Top 10 Actresses

There’s no question that putting together this list of my Top 10 Actresses was MUCH HARDER than putting together the same list for my Top 10 Actors. The guys came to mind instantly and easily. I simply had to figure out the ranking order. But with the women, not a single actress stood out in my mind initially as my #1. I know that may sound kind of sexist or chauvinistic, but it’s not meant to be. I think there are simply a lot more great actresses that fight for the limited amount of key female roles in movies, and there’s more competition and less great repeat roles for women. Whereas for the men, it seems like once they get their “break”, they tend to get a string of great movie roles offered to them. I went through my Top 100 movies of all time, and I had 15 plus actresses that had awesome roles within those movies that stood out. But none of the 15 had a repeat or second role in a movie that’s in my Top 100. So I had to look more closely at their individual bodies of work, where their role in a movie may have stood out, but the movie itself didn’t connect with me as strongly. If you look at my Top 100 movies of all time, you’ll also notice that I simply have a lot of favorite movies that lean towards guy-centric stories. I’m not going to apologize for that. But being a guy, I guess I’m partial to stories about male characters whom I can relate to much more than female characters. Anyways…on to the list! And feel free to throw in your picks for Top Actresses in the comments.

Other actresses who were considered, but just missed the cut this time: Frances McDormand, Madeleine Stowe, Gwyneth Paltrow, Julia Ormond, Marion Cotillard, Helen Mirren, Julianne Moore, and Annette Bening.

10. Meryl Streep

I’m sure I’ll take some heat for having Meryl Streep so low on this list. But while I love Meryl as an actress, I haven’t really LOVED many of her movies. She’s almost always spectacular in her roles within her movies, but she has yet to star in a movie that really captures my heart or breaks into my Top 100 Movies of all time. But because she is so talented, I felt I just had to include her in my Top 10, because some of her performances are incredible. My favorite Meryl Streep films include:

The River Wild (1994)
Prime (2005)
Doubt (2008)
Out Of Africa (1985)
It’s Complicated (2009)
The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
Julie & Julia (2009)
Lions For Lambs (2007)
Rendition (2007)

9. Diane Lane

I absolutely love Diane Lane. She’s really come into her own as a mature and very talented actress whose best work is AFTER the age of 30. That alone says something. Especially in Hollywood, where women under 30 are typically more prized. Lane’s recent performances in Secretariat (2010) and the HBO TV movie Cinema Verite (2011) really cemented her on this list, just beating out Frances McDormand. Lane’s performance in Secretariat helps elevate it from a PG-rated Disney kid’s film to a bonafide piece of adult cinema that didn’t even need to say the F-word once (hence causing a PG-13 rating) in order to make it engaging and thoroughly satisfying. Not that I need the F-word to make a movie good, but typically the good movies use the full range of vocabulary our english language gives us. My favorite Diane Lane films include:

Secretariat (2010)
Nights In Rodanthe (2008)
Jumper (2008)
Unfaithful (2002)
Under The Tuscan Sun (2002)
Cinema Verite (2011)

8. Kristin Scott Thomas

I was introduced to Kristin Scott Thomas in The English Patient (1996) but I fell in love with her as an actress in Life As A House (2001). And with her recent performance in Sarah’s Key (2010), I’ve fallen in love with her again. Thomas is a very talented British actress who brings a sophisticated intelligence, sexiness, and flair to each of her roles. Her role as Kevin Kline’s ex-wife in Life As A House really showcased her many acting chops and made me feel something so strong for her character that it helped place the movie in my Top 25 Movies of all time, in no small part due to the nuances and subtlety she brings to that character. My favorite Kristin Scott Thomas films include:

Life As A House (2001)
Sarah’s Key (2010)
The English Patient (1996)
The Horse Whisperer (1998)
Nowhere Boy (2009)
Mission: Impossible (1996)
Gosford Park (2001)

7. Jodie Foster

I’ll never forget my introduction to Jodie Foster in The Silence Of The Lambs (1991). It’s probably still her best role ever, but I love the movie Contact (1997) so much, that I end up appreciating her more regularly in that film. But both are incredible movies. Foster hasn’t been as prolific in her career in the last 20 years, but she’s been a part of some quality projects. While I can’t say I loved Panic Room (2002), I do think Foster was good in that David Fincher movie and helped keep it afloat. And she helps propel Inside Man (2006) into being a good movie instead of just mediocre. I think Jodie has some good movies still in her future. Hopefully this next decade will bring her back to the forefront of leading ladies. My favorite Jodie Foster films include:

Contact (1997)
The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)
Inside Man (2006)
The Brave One (2007)
Panic Room (2002)

6. Nicole Kidman

I’ll never forget Nicole Kidman in Dead Calm (1989). She made a spectacular splash onto the Hollywood scene with that role and I’ve been following her ever since. I simply can’t imagine that taut thriller without her! She and her costars propel that movie from B-movie wasteland to one of the best suspense thrillers on water ever. Of course it didn’t hurt to have Director Phillip Noyce on board that boat as well! Kidman is one of the few leading ladies still kicking ass 20 years later, with one of the best roles of her career last year in Rabbit Hole (2010). My favorite Nicole Kidman films include:

Dead Calm (1989)
Days Of Thunder (1990)
Rabbit Hole (2010)
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Cold Mountain (2003)
Malice (1993)
The Interpreter (2005)
Far And Away (1992)
To Die For (1995)

5. Cate Blanchett

This Aussie stormed into my movie mind with an incredible debut in Elizabeth (1998). And I’ve been enthralled with most of her work ever since. Cate Blanchett is simply an incredible actress with a keen eye on quality projects to put her talents to work in. Just look at her body of work and try to imagine anyone else in the roles she’s played in each of those movies. While I’m not a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, I didn’t overlook her work in those films. But it didn’t stand out to me as her best work. My favorite Cate Blanchett films include:

Elizabeth (1998)
Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007)
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
The Missing (2003)
Notes On A Scandal (2006)
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
Indiana Jones and The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull (2008)
Robin Hood (2010)
The Aviator (2004)
Babel (2006)

4. Susan Sarandon

There’s no question in my mind that Susan Sarandon’s best performance is in Thelma & Louise (1991), director Ridley Scott’s superbly brilliant feminine roadtrip buddy picture. It’s the best roadtrip movie ever and it truly transcends it’s on-the-surface gender, with appeal to men and women alike. Sarandon’s performance (along with costar Geena Davis) in T&L is a big part of why that movie appeals to me so much, even 20 years later. It’s one of my Top 25 Movies of all time and is in constant rotation annually. Sarandon just nailed that role and I’ve been following her work ever since. She has an incredible mix of intelligence, sexiness, and attitude that works well on screen. My favorite Susan Sarandon films include:

Thelma & Louise (1991)
The Client (1994)
Dead Man Walking (1995)
Stepmom (1998)
Solitary Man (2009)
Bull Durham (1988)
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010)
In the Valley of Elah (2007)

3. Julia Roberts

The actress with the best smile goes to Julia Roberts, hands down. I mean, who didn’t fall in love with her in Pretty Woman (1990)?!! She absolutely stole the screen from Richard Gere and everyone else with her incredible sense of humor, her raw emotion, and her intense personality. And she did it again as Erin Brockovich (2000), where she finally won an Oscar for her work. It’s those two performances alone that gives her a spot in my Top 10 Actresses list, but along with the rest of her body of work, she rises to the top. My favorite Julia Roberts films include:

Pretty Woman (1990)
Erin Brockovich (2000)
The Pelican Brief (1993)
Stepmom (1998)
Flatliners (1990)
Notting Hill (1999)
Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
Closer (2004)
The Mexican (2001)

2. Demi Moore

While there aren’t a lot of movies that Demi Moore stars in that I love, the handful of that I do connect with, I connect with very powerfully. Moore is simply brilliant in A Few Good Men (1992), Indecent Proposal (1993), and Ghost (1990). And because I love those 3 movies so much, I just had to put her towards the top of this list. Because without her very strong performances in those movies, I just don’t think they would stand-up over time. One of Moore’s most underrated movies The Seventh Sign (1988), a really good 80’s thriller about the apocalypse. It’s been awhile since Demi has really put her talents to work in what I consider to be a great movie. But I think she may still have a few really good performances left in her career, and I look forward to them. My favorite Demi Moore films include:

A Few Good Men (1992)
Indecent Proposal (1993)
Ghost (1990)
The Seventh Sign (1988)
Disclosure (1994)

1. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio

I think this choice for a #1 actress is surprising…both to me and I’m sure to many others. But when I look at her small body of work, she has packed the biggest punch with a few films of hers that I absolutely love. So I felt like I had to give Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio the credit she so richly deserves. The first 4 films on the list below are all in my Top 100 Movies of all time. No other actress on this Top 10 list had that many films in my Top 100. Just watch all the movies below, and maybe you’ll agree with my choice…or maybe not. I’ll let her work speak for itself. I really hope she brings her acting prowess back to the screen soon. When given the right role with the right cast with the right script, Mastrantonio can really make a mark. My favorite Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio films include:

The Abyss (1989)
Class Action (1991)
The Color of Money (1986)
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)
Consenting Adults (1992)
The Perfect Storm (2000)

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This entry was posted in Movies, Top 10 Lists by Brad Swenson. Bookmark the permalink.

About Brad Swenson

Appreciating and contributing to the art and craft of movies, television, videos, and photography is my daily mission in life. My canvas for expression is emotion. I'm driven to discover and share interesting stories about people, their actions, their thoughts, their feelings, their work, and their contributions to the web of life.

One thought on “Top 10 Actresses

  1. Pingback: Top 10 Actresses | The BLACKBOXBLUE Blog | Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio

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