Oscar nominee profiles
A look at the best actor nominees for the 85th Academy Awards.
Nominated for: Silver Linings Playbook
The character: Ex-teacher Pat Solitano has bi-polar disorder and spends eight months in a psychiatric hospital after suffering a mental breakdown. He moves back in with his parents, determined to rebuild his life and get back with his estranged wife.
Oscar record: None.
The critics said: "Cooper, best known as the Hangover guy and People's Sexiest Man Alive, seizes the juiciest role of his career and meets every comic and dramatic challenge. There's an ache in his funny, touching and vital performance that resonates." Peter Travers Rolling Stone
Nominated for: Lincoln
The character: The 6ft 1in actor plays 6ft 4in US President Abraham Lincoln as he battles to push through the 13th amendment to abolish slavery.
Oscar record: Day-Lewis has already won two best actor Oscars - one for My Left Foot (1989) and the other for There Will Be Blood (2007). He has a further two nominations to his name in the same category - for In the Name of the Father (1993) and Gangs of New York (2002).
The critics said: "The phenomenal Daniel Day-Lewis plays Lincoln with the immersive, indelible power of an actor who wears his role like a second skin and feels it down to the nerve endings. This is acting of the highest order." Peter Travers Rolling Stone
Nominated for: Les Miserables
The character: Jean Valjean is a former prisoner who breaks his parole to assume a new identity and rebuild his life. He later becomes mayor of a French town but is constantly looking over his shoulder as his former prison officer, Javert, tries to track him down and reveal his past.
Oscar record: None
The critics said: "He embodies this sinner-turned-saint with the requisite fire and gravitas. Whether he's comforting the dying Fantine or sweetly serenading the sleeping Cosette... Jackman projects a stirring warmth and nobility." Justin Chang Variety
Nominated for: The Master
The character: Freddie Quell, a Navy veteran who struggles to fit back into civilian life on returning home to the US. Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, he soon finds himself under the spell of a cult and its charismatic leader.
Oscar record: Phoenix has been nominated twice before, once in the best supporting actor category for Gladiator (2000) and once for best actor for Walk the Line (2005).
The critics said: "Joaquin Phoenix gives a laceratingly powerful performance as Freddie Quell... his face is incised and gaunt like that of a medieval saint, he mumbles and giggles almost unintelligibly; walking around with his fists in the small of his back, elbows akimbo, like someone recovering from a terrible injury - which of course is what he is." Peter Bradshaw The Guardian
Nominated for: Flight
The character: A pilot who is hailed a hero after saving everyone on board his plane when it nosedives in mid-air. But, behind the scenes, William "Whip" Whitaker is battling against a drug and alcohol addiction that could ruin his career.
Oscar record: Won best actor Oscar for his role in Training Day (2001). In 1990, he won the best supporting actor award for Glory (1989). He has been nominated a further three times - once for best supporting actor for Cry Freedom (1987) and twice in the best actor category for Malcolm X (1992) and The Hurricane (1999).
The critics said: "Denzel Washington is one of the most sympathetic and rock-solid of actors, and it's effective here how his performance never goes over the top but instead is grounded on obsessive control." Roger Ebert Chicago Sun Times