Oscar Favorites: 20 Best Actress Winners

Admittedly, this is the least diverse of my favorite Oscar winners lists as there are only four here that come after the 1960s. It’s either that I haven’t seen many Best Actress winners from recent years…or I haven’t enjoyed the recent winners’ performances enough to rank them in my top 20. Anyway, this list definitely reflects how much I love films from the classic Hollywood era!

In chronological order, my 20 favorite Best Actress winners!

Claudette Colbert

Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night (1934)

Claudette Colbert as Ellie Andrews in It Happened One Night
Competition: Grace Moore for One Night of Love; Norma Shearer for The Barretts of Wimpole Street; Bette Davis for Of Human Bondage (write-in nomination)
Other NominationsPrivate WorldsSince You Went Away

Bette Davis

Bette Davis in Jezebel (1938)

Bette Davis as Julie Marsden in Jezebel
Competition: Fay Bainter for White Banners; Wendy Hiller for Pygmalion; Norma Shearer for Marie Antoinette; Margaret Sullavan for Three Comrades
Other NominationsOf Human Bondage (write-in nomination); Dangerous (WON); Dark Victory; The Letter; The Little Foxes; Now, Voyager; Mr. Skeffington; All About Eve; The Star; What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Vivien Leigh

Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind (1939)

Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind
Competition: Bette Davis for Dark Victory; Irene Dunne for Love Affair; Greta Garbo for Ninotchka; Greer Garson for Goodbye, Mr. Chips
Other Nominations: A Streetcar Named Desire (WON)

Ginger Rogers

Ginger Rogers in Kitty Foyle (1940)

Ginger Rogers as Kitty Foyle in Kitty Foyle
Competition: Bette Davis for The Letter; Joan Fontaine for Rebecca; Katharine Hepburn for The Philadelphia Story; Martha Scott for Our Town
Other Nominations: N/A

Joan Fontaine

Joan Fontaine in Suspicion (1941)

Joan Fontaine as Lina McLaidlaw Aysgarth in Suspicion
Competition: Bette Davis for The Little Foxes; Olivia de Havilland for Hold Back the Dawn; Greer Garson for Blossoms in the Dust; Barbara Stanwyck for Ball of Fire
Other NominationsRebecca; The Constant Nymph

Ingrid Bergman

Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight (1944)

Ingrid Bergman as Paula Alquist Anton in Gaslight
Competition: Claudette Colbert for Since You Went Away; Bette Davis for Mr. Skeffington; Greer Garson for Mrs. Parkington; Barbara Stanwyck for Double Indemnity
Other NominationsFor Whom the Bell Tolls; The Bells of St. Mary’s; Joan of Arc; Anastasia (WON); Murder on the Orient Express (Best Actress in a Supporting Role, WON); Autumn Sonata

Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce (1945)

Joan Crawford as Mildred Pierce for Mildred Pierce
Competition: Ingrid Bergman for The Bells of St. Mary’s; Greer Garson for The Valley of Decision; Jennifer Jones for Love Letters; Gene Tierney for Leave Her to Heaven
Other NominationsPossessed; Sudden Fear

Jane Wyman

Jane Wyman in Johnny Belinda (1948)

Jane Wyman as Belinda McDonald for Johnny Belinda
Competition: Ingrid Bergman for Joan of Arc; Olivia de Havilland for The Snake Pit; Irene Dunne for I Remember Mama; Barbara Stanwyck for Sorry, Wrong Number
Other NominationsThe YearlingThe Blue Veil; Magnificent Obsession

Olivia de Havilland

Olivia de Havilland in The Heiress (1949)

Olivia de Havilland as Catherine Sloper in The Heiress
Competition: Jeanne Crain for Pinky; Susan Hayward for My Foolish Heart; Deborah Kerr for Edward, My Son; Loretta Young for Come to the Stable
Other NominationsGone with the Wind (Best Actress in a Supporting Role); Hold Back the Dawn; To Each His Own (WON); The Snake Pit

Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday (1953)

Audrey Hepburn as Princess Ann in Roman Holiday
Competition: Leslie Caron for Lili; Ava Gardner for Mogambo; Deborah Kerr for From Here to Eternity; Maggie McNamara for The Moon Is Blue
Other NominationsSabrina; The Nun’s Story; Breakfast at Tiffany’s; Wait Until Dark

Joanne Woodward

Joanne Woodward in The Three Faces of Eve (1957)

Joanne Woodward as Eve White/Eve Black/Jane in The Three Faces of Eve
Competition: Deborah Kerr for Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison; Anna Magnani for Wild Is the Wind; Elizabeth Taylor for Raintree County; Lana Turner for Peyton Place
Other NominationsRachel, Rachel; Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams; Mr. & Mrs. Bridge

Sophia Loren

Sophia Loren in Two Women (1960)

Sophia Loren as Cesira in Two Women
Competition: Audrey Hepburn for Breakfast at Tiffany’s; Piper Laurie for The Hustler; Geraldine Page for Summer and Smoke; Natalie Wood for Splendor in the Grass
Other NominationsMarriage Italian Style

Julie Andrews

Julie Andrews in May Poppins (1964)

Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins in Mary Poppins
Competition: Anne Bancroft for The Pumpkin Eater; Sophia Loren for Marriage Italian Style; Debbie Reynolds for The Unsinkable Molly Brown; Kim Stanley for Seance on a Wet Afternoon
Other NominationsThe Sound of MusicVictor Victoria

Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

Elizabeth Taylor as Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Competition: Anouk Aimée for A Man and a Woman; Ida Kaminska for The Shop on Main Street; Lynn Redgrave for Georgy Girl; Vanessa Redgrave for Morgan!
Other NominationsRaintree CountyCat on a Hot Tin RoofSuddenly, Last SummerBUtterfield 8 (WON)

Katharine Hepburn

Katharine Hepburn in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)

Katharine Hepburn as Christina Drayton in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
Competition: Anne Bancroft for The Graduate; Faye Dunaway for Bonnie and Clyde; Edith Evans for The Whisperers; Audrey Hepburn for Wait Until Dark
Other NominationsMorning Glory (WON); Alice Adams; The Philadelphia Story; Woman of the Year; The African Queen; Summertime; The Rainmaker; Suddenly, Last Summer; Long Day’s Journey Into Night; The Lion in Winter (WON – tied with Barbra Streisand for Funny Girl); On Golden Pond (WON)

Barbra Streisand

Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl (1968)

Barbra Streisand as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl
Competition: Katharine Hepburn for The Lion in Winter (TIE); Patricia Neal for The Subject Was Roses; Vanessa Redgrave for Isadora; Joanne Woodward for Rachel, Rachel
Other NominationsThe Way We WereA Star is Born (Best Original Song, WON); The Prince of Tides (Best Picture); The Mirror Has Two Faces (Best Original Song)

Liza Minnelli

Liza Minnelli in Cabaret (1972)

Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles in Cabaret
Competition: Diana Ross for Lady Sings the Blues; Maggie Smith for Travels with My Aunt; Cicely Tyson for Sounder; Liv Ullmann for The Emigrants
Other NominationsThe Sterile Cuckoo

Diane Keaton

Diane Keaton in Annie Hall (1977)

Diane Keaton as Annie Hall for Annie Hall
Competition: Anne Bancroft for The Turning Point; Jane Fonda for Julia; Shirley MacLaine for The Turning Point; Marsha Mason for The Goodbye Girl
Other NominationsReds; Marvin’s Room; Something’s Gotta Give

Jodie Foster

Jodie Foster in The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs
Competition: Geena Davis for Thelma & Louise; Laura Dern for Rambling Rose; Bette Midler for For the Boys; Susan Sarandon for Thelma & Louise
Other NominationsTaxi Driver (Best Actress in a Supporting Role); The Accused (WON); Nell

Frances McDormand

Frances McDormand in Fargo (1996)

Frances McDormand as Marge Gunderson in Fargo
Competition: Brenda Blethyn for Secrets & Lies; Diane Keaton for Marvin’s Room; Kristin Scott Thomas for The English Patient; Emily Watson for Breaking the Waves
Other Nominations: Her other nominations came from performances in a supporting role!
Mississippi BurningAlmost FamousNorth Country

Am I missing any good winners? Who are your favorite Best Actress winners in Oscar history?

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