Oscars The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked  

Ranker Film
Originally by
17.9k votes 1.4k voters 13k views 102 items

List Rules Vote 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.
list ordered by

1
433 163
Clarice Starling is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
The Silence of the Lambs - Jodie Foster - Best Actress (1991).

2
372 188
Annie Wilkes is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Misery - Kathy Bates - Best Actress (1990).

3
345 137
Scarlett O'Hara is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Gone with the Wind - Vivien Leigh - Best Actress (1939).

4
346 159
Aileen Wuornos is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Monster - Charlize Theron - Best Actress (2003).

5
340 170
Marge Gunderson is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Fargo - Frances McDormand - Best Actress (1996).

6
285 143
Sophie Zawistowska is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Sophie Zawistowska Sophie's Choice - Meryl Streep - Best Actress (1982).

7
196 103
Nurse Ratched is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

8
131 97
Loretta Lynn is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Coal Miner's Daughter

9
267 184
Nina Sayers is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Black Swan - Natalie Portman - Best Actress (2010).

10
171 76
Mary Poppins is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Tom Islava added Mary Poppins - Julie Andrews-Best Actress (1964)

11
208 157
Katherine Hepburn is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
The Aviator - Cate Blanchett - Best Supporting Actress (2004).

12
129 56
Blanche DuBois is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Tom Islava added A Streetcar Named Desire, A Streetcar Named Desire, A Streetcar Named Desire - Vivien Leigh-Best Actress (1951)

13
202 124
Queen Elizabeth II is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
The Queen - Helen Mirren - Best Actress (2006).

14
236 149
Minny Jackson is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
The Help - Octavia Spencer - Best Supporting Actress (2011).

15
140 57
Mammy is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Tom Islava added Gone with the Wind -

Hattie McDaniel-Best Supporting Actress (1939)

16
222 207
Erin Brockovich is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Erin Brockovich - Julia Roberts - Best Actress (2000).

17
146 107
Helen Keller is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
The Miracle Worker - Patty Duke - Best Supporting Actress (1962).

18
106 57
Mrs. Robinson is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
-1455064860836 added The Graduate

19
110 75
Aurora Greenway is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Aurora Greenway Terms of Endearment

20
169 116
Maggie Fitzgerald is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Million Dollar Baby - Hilary Swank - Best Actress (2004).

21
135 121
Sister Helen Prejean is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Dead Man Walking - Susan Sarandon - Best Actress (1995).

22
149 102
Edith Piaf is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
La Vie En Rose - Marion Cotillard - Best Actress (2007).

23
174 149
Mona Lisa Vito is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
My Cousin Vinny - Marisa Tomei - Best Supporting Actress (1992).

24
139 138
Joanna Kramer is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Kramer vs. Kramer - Meryl Streep - Best Supporting Actress (1979).

25
133 96
Norma Rae is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Norma Rae - Sally Field - Best Actress (1979).

26
190 118
Brandon Teena is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Boys Don't Cry - Hilary Swank - Best Actress (1999).

27
103 46
Margo Channing is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Paul Guimond added All About Eve

28
118 76
Ellen Ripley is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
EdWildeman added Alien, Aliens, Alien³

29
141 143
Margaret Thatcher is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
The Iron Lady - Meryl Streep - Best Actress (2011).

30
109 58
Baby Jane Hudson is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Baby Jane?, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

31
130 114
Patsey is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
12 Years a Slave - Lupita Nyong'o - Best Supporting Actress (2013).

32
98 67
Celie is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
The Color Purple

33
184 155
June Carter Cash is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Walk the Line - Reese Witherspoon - Best Actress (2005).

34
114 104
Hanna Schmitz is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
The Reader - Kate Winslet - Best Actress (2008).

35
84 60
Bonnie Parker is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Bonnie & Clyde - Faye Dunaway Bonnie & clyde

36
158 138
Leigh Anne Touhy is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
The Blind Side - Sandra Bullock - Best Actress (2009).

37
65 42
Annie Sullivan is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Tom Islava added The Miracle Worker - Anne Bancroft-Best Actress (1962)

38
131 142
Oda Mae Brown is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Ghost - Whoopi Goldberg - Best Supporting Actress (1990).

39
98 102
Alicia Nash is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
A Beautiful Mind - Jennifer Connelly - Best Supporting Actress (2001).

40
65 67
Margaret Schlegel is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Linus added Howards End - Emma Thompson - Best Actress (1993)

41
97 94
Ada is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
The Piano - Holly Hunter - Best Actress (1993).

42
92 60
Ranker Video
Linus added Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? - Elizabeth Taylor - Best Actress (1967)

43
59 47
Sally Bowles is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Tom Islava added Cabaret - Liza Minnelli-Best Actress (1972)

44
91 90
Alice Howland is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Alice Howland Still Alice - Julianne Moore - Best Actress (2014).

45
122 107
Mary Lee Johnston is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Mary Lee Johnston Precious - Mo'Nique - Best Supporting Actress (2009).

46
63 49
Sugar Kane Kowalczyk is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
-1455064860836 added Some Like It Hot

47
114 111
Fantine is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Les Misérables, Les Misérables, Les Misérables - Anne Hathaway - Best Supporting Actress (2012).

48
110 104
Velma Kelly is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Chicago - Catherine Zeta-Jones - Best Supporting Actress (2002).

49
75 101
Julie Nichols is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Tootsie - Jessica Lange - Best Supporting Actress (1982).

50
59 64
Annie Hall is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Tom Islava added Annie Hall - Diane Keaton-Best Actress (1977)