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The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked 

Ranker Film
Originally by
Updated November 21, 2019 31.3k votes 2.4k voters 25.6k views 82 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.
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list ordered by
1
Clarice Starling is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Jodie Foster - Best Actress (1991).
2
Aileen Wuornos is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Charlize Theron - Best Actress (2003).
3
Scarlett O'Hara is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Vivien Leigh - Best Actress (1939).
4
Annie Wilkes is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Kathy Bates in Misery
Kathy Bates - Best Actress (1990).
5
Sophie Zawistowska is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Sophie Zawistowska
Meryl Streep - Best Actress (1982).
6
Marge Gunderson is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Frances McDormand in Fargo
Frances McDormand - Best Actress (1996).
7
Nurse Ratched is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Louise Fletcher in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
8
Nina Sayers is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Natalie Portman in Black Swan
Natalie Portman - Best Actress (2010).
9
Mary Poppins is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Tom Islava added Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins
Julie Andrews-Best Actress (1964)
10
Queen Elizabeth II is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Helen Mirren - Best Actress (2006).
11
Minny Jackson is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Octavia Spencer in The Help
Octavia Spencer - Best Supporting Actress (2011).
12
Katherine Hepburn is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Cate Blanchett in The Aviator
Cate Blanchett - Best Supporting Actress (2004).
13
Edith Piaf is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Marion Cotillard in La Vie En Rose
Marion Cotillard - Best Actress (2007).
14
Helen Keller is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Hallie Kate Eisenberg in The Miracle Worker
Patty Duke - Best Supporting Actress (1962).
15
Ellen Ripley is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
EdWildeman added Sigourney Weaver in Alien
16
Mrs. Robinson is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
-1455064860836 added Anne Bancroft in The Graduate
17
Mammy is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Tom Islava added Hattie McDaniel in Gone with the Wind

Hattie McDaniel-Best Supporting Actress (1939)

18
Loretta Lynn is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Sissy Spacek in Coal Miner's Daughter
19
Brandon Teena is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Hilary Swank in Boys Don't Cry
Hilary Swank - Best Actress (1999).
20
Blanche DuBois is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Tom Islava added
Vivien Leigh-Best Actress (1951)
21
Norma Rae is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Norma Rae Sally Field in Norma Rae
Sally Field - Best Actress (1979).
22
June Carter Cash is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Reese Witherspoon - Best Actress (2005).
23
Erin Brockovich is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich
Julia Roberts - Best Actress (2000).
24
Maggie Fitzgerald is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby
Hilary Swank - Best Actress (2004).
25
Celie is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Whoopi Goldberg in The Color Purple