autism.

Jane Fonda

 (Getty Images,)
(Getty Images,)

The poster girl for the flower child generation, Jane Fonda was always expected to politicise the Oscars. After an unexpectedly reserved acceptance speech for Klute in 1972, she presented part of her 1979 speech – for Coming Home – in sign language.

Robert De Niro

Following a supporting turn in 1974’s The Godfather Part II, Robert De Niro’s second Oscar-winning role, playing boxer Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull, is about as hard-earned as they come. The actor honed his boxing ability to professional standards, and gained approximately 60 pounds to play an older, washed-up version of the character.

Cate Blanchet

Film - Awards Season (© 2022 Focus Features, LLC.)
Film - Awards Season (© 2022 Focus Features, LLC.)

The Aviator is often dismissed as a minor Martin Scorsese film, but the Howard Hawks biopic won Blanchett her first Oscar in 2004. She would have to wait until Blue Jasmine seven years later - her sixth nominated performance, out of seven total - to win in the Best Actress category.

Jack Lemmon

Lemmon was legendary for his mastery of both comedy and pathos, and it was chiefly his humorous chops that saw him win Best Supporting Actor in 1955, for his role in Mister Roberts. With a follow-up win for Save the Tiger, the Some Like it Hot star became the first actor to claim Oscar wins in both the lead and supporting categories.

Marlon Brando

Eight-time Oscar nominee Brando influenced a generation of actors with his revolutionary approaches to method, winning Hollywood’s biggest prize twice in the process - for On the Waterfront (1954) and The Godfather (1974). Brando famously sent Native American actress Sacheen Littlefeather to accept his second award in protest of the industry’s representation of Native Americans. Littlefeather later revealed the protest caused her to be blacklisted by many studios.

Spencer Tracy

Spencer Tracy (Getty Images)
Spencer Tracy (Getty Images)

Spencer Tracy won two Oscars from nine nominations for Best Actor. He holds the joint record for the most nominations in the category, along with Laurence Olivier, who won only once.

Luise Rainer

Rainer has been described as the first victim of the so-called “Oscar curse”. The Austrian-American star won Best Actress twice in quick succession – for The Great Ziegfeld in 1936 and for The Good Earth in 1937 – which resulted in MGM studios eagerly miscasting her in a series of flops. This would lead to a 54-year break from cinema, before returning alongside Michael Gambon in 1997’s The Gambler.

Helen Hayes

Helen Hayes holds the record for being the actor with the longest gap between two Oscar victories. A practiced stage actress, Hayes also appeared in a few silent films before making her debut “talkie” The Sin of Madelon Claudet, for which she won Best Actress. Hayes’s next and final win would be for a supporting role in Airport, nearly 40 years later.

Denzel Washington

Denzel Washington (AP)
Denzel Washington (AP)

Denzel Washington is the only black actor to win multiple competitive Academy Awards, for Glory in 1990 – a Best Supporting Actor award - and then Training Day in 2002.

Walter Brennan

Brennan had originally started work as an extra after losing most of his money in the 1925 real estate slump, appearing (often uncredited) in over 120 films across the next decade. He would then win three Best Supporting Actor Oscars in the space of four years, for Come and Get It (1936), Kentucky (1938) and The Westerner (1940).

Walter Brennan

Brennan had originally started work as an extra after losing most of his money in the 1925 real estate slump, appearing (often uncredited) in over 120 films across the next decade. He would then win three Best Supporting Actor Oscars in the space of four years, for Come and Get It (1936), Kentucky (1938) and The Westerner (1940).

Ingrid Bergman

Ingrid Bergman, the Swedish star who successfully crossed over to Hollywood in 1939, won three Oscars during her career, beginning with Gaslight in 1944. An extra-marital affair with director Roberto Rossellini in the early 1950s scandalised her American audience, but the success of Anastasia in 1956 brought her back into the bosom of the public favour and she won a second Best Actress trophy. She added a Supporting Actress honour in 1974 for Murder on the Orient Express, one of her last film projects.

Daniel Day-Lewis

Daniel Day-Lewis (Getty Images)
Daniel Day-Lewis (Getty Images)

Sir Daniel Day-Lewis is the only male actor to win three Best Actor awards, for his roles in My Left Foot, There Will Be Blood and Lincoln. After writing himself into the annals of film history with his 2012 win for portraying the American president, Day-Lewis took a step back from the industry, appearing in only one film since – Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread - which he has claimed is his final role.

Meryl Streep

For Meryl Streep, Oscar nominations are nearly as regular as dental appointments. Streep’s name has appeared on the ballot a total of 21 times, 17 of which were in the Best Actress category, and she has won three times: for Kramer vs Kramer in 1980, Sophie’s Choice in 1983, and The Iron Lady in 2012.

Meryl Streep

For Meryl Streep, Oscar nominations are nearly as regular as dental appointments. Streep’s name has appeared on the ballot a total of 21 times, 17 of which were in the Best Actress category, and she has won three times: for Kramer vs Kramer in 1980, Sophie’s Choice in 1983, and The Iron Lady in 2012.