The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked

Voting 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.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY
Ranked by
  • Annie Wilkes
    1,453 votes
    Kathy Bates - Best Actress (1990).
  • Clarice Starling
    1,511 votes
    The Silence of the Lambs
    Jodie Foster - Best Actress (1991).
  • Marge Gunderson
    1,213 votes
    Frances McDormand - Best Actress (1996).
  • Aileen Wuornos
    1,366 votes
    Charlize Theron - Best Actress (2003).
  • Nurse Ratched
    956 votes
    One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • Blanche DuBois
    644 votes
    A Streetcar Named Desire, A Streetcar Named Desire, A Streetcar Named Desire
    Vivien Leigh-Best Actress (1951)