Best British Actresses

A list of the most significant British actresses in British cinema (in my opinion at least). Each one is a national treasure and has put Ole Brittania on the map.
View:
Log in to copy items to your own lists.
1.
Julie Andrews
Julia Elizabeth Wells was born on October 1, 1935, in England. Her mother, Barbara Ward (Morris), and stepfather, both vaudeville performers, discovered her freakish but undeniably lovely four-octave singing voice and immediately got her a singing career. She performed in music halls throughout her childhood and teens...
 
2.
Gemma Arterton
Gemma Christina Arterton was born in Gravesend, Kent, England, where she was raised. She is the daughter of Sally-Anne (Heap), a cleaner, and Barry J. Arterton, a welder. Her mother's cousin is singer-songwriter Eric Goulden. Her parents divorced when she was age five, and Gemma subsequently lived with her younger sister and her mother...
 
3.
Helena Bonham Carter
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 banker...
 
4.
Julie Christie
Julie Christie, the British movie legend whom Al Pacino called "the most poetic of all actresses", was born in Chukua, Assam, India, on April 14, 1941, the daughter of a tea planter, Frank St. John Christie, and his wife, Rosemary (Ramsden), who was a painter. Her family was of English, and some Scottish...
 
5.
Judi Dench
Actress, Skyfall
Judi Dench was born in York, England, to Eleanora Olive (Jones), who was from Dublin, Ireland, and Reginald Arthur Dench, a doctor from Dorset, England. She attended Mount School in York, and studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama. She has performed with Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre...
 
6.
Anne-Marie Duff
Actress, Suffragette
Anne-Marie Duff is an English actress, born on 8 October 1970 in Southall, London. Her parents, Brendan and Mary (née Doherty), are from Donegal, Ireland. She first came to the attention of the British public for her role as Margaret in The Magdalene Sisters and as Fiona Gallagher in the successful TV series Shameless...
 
7.
Sally Hawkins
Sally Hawkins was born in 1976 in Lewisham hospital, London, England, to Jacqui and Colin Hawkins, authors and illustrators of children's books. She is of English and Irish descent. Hawkins was brought up in Greenwich, in southeast London. She attended James Allen's Girls' School in Dulwich. She graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1998...
 
8.
Celia Johnson
Stage actress who appeared in a handful of UK films. She is best remembered for her screen performance in Noël Coward's and David Lean's Brief Encounter, opposite Trevor Howard. This film wasn't released in the United States until 1946, and her subsequent nomination for an Academy Award for the Best Actress in a Leading Role did not occur until 1947.
 
9.
Felicity Jones
Felicity Rose Hadley Jones is an English actress. Jones was born in Birmingham, West Midlands, and grew up in Bournville. Her parents met while working at the Wolverhampton Express and Star. Her father was a journalist while her mother was in advertising. They divorced when she was three, and she was brought up with her brother by her mother alone...
 
10.
Keira Knightley
Keira Christina Knightley was born in the South West Greater London suburb of Richmond on March 26th 1985. She is the daughter of actor Will Knightley and actress turned playwright Sharman Macdonald. An older brother, Caleb Knightley, was born in 1979. Her father is English, while her Scottish-born mother is of Scottish and Welsh origin...
 
11.
Vivien Leigh
Vivian Mary Hartley was born on November 5, 1913, in Darjeeling, India. She was to live in this beautiful country for the next six years. Her parents wanted to go home to England but because of World War I they opted to stay in India. At the end of the war the Hartleys headed back to their home country...
 
12.
Helen Mirren
Actress, The Queen
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. Mirren attended St...
 
13.
Carey Mulligan
Actress, Drive
Carey Mulligan is a British actress, born May 28, 1985, in Westminster, London, England, to Nano (Booth), a university lecturer, and Stephen Mulligan, a hotel manager. Her father is of Irish descent and her mother is Welsh, originally from Llandeilo. Her first major appearance was playing Kitty Bennet in Pride & Prejudice alongside Keira Knightley...
 
14.
Vanessa Redgrave
On January 30, 1937, renowned theatre actor Michael Redgrave was performing in a production of Hamlet in London. During the curtain call, the show's lead, Laurence Olivier, announced to the audience: "tonight a great actress was born". This was in reference to his co-star's newborn daughter, Vanessa Redgrave...
 
15.
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...
 
16.
Maggie Smith
One of the world's most famous and distinguished actresses, Dame Maggie Smith was born Margaret Natalie Smith in Essex. Her Scottish mother, Margaret (Hutton), worked as a secretary, and her English father, Nathaniel Smith, was a teacher at Oxford University. Smith has been married twice: to actor Robert Stephens and to playwright Beverley Cross...
 
17.
 
18.
Tilda Swinton
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 Australian...
 
19.
Emma Thompson
Emma Thompson was born in London on April 15, 1959, into a family of actors - her father was Eric Thompson, who has passed away, and her mother, Phyllida Law, has co-starred with Thompson in several films (her sister, Sophie Thompson, is an actor as well). Her father was English-born and her mother is Scottish-born...
 
20.
Julie Walters
Actress, Brave
For decades, Brit actress and comedienne Julie Walters has served as a sturdy representation of the working class with her passionate, earthy portrayals on England's stage, screen and TV. A bona fide talent, her infectious spirit and self-deprecating sense of humor eventually captured the hearts of international audiences...
 
21.
Rachel Weisz
Actress, The Mummy
Rachel Weisz was born on 7th March 1970, in London, UK, to Edith (Teich), a psychoanalyst, and George Weisz, an inventor. Her father is a Hungarian Jewish immigrant, and her Austrian-born mother, who left Vienna in the 1930s, is of Italian and Austrian Jewish heritage. Rachel has a sister, Minnie, a curator and photographer...
 
22.
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...