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The top three most successful actors of all time at the Oscars


The American Academy Awards are known for celebrating the very best films and actors of contemporary cinema, getting it right more often than not as they crown the finest achievements in the industry. 

Soon to reach its 100th anniversary, the Academy Awards have become a staple of pop-culture, showering the finest actors of the industry with praise and enduring fame by publicising some of their most influential works. Having run for so long, however, the show does indeed have its favourites, with filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg often getting a look in, along with modern stars such as Daniel Day-Lewis and Nicole Kidman. 

Though the wins and nominations of these aforementioned Hollywood icons pale in comparison to the three actors who top the list of those with the most Oscar wins and nominations of all time. Putting their competitors to shame, these three actors remain some of the greatest of cinema history, having performed to a high level for decades on the silver screen. 

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Coming in with the least of the top three actors is the only male actor on the shortlist, The Shining and Easy Rider star Jack Nicholson. Nominated a total of 12 times, Nicholson won the acting Oscar three times in 1976, 1984 and 1998, for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Terms of Endearment and As Good as it Gets, respectively. Whilst the actor is best known for his roles in the Stanley Kubrick horror The Shining, his leading role in Chinatown and Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, he failed to win an Oscar for any of these films. 

Second on the list is the Academy’s sweetheart, Meryl Streep who has been nominated for a staggering 21 awards, taking home just three statuettes. Receiving more nominations than any other actor in cinema history, the influential American actor has been praised for some questionable film roles, receiving a nod for the middling Ironweed in 1988, Into the Woods in 2015 and Florence Foster Jenkins in 2017. 

Despite these odd nominations, there’s no doubt that Streep deserved each of her Best Actress wins, taking home the iconic statuette for her performances in Robert Benton’s Kramer vs. Kramer, Sophie’s Choice from 1982 and the Margaret Thatcher biopic The Iron Lady in 2012.

Though Streep earned more nominations, it is the Oscar winners that are truly remembered, with Katharine Hepburn winning more statuettes than any other in cinema history. With 12 nominations to her name, the Bringing up Baby actor eventually took home four awards for Morning Glory (1933), Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967), The Lion in Winter (1968) and On Golden Pond (1981), before her death in 2003.

The stragglers behind these three industry icons may still enter the top three in the near future, with the There Will be Blood Oscar-winner Daniel Day-Lewis and Fargo’s Frances McDormand both with three wins and six nominations each to their name. With plenty more career potential, both these contemporary stars could soon be among the industry’s most successful actors of all time.