Though the Oscars sometimes overlook the best talent in film, the 10 Best Oscar actresses ever of all time certainly make up for the Academy’s mistakes.
- Meryl Streep. Meryl Streep's won the Best Actress category only once, but has been nominated a grand total of thirteen times in the category since 1978 when she was first nominated for her work in “The Deer Hunter.” She has the reputation for playing any character, from her transformation into Julia Child to her devastating turn in “Sophie’s Choice,” which earned her a second Academy Award.
- Charlize Theron. Before her role in the film, “Monster,” based on the life of serial killer, Aileen Wuornos, Theron was known for being a beautiful screen siren. Playing in such films as “Mighty Joe Young”—a film about a giant gorilla—did not really help the world to see Theron’s acting abilities. But with her nuanced portrayal of an abused, mentally unstable prostitute, she gained her first Oscar statuette.
- Sissy Spacek. Spacek has only earned one Best Actress statuette, but has had six nominations since 1976 when she was nominated for her portrayal of “Carrie.” Though she won for “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” in which she played the music legend, Loretta Lynne, Spacek has gone on to play many diverse characters with a subtle, realistic quality that has earned her many more nominations since her first screen role.
Helen Mirren. Though Helen Mirren has worked in film for decades, she started receiving attention from the Academy due to her role in “The Madness of King George” in 1994. Since then, she's been garnering great roles such as both Queens Elizabeth of England. Though she has infused warmth into such aristocratic roles, her turn in Robert Altman’s “Gosford Park” as the head maid shows that she can play many different characters with honesty and move you to tears.
Kate Winslet. Winslet started acting at a relatively young age, garnering a successful first role in a movie with Peter Jackson’s “Heavenly Creatures.” The power of Winslet’s acting can be seen in any one of her films, from her haunting portrayal of a Nazi in “The Reader” (for which she won her first Best Actress Oscar) to her quirky role in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”
- Maggie Smith. The English actress, best known recently for her work in the Harry Potter films as Minerva McGonagall, began her acting career as a theater player in the 1950s and 60s. Since then, she has gone on to gain two Oscars, with a Best Actress win for “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.” A great actress, she can play anything from somber and quiet to sarcastic and superficial (see “Gosford Park”).
- Nicole Kidman. Though only nominated by the Academy for two roles, Nicole Kidman has proven herself to be a dynamic actress. For instance, the woman has played the suicidal writer, Virginia Woolf in “The Hours” (which gave her a first Best Actress Oscar) and the maniacal weather-girl plotting to kill her husband in “To Die For” (which should have given Kidman her first Oscar).
- Bette Davis. An old Hollywood icon, Davis rose to her acting prowess in the 1930s, when she started to gain the most interesting, dynamic roles over her peers. Her first acting nod came in 1934 for “Of Human Bondage. ” which was followed by ten acting nominations since. Her last nomination came with the film, “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane,” a psychological horror film in which she played the title character, a woman whose fame has eluded her in her old age.
- Emma Thompson. Winning the Best Actress award in 1992 for her role in “Howard’s End,” Thompson went on to star in several other films that showed off her acting abilities. From the period piece, “Sense and Sensibility” (for which she adapted the screenplay, winning her another Oscar), you can see how Thompson can use subtlety to achieve a great performance.
- Kathy Bates. The great American actress, Kathy Bates, has stolen every scene she’s in. From her star-making performance in “Misery” to her hilariously off-the-wall characterization as a let-it-all-hang-out hippie in “About Schmidt,” Bates really has made the film world take notice of her skills.
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