Acting Awards: The Most Prestigious Ones Worldwide

Humans crave recognition. Recognition is a sign of achievement. Recognition by one’s peers becomes the ultimate goal. To be lauded by one’s peers publicly, with a tangible symbol of that recognition, an award, means one has attained the pinnacle of success.

Acting awards are sought after by actors for a variety of reasons. Awards provide recognition and validation for their work and increased visibility within the industry and to the public. Winning an award can lead to more job opportunities and higher salaries. So, awards have become integral to the film industry, with actors striving to win them to further their careers.

The US entertainment industry has the Big Four, the four major awards: the Oscars for film, the Grammys for music, the Emmys for television, and the Tonys for theater. The Golden Globe Awards remain second to the Oscars and Emmys and are the third-highest viewed awards behind the Oscars and Grammy Award Ceremonies.

Internationally, there are other awards that were founded much earlier and remain popular and recognized.

This article will discuss the most relevant and popular, i.e., the most sought-after among these awards.

Oscars – The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

The Oscars are generally regarded as the most prestigious awards in the US, covering film and television. Members of the Academy vote nominees to the 23 diverse categories in the academy awards.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was established in 1927 by Louis B. Mayer, of what is now Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. He aimed to bring together the five branches of the film industry – actors, directors, producers, technicians, and writers. MGM Art director Cedric Gibbons was asked to design the Academy Award trophy.

There were 12 categories in the Academy Awards, which later expanded to include television, foreign films, and animation. Peers made nominations, actors were nominated by and voted for actors, directors for directors, etc.

The Academy Awards Ceremony culminates America’s festival season. That in itself eloquently proclaims the prestige of the Academy Awards over other acting awards in any medium. Nomination is already significant. An Academy Award winner in any category can only see more success and recognition after that.

Here are the icons in the history of the Oscars, not just one but two or more Best Actor/Actress or Best Supporting Actor/Actress awards in their career:

  • Katherine Hepburn, four wins and 12 nominations
  • Daniel Day-Lewis, three wins and six nominations
  • Frances McDormand, three wins and six nominations
  • Meryl Streep, three wins (two Best Actress and one Best Supporting Actress) and 21 nominations (the most-nominated actor so far)
  • Ingrid Bergman, three wins (two Best Actress, one Best Supporting Actress) and seven nominations
  • Jack Nicholson, three wins (two Best Actor, one Best Supporting Actor) and 12 nominations
  • Jodie Foster, two wins and four nominations (the youngest two-time Oscar winner)
  • Marlon Brando, two wins and eight nominations
  • Denzel Washington, two wins (one Best Actor and one Best Supporting Actor) and nine nominations
  • Walter Brennan, three wins (Best Supporting Actor) and four nominations

The Emmys

The Emmy Award is given for achievement in American and international television productions.

“Emmy” is a nickname by the television crew for image orthicon, a camera tube used in TV cameras. The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (ATAS) set up the Emmy Awards for image-building and public relations on January 25, 1949, to celebrate productions created and aired in the Los Angeles area.

In the 1950s, the Emmy Award was expanded to include productions aired nationwide. The New York-based National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) set up in 1955 to serve members on the East Coast, with regional units nationwide. Then in 1973, the Emmy Award became international. The International Emmy Awards were given to excellent TV productions produced and aired outside of the US.

Tony Awards

The Tony Awards is the popular name for The Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Broadway Theater, annually presented by the American Theater Wing and the Broadway League.

Founded by theater producer and director Brock Pemberton, the award is named after Antoinette Perry, actress, producer, and director, for her notable contributions to the industry.

The trophy is a spinnable medallion with faces adapted to comedy and tragedy masks, set on a black base with a pewter swivel.

The Tony Awards are the New York theater industry’s equivalent to the US Emmy Awards for television, Grammy Awards for music, and the Academy Awards for film. Some artists have won all four awards and are described to be EGOT awardees. Internationally, the Tonys equivalents are the UK Laurence Olivier Awards and French Moliere Awards.

Golden Globes – Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA)

The Golden Globe Awards are bestowed by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (numbering 105 members since 2022) for excellence in American and international film and television, beginning in January 1944.

These film awards are usually given for four types of films – drama, entertainment / musical, foreign languages, or animation.

In 1950, to honor Cecil B. DeMIlle’s outstanding contributions to the entertainment industry, the HFPA presented a special award to this director and producer. Henceforth, the award has also been called Cecil B. DeMille Award. The first Golden Globe in Television Achievement was given in February 1956.

Although it is waning in prestige, it is worth mentioning that the Golden Globes awarding ceremonies has generated millions in dollar revenues that enabled the Hollywood Foreign Press Association to support entertainment-related charities, and fund scholarships and similar programs for future film and television professionals.

SAG Award – Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA)

The Screen Actors Guild Award is bestowed by members of the Screen Actors Guild of the US television and radio industry that have appeared in film, television, and radio. The awards celebrate individual performances, a complete cast of a drama and a comedy series, or the cast of a movie.

Founded in 1995, the SAG Awards are presented by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) for outstanding performances in movies and television. The union members select from among them the composition of the two nominating committees, film, and television, and the whole membership casts the winning votes.

SAG Awards are considered by the Hollywood Film Industry among the major awards events along with the Oscars and the Golden Globes.

BAFTA Awards

In 1947, the BAFTA, British Academy of Film and Television Arts was founded as The British Film Academy by major figures in the British film industry like Laurence Olivier, Alexander Korda, Carol Reed, etc. Joining the Guild of Television Producers and Directors in 1958, it became The Society of Film and Television and in 1976, carried its current name, BAFTA.

The BAFTA Awards is the annual awards show to honor the finest British and international contributions to cinema. The award is a statue that depicts a theatrical mask.

Film Festival Awards

The “Big Five” International film festivals worldwide are the Big Three European Film Festivals (Venice, Cannes, Berlin), the Toronto Film Festival in Canada, and the Sundance Film Festival in the United States, acclaimed internationally for granting artistic freedom of expression to creators through film.

A. Venice Film Festival (Golden Lion Awards)

The Venice Film Festival or Venice International Film Festival, an annual film festival in Venice, Italy is the world’s oldest film festival.

Founded in 1932, the festival is part of the Venice Biennale, one of the world’s oldest exhibitions of Art established in 1893 by the Venice City Council covering Italian and international art, architecture, dance, music, theater, and cinema, celebrated at separate exhibitions.

Held every August or early September on the island of Lido in the Venice Lagoon, screenings are held at the Palazzo del Cinema. The festival remains among the most popular and fastest-growing in the world.

B. Cannes Film Festival (Palme d’Or Awards)

The by-invitation-only Cannes Film Festival, originally called International Film Festival, was founded in 1946, held annually in Cannes, France, and previews films of all genres from around the world, including documentaries.

The Golden Palm (Palme d’Or), is equivalent to the Golden Lion in Venice and is the biggest achievement award in film.

Founded with the support of the British and American film industry in protest to the partial and politically-biased Venice Festival at the time, the festival aimed to “encourage the development of all forms of cinematographic art and foster a spirit of collaboration between film-producing countries.”

C. Berlin Film Festival (Golden Bear Awards)

Usually called the Berlinale, the Berlin International Film Festival founded in 1951 is held yearly, (originally every June and changed to every February since 1978) and attended by tens of thousands of visitors.

Around 400 films are previewed and screened in nine sections from various genres with around twenty vying for the Golden Bear and Silver Bear Awards, the top awards in the Competition section. Juries are international and with a reputation in the related industry. Other specialized juries decide on other awards.

Other Awards

People’s Choice Awards

This is an American awards show held annually since 1975, which was originally chosen through the Gallup Polls and transformed into online voting by fans and the public.

Various categories included Favorite All-around Movie, Favorite Movie Actor, World Favorite Movie Actor/Actress, etc. In 2008, a new category, Favorite Sci-Fi Show was added.

Critic’s Choice Awards

Established by the American-Canadian Critics Choice Association, the Critics Choice Movie Awards are presented annually to honor the best cinematic achievements. Nominations are by written ballots with the final choices announced in December.


Entertainment awards for outstanding achievements of individuals and ensembles (cast, crew, director, screenwriter, etc.) are given to honor and recognize their contributions to the motion pictures and television industry.

While recognizing outstanding achievements, these entertainment awards also provide entertainment to attendees at the awards ceremony and viewers on cable or live streaming. Not to forget the revenues generated by ads and promotions during these ceremonies.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the highest award in acting?

A: The annual awards ceremonies of the Oscars are the most eminent of the entertainment awards. These annual awards are given for outstanding achievement in television and motion picture arts with Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay as the highest entertainment awards.

Q: What types of movie awards are there?

A: Awards for outstanding achievement in motion pictures can be classified under these categories: critics awards; festival awards; industry awards; polled or voted-on awards.

Q: Are there other acting Awards?

A: Other entertainment awards which are likewise annual awards are the People’s Choice Awards, Critics Choice Awards, Directors Guild of America Awards, Producers Guild of America Awards, and Writers Guild of America Awards. Outstanding achievement is the primary criterion in all categories of these entertainment awards.