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The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked

Updated November 21, 2019 32.2k votes 2.5k voters 26.0k views82 items

List RulesVote 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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  • 1
    Sophie Zawistowska is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
    641
    268

    Sophie Zawistowska

    Sophie's Choice
    Meryl Streep - Best Actress (1982).
  • 2
    Aileen Wuornos is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
    712
    312
    Charlize Theron - Best Actress (2003).
  • 3
    Scarlett O'Hara is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
    704
    316

    Scarlett O'Hara

    Gone with the Wind
    Vivien Leigh - Best Actress (1939).
  • 4
    Clarice Starling is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
    748
    354

    Clarice Starling

    The Silence of the Lambs
    Jodie Foster - Best Actress (1991).
  • 5
    Annie Wilkes is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
    704
    360
    Kathy Bates - Best Actress (1990).
  • 6
    Marge Gunderson is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
    595
    282
    Frances McDormand - Best Actress (1996).
  • 7
    Nurse Ratched is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
    488
    232

    Nurse Ratched

    One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • 8
    Mary Poppins is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
    436
    238

    Mary Poppins

    Mary Poppins
    Julie Andrews-Best Actress (1964)
  • 9
    Nina Sayers is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
    560
    329

    Nina Sayers

    Black Swan
    Natalie Portman - Best Actress (2010).
  • 10
    Queen Elizabeth II is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
    372
    221
    Helen Mirren - Best Actress (2006).
  • 11
    Mammy is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
    310
    164

    Mammy

    Gone with the Wind

    Hattie McDaniel-Best Supporting Actress (1939)

  • 12
    Katherine Hepburn is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
    392
    260
    Cate Blanchett - Best Supporting Actress (2004).
  • 13
    Ellen Ripley is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
    270
    165

    Ellen Ripley

    Alien, Aliens
  • 14
    Minny Jackson is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
    385
    246
    Octavia Spencer - Best Supporting Actress (2011).
  • 15
    Edith Piaf is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
    315
    206

    Edith Piaf

    La Vie En Rose
    Marion Cotillard - Best Actress (2007).
  • 16
    Helen Keller is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
    274
    202

    Helen Keller

    The Miracle Worker
    Patty Duke - Best Supporting Actress (1962).
  • 17
    Mrs. Robinson is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
    254
    157

    Mrs. Robinson

    The Graduate
  • 18
    Blanche DuBois is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
    364
    146

    Blanche DuBois

    A Streetcar Named Desire, A Streetcar Named Desire
    Vivien Leigh-Best Actress (1951)
  • 19
    Mildred Hayes is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
    182
    84

    Mildred Hayes

    Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

    Frances McDormand - Best Actress (2017)

  • 20
    Norma Rae is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
    247
    165

    Norma Rae

    Norma Rae
    Sally Field - Best Actress (1979).
  • 21
    Brandon Teena is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
    339
    205

    Brandon Teena

    Boys Don't Cry
    Hilary Swank - Best Actress (1999).
  • 22
    Loretta Lynn is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
    268
    199

    Loretta Lynn

    Coal Miner's Daughter
  • 23
    Celie is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
    221
    148

    Celie

    The Color Purple
  • 24
    Lisa Rowe is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
    240
    178

    Lisa Rowe

    Girl, Interrupted
    Angelina Jolie - Best Supporting Actress (1999).
  • 25
    Queen Anne is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked
    94
    47

    Queen Anne

    The Favourite

    Olivia Colman - Best Actress (2018)

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