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The Abridged Oscar Quest: Best Actor

I got the idea for this shortly after all the articles went up. (You can find the articles here.) I was thinking — “What would it be like if circumstances didn’t matter? If I just voted based solely on the category and what was nominated?” Naturally that led to, “Well that can become a nice series of articles.” So that’s what they’re becoming.

I’m calling it my Abridged Oscar Quest. I’m going to go through every year of every category, and simply pick winners based solely on the category. I will not take into account what won before, what is the “classy choice,” what never had a shot. Just — here are the nominees, here’s what I would vote for if I had a ballot. I’m taking into account nothing but the films.

I’m going to star (*) the film I’d vote for.

Today, we do Best Actor:

2011 – Demián Bichir, A Better Life

George Clooney, The Descendants

Jean Dujardin, The Artist

Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy *

Brad Pitt, Moneyball

2010 – Javier Bardem, Biutiful

Jeff Bridges, True Grit

Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network

Colin Firth, The King’s Speech *

James Franco, 127 Hours

2009 – Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart

George Clooney, Up in the Air

Colin Firth, A Single Man

Morgan Freeman, Invictus

Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker *

2008 – Richard Jenkins, The Visitor

Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon

Sean Penn, Milk

Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler *

2007 – Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood *

George Clooney, Michael Clayton

Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Tommy Lee Jones, In the Valley of Elah

Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises

2006 – Leonardo DiCaprio, Blood Diamond

Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson

Peter O’Toole, Venus

Will Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness

Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland *

2005 – Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote

Terrence Howard, Hustle & Flow

Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain

Joaquin Phoenix, Walk the Line

David Strathairn, Good Night, and Good Luck *

2004 – Don Cheadle, Hotel Rwanda

Johnny Depp, Finding Neverland

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Aviator

Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby

Jamie Foxx, Ray *

2003 – Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl *

Ben Kingsley, House of Sand and Fog

Jude Law, Cold Mountain

Bill Murray, Lost in Translation

Sean Penn, Mystic River

2002 – Adrien Brody, The Pianist

Nicolas Cage, Adaptation. *

Michael Caine, The Quiet American

Daniel Day-Lewis, Gangs of New York

Jack Nicholson, About Schmidt

2001 – Denzel Washington, Training Day

Russell Crowe, A Beautiful Mind *

Sean Penn, I Am Sam

Will Smith, Ali

Tom Wilkinson, In the Bedroom

2000 – Russell Crowe, Gladiator

Javier Bardem, Before Night Falls *

Tom Hanks, Cast Away *

Ed Harris, Pollock

Geoffrey Rush, Quills

1999 – Kevin Spacey, American Beauty *

Russell Crowe, The Insider

Richard Farnsworth, The Straight Story

Sean Penn, Sweet and Lowdown

 Denzel Washington, The Hurricane

1998 – Roberto Benigni, Life is Beautiful

Tom Hanks, Saving Private Ryan

Ian McKellen, Gods and Monsters *

Nick Nolte, Affliction

Edward Norton, American History X

1997 – Jack Nicholson, As Good as It Gets *

Matt Damon, Good Will Hunting

Robert Duvall, The Apostle

Peter Fonda, Ulee’s Gold

Dustin Hoffman, Wag the Dog

1996 – Tom Cruise, Jerry Maguire

Ralph Fiennes, The English Patient

Woody Harrelson, The People vs. Larry Flynt

Geoffrey Rush, Shine

Billy Bob Thornton, Sling Blade *

1995 – Nicolas Cage, Leaving Las Vegas *

Richard Dreyfuss, Mr. Holland’s Opus

Anthony Hopkins, Nixon

Sean Penn, Dead Man Walking

Massimo Troisi, Il Postino

1994 – Morgan Freeman, The Shawshank Redemption

Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump *

Nigel Hawthorne, The Madness of King George

Paul Newman, Nobody’s Fool

John Travolta, Pulp Fiction

1993 – Daniel Day-Lewis, In the Name of the Father

Laurence Fishburne, What’s Love Got to Do with It

Tom Hanks, Philadelphia

Anthony Hopkins, The Remains of the Day

Liam Neeson, Schindler’s List *

1992 – Robert Downey Jr., Chaplin *

Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven

Al Pacino, Scent of a Woman

Stephen Rea, The Crying Game

Denzel Washington, Malcolm X

1991 – Warren Beatty, Bugsy

Robert De Niro, Cape Fear

Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs *

Nick Nolte, The Prince of Tides

Robin Williams, The Fisher King

1990 – Kevin Costner, Dances with Wolves

Robert De Niro, Awakenings

Gérard Depardieu, Cyrano de Bergerac

Richard Harris, The Field *

Jeremy Irons, Reversal of Fortune

1989 – Kenneth Branagh, Henry V

Tom Cruise, Born on the Fourth of July

Daniel Day-Lewis, My Left Foot *

Morgan Freeman, Driving Miss Daisy

Robin Williams, Dead Poet’s Society

1988 – Gene Hackman, Mississippi Burning

Tom Hanks, Big

Dustin Hoffman, Rain Man *

Edward James Olmos, Stand and Deliver

Max von Sydow, Pelle the Conqueror

1987 – Michael Douglas, Wall Street *

William Hurt, Broadcast News

Marcello Mastroianni, Dark Eyes

Jack Nicholson, Ironweed

Robin Williams, Good Morning, Vietnam

1986 – Dexter Gordon, Round Midnight

Bob Hoskins, Mona Lisa

William Hurt, Children of a Lesser God

Paul Newman, The Color of Money *

James Woods, Salvador

1985 – Harrison Ford, Witness

James Garner, Murphy’s Romance

William Hurt, Kiss of the Spider Woman *

Jack Nicholson, Prizzi’s Honor 

Jon Voight, Runaway Train

1984 – F. Murray Abraham, Amadeus *

Jeff Bridges, Starman

Albert Finney, Under the Volcano

Tom Hulce, Amadeus

Sam Waterston, The Killing Fields

1983 – Michael Caine, Educating Rita *

Tom Conti, Reuben, Reuben

Tom Courtenay, The Dresser

Robert Duvall, Tender Mercies

Albert Finney, The Dresser

1982 – Dustin Hoffman, Tootsie

Ben Kingsley, Gandhi

Jack Lemmon, Missing

Paul Newman, The Verdict *

Peter O’Toole, My Favorite Year

1981 – Warren Beatty, Reds

Henry Fonda, On Golden Pond

Burt Lancaster, Atlantic City

Dudley Moore, Arthur *

Paul Newman, Absence of Malice

1980 – Robert De Niro, Raging Bull *

Robert Duvall, The Great Santini

John Hurt, The Elephant Man

Jack Lemmon, Tribute

Peter O’Toole, The Stunt Man

1979 – Dustin Hoffman, Kramer vs. Kramer *

Jack Lemmon, The China Syndrome

Al Pacino, …And Justice for All

Roy Scheider, All That Jazz

Peter Sellers, Being There

1978 – Warren Beatty, Heaven Can Wait

Gary Busey, The Buddy Holly Story

Robert De Niro, The Deer Hunter *

Laurence Olivier, The Boys From Brazil

Jon Voight, Coming Home

1977 – Woody Allen, Annie Hall

Richard Burton, Equus

Richard Dreyfuss, The Goodbye Girl *

Marcello Mastroianni, A Special Day

John Travolta, Saturday Night Fever

1976 – Robert De Niro, Taxi Driver

Peter Finch, Network *

Giancarlo Giannini, Seven Beauties

William Holden, Network

Sylvester Stallone, Rocky

1975 – Jack Nicholson, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest *

Walther Matthau, The Sunshine Boys

Al Pacino, Dog Day Afternoon

Maximilian Schell, The Man in the Glass Booth

James Whitmore, Give ‘em Hell, Harry!

1974 – Art Carney, Harry and Tonto

Albert Finney, Murder on the Orient Express

Dustin Hoffman, Lenny

Jack Nicholson, Chinatown

Al Pacino, The Godfather, Part II *

1973 – Marlon Brando, Last Tango in Paris

Jack Lemmon, Save the Tiger *

Jack Nicholson, The Last Detail

Al Pacino, Serpico

Robert Redford, The Sting

1972 – Marlon Brando, The Godfather

Michael Caine, Sleuth

Laurence Olivier, Sleuth

Peter O’Toole, The Ruling Class

Paul Winfield, Sounder

1971 – Peter Finch, Sunday Bloody Sunday

Gene Hackman, The French Connection *

Walther Matthau, Kotch

George C. Scott, The Hospital

Chaim Topol, Fiddler on the Roof

1970 – Melvyn Douglas, I Never Sang for My Father

James Earl Jones, The Great White Hope *

Jack Nicholson, Five Easy Pieces

Ryan O’Neal, Love Story

George C. Scott, Patton

1969 – John Wayne, True Grit

Richard Burton, Anne of the Thousand Days *

Dustin Hoffman, Midnight Cowboy

Peter O’Toole, Goodbye, Mr. Chips

Jon Voight, Midnight Cowboy

1968 – Alan Arkin, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

Alan Bates, The Fixer

Ron Moody, Oliver!

Peter O’Toole, The Lion in Winter *

Cliff Robertson, Charly

1967 – Warren Beatty, Bonnie and Clyde

Dustin Hoffman, The Graduate

Paul Newman, Cool Hand Luke

Rod Steiger, In the Heat of the Night

Spencer Tracy, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner *

1966 – Alan Arkin, The Russians are Coming, the Russians are Coming

Richard Burton, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Michael Caine, Alfie

Steve McQueen, The Sand Pebbles

Paul Scofield, A Man for All Seasons *

1965 – Richard Burton, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold *

Lee Marvin, Cat Ballou

Laurence Olivier, Othello

Rod Steiger, The Pawnbroker

Oskar Werner, Ship of Fools

1964 – Richard Burton, Becket

Rex Harrison, My Fair Lady

Peter O’Toole, Becket

Anthony Quinn, Zorba the Greek

Peter Sellers, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb *

1963 – Sidney Poitier, Lilies of the Field

Albert Finney, Tom Jones

Richard Harris, This Sporting Life *

Rex Harrison, Cleopatra

Paul Newman, Hud

1962 – Burt Lancaster, Birdman of Alcatraz

Jack Lemmon, Days of Wine and Roses

Marcello Mastroianni, Divorce, Italian Style

Peter O’Toole, Lawrence of Arabia

Gregory Peck, To Kill a Mockingbird *

1961 – Charles Boyer, Fanny

Paul Newman, The Hustler *

Maximilian Schell, Judgment at Nuremberg

Spencer Tracy, Judgment at Nuremberg

Stuart Whitman, The Mark

1960 – Trevor Howard, Sons and Lovers

Burt Lancaster, Elmer Gantry *

Jack Lemmon, The Apartment

Laurence Olivier, The Entertainer

Spencer Tracy, Inherit the Wind

1959 – Laurence Harvey, Room at the Top

Charlton Heston, Ben-Hur

Jack Lemmon, Some Like it Hot

Paul Muni, The Last Angry Man

James Stewart, Anatomy of a Murder *

1958 – Tony Curtis, The Defiant Ones

Paul Newman, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof *

David Niven, Separate Tables

Sidney Poitier, The Defiant Ones

Spencer Tracy, The Old Man and the Sea

1957 – Marlon Brando, Sayonara

Anthony Franciosa, A Hatful of Rain

Alec Guinness, The Bridge on the River Kwai *

Charles Laughton, Witness for Prosecution

Anthony Quinn, Wild is the Wind

1956 – Yul Brynner, The King and I

James Dean, Giant

Kirk Douglas, Lust for Life

Rock Hudson, Giant *

Laurence Olivier, Richard III

1955 – Ernest Borgnine, Marty

James Cagney, Love Me or Leave Me

James Dean, East of Eden

Frank Sinatra, The Man with the Golden Arm *

Spencer Tracy, Bad Day at Black Rock

1954 – Humphrey Bogart, The Caine Mutiny

Marlon Brando, On the Waterfront *

Bing Crosby, The Country Girl

James Mason, A Star is Born

Dan O’Herlihy, Robison Crusoe

1953 – Marlon Brando, Julius Caesar

Richard Burton, The Robe

Montgomery Clift, From Here to Eternity

William Holden, Stalag 17 *

Burt Lancaster, From Here to Eternity

1952 – Marlon Brando, Viva Zapata!

Gary Cooper, High Noon

Kirk Douglas, The Bad and the Beautiful *

José Ferrer, Moulin Rouge

Alec Guinness, The Lavender Hill Mob

1951 – Humphrey Bogart, The African Queen

Marlon Brando, A Streetcar Named Desire *

Montgomery Clift, A Place in the Sun

Arthur Kennedy, Bright Victory

Fredric March, Death of a Salesman

1950 – Louis Calhern, The Magnificent Yankee

José Ferrer, Cyrano de Bergerac

William Holden, Sunset Boulevard

James Stewart, Harvey *

Spencer Tracy, Father of the Bride

1949 – Broderick Crawford, All the King’s Men *

Kirk Douglas, Champion

Gregory Peck, Twelve O’Clock High

Richard Todd, The Hasty Heart

John Wayne, Sands of Iwo Jima

1948 – Lew Ayres, Johnny Belinda

Montgomery Clift, The Search

Dan Dailey, When My Baby Smiles at Me

Laurence Olivier, Hamlet *

Clifton Webb, Sitting Pretty

1947 – Ronald Colman, A Double Life

John Garfield, Body and Soul

Gregory Peck, Gentleman’s Agreement *

William Powell, Life with Father

Michael Redgrave, Mourning Becomes Electra

1946 – Fredric March, The Best Years of Our Lives *

Laurence Olivier, Henry V

Larry Parks, The Jolson Story

Gregory Peck, The Yearling

James Stewart, It’s a Wonderful Life

1945 – Bing Crosby, The Bells of St. Mary’s

Gene Kelley, Anchors Aweigh

Ray Milland, The Lost Weekend *

Gregory Peck, The Keys of the Kingdom

Cornel Wilde, A Song to Remember

1944 – Charles Boyer, Gaslight

Bing Crosby, Going My Way *

Barry Fitzgerald, Going My Way

Cary Grant, None But the Lonely Heart

Alexander Knox, Wilson

1943 – Humphrey Bogart, Casablanca *

Gary Cooper, For Whom the Bell Tolls

Paul Lukas, Watch on the Rhine

Walter Pidgeon, Madame Curie

Mickey Rooney, The Human Comedy

1942 – James Cagney, Yankee Doodle Dandy

Ronald Colman, Random Harvest

Gary Cooper, The Pride of the Yankees *

Walter Pidgeon, Mrs. Miniver

Monty Woolley, The Pied Piper

1941 – Gary Cooper, Sergeant York

Cary Grant, Penny Serenade

Walter Huston, The Devil and Daniel Webster

Robert Montgomery, Here Comes Mr. Jordan

Orson Welles, Citizen Kane *

1940 – Charlie Chaplin, The Great Dictator

Henry Fonda, The Grapes of Wrath *

Raymond Massey, Abe Lincoln in Illinois

Laurence Olivier, Rebecca

James Stewart, The Philadelphia Story

1939 – Robert Donat, Goodbye, Mr. Chips

Clark Gable, Gone With the Wind

Laurence Olivier, Wuthering Heights

Mickey Rooney, Babes in Arms

James Stewart, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington *

1938 – Charles Boyer, Algiers

James Cagney, Angels with Dirty Faces

Robert Donat, The Citadel

Leslie Howard, Pygmalion *

Spencer Tracy, Boys Town

1937 – Charles Boyer, Conquest

Fredric March, A Star is Born *

Robert Montgomery, Night Must Fall

Paul Muni, The Life of Emile Zola

Spencer Tracy, Captains Courageous

1936 – Gary Cooper, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town

Walter Huston, Dodsworth *

Paul Muni, The Story of Louis Pasteur

William Powell, My Man Godfrey

Spencer Tracy, San Francisco

1935 – Clark Gable, Mutiny on the Bounty

Charles Laughton, Mutiny on the Bounty

Victor McLaglen, The Informer *

Paul Muni, Black Fury

Franchot Tone, Mutiny on the Bounty

1934 – Clark Gable, It Happened One Night

Frank Morgan, The Affairs of Cellini

William Powell, The Thin Man *

1932-1933 – Leslie Howard, Berkeley Square

Charles Laughton, The Private Life of Henry VIII

Paul Muni, I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang *

1931-1932 – Wallace Beery, The Champ *

Alfred Lunt, The Guardsman

Fredric March, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

1930-1931 – Lionel Barrymore, A Free Soul

Adolphe Menjou, The Front Page

Jackie Cooper, Skippy *

Richard Dix, Cimarron

Fredric March, The Royal Family of Broadway

1929-1930 – George Arliss, Disraeli *

George Arliss, The Green Goddess

Wallace Beery, The Big House

Maurice Chevalier, The Big PondThe Love Parade

Ronald Colman, Bulldog Drummond Condemned

Lawrence Tibbett, The Rogue Song

1928-1929 – George Bancroft, Thunderbolt

Warner Baxter, In Old Arizona *

Chester Morris, Alibi

Paul Muni, The Valiant

Lewis Stone, The Patriot (LOST)

1927-1928 – Richard Barthelmess, The NooseThe Patent Leather Kid

Emil Jannings, The Last Command & The Way of All Flesh (LOST) *

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