10 Best Classic Actresses

With 55 Academy Award nominations and 16 Oscar wins among them, the women on our list of the 10 best classic actresses of all time are Hollywood royalty. These ladies cover nearly 50 years of Oscar winning performances making their names forever synonymous with acting greatness.

  1. Katharine Hepburn. Nominated 12 times for an Academy Award, Katharine Hepburn took home four Best Actress Oscars for “Morning Glory” (1933), “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” (1968), “The Lion in Winter” (1969), and “On Golden Pond” (1982). Throw in a number of other classic performances (e.g. “African Queen,” “The Philadelphia Story”), and Kate earns the top spot on our list of the 10 best classic actresses.
  2. Bette Davis. With eleven nominations, two Oscars for Best Actress (1936 for “Dangerous” and 1939 for “Jezebel”), plus memorable performances in “Dark Victory,” and “All About Eve,” Miss Bette Davis ranks second on our list of the 10 best classic actresses of all time. Her unmistakable looks even inspired the 1974 hit song, “Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes.
  3. Ingrid Bergman. The beautiful actress who woos Bogie in “Casablanca,” Ingrid Bergman won two Best Actress Oscars for “Gaslight” (1945) and “Anastasia” (1957), plus one for Supporting Actress for “Murder on the Orient Express” (1975). Add two Emmy Awards, and Ingrid Bergman ranks as one of the greatest classic actresses of all time.
  4. Joan Crawford. The book and film “Mommie Dearest” portray her as a controlling, abusive mother, but with three Oscar nominations there is no denying Joan Crawford’s qualifications as one of the 10 best classic actresses in film history. Her performance in “Mildred Pierce” earned her the 1946 Oscar for Best Actress.
  5. Olivia de Havilland. Forever remembered as Melanie in the 1939 blockbuster “Gone with the Wind,” Olivia de Havilland received a Best Actress nomination for that role, but her two Oscar wins came later in a pair of lesser-known films: “To Each His Own” and “The Heiress.”
  6. Joan Fontaine. Sibling rivalry may be what spurred this performer on to greatness and a spot on our list of the 10 best classic actresses of all time. Less celebrated than Olivia de Havilland, Joan Fontaine won her Oscar in 1942 for Alfred Hitchcock’s “Suspicion” several years before her older sister won her first. It was her second great performance in a Hitchcock film—the first coming the previous year in the suspense classic “Rebecca.”
  7. Barbara Stanwyck. Barbara Stanwyck never won an Oscar, but the sultry temptress who seduces Fred MacMurray in the 1944 film-noir classic “Double Indemnity” is next on our list of the 10 best classic actresses in movie history. Her memorable performance as an invalid in “Sorry Wrong Number” earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in 1949.
  8. Claudette Colbert. Her ability to play funny and/or sexy puts Claudette Colbert on our list of top classic actresses. Opposite Clark Gable in the 1934 romantic comedy classic “It Happened One Night,” Claudette Colbert’s fun-filled performance won the Oscar for Best Actress. That same year, she steamed things up in the sultry title role of “Cleopatra.”
  9. Audrey Hepburn. With five total Oscar nominations, Audrey Hepburn ranks among the greatest classic actresses of all time. Her performance in “Roman Holiday” earned Hepburn the 1954 Best Actress Oscar, but this delicate beauty will always best be remembered as New York City socialite Holly Golightly in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
  10. Grace Kelly. One of the most beautiful women ever to walk the planet, Grace Kelly would eventually become best known as the Princess of Monaco. But prior to that, she was among the best classic actresses of all time, winning an Oscar in 1955 for “The Country Girl.” She was also a favorite of Alfred Hitchcock, who cast her in three of his films, “To Catch a Thief,” “Dial M for Murder,” and “Rear Window.”
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