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British winners of Best Actor and Actress academy awards

Updated on March 29, 2013
The coveted statue
The coveted statue | Source

British oscar Winners

Perhaps unfairly British Actors and Actresses have been held in high regard since records began. In large part it seems due to the strong theatre back ground many actors have come from. Is this an outdated notion? Do man British actors even have theatre experience?Certainly many equally great actors and actresses have come from elsewhere in the world and almost any country has been shown to produce exceptional acting talents.

As an interesting comparision in the week the first French man won the Best Actor Oscar at the academy awards lets see just how successful British actors and actresses are in leading roles. Although the figures for actors in supporting roles for the purposes of this comparison we are looking at the awards for male and female actors in leading roles.

These are just statistics and in no way definitively prove who is or isn't a great performer, that is up to each member of the audience to decide on their own. But statistics can be fun to compare so lets have a look.

Best Actor

1930 - George Arliss - The Green goddess

1931 - Charles Laughton - The Private Life of Henry VIII

1935 - Victor Mclagen - The Informer

1939 - Robert Donat - Goodbye Mr Chips (My personal favourite)

1947 - Ronald Colman - A Double Life

1948 - Laurence Olivier - Hamlet

1957 - Alec Guinness - The Bridge on The River Kwai

1958 - David Niven - Separate Tables

1964 - Rex Harrison - My Fair Lady

1976 - Peter Finch - Network (Awarded Posthumously)

1982 - Ben Kingsley - Gandhi

1989 - Daniel Day Lewis - My Left Foot

1990 - Jeremy irons - Reversal Of Fortune

1991 - Anthony Hopkins - The Silence of the Lambs (Now has American Citizenship)

2007 - Daniel Day Lewis - There will be Blood

2010 - Colin Firth - The Kings Speech

2012 - Daniel Day Lewis - Lincoln

A good amount but not close to rivalling their American counterparts. It is interesting to note that the largest gap for British best actor winners was from 1991 - 2007.

Best Actress

1939 - Vivian Leigh - Gone With The Wind

1941 - Joan Fontaine - Suspician

1942 - Greer Garson - Mr Minniver

1946 - Olivia De Havilland - To Each his own (Fact Olivia De Havilland and Joan Fontaine are sisters)

1949 - Olivia De Havilland - The Heiress

1951 - Vivien Leigh - A Streetcar named desire

1964 - Julie Andrews - Mary Poppins

1965 - Julie Christine - Darling

1969 - Maggie Smith - The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

1970 - Glenda Jackson - Woman in Love

1973 - Glenda Jackson - A Touch Of Class

1989 - Jessica Tandy - Driving Miss Daisy (English/American)

1992 - Emma Thompson - Howards End

2006 - Helen Mirren - The Queen

2008 - Kate Winslet - The Reader

That is 15 lead role oscars wins for British females compared to 16 for the males in a leading role. However 3 British actresses have won the top prize twice Glenda Jackson, Olivia De Havilland and Vivien Leigh whereas only Daniel Day Lewis has achieved the same thing in the best actor category.


You can of course draw your own conclusions but in this writers opinion it would be odd to assume that nationality endows anyone with any particular talent. British actors of both sexes make up some of the best in the world, most of whom do not feature on this list. But that is not to say they are better or worse than anyone else.

Acting greatness is not recognised by nationality nor awards success but by the criteria each and viewer brings with them when the sit down to watch film, stage or television. And by that criteria anyone could argue Zac Efron is as great an actor as Marlon Brando or Steve McQueen. Of course I for one would enjoy arguing about why I felt the were wrong.


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    • MisterH profile image

      MisterH 5 years ago from Singapore

      This is an interesting Hub ThoughtMonkey. My guess for the large number of British actors getting Oscars is that they speak English as their first language. With the Academy Awards being an American institution, the voters are probably naturally inclined to go for actors who speak their language with, I would imagine, American actors topping the list of outright numbers and Britain coming in second. However, I am British and therefore biased and I happen to think that British actors are superior ;)