Best Actresses

by TimKaye | created - 20 Jan 2013 | updated - 3 weeks ago | Public

In my opinion, these are 30 of the best actresses of all time. (Then there are some honorable mentions after that).

1. 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 21 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 ...

2. 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...

3. Vanessa Redgrave

Actress | Atonement

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, ...

4. 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 ...

5. 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) ...

6. Judi Dench

Actress | Skyfall

Dame Judi Dench was born Judith Olivia Dench 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 the ...

7. 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, ...

8. 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. ...

Favorite films chronologically: Calendar Girls; The Queen; State Of Play; The Debt; and Hitchcock.

9. 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 ...

10. Kathy Bates

Actress | Misery

Multi-talented Kathleen Doyle Bates was born on June 28, 1948, and raised in Memphis, Tennessee. She is the youngest of three girls born to Bertye Kathleen (Talbot), a homemaker, and Langdon Doyle Bates, a mechanical engineer. Her grandfather was author Finis L. Bates. Kathy has English, as well as...

Favorite films chronologically: Misery; Fried Green Tomatoes; Dolores Claiborne; Titanic; Primary Colors; Six Feet Under (TV series); The Blind Side; The Office (TV series), and Feud: Bette & Joan (TV series).

11. Amanda Peet

Actress | A Lot Like Love

Amanda Peet was born and raised in New York City. She is the daughter of Penny (Levy), a social worker, and Charles Peet, a lawyer, and has an older sister. Her father was of mostly English and German ancestry, and her mother was from a Jewish family (from Germany, Russia, and Hungary). Peet's ...

Favorite films chronologically: She's The One; The Whole Nine Yards; Identity; Syriana; and Identity Thief.

12. Susan Sarandon

Actress | Thelma & Louise

Susan Sarandon was born Susan Abigail Tomalin in New York City, NY, to Lenora Marie (Criscione), no profession, and Phillip Leslie Tomalin, an advertising executive. She is of Italian (mother) and English, Irish, Welsh, and German (father) descent. Soon after the 1968 Democratic convention, there ...

Favorite films chronologically: The Rocky Horror Picture Show; The Hunger; The Witches Of Eastwick; Bull Durham; Thelma & Louise; The Client; Twilight; Leaves Of Grass and The Company You Keep. She's also fantastic in her portrayal of Bette Davis for the TV-series Feud: Bette & Joan

13. Jodie Foster

Actress | The Silence of the Lambs

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 ...

14. Rachel Griffiths

Actress | Muriel's Wedding

Her mother, Anna Griffiths, is an art consultant. Her uncle is a Jesuit priest. Has two older brothers. One brother, Ben, is a ski instructor. Lived on the Gold Coast, Queensland until age five, then moved to Melbourne. Attended Star of the Sea Catholic Girls' College, did well at school and ...

She's fantastic in the excellent television series Six Feet Under. Favorite films chronologically: Muriel's Wedding; Blow; and Saving Mr. Banks.

15. Jennifer Aniston

Actress | Friends

Jennifer Aniston was born in Sherman Oaks, California, to actors John Aniston and Nancy Dow. Her father is Greek, and her mother was of English, Irish, Scottish, and Italian descent. Jennifer spent a year of her childhood living in Greece with her family. Her family then relocated to New York City ...

16. 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 ...

17. Helen Hunt

Actress | As Good as It Gets

Helen Hunt began studying acting at the age of eight with her father, respected director and acting coach Gordon Hunt. A year later she made her professional debut and afterwards worked steadily in films, theatre and television.

Of course, she's great on the television series, Mad About You, but I also recall her earlier on Darkroom (kind of a Twilight Zone wanna-be), and in a cameo on Friends. Favorite films chronologically: Peggy Sue Got Married; As Good As it Gets; Pay It Forward; Castaway; What Women Want; Empire Falls (TV); Bobby; and Every Day.

18. Holly Hunter

Actress | The Piano

Holly Hunter was born in Conyers, Georgia, to Opal Marguerite (Catledge), a homemaker, and Charles Edwin Hunter, a part-time sporting goods company representative and farmer with a 250 acre farm. She is the youngest of seven children. Her parents encouraged her talent at an early age, and her first...

19. Ellen Burstyn

Actress | Requiem for a Dream

Ellen Burstyn was born in Detroit, Michigan, to Correine Marie (Hamel) and John Austin Gillooly. She is of mostly Irish, German, and French-Canadian descent. Ellen worked a number of jobs before she became an actress. At 14, she was a short-order cook at a lunch counter. After graduating from ...

20. Dakota Fanning

Actress | War of the Worlds

Hannah Dakota Fanning was born on the 23rd of February 1994, in Conyers, Georgia, USA, to Heather Joy (Arrington) and Steven Fanning. Her mother played professional tennis, and her father, now an electronics salesman, played minor league baseball. She is of German, Irish, English, French, and ...

Favorite films chronologically: I Am Sam; Man On Fire; War Of The Worlds; and The Runaways.

21. Scarlett Johansson

Actress | Lost in Translation

Scarlett Johansson was born in New York City. Her mother, Melanie Sloan, is from a Jewish family from the Bronx, and her father, Karsten Johansson, is a Danish-born architect, from Copenhagen. She has a sister, Vanessa Johansson, who is also an actress, a brother, Adrian, a twin brother, Hunter ...

22. Jennifer Jason Leigh

Actress | The Hateful Eight

Jennifer Jason Leigh was born Jennifer Lee Morrow in Los Angeles, California, the daughter of writer Barbara Turner and actor Vic Morrow. Her father was of Russian Jewish descent and her mother was of Austrian Jewish ancestry. She is the sister of Carrie Ann Morrow and half-sister of actress Mina ...

23. Illeana Douglas

Actress | Ghost World

Born with show business in her blood, Illeana is the granddaughter of screen legend Melvyn Douglas. Illeana began studying acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York. In 1987 working for a publicist in New York led to her first movie role. Illeana appeared in several Martin Scorsese films.

Favorite films chronologically: Goodfellas; Guilty By Suspicion; Cape Fear; Alive; Stir Of Echoes; and Ghost World. She's also appeared on several decent television series, including, Seinfeld; Action; The Drew Carey Show; and Six Feet Under.

24. 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 ...

25. Julia Roberts

Actress | Pretty Woman

Julia Fiona Roberts never dreamed she would become the most popular actress in America. She was born in Smyrna, Georgia, to Betty Lou (Bredemus) and Walter Grady Roberts, one-time actors and playwrights, and is of English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, German, and Swedish descent. As a child, due to her ...

26. Glenn Close

Actress | Fatal Attraction

Six time Academy Award-nominated actress Glenn Close was born and raised in Greenwich, Connecticut. She is the daughter of Bettine (Moore) and William Taliaferro Close (William Close), a prominent doctor. Both of her parents were from upper-class northeastern families.

Glenn was often seen on ...

27. Kyra Sedgwick

Actress | The Closer

Kyra Minturn Sedgwick was born on August 19, 1965 in New York City, to Patricia (Rosenwald), a family and speech therapist, and Henry Dwight Sedgwick V, a venture capitalist. Her mother was from an upper-class German Jewish family, and her father was from a wealthy Massachusetts clan of English ...

28. Bridget Fonda

Actress | A Simple Plan

Bridget Jane Fonda was born in Los Angeles, California, to Susan Brewer and actor Peter Fonda. She is the granddaughter of Henry Fonda and niece of Jane Fonda, both famous actors. Bridget made her film debut at age five as an extra in Easy Rider (1969), but first became interested in acting after ...

29. Marisa Tomei

Actress | My Cousin Vinny

Marisa Tomei was born on December 4, 1964, in Brooklyn, New York, to Patricia "Addie" (Bianchi), a teacher of English, and Gary Tomei, a lawyer, both of Italian descent. Marisa has a brother, actor Adam Tomei. As a child, Marisa's mother frequently corrected her speech as to eliminate her heavy ...

30. Maggie Smith

Actress | Gosford Park

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 ...

31. Margo Martindale

Actress | August: Osage County

Margo Martindale was born July 18, 1951 in Jacksonville, Texas, to Margaret (Pruitt) and William Everett Martindale, a lumber company owner and dog handler. She is the youngest of three children, and the only daughter. Margo attended Lon Marris College, and later transferred to University of ...

Favorite films chronologically: The Firm; 28 Days; Million Dollar Baby; Paris, je t'aime (hers is one of the best segments of the film); The Savages; Stop-Loss; August: Osage County; and The Hollars. And she's great on the TV series, The Americans.

32. Amy Smart

Actress | Interstate 60: Episodes of the Road

Amy Smart was born in Topanga Canyon, California, to Judy, who worked at a museum, and John Boden Smart, a salesman. She has German, English, and Irish ancestry.

Smart was a relatively new arrival when she first gained notice for her supporting roles in the 1999 hit teen films Varsity Blues (1999) ...

33. Claire Forlani

Actress | Meet Joe Black

Claire Forlani was born in the United Kingdom and grew up in London. Educated at Arts Educational School, she moved to the United States with her parents Pier Luigi and Barbara Forlani when she was 19 and began starring in films.

Claire has had leading roles in such films as Meet Joe Black (1998), ...

Favorite films chronologically: Mallrats; Meet Joe Black; and Love's Kitchen.

34. Kristy McNichol

Actress | The Pirate Movie

Actor Kristy McNichol is best known for her role as "Buddy" in the Spelling/Goldberg hit TV series "Family", where she won 2 Emmy awards and was nominated for a Golden Globe. McNichol began her career with guest appearances on such popular TV series as Starsky and Hutch, The Bionic Woman, Love ...

She's fantastic on the television series, Family, which is the main reason for her inclusion on this list. Favorite films chronologically: The End; Little Darlings; and Only When I Laugh.

35. Lauren Ambrose

Actress | Six Feet Under

Lauren Ambrose was born on February 20, 1978 in New Haven, Connecticut, USA as Lauren Anne D'Ambruoso. She is an actress and producer, known for Six Feet Under (2001), Psycho Beach Party (2000) and Where the Wild Things Are (2009). She has been married to Sam Handel since September 2001. They have ...

She's great on the excellent television series, Six Feet Under, and also appears on the revived series, The X Files: Reopened, but hasn't really managed to turn that into a stellar movie career. Favorite films chronologically: The Other Woman.

36. Sigourney Weaver

Actress | Alien

Sigourney Weaver was born Susan Alexandra Weaver in Leroy Hospital in Manhattan, New York City. Her father, TV producer Sylvester L. Weaver Jr., originally wanted to name her Flavia, because of his passion for Roman history (he had already named her elder brother Trajan). Her mother, Elizabeth ...

37. Kate Beckinsale

Actress | Underworld: Evolution

Kate Beckinsale was born on 26 July 1973 in England, and has resided in London for most of her life. Her mother is Judy Loe, who has appeared in a number of British dramas and sitcoms and continues to work as an actress, predominantly in British television productions. Her father was Richard ...

38. Kristen Wiig

Actress | Bridesmaids

Kristen Carroll Wiig was born on August 22, 1973 in Canandaigua, New York, to Laurie J. (Johnston), an artist, and Jon J. Wiig, a lake marina manager. She is of Norwegian (from her paternal grandfather), Irish, English, and Scottish descent. The family moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, before ...

She's fantastic in her years on Saturday Night Live. Favorite films chronologically: Knocked Up; Ghost Town; Paul; and Bridesmaids.

39. Jennifer Tilly

Actress | Bound

An actress who always attracts audiences' attention, Jennifer Tilly is by turns funny, sexy, compassionate, compelling and often all at once. Her breakthrough movie role tapped into all of those qualities failing singer Blanche "Monica" Moran in Steve Kloves' The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989) opposite...

40. Meg Tilly

Actress | The Big Chill

Meg Tilly was set on being a dancer, and at 17 connected to the Connecticut Ballet Company and later Throne Dance Theatre. It was in this capacity that she had her screen debut in Alan Parker's Fame (1980). Unfortunately, an injury to her back cut short her plans for a dance career, and a small ...

Favorite films chronologically: The Big Chill; Impulse; Agnes of God; Masquerade; and the TV series Bomb Girls.

41. Imelda Staunton

Actress | Pride

Imelda Staunton was born on January 9, 1956 in Archway, London, England as Imelda Mary Philomena Bernadette Staunton. She is an actress, known for Pride (2014), Shakespeare in Love (1998) and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007). She has been married to Jim Carter since October 1983. ...

Favorite films chronologically: Chicken Run; Vera Drake; Taking Woodstock; and Alice In Wonderland.

42. Mayim Bialik

Actress | Beaches

Mayim Bialik grew up in San Diego and got her first acting job (Pumpkinhead (1988)) when she was just 12 years old. A number of TV roles followed until in 1990 she was cast in Blossom (1990), the role which made her famous.

By 1993, while Blossom was still airing, she had already won a deferred ...

She's an absolute scene-stealer on the TV series The Big Bang Theory! She also appeara a few times on the series Curb Your Enthusiasm. Favorite films chronologically: Beaches.

43. Janeane Garofalo

Actress | Ratatouille

Janeane, the petite woman with the acerbic wit, was born in Newton, New Jersey, in 1964, to Joan, a secretary, and Carmine Garofalo, an Exxon executive. She is of Italian and Irish descent. Janeane had many jobs before breaking into show biz. She worked as a bike messenger, a shoe salesperson, ...

She's great on television series like The Ben Stiller Show; TV Nation; The Larry Sanders Show; and even has some decent sketches from during her time on Saturday Night Live. Favorite films chronologically: Reality Bites; The Truth About Cats & Dogs; Cop Land; The MatchMaker; and Dogma.

44. Christina Applegate

Actress | Bad Moms

Christina Applegate was born in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, to record producer/executive Robert William Applegate and singer-actress Nancy Priddy. Her parents split-up shortly after her birth. She has two half-siblings from her father's re-marriage - Alisa (b. 10 October 1977) & Kyle (b. 15...

She's terrific on the television series Married With Children, and adequate on the TV series Jesse. Favorite films chronologically: Streets; Just Visiting; The Sweetest Thing; Wonderland; Grand Theft Parsons; Employee Of The Month; Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy; and The Rocker.

45. Mila Kunis

Actress | Black Swan

Mila Kunis was born Milena Markovna Kunis to a Jewish family in Chernivtsi, Ukraine, USSR (now independent Ukraine). Her mother, Elvira, is a physics teacher, her father, Mark Kunis, is a mechanical engineer, and she has an older brother named Michael. Her family moved to Los Angeles, California, ...

She's impressive on the television series That '70s Show, and Family Guy. Favorite films chronologically: Forgetting Sarah Marshall; Extract; The Book Of Eli; Black Swan; Friends With Benefits; Ted, and Third Person. I also like the 2014 Jim Beam commercial where she's gong to come back for her own select barrel of bourbon once it's been aged -- or maybe I just like the product! LOL

46. Cameron Diaz

Actress | There's Something About Mary

A tall, strikingly attractive blue-eyed natural blonde, Cameron Diaz was born in 1972 in San Diego, the daughter of a Cuban-American father and an Anglo-German mother. Self described as "adventurous, independent and a tough kid," Cameron left home at 16 and for the next 5 years lived in such varied...

47. 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. ...

48. Tracy Spiridakos

Actress | Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Tracy Spiridakos is a Canadian actress who stars as Charlotte "Charlie" Matheson in the NBC post-apocalyptic science fiction series Revolution. Tracy was born in Winnipeg Manitoba to her parents George and Anastasia, who are restaurant owners. She has two brothers. Spiridakos began acting in junior...

Of course, the only reason for including her is for her performance on the television series. Revolution. Favorite films chronologically: The Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes.