All right, now I’ve already nearly killed myself trying to pick the top five Oscar-winning movies from eighty years of the Academy Awards. Now I’ve moved on to Best Actress, and I’ve had to be somewhat more subjective. So many of the actresses awarded the Oscar are ridiculously amazing (obviously, why else would they have won?), and choosing just five is nearly impossible. But I tried anyway.
Here are my top 5 Best Actress Academy Award winners, in chronological order:
Bette Davis-“Julie Morrison”, Jezebel, 1938
This role has been compared to Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, and I admit the stories are quite similar. But for the Academy Awards, I think that Bette Davis takes the cake over Vivien Leigh because-well, because she’s Bette Davis. Not only is she beautiful in the role, she took what could have been a flat, one-dimensional character and made her a complex and layered person who truly feels about what she does. For Pete’s sake, people, just look at her eyes and the way she moves, and listen to the way she speaks. You’ll know why she won that Oscar.
Joanne Woodward-“Eve White, Eve Black, Jane”, The Three Faces of Eve, 1957
This was a well-deserved Oscar indeed. Woodward plays a woman dealing with multiple personality disorder, and puts in an amazing performance of three very different characters, switching back and forth between them with incredible-seeming ease. Any woman who can pull off such a daring and masterful performance, that probably would have many actresses nervous to take on today, is definitely Academy Award material.
Katharine Hepburn-“Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine”, The Lion in Winter, 1968
Katharine Hepburn was amazing in anything she did, but this showcases her absolute command of the screen. As Eleanor of Aquitaine, Hepburn plays a scheming woman who must try to manipulate the men who control her future and the future of England, and boy does she nail it. This was a big step away from her earlier, more well-known comedic roles, and the Academy Award just had to go to her-her performance was regal, beautiful, and powerful.
Meryl Streep-“Sophie”, Sophie’s Choice, 1982
One of many powerful performances, Meryl Streep went above and beyond in this role and captured the Best Actress Academy Award. Streep doesn’t shy away from embodying the tortured character Sophie, who is forced to make a terrible decision during the Holocaust that haunts her long afterward, leading to a traumatized life and another shocking decision. Her depth in portraying the despondency of this character is almost frightening. It’s hard to explain just how amazing this performance is, and how deeply Streep goes into the role-she doesn’t ever hold back, and that’s why she got the Oscar and a spot in my top 5.
Geraldine Page-“Mrs. Carrie Watts”, The Trip to Bountiful, 1985
All right, this one may have readers scratching their heads. But Page definitely deserved the Oscar for this understated performance. She embraces a role that isn’t one of the most glamorous or dignified, and she does it pitch-perfect. Her portrayal of Mrs. Watts, marginalized by her family and forgotten by her friends, moves along the story so subtly, draws the character so realistically, and plays off the other characters so easily, it’s hard to believe she’s acting. Bravo for one of the lesser-known but best Academy Award-winning performances.
That wasn’t so bad, was it? With the Academy Awards only weeks away, the job of picking favorites will only get harder as the list grows, but those are my current top five Best Actress Academy Award winners. For detailed information on any of these actresses or movies, visit the Internet Movie Database (IMdB) or visit the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.