Oscars The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked  

Ranker Film
Originally by
18.1k votes 1.4k voters 13.1k 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
438 165
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
375 192
Annie Wilkes is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Misery - Kathy Bates - Best Actress (1990).

3
349 138
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
349 160
Aileen Wuornos is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Monster - Charlize Theron - Best Actress (2003).

5
341 171
Marge Gunderson is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Fargo - Frances McDormand - Best Actress (1996).

6
288 143
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
198 104
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 99
Loretta Lynn is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Coal Miner's Daughter

9
269 186
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 78
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
132 57
Blanche DuBois is listed (or ranked) 11 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)

12
208 160
Katherine Hepburn is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
The Aviator - Cate Blanchett - Best Supporting Actress (2004).

13
203 125
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
236 151
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
141 59
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
223 209
Erin Brockovich is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Erin Brockovich - Julia Roberts - Best Actress (2000).

17
146 108
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
112 75
Aurora Greenway is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Aurora Greenway Terms of Endearment

19
106 59
Mrs. Robinson is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
-1455064860836 added The Graduate

20
170 117
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
150 103
Edith Piaf is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
La Vie En Rose - Marion Cotillard - Best Actress (2007).

22
136 123
Sister Helen Prejean is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Dead Man Walking - Susan Sarandon - Best Actress (1995).

23
175 150
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
134 97
Norma Rae is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Norma Rae - Sally Field - Best Actress (1979).

25
139 140
Joanna Kramer is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Kramer vs. Kramer - Meryl Streep - Best Supporting Actress (1979).

26
191 119
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
105 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 78
Ellen Ripley is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
EdWildeman added Alien, Aliens, Alien³

29
111 58
Baby Jane Hudson is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Baby Jane?, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

30
141 146
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
100 67
Celie is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
The Color Purple

32
130 117
Patsey is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
12 Years a Slave - Lupita Nyong'o - Best Supporting Actress (2013).

33
184 157
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
116 105
Hanna Schmitz is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
The Reader - Kate Winslet - Best Actress (2008).

35
85 61
Bonnie Parker is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Bonnie & Clyde - Faye Dunaway Bonnie & clyde

36
159 140
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 43
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
132 144
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
98 104
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
66 68
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
99 94
Ada is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
The Piano - Holly Hunter - Best Actress (1993).

42
61 47
Sally Bowles is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Tom Islava added Cabaret - Liza Minnelli-Best Actress (1972)

43
92 90
Alice Howland is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Alice Howland Still Alice - Julianne Moore - Best Actress (2014).

44
92 61
Ranker Video
Linus added Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? - Elizabeth Taylor - Best Actress (1967)

45
122 108
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
64 50
Sugar Kane Kowalczyk is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
-1455064860836 added Some Like It Hot

47
115 112
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
111 105
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
61 64
Annie Hall is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Tom Islava added Annie Hall - Diane Keaton-Best Actress (1977)

50
76 101
Julie Nichols is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
Tootsie - Jessica Lange - Best Supporting Actress (1982).