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Top 10 Best Actress Oscar Winners

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by George Cimurt. These are some of the most well deserved Best Actress Oscars awarded by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the top 10 Best Actress Oscar winners. For this list, we’re taking a look at the most outstanding performances from 1928 onwards that have earned an Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role. Special thanks to our users Wiliam Brick, SumblinaAmin, ricardosantiagov, Ewan99@btinternet.co, Rebecca Woolf, Azimul Hussain, 17campiona, David Pope, Shawn Frary, fudgecrackers, codyabad, Luke McGowan, Princess Caticia, Diego López, TheRealDMLX96, Cian81096 and James Bannon for submitting the idea on our Suggestions Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Transcript
Script written by George Cimurt.

Top 10 Best Actress Oscar Winners


These are some of the most well deserved Best Actress Oscars awarded by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 Best Actress Oscar winners.

For this list, we’re taking a look at the most outstanding performances from 1928 onwards that have earned an Academy Award for BestPerformance by an Actress in a Leading Role.

#10: Charlize Theron
“Monster” (2003)

In a film some critics called the best of the year; Charlize Theron did not portray but became Aileen Wuornos, the unsightly and mentally ill prostitute that became one of the United States’ most notorious female serial killers. Although the makeup, prosthetic teeth, and 30 pounds she gained for the role transformed her physically, Theron’s greatest accomplishment was the inner one, which allowed her to convey the inner anguish and turmoil of the woman. The movie tracks the story of Wuornos all the way to her execution, and throughout it all, Theron’s performance is raw as it is mesmerising.

#9: Kate Winslet
“The Reader” (2008)

In a drama set in post-war Germany, Kate Winslet stars as Hanna Schmitz, a tram conductor who begins a romance with an underage boy and is later discovered to have been a prison guard during the Second World War. The movie plays with themes of guilt, grief, and desire, and Winslet delivers a powerful performance as a woman with secrets and regrets. Difficult, controlling, and emotionally remote, she embraces the complexities of the character against the background of the Holocaust’s aftermath, proving that she is one of our generation’s most formidable actresses.

#8: Hilary Swank
“Boys Don't Cry” (1999)

Called one of the greatest performances around the turn of the new millennium, here Hilary Swank uncannily portrays the tragic story of the real-life Brandon Teena. Born Teena Brandon and female, this young transgender thinks of himself as a man and therefore dresses, talk, and acts like one. Capturing his life, love, and ultimately tragic attempt to fit in a world that hates him and doesn’t understand him, Swank embodies the inner struggle of the tortured soul and gave the best performance of her career doing it. The Academy thought so too and awarded her with an Oscar the next year.

#7: Katharine Hepburn
“The Lion in Winter” (1968)

In this classic historical drama, we find tension and excitement brewing as King Henry II must decide which of his sons will inherit the throne. While every performance from the all-star cast is captivating, Katharine Hepburn’s turn as the brazen Duchess Eleanor of Aquitaine, imprisoned by her husband for spurring rebellion against him, is perhaps the most delightful. No one could pull off this sharp yet passionate performance as well as the incomparable Hepburn, who handles the dialogue and character so well it feels like she was born to play the role.

#6: Kathy Bates
“Misery” (1990)

Based on a Stephen King novel, this psychological horror stars Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes opposite James Caan. Playing a woman who rescues her favorite author from a car accident, she nurses him back to health in her secluded home, only to discover that he has killed off a beloved character in his latest book. Thus begins a downward spiral as the outraged and obsessive Annie imprisons him and forces him to bring the character back all while becoming increasingly erratic and violent. Bates’ phenomenal acting here and her ability to switch from sweet to psychopathic are both uncanny and horrifying.

#5: Frances McDormand
“Fargo” (1996)

Directed by the Coen Brothers, this mixture of crime thriller and dark comedy is enhanced enormously by the believable portrayal of Marge Gunderson by Frances McDormand, who is a small-town and very much pregnant police chief. After she stumbles on the work of a gang of violent, yet inept, criminals, she must use her sharp deductive skills and astute police work to bring the perpetrators to justice. McDormand’s performance in this classic film is unforgettable, as she elevates the story and gives it a timeless quality with intelligence, naturalness, and an easy Minnesota charm.

#4: Jodie Foster
“The Silence of the Lambs” (1991)

Although many cite Anthony Hopkins’ terrifying performance as the highlight in this thriller, Jodie Foster stands out as the young FBI trainee. As Clarice Starling, she’s commissioned to interview Hannibal Lecter, a cannibal and ex-psychiatrist, in an effort to find serial killer Buffalo Bill. Combining confidence with insecurity, fear with action, perceptiveness with naiveté, Foster embraces all the complexities of the character. An orphan and a backwoods girl with a troubled past who struggles to fit in with in her career, Foster’s performance plays with our hearts, minds, and keeps us transfixed.

#3: Elizabeth Taylor
“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (1966)

In her most acclaimed performance, Elizabeth Taylor stars as the crude, bitter, and tormented wife of Richard Burton’s George, a history professor. When she informs him that she’s invited a young couple for drinks to their home late one night, it doesn’t take long for the two couples to find themselves caught in a torrent of rage, sadness, remorse, and alcohol. Physically transforming herself in her portrayal of Martha, Taylor peels back the layers in her riveting interpretation, revealing not only criticism and scorn but also vulnerability and sympathy under the monstrous exterior.

#2: Vivien Leigh
“A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951)

Although it was her performance in 1939’s “Gone with the Wind” that launched her career, Vivien Leigh brought depth and gravitas to her portrayal of Blanche DuBois in this 1951 classic. When she leaves Mississippi to visit her sister in New Orleans, we watch as the initially refined and pretentious Blanche begins to unravel as her past and secrets come back to haunt her. Insecure and delusional, as well as protective and self-absorbed, Leigh is spellbinding in her nuanced performance as a woman who clings to an image and lifestyle that she will never have.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Jennifer Lawrence
“Silver Linings Playbook” (2012)
- Diane Keaton
“Annie Hall” (1977)
- Natalie Portman
“Black Swan” (2010)
- Louise Fletcher
“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975)
- Sandra Bullock
“The Blind Side” (2009)

#1: Meryl Streep
“Sophie's Choice” (1982)

Although she won an Oscar for her fine performance in “The Iron Lady” and dazzled us in dozens of other incredible roles, Meryl Streep displayed perhaps the finest acting by any actress ever in this 1982 drama. Playing a Polish-Catholic immigrant to Brooklyn so convincingly that we forget it is her; Streep is electrifying as a Nazi concentration camp survivor, a mother who lost her children, a passionate lover, and a vulnerable foreigner. Juggling emotions ranging from joy to anger to unspeakable sadness, Streep is natural, absorbing, and unforgettable.

Do you agree with our list? Which Best Actress Oscar winners are your favorite? For more entertaining top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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