Winning an Oscar acting award is no mean feat. When it comes to such a distinguished award-giving body, it’s usually the older and more established actors who get the recognition for the work. But once in a while, a young, fresh-eyed newcomer comes along and gives such an outstanding performance that the members of the Academy can’t help but sit up and take notice. Below is the list of the youngest Oscar winners of all time in the acting category.
Youngest Oscar Winners in Cinematic History
1. Adrien Brody for The Pianist
In 2002, Adrien Brody became the youngest actor of all time to win an Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of Holocaust survivor and Polish-Jewish classical composer and pianist Władysław Szpilman in the movie The Pianist. While Brody was already a very adult 29 years old when he won, that was still much younger than the other winners of Best Actor in the history of the Oscars, as the Academy usually preferred recognizing much older and more experienced actors. Brody himself showed extreme dedication to the role, learning how to play the piano and losing a lot of weight to transform into the skeletal Szpilman.
2. Marlee Matlin for Children of a Lesser God
Marlee Matlin’s Oscar win for Best Actress in 1986 was history-making in more ways than one. She was 21 years old when she won the award, so that made her the youngest winner ever for that category. On top of that, she was also the only deaf actor, before and since, to win an Academy award. In the movie, Matlin played a deaf custodian who meets and falls in love with a hearing speech teacher at the school for the deaf where she works. Matlin would go on to win more awards and nominations for her work, including a Golden Globe award as well as four Emmy nominations.
3. Timothy Hutton for Ordinary People
Winning Best Supporting Actor for his role in the Robert Redford–helmed 1980 movie Ordinary People at just 20 years old, Hutton gained the recognition of being the youngest-ever winner for the category. The movie was about an upper middle class family dealing with the aftermath of the death of one son and the attempted suicide of another, portrayed by Hutton. He gained widespread praise for his portrayal of a traumatized son after having survived the freak boating accident that killed his sibling. Taking over the record from George Chakiris, who won best supporting actor at 27, Hutton has since held the record ever since his win.
4. Tatum O’Neal for Paper Moon
Tatum O’Neal has held the distinction of being the youngest ever Oscar winner for any category ever since she won Best Supporting Actress at the tender age of 10 for her role in Paper Moon, a movie she starred in with her real-life father, Ryan O’Neal. The film, released in 1973, is set in the Great Depression Era and relates the story of a con artist who meets the young daughter of a woman he once had an affair with and who had died. Suspecting the young girl to be his daughter, he takes her under his wing, and while traveling, they start to form a unique bond. Since her win, O’Neal has held the record of being the youngest ever Oscar winner in history.
The Youngest Oscar Winners of All Time: Acting Category by George