My 50 favorite actresses

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1.
Gene Tierney
Actress, Laura
Gene Tierney was born in Brooklyn, New York, on November 19, 1920, to well-to-do parents. Her father was a very successful insurance broker and her mother was a former teacher. Her childhood was lavish indeed. She also lived, at times, with her equally successful grandparents in Connecticut and New York...
 
2.
Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche was born in Paris, France, to Monique Yvette Stalens, a director, teacher, and actress, and Jean-Marie Binoche, a sculptor, director, and actor. Her mother was born in Czestochowa, Poland, of French, Walloon Belgian, and Polish descent, while her father is French. Juliette was only 23 when she first attracted the attention of international film critics with The Unbearable Lightness of Being...
 
3.
Romy Schneider
Actress, Sissi
Romy Schneider was born on 23 September 1938 in Vienna, Austria into a family of actors. Making her film debut at the age of 15, her breakthrough came two years later in the very popular trilogy Sissi. Her mother, supervising her daughter's career, immediately approved Romy's participation in Christine...
 
4.
Rita Hayworth
Actress, Gilda
Margarita Carmen Cansino was born on October 17, 1918, in Brooklyn, New York, into a family of dancers. Her father, Eduardo was a dancer as was his father before him. He emigrated from Spain in 1913. Rita's mother met Eduardo in 1916 and were married the following year. Rita, herself, studied as a dancer in order to follow in her family's footsteps...
 
5.
Catherine Deneuve
Catherine Deneuve was born October 22, 1943 in Paris, France. Her parents were actors. She made her movie debut in 1957, when she was thirteen and continued with small parts in minor films, until Roger Vadim gave her a meatier role in Vice and Virtue. But her breakthrough came with the excellent musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg...
 
6.
Isabelle Adjani
Actress, Queen Margot
Isabelle Yasmine Adjani was born in Gennevilliers, Hauts-de-Seine, a suburb of Paris, to Emma Augusta "Gusti" (Schweinberger) and Mohammed Adjani. Her father was a Kabyle Algerian, from Iferhounène, and her mother was a Bavarian German. She grew up speaking German fluently. After winning a school recitation contest...
 
7.
Jean Seberg
Actress, Breathless
Jean Dorothy Seberg was born in Marshalltown, Iowa, to Dorothy Arline (Benson), a substitute teacher, and Edward Waldemar Seberg, a pharmacist. Her father was of Swedish descent and her mother was of English and German ancestry. One month before her eighteenth birthday, Jean landed the title role in Otto Preminger's Saint Joan after a much-publicized contest involving some 18,000 hopefuls...
 
9.
Grace Kelly
Actress, Rear Window
Grace Kelly was an American actress who, after marrying Prince Rainier III in April 1956, became Princess of Monaco. After embarking on an acting career in 1950, at the age of 20, Kelly appeared in New York City theatrical productions and more than 40 episodes of live drama productions broadcast during the early 1950s Golden Age of Television...
 
10.
Ingrid Bergman
Actress, Casablanca
Ingrid Bergman was one of the greatest actresses from Hollywood's lamented Golden Era. Her natural and unpretentious beauty and her immense acting talent made her one of the most celebrated figures in the history of American cinema. Bergman is also one of the most Oscar-awarded actresses, tied with Meryl Streep, both are second only to Katharine Hepburn...
 
11.
Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe was born Norma Jeane Mortenson on June 1, 1926 in Los Angeles, California. Her mother was a film-cutter at RKO Studios who, widowed and mentally ill, abandoned her to a sequence of foster homes. She was almost smothered to death at two, nearly raped at six. At nine, the LA Orphans' Home paid her a nickel a month for kitchen work while taking back a penny every Sunday for church...
 
12.
Simone Simon
Actress, Cat People
Diminutive, fiery-tempered Simone Simon was born in France, but spent much of her early childhood in Madagascar, where her father managed a graphite mine. Her schooling was somewhat unsettled, her family moving from city to city (Berlin, Budapest, Turin) before finally establishing themselves in Paris in 1930...
 
13.
Anna Karina
Born in Denmark, she came to Paris at 18. She met Coco Chanel and Pierre Cardin and started as a top model. She met Jean-Luc Godard about a cameo in Breathless, but she had to be naked and she refused to play in the movie. One year later, they got married and she became famous with the "Nouvelle vague" movies directed by him, Jacques Rivette or Agnès Varda...
 
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15.
Isabelle Huppert
Actress, Amour
Isabelle Huppert was born in 1953, in Paris, France, but spent her childhood in Ville d'Avray. Encouraged by her mother (who was a teacher of English), she followed the Conservatory of Versailles and won an acting prize for her work in Alfred de Musset's "Un caprice". She then studied at the Conservatoire d'Art Dramatique and followed an illustrious theatrical career...
 
16.
Simone Signoret
Actress, Diabolique
The face of Simone Signoret on the Paris Metro movie posters in March 1982 looked even older than her 61 years. She was still a box office draw, but the film, L'étoile du Nord, would be her last theatrical release. She played the landlady. Signoret had a long film apprenticeship during World War II, mostly as an extra and occasionally getting to speak a single line...
 
17.
Annabella
Actress, Le million
She arrived in the U.S. at a time when a great surge of foreign feminine mystique was invading Hollywood, led by Greta Garbo, Ingrid Bergman and Marlene Dietrich. A stunning and exceptionally gifted star beloved in her native France, Annabella was thrown into a string of mediocre films by her studio during her brief Hollywood courtship and...
 
18.
Scarlett Johansson
Scarlett Johansson was born in New York City. Her mother, Melanie Sloan, is from an Ashkenazi Jewish family, and her father, Karsten Johansson, is Danish. She has a sister, Vanessa Johansson, who is also an actress, a brother, Adrian, a twin brother, Hunter Johansson, born three minutes after her, and a paternal half-brother, Christian. Her grandfather was writer Ejner Johansson...
 
19.
Kristin Scott Thomas
Kristin Scott Thomas was born in Redruth, Cornwall, England, to Deborah (Hurlbatt) and Lieutenant Commander Simon Scott Thomas. Her ancestry includes Welsh, English, and Dutch. Her father was a pilot for the British Royal Navy and died in a flying accident in 1964. Her stepfather was also a pilot and died six years later under similar circumstances...
 
20.
Jeanne Moreau
Actress, Jules and Jim
When people gave Louis Malle credit for making a star of Jeanne Moreau in Elevator to the Gallows immediately followed by The Lovers, he would point out that Moreau by that time had already been "recognized as the prime stage actress of her generation." She had made it to the Comédie Française in her 20s...
 
21.
Irène Jacob
This beautiful, dark-haired Swiss actress made a hit with a supporting role in her first film, as the piano teacher in Louis Malle's "Au revoir, les enfants" (1987). Educated in London and Geneva, and a Paris resident since the age of 18, Jacob became a promising starlet with her Malle success and followed...
 
22.
Madeleine Carroll
Actress, The 39 Steps
The original ash-blonde "iceberg maiden", Madeleine Carroll was a knowing beauty with a confident air, the epitome of poise and "breeding". Not only did she have looks and allure in abundance, but she had intellectual heft to go with them, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from Birmingham University at the age of 20...
 
23.
Kate Winslet
Actress, Titanic
Ask Kate Winslet what she likes about any of her characters, and the word "ballsy" is bound to pop up at least once. The British actress has made a point of eschewing straightforward pretty-girl parts in favor of more devilish damsels; as a result, she's built an eclectic resume that runs the gamut from Shakespearean tragedy to modern-day mysticism and erotica...
 
24.
Uma Thurman
Actress, Pulp Fiction
Uma Karuna Thurman was born in Boston, Massachusetts, into a highly unorthodox and Eurocentric family. She is the daughter of Nena Thurman (née Birgitte Caroline von Schlebrügge), a fashion model and socialite who now runs a mountain retreat, and of Robert Thurman (Robert Alexander Farrar Thurman)...
 
25.
Kirsten Dunst
Actress, Spider-Man
Kirsten Caroline Dunst is an American actress, who also holds German citizenship. She was born on April 30, 1982 in Point Pleasant, New Jersey, to parents Inez (née Rupprecht), who owned an art gallery, and Klaus Dunst, a medical services executive. She has a younger brother named Christian Dunst, born in 1987...
 
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27.
Julie Delpy
Actress, Before Sunset
Julie Delpy was born in Paris, France, in 1969 to Albert Delpy and Marie Pillet, both actors. She was first featured in Jean-Luc Godard's Détective at the age of fourteen. She has starred in many American and European productions since then, including Disney's The Three Musketeers, Killing Zoe...
 
28.
Natalie Wood
Natalie Wood was born on July 20, 1938, in San Francisco, California, as Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko. Her parents, Maria Stepanovna (Zudilova) and Nikolai Stepanovich Zakharenko, were Russian-born émigrés, of Ukrainian and Russian descent, who spoke barely comprehensible English; they changed the family name to Gurdin after becoming US citizens...
 
29.
Claudia Cardinale
Like many other female Italian film stars, Claudia Cardinale's entry into the business was by way of a beauty pageant. She was 17 years old and studying at the Centro Sperimentale in Rome when she entered a beauty contest, which resulted in her getting a succession of small film roles. Her earthy interpretations of Sicilian women got her noticed by Italian producers...
 
30.
Michelle Monaghan
Actress, Source Code
Michelle Lynn Monaghan was born on March 23, 1976, in Winthrop, Iowa. She is the youngest of three children and the only daughter of Sharon (Hamel), who ran a day care center, and Robert L. Monaghan, a factory worker and farmer. She is of mostly Irish and German descent. After graduating from high school in Iowa...
 
31.
Marie-Josée Croze
In 1999, filmmaker Denis Villeneuve gave the lead role in Maelström to Marie-Josée Croze, a young Franco-Canadian actress already known to Québécois audiences thanks to her performances in a number of popular films and TV shows. The film had a major impact on her career, leading her to play a rebellious young woman in Atom Egoyan's Ararat and win numerous awards in festivals across the world...
 
32.
Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman was born Natalie Hershlag on June 9, 1981, in Jerusalem, Israel, to a Jewish family. She is the only child of Avner Hershlag, an Israeli-born doctor, and Shelley Stevens, an American-born artist (from Cincinnati, Ohio), who also acts as Natalie's agent. She left Israel for Washington...
 
33.
Naomi Watts
Actress, King Kong
Naomi Ellen Watts was born on September 28, 1968 in Shoreham, England, to Myfanwy Edwards "Miv" (Roberts), an antiques dealer and costume/set designer, and Peter Watts (Peter Anthony Watts), the road manager to Pink Floyd. Her maternal grandfather was Welsh. Her father died when Naomi was seven and she began to follow her mother and her brother around England...
 
34.
Jodie Foster
Alicia Christian Foster was born in Los Angeles on November 19, 1962. She is the daughter of Evelyn Ella "Brandy" (Almond) and Lucius Fisher Foster III, an Air Force lieutenant colonel and later real estate broker. Brandy had filed for divorce in 1959 after having three children with Lucius, but the exes had a brief re-encounter in 1962 which resulted in Alicia's birth...
 
35.
Katharine Hepburn
Born May 12, 1907 in Hartford, Connecticut, she was the daughter of a doctor and a suffragette, both of whom always encouraged her to speak her mind, develop it fully, and exercise her body to its full potential. An athletic tomboy as a child, she was also very close to her brother, Tom, and was devastated at age 14 to find him dead...
 
36.
Nicole Kidman
Actress, Moulin Rouge!
Elegant redhead Nicole Kidman, known as one of Hollywood's top Australian imports, was actually born in Honolulu, Hawaii, while her Australian parents were there on educational visas. Kidman is the daughter of Janelle Ann (Glenny), a nursing instructor, and Antony David Kidman, a biochemist and clinical psychologist...
 
37.
Faye Dunaway
Actress, Chinatown
Faye Dunaway was born on a farm in Bascom, Florida in 1941, the daughter of Grace April (Smith), a housewife, and John MacDowell Dunaway, Jr., an army officer. After high school she majored in education at the University of Florida, but switched to theatre arts and transferred to Boston University, earning her degree in 1962...
 
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39.
Diane Kruger
Diane Kruger was born Diane Heidkrüger in Algermissen, near Hildesheim, Germany, to Maria-Theresa, a bank employee, and Hans-Heinrich Heidkrüger, a computer specialist. She studied ballet with the Royal Ballet in London before an injury ended her career. She returned to Germany and became a top fashion model...
 
40.
Charlize Theron
Charlize Theron was born in Benoni, a city in the greater Johannesburg-area, in South Africa, the only child of Gerda Theron (née Gerda Jacoba Aletta Maritz) and Charles Jacobus Theron. She was raised on a farm outside the city. Theron is of Afrikaner (Dutch, with some French Huguenot and German) descent, and Afrikaner military figure Danie Theron was her great-great-uncle...
 
41.
Lauren Bacall
Actress, The Big Sleep
Lauren Bacall was born Betty Joan Perske on September 16, 1924, in New York City. She is the daughter of Natalie Weinstein-Bacal, a Romanian Jewish immigrant, and William Perske, who was born in New Jersey, to Polish Jewish parents. Her family was middle-class, with her father working as a salesman and her mother as a secretary...
 
42.
Gina Lollobrigida
Gina Lollobrigida was born on July 4, 1927 in Subiaco, Italy. Destined to be called "The Most Beautiful Woman in the World", Gina possibly had St. Brigid as part of her surname. She was the daughter of a furniture manufacturer, and grew up in the pictorial mountain village. The young Gina did some modeling and...
 
43.
Christina Ricci
Actress, Sleepy Hollow
Precocious, outspoken child-teen starlet of the 1990s, Christina Ricci was born in 1980 in Santa Monica, California, the youngest of four children of Sarah (Murdoch), a realtor, and Ralph Ricci, a lawyer and therapist. She is of Italian (from her paternal grandfather), Irish, and Scots-Irish descent...
 
44.
Déborah François
Actress, L'enfant
The daughter of a police officer and a social worker and the middle of three siblings, Déborah François was cast by the Dardenne brothers in L'enfant in 2005 while she was in high school. Between the ages of 10 to 16 François had taken acting classes but she did not expect to make acting her career...
 
45.
Roxane Mesquida
Actress, Fat Girl
Roxane Mesquida grew up in Le Pradet, a little town in the South of France. At the age of 11, while walking with her mother, writer Francoise Mesquida, she was spotted by director Manuel Pradal who cast her in Mary from the Bay of Angels (Marie Baie de Anges). In 1998, she played opposite Isabelle Huppert...
 
46.
Fanny Ardant
Actress, Elizabeth
Fanny Ardent was the youngest of 5 children born to a cavalry officer and his wife. She was raised in Monte Carlo where she was educated at a convent school. A voracious reader, she discovered Proust at age 15 and felt as though his writings were for her. When she was 17 her father died and the shock of his loss never left her...
 
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48.
Emmanuelle Béart
Emmanuelle Béart was born August 14, 1963, in Gassin, France. She lived with her mother, brothers, and sister on a farm not far from Saint-Tropez in Provence (southern France), because her father, singer and poet Guy Béart, did not want his children to be affected by the glamour world of Paris...
 
49.
Jessica Lange
Actress, Big Fish
Jessica Phyllis Lange was born 1949 in Cloquet, Minnesota, to Dorothy Florence (Sahlman) and Albert John Lange, a traveling salesman and teacher. She is of Finnish (mother) and Dutch and German (father) descent. She obtained a scholarship to study art at the University of Minnesota, but instead went to Paris to study drama...
 
50.
Valentina Cervi
Actress, James Dean
Valentina Cervi (born 13 April 1976) is an Italian film and television actress. Cervi was born in Rome, Italy. She is the daughter of director Tonino Cervi and granddaughter of the famous Italian actor Gino Cervi. Cervi started her acting career at age ten in Carlo Cotti's 1986 film "Portami la luna"...