Which Are The 25 Best Actresses Of All Time?

Hey, movie buffs! Which would you say are the greatest actresses of all time? Either because of their versatility, their acting methods, their charisma, or the emotion that they show on screen, these 25 actresses surely deserve a spot in this list. Sure, many other talented female icons have left their mark in history, but in my view, these 25 women are with no doubt the greatest actresses to ever appear on the silver screen. Let’s see if you agree!

Photo: Courtesy of www.bettedavis.com

#25. Angela Basset

Angela Basset knew she wanted to become an actress ever since she was a little kid, and that’s why she went on to become a graduate at the Yale School of Drama. Ever since the mid-80s, she has risen to stardom for her roles in both films and television.

Photo: Courtesy of Biography.com

The most iconic role in her career was that of Tina Turner in the iconic biopic What’s Love Got to Do with It, which tells the story of the musician’s rise to fame and her relationship with her abusive husband. For some of her most recent roles, give Black Panther a watch!

#24. Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman has been acting in films ever since she was a little kid. She is one of the most versatile actresses out there, reflected in the fact that she has excelled in all types of genres, from rom-coms to thrillers, and from dramas to action films.

Photo: Courtesy of

Without a doubt, her greatest performance of all time was when the played the mentally disturbed ballet dancer in the psychological thriller Black Swan, which earned her her first and only Academy Award.

#23. Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe may have never won an Oscar, but she definitely has nothing to envy the rest of the actresses on this list. She has worked hard to bring her characters into life and has become one of the greatest legends in the history of comedy films.

Photo: Courtesy of lacarlotanoticias.com.ar

Did you know she won a BAFTA Award for her role in the 1948 romantic comedy film Some Like It Hot? She plays the role of the vocalist and ukelele player of an all-girl band, and let me tell you one thing: get ready to laugh your head off, cause the movie is as bizarre as it gets.

#22. Julianne Moore

One of the most talented actresses out there, Julianne Moore has become somewhat of an icon of independent cinema, especially ever since her appearances in the 1993 comedy-drama film Short Cuts and the 1995 psychological drama Safe.

Photo: Courtesy of eltiempo.com

In 2002, she became one of the first actresses to ever receive two Academy Award nominations in the same year, thanks to her roles in the drama films The Hours and Far from Heaven. It was only 12 years later when she received her first and only Oscar as the lead in Still Alice, where she plays a professor who battles with Alzheimer’s disease.

#21. Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn is considered to be one of the most legendary stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age and the queen of romantic comedies. She received five Academy Award nominations, of which she wone one. Can you guess for which film?

Photo: Courtesy of Encyclopedia Britannica

Hepburn won the Oscar for her role in the romantic comedy Roman Holiday, where she played a bored and trapped princess who escapes from her guardians and falls in love with a charming newsman. However, her most iconic role was that of Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

#20. Judi Dench

Judi Dench has had an admirable career that encompasses nearly six decades and more than a hundred performances. Between 1998 and 2002, she received four Academy Award nominations in 1997 for her lead role the biographical drama Mrs. Brown and was nominated five more times ever since.

Photo: Courtesy of IMDb

She received her only Academy Award after her role as Queen Elizabeth I in the period drama Shakespeare in Love and received four BAFTA Awards. Nobody can match the force of her personality, that for sure!

#19. Kathy Bates

Unlike most stars in this list, Kathy Bates rose to stardom when she was in her early 40s. But it’s never too late for talent, as she won an Academy Award in 1991 after her role in the psychological crime film Misery.

Photo: Courtesy of

But not only did she excel in the film industry, as this talented actress received two Emmy Awards for her work in the comedy show Two and a Half Men and the horror show American Horror Story.

#18. Julia Roberts

During the 80s and 90s, Julia Roberts became an icon within the romantic comedy genre, especially after her roles in the classic films Pretty Woman, Steel Magnolias and My Best Friend’s Wedding. But later on in her career, she began to delve into other genres.

Photo: Courtesy of Vanity Fair

In fact, this talented actress won her first and only Academy Award thanks to her role in the biopic Erin Brokovich, where she plays a working-class single mother who tries to bring down a power company suspected of polluting a city’s water supply.

#17. Nicole Kidman

With 97 wins and 199 nominations, Australian actress Nicole Kidman is without a doubt one of the most prominent artists of the 21st century. Although she launched her career in the early 90s, her breakthrough role was that of Satine in the 2001 musical film Moulin Rouge!, which earned her her first Academy Award nomination.

Photo: Courtesy of Encyclopedia Britannica

Only one year later, she received her first and only Academy Award thanks to her brilliant portrayal of Virginia Woolf in the drama film The Hours. If you wanna check out her latest work, then don’t miss the thrilling HBO series Big Little Lies!

#16. Glenn Close

Glenn Close hit it off in the silver screen during her mid-30s, after landing a role in the 1982 comedy-drama film The World According to Grap. This earned her the first out of her seven Academy Award nominations, and we’re still hoping that she’ll one day earn her first Oscar.

Photo: Courtesy of LaPrensa.hn

After playing several successful secondary roles, she landed her first lead role in the 1987 psychological crime film Fatal Attraction. Her last major success came with the 2017 period drama film The Wife.

#15. Hilary Swank

Hilary Swank rose to fame in 1999 after her brilliant portrayal of Brandon Teena -a young transgender woman who was assassinated in Nebraska during the 1930s- in the biographical drama Boys Don’t Cry. This movie left its mark in history, as Swank became one of the first actresses to ever win an Academy Award in an independent film.

Photo: Courtesy of Wikipedia

But this wasn’t the only time Swank surprised the world with her acting skills. Five years later, she won another Academy Award for her role in Million Dollar Baby, where she plays a young woman who aims to become a professional boxer. All in all, Swank has received a whopping 64 awards throughout her career.

#14. Marion Cotillard

French actress Marion Cotillard was not very well-known among American audiences when she received her first Academy Award in 2007. That year, she won over everyone’s hearts after playing the iconic French singer Edith Piaf in the biopic La Vie en Rose.

Photo: Courtesy of Quien

Ever since then, she began acting in some of Hollywood’s greatest blockbusters, including secondary roles in the thriller film Inception and the superhero film The Dark Knight Rises.

#13. Frances McDormand

OK folks, let’s be honest: have you ever seen anyone better doing angry than Frances McDormand? She’s clearly one of the most versatile actresses out there, and her long list of awards and nominations prove it.

Photo: Courtesy of Wikipedia

McDormand received her first Academy Award after her role in the comedy crime film Fargo in 1994. 25 years later, she won her second Oscar thanks to her performance in the crime drama Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

#12. Charlize Theron

South African actress Charlize Theron has proven the world she is one of the most versatile artists out there. She may be more famous for her roles in action films such as Mad Max: Fury RoadFast and Furious, and The Italian Job, but she has also starred in her fair share of heart-wrenching dramas too!

Photo: Courtesy of Wikipedia

She won an Academy Award for her portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wuornos in the 2003 biographical drama film Monster. If you look up some of Wuornos’ live interviews, you’ll notice that Theron imitated her voice and gestures to perfection.

#11. Kate Winslet

Did you realize that more than two decades have passed ever since Kate Winslet impersonated Rose in the iconic drama film Titanic? That movie earned her her second Academy Award nomination, but ever since then, she was nominated on five other occasions. Do you remember when?

Photo: Courtesy of Encyclopedia Britannica

After her nominations in Iris, Eternal Sunshine for a Spotless Mind, and Little Children, the British actress won her first and only Academy Award after her portrayal of a former Nazi criminal in the 2008 drama film The Reader. Is there any doubt she is one of the most wide-ranging actresses of all time?

#10. Jodie Foster

Jodie Foster began working as an actress ever since she was a young teenager. She got her big break in the psychological thriller film Taxi Driver, for which she received an Academy Award nomination at the age of 14!

Photo: Courtesy of Wikipedia

She has proven that drama films suit her best, and she somehow manages to convey an immense vulnerability with every role she plays. She has received two Academy Awards thanks to her performances in the 1988 crime drama The Accused and the 1991 psychological thriller Silence of the Lambs.

#9. Diane Keaton

Very few actresses are versatile enough to excel in both comedies and dramas, and Diane Keaton is definitely one of them. Of course, we will always remember her as the one who played Annie Hall, the ditzy girlfriend of a neurotic comedian in Woody Allen’s comedy film Annie Hall.

Photo: Courtesy of Encyclopedia Britannica

But Keaton has nailed it in plenty of other roles, including her Oscar-nominated performances in the 1981 period drama film Reds and the 2001 romantic drama Something’s Gotta Give.

#8. Julie Andrews

Julie Andrews has been breaking records ever since she was a child, since at the age of 13 she became the youngest artist to ever give a Royal Command performance for the British monarchy. As to her career in acting, she rose to stardom in the mid-60s, and I’m pretty sure you know which films she starred in.

Photo: Courtesy of Biography.com

In 1964 she played the iconic role in the Disney live-action musical film Marry Poppins, which children watch up to this day. Only one year later, she received an Oscar nomination for her role in The Sound of Music, which became the highest-grossing musical of that time and possibly the greatest success in her career.

#7. Penelope Cruz

Penelope Cruz is more than a pretty face, as she has proven Hollywood and the world that she’s one of the most talented actresses out there. She became famous as one of the “Almodóvar girls” after starring in countless successful films by the Spanish director Pedro Almodovar.

Photo: Courtesy of Wikipedia

Her performance in Almodovar’s 2006 drama, film Volver earned her her first Oscar nomination. In 2009, she received her first Academy Award for her role in Woody Allen’s drama film Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

#6. Cate Blanchette

It should go without saying that Cate Blanchett is one of the greatest actresses in history as she brings a fierce intelligence to every single role she portrays. She received 6 Academy Award nominations, of which she won two. Can you guess which?

Photo: Courtesy of Wikipedia

She won her first Academy Award in 2005 after her secondary role in the period drama film The Aviator, where she played late actress Katharine Hepburn. Nearly a decade later, she won her first Academy Award by an Actress in a Leading Role for her performance in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasminewhere she played a troubled and alcoholic New York socialite.

#5. Maggie Smith

Most millennials are probably familiar with Maggie Smith thanks to her role as Professor McGonagall in the Harry Potter franchise (which she nailed, by the way). However, this talented British actress has a prominent career, which includes 46 awards and 96 other nominations.

Photo: Courtesy of BBC America

Smith received six Academy Award Nominations, of which she won two: the first for her lead role in the romantic drama The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and the second for her secondary role in the thriller A Room with a View. Did you know Queen Elizabeth II made her a Dame in honor of her services to the dramatic arts?

#4. Elizabeth Taylor

There’s no other actress as beautiful and talented as Elizabeth Taylor, who has graced the screen with her glamour for half a century. Dramatic roles were clearly her strength and all of her 5 Academy Award nominations were thanks to her roles in different drama films.

Photo: Courtesy of The List

She won two Oscars and for two completely different movies. In the 1960 film BUtterfield 8, she played a call girl who has a tragic romance with a married man, while in the 1968 film Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf she played an alcoholic wife who has a dysfunctional and loveless marriage with her husband.

#3. Katharine Hepburn

This list would mean nothing if Katharine Hepburn weren’t in it, right? She has the record for most acting Academy Awards and has starred in dozens of iconic comedies and dramas of Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Photo: Courtesy of Cine Premiere

Her greatest classics include the 1979 romantic drama film The Philadelphia Story, the 1951 adventure drama film The African Queen, and the 1967 comedy-drama Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner.

#2. Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep’s talents are overwhelming and there’s no arguing about that, is there? She holds the record for the largest amount of Academy Award nominations in history, with a whopping 21 nominations throughout a period of nearly 50 years.

Photo: Courtesy of Wikipedia

She received her first nomination in the 1979 war drama film The Deer Hunter and her first Academy Award in the 1980 family drama Kramer vs. Kramer. Believe it or not, she received a total of 176 wins and 357 nominations. Beat that!

#1. Bette Davis

There is no doubt that Bette Davis is one of the greatest screen actresses there ever was. Her acting range was absolutely astonishing, and even though she starred in her fair share of comedies, she particularly excelled at playing evil or melodramatic characters.

Photo: Courtesy of www.bettedavis.com

She received a whopping 10 Academy Award nominations, of which she won two: in the 1936 romantic drama film Dangerous and in the 1939 period drama film Jezebel. However, her two most iconic performances were those of Margo Channing in the 1950 drama film All About Eve and Baby Jane in the psychological 1962 thriller What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Related posts:

  • About Author

    Hernán Tamargo

    Teacher. Political Scientist. Writer. Feminist... and much more!

  • Advertising

  • Advertising