All Oscar-winning female lead performances, ranked

Fancy version of a portion of this blog post which also has some commentary about the nature of a lot of these roles and what that says about the way women are perceived in Hollywood (and maybe by Hollywood's audience). This list is an attempt to judge not the films from which these award-winning performances came but solely the performances themselves. All 92 Academy Award-winning leading female parts: the who, when and why. Needless to say, everything here is based on personal taste, which goes double when judging actors and their specific mannerisms and methodology. I hope you can detect some internal logic here and get some sense of what I look for, what bugs me, etc.; I'm going to try my best not to be unfair.

  • Coal Miner's Daughter

    1.Coal Miner's Daughter

    ★★★½

    Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn
    This movie suffers from the same done-to-death tropes and anticlimactic, stubbornly non-structural nature of nearly all musical biopics (and biopics in general, really), and don't try and say it was a trailblazer: you can see all these clichés falling into place way back in Interrupted Melody and Love Me or Leave Me, probably even earlier (does Yankee Doodle Dandy count?). Another caveat: movies like this are always at a disadvantage with enthusiastic fans of the target subject; I'm quite sure I would have been far more taken with Love and Mercy if I hadn't spent much of my young adulthood reading and writing about barely anything besides the Beach Boys. But as someone who feels Loretta Lynn to possess one of the half-dozen or so greatest voices in recorded music, and an artist who's remained vital whenever she deigns to grace us with her presence, I can't express enough how blown away I was by Spacek in this part. I've always liked Spacek but her embodiment of Lynn, not just as a mature singer at her height but as a young teenager and everything beyond, is so absolute and such a rich honor to her…

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  • Room at the Top

    2.Room at the Top

    ★★★★

    Simone Signoret as Alice
    I knew Signoret from her earthy, conniving role as one of the conspiratorial schoolteachers in Henri Georges-Clouzot's unforgettable Diabolique; her work here is incomparable, a sullen and resigned lover to Laurence Harvey's younger up-and-comer, whose cynicism about love and life is challenged -- only to be let down and dejected yet again, devastatingly. Signoret tells the uncommonly sophisticated film's whole story in her eyes.

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  • Annie Hall

    3.Annie Hall

    ★★★★★

    Diane Keaton as Annie
    The rare infallible characterization; Keaton's playing someone who's partially based on herself, but few actors could spin that around into something as iconic as this. Not only is Keaton human, funny and believable throughout the entire film -- routinely keeping the audience on her side even though Allen's Alvy Singer is the actual protagonist -- but she also manages maybe the best reading of any monologue in film history, the story about George and the turkey. Keaton is extraordinary in several other films of Allen's, but her performance in Annie Hall, wardrobe and all, has a legacy, and it's well-deserved.

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  • To Each His Own

    4.To Each His Own

    ★★★★½

    Olivia de Havilland as Jody
    One of the best actresses in classic Hollywood gets a rare chance to delve into a role that has just about everything, and she lands every aspect of it convincingly: acerbic middle-aged womanhood, wide-eyed youth, doting and deeply caring motherhood, resigned and secretive world-weariness. She's a whirling dervish of sorts here, and contributes mightily to this grand tearjerker's awesome impact on anyone who has a mom who's gone to bat for them (or is one) (or wants one).

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  • Darling

    5.Darling

    ★★★★½

    Julie Christie as Diana Scott
    Christie's one of the masters -- from Fahrenheit 451 to Petulia to Don't Look Now, you could place almost any of her great performances in this space and it would be well justified. But Darling was an excellent reason for the Academy to honor her; the completeness of her portrait of loneliness when surrounded by various kinds of superficial validation is overwhelming. Both times I've seen the film I've been emotionally plowed afterward. Accusations that the movie is dated don't sit well with me but even if it doesn't move you, Christie is undeniably brilliant -- multilayered, sensitive, witty, hard to shake.

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  • Misery

    6.Misery

    ★★★

    Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes
    That all too scarce anchor for a thriller: a genuinely believable performance. King and William Goldman's characterization of Annie, an obsessive superfan of James Caan's bestselling romance author, is unfair and rather cruel, her neediness and mental illness a stark match to the unconscious (autobiographical?) arrogance of her captive. Bates is so miraculous that I find myself siding with her; she represents a thirst for the lower needs of validation and companionship that would be alien to Caan's wealthy writer character even if he weren't her kidnap victim. The opportunity for an examination of how even the most trite art can enrich lives and give them meaning is thrown away in favor for a simple series of suspense-scares, but Bates' work is beyond critique.

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  • The Piano

    7.The Piano

    ★★★★½

    Holly Hunter as Ada
    The great Hunter had lost ridiculously to Cher on her previous nomination, but her Oscar for this needs no guilt or goodwill to be justified. How do you define a character who can't speak? How do you craft an entire love story for her, one more complex than we see in all but a precious few films? Campion's remarkable story and direction are a big assist but Hunter manages it -- and doesn't take the easy way out by spinning this into a victimhood narrative. Her inquisitive features, emotional range and effortless sensuality make the world of this astounding movie spin all around her. That she plays all the piano pieces herself, impressive though it is, is nearly beside the point when you consider what a grand feat of fine acting this is.

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  • Min and Bill

    8.Min and Bill

    ★★★★½

    Marie Dressler as Min
    Dressler was a cultural phenomenon and a huge box office draw, albeit briefly, in the waning years of her life; she died just four years after this film's release. This was her quintessential work. Her robust characterization here of the cantankerous owner of a capeside motel and scrappy eatery gives way slowly from a portrait of a sharply comedic firecracker who's ready to get the hell out to, like de Havilland in To Each His Own, a mother figure who sets herself absolutely selflessly aside to improve a life. The sacrifice she makes in the course of this film could almost rip you up to contemplate -- but she's still funny and warm and real, all the way to the end.

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  • Fargo

    9.Fargo

    ★★★★

    Frances McDormand as Chief Marge Gunderson
    In a film that's always struck me as more than a little flippant toward the victim of the crime it documents and mocks, you can see the complete reversal of this classic Coen brothers sensibility in the obvious affection and respect they have for Chief Gunderson and her relaxed, loving marriage to an artist. It's incidental to the narrative but amply demonstrates the film's directly spoken thesis, that there's more to life than money. It's hard to imagine anyone but McDormand in this part, able to gently find the humor in Marge while always staying true to her spirit and demonstrating that she's an ordinary, good person who works hard and does tremendously well at her work. You'd have to go back to Demme to find, in mainstream American cinema, a less condescending look at the everyday.

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  • Gaslight

    10.Gaslight

    ★★★★

    Ingrid Bergman as Paula Anton
    Bergman gets an opportunity few actresses had in her time, and that's been justified rarely in the last several decades of showy awards reel moments, when she gets to engage with Gaslight's audience in a glorious, cathartic moment of schadenfreude after she discovers the true movies of the husband who's been attempting to drive her insane. As good as she nearly always was, as good as the rest of this performance is, that overshadows everything else in this fine film. Her sniping back at him with the truth and the law behind her is like the shark clamping down on Robert Shaw: it's what you really came here for, and it stings marvelously.

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  • The Silence of the Lambs

    11.The Silence of the Lambs

    ★★★★★

    Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling
    Does anyone not love this performance? It takes a great humanist director like Demme and a talent for psychological depth like Foster's to turn what might have been a rote FBI / serial killer proto-Nancy Grace gawkfest into a masterpiece. Clarice is the rare Hollywood heroine whose plot is never diverted with a love interest, nor does the film ever really threaten to turn her into a victim. But that sociological victory aside, the stronger impression comes from how she occupies Clarice, and the intensity of the relationship she takes pains to form with the manipulative, terrifying Hannibal Lecter. Some iconic creations, characters and moments in film get that way for the simple reason that they are well-conceived, singularly memorable and simply excellent.

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  • Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans

    12.Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans

    ★★★★★

    Janet Gaynor as The Wife
    Hard to know what to say, even; everyone in Sunrise puts the rawest, truest kind of love and forgiveness on film. Its emotions would be too much for most performers to wrap themselves around without resorting to broad melodrama. Gaynor has all the capacity needed to cope, and she as so often is the perfect channel for us.

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  • The Heiress

    13.The Heiress

    ★★★★½

    Olivia de Havilland as Catherine Sloper
    Another masterful example of de Havilland's range, here from naive spinster to ice-cold, independent revenge fantasy in less than two hours. As in Gaslight, this also gives us as the audience a chance to revel in sweet vengeance at the conclusion, all too rare for these Best Actress-winning movies in which a woman gets dragged through the mud and then we're all to move on with our lives.

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  • The Miracle Worker

    14.The Miracle Worker

    ★★★½

    Anne Bancroft as Annie Sullivan
    Those gobsmacking two-hander scenes of Bancroft and Patty Duke, almost painfully realistic, feel like you're enduring the teaching process yourself and should have prompted the creation of some kind of special award. Bancroft is a master regardless. Almost any of her performances -- hell, even Silent Movie -- would warrant placement near the top of this list.

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  • Boys Don't Cry

    15.Boys Don't Cry

    ★★★★½

    Hilary Swank as Brandon Teena
    The sort of performance that edges toward undeniable territory. I suppose it could now be seen as a mistake to have a straight cis woman portray a (pre-op) trans man but in the smoke and mirrors of the camera I don't see how one can object to the way Swank completely occupies Brandon, brings him out from expressions and body language to vocal tone into three real live dimensions. She's totally believable here; like the film itself, the performance is tragic yet its core of all-encompassing goodness fills you with hope.

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  • The Favourite

    16.The Favourite

    ★★★★½

    Olivia Colman as Queen Anne
    A complex film of complex motivations, in which Colman captures Anne not as a caricature of decadence and ailment but as a full-bodied specter of angst, anger, need and even mystery; as the Byrds sang long ago, the world moves all around her, and it's anything but pretty and joyous. All three lead actresses in this film are masterful but Colman deserves the Oscar for physicality alone.

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  • Mrs. Miniver

    17.Mrs. Miniver

    ★★★★½

    Greer Garson as Kay Miniver
    The quintessential Wyler leading woman: a strong and independent but flawed and human wife and mother figure who holds her own and has momentous events swirling all around her in her small England town in the midst of World War II. Despite some sentimental textures neither Garson nor the film ever cops to full-on syrup and its message of "life goes on" stoic solidarity still has a strong impact after all these years. (Also up: Katharine Hepburn at her best in Woman of the Year, but I still think this was the correct choice.)

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  • Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore

    18.Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore

    ★★★½

    Ellen Burstyn as Alice
    I recently learned this is Joanna Newsom's favorite movie, which makes me want to watch it again (for those who don't read my music stuff: Newsom is my hero and her last two albums are among the best works of art in modern American music). Regardless, Burstyn -- one of the all-time best -- is marvelous as a single mom running afoul of idiot dudes and doing the best she can for her daughter in this often moving dramedy, a welcome stretch for the typically machismo-seduced Scorsese.

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  • Monster

    19.Monster

    ★★★½

    Charlize Theron as Aileen Wuornos
    Want to make clear that I'm not citing this as a great performance because it's, like Taylor just below, an example of a star "uglying" herself up. Take away the makeup and the ragged appearance and this is still a terrific performance, it just helps the completeness of the illusion, and Theron does better than almost any actor -- the film better than almost any other film -- at making a real-life killer sympathetic without condoning or excusing their actions. Still sort of wish Samantha Morton had gotten recognized for In America, but Theron's unstoppable here.

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  • Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

    20.Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

    ★★★½

    Elizabeth Taylor as Martha
    On my first viewing I was so put off by the stilted, theatrical nature of Edward Albee's dialogue I left truly disgusted by the film, a visceral reaction I often then had to play adaptations (The Philadelphia Story gave me similar trouble) -- yet even then I admired Taylor's performance. More than just the unrecognizable way she's costumed and made up, the key to the performance is the way she locates the heart of such an acerbic, bitterly nasty character and makes her genuinely touching. Most people think Richard Burton's is the superior performance here but I'm team Taylor.

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  • 7th Heaven

    21.7th Heaven

    ★★★★½

    Janet Gaynor as Diane
    This episode of the Gaynor and Farrell saga is exceptionally intoxicating, its emotionally fraught love story seeming to emanate from the screen and reach out directly to the viewer, so direct is it in its largeness of feeling, the sort of impression that it would be hard to imagine a sound film making. The film's intensity is consistently surprising, the lives it documents rocky and unpredictable, and Gaynor as always rises to every occasion it presents and once again her emotions become our own.

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  • Network

    22.Network

    ★★★★★

    Faye Dunaway as Diana Christensen
    It never gets credit for it but this is a genuinely comedic performance from an actual comedy, and probably the only time a Dr. Strangelove-style satire got this far on Oscar night. Dunaway plays it broad like George C. Scott, because she has to, as a person so dedicated to her career she's entirely lost touch with her inner life (the National Lampoon version of the characters in the later Broadcast News). Dunaway was never a predictable actor -- this has little to do with the wounded Femme Fatale of Chinatown, for example -- and it's a shame she's been in the wilderness for the last few decades, a depressing trend for Hollywood actresses middle-aged and older.

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  • Two Women

    23.Two Women

    ★★★

    Sophia Loren as Cesira
    The first acting award for a foreign language film, this fine, heartbreaking performance as a woman trying to escape bombing zones with her daughter in tow only to run into increasingly insurmountable misfortune unfortunately comes from a rather maudlin film with the same penchant for cyclical misery familiar from De Sica's other Neorealist efforts. No real objections to the win, but Natalie Wood in Splendor in the Grass was possibly even better.

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  • Sophie's Choice

    24.Sophie's Choice

    ★★★

    Meryl Streep as Sophie Zawistowska
    I've never been a big Streep fan, for whatever reason (choice of material, maybe), but it's pretty hard to deny the effective intensity she brings to this film, particularly in that long closeup monologue between flashbacks but also in even the more flamboyant moments that other actors might not have been able to sell. I think Julie Andrews also deserved recognition for Victor/Victoria but luckily...

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  • Mary Poppins

    25.Mary Poppins

    ★★★★

    Julie Andrews as mysterious nanny
    Did Andrews win this in an industry show of solidarity directed against that year's Best Picture winner My Fair Lady, from which she was ousted in favor of a non-nominated Audrey Hepburn? Who cares? Andrews traverses through this wonderful movie with a constant look of amused distance, which is perfect, and what do you know, she can sing.

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  • Terms of Endearment

    26.Terms of Endearment

    ★★★★

    Shirley MacLaine as Aurora
    A controversial choice these days since it was officially decided that this movie was an irredeemably saccharine "chick flick" but nuts to that. Some of the most complex characterizations and, more importantly, character relationships in any American movie. With MacLaine playing older than she really was at the time, Aurora runs the gamut from a manipulative cad to blissfully lovelorn lost soul to grieving derailed mom and the film is easily as much hers as Debra Winger's, though an award for Winger's performance would have been just as welcome. The eerily realistic crux of the movie is the evolution of the tumultuous connection between Aurora and her daughter, and both actors rise to that occasion repeatedly. Bickering and all, they look and feel like a real mother and daughter.

  • Gone with the Wind

    27.Gone with the Wind

    ★★★★★

    Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara
    It's pretty tough to have much of an argument with the cultural behemoth that is this film, whether you're typically okay with Leigh's excesses or not. She obviously owns this moment and it's pretty much inconceivable to picture anybody else playing Scarlett. Can you imagine a world in which she didn't win for this?

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  • Come Back, Little Sheba

    28.Come Back, Little Sheba

    ★★★½

    Shirley Booth as Lola Delaney
    A wordy, stagy script gets redeemed by Booth's remarkably expressive face.

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  • Walk the Line

    29.Walk the Line

    ★★★★

    Reese Witherspoon as June Carter Cash
    This is one of the few movies that trips me up on my anti-biopic leanings; the music is terrific (but so it is in lots of these movies), the performances are excellent, the story is wild and difficult to believe but almost wholly true (to such an extent that not making a movie about it would have been a terrible missed opportunity)... and Witherspoon is electric in this part, seemingly the role she was born for. We don't just watch Johnny Cash fall in love with June Carter, we do the same simultaneously, and we see vividly the unconditional love and life-saving energy she represented for him.

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  • I Want to Live!

    30.I Want to Live!

    ★★★★

    Susan Hayward as Barbara Graham
    An interesting, weird, vaguely depressing quirk in this category: three of the winners feature graphic, minutely detailed execution scenes. However, only in this one is the person being put to death the lead actress. Hayward is brilliant in this remarkable story of how the justice system metes out its lopsided, misguided punishments. Even against Deborah Kerr, so delightful in the ensemble film Separate Tables, this was well-deserved.

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  • Roman Holiday

    31.Roman Holiday

    ★★★★

    Audrey Hepburn as Princess Ann
    One of those world-defining tornado performances. Hepburn establishes and runs with a persona that, for better or worse, would follow her for the rest of her career. But her work here remains incredibly fresh and vital, and how can anyone not get a kick out of this film?

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  • Hud

    32.Hud

    ★★★½

    Patricia Neal as Alma
    Worse than seeing how many of the female characters in these movies get dragged through the mud of mawkish suffering is when they're set up as strong, independent characters only to eventually endure horrible assaults while we watch. Neal is wonderful in this movie but it's not fun to see her become victimized.

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  • Street Angel

    33.Street Angel

    ★★★★

    Janet Gaynor as Angela
    Gaynor's most "adult" performance; the nature of the cross she bears here (she always bore a cross) involves prostitution and imprisonment, not to say that abuse from sisters and husbands in her other Fox silents was a walk in the park. But for at least some portions of this film, Gaynor gets an opportunity to come off as a little hard-boiled, a welcome change. Obviously she's a gem, as always.

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  • Mildred Pierce

    34.Mildred Pierce

    ★★★★

    Joan Crawford as Mildred Pierce
    A noir heroine who's really just a normal hard-working mom doing her best; it's tough to reconcile what's remembered as Crawford's larger-than-life persona with the quiet, controlled easiness of her actual acting, which can't be faulted here despite some character confusion wrought by the censorship of a much more risque novel.

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  • The Trip to Bountiful

    35.The Trip to Bountiful

    ★★★

    Geraldine Page as Carrie Watts
    We've seen this movie, of course, about an elderly person on the road -- Harry and Tonto, The Straight Story, etc. -- here to escape a tyrannical household. Several of Page's monologues and sincere emotional appeals indicate something deeper in play here; I feel I could employ that outburst about dealing with her daughter-in-law's constant pettiness in a few work situations. Page conquers the sometimes bothersome staginess of the story by faithfully putting across the character's entire complicated history in her eyes and voice.

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  • The Accused

    36.The Accused

    ★★★

    Jodie Foster as Sarah Tobias
    Foster gives respect and integrity to the story of a rape victim fighting back against an uncaring, blind system, but I'd give a lot -- even if it would be totally dishonest -- to see her offer up the kind of validating, vengeful catharsis Bergman gets when she unloads on her abusive husband at the end of Gaslight. Instead you're left with the sense that nothing can really make this right, which sadly is a lot more authentic.

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  • It Happened One Night

    37.It Happened One Night

    ★★★★★

    Claudette Colbert as Ellie
    A movie that changed everything for everyone involved and became the first five-way Oscar winner in all the major categories. Colbert's infallible but in a film filled with such drunken bliss, how do you pick out the distinctive elements? It all just falls together into a wonderful mush, and it altered the way romance happens on cinema screens forever.

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  • Children of a Lesser God

    38.Children of a Lesser God

    ★★½

    Marlee Matlin as Sarah
    A deaf actress playing a deaf character in a role that isn't necessarily just about her deafness would seem like a victory, especially in a film with the doubly welcome distinction of being directed by a woman, but this movie's quite the washed-out shitshow, and while Sarah never becomes a person who's portrayed as a victim of her disability, she does become the victim of a tiresomely hackneyed love story that forces her to contend with William Hurt hitting on her in sign language and such.

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  • Dead Man Walking

    39.Dead Man Walking

    ★★½

    Susan Sarandon as Sister Helen Prejean
    Perfect example of an actress I've always liked despite not being able to name any movies of hers I really love. Rocky Horror, Thelma & Louise and The Client are pretty good, I reckon. This isn't pretty good or good at all, but you get to see her unfurl her chops with good control and believable emotion as a young-ish nun (real-life activist Prejean) counseling a man on death row. She gives a stronger, more believable portrait of religious piety than Jennifer Jones below, I think, and despite the film's pandering deficiencies I think I won't ever forget the way she rests her head on the bars of that prison cell, an interesting contrast to Jodie Foster's intensity in the "interrogation" scenes of The Silence of the Lambs. That Sarandon is forced to play all this against Sean Penn at his excessive worst is more impressive yet. Which reminds me, this is the second Best Actress-winning film with a gross procedural of an execution; because it's a passionately anti-death penalty movie, it makes sense, but it's still not something I needed in my life.

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  • BUtterfield 8

    40.BUtterfield 8

    ★★½

    Elizabeth Taylor as Gloria Wandrous
    I grew up thinking of Taylor as the stereotype of a closed-off, comically distant star figure more famous for being famous than for anything she actually did, conflating her I suppose with the tabloids that were obsessed with her. I believe the only feature I'd seen her in was Cleopatra, which surely can't help with one's perception of lavish tonedeafness. So it's been interesting as I got seriously into Hollywood film to discover how skilled and charismatic Taylor actually was; think of A Place in the Sun and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, for instance. She's remarkably good in this film particularly, and the film's not really worthy of her, distracting from its good points with a lot of dreadful detours and a dunderheaded ending. She seldom strikes a bad note herself, though. But I'd be remiss if I didn't note that this victory came at the expense of Shirley MacLaine in The Apartment, and we all know how untouchable that film is.

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  • Born Yesterday

    41.Born Yesterday

    ★★★

    Judy Holliday as Billie
    It's generally believed that Holliday won due to a three-way vote split between Bette Davis, Anne Baxter (both for All About Eve) and Gloria Swanson (for Sunset Blvd.), three of the greatest and most culturally iconic performances in Hollywood history from two movies with similar concepts about acting and aging that had the misfortune of premiering in the same year. Still, Holliday is singular and quite funny here. Worse things have happened at the Oscars.

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  • Suspicion

    42.Suspicion

    ★★★★

    Joan Fontaine as Lina
    A fine film, a fine performance, but I doubt anyone would pick it out as the best role in a Hitchcock film -- and yet it's the only time any actor won an Oscar for a part in one of his movies, quite the obscenity. Think of it. Anthony Perkins in Psycho. James Stewart in Vertigo and Rear Window. Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in Notorious. Grace Kelly in Rear Window and Dial M for Murder. Robert Walker in Strangers on a Train. Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten in Shadow of a Doubt. Anne Baxter in I Confess. Henry Fonda in The Wrong Man. Suzanne Pleshette and Jessica Tandy in The Birds. Tippi Hedren in Marnie. How is it possible!? And maybe more than any of those there's Fontaine in Rebecca, one of the best performances in any Hollywood film -- and I have a suspicion (get it!?!?!) that this award was a consolation prize for losing that year to Ginger Rogers. Apparently this Oscar started the supposed lifelong rift between Fontaine and her sister, Olivia de Havilland, which the latter eventually won by still being alive now.

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  • The Queen

    43.The Queen

    ★★★½

    Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II
    Mirren is one of the good ones, and this was as good a time as any for her. This movie is one of the most popular checkouts at my workplace; people really love it, and Frears is so good at letting actors spin their wheels. (Good chance to mention I wish more people would watch his wonderful Roddy Doyle comedy The Snapper, though it probably warrants a trigger warning or two.)

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  • Blue Jasmine

    44.Blue Jasmine

    ★★★★

    Cate Blanchett as Jeanette Francis
    A tour de force role; though the other actors do a fine job, it's all but a one-woman show and Blanchett runs an emotional gamut here that's often concealed in her other parts. Amy Adams and Sandra Bullock were excellent in their respective films this goround but I think Blanchett was indeed the best choice.

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  • The Lion in Winter

    45.The Lion in Winter

    ★★½

    Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine
    No great shakes as a movie -- I struggled to fill out a long review of it back when I was insisting on doing that for every feature I watched -- but at least Hepburn gets to wring something interesting and enjoyably eccentric out of this part, the imprisoned queen. The kind of movie that Anglophile types of a Certain Age who watch a lot of PBS really dig. (My parents loved it.) Hepburn does get one of the best star entrances ever shot.

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  • The Good Earth

    46.The Good Earth

    ★★★½

    Luise Rainer as O-Lan
    Dated, to state the obvious, but Rainer's emotional portrayal of a Chinese farm worker left in the dust by her irrational husband has a lot more soul than you might expect. Still, I vote Irene Dunne for The Awful Truth -- one of the most sublime performances in a comedy of the era. Janet Gaynor was up again too, but I'd rate her roughly equal to Rainer this time out.

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  • A Streetcar Named Desire

    47.A Streetcar Named Desire

    ★★★½

    Vivien Leigh as Blanche DuBois
    Leigh always nailed down her performances too fiercely and played way over the top. In her most famous role, as Scarlett O'Hara, this worked to her advantage because she was supposed to be larger than life, and because the other actors in that film were playing broadly as well, for the most part. But here she's scarcely in the same film as her costars; there are sublime moments in her performance (I love her faux-Southern Belle mannerisms on lines like "it's temperamental!" in reference to a cigarette lighter, and the way her emotions turn on a dime fits Blanche impeccably), and certainly Marlon Brando isn't much less of a cartoon in his own way -- but Kim Hunter and Karl Malden spend the film running circles around her simply by standing in place and relying on subtlety. It creates a weird, discordant effect that I don't think should be blamed wholly on Leigh. Two beloved-to-me performances run off the road by this win: Katharine Hepburn in The African Queen, and more importantly Shelley Winters in A Place in the Sun, though how that merited consideration as a lead role I can't fathom.

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  • Jezebel

    48.Jezebel

    ★★★

    Bette Davis as Julie Marsden
    The famous Warner Bros. preemptive strike on Gone with the Wind compares to that masterpiece only laughably, but Davis is credible as always, and Wyler certainly gives her an impressive stage on which to exercise.

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  • Norma Rae

    49.Norma Rae

    ★★★

    Sally Field as Norma Rae Webster
    A movie about a woman organizing workers that defines her quite well as a character and remains earthy without growing condescending. It's like something from a different planet, and despite its dramatic flaws it's a breath of fresh air, and perhaps Field's best performance aside from Lincoln.

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  • Kitty Foyle

    50.Kitty Foyle

    ★★★

    Ginger Rogers as Kitty Foyle
    A charming performance in one of those Hays-era films that's so frustrating in the way it toys with progressive values and totally lets them down. The more melancholy moments from both Rogers and the movie are quite revealing. But it's pretty hard to credit this win as remotely understandable in competition with Joan Fontaine in Rebecca; had she won, she'd probably rate #1 on this list.

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  • Black Swan

    51.Black Swan

    ★★★½

    Natalie Portman as Nina Sayers
    One of the nuttier recent winners has Portman dancing her way to a grim finish; it's hard to challenge the prowess of a performance that's predicated entirely on giving yourself over to a part that then engulfs you wholly, and Portman's work here easily beats out, say, Ronald Colman refashioning himself as some sort of horror villain because Shakespeare in A Double Life. Everyone nominated in this category this year was very good in their respective films (including two duds, Blue Valentine and The Kids Are All Right) and it would be hard to object to any of them, though I suppose my personal retroactive choice would be Jennifer Lawrence.

  • The Divorcee

    52.The Divorcee

    ★★★½

    Norma Shearer as Jerry
    Completely unrelated to the project at hand, can I just take a moment to mention it really speaks to how weird the studio era was that this modest picture shares a director with the lavish The Great Ziegfeld? Can I also say it's badass that this movie revolves around a woman named Jerry? Anyway, Shearer gets flack these days, and probably then, because it's said that she got special treatment at MGM due to her marriage to Irving Thalberg. But whatever, she was a magic force and presence even when terribly miscast. I prefer her vivacious role in A Free Soul, but she was understandably blocked out that year by Marie Dressler. She's clearly the best thing about this movie that starts out as a freewheeling comedy then loses its way and goes full-on moralistic -- though it demonstrates how quickly the bigger studios mastered spoken dialogue, dating from 1930 but feeling pretty much indistinguishable from films made a number of years later -- and her natural humor and easygoing, fast-talking charm resonate down through the decades more than a lot of the early winners.

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  • The Farmer's Daughter

    53.The Farmer's Daughter

    ★★★★

    Loretta Young as Katie Holstrom
    Loved this political semi-comedy, one of the most progressive mainstream productions of the postwar years -- who knew David O. Selznick had it in him? -- so it may seem weird that I'm not placing Young higher. I don't have a solid reason besides the fact that it's a pretty straightforward role; the film's triumphs are in its writing and direction and the actors do well to sort of stay out of the way, and on the assumption that acting awards actually mean something (not convinced...), this basically doesn't seem "Oscar-worthy" to me. But that's not a criticism of Young either. Does that seem fair?

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  • Silver Linings Playbook

    54.Silver Linings Playbook

    ★★★½

    Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany
    A perfect breezy, if sometimes emotionally thorny, date movie that somehow got blown out of proportion into an awards behemoth in the age when small studio movies had been essentially outlawed, Lawrence is a hurricane in this film. Without getting into Jeffrey Wells-style lechery, I think it's acceptable to say that it's an uncommonly sensual turn from a classically beautiful Hollywood performer. She's had better roles, no doubt, namely her superlative lead in Winter's Bone, but she owns this movie, and her win on this night was a really terrific moment.

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  • La Vie en Rose

    55.La Vie en Rose

    ★★½

    Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf
    Another by-the-numbers musical biopic, this one throwing in a bunch of baffling chronological jumps that make watching it an unnecessarily exhausting experience; Cotillard is of course credible, then (as is clearly intended by the film) blows you away in the last scene.

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  • Dangerous

    56.Dangerous

    ★★½

    Bette Davis as Joyce Heath
    Davis could play this part -- a conniving, down-on-luck actress -- in her sleep. It would still somehow be a thrill to watch.

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  • Erin Brockovich

    57.Erin Brockovich

    ★★★

    Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich
    One easygoing, breezily entertaining movie considering the gravity of its subject matter; there's little that seems special or unusual to me about Roberts' performance but she has great chemistry with Albert Finney who plays her boss (not so much with love interest Aaron Eckhart, who shouldn't be part of the movie in the first place, but that's another topic) and is plenty engaging, though I tend to assume Laura Linney should have gotten this. (I somehow haven't seen You Can Count on Me yet even though Margaret is one of my favorite recent films. Need to get to work.)

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  • Morning Glory

    58.Morning Glory

    ★★★½

    Katharine Hepburn as Eva Lovelace
    Very much a stagebound part (and film; the first scene occupies about a third of its total length), and it ain't exactly Bringing Up Baby, but say this for it: if it's your first exposure to Hepburn, as it was for a good number of people, you're unlikely to ever forget who she is.

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  • Cabaret

    59.Cabaret

    ★★½

    Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles
    She's good. Boy, this movie slows down whenever the plot kicks in; the musical numbers are excellent. I've said this before but I sort of can't believe my parents let me watch this when I was four or five years old, over and over again.

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  • The Country Girl

    60.The Country Girl

    ★★★½

    Grace Kelly as Georgie Elgin
    Some have suggested that Julie Christie's Oscar for Darling was a surrogate win for the more popular Doctor Zhivago; one is amazing and one is just OK so I don't really want to believe it, but maybe there's something similar in play for this film versus Kelly's two performances in Alfred Hitchcock pictures this same year. She's actually quite good in The Country Girl (it beats High Noon), demonstrating believable frustration and resignation with a deadbeat cuckold husband who happens to be a singin' sensation (it's Bing)... but nothing in the same universe as what she does with Lisa Fremont in Rear Window. Even someone who adores Kelly could be forgiven for not remembering much about The Country Girl a few years down the line, but no one forgets Lisa Fremont.

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  • Monster's Ball

    61.Monster's Ball

    ★★½

    Halle Berry as Leticia Musgrove
    Astonishingly, Berry is the only -- not the first, the only -- black actress to receive this award. This is one of many blights on the Academy's record toward diversity, though I think the most telling snub is Paul Winfield for Sounder in 1972; you'd have to be on some sort of hallucinogen to really think Brando did better work as Don Corleone, but I digress. Unfortunately Berry's work here isn't much more than OK; you can't blame the Academy for wanting to right this historical wrong of representation, though, and Berry is certainly a good choice even if this movie (and Training Day, for which Denzel Washington won in the same night, signaling a lot of hooey about how racism was over in Hollywood for that week) is the sort of lurid soap opera-like goofiness that would never get past the iron gate without a lot -- a lot -- of campaigning. Note: the last of the three painstakingly detailed, graphic play-by-play examinations of the death penalty in films that won in this category.

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  • Nomadland

    62.Nomadland

    ★★★½

    Frances McDormand as Fern
    Nice to have McDormand back after the utter horror of Three Billboards, but three Oscars feels a bit excessive in a field that this year included Carey Mulligan's much riskier, more challenging performance in Promising Young Woman. Still, McDormand is very good and admirably understated in this film.

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  • The Sin of Madelon Claudet

    63.The Sin of Madelon Claudet

    ★★★

    Helen Hayes as Madelon Claudet
    Hayes picks up a statue for acting out some weird GOP fantasy of a woman suffering for not much any reason, demonstrating all the same self-sacrifice shown in To Each His Own but without either the societal critique or the self-sufficient wit. From what we can detect of Hayes underneath all the dross, she does a pretty good job.

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  • Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

    64.Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

    ★★

    Katharine Hepburn as Mrs. Drayton
    Hepburn was in so many interesting, classic movies, none of which gleaned her any Academy recognition. But there's always something to see when she's on camera, and in this (horrible) film it's the loving eyes she makes at a dying Spencer Tracy. She's pretty terrific, but it's sickening to think of this Kramer sludge getting her a superfluous honor (she won again, the very next year, and then again fourteen years hence) over two first-class, unforgettable performances: Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde and, for heaven's sake, Anne Bancroft in The Graduate.

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  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

    65.One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

    ★★½

    Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched
    Pros: A completely thankless role that Fletcher fills out brilliantly, inciting dread and fear even if it's completely unfair. Also, the rare instance of the Oscar going to the person playing the "villain," so often the most interesting part of a movie -- especially in classic Hollywood -- and so rarely given any kind of recognition. (What kind of universe do we live in where Robert Walker didn't win something for Strangers on a Train?) Cons: I still loathe the way Nurse Ratched is treated by the film, the way we're supposed to take pleasure in the attempted strangulation of her; apart from some inappropriately judgmental remarks she makes (which anyone might be guilty of in a moment of frustration), she literally is doing her job throughout the film, but because this interferes with the romanticized Robert Bly-like macho thesis of the film whereby women and minorities are destroying the ruggedly individual real men, this is Very Bad. It's also not a leading performance; thank savvy campaigning for this one. And Fletcher won over one of the most galvanizing peformances in film history, by Isabelle Adjani in The Story of Adele H.; though that too is a mediocre film, at least it would've kept this vastly overrated one from scoring a Big Fiver.

  • Howards End

    66.Howards End

    ★★★

    Emma Thompson as Margaret Schlegel
    I like Thompson quite a bit but these Merchant-Ivory movies really run together for me. Is this the one with all the penises or is it the one where a bookshelf falls on a guy? Feel sure there were more interesting opportunities to reward her, one strong example being the much livelier film she scripted, Sense and Sensibility.

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  • As Good as It Gets

    67.As Good as It Gets

    ★★★★

    Helen Hunt as Carol in As Good as It Gets
    Did you know that community college students taking psych classes have to watch this movie now!? I always feel like I'm defending the indefensible when I talk about this film but I do really enjoy it even though it's incomprehensibly long; it has pleasant echoes of Brooks' other strong works even if it's not a patch on Broadcast News or The Mary Tyler Moore Show with regard to his feel for complicated interpersonal relationships. I was overjoyed at Hunt's win (and Nicholson's) in 1998, both because as a diehard Simpsons fan I was excited to see Brooks back in the spotlight and because I was so, so sick of Titanic fever. But when I rewatched Titanic as an adult I realized that Winslet -- even back then -- was a hell of a treasure and deserved the Oscar. It's funny that it was so popular to bemoan the two leads of Titanic back then and balk at their fame, when the next two decades were spent demanding to know why first Winslet and then DiCaprio kept being snubbed.

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  • The Rose Tattoo

    68.The Rose Tattoo

    ★★½

    Anna Magnani as Serafine Delle Rose
    Magnani is good here but very, very theatrical. One of a run of Mann stage adaptations that clearly demonstrates the possibilites and limitations of such transitions.

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  • Shakespeare in Love

    69.Shakespeare in Love

    ★★★

    Gwyneth Paltrow as Viola de Lesseps
    There's nothing earth-shaking about this corny, sporadically funny romance picture but it's entertaining, and I generally like Paltrow, though a glance at her filmography reveals a whole run of strange, unflattering choices; this is actually one of the better films she's been in.

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  • The Hours

    70.The Hours

    ★★½

    Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf
    Once again: right actress, wrong movie. I can name so many superb performances by Kidman, one of the most adventurous A-list actors ever -- Eyes Wide Shut! Dogville! Margot at the Wedding! Rabbit Hole! Hell, Moulin Rouge!, which I don't even like, but she's terrific in it -- but instead she got an Oscar for the one with the fake nose. Okay.

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  • Anastasia

    71.Anastasia

    ★★★

    Ingrid Bergman as Anna Koreff
    Bergman's second of three Oscars was a sort of Hollywood homecoming triumph, her "redemption" after she was stupidly cast aside for her extramarital affair with Roberto Rossellini. (I'd say "things were different then," but that kind of weird public judgment still happens.) She's fine as always in the part but the film is what it is, which is to say not much -- it's a pretty facile story, when you come down to it -- and there's just very little for her to work with.

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  • Room

    72.Room

    ★½

    Brie Larson as Joy
    It's sometimes hard for me to see the merit in a performance if I really, really hated a movie, and this turgid victimhood chronicle -- it's empty, gawking torture porn but it's Better because it feels bad about it -- probably does feature perfectly fine work from Larson in the lead. But the movie did not sit well with me, to say the least, and I can't see myself connecting with anything about it. Perhaps that's immature. Larson was competing against four actors I love: Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Lawrence, Charlotte Rampling and Saoirse Ronan. I've only seen Blanchett's movie, though, and I can't say for sure if Larson's work here might deserve the award anyway despite the film.

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  • The Reader

    73.The Reader

    ★★½

    Kate Winslet as Hanna Schmitz
    Almost no one denies that Winslet is one of her generation's best actors. She obviously shouldn't be this low on this list, but blame the watchable and competent but incredibly silly movie she's in. This is a typical move by the Academy of honoring someone who's widely considered "overdue"; she really was, but that was their own fault, yeah? She is perfectly fine in this film, for what it's worth, but at the risk of being middlebrow, I'll take Titanic, thanks. (One of the other nominees this year was Anne Hathaway for Rachel Getting Married; despite being really taken by the general spirit of that film, I differ with most in that I thought Hathaway's misguided performance completely derailed it -- I actually probably prefer Winslet, frankly.)

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  • Blue Sky

    74.Blue Sky

    ★★★

    Jessica Lange as Carly
    Richardson died before this film was released -- it got caught up in Orion's catastrophic bankruptcy -- so as far as I know he never really talked about it, but I'd love to know if the radically different, clashing performance styles exhibited by Lange and Tommy Lee Jones here came out of specific directions from his end. Jones is brilliant here and while Lange has her moments, she pulls a Vivien Leigh -- her broad, over the top emotionalism looks strained and unreal next to everyone else's naturalism, especially her leading man's. By most accounts this win was a sentimental gesture toward a well-loved veteran, though this seems weird since she already had one (for Supporting), but okay.

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  • The Song of Bernadette

    75.The Song of Bernadette

    ★★★

    Jennifer Jones as Bernadette Soubirous
    So much purity and spiritual fervor in Jones' wide-eyed performance here, you'd have to be some kind of hardened, bitter cynic to escape totally unmoved -- but Jones simply doesn't have much range as an actress, as demonstrated again and again in her films, and while the naivete fits this role quite well initially, the limits of such charm become apparent over the running time. Undoubtedly a credible film and part, all the same.

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  • La La Land

    76.La La Land

    ★★★

    Emma Stone as Mia
    Stone has an engaging persona and is fun to watch, though she does look at her feet a lot when she's tap dancing. The shortcomings of her performance are mostly down to a script that feels incomplete, and a lack of chemistry with her costar Ryan Gosling.

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  • The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

    77.The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

    ★★½

    Maggie Smith as Jean Brodie
    One bizarre film and performance, and I must say that while I pretty quickly wrote it off as a bust after seeing it, it deserves credit for being very, very memorable. The film seems to set itself up as a feminine Goodbye Mr. Chips before it goes off the deep end with a treatise on sex, corruption, manipulation, the works. Smith's line readings are just shy of incomprehensible, and I don't think it's the accent. If I look at this as an act of trolling, I kind of love it. Surely one of the strangest mainstream movies to win an Oscar, at any rate.

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  • Coming Home

    78.Coming Home

    ★★★½

    Jane Fonda as Sally
    The best Fonda performance I've seen, which (for me) isn't saying much. I could waste time in this space trying to understand if my big Fonda problem is down to me or to her, but I'd take this over Klute and Cat Ballou any old day; plus I have considerable respect for the film's sociopolitical motives, and Fonda served as producer on it (a fact I know cause I read credits, you see). I think Geraldine Page in Interiors gave a better performance than this, but I think Coming Home deserved every award it got if only symbolically on The Night of the (Deer) Hunter.

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  • Million Dollar Baby

    79.Million Dollar Baby

    ★★

    Hilary Swank as Maggie
    Another performance -- like De Niro's in Raging Bull -- honored for the physical arduousness of the role, not for anything to do with the acting involved. Swank's honestly the weak link in a strongly acted if embarrassingly morose film; Eastwood himself provides one of the stronger self-directed performances I can remember, and Morgan Freeman is Morgan Freeman. Swank had already been rewarded for a much better movie, and this could've been Kate Winslet's year, for one of her best performances in Eternal Sunshine.

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  • Funny Girl

    80.Funny Girl

    ★★

    Barbra Streisand as Fanny Brice
    Streisand's stratospheric rise after this performance is well-remembered. I think others are better equipped to judge the performance but suffice it to say it didn't do it for me. It's certainly one of the most iconic wins for a musical feature.

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  • Driving Miss Daisy

    81.Driving Miss Daisy

    Jessica Tandy as Daisy Werthan
    I can live with this if I pretend it's for The Birds. Surprisingly, it's only at this point in our ranking that I start to have serious problems with any of these performances; that's a marked contrast to Actor.

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  • Still Alice

    82.Still Alice

    ★★

    Julianne Moore as Alice
    In the lower reaches of this ranked list there aren't that many surprises; I knew years before doing this that I didn't really connect with Jane Fonda, Jane Wyman and Sandra Bullock's performance style, long before seeing the films for which they were honored. But this is an example of one that really caught me off guard a bit, because I love Julianne Moore and in a way I completely support her receiving sentimental commemoration for a storied career. But yow, is this painfully straightforward document of an early-onset Alzheimer's patient's gradual demise the worst kind of maudlin awards bait, with Moore hitting all the obvious notes built on gimmicky "study" and little truly resonant emotion. Truthfully she's one of the better things about this hollow film, but like Kate Winslet above, this is a master in what without the Oscar would be easily one of her most forgettable roles.

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  • On Golden Pond

    83.On Golden Pond

    ★★½

    Katharine Hepburn as Ethel
    See my entry in the Actors ranking on Henry Fonda's win for the exact same hollow, sentimental film.

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  • Women in Love

    84.Women in Love

    ★★½

    Glenda Jackson as Gudrun Brangwen
    Jackson's not much of a lead actor in this film, more one quarter of an ensemble, and while she's probably a bit more memorably acidic than Jennie Linden (who plays her sister), ironically both the women in this film have less interesting characterizations than the men with whom they engage in relationships, though Eleanor Bron sort of owns them all.

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  • Moonstruck

    85.Moonstruck

    ★★

    Cher as Loretta
    Cher's really neither here nor there -- not memorable, not dreadful -- in this oddly celebrated romantic comedy, but it may be the most irksome award choice on this list for the simple fact that she got it in lieu of Holly Hunter in Broadcast News, a romantic comedy-drama that renders Moonstruck as nothing more than a pointless, redundant trifle.

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  • The Blind Side

    86.The Blind Side

    ★★

    Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne Tuohy
    Bullock's often struck me as anonymous, and while I converted somewhat after Gravity I don't believe this turgid white-savior football film stands as much of an exception. Her way of dealing with a poorly written script is to punch every moment with excessive force, something she also did in her campy part in Crash.

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  • Places in the Heart

    87.Places in the Heart

    ★★

    Sally Field as Edna Spalding
    Nothing against Field but as good as she sometimes is (see: Lincoln or Norma Rae), she certainly does blend right in when the pap is at its most middlebrow. Her acceptance speech upon receiving this Oscar was exponentially more entertaining than the movie.

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  • The Iron Lady

    88.The Iron Lady

    ★½

    Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher
    Neither biopic, performance, Oscar nor the real person being portrayed have much reason to exist. Despite the flaws of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I was rooting for Rooney Mara.

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  • Judy

    89.Judy

    ★★½

    Renée Zellweger as Judy Garland
    Admittedly, Zellweger sings well in the performance that brought her a second Oscar, but portraying one of the most iconic and well-documented stars in cinematic history would be a difficult task for even someone with a rich well of acting talent to draw from, but she simply doesn't have the chops for this and turns in a tic-ridden, superficial version of Garland that illuminates nothing of richness or depth about her. If anything, the less showy sequences in which Darci Shaw plays a teenage Garland are more effective. Adding to the indignity of it all, this should've been the year Saoirse Ronan finally took this award home.

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  • The Great Ziegfeld

    90.The Great Ziegfeld

    ★★½

    Luise Rainer as Anna Held
    Rainer was capable of plenty of nuance; she herself lamented how the studio shoved her around in projects that didn't let her play to her real abilities. Despite winning her the first of her two consecutive Oscars, this seems like an example of MGM engaged in degrading one of its stars. Rainer is forced to treat Held as a fragile, wafer-thin victim; her famous emotional phone call to Ziegfeld resonates, but she spends a lot of on-camera time mouthing through some really insipid songs and generally displaying herself as an inordinately annoying presence for who knows what reason. To my long-running shame I've not yet seen My Man Godfrey (coming up in the 1930s canon project late this year or early next) but I must assume that this should have been Carole Lombard's Oscar.

  • A Touch of Class

    91.A Touch of Class

    ★★

    Glenda Jackson as Vickie
    It probably isn't fair to blame Jackson for the many deficiencies of this bratty Neil Simon-like romantic comedy, an extremely dated enterprise; all this screaming and yelling for "comic effect" seldom does favors to any actor. Jackson, one of the few actor-turned-politicians who found success and fame in both areas, deserves credit for being a nearly unique figure, but even more than in Women in Love, she's done in here by a script that puts too much impossible nonsense into her mouth. "My one chance to get raped and you can't get your bloody trousers off"?!? Oh, when men were men and screenwriters were too. I can't stand The Exorcist but I'm team Ellen Burstyn for this one.

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  • The Three Faces of Eve

    92.The Three Faces of Eve

    ★★½

    Joanne Woodward as "Eve"
    Very dated, very icky psychodrama's many issues are mostly not the fault of Woodward, whose sensitivity gets drowned out by the ridiculous, simple-minded interpretation of "multiple personalities" prompted by her triple Eve White / Eve Black / Jane persona. The entire movie is camp that won't admit it's camp, and this unfortunately extends to the acting.

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  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

    93.Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

    Frances McDormand as Mildred
    McDormand's a great actress who earned her previous win and easily deserved several others, but this is not only a mediocre performance in a terrible film, it's quite difficult to find any substance in it at all; it would have been almost impossible for anyone to mine something meaningful from this part because it's so inconsistently and poorly written, but I can't exactly give goodwill because I know she's capable of so much more. This should've been Saoirse Ronan's year.

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  • Klute

    94.Klute

    ★★½

    Jane Fonda as Bree Daniels
    Part of my aforementioned aversion to Fonda, though helped along considerably in its intensity by Julia, probably dates from this film, a beautifully shot but empty detective thriller, in which she plays a hyper-controlled prostitute and actress whose tightly wound nature and dealings with an apparent stalker lead us into a lurid setup and an extremely ludicrous love story co-starring Donald Sutherland. Fonda's characterization is all very carefully enunciated in the most irritatingly artificial way possible; she's dealing with a dumb script that requires her to recite every thought she has for the duration, which can be no help to any actor's performance, but rewarding such lackluster work seems counterproductive. Wasn't a much bigger fan of the even more celebrated McCabe & Mrs. Miller either, but I'm all for another statue going to Julie Christie.

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  • Johnny Belinda

    95.Johnny Belinda

    ★★★

    Jane Wyman as Belinda McDonald
    Have never found Wyman to have much charisma, though I do sort of enjoy her in The Lost Weekend, and this surreal bit of lurid small-town terror finds her well beyond a range of emotions that seems credible coming out of her.

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  • Coquette

    96.Coquette

    ★★½

    Mary Pickford as Norma
    Nothing against Pickford, half of Hollywood's scene-setting Power Couple of yore, but neither she nor anyone else in this film was ready for the transition to talkies. That includes those who decided the play on which it's based would be a worthwhile thing to film. Of the other nominees I've seen, I actually prefer Bessie Love in The Broadway Melody to this.

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