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The Oscar Quest Reconsidered: Ranking the Best Actresses

I originally posted a version of this list in early 2012. Mostly because I like making lists. There was no real methodology to it. I looked back at it at some point in the past four months and saw it skewed heavily toward personal preference. The performances I liked the best went to the top, and the performances I thought were terrible winners went straight to the bottom.

Since the Oscar Quest, Version 2 that I’ve been doing, I noticed the point of it was more to reflect what my thoughts were now five years later from the completion/posting of all the original articles. I tried to stay away from redoing everything I did the first time, because a lot of it felt like it begat negativity on my part. I really don’t want to shit on things now so much as I’d want to openly discuss what is or isn’t a good choice historically.

Because that’s now where I’m at, I think redoing these lists is something I can get away with. If only to give myself a marker for where my head is at now.

I’m not putting any stock into these whatsoever. I don’t even really want to make these easily findable for people, though I guess I should, if only to track changes over the years. I was going to write up actual opinions for each one, justifying its position, but that’s a fool’s errand. That’s for people looking for extra clicks and people writing in the comments. I don’t want that. This is purely for me.

The first time I wrote this up, I specified that the rankings were not me attempting to make a list for everyone to follow. It was just my favorites. This time, I think what I ended up doing was trying to factor in everything into the decision. How iconic the performance/film is, how good of a choice it was in its year (extremely strong choices get slight bumps, and extremely weak choices get slight deductions), and also how I feel about them.

So here’s where my head is at now on all the Best Actress winners:

1. Vivien Leigh, Gone With the Wind

2. Meryl Streep, Sophie’s Choice

3. Vivien Leigh, A Streetcar Named Desire

4. Elizabeth Taylor, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

5. Julie Christie, Darling

6. Liza Minnelli, Cabaret

7. Charlize Theron, Monster

8. Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose

9. Sally Field, Norma Rae

10. Audrey Hepburn, Roman Holiday

11. Olivia de Havilland, The Heiress

12. Diane Keaton, Annie Hall

13. Jodie Foster, The Silence of the Lambs

14. Frances McDormand, Fargo

15. Natalie Portman, Black Swan

16. Jane Wyman, Johnny Belinda

17. Louise Fletcher, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

18. Judy Holliday, Born Yesterday

19. Anne Bancroft, The Miracle Worker

20. Kathy Bates, Misery

21. Patricia Neal, Hud

22. Barbra Streisand, Funny Girl

23. Faye Dunaway, Network

24. Katharine Hepburn, The Lion in Winter

25. Brie Larson, Room

26. Simone Signoret, Room at the Top

27. Janet Gaynor, Seventh Heaven & Street Angel & Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans

28. Jodie Foster, The Accused

29. Jane Fonda, Klute

30. Holly Hunter, The Piano

31. Hilary Swank, Boys Don’t Cry

32. Helen Mirren, The Queen

33. Julie Andrews, Mary Poppins

34. Sissy Spacek, Coal Miner’s Daughter

35. Joanne Woodward, The Three Faces of Eve

36. Sophia Loren, Two Women

37. Ellen Burstyn, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

38. Cher, Moonstruck

39. Greer Garson, Mrs. Miniver

40. Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby

41. Helen Hunt, As Good as It Gets

42. Shirley MacLaine, Terms of Endearment

43. Julia Roberts, Erin Brockovich

44. Grace Kelly, The Country Girl

45. Ingrid Bergman, Gaslight

46. Jane Fonda, Coming Home

47. Marlee Matlin, Children of a Lesser God

48. Anna Magnani, The Rose Tattoo

49. Maggie Smith, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

50. Katharine Hepburn, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

51. Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook

52. Julianne Moore, Still Alice

53. Susan Sarandon, Dead Man Walking

54. Jessica Tandy, Driving Miss Daisy

55. Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

56. Shirley Booth, Come Back, Little Sheba

57. Joan Crawford, Mildred Pierce

58 Emma Thompson, Howards End

59. Halle Berry, Monster’s Ball

60. Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line

61. Olivia de Havilland, To Each His Own

62. Susan Hayward, I Want to Live!

63. Jennifer Jones, The Song of Bernadette

64. Kate Winslet, The Reader

65. Emma Stone, La La Land

66. Luise Rainer, The Good Earth

67. Claudette Colbert, It Happened One Night

68. Glenda Jackson, A Touch of Class

69. Gwyneth Paltrow, Shakespeare in Love

70. Joan Fontaine, Suspicion

71. Bette Davis, Jezebel

72. Jessica Lange, Blue Sky

73. Katharine Hepburn, On Golden Pond

74. Luise Rainer, The Great Ziegfeld

75. Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady

76. Sally Field, Places in the Heart

77. Ingrid Bergman, Anastasia

78. Ginger Rogers, Kitty Foyle

79. Norma Shearer, The Divorcee

80. Glenda Jackson, Women in Love

81. Helen Hayes, The Sin of Madelon Claudet

82. Nicole Kidman, The Hours

83. Loretta Young, The Farmer’s Daughter

84. Geraldine Page, The Trip to Bountiful

85. Elizabeth Taylor, BUtterfield 8

86. Bette Davis, Dangerous

87. Katharine Hepburn, Morning Glory

88. Marie Dressler, Min and Bill

89. Mary Pickford, Coquette

90. Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side

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