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actresses The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time  

christoentes
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These are some of the greatest performances by actresses of all time. They were brave, perfectly cast, and simply fantastic. The roles span decades and represent historical figures, such as Joan of Arc and Edith Piaf. Many of these top film performances showed women on screen in a way that had never been seen before, such as Penelope Cruz in Volver and Bette Davis in All About Eve.

The list includes breakout performances, such as Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone, and experienced actresses such as Emanuelle Riva, who already had a lifetime of work behind her when she did Amour.

Some of these actress performances were in acclaimed films and ended up being Oscar-winning roles, but they don't necessarily have to be to be included. As longs as the performance was incredible and one of the best Hollywood has seen, you'll find it listed here. Audrey Hepburn, Cate Blanchett, Meryl Streep, Judi Dench, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, the list goes on...

Which do you think are the best performances of all time turned in by female actresses? Cast your votes below!
list ordered by

1
334 141
Katharine Hepburn- Bringing Up... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
zoe-krainik added Katharine Hepburn- Bringing Up Baby

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2
306 194
Jessica Lange is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
punksnotdead added Jessica Lange - Frances Tootsie, Big Fish, Cape Fear

3
548 417
Joan Crawford is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Ri Wa added Joan Crawford What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Grand Hotel, Mildred Pierce

4
155 58
Vivien Leigh - Gone With the W... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
MeganAnderson added Vivien Leigh - Gone With the Wind

5
511 424
Audrey Hepburn is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Audrey Hepburn - Breakfast at Tiffany's Breakfast at Tiffany's, My Fair Lady, Roman Holiday - Nominated, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 1962

6
290 223
Anne Bancroft is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Anne Bancroft - The Graduate Blazing Saddles, The Graduate, Antz - Nominated, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 1968

7
181 113
Lupita Nyong'o is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
aria2000 added Lupita Nyong'o - 12 years a slave 12 Years a Slave, Non-Stop, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

8
118 49
Liza Minnelli is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
maya365 added Liza Minnelli - Cabaret Cabaret, Arthur, The Muppets Take Manhattan

9
207 142
Sissy Spacek is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Sissy Spacek - Carrie Carrie, JFK, The Help - Nominated, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 1977

10
168 104
Claudette Colbert is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
RobLein added Claudette Colbert - It Happened One Night It Happened One Night, The Palm Beach Story, It's a Wonderful World

11
295 238
Jodie Foster is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Jodie Foster - The Accused The Silence of the Lambs, Taxi Driver, Contact - Won, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 1989

12
181 130
Judy Garland - a Star Is Born is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
RobLein added Judy Garland - a Star Is Born

13
167 122
Frances McDormand is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Frances McDormand - Fargo Fargo, Almost Famous, Raising Arizona - Won, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 1997

14
179 138
Reese Witherspoon is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Reese Witherspoon - Election American Psycho, Legally Blonde, Election

15
197 159
Jennifer Lawrence is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Jennifer Lawrence - Winter's Bone The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1, X-Men: First Class - Nominated, Best Actress in a Leading Role, 2011

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16
174 135
Gene Tierney is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
punksnotdead added Gene Tierney - Heaven can wait ('43) Laura, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Night and the City

17
141 98
Claudia Cardinale is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
punksnotdead added Claudia Cardinale - Once upon a time in the West Once Upon a Time in the West, The Pink Panther, 8½

18
169 132
Julie Andrews is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
RobLein added Julie Andrews - The Sound of Music The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, Shrek 2

19
146 106
Kristin Scott Thomas is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Kristin Scott Thomas - The English Patient The English Patient, Mission: Impossible, Four Weddings and a Funeral - Nominated, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 1997

20
148 109
Emma Thompson is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Emma Thompson - The Remains of the Day Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, Brave - Nominated, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 1994

21
151 113
Holly Hunter is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Holly Hunter - The Piano The Incredibles, Raising Arizona, O Brother - Won, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 1994

22
161 131
Helen Mirren is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Helen Mirren - The Queen Monsters University, The Prince of Egypt, Excalibur - Won, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 2007

23
191 168
Halle Berry is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Halle Berry - Monster's Ball X-Men, X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men 2 - Won, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 2002

24
239 229
Bette Davis is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Bette Davis - All About Eve All About Eve, P.S. I Love You, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? - Nominated, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 1951

25
147 118
Diane Keaton is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Diane Keaton - Annie Hall The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, Annie Hall - Won, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 1978

26
141 112
Julianne Moore is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Julianne Moore - Still Alice The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1, The Big Lebowski - Won, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 2015

27
139 111
Natalie Portman is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
punksnotdead added Natalie Portman - Leon Thor, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

28
137 110
Ellen Burstyn is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Ellen Burstyn - Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore The Exorcist, Requiem for a Dream, Interstellar - Won, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 1975

29
128 100
Julie Walters is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Julie Walters - Educating Rita Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 - Nominated, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 1984

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30
165 147
Sandra Bullock is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
RobLein added Sandra Bullock The Blind Side, Gravity, Crash

31
146 124
Michelle Williams is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Michelle Williams - Blue Valentine Brokeback Mountain, Oz the Great and Powerful, Shutter Island - Nominated, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 2011

32
132 107
Naomi Watts is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Naomi Watts - The Impossible King Kong, The Ring, Mulholland Drive - Nominated, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 2013

33
77 39
Charlotte Rampling is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
iandmph added Charlotte Rampling - 45 Years Angel Heart, The Verdict, Spy Game

34
129 105
Theresa Russell - Insignifican... is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
punksnotdead added Theresa Russell - Insignificance Aria, Wild Things, Public Enemies, The Razor's Edge

35
192 190
Viola Davis is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Viola Davis - The Help The Help, Traffic, Out of Sight - Nominated, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 2012

36
456 534
Meryl Streep is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Meryl Streep - Sophie's Choice The Deer Hunter, Out of Africa, Kramer vs. Kramer - Won, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 1982

37
133 119
Lauren Bacall is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Lauren Bacall - The Big Sleep Misery, The Big Sleep, Murder on the Orient Express

38
164 182
Cate Blanchett is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Cate Blanchett - Blue Jasmine The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers - Won, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 2014

39
149 162
Ingrid Bergman is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Ingrid Bergman - Notorius Casablanca, Notorious, Cinema Paradiso

40
144 160
Michelle Pfeiffer - Batman Ret... is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Kasir Radojica added Michelle Pfeiffer - Batman Returns

41
60 45
Jodie Foster-the Silence of th... is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
BaruchLalaev added Jodie Foster-the Silence of the Lambs

42
436 588
Audrey Hepburn - The Nun's Sto... is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
diffcloud added Audrey Hepburn - The Nun's Story The Nun's Story, Breakfast at Tiffany's, My Fair Lady

43
171 207
Gloria Swanson is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Gloria Swanson - Sunset Boulevard Sunset Boulevard, Airport 1975, His New Job - Nominated, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 1951

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44
134 154
Nicole Kidman is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Nicole Kidman - The Hours Batman Forever, Eyes Wide Shut, Moulin Rouge! - Won, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 2003

45
352 509
Katharine Hepburn is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Katharine Hepburn - The Philadelphia Story Bringing Up Baby, The Philadelphia Story, The African Queen - Nominated, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 1941

46
160 230
Louise Fletcher is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
RobLein added Louise Fletcher - One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Cruel Intentions, Exorcist II: The Heretic

47
128 183
Renée Jeanne Falconetti is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Renée Jeanne Falconetti - Joan of Arc The Passion of Joan of Arc

48
154 228
Kathy Bates is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Kathy Bates - Misery Titanic, Misery, The Blind Side - Won, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 1991

49
127 185
Judi Dench is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Judi Dench - Notes on a Scandal Casino Royale, Skyfall, Shakespeare in Love - Nominated, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 2007

50
128 201
Marlene Dietrich is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Marlene Dietrich - Touch of Evil Touch of Evil, Get Shorty, Judgment at Nuremberg