Winning an Academy Award is no small feat. Many prominent and popular actors go their whole careers without even being nominated, let alone winning. Winning an Oscar not only heralds the actor as one of the greatest in their industry, but it also cements their names in the annals of movie history.
While most actors are lucky to win even one Academy Award, a small handful of performers have won multiple. Not only that, but they won multiple awards across multiple decades, successfully ensuring that their popularity transcends generations. There’s a reason they are considered the greatest of all time.
Updated on March 29th, 2022, by Rhys McGinley: At the 94th annual Academy Awards the long, storied careers of both Jessica Chastain and Will Smith culminated with a leading actor Oscar while Ariana Dubose and Troy Kotsur both swept up the supporting statues in their first nominations. Not all Oscar winners are first-timers, though. Forty-four performers have picked up two or more acting awards at the Oscars, and there are even some, oftentimes the elite of the elite, who have won multiple across various decades, showcasing their timeless talent as an on-screen presence.
Gone With The Wind (1939) & A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
Gone With The Wind is one of the most significant and overall biggest movies of all time, and Vivien Leigh won her first of two Oscars for her role in it, earning her Best Lead Actress statue in 1940.
Fast forward to the fifties and Leigh would have another hugely culturally significant role as Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire opposite Marlon Brando, which got her another Best Lead Actress Oscar. Leigh was only nominated twice and managed to win on both occasions.
The Accused (1988) & Silence Of The Lambs (1991)
Jodie Foster has starred in many great but underrated movies. She has also starred in some of the all-time classics, and the latter have resulted in four Academy Award nominations. Her first nomination came in 1977 for playing Iris Steensma in Taxi Driver. At the time of the ceremony, Foster was just 14 years old.
Foster’s Oscar wins came in quick succession. Her first was awarded in 1989 when she won for playing Sarah Tobias in The Accused. Her second and most recent came just a few years later in 1992, playing Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs.
Sergeant New York (1941) & High Noon (1952)
An icon of the Classical Hollywood era, Gary Cooper became known for playing strong, quiet, and often “macho” characters, like Western sheriffs. Cooper earned six Oscars nominations throughout his career and won two. The first came in 1942, for the prior year’s biopic, Sergeant York. His second and final win came just over a decade later in 1953 for High Noon (arguably his most famous movie and considered one of the best Westerns ever made).
While not counting towards this list, Cooper also received the Academy Honorary Award in 1961. He passed from cancer just one month later.
Silence Of The Lambs (1991) & The Father (2020)
Anthony Hopkins has received six Oscar nominations since 1992, starting with The Silence of the Lambs and ending with The Father. Coincidentally, those are also the two movies for which he won.
His award for Silence came in 1992, and he was awarded Best Actor for The Father nearly three decades later in 2021. The latter was also his second back-to-back acting nomination, following his role as Pope Benedict XVI in Netflix’s The Two Popes.
Robert De Niro
The Godfather Part II (1974) & Raging Bull (1980)
Robert De Niro is one of the most recognized actors in movie history, having received eight Oscar nominations between 1974 and 2019. He broke onto the scene playing Vito Corleone in The Godfather Part II, and his most recent nom came for Martin Scorsese’s gangster epic, The Irishman.
His first Oscar win was also his first nomination, winning in 1975 for The Godfather Part II (the same year Ingrid Bergman won for Murder on the Orient Express). De Niro earned his second win six years later in 1981 for playing Jake LaMotta in one of his best performances in a Scorsese movie, Raging Bull.
The Aviator (2004) & Blue Jasmine (2013)
Cate Blanchett has a career spanning over thirty wonderful years and in that time she has amassed seven Academy Awards nominations for both a lead and supporting actress, deservedly taking two of the iconic statues home.
Before taking home the Best Supporting Actress award for her role as Katharine Hepburn opposite Leonardo Di Caprio in The Aviator at the 2005 Oscars, Blanchett had been nominated for Elizabeth as the Best Leading Actress. Blanchett would take home the Best Leading Actress trophy in 2014 for her role as the titular character in Blue Jasmine. Her other nominations between both categories for her roles in Notes On A Scandal, I’m Not There, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, and, most recently, Carol.
Glory (1989) & Training Day (2001)
Well known as one of the greatest and most influential actors working today, Denzel Washington is nothing short of a legend and over the course of his career, he has accumulated nine Academy Award acting nominations and two victories.
Following his Best Supporting Actor nomination for Cry Freedom, Denzel won his first Oscar in the same category for Glory thanks to his role as Private Trip. He was then nominated for his immense lead roles in Malcolm X and The Hurricane before winning his second and latest Oscar for his leading role in Training Day in which he delivered his incomparable King Kong monologue. Since that win at the 2002 Oscars, Washington has picked up nominations for Flight, Fences, Roman J. Israel Esq, and, most recently at this year’s ceremony for The Tragedy of Macbeth. Denzel is the most nominated actor of the 21st Century thus far.
On The Waterfront (1954) & The Godfather (1972)
Widely regarded as one of the greatest actors to have ever lived, Marlon Brando’s legendary career saw him not only perform some of the most iconic roles in cinema but pick up eight Oscar nominations along the way.
Before his first victory, Brando got three Best Lead Actor nominations for A Streetcar Named Desire, Viva Zapata!, and Julius Caesar. He then won the statue for his role as Terry Malloy in Best Picture winner On The Waterfront. Brando would then be nominated for Sayonara, Last Tango In Paris, and A Dry White Season, in amongst which he won the Best Lead ctor Oscar once more for his best-known role as Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather (which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year), nearly twenty years after he first lifted the award.
Come And Get It (1936), Kentucky (1938), & The Westerner (1940)
Walter Brennan may not be as widely known as Marlon Brando, but with three Best Supporting Actor Oscars, Brennan holds more Academy Awards than the legend and was a truly brilliant character actor.
Alongside a nomination for Sergeant York, Brennan won the award for his role as Swan Bostrom in Come And Get It, Peter Goodwin in Kentucky, and The Westerner as Judge Roy Bean. Brennan won all these awards in a five-year span between two decades, a great achievement.
Fargo (1998), Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri (2017), & Nomadland (2020)
Frances McDormand is undeniably one of the greatest actresses of all time, and she has the Oscars to prove it. She has received six acting nominations throughout her career and has won three times for Best Actress. McDormand received her first award in 1997 for Fargo, playing the iconic Marge Gunderson.
After receiving no nominations throughout the 2000s, McDormand received her second Oscar in 2018 for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Her third and most current was awarded in 2021 for Nomadland.
My left Foot (1989), There Will Be Blood (2007), & Lincoln (2012)
Daniel Day-Lewis has portrayed a number of iconic cinematic characters, including Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood. And given the actor’s stellar reputation, it’s rather surprising that he has only been credited in 20 movies. Of those 20, Day-Lewis has received six acting nominations and three wins, which has to be a record hit rate.
His wins all came in different decades – first in 1990 for My Left Foot, again in 2008 for There Will Be Blood, and for the last time in 2013 for Lincoln. Unfortunately, unless Day-Lewis changes his mind, there won’t be any more in the near future, as he has since retired from acting.
Gaslight (1944), Anastasia (1956), & Murder On The Orient Express (1974)
A seasoned Swedish actress, Ingrid Bergman found incredible success not only in film but also on television and the stage. Her accolades include four Golden Globes, one Tony, one BAFTA, two Emmys, and three Academy Awards. She also received seven Oscar nominations across 30+ years.
Her first award came in 1945 with Gaslight and her second in 1957 for Anastasia. Her third and final Oscar win came in 1975 when she was recognized for playing Greta Ohlsson in Sidney Lumet’s Murder on the Orient Express.
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), Terms Of Endearment (1983), & As Good As It Gets (1997)
Jack Nicholson is a cinematic icon, and he currently holds the record for the most Oscar nominations received by a male, with 12. His slew of nominations spans multiple decades, beginning with 1969’s Easy Rider and ending with 2003’s About Schmidt.
Within that time, Nicholson won three awards, and each came in a different decade. His first came in 1976 with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, his second in 1984 for Terms of Endearment, and his third in 1998 for As Good As It Gets.
Kramer Vs. Kramer (1979), Sophie’s Choice (1982), & The Iron Lady (2011)
Meryl Streep is possibly the Katharine Hepburn of the modern generation, known as one of the best actresses not only working today but ever. Streep is the current record holder for the most acting Oscar nominations, having received 21 since her film debut in 1977. She is also just one award shy of Hepburn’s winning record, with three.
She won two awards in the 1980s – Best Supporting Actress for Kramer vs. Kramer (released in ’79, but the awards took place in ’80) and Best Actress for 1982’s Sophie’s Choice. Her third award was for 2011’s The Iron Lady, in which she played Margaret Thatcher.
Morning Glory (1933), Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner (1967), The Lion In The winter (1968), & On The Golden Pond (1981)
Katharine Hepburn has a slew of iconic movie roles, and, if Academy Awards mean anything, she is one of the greatest actors of all time. She won four Oscars throughout her expansive career, and those four transpired over three different decades.
Her first Oscar was won for Lowell Sherman’s Morning Glory, which was released in 1933. Then, two back-to-back awards followed in the ’60s: 1967’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and ’68s The Lion in Winter. Her fourth and final win came with 1981’s On Golden Pond, which also happened to be the second highest-grossing movie of the year.
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