The Best Actresses in Film History

333k votes 21k voters 299k views 552 items tags f p @

List Criteria: Female film actresses only!

The best actresses ever are ranked here in this list of the best actresses in film history. These are the greatest actresses ever to appear on the silver screen - female only (to vote on both genders, check out this list of the greatest film actors and actresses). These women were part of some of the greatest movies of all time (or were perhaps the reason they were the best movies ever), with countless Academy Awards between them.

What are the qualities of the best actresses of all time? Is it the raw emotion they show, the parts they choose, their acting methods, or simply their effortless charm and charisma? There's no denying some of these amazing actresses belong on the list of the hottest celebrities of all time, but behind the 1000 watt smiles lies the talent that defines generations of actresses.

Who is the best actor of all time? Is it a classic actor like Katharine Hepburn, a comedic genius like Tina Fey, a stunner like Catherine Zeta-Jones, or a method actor like Meryl Streep? There are so many choices for the greatest movie actress ever that you may have a hard time choosing just one (although you can vote for as many of the actresses on this list of the greatest actresses ever as you want). If your favorite leading lady isn't on the list, make sure to add her so others can vote for her to receive the title of best actress in film history.
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  1. 1
    + 4,415
    - 3,006

    the people's #1 & most listed
    Sophie's Choice, Kramer vs. Kramer, Out of Africa

    ;
  2. 2
    + 3,465
    - 1,817

    ranked low on reranks
    Breakfast at Tiffany's, My Fair Lady, Roman Holiday

    ;
  3. 3
    + 2,948
    - 2,307
    Katharine Hepburn is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History


    Katharine Hepburn Bringing Up Baby, The Philadelphia Story, The African Queen

  4. 4
    + 2,528
    - 1,841
    Bette Davis is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History


    Bette Davis All About Eve, P.S. I Love You, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

  5. 5
    + 2,220
    - 1,506
    Vivien Leigh is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History


    Vivien Leigh Gone with the Wind, A Streetcar Named Desire, Ship of Fools

  6. 6
    + 2,232
    - 2,034
    Elizabeth Taylor is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History


    Elizabeth Taylor Cleopatra, National Velvet, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

  7. 7
    + 2,287
    - 1,916
    Ingrid Bergman is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History


    Ingrid Bergman Casablanca, Notorious, Cinema Paradiso

  8. 8
    + 2,118
    - 2,164
    Jodie Foster is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History

    often listed
    Jodie Foster The Silence of the Lambs, Taxi Driver, The Accused

  9. 9
    + 2,410
    - 1,862
    Cate Blanchett is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History


    Cate Blanchett Blue Jasmine, Elizabeth, The Aviator

  10. 10
    + 2,034
    - 1,678
    Helen Mirren is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History


    Helen Mirren The Queen, Gosford Park, The Last Station

  11. 11
    + 1,960
    - 1,511
    Maggie Smith is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History


    Maggie Smith California Suite, Gosford Park, A Room with a View

  12. 12
    + 2,025
    - 1,614


    Fatal Attraction, Dangerous Liaisons, Albert Nobbs

    ;
  13. 13
    + 2,052
    - 1,879
    Kate Winslet is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Kate Winslet The Reader, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Titanic

  14. 14
    + 2,024
    - 1,545
    Judi Dench is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History


    Judi Dench Philomena, Notes on a Scandal, Shakespeare in Love

  15. 15
    + 1,673
    - 1,430


    Still Alice, The End of the Affair, Boogie Nights

    ;
  16. 16
    + 1,859
    - 1,405


    The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, Thoroughly Modern Millie

    ;
  17. 17
    + 1,444
    - 1,024
    Joan Crawford is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History

    ranked low on reranks
    Joan Crawford Mildred Pierce, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, Four Walls

  18. 18
    + 1,693
    - 1,657

    often listed
    Sense and Sensibility, Howards End, The Remains of the Day

    ;
  19. 19
    + 1,580
    - 1,538
    Susan Sarandon is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History


    Susan Sarandon Dead Man Walking, The Client, Thelma & Louise

  20. 20
    + 1,532
    - 1,061
    Sally Field is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History


    Sally Field Steel Magnolias, Norma Rae, Forrest Gump

  21. 21
    + 1,642
    - 1,320
    Kathy Bates is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History


    Kathy Bates Misery, About Schmidt, Fried Green Tomatoes

  22. 22
    + 1,475
    - 1,514
    Lauren Bacall is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History


    Lauren Bacall The Big Sleep, To Have and Have Not, The Mirror Has Two Faces

  23. 23
    + 1,319
    - 1,269


    Fight Club, The King's Speech, The Wings of the Dove

    ;
  24. 24
    + 1,389
    - 1,099
    Judy Garland is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History

    ranked low on reranks
    Judy Garland The Wizard of Oz, Judgment at Nuremberg, A Star Is Born

  25. 25
    + 1,597
    - 1,691
    Michelle Pfeiffer is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Michelle Pfeiffer The Fabulous Baker Boys, Scarface, Dangerous Liaisons

  26. 26
    + 1,655
    - 1,452
    Sandra Bullock is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History


    Sandra Bullock The Blind Side, Gravity, Speed

  27. 27
    + 1,313
    - 1,132
    Jessica Lange is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History


    Jessica Lange Blue Sky, Tootsie, King Kong

  28. 28
    + 1,258
    - 1,334
    Sigourney Weaver is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History


    Sigourney Weaver Aliens, Gorillas in the Mist, Working Girl

  29. 29
    + 1,428
    - 1,568


    Erin Brockovich, Pretty Woman, Steel Magnolias

    ;
  30. 30
    + 1,583
    - 1,661


    Rear Window, High Noon, Dial M for Murder

    ;
  31. 31
    + 1,234
    - 1,068
    Olivia de Havilland is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History


    Olivia de Havilland The Heiress, Gone with the Wind, To Each His Own

  32. 32
    + 1,932
    - 2,031
    Charlize Theron is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Charlize Theron Monster, North Country, Young Adult

  33. 33
    + 1,031
    - 747
    Diane Keaton is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History

    ranked low on reranks
    Diane Keaton Annie Hall, Marvin's Room, Reds

  34. 34
    + 1,247
    - 1,100


    Two Women, Marriage Italian-Style, It Started in Naples

    ;
  35. 35
    + 952
    - 660
    Maureen O'Hara is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History

    ranked low on reranks
    Maureen O'Hara Miracle on 34th Street, The Quiet Man, How Green Was My Valley

  36. 36
    + 1,093
    - 901
    Shirley MacLaine is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History


    Shirley MacLaine Terms of Endearment, The Apartment, The Turning Point

  37. 37
    + 1,140
    - 1,244
    Rita Hayworth is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Rita Hayworth Gilda, Circus World, The Lady from Shanghai

  38. 38
    + 1,160
    - 973
    Anne Bancroft is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History


    Anne Bancroft The Miracle Worker, The Graduate, The Turning Point

  39. 39
    + 1,277
    - 1,156
    Barbara Stanwyck is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History


    Barbara Stanwyck Double Indemnity, Sorry Wrong Number, Stella Dallas

  40. 40
    + 1,090
    - 1,043


    West Side Story, The Searchers, Rebel Without a Cause

    ;
  41. 41
    + 991
    - 809
    Sissy Spacek is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History


    Sissy Spacek Carrie, Coal Miner's Daughter, In the Bedroom

  42. 42
    + 934
    - 973


    From Here to Eternity, The King and I, Heaven Knows

    ;
  43. 43
    + 1,343
    - 1,547
    Natalie Portman is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History


    Natalie Portman Black Swan, Leon: The Professional, Closer

  44. 44
    + 995
    - 964
    Nicole Kidman is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History


    Nicole Kidman The Hours, Moulin Rouge!, Rabbit Hole

  45. 45
    + 839
    - 814
    Jane Fonda is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History


    Jane Fonda Klute, Coming Home, The China Syndrome

  46. 46
    + 917
    - 1,036
    Ava Gardner is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History

    often listed
    Ava Gardner The Night of the Iguana, Mogambo, Bhowani Junction

  47. 47
    + 1,288
    - 1,259


    Some Like It Hot, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Seven Year Itch

    ;
  48. 48
    + 990
    - 937
    Greta Garbo is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History


    Greta Garbo Anna Christie, Ninotchka, Camille

  49. 49
    + 867
    - 813
    Amy Adams is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History


    Amy Adams American Hustle, The Master, Doubt

  50. 50
    + 668
    - 500
    Frances McDormand is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History

    ranked low on reranks
    Frances McDormand Fargo, Mississippi Burning, North Country

553 +

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