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The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked

Updated November 21, 2019 32.9k votes 2.8k voters 30.4k views82 items

List RulesVote up the greatest performances that were awarded the Academy Award for Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress

This list contains information about the best actress performances, ranked by your votes. Over the years there has been so many great performances that won best actress awards for the women who portrayed classic characters. Some of these best actress Oscar performances were for roles based on real people while others were based on fictional characters.

What are some of the best actress performances? Annie Wilkes from Misery made our list. Kathy Bates won a Best Actress Academy Award for her portrayal of this number one fan. Misery was based on the 1987 Stephen King book of the same name. Vivien Leigh's iconic portrayal of Scarlett O'Hara in the film Gone with the Wind also made our list. Leigh took home the Best Actress Oscar in 1939.

Several Best Supporting Actress performances also made this list. Octavia Spencer's performance of Minny Jackson in the film The Help, based on Kathryn Stockett's novel of the same name, earned her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 2011. Other supporting actress roles that are featured on this list include Katherine Hepburn in The Aviator (Cate Blanchett) and Minnie Castevet (Ruth Gordon).

Which best actress performance is your favorite? Be sure to vote on this list to make sure the right role ends up in the top spot, and also share your thoughts in the comments section.
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  • 1
    725
    326
    Gone with the Wind
    Vivien Leigh - Best Actress (1939).
  • 2
    761
    354
    The Silence of the Lambs
    Jodie Foster - Best Actress (1991).
  • 3
    723
    335
    Kathy Bates - Best Actress (1990).
  • 4
    653
    296
    Sophie's Choice
    Meryl Streep - Best Actress (1982).
  • 5
    717
    333
    Charlize Theron - Best Actress (2003).
  • 6
    462
    242
    Tom Islava addedMary Poppins
    Julie Andrews-Best Actress (1964)
  • 7
    495
    225
    One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • 8
    603
    276
    Frances McDormand - Best Actress (1996).
  • 9
    572
    335
    Black Swan
    Natalie Portman - Best Actress (2010).
  • 10
    390
    227
    Helen Mirren - Best Actress (2006).
  • 11
    335
    181
    Tom Islava addedGone with the Wind

    Hattie McDaniel-Best Supporting Actress (1939)

  • 12
    404
    258
    Cate Blanchett - Best Supporting Actress (2004).
  • 13
    287
    173
    EdWildeman addedAlien, Aliens
  • 14
    398
    246
    Octavia Spencer - Best Supporting Actress (2011).
  • 15
    335
    209
    La Vie En Rose
    Marion Cotillard - Best Actress (2007).
  • 16
    362
    145
    Tom Islava addedA Streetcar Named Desire, A Streetcar Named Desire
    Vivien Leigh-Best Actress (1951)
  • 17
    280
    189
    The Miracle Worker
    Patty Duke - Best Supporting Actress (1962).
  • 18
    208
    99
    Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

    Frances McDormand - Best Actress (2017)

  • 19
    239
    151
    The Color Purple
  • 20
    256
    163
    Norma Rae
    Sally Field - Best Actress (1979).
  • 21
    259
    154
    -1455064860836 addedThe Graduate
  • 22
    264
    187
    Coal Miner's Daughter
  • 23
    338
    208
    Boys Don't Cry
    Hilary Swank - Best Actress (1999).
  • 24
    254
    137
    Baby Jane?, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
  • 25
    131
    66
    The Favourite

    Olivia Colman - Best Actress (2018)