Award Shows The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked  

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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
387 126
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
334 149
Annie Wilkes is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Misery - Kathy Bates - Best Actress (1990).

3
300 136
Aileen Wuornos is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Monster - Charlize Theron - Best Actress (2003).

4
293 145
Marge Gunderson is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Fargo - Frances McDormand - Best Actress (1996).

5
297 116
Scarlett O'Hara is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Gone with the Wind - Vivien Leigh - Best Actress (1939).

6
241 121
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
159 82
Nurse Ratched is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

8
234 156
Nina Sayers is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Black Swan - Natalie Portman - Best Actress (2010).

9
114 75
Loretta Lynn is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Coal Miner's Daughter

10
210 130
Minny Jackson is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
The Help - Octavia Spencer - Best Supporting Actress (2011).

11
132 62
Mary Poppins is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Tom Islava added Mary Poppins - Julie Andrews-Best Actress (1964)

12
170 110
Queen Elizabeth II is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
The Queen - Helen Mirren - Best Actress (2006).

13
199 173
Erin Brockovich is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Erin Brockovich - Julia Roberts - Best Actress (2000).

14
180 137
Katherine Hepburn is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
The Aviator - Cate Blanchett - Best Supporting Actress (2004).

15
108 45
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
127 90
Helen Keller is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
The Miracle Worker - Patty Duke - Best Supporting Actress (1962).

17
99 44
Blanche DuBois is listed (or ranked) 17 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)

18
117 104
Sister Helen Prejean is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Dead Man Walking - Susan Sarandon - Best Actress (1995).

19
86 59
Aurora Greenway is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Aurora Greenway Terms of Endearment

20
120 113
Joanna Kramer is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Kramer vs. Kramer - Meryl Streep - Best Supporting Actress (1979).

21
173 97
Brandon Teena is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Boys Don't Cry - Hilary Swank - Best Actress (1999).

22
150 128
Mona Lisa Vito is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
My Cousin Vinny - Marisa Tomei - Best Supporting Actress (1992).

23
145 97
Maggie Fitzgerald is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Million Dollar Baby - Hilary Swank - Best Actress (2004).

24
117 89
Edith Piaf is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
La Vie En Rose - Marion Cotillard - Best Actress (2007).

25
79 43
Mrs. Robinson is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
-1455064860836 added The Graduate

26
170 124
June Carter Cash is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Walk the Line - Reese Witherspoon - Best Actress (2005).

27
81 35
Margo Channing is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Paul Guimond added All About Eve

28
115 93
Patsey is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
12 Years a Slave - Lupita Nyong'o - Best Supporting Actress (2013).

29
103 54
Ellen Ripley is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
EdWildeman added Alien, Aliens, Alien³

30
116 118
Margaret Thatcher is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
The Iron Lady - Meryl Streep - Best Actress (2011).

31
110 82
Norma Rae is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Norma Rae - Sally Field - Best Actress (1979).

32
88 47
Baby Jane Hudson is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Baby Jane?, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

33
80 55
Celie is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
The Color Purple

34
99 90
Hanna Schmitz is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
The Reader - Kate Winslet - Best Actress (2008).

35
50 32
Annie Sullivan is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Tom Islava added The Miracle Worker - Anne Bancroft-Best Actress (1962)

36
117 119
Oda Mae Brown is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Ghost - Whoopi Goldberg - Best Supporting Actress (1990).

37
68 49
Bonnie Parker is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Bonnie & Clyde - Faye Dunaway Bonnie & clyde

38
86 83
Alicia Nash is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
A Beautiful Mind - Jennifer Connelly - Best Supporting Actress (2001).

39
76 48
Ranker Video
Linus added Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? - Elizabeth Taylor - Best Actress (1967)

40
139 123
Leigh Anne Tuohy is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
The Blind Side - Sandra Bullock - Best Actress (2009).

41
110 93
Mary Lee Johnston is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Mary Lee Johnston Precious - Mo'Nique - Best Supporting Actress (2009).

42
81 83
Ada is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
The Piano - Holly Hunter - Best Actress (1993).

43
48 57
Margaret Schlegel is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Linus added Howards End - Emma Thompson - Best Actress (1993)

44
101 97
Fantine is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Les Misérables, Les Misérables, Les Misérables - Anne Hathaway - Best Supporting Actress (2012).

45
48 49
Annie Hall is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Tom Islava added Annie Hall - Diane Keaton-Best Actress (1977)

46
81 79
Alice Howland is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Alice Howland Still Alice - Julianne Moore - Best Actress (2014).

47
103 84
Velma Kelly is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Chicago - Catherine Zeta-Jones - Best Supporting Actress (2002).

48
46 38
Sugar Kane Kowalczyk is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
-1455064860836 added Some Like It Hot

49
76 91
Queen Elizabeth I is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Shakespeare in Love - Judi Dench - Best Supporting Actress (1998).

50
51 51
Ranker Video
Linus added Eleanor of Aquitaine The Lion in Winter - Katharine Hepburn - Best Actress (1969)