The actors who have won the most Oscars

·10-min read

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It's Oscars season once again. The biggest stars in Hollywood and global cinema are competing to take home the most coveted prize in the film industry: an Academy Award.

A total of 3,140 Oscars have been awarded since the inception of the Academy Awards in 1929, and some actors and filmmakers have more than others.

Read more: How to watch the Oscar-nominated films in the UK

Let's take a look at the filmmakers who've been lucky enough to pick up multiple Oscars over the years.

Most Oscars: Meryl Streep, Jack Nicholson and Daniel Day-Lewis have all won multiple Academy Awards (Getty)
Most Oscars: Meryl Streep, Jack Nicholson and Daniel Day-Lewis have all won multiple Academy Awards (Getty)

Actors with most Oscar wins

No male actor has yet won four Academy Awards, but three have achieved a hat-trick, with Jack Nicholson, Daniel Day-Lewis, and the little remembered Water Brennan, all in the three Oscars club.

Jack Nicholson – 3

Actor Jack Nicholson waves his Oscar which he received for best actor in the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest at the 48th Annual Academy Awards.
Actor Jack Nicholson waves his Oscar which he received for best actor in the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest at the 48th Annual Academy Awards. (Getty)

Winning his first Oscar in 1976 for One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Jack Nicholson thanked his agent "who about ten years ago advised me that I had no business being an actor. Thank you."

Best Actor: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

Best Supporting Actor: Terms Of Endearment (1983)

Best Actor: As Good As It Gets (1997)

Daniel Day-Lewis - 3

A combination of pictures shows actor Daniel Day-Lewis posing with his three Oscars for Best Actor in Hollywood, California (From L):  in March 2, 1990 for his role in
Daniel Day-Lewis posing with his three Oscars for Best Actor in Hollywood, California (AFP via Getty Images)

Accepting his most recent Oscar in 2012, the since-retired actor said: “I really don’t know how any of this happened. I do know that I’ve received so much more than my fair share of good fortune in my life, and I’m so grateful to the Academy for this beautiful honour.”

Best Actor: My Left Foot (1989)

Best Actor: There Will Be Blood (2007)

Best Actor: Lincoln (2012)

Walter Brennan - 3

American actors Gary Cooper and Walter Brennan on the set of The Westerner, directed by William Wyler. (Photo by United Artists/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)
Gary Cooper and Walter Brennan on the set of The Westerner, directed by William Wyler. (United Artists/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)

Walter Brennan is the only actor in Academy history to win three awards for Best Supporting Actor, and incredibly, they all happened within a space of four years.

Best Supporting Actor: Come and Get It (1936)

Best Supporting Actor: Kentucky (1938)

Best Supporting Actor: The Westerner (1940)

Actresses with most wins

Katherine Hepburn is the only actor ever to win four Academy Awards, but both Meryl Streep and Frances McDormant are closing in on her.

Will either of them scoop that coveted fourth Oscar in the next few years?

Katherine Hepburn - 4

(Eingeschränkte Rechte für bestimmte redaktionelle Kunden in Deutschland. Limited rights for specific editorial clients in Germany.) Hepburn, Katharine - Actress, USA*12.05.1907-29.06.2003+ - Role portrait for the film 'Morning Glory', director: Lowell Sherman - 1933- Published by: 'B.Z.' 12.01.1934Vintage property of ullstein bild (Photo by ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
Role portrait on Katherine Hepburn for the film 'Morning Glory', director: Lowell Sherman - 1933 (Ullstein bild via Getty Images)

Incredibly, the actor with the most Academy Awards never attended the ceremony to collect her Oscars. "As for me, prizes are nothing,” she once said. “My prize is my work.”

Best Actress: Morning Glory (1933)

Best Actress: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)

Best Actress: The Lion in Winter (1968)

Best Actress: On Golden Pond (1981)

Meryl Streep - 3

(Original Caption) 04/11/1983-Los Angeles, CA: Meryl Streep at Oscars; won Best Performance by Actress for
(Original Caption) 04/11/1983-Los Angeles, CA: Meryl Streep at Oscars; won Best Performance by Actress for "Sophie's Choice". UPI color.

Collecting her third Oscar in 2012, the most nominated actor in Oscars history said: "When they called my name I had this feeling I could hear half of America going, "Oh no! Oh, c'mon why? Her? Again?" You know? But, whatever."

Best Supporting Actress: Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

Best Actress: Sophie's Choice (1982)

Best Actress: The Iron Lady (2011)

Frances McDormand - 3

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 25: Frances McDormand and Chloe Zhao, winners of Best Picture for
Frances McDormand and Chloe Zhao, winners of Best Picture for "Nomadland," pose in the press room at the Oscars on Sunday, April 25, 2021 (Chris Pizzello-Pool/Getty Images)

Winning her third Oscar in 2021 for Nomadland during a pandemic-blighted awards season, Frances McDormand urged the audience to "take everyone you know into a theatre, shoulder to shoulder in that dark space and watch every film that's represented here tonight."

Best Actress: Fargo (1996)

Best Actress: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

Best Actress: Nomadland (2020)

Ingrid Bergman - 3

(Original Caption) Ingrid Bergman, admiring her Oscar for Best Actress in Gaslight, after receiving it from Jennifer Jones.
(Original Caption) Ingrid Bergman, admiring her Oscar for Best Actress in Gaslight, after receiving it from Jennifer Jones.

Winning her third Oscar in 1975, Swedish actor Ingrid Bergman dedicated her award to fellow nominee Valentina Cortese who felt she'd been overlooked the previous year for her role in Day For Night. "It's so ironic that this year she's nominated when the picture won last year," she said. "I don't quite understand that, but here I am and I'm her rival and I don't like it at all. Please forgive me, Valentina. I didn't mean to. Thank you."

Best Actress: Gaslight (1944)

Best Actress: Anastasia (1956)

Best Supporting Actress: Murder on the Orient Express (1974)

Actors with the most nominations

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 23: Oscar Winner Jack Nicholson backstage at Academy Awards Show, March 23, 1998 in Los Angeles, California (Photo by Getty Images/Bob Riha, Jr.)
Oscar Winner Jack Nicholson backstage at Academy Awards Show, March 23, 1998 (Getty Images/Bob Riha, Jr.)

Jack Nicolson leads the pack with an impressive 12 noms, with Sir Laurence Olivier in second place with 10 (though he only won once, for 1948’s Hamlet). Spencer Tracy (two wins), Denzel Washington (two wins), Paul Newman (one win) and Al Pacino (one win) all have nine.

Jack Nicholson - 12

Laurence Olivier - 10

Spencer Tracy - 9

Denzel Washington - 9

Paul Newman - 9

Al Pacino - 9

Actresses with the most nominations

Los Angeles, CA - 1980: Meryl Streep giving acceptance speech, appearing on the 52nd Academy Awards / 1980 Academy Awards, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, April 14, 1980. (Photo by Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)
Meryl Streep giving acceptance speech, appearing on the 52nd Academy Awards / 1980 Academy Awards (Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)

Meryl Streep boasts the most number of nominations of any actor, male or female, with an eye-popping 21. Katherine Hepburn may have more actual awards, but she was only nominated 12 times. Judi Dench (one win), Geraldine Page (one win) and Glenn Close (zero wins) all share eight noms.

Meryl Streep - 21

Katherine Hepburn - 12

Bette Davis - 10

Judi Dench - 8

Geraldine Page - 8

Glenn Close - 8

Directors with the most wins

With this category we’re only listing the directors that won the actual Best Director gong. For instance, Ang Lee, who has won two Academy Awards for directing, also took away the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, while Frank Capra (three directorial wins) picked up a Best Documentary award for 1942’s Prelude to War.

John Ford - 4

Director John Ford on set in 1960. (Photo by Richard C. Miller/Donaldson Collection/Getty Images)
Director John Ford on set in 1960. (Photo by Richard C. Miller/Donaldson Collection/Getty Images)

Talking about the Oscars, legendary film director John Ford once said: "I didn't show up at the ceremony to collect any of my first three Oscars. Once I went fishing, another time there was a war on, and on another occasion, I remember, I was suddenly taken drunk."

The Informer (1935)

The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

How Green Was My Valley (1941)

The Quiet Man (1952)

William Wyler - 3

Left to right: American director William Wyler (1902 - 1981), French actress Simone Signoret (1921 - 1985) and American actor Charlton Heston with their trophies at the Academy Awards ceremony, held at the RKO Pantages Theatre, Los Angeles, California, 4th April 1960. Signoret won Best Actress for her role in 'Room at the Top', while Heston and Wyler won Best Actor and Best Director respectively for 'Ben Hur'. (Photo by Phil Burchman/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
William Wyler (1902 - 1981), Simone Signoret (1921 - 1985) and Charlton Heston with their trophies at the Academy Awards ceremony, 1960. (Phil Burchman/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Talking about working on his Oscar-winning biblical epic Ben-Hur, William Wyler said: "I thought that this picture would make lots of money and, you know, maybe I'll get some of it. Which I did!"

Mrs Miniver (1942)

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

Ben-Hur (1959)

Frank Capra - 3

Fred Niblo(L) presents director Frank Capra(R) with his Academy Award for 1938's You Can't Take it with You.
Fred Niblo(L) presents director Frank Capra(R) with his Academy Award for 1938's You Can't Take it with You.

Talking about the importance of winning an Oscar, legendary director Frank Capra said: “The Oscar is the most valuable, but least expensive, item of world-wide public relations ever invented by any industry.”

It Happened One Night (1934)

Mr Deeds Goes To Town (1936)

You Can’t Take It With You (1938)

Steven Spielberg - 2

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 21:  US director Steven Spielberg poses with his two Oscars 21 March 1994 in Los Angeles, CA during the 66th Annual Academy Awards ceremony after winning the 1993 wards for best director and best picture for his movie
Steven Spielberg poses with his two Oscars after winning the 1993 awards for best director and best picture for his movie "Schindler's List." (DAN GROSHONG/AFP via Getty Images)

The celebrated director has been thanked in more Oscar-winning speeches than God (42 times), but finally one for himself for his holocaust drama Schindler's List.

Schindler's List (1993)

Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Ang Lee - 2

Ang Lee with the Award for Achievement in Directing for Brokeback Mountain   (Photo by Ian West - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Ang Lee with the Award for Achievement in Directing for Brokeback Mountain (Photo by Ian West - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)

Winning his second Oscar for Life of Pi, Taiwanese director Ang Lee said: "Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you, movie god. I really need to share this with all 3,000. Everybody who worked with me on Life of Pi. I want to thank you for… I really want to thank you for believing in this story and share this incredible journey with me."

Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Life Of Pi (2012)

Screenwriters with the most Oscars

It seems crazy that Quentin Tarantino still only has two Best Screenplay Oscars and no Best Director gong. Woody Allen, meanwhile, has three Best Original Screenplay statues but only one for directing (for Annie Hall). Also in the three Screenplay Oscars club are Paddy Chayefsky and collaborators Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder.

Woody Allen during The 74th Annual Academy Awards - Press Room at Kodak Theater in Hollywood, California, United States. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)
Woody Allen during The 74th Annual Academy Awards - Press Room at Kodak Theater in Hollywood, California, United States. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)

Woody Allen - 3

Annie Hall (1977), Hannah and her Sisters (1986), Midnight in Paris (2011)

Paddy Chayefsky - 3

Marty (1955), The Hospital (1971), Network (1976)

Charles Brackett - 3

The Lost Weekend (1945) (shared with Billy Wilder), Titanic (1953), Sunset Boulevard (1955) (shared with Billy Wilder and D.M. Marshman Jr)

Billy Wilder - 3

The Lost Weekend (1945) (shared with Charles Brackett), Sunset Boulevard (1955) (shared with Charles Brackett and DM Marshman Jr), The Apartment (1960) (shared with IAL Diamond)

Quentin Tarantino - 2

Pulp Fiction (1994), Django Unchained (2012)

Cinematographers with the most Oscars

Leon Shamroy may tie with Joseph Ruttenberg for being the cinematographer with the most Academy Awards, but he ties with Charles Lang for the sheer amount of Oscar nominations. Sadly for Lang, out of his 18 noms, he would win only once, for 1932's A Farewell to Arms.

Jack Hawkins, Shirley MacLaine, Cinematographer Joseph Ruttenberg, and Director Charles Walters get a taste of California snow when they travel to the Lone Pine location for the film 'Two Loves', 1961. (Photo by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images)
Jack Hawkins, Shirley MacLaine, Cinematographer Joseph Ruttenberg, and Director Charles Walters get a taste of California snow when they travel to the Lone Pine location for the film 'Two Loves', 1961. (Photo by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images)

Leon Shamroy - 4

The Black Swan (1942), Wilson (1944), Leave Her For Heaven (1945), Cleopatra (1963)

Joseph Ruttenberg - 4

The Great Waltz (1938), Mrs. Miniver (1942), Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), Gigi (1958)

Robert Richardson - 3

JFK (1991), The Aviator (2004), Hugo (2011)

Robert Surtees - 3

King Solomon's Mines (1950), The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), Ben-Hur (1959)

Roger Deakins - 2

Blade Runner 2049 (2017), 1917 (2019)

People with posthumous Oscars

It’s happened many times in Oscar history that, by the time it’s come to the big event, a nominee has passed on, with the Academy having given out 16 posthumous Oscars over the course of their 95-year history.

(Original Caption) 1939-Los Angeles, CA- Shirley Temple presents an Academy Award to Walt Disney for his outstanding cartoon,
(Original Caption) 1939-Los Angeles, CA- Shirley Temple presents an Academy Award to Walt Disney for his outstanding cartoon, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," one big statue and seven little ones, at the 11th Annual Academy of Motion picture Arts & Sciences dinner.

Walt Disney

Best Short Film (Animated): Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (1968)

Peter Finch

Best Actor: Network (1976)

Howard Ashman

Best Music: Song, Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Conrad Hall

Best Cinematography: Road to Perdition (2002)

Heath Ledger

Best Supporting Actor: The Dark Knight (2008)

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