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An Investigation Into Which Actor Has Won The Most Academy Awards

And no, it's not Meryl

The Oscars, since the very first ceremony in 1929, have long been a means of celebrating the best of the best in film, and are still very much considered the highest accolade an actor can win. No matter which category, taking home an Academy Award truly cements a star in their chosen field—earning the respect of their peers and the world alike. 

And while you might think that some actors, for instance, the legendary Meryl Streep, have swept up the ceremony and currently hold the record for most Oscars won in the acting categories, you’d be mistaken. While Streep holds the most Oscar nominations in the acting arena, she’s not the actress with the most to her name. 

The misconception that some actors are worthy of 10 Oscars also might surprise you, with Leonardo DiCaprio long being nominated, but only winning his first in 2016 for The Revenant.  

Read on to discover the actors who hold the record for most Oscars won in the acting categories. 

Katharine Hepburn

Total Oscar Count: 4. 

Katharine Hepburn’s monumental career spanned more than 60 years in Hollywood, with the actress currently still holding the record for the most Academy Awards in the acting category, having won four Best Actress accolades for her work in Morning Glory (1934), Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner (1968), The Lion In Winter (1969) and On Golden Pond (1982). Interestingly, the record-holder never got to collect her prestigious statuettes in person, having only ever attended the star-studded event once in 1974 to present the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award to producer and longtime friend, Lawrence Weingarten. Even better, the leading lady skipped the traditional gown for gardening boots and jumper—a true icon! 

katherine hepburn
Katharine Hepburn (Credit: Getty Images)

Walter Brennan 

Total Oscar Count: 3. 

Having started his working life as a bank clerk, Brennan was later enlisted in the U.S. Army and served as a private in France during World War I—and while serving, he suffered an injury to his vocal cords that resulted in his now-trademark voice. Brennan’s career wasn’t what you’d expect though, he returned home and made a fortune in real estate, but after losing his money in the 1920s decided to head to Hollywood, and went on to win three Best Supporting Actor awards for The Westerner (1941), Kentucky (1939), and Come and Get It (1941). He remains one of only three male actors to win three Academy Awards.

walter brennan
Walter Brennan (Credit: Getty Images)

Ingrid Bergman

Total Oscar Count: 3. 

The Swedish actress may be most famously remembered for her work as Isla Lund in Michael Curtiz’s Casablanca, but in fact, Bergman wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar for that iconic film. Instead, Bergman’s Academy Awards were for work in Murder on the Orient Express (1974), Anastasia (1956), and Gaslight (1944).

ingrid bergman
Ingrid Bergman (Credit: Getty Images)

Daniel Day-Lewis

Total Oscar Count: 3.

Daniel Day-Lewis may have retired from acting, but not without leaving behind an impressive legacy as one of the most respected actors of his generation (not to mention, many claiming the actor is one of the greatest ever in cinematic history). Day-Lewis’ career was skyrocketed following his Academy Award for Best Actor in My Left Foot (1989), going on to win the award twice more for the 2007 film There Will Be Blood and 2012 film Lincoln, where he famously portrayed Abraham Lincoln. He holds the record as the only actor to have three wins in that major category. 

daniel day lewis
Daniel Day-Lewis (Credit: Getty Images)

Meryl Streep

Total Oscar Count: 3. 

Not far behind the most ever wins, Meryl Streep has three Oscars to her name—with the actress also holding the record for most acting nominations ever, with 21 under her belt (and counting!). Streep’s first Academy Award was for Best Supporting Actress in Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), in which she played a mother who abandons her husband and son. Unsurprisingly, Sophie’s Choice (1981) followed, for which she won Best Actress, and most recently, taking home Best Actress for playing Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady (2011).

meryl streep
Meryl Streep (Credit: Getty Images)

Jack Nicholson

Total Oscar Count: 3.

Nicholson, whose career has spanned more than 60 years, may have said goodbye to acting but his legacy lives on as having played some of the most wide-ranging roles in cinematic history, including roles as comedic leads to villains. Prior to his retirement in 2013, Nicholson was nominated at the Oscars 12 times. He won twice for Best Actor, for his work in As Good As It Gets (1998) and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1976), while also winning Best Supporting Actor for Terms of Endearment (1984).

jack nicholson
Jack Nicholson (Credit: Getty Images)

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