Greatest Actresses of the 21st Century

by Paul Hamell | created - 06 Dec 2011 | updated - 07 Aug 2012 | Public

Greatest Actresses from (2000-"present")

★ = Great Performance ✰ - Critically Accailmed Performances (Either I do not agree, haven't seen, or need to re-watch) ☠ - Awful Performance

1. Kate Winslet

Actress | Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

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...

The Reader (2008)★; Revolutionary Road (2008)★; Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind★; Carnage (2011)

2. Viola Davis

Actress | Fences

Actress Viola Davis was born on her grandmother's farm, at the then-Singleton Plantation in St. Matthews, South Carolina. When she was two months old her family moved to Central Falls, Rhode Island, where her father, Dan Davis, worked as a horse groomer and trainer. Her mother, Mary Alice (Logan), ...

The Help (2011)★; Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011); Doubt (2008)★

3. Meryl Streep

Actress | Out of Africa

Considered by many critics to be the greatest living actress, Meryl Streep has been nominated for the Academy Award an astonishing 20 times, and has won it three times. Meryl was born Mary Louise Streep in 1949 in Summit, New Jersey, to Mary Wolf (Wilkinson), a commercial artist, and Harry William ...

Greats: Adaptation. (2002)★; Doubt (2008)★

Give It a Shot: The Hours (2002); The Devil Wears Prada (2006)★; Julie & Julia (2009)★

Caution: The Iron Lady (2011)★

Flops: Lions for Lambs (2007)

Other Notable Film(s): It's Complicated (2009)

4. Michelle Williams

Actress | Blue Valentine

A small-town girl born and raised in rural Kalispell, Montana, Michelle Ingrid Williams is the daughter of Carla Ingrid (Swenson), a homemaker, and Larry Richard Williams, a commodity trader and author. Her ancestry is Norwegian, as well as German, British Isles, and other Scandinavian. She was ...

Brokeback Mountain (2005); My Week with Marilyn (2011)★; Blue Valentine (2010)★

5. Helen Mirren

Actress | RED

Dame Helen Mirren was born in Queen Charlotte's Hospital in West London. Her mother, Kathleen Alexandrina Eva Matilda (Rogers), was from a working-class English family, and her father, Vasiliy Petrovich Mironov, was a Russian-born civil servant, from Kuryanovo, whose own father was a diplomat. ...

The Queen (2006)

6. Natalie Portman

Actress | Black Swan

Natalie Portman is the first person born in the 1980s to have won the Academy Award for Best Actress (for Black Swan (2010)).

Natalie was born Natalie Hershlag on June 9, 1981, in Jerusalem, Israel. She is the only child of Avner Hershlag, an Israeli-born doctor, and Shelley Stevens, an ...

Black Swan (2010)★; Closer

7. Nicole Kidman

Actress | Moulin Rouge!

Elegant blonde 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 ...

Rabbit's Hole (2010)★; The Hours★

8. Marion Cotillard

Actress | La môme

Academy Award-winning actress Marion Cotillard was born on September 30, 1975 in Paris. Cotillard is the daughter of Jean-Claude Cotillard, an actor, playwright and director, and Niseema Theillaud, an actress and drama teacher. Her father's family is Breton.

Raised in Orléans, France, she made her ...

La Vie en Rose★; Inception (2010)

9. Carey Mulligan

Actress | Never Let Me Go

Carey Hannah Mulligan is a British actress. She was born May 28, 1985, in Westminster, London, England, to Nano (Booth), a university lecturer, and Stephen Mulligan, a hotel manager. Her mother is from Llandeilo, Wales, and Carey also has Irish and English ancestry.

Her first major appearance was ...

10. Melissa Leo

Actress | The Fighter

Melissa Leo was born on September 14, 1960 in New York City, New York, USA as Melissa Chessington Leo. She is an actress and producer, known for The Fighter (2010), 21 Grams (2003) and Oblivion (2013).

The Fighter (2010)★

11. Cate Blanchett

Actress | Carol

Cate Blanchett was born on May 14, 1969 in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, to June (Gamble), an Australian teacher and property developer, and Robert DeWitt Blanchett, Jr., an American advertising executive, originally from Texas. She has an older brother and a younger sister. When she was ten ...

12. Hilary Swank

Actress | Boys Don't Cry

Hilary was born in Lincoln, Nebraska, to Judith Kay (Clough), a secretary, and Stephen Michael Swank, who served in the National Guard and was also a traveling salesman. Her maternal grandmother, Frances Martha Dominguez, was of Mexican descent, and her other roots include German, English, and ...

Million Dollar Baby (2004)★; Freedom Writers

13. Charlize Theron

Actress | Monster

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) ...

14. Sandra Bullock

Producer | Miss Congeniality

Sandra Annette Bullock was born in Arlington, a Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C. Her mother, Helga Bullock (née Helga Mathilde Meyer), was a German opera singer. Her father, John W. Bullock, was an American voice teacher, who was born in Alabama, of Irish, English, French, and German descent. ...

15. Penélope Cruz

Actress | Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Known outside her native country as the "Spanish enchantress", Penélope Cruz Sánchez was born in Madrid to Eduardo Cruz, a retailer, and Encarna Sánchez, a hairdresser. As a toddler, she was already a compulsive performer, re-enacting TV commercials for her family's amusement, but she decided to ...

16. Helena Bonham Carter

Actress | Les Misérables

Helena Bonham Carter is an actress of great versatility, one of the UK's finest and most successful.

Bonham Carter was born May 26, 1966 in Golders Green, London, England, the youngest of three children of Elena (née Propper de Callejón), a psychotherapist, and Raymond Bonham Carter, a merchant ...

17. Amy Adams

Actress | Arrival

Amy Lou Adams was born in Vicenza, Veneto, Italy, to American parents, Kathryn (Hicken) and Richard Kent Adams, a U.S. serviceman who was stationed at Caserma Ederle in Italy at the time. She was raised in a Mormon family of seven children in Castle Rock, Colorado, and has English, as well as ...

18. Tilda Swinton

Actress | We Need to Talk About Kevin

The iconoclastic gifts of the visually striking and fiercely talented actress Tilda Swinton have been appreciated by a more international audience of late.

She was born Katherine Mathilda Swinton on November 5, 1960, in London, England. Her mother, Judith Balfour, Lady Swinton (née Killen), was ...

19. Renée Zellweger

Actress | Chicago

Renée Kathleen Zellweger was born on April 25, 1969, in Katy, Texas, USA. Her mother, Kjellfrid Irene (Andreassen), is a Norwegian-born former nurse and midwife, of Norwegian, Kven (Finnish), and Swedish descent. Her father, Emil Erich Zellweger, is a Swiss-born engineer. The two married in 1963. ...

20. Angelina Jolie

Actress | Maleficent

Angelina Jolie is an Academy Award-winning actress who became popular after playing the title role in the "Lara Croft" blockbuster movies, as well as Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), Wanted (2008), Salt (2010) and Maleficent (2014). Off-screen, Jolie has become prominently involved in international ...