The Oscar Quest: Worst Best Actress Choices
I’ve got some opinions on this one.
I’ll say right now — I don’t care about yours. The idea is that these decisions are not very good, out of all the Best Actress decisions of all time. This includes the performances, the decisions and the actresses themselves. You have to take everything into account here, and I’ll do my best to explain why I consider each to be the worst decisions of all time in the category.
Again, let me reiterate — the numbers don’t matter. Don’t focus on the rankings, focus on why they’re on the list.
Here are my choices for Worst Best Actress choices of all time:
10. 1961, Sophia Loren, Two Women
Beat: Natalie Wood, Splendor in the Grass, Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Piper Laurie, The Hustler, Geraldine Page, Summer and Smoke.
Simply because she didn’t give the best performance in my estimation. Laurie was better, though I can accept her beating Laurie. Hepburn was so much more iconic, though I might be able to accept that. What I cannot accept is the fact that Natalie Wood was not only in Splendor in the Grass, and that performance alone was worth an Oscar, but she was also in West Side Story. This is a terrible decision, through and through.
9. 2002, Nicole Kidman, The Hours
Beat: Julianne Moore, Far from Heaven, Renée Zellweger, Chicago, Salma Hayek, Frida, Diane Lane, Unfaithful.
She’s a supporting character in the film. I don’t care if you think her performance was that good (I don’t think it was). What matters is that she is not the lead of the film no matter how you slice it. Add to that Julianne Moore’s performance — this is an awful decision. Is Nicole Kidman really that good of an actress to deserve this? Really?
8. 1963, Patricia Neal, Hud
Beat: Leslie Caron, The L-Shaped Room, Natalie Wood, Love with the Proper Stranger, Shirley MacLaine, Irma la Douce, Rachel Roberts, This Sporting Life.
I hate this decision. Caron was better, Wood was already snubbed, MacLaine was already horrendously snubbed, and Roberts was really strong. I can understand her beating Roberts, but not the other three. Not at all.
7. 1999, Hilary Swank, Boys Don’t Cry
Beat: Annette Bening, American Beauty, Janet McTeer, Tumbleweeds, Julianne Moore, The End of the Affair, Meryl Streep, Music of the Heart.
Annette Bening should have won. Maybe if this was a one-off, it would have been okay, but she won again five years later. Hilary Swank’s not a good enough actress to have two Oscars. This is an awful decision. Annette Bening wins this category, hands down.
6. 1956, Ingrid Bergman, Anastasia
Beat: Carroll Baker, Baby Doll, Katharine Hepburn, The Rainmaker, Deborah Kerr, The King and I, Nancy Kelly, The Bad Seed.
Because it was so strong. And because Bergman didn’t really do all that much in the role. Carroll Baker’s performance was so much more complete. And Deborah Kerr never won an Oscar. They are, by default, better decisions. Not to mention the fact that Bergman was snubbed for Casablanca, given a makeup (and partially deserved) Oscar for Gaslight, which snubbed Barbara Stanwyck for Double Indemnity. With that line of destruction, you better damn well earn a second Oscar. And for my money, she didn’t do that.
5. 1985, Geraldine Page, The Trip to Bountiful
Beat: Whoopi Goldberg, The Color Purple, Meryl Streep, Out of Africa, Jessica Lange, Sweet Dreams, Anne Bancroft, Agnes of God.
Whoopi Goldberg should have won this. Plain and simple. This is horrendous. And racist.
4. 1959, Simone Signoret, Room at the Top
Beat: Audrey Hepburn, The Nun’s Story, Elizabeth Taylor & Katharine Hepburn, Suddenly, Last Summer, Doris Day, Pillow Talk.
This performance was not very good at all. I get that there wasn’t all that much upset by the decision, but — Hepburn gave what might have been her best dramatic performance in A Nun’s Story, and Taylor and Hepburn were both amazing (not to mention that big Taylor category that happens in 1960, which you’ll notice is not on this list, simply because they made up for it as best they could). It’s not very good no matter how you look at it. I’d rather Doris Day have an Oscar over Simone Signoret, if we’re really just gonna pick indiscriminately.
3. 1947, Loretta Young, The Farmer’s Daughter
Beat: Rosalind Russell, Mourning Becomes Electra, Dorothy McGuire, Gentleman’s Agreement, Joan Crawford, Possessed, Susan Hayward, Smash-Up, the Story of a Woman.
The poster child for worst Best Actress decisions. Everyone acknowledges that Rosalind Russell should have won here.
2. 2009, Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Beat: Carey Mulligan, An Education, Gabourey Sidibe, Precious, Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia, Helen Mirren, The Last Station.
You knew I was gonna say this. Watch Bullock’s performance. Then watch any of these other four, specifically the first two. I don’t care if she’s “America’s Sweetheart,” a bad decision is a bad decision.
1. 1970, Glena Jackson, Women in Love
Beat: Ali MacGraw, Love Story, Jane Alexander, The Great White Hope, Carrie Snodgress, Diary of a Mad Housewife, Sarah Miles, Ryan’s Daughter.
If I’ve spent this entire blog calling this the single worst Oscar decision of all time, do you really think this was not gonna go here?
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11. 2001, Halle Berry, Monster’s Ball
Beat: Nicole Kidman, Moulin Rouge!, Judi Dench, Iris, Sissy Spacek, In the Bedroom, Renée Zellweger, Bridget Jones’s Diary
Bad category, yes. Important historically, yes. Good decision? No. This performance wasn’t any good. Come on. That alone makes it a bad decision. You can’t argue too much about it, but it doesn’t make it good.
12. 1955, Anna Magnani, The Rose Tattoo
Beat: Susan Hayward, I’ll Cry Tomorrow, Eleanor Parker, I’ll Cry Tomorrow, Jennifer Jones, Love is a Many-Splendored Thing, Katharine Hepburn, Summertime
Hayward gave a better performance, was a better historical decision, and her winning here would have allowed Deborah Kerr, Elizabeth Taylor or Rosalind Russell (two of whom who never won Oscars) to win in 1958. So all around, not a good decision.
13. 2005, Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line
Beat: Felicity Huffman, Transamerica, Charlize Theron, North Country, Keira Knightley, Pride and Prejudice, Judi Dench, Mrs. Henderson Presents
I like the movie, but this isn’t an Oscar-winning performance. Come on. Felicity Huffman played a man! Playing a woman! This was a terrible decision. It seems the 2000s are littered with these decisions.
14. 1987, Cher, Moonstruck
Beat: Holly Hunter, Broadcast News, Glenn Close, Fatal Attraction, Meryl Streep, Ironweed, Sally Kirkland, Anna
Seriously — Cher an Oscar over Glenn Close? Even Holly Hunter gave a better performance. Terrible choice.
Tie: 15. 1952, Shirley Booth, Come Back , Little Sheba
Beat: Julie Harris, The Member of the Wedding, Susan Hayward, With a Song in My Heart, Joan Crawford, Sudden Fear, Bette Davis, The Star
And — 1937, Luise Rainer, The Good Earth
Beat: Irene Dunne, The Awful Truth, Janet Gaynor, A Star is Born, Barbara Stanwyck, Stella Dallas, Greta Garbo, Camille
There’s a tie. Because Booth’s Oscar wasn’t in that competitive a category, even though Harris was by far the best performance. And then The Rainer Oscar is terrible because she won the year before in a supporting performance, and here beat Irene Dunne and Barbara Stanwyck, who never won Oscars. Sure, neither performance really holds up, but this was the 30s, where it doesn’t really matter what won as oppose to who won. So this was pretty terrible.