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Actresses The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time  

christoentes
24.8k votes 1.8k voters 13.2k views

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!

1
348 162
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

2
179 73
Vivien Leigh - Gone With the W... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
MeganAnderson added Vivien Leigh - Gone With the Wind

3
323 206
Jessica Lange is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
punksnotdead added Tootsie, Big Fish, Cape Fear

4
563 430
Joan Crawford is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Ri Wa added What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Grand Hotel, Mildred Pierce

5
524 439
Audrey Hepburn is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Breakfast at Tiffany's, My Fair Lady, Roman Holiday - Nominated, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 1962

6
317 245
Jodie Foster is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
The Silence of the Lambs, Taxi Driver, Contact - Won, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 1989

7
302 232
Anne Bancroft is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Blazing Saddles, The Graduate, Antz - Nominated, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 1968

8
195 124
Lupita Nyong'o is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
aria2000 added 12 Years a Slave, Non-Stop, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

9
125 56
Liza Minnelli is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
maya365 added Cabaret, Arthur, The Muppets Take Manhattan

10
218 155
Sissy Spacek is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Carrie, JFK, The Help - Nominated, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 1977

11
171 112
Claudette Colbert is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
RobLein added It Happened One Night, The Palm Beach Story, It's a Wonderful World

12
192 135
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
186 130
Frances McDormand is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Fargo, Almost Famous, Raising Arizona - Won, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 1997

14
183 142
Julie Andrews is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
RobLein added The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, Shrek 2

15
161 119
Holly Hunter is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
The Incredibles, Raising Arizona, O Brother - Won, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 1994

16
259 236
Bette Davis is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
All About Eve, P.S. I Love You, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? - Nominated, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 1951

17
145 105
Claudia Cardinale is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
punksnotdead added Once Upon a Time in the West, The Pink Panther, 8½

18
177 142
Gene Tierney is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
punksnotdead added Laura, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Night and the City

19
154 116
Emma Thompson is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
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

20
204 174
Jennifer Lawrence is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1, X-Men: First Class - Nominated, Best Actress in a Leading Role, 2011

21
183 150
Reese Witherspoon is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
American Psycho, Legally Blonde, Election

22
172 138
Helen Mirren is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Monsters University, The Prince of Egypt, Excalibur - Won, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 2007

23
200 176
Halle Berry is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
X-Men, X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men 2 - Won, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 2002

24
148 115
Kristin Scott Thomas is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
The English Patient, Mission: Impossible, Four Weddings and a Funeral - Nominated, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 1997

25
152 125
Diane Keaton is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, Annie Hall - Won, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 1978

26
145 120
Julianne Moore is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1, The Big Lebowski - Won, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 2015

27
144 119
Natalie Portman is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
punksnotdead added Thor, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

28
138 112
Naomi Watts is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
King Kong, The Ring, Mulholland Drive - Nominated, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 2013

29
142 117
Ellen Burstyn is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
The Exorcist, Requiem for a Dream, Interstellar - Won, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 1975

30
485 540
Meryl Streep is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
The Deer Hunter, Out of Africa, Kramer vs. Kramer - Won, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 1982

31
173 157
Sandra Bullock is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
RobLein added The Blind Side, Gravity, Crash

32
132 107
Julie Walters is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
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

33
150 130
Michelle Williams is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Brokeback Mountain, Oz the Great and Powerful, Shutter Island - Nominated, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 2011

34
81 45
Charlotte Rampling is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
iandmph added Angel Heart, The Verdict, Spy Game

35
202 195
Viola Davis is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
The Help, Traffic, Out of Sight - Nominated, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 2012

36
130 110
Theresa Russell - Insignifican... is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
punksnotdead added Theresa Russell - Insignificance Aria, Wild Things, Public Enemies, The Razor's Edge

37
140 124
Lauren Bacall is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Misery, The Big Sleep, Murder on the Orient Express

38
74 49
Jodie Foster-the Silence of th... is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
BaruchLalaev added Jodie Foster-the Silence of the Lambs

39
177 187
Cate Blanchett is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
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

40
157 167
Ingrid Bergman is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Casablanca, Notorious, Cinema Paradiso

41
150 168
Michelle Pfeiffer - Batman Ret... is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Kasir Radojica added Michelle Pfeiffer - Batman Returns

42
180 210
Gloria Swanson is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Sunset Boulevard, Airport 1975, His New Job - Nominated, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 1951

43
140 161
Nicole Kidman is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Batman Forever, Eyes Wide Shut, Moulin Rouge! - Won, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 2003

44
442 594
Audrey Hepburn - The Nun's Sto... is listed (or ranked) 44 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

45
359 514
Katharine Hepburn is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Bringing Up Baby, The Philadelphia Story, The African Queen - Nominated, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 1941

46
170 235
Louise Fletcher is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
RobLein added One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Cruel Intentions, Exorcist II: The Heretic

47
165 232
Kathy Bates is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Titanic, Misery, The Blind Side - Won, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 1991

48
132 187
Renée Jeanne Falconetti is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
The Passion of Joan of Arc

49
130 188
Judi Dench is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
Casino Royale, Skyfall, Shakespeare in Love - Nominated, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 2007

50
131 196
Marion Cotillard is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Actress Performances of All Time
The Dark Knight Rises, Inception, Big Fish - Won, Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, 2008