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The Oscar Quest: Rankings (Best Actress)

Each time I write up Oscar categories for the Quest, I put rankings at the bottom. I can say what I want, but it really only gains perspective when I show you how I feel about each of the films or performances in relation to the others in the category. Plus, lists are easy to read.

They tend to be slightly different each time. The actual rankings are of course different, but also my methodology behind how I ranked them is different. Each time I do it, I seem to be getting closer to a consensus, so hopefully this one sticks.

The way I’m ranking these performances, as least in this current iteration: for each of the performance-related categories, the rankings are about quality of performance. I’ll vote for what I vote for, but the rankings are meant to reflect what I believe to be the best performances of the category, in order. Now, there may be some slight skewing on a few categories where my personal preference outweighs what may be objective criticism, but I promise those are limited.

Hopefully I can continue updating this as we go, and whenever I watch another movie again and shift my opinion, I’ll go back and reorganize these lists as I see fit. So that means, if this page is different than the actual category I wrote up, that’s the reason. Ideally one day I’ll have set pages for each of the categories and can just have one master location. I think we’re moving closer to that. I just need to get to a place where I feel my opinions have leveled out. We’re not there yet, but I’m working on it.

Anyway, this is a compilation of my rankings for the Best Actress categories:

(NOTE: A * means that’s what I voted for. A nominee that is underlined means that it won.)

2016

  1. Natalie Portman, Jackie *
  2. Emma Stone, La La Land
  3. Isabelle Huppert, Elle
  4. Ruth Negga, Loving
  5. Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

2015

  1. Brie Larson, Room *
  2. Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
  3. Cate Blanchett, Carol
  4. Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
  5. Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years

2014

  1. Julianne Moore, Still Alice *
  2. Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
  3. Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
  4. Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night
  5. Reese Witherspoon, Wild

2013

  1. Judi Dench, Philomena *
  2. Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
  3. Amy Adams, American Hustle
  4. Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
  5. Sandra Bullock, Gravity

2012

  1. Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook *
  2. Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
  3. Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
  4. Naomi Watts, The Impossible
  5. Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild

2011

  1. Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo *
  2. Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
  3. Viola Davis, The Help
  4. Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn
  5. Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs

2010

  1. Natalie Portman, Black Swan *
  2. Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine
  3. Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone
  4. Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
  5. Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right

2009

  1. Carey Mulligan, An Education *
  2. Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
  3. Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
  4. Helen Mirren, The Last Station
  5. Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side

2008

  1. Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married *
  2. Meryl Streep, Doubt
  3. Kate Winslet, The Reader
  4. Angelina Jolie, Changeling
  5. Melissa Leo, Frozen River

2007

  1. Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose *
  2. Julie Christie, Away from Her
  3. Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth: The Golden Age
  4. Laura Linney, The Savages
  5. Ellen Page, Juno

2006

  1. Helen Mirren, The Queen *
  2. Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal
  3. Kate Winslet, Little Children
  4. Penelope Cruz, Volver
  5. Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada

2005

  1. Felicity Huffman, Transamerica *
  2. Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line
  3. Judi Dench, Mrs. Henderson Presents
  4. Charlize Theron, North Country
  5. Keira Knightley, Pride and Prejudice

2004

  1. Kate Winslet, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind *
  2. Imelda Staunton, Vera Drake
  3. Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby
  4. Catalina Santina Moreno, Maria Full of Grace
  5. Annette Bening, Being Julia

2003

  1. Charlize Theron, Monster *
  2. Samantha Morton, In America
  3. Naomi Watts, 21 Grams
  4. Keisha Castle-Hughes, Whale Rider
  5. Diane Keaton, Something’s Gotta Give

2002

  1. Julianne Moore, Far from Heaven *
  2. Renée Zellweger, Chicago
  3. Nicole Kidman, The Hours
  4. Diane Lane, Unfaithful
  5. Salma Hayek, Frida

2001

  1. Judi Dench, Iris *
  2. Halle Berry, Monster’s Ball
  3. Sissy Spacek, In the Bedroom
  4. Nicole Kidman, Moulin Rouge
  5. Renée Zellweger, Bridget Jones’ Diary

2000

  1. Julia Roberts, Erin Brockovich *
  2. Laura Linney, You Can Count on Me
  3. Joan Allen, The Contender
  4. Ellen Burstyn, Requiem for a Dream
  5. Juliette Binoche, Chocolat

1999

  1. Annette Bening, American Beauty *
  2. Hilary Swank, Boys Don’t Cry
  3. Janet McTeer, Tumbleweeds
  4. Julianne Moore, The End of the Affair
  5. Meryl Streep, Music of the Heart

1998

  1. Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth *
  2. Gwyneth Paltrow, Shakespeare in Love
  3. Fernanda Montenegro, Central Station
  4. Emily Watson, Hilary & Jackie
  5. Meryl Streep, One True Thing

1997

  1. Helen Hunt, As Good As It Gets *
  2. Helena Bonham Carter, The Wings of the Dove
  3. Judi Dench, Mrs. Brown
  4. Kate Winslet, Titanic
  5. Julie Christie, Afterglow

1996

  1. Emily Watson, Breaking the Waves
  2. Frances McDormand, Fargo *
  3. Brenda Blethyn, Secrets & Lies
  4. Kristin Scott Thomas, The English Patient
  5. Diane Keaton, Marvin’s Room

1995

  1. Elisabeth Shue, Leaving Las Vegas *
  2. Susan Sarandon, Dead Man Walking
  3. Sharon Stone, Casino
  4. Meryl Streep, The Bridges of Madison County
  5. Emma Thompson, Sense and Sensibility

1994

  1. Jodie Foster, Nell *
  2. Jessica Lange, Blue Sky
  3. Miranda Richardson, Tom & Viv
  4. Winona Ryder, Little Women
  5. Susan Sarandon, The Client

1993

  1. Holly Hunter, The Piano *
  2. Angela Bassett, What’s Love Got to Do With It
  3. Emma Thompson, The Remains of the Day
  4. Debra Winger, Shadowlands
  5. Stockard Channing, Six Degrees of Separation

1992

  1. Mary McDonnell, Passion Fish *
  2. Emma Thompson, Howards End
  3. Michelle Pfeiffer, Love Field
  4. Susan Sarandon, Lorenzo’s Oil
  5. Catherine Deneuve, Indochine

1991

  1. Jodie Foster, The Silence of the Lambs *
  2. Laura Dern, Rambling Rose
  3. Susan Sarandon, Thelma and Louise
  4. Geena Davis, Thelma and Louise
  5. Bette Midler, For the Boys

1990

  1. Kathy Bates, Misery *
  2. Anjelica Huston, The Grifters
  3. Meryl Streep, Postcards from the Edge
  4. Julia Roberts, Pretty Woman
  5. Joanna Woodward, Mr. and Mrs. Bridge

1989

  1. Jessica Tandy, Driving Miss Daisy *
  2. Michelle Pfeiffer, The Fabulous Baker Boys
  3. Jessica Lange, Music Box
  4. Isabelle Adjani, Camille Claudel
  5. Pauline Collins, Shirley Valentine

1988

  1. Jodie Foster, The Accused *
  2. Meryl Streep, A Cry in the Dark
  3. Glenn Close, Dangerous Liaisons
  4. Sigourney Weaver, Gorillas in the Mist
  5. Melanie Griffith, Working Girl

1987

  1. Holly Hunter, Broadcast News *
  2. Cher, Moonstruck
  3. Glenn Close, Fatal Attraction
  4. Meryl Streep, Ironweed
  5. Sally Kirkland, Anna

1986

  1. Marlee Matlin, Children of a Lesser God *
  2. Sigourney Weaver, Aliens
  3. Sissy Spacek, The Morning After
  4. Kathleen Turner, Peggy Sue Got Married
  5. Jane Fonda, The Morning After

1985

  1. Whoopi Goldberg, The Color Purple *
  2. Meryl Streep, Out of Africa
  3. Jessica Lange, Sweet Dreams
  4. Geraldine Page, The Trip to Bountiful
  5. Anne Bancroft, Agnes of God

1984

  1. Sally Field, Places in the Heart *
  2. Judy Davis, A Passage to India
  3. Jessica Lange, Country
  4. Sissy Spacek, The River
  5. Vanessa Redgrave, The Bostonians

1983

  1. Shirley MacLaine, Terms of Endearment *
  2. Debra Winger, Terms of Endearment
  3. Meryl Streep, Silkwood
  4. Julie Walters, Educating Rita
  5. Jane Alexander, Testament

1982

  1. Meryl Streep, Sophie’s Choice *
  2. Jessica Lange, Frances
  3. Sissy Spacek, Missing
  4. Julie Andrews, Victor/Victoria
  5. Debra Winger, An Officer and a Gentleman

1981

  1. Diane Keaton, Reds *
  2. Katharine Hepburn, On Golden Pond
  3. Marsha Mason, Only When I Laugh
  4. Meryl Streep, The French Lieutenant’s Woman
  5. Susan Sarandon, Atlantic City

1980

  1. Sissy Spacek, Coal Miner’s Daughter *
  2. Mary Tyler Moore, Ordinary People
  3. Goldie Hawn, Private Benjamin
  4. Gena Rowlands, Gloria
  5. Ellen Burstyn, Resurrection

1979

  1. Sally Field, Norma Rae *
  2. Bette Midler, The Rose
  3. Jane Fonda, The China Syndrome
  4. Marsha Mason, Chapter Two
  5. Jill Clayburgh, Starting Over

1978

  1. Jill Clayburgh, An Unmarried Woman *
  2. Jane Fonda, Coming Home
  3. Ingrid Bergman, Autumn Sonata
  4. Ellen Burstyn, Same Time, Next Year
  5. Geraldine Page, Interiors

1977

  1. Diane Keaton, Annie Hall *
  2. Marsha Mason, The Goodbye Girl
  3. Jane Fonda, Julia
  4. Shirley MacLaine, The Turning Point
  5. Anne Bancroft, The Turning Point

1976

  1. Faye Dunaway, Network *
  2. Talia Shire, Rocky
  3. Sissy Spacek, Carrie
  4. Liv Ullmann, Face to Face
  5. Marie-Christine Barrault, Cousin, Cousine

1975

  1. Louise Fletcher, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest *
  2. Ann-Margret, Tommy
  3. Isabelle Adjani, The Story of Adele H.
  4. Carol Kane, Hester Street
  5. Glenda Jackson, Hedda

1974

  1. Gena Rowlands, A Woman Under the Influence *
  2. Ellen Burstyn, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
  3. Faye Dunaway, Chinatown
  4. Valerie Perrine, Lenny
  5. Diahann Carroll, Claudine

1973

  1. Marsha Mason, Cinderella Liberty *
  2. Glenda Jackson, A Touch of Class
  3. Ellen Burstyn, The Exorcist
  4. Barbra Streisand, The Way We Were
  5. Joanne Woodward, Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams

1972

  1. Liza Minnelli, Cabaret *
  2. Diana Ross, Lady Sings the Blues
  3. Cicely Tyson, Sounder
  4. Liv Ullmann, The Emigrants
  5. Maggie Smith, Travels with My Aunt

1971

  1. Jane Fonda, Klute *
  2. Janet Suzman, Nicholas and Alexandra
  3. Julie Christie, McCabe & Mrs. Miller
  4. Vanessa Redgrave, Mary, Queen of Scots
  5. Glenda Jackson, Sunday Bloody Sunday

1970

  1. Ali MacGraw, Love Story *
  2. Jane Alexander, The Great White Hope
  3. Carrie Snodgress, Diary of a Mad Housewife
  4. Sarah Miles, Ryan’s Daughter
  5. Glenda Jackson, Women in Love

1969

  1. Liza Minnelli, The Sterile Cuckoo *
  2. Jane Fonda, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?
  3. Maggie Smith, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
  4. Genevieve Bujold, Anne of the Thousand Days
  5. Jean Simmons, The Happy Ending

1968

  1. Barbra Streisand, Funny Girl *
  2. Katharine Hepburn, The Lion in Winter
  3. Vanessa Redgrave, Isadora
  4. Patricia Neal, The Subject Was Roses
  5. Joanne Woodward, Rachel, Rachel

1967

  1. Katharine Hepburn, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner *
  2. Anne Bancroft, The Graduate
  3. Faye Dunaway, Bonnie and Clyde
  4. Edith Evans, The Whisperers
  5. Audrey Hepburn, Wait Until Dark

1966

  1. Elizabeth Taylor, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? *
  2. Ida Kaminska, The Shop on Main Street
  3. Lynn Redgrave, Georgy Girl
  4. Anouk Aimée, A Man and a Woman
  5. Vanessa Redgrave, Morgan!

1965

  1. Julie Christie, Darling *
  2. Elizabeth Hartman, A Patch of Blue
  3. Samantha Eggar, The Collector
  4. Julie Andrews, The Sound of Music
  5. Simone Signoret, Ship of Fools

1964

  1. Anne Bancroft, The Pumpkin Eater
  2. Julie Andrews, Mary Poppins *
  3. Kim Stanley, Séance on a Wet Afternoon
  4. Sophia Loren, Marriage, Italian Style
  5. Debbie Reynolds, The Unsinkable Molly Brown

1963

  1. Leslie Caron, The L-Shaped Room *
  2. Patricia Neal, Hud
  3. Rachel Roberts, This Sporting Life
  4. Natalie Wood, Love with the Proper Stranger
  5. Shirley MacLaine, Irma la Douce

1962

  1. Lee Remick, Days of Wine and Roses *
  2. Anne Bancroft, The Miracle Worker
  3. Katharine Hepburn, Long Day’s Journey Into Night
  4. Bette Davis, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
  5. Geraldine Page, Sweet Bird of Youth

1961

  1. Natalie Wood, Splendor in the Grass *
  2. Sophia Loren, Two Women
  3. Piper Laurie, The Hustler
  4. Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  5. Geraldine Page, Summer and Smoke

1960

  1. Shirley MacLaine, The Apartment *
  2. Elizabeth Taylor, BUtterfield 8
  3. Deborah Kerr, The Sundowners
  4. Melina Mercouri, Never on Sunday
  5. Greer Garson, Sunrise at Campobello

1959

  1. Simone Signoret, Room at the Top *
  2. Audrey Hepburn, The Nun’s Story
  3. Elizabeth Taylor, Suddenly, Last Summer
  4. Katharine Hepburn, Suddenly, Last Summer
  5. Doris Day, Pillow Talk

1958

  1. Susan Hayward, I Want to Live! *
  2. Deborah Kerr, Separate Tables
  3. Elizabeth Taylor, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
  4. Shirley MacLaine, Some Came Running
  5. Rosalind Russell, Auntie Mame

1957

  1. Joanne Woodward, The Three Faces of Eve *
  2. Elizabeth Taylor, Raintree County
  3. Anna Magnani, Wild Is the Wind
  4. Lana Turner, Peyton Place
  5. Deborah Kerr, Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison

1956

  1. Carroll Baker, Baby Doll *
  2. Katharine Hepburn, The Rainmaker
  3. Ingrid Bergman, Anastasia
  4. Nancy Kelly, The Bad Seed
  5. Deborah Kerr, The King and I

1955

  1. Susan Hayward, I’ll Cry Tomorrow *
  2. Anna Magnani, The Rose Tattoo
  3. Katharine Hepburn, Summertime
  4. Eleanor Parker, Interrupted Melody
  5. Jennifer Jones, Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing

1954

  1. Judy Garland, A Star Is Born *
  2. Grace Kelly, The Country Girl
  3. Dorothy Dandridge, Carmen Jones
  4. Audrey Hepburn, Sabrina
  5. Jane Wyman, Magnificent Obsession

1953

  1. Audrey Hepburn, Roman Holiday *
  2. Deborah Kerr, From Here to Eternity
  3. Leslie Caron, Lili
  4. Ava Gardner, Mogambo
  5. Maggie McNamara, The Moon Is Blue

1952

  1. Julie Harris, The Member of the Wedding *
  2. Shirley Booth, Come Back, Little Sheba
  3. Susan Hayward, With a Song in My Heart
  4. Joan Crawford, Sudden Fear
  5. Bette Davis, The Star

1951

  1. Vivien Leigh, A Streetcar Named Desire *
  2. Shelley Winters, A Place in the Sun
  3. Katharine Hepburn, The African Queen
  4. Eleanor Parker, Detective Story
  5. Jane Wyman, The Blue Veil

1950

  1. Judy Holliday, Born Yesterday *
  2. Gloria Swanson, Sunset Boulevard
  3. Anne Baxter, All About Eve
  4. Bette Davis, All About Eve
  5. Eleanor Parker, Caged

1949

  1. Olivia de Havilland, The Heiress *
  2. Jeanne Crain, Pinky
  3. Deborah Kerr, Edward, My Son
  4. Susan Hayward, My Foolish Heart
  5. Loretta Young, Come to the Stable

1948

  1. Jane Wyman, Johnny Belinda *
  2. Olivia de Havilland, The Snake Pit
  3. Irene Dunne, I Remember Mama
  4. Ingrid Bergman, Joan of Arc
  5. Barbara Stanwyck, Sorry, Wrong Number

1947

  1. Rosalind Russell, Mourning Becomes Electra *
  2. Dorothy McGuire, Gentleman’s Agreement
  3. Susan Hayward, Smash-Up, The Story of a Woman
  4. Loretta Young, The Farmer’s Daughter
  5. Joan Crawford, Possessed

1946

  1. Olivia de Havilland, To Each His Own *
  2. Celia Johnson, Brief Encounter
  3. Jane Wyman, The Yearling
  4. Jennifer Jones, Duel in the Sun
  5. Rosalind Russell, Sister Kenny

1945

  1. Joan Crawford, Mildred Pierce
  2. Gene Tierney, Leave Her to Heaven *
  3. Ingrid Bergman, The Bells of St. Mary’s
  4. Jennifer Jones, Love Letters
  5. Greer Garson, The Valley of Decision

1944

  1. Ingrid Bergman, Gaslight *
  2. Barbara Stanwyck, Double Indemnity
  3. Claudette Colbert, Since You Went Away
  4. Greer Garson, Mrs. Parkington
  5. Bette Davis, Mr. Skeffington

1943

  1. Jennifer Jones, The Song of Bernadette *
  2. Jean Arthur, The More the Merrier
  3. Ingrid Bergman, For Whom the Bell Tolls
  4. Greer Garson, Madame Curie
  5. Joan Fontaine, The Constant Nymph

1942

  1. Greer Garson, Mrs. Miniver
  2. Teresa Wright, The Pride of the Yankees *
  3. Bette Davis, Now, Voyager
  4. Katharine Hepburn, Woman of the Year
  5. Rosalind Russell, My Sister Eileen

1941

  1. Greer Garson, Blossoms in the Dust *
  2. Olivia de Havilland, Hold Back the Dawn
  3. Bette Davis, The Little Foxes
  4. Joan Fontaine, Suspicion
  5. Barbara Stanwyck, Ball of Fire

1940

  1. Joan Fontaine, Rebecca *
  2. Ginger Rogers, Kitty Foyle
  3. Katharine Hepburn, The Philadelphia Story
  4. Bette Davis, The Letter
  5. Martha Scott, Our Town

1939

  1. Vivien Leigh, Gone With the Wind *
  2. Greer Garson, Goodbye, Mr. Chips
  3. Irene Dunne, Love Affair
  4. Greta Garbo, Ninotchka
  5. Bette Davis, Dark Victory

1938

  1. Wendy Hiller, Pygmalion *
  2. Margaret Sullavan, Three Comrades
  3. Fay Bainter, White Banners
  4. Bette Davis, Jezebel
  5. Norma Shearer, Marie Antoinette

1937

  1. Janet Gaynor, A Star Is Born
  2. Irene Dunne, The Awful Truth *
  3. Luise Rainer, The Good Earth
  4. Barbara Stanwyck, Stella Dallas
  5. Greta Garbo, Camille

1936

  1. Carole Lombard, My Man Godfrey *
  2. Luise Rainer, The Great Ziegfeld
  3. Irene Dunne, Theodora Goes Wild
  4. Gladys George, Valiant Is the Word for Carrie
  5. Norma Shearer, Romeo and Juliet

1935

  1. Katharine Hepburn, Alice Adams *
  2. Elisabeth Bergner, Escape Me Never
  3. Miriam Hopkins, Becky Sharp
  4. Bette Davis, Dangerous
  5. Merle Oberon, The Dark Angel
  6. Claudette Colbert, Private Worlds

1934

  1. Claudette Colbert, It Happened One Night *
  2. Bette Davis, Of Human Bondage (if we’re officially counting her)
  3. Norma Shearer, The Barretts of Wimpole Street
  4. Grace Moore, One Night of Love

1932-1933

  1. Katharine Hepburn, Morning Glory *
  2. May Robson, Lady for a Day
  3. Diana Wynyard, Cavalcade

1931-1932

  1. Helen Hayes, The Sin of Madelon Claudet *
  2. Marie Dressler, Emma
  3. Lynn Fontanne, The Guardsman

1930-1931

  1. Ann Harding, Holiday *
  2. Irene Dunne, Cimarron
  3. Marie Dressler, Min and Bill
  4. Norma Shearer, A Free Soul
  5. Marlene Dietrich, Morocco

1929-1930

  1. Norma Shearer, The Divorcee *
  2. Gloria Swanson, The Trespasser
  3. Ruth Chatterton, Sarah and Son
  4. Greta Garbo, Anna Christie
  5. Greta Garbo, Romance
  6. Nancy Carroll, The Devil’s Holiday
  7. Norma Shearer, Their Own Desire

1928-1929

  1. Corinne Griffith, The Divine Lady *
  2. Jeanne Eagels, The Letter
  3. Ruth Chatterton, Madame X
  4. Mary Pickford, Coquette
  5. Bessie Love, The Broadway Melody
  6. Betty Compson, The Barker

1927-1928

  1. Janet Gaynor, Seventh Heaven & Street Angel & Sunrise *
  2. Gloria Swanson, Sadie Thompson
  3. Louise Dresser, A Ship Comes In

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