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The Very Best Actress Performances, Ranked

Updated November 21, 2019 31.9k votes 2.6k voters 26.8k 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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  • Sophie Zawistowska1
    648
    276

    Sophie Zawistowska

    Sophie's Choice
    Meryl Streep - Best Actress (1982).
  • Aileen Wuornos2
    715
    318
    Charlize Theron - Best Actress (2003).
  • Scarlett O'Hara3
    709
    316

    Scarlett O'Hara

    Gone with the Wind
    Vivien Leigh - Best Actress (1939).
  • Clarice Starling4
    742
    345

    Clarice Starling

    The Silence of the Lambs
    Jodie Foster - Best Actress (1991).
  • Annie Wilkes5
    718
    344
    Kathy Bates - Best Actress (1990).
  • Marge Gunderson6
    600
    275
    Frances McDormand - Best Actress (1996).
  • Mary Poppins7
    439
    233

    Mary Poppins

    Mary Poppins
    Julie Andrews-Best Actress (1964)
  • Nurse Ratched8
    491
    226

    Nurse Ratched

    One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • Nina Sayers9
    565
    329

    Nina Sayers

    Black Swan
    Natalie Portman - Best Actress (2010).
  • Queen Elizabeth II10
    374
    219
    Helen Mirren - Best Actress (2006).
  • Mammy11
    315
    169

    Mammy

    Gone with the Wind

    Hattie McDaniel-Best Supporting Actress (1939)

  • Katherine Hepburn12
    399
    255
    Cate Blanchett - Best Supporting Actress (2004).
  • Edith Piaf13
    320
    203

    Edith Piaf

    La Vie En Rose
    Marion Cotillard - Best Actress (2007).
  • Minny Jackson14
    382
    243
    Octavia Spencer - Best Supporting Actress (2011).
  • Ellen Ripley15
    268
    165

    Ellen Ripley

    Alien, Aliens
  • Mildred Hayes16
    185
    84

    Mildred Hayes

    Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

    Frances McDormand - Best Actress (2017)

  • Blanche DuBois17
    364
    141

    Blanche DuBois

    A Streetcar Named Desire, A Streetcar Named Desire
    Vivien Leigh-Best Actress (1951)
  • Helen Keller18
    275
    194

    Helen Keller

    The Miracle Worker
    Patty Duke - Best Supporting Actress (1962).
  • Mrs. Robinson19
    252
    154

    Mrs. Robinson

    The Graduate
  • Celie20
    226
    144

    Celie

    The Color Purple
  • Norma Rae21
    250
    161

    Norma Rae

    Norma Rae
    Sally Field - Best Actress (1979).
  • Brandon Teena22
    342
    200

    Brandon Teena

    Boys Don't Cry
    Hilary Swank - Best Actress (1999).
  • Loretta Lynn23
    268
    187

    Loretta Lynn

    Coal Miner's Daughter
  • Queen Anne24
    103
    47

    Queen Anne

    The Favourite

    Olivia Colman - Best Actress (2018)

  • Lisa Rowe25
    246
    171

    Lisa Rowe

    Girl, Interrupted
    Angelina Jolie - Best Supporting Actress (1999).