Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Top 12 Actresses of the Past 25 Years

Tuesday Top Ten Twelve: for the list maker in me and the list lover in you

As you may have read below, I'm getting ready to leave on that trip which has filled me with much aging anxiety... but one good thing about aging in terms of movie-loving: you get perspective. It's impossible to look at any current actor / director / critical / movie and attendant audience response and assume that the gradations of love or hoopla in place now are permanent things ...even your own feelings change. Actors fade or grow in stature, celebrities pop up out of nowhere, films that everyone loves people forget about and the reverse happens, too.

I was wandering 'round the web today and chanced upon this cover of Life magazine celebrating the movies in 1986! So long ago... but I remember being excited to buy it in high school. This was long before those Vanity Fair Hollywood issues. Jessica Lange, Sally Field, Barbra Streisand, Goldie Hawn and Jane Fonda are listed as "Hollywood's Most Powerful Women"... that wasn't completely accurate even at the time considering that Meryl Streep and Kathleen Turner were the top superstars by anyone's sane account of mid 80s American cinema. But back on topic: these five movie careers were all about to shrink rapidly.

It got me to thinking about who I love now versus who I loved then so herewith are a dozen favorites (I couldn't restrict myself to ten) from the past twenty-five years. Not all of them are doing so well at the moment and some are now too old for lead roles in Hollywood but if you smoosh all those years together this is something approximating my dozen favorites --the women that I was seeing as I morphed from casual moviegoer to the über film fiend I am now.

Twelve Favorite Actresses (1983-2008)
In rough ascending order. Ask me tomorrow and rank would vary

If we make it a baker's dozen you'd see one of these names in the mix: Angela Bassett, Helena Bonham-Carter, Juliette Lewis, Emma Thompson, Tilda Swinton, Toni Collette, Joan Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Miranda Richardson or Christina Ricci. But this is a quarter century of love compiled... Obviously the top dozen of right now would be much different and quite a lot younger.

12 Nicole Kidman. Age: 40. First feature: BMX Bandits (1983). First time I saw her: Days of Thunder (1990)... I was not impressed. When I started to take her seriously: To Die For (1995). When I fell in love: Moulin Rouge! (2001). Her three best performances: Moulin Rouge! (2001), Birth (2004) and either The Others (2001) or To Die For (1995) depending on which day you ask me. I can't wait for: Australia (2008).

11 Annette Bening. Age: 49. First feature: The Great Outdoors (1988). First time I saw her, when I started to take her seriously, and when I fell in love: Postcards From The Edge (1990) --a one scene comic wonder. I didn't even look at Meryl Streep. This, you may have guessed, hardly ever happens. Her three best performances: The Grifters (1991), Being Julia (2004) and American Beauty (1999). I can't wait to see what kind of a spin she puts on the Roz Russell role in The Women (2008).

10 Mia Farrow Age: 63. First feature: John Paul Jones (1955). First time I saw her: Broadway Danny Rose (1984). I love her primarily due to that long and fruitful collaboration with Woody Allen. It ended poorly, sure. But not before they gave the cinema many treasures. Her three best performances in this time frame: The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), Alice (1990) and Broadway Danny Rose (1984). Also Oscar nomination worthy in Husbands and Wives (1992) and that's not even counting her earlier work. She's my choice for the #1 most egregiously Oscar snubbed actor of all time. That's right... in the entire history of Oscar's 80 years she has the most cause to bitch.

09 Uma Thurman. Age: 37. First feature: something from 1988. She made four movies in her first year. When I first saw her & fell in love lust: Dangerous Liaisons (1988)... it wasn't true love yet because I had a hard time seeing past Glenn Close & Michelle Pfeiffer at the time. Uma and I have had a rocky relationship and she may be the least purely talented of these 12 women but I shan't lie and pretend that my heart doesn't beat faster when I see her, no matter how uneven her work may be. Her three best performances: Kill Bill, Vol. 1 (2003), Henry & June (1990) and Pulp Fiction (1994). Next movie: Life Before Her Eyes, a survivor's guilt drama in which Evan Rachel Wood plays her younger self.

08 Dianne Weist. Age: 59. First feature: It's My Turn (1980), a Jill Clayburgh vehicle. First time I saw her: Footloose (1984). When I fell in love: The Purple Rose of Cairo (1995) --a brief but endearing role. Her three best performances: Bullets Over Broadway (1994), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) --were two Oscar winning performances by the same performer ever this different? -- and Parenthood (1999). She's the only performer in my lifetime that the Academy ever got it exactly right with in terms of nominations and wins for the exact right performances. Next up for Dianne: Part of the delicious stacked feminine ensemble of Synechdoche New York (2008).

07 Holly Hunter. Age: 49. First feature: The Burning (1981). First time I saw her and it wasn't just me who fell in love: Raising Arizona and Broadcast New (1987) a back to back wonder. Her three best performances: In what movie is she not amazing? Here's an old top ten. My sentimental fav' in some ways: Living out Loud (1998). Next up for Holly: more Saving Grace on television (see: related post)

06 Susan Sarandon. Age: 61. First feature: Joe (1970). First time I saw her: a midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show (1977) in the 80s of course. Her three best performances in this time period: Dead Man Walking (1995), Thelma & Louise (1991) and Bull Durham (1988). True story: I carried a picture of her in my wallet for many years. Next up: Playing "Mom Racer" in Speed Racer (2008). Anxiously awaiting some filmmaker to give her a big juicy lead again. If Julie Christie, Judi Dench and Helen Mirren can get leads and Oscar nominations for their efforts, why not Sarandon?

05 Kate Winslet. Age: 32. First feature, when I first saw her and when I fell in love: all in one glorious package which happens to be Peter Jackson's best film and happens to be called Heavenly Creatures (1994). Her three best Performances: Holy Smoke (1999), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) and Sense & Sensibility (1995). Next: appearing on every ballot of my Actress Psychic Contest for either The Reader or Revolutionary Road. Seriously y'all: Calm down!

04 Kathleen Turner. Age: 53. First feature: Body Heat (1981). When I first saw her and fell hard: Romancing the Stone (1984). More Kathleen Turner loving here.

These final three ladies I talk about too much. Hell, maybe I talk about all twelve too much. Next month I'll restrain myself from frequent topics and go new places. Promise. But today, I must indulge. It's my comfort food before a stressful trip. If you haven't had enough and are curious you can click away for redundant drooling.

03 Julianne Moore Age: 47. For much Mooooore, see previous posts. Julianne has two chances to win me back this year with Savage Grace and Blindness. Otherwise, I don't know what I'll do. We've been estranged.

02 Meryl Streep Age: 58. If you love Streep --and who doesn't save Pauline Kael (RIP)? --don't doubt that there's more.

01 Michelle Pfeiffer Age: 49. If you love the one and only, there's more posts than you can probably read. Plus, the famous Pfeiffer Pforever blog-a-thon from '06.

Twenty-Five years of cinema. 1983 to 2008... who makes your list? And if you've only recent succumbed to the cinema in full, which actress from the past quarter century are you most to investigate? It's easier than it ever was to get acquainted with cinematic years gone by.


Anonymous said...

My Top 12 Actresses of the Past 25 Years
01. Annette Bening
02. Meryl Streep
03. Glenn Close
04. Emma Thompson
05. Cate Blanchett
06. Susan Sarandon
07. Helen Mirren
08. Isabelle Huppert
09. Julianne Moore
10. Anjelica Huston
11. Michelle Pfeiffer
12. Jodie Foster

ryansumera said...

streep. always. one of the very, very few who has both qualities of being an actress/actress and an actress/entertainer.

Anonymous said...

Any list with Diane Wiest gets my vote.

Anonymous said...

I'm really surprised any list of actresses from the last 25 years could miss Jodie Foster. Otherwise, I am quite impressed with this list of ladies.

RC said...

good list...i'm surprised jodie foster didn't make the list...although it's a top 12...everyone can't make the list.

props to kate for being the youngest on the list...she hardly lived more than 25 years. She's amazing.

Peter Chan said...

Off the top of my head...

1. Meryl Streep
2. Kate Winslet
3. Nicole Kidman
4. Jodie Foster
5. Julianne Moore
6. Cate Blanchett
7. Amy Adams
8. Julia Roberts
9. Susan Sarandon
10. Ziyi Zhang

How'd did Julia Roberts miss everyone's list so far?

Benji said...

Katharine Hepburn also didn't like Streep's acting, interestingly enough.

Anonymous said...

My list (no particular order ) :

Nicole Kidman
Isabelle Huppert
Meryl Streep
Kathy Bates
Uma Thurman
Naomi Watts
Sigourney Weaver
Cate Blanchett
Michelle Pfeiffer
Kate Winslet
Julianne Moore
Jodie Foster

Anonymous said...

Uma' first film was Kiss Daddy Goodnight.

I think her most underrated performances are Dangerous Liaisons (she should have won at least a Breakthrough award), Final Analysis, Les Misérables, Tape and....
Batman and Robin !
Come on, people, it was bad on purpose, she knew the film was trashy/camp so she was completely appropriate, and she went for it (and she looked super hot in spandex - or was it lycra ?)

Anonymous said...

top 12 actresses mmmmmm does it have to be in ascending order i cannot do it,here are my 12

12 - sissy spacek
11 - nicole kidman
10 - joan allen
9 - julia roberts
8 - jodie foster
7 - michelle pfeiffer
6 - kate winslet
5 - susan sarandon
4 - annette bening
3 - meryl streep
2 - glenn close
i always know who number 1 is the most overlooked actress of our times for the ice storm,death and the maiden & a map of the world
1 - sigourney weaver

Anonymous said...

How about the 12 best female performances of the last 25 years (in no particular order) :

*Naomi Watts - Mulholland Drive
*Nicole Kidman - To die for
*Uma Thurman - Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2
*Sigourney Weaver - Aliens
*Meryl Streep - Sophie's Choice
*Isabelle Huppert - La Pianiste
*Nicole Kidman - Birth
*Hilary Swank - Boys don't cry
*Michelle Pfeiffer - The Fabulous Baker Boys
*Julianne Moore - Safe
*Glenn Close - Dangerous Liaisons
*Michelle Pfeiffer - Batman Returns

Anonymous said...

Marc, your list is great, it's good to see Huppert and Bates show up

Anonymous said...

Special recognition for Angelina Jolie, for being the only actress able to sell female characters both sexy and agressive, both feminist and eye-candy, for never playing the "girlfriend" and for being able to remain somethat classy even when playing wild chicks. Beauvoir and Sagan would have loved her.

I'm sure after Changeling and Atlas Shrugged and a few more films she'll make my list, now that she's doing "serious" drama again.

Anonymous said...

Oh Nathaniel, I hate you, you know I should be studying but because of you and your tempting posts I'm making lists because I'm list-obsessed.

Most overdue actresses who have yet to win an Oscar

1. Sigourney Weaver
2. Michelle Pfeiffer
3. Julianne Moore
4. Kate Winslet
5. Naomi Watts
6. Glenn Close / Isabelle Huppert

Anonymous said...

My top 3:

1. Michelle Pfeiffer
2. Meryl Streep
3. Anjelica Huston

And I will always have a soft spot for Diane Keaton and Angela Bassett.

Anonymous said...

hey nat how about top 10 least fave actresses that'll get everyone going.

Catherine said...

I love posts like these; they remind me of how much of a cinema novice I really am. I mean, just from your list Nathaniel, there's countless films mentioned that I was hitting myself in the face saying "I need to see that!". La Pfeiffer I've seen in THREE films. That's THREE. And you don't wanna know which three they were (is my reading license revoked? ;) I promise to rectify as soon as possible!)

My top 5 (subject to change dramatically as I watch more and more)

1. Sissy Spacek
2. Laura Linney
3. Julianne More
4. Cate Blanchett
5. Naomi Watts

Anonymous said...

"hey nat how about top 10 least fave actresses that'll get everyone going."

Oh lordy, no. That'll just make everyone bitch about everything.

jahs34 said...

Awesome choice in Diane Weist, who i love, lets see who else, Laura Linney, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Holly Hunter, Jodie Foster, Emma Thompson, Julianne Moore, Judy Davis, Francesd Mcdormand, Ellen Page, that's just off the top of my head. I hate Julia Roberts, she is good sometimes but i hate her.

jahs34 said...

Oh I forgot Lily Taylor.

Peter Nellhaus said...

John Paul Jones was a 1959 release, and the last feature directed by Mia's father, John Farrow. I really liked Mia in Be Kind Rewind but Oscar love will pass by in part because the film was no hit, and was one of the final releases from New Line.

By the way, I read something of a possible merger of Picturehouse and Warner Independent Pictures.

My not listed best actress: Maggie Chueng.

Anonymous said...

Nice list, Nat. Will you being making a similar list for actors as well?

Anonymous said...

I love Diane Keaton when she's good....recent: something's gotta give, father of the bride, etc. she's just so appealing & pretty & she looks so good when she's dressed up. OK - she's done some schlock lately. But - look at goodbar, annie hall, reds, marvin's room....all great. She's my favorite. there's no one i'd rather meet & have lunch with!

Mad Percolator said...

I feel inclined to agree with all your choices, except holy sheeot, how could you omit Helen Mirren?

c.p. iñor said...

my TOP 12 would be (if we're only counting the last 25 years -I'm not even 25-):


and Nat, did you get my ballot on the Actress Psychic game? (I'm Fernando Moss)

Anonymous said...

My Top 12, with favorite performance

12. Anjelica Huston (The Dead)
11. Helen Mirren (Cal)
10. Emma Thompson (Howards End)
9. Mia Farrow (Rosemary's Baby)
8. Michelle Pfeiffer (The Fab. Baker Boys)
7. Susan Sarandon (Thelma & Louise)
6. Kate Winslet (Eternal Sunshine)
5. Nicole Kidman (Birth)
4. Tilda Swinton (Orlando)
3. Holly Hunter (The Piano)
2. Meryl Streep (Sophie's Choice)
1. Julianne Moore (Safe)

Thombeau said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thombeau said...

Here are 12 in no order. I love them all!

Meryl Streep
Emma Thompson
Julianne Moore
Kate Winslet
Cate Blanchett
Maggie Cheung
Judy Davis
Glenn Close
Gong Li
Tilda Swinton
Helen Mirren
Joan Allen

Don't get me started on the "honorable mentions"!

ryansumera said...

how about an alternative top 12 actresses list. mine would be

1. celia weston
2. hope davis
3. juliet stevenson
4. kyra sedgwick
5. alfre woodard
6. bonnie hunt
7. alisson janey
8. christine baranski
9. imelda staunton
10. dana ivey
11. holland taylor
12. margot martindale

Anonymous said...

You should have mentioned this was an English language contest, because I can't see how Isabelle Huppert could have been left out. Just remember La Pianiste, La Ceremonie, Merci Pour Le Chocalat, L'Ivresse du Pouvoir...

And you're criminally underestimating Jodie Foster again! She is such a talented actress that sometimes I can't believe what I'm seeing. Last week I saw Accused again. I was totally on your side, that Glenn Close should have won, but now I have to endorse that Oscar. I was wrong. Foster is fantastic.

I won't even start talking about Annette Bening's terrible acting...

- cal roth

Anonymous said...

Best 12 actresses:

1) Isabelle Huppert
2) Meryl Streep
3) Julianne Moore
4) Jodie Foster
5) Emma Thompson
6) Kate Winslet
7) Judy Davis
8) Mia Farrow
9) Holly Hunter
10) Judi Dench
11) Susan Sarandon
12) Nicole Kidman

12 best performances

1) Isabelle Huppert, La Pianiste
2) Meryl Streep, The Bridges of Madison County
3) Hilary Swank, Boys Don't cry
4) Judy Davis, Husbands and Wives
5) Jodie Foster, The Silence of The Lambs
6) Emily Watson, Breaking the Waves
7) Isabelle Adjani, Camille Claudel
8) Julianne Moore, Far From Heaven
9) Holly Hunter, The Piano
10) Kate Winslet, Holy Smoke
11) Bjork, Dancer in The Dark
12) Elisabeth Shue, Leaving Las Vegas

- cal roth

Anonymous said...

1. Cate Blanchett
2. Kate Winslet
3. Meryl Streep
4. Judi Dench
5. Nicole Kidman
6. Angelina Jolie
7. Halle Berry
8. Laura Linney
9. Naomi Watts
10. Emily Watson


wellllll, best performances is something else entirely. 25 years of best. hard to decide for sure...

adam k. said...

I'm assuming the reason Streep missed is cause Sophie (and all the earlier stuff) falls just outside of the window. Whereas Pfeiffer was just getting started in 1983, and didn't peak until later.

Rather surprised to see Moore at #3, given that all her good stuff was from about 95-02. That's only 7 years. There are 25 years to consider here.

adam k. said...

...and by "missed" I mean missed #1.

(where she belongs... yeah I said it)

Anonymous said...

I want to call back Nicole Kidman and put Juliette Binoche. You know: Bleu, The English Patient, Damage, Les Amants de Pont-Neuf, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Caché, Alice et Martin...

Anonymous said...

that was cal roth

The Jaded Armchair Reviewer said...

I'd bet my favorite Miranda Richardson could play all of your 12 Favorite Actresses, Nath. 0:)

Y Kant Goran Rite said...

How come no European or Asian names? No Deneuve, Huppert, Cheung, Binoche, Devos.. (OK, I doubt Devos would make anyone else's list, but she'd be near the top of mine).

Of the actresses you do mention, Farrow is easily my favourite.

Also, I can't believe Sarandon is 61.

Also, Julianne Moore is a gorgeous woman.

Also, I can't believe there were no European or Asian names on your list - what happened?

Y Kant Goran Rite said...

Also, count me among the non-fans of Meryl Streep (and Nicole Kidman, for that matter). I've liked several of her performances, e.g. Madison County, Music of the Heart, Out of Africa, Postcards from the Edge - but I saw each of those before I turned 15 and her twitchiness became false and grating to me. I don't know if I want to spoil my memories of the above performances by revisiting them.


goran the reasons there are no foreign performers is that it's the top of 25 years of moviegoing... and i live in america and though i deeply love some foreign stars ---it's rare to have seen as complete a picture of their careers ---if we're talking "all time" Deneuve is top ten... but this list does not include anything from the 60s or 70s...

as for Binoche. I like her but I'm never been deeply committed to her career. i've never been obsessed. and to make a "top" of this sort, there has to be a little obsession in there ;)


geoffrey i like your revisionist thinking about Thurman as Poison Ivy. If i watch the film again (although how could I --yikes?) i'll keep that in mind.


i should add that the closest foreign performer to this list would probably be Emmanuelle Beart because during this time period I went through periods of obsession with her.

If i had seen more of her earlier work Huppert probably would have made the list. But I only have been into her this decade.

adam re: Moore. But what a seven years! yowza.

Anonymous said...

01. Judi Dench
02. Meryl Streep
03. Susan Sarandon
04. Juliette Binoche
05. Kate Winslet
06. Jodie Foster
07. Kathy Bates
08. Emma Thompson
09. Holly Hunter
10. Helena Bonham Carter
11. Sigourney Weaver
12. Bette Midler


Anonymous said...

re: Julianne Moore's best between 95-02.

Only if you ignore Vanya on 42nd Street (in which she's brilliant) and Short Cuts (in which she's very, very good).

Anonymous said...

Not a word on Jodie Foster. You don't even try to apologize!

- cal roth

Anonymous said...

As to the comment on your #5 - I believe the list my wife submitted to the Psychic contest was completely Winslet-free.

Anonymous said...

I just want to say that if there's an actress who deserves to be in the spotlight in the next decade, it's Robin Wright (Penn ?) : she's starting to break into more awards-friendly, high-profile films.
She's in New York I love you, in State of play alongside Crowe and Mirren (former Oscar winners) and The Private lives of Pippa Lee (based on a screenplay penned by Day-Lewis's wife and Julianne Moore co-stars).

Robin Wright is underrated, her resume is quite interesting :

Princess Bride
Forrest Gump
She's so lovely
The Pledge
Nine lives
White oleander
Hounddog (that rape movie with Dakota Fanning)

I hope her parts in those 2009 films are meaty enoug to secure her awards and an Oscar nom.

Anonymous said...

1. Kate Winslet
2. Scarlett Johansson
3. Helena Bonham carter
4. Julianne Moore
5. Holly Hunter
6. Emma Thompson
7. Juliette Lewis
8. Uma Thurman
9. Maggie Gyllenhaal
10. Naomi Watts

Anonymous said...

1. Helena Bonham Carter
2. Meryl Streep
3. Emma Thompson
4. Annette Bening
5. Michelle Pfeiffer
6. Helen Mirren
7. Angelina Jolie
8. Nicole Kidman
9. Julia Roberts
10. Amy Adams
11. Maggie Smith
12. Sandra Bullock