Entertainment

The Best Actresses in Film History 

Ranker Community
Originally by Ranker Community
Updated March 24, 2020 1.2M votes 57.2k voters 721.6k views 940 items

List Rules Vote up the women in film, living or passed, who have consistently turned out the best performances.

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.
list ordered by
1
Bette Davis is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History
All About Eve, P.S. I Love You, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
2
Audrey Hepburn is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History
Breakfast at Tiffany's, My Fair Lady, Roman Holiday
3
Maggie Smith is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History
California Suite, Gosford Park, A Room with a View
4
Julie Andrews is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History
The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, Thoroughly Modern Millie
5
Ingrid Bergman is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History
Casablanca, Notorious, Cinema Paradiso
6
Judi Dench is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History
Philomena, Notes on a Scandal, Shakespeare in Love
7
Helen Mirren is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History
The Queen, Gosford Park, The Last Station
8
Kathy Bates is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History
Misery, About Schmidt, Fried Green Tomatoes
9
Judy Garland is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History
The Wizard of Oz, Judgment at Nuremberg, A Star Is Born
10
Vivien Leigh is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History
Gone with the Wind, A Streetcar Named Desire, Ship of Fools
11
Kate Winslet is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History
The Reader, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Titanic
12
Sally Field is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History
Steel Magnolias, Norma Rae, Forrest Gump
13
Emma Thompson is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History
Sense and Sensibility, Howards End, The Remains of the Day
14
Meryl Streep is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History
Sophie's Choice, Kramer vs. Kramer, Out of Africa
15
Helena Bonham Carter is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History
Fight Club, The King's Speech, The Wings of the Dove
16
Amy Adams is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History
American Hustle, The Master, Doubt
17
Jessica Lange is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History
Blue Sky, Tootsie, King Kong
18
Nicole Kidman is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History
The Hours, Moulin Rouge!, Rabbit Hole
19
Julianne Moore is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History
Still Alice, The End of the Affair, Boogie Nights
20
Elizabeth Taylor is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History
Cleopatra, National Velvet, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
21
Maureen O'Hara is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History
Miracle on 34th Street, The Quiet Man, How Green Was My Valley
22
Michelle Pfeiffer is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History
The Fabulous Baker Boys, Scarface, Dangerous Liaisons
23
Diane Keaton is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History
Annie Hall, Marvin's Room, Reds
24
Jodie Foster is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History
The Silence of the Lambs, Taxi Driver, The Accused
25
Sandra Bullock is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Actresses in Film History
The Blind Side, Gravity, Speed