Saturday, January 02, 2010

Top 50 Performances of the Decade (Female)

This list has more repeat offenders than the male list yesterday. Please give these 45 talented women one last round of applause before we take a break from the decade stuff to embark on the 2009 awards. As with the male list, I didn't include any 2009 performances (let the year settle first) though there is at least one that would obviously (x 50) be here if I did...

"And it's time my luck changed. And it's time something went right for me!"

-"Julia" makes a plea for a surprise Tilda Swinton nomination this year.
PLEASE NOTE: This list should not be mistaken for an updated 'Actresses of the Aughts' chart. [editors note: I may attempt to return to that massive project in a definitive way after this year's Oscar race is complete]. How you feel about someone's entire career can be markedly different than how you feel about individual turns and an actress whose skill you may admire might not hit you as hard emotionally as she hits others. Then there are actresses I prefer to some of the ones who show up here who don't appear at all! Etcetera. These lists were made quickly and are obviously personal. Try to make one yourself and you'll be surprised who you have to leave out. That's the subjective nature of listmaking. Here's the top 50 alphabetically (the dozen best/favorite hastily marked in red and are highly subject to change).
  • Amy Adams, Junebug (2005)
  • Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married (2008)
  • Annette Bening, Being Julia (2004)
  • Björk, Dancer in the Dark (2000) *
  • Cate Blanchett, The Aviator (2004)
  • Catherine Deneuve, Dancer in the Dark (2000) *
  • Catherine O'Hara, A Mighty Wind (2003) *

    "...more precious than a pot of gold"

  • Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chicago (2002)
  • Charlotte Rampling, Under the Sand (2001) *
  • Daryl Hannah, Kill Bill (2003/2004) *
  • Diane Lane, Unfaithful (2002)
  • Ellen Burstyn, Requiem for a Dream (2000)
  • Emily Blunt, The Devil Wears Prada (2006) *
  • Emmanuelle Devos, Kings & Queen (2005) *
  • Holly Hunter, thirteen (2003)
  • Imelda Staunton, Vera Drake (2004)
  • Isabelle Huppert, The Piano Teacher (2002) *
  • Jeon do-Yeon, Secret Sunshine (2007) *
  • Joan Allen, The Upside of Anger (2005) *
  • Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal (2006)
  • Julia Roberts, Erin Brockovich (2000)
  • Julianne Moore, Far From Heaven (2002)
  • Julie Christie, Away From Her (2007)
  • Julie Delpy, Before Sunset (2004) *

  • "what does that mean: the 'right' man, the 'love of your life'? The concept is absurd!"

  • Kate Winslet, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
  • Laura Dern, INLAND EMPIRE (2006) *
  • Laura Linney, The Savages (2007)
  • Laura Linney, You Can Count On Me (2000)
  • Maggie Cheung, In the Mood For Love (2001) *
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal, Happy Endings (2005) *
  • Maria Bello, A History of Violence (2005) *
  • Michelle Pfeiffer, White Oleander (2002) *
  • Miranda Richardson, Spider (2002/2003) *
  • Meryl Streep, Adaptation (2002)
  • Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
  • Naomi Watts, Mulholland Dr (2001) *
  • Nicole Kidman, Birth (2004) *

  • "Don't bother me again."

  • Nicole Kidman, Moulin Rouge! (2001)
  • Nicole Kidman, The Others (2001) *
  • Patricia Clarkson, Far From Heaven (2002) *
  • Penélope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)
  • Penélope Cruz, Volver (2006)
  • Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardener (2005)
  • Rosemary DeWitt, Rachel Getting Married (2008) *
  • Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky (2008) *
  • Samantha Morton, Morvern Callar (2002) *
  • Tang Wei, Lust Caution (2007) *
  • Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton (2007)
  • Uma Thurman, Kill Bill (2003/2004) *
  • Virginia Madsen, Sideways (2004)

Which performances do you hold most dear from the past 10 years? And which are you "off consensus" on? In regards to the latter, do you often feel beat up by friends & strangers for not genuflecting as expected? I know I do! Finally -- and I think this question is most interesting -- which performances have continued to surprise, grow on you, or play games with your memory over the years?

Update Summer 2010: These 2009 performances, now that they've settled in as "cinema of the past," would have to be included in this top 50. Who to drop to make room for them?
  • Gabourey Sidibe, Precious (2009)
  • Mo'Nique, Precious (2009)
  • Tilda Swinton, Julia (2009)
See also: male performances and top 100 films...

an * indicates a performance that was snubbed by Oscar. I consulted only my own "best" lists and not Oscar charts while composing the list. A surprisingly robust 52% of these performances were not Oscar nominated.


Luke said...

Now this is just a fantastic list - there really is no-one out of place. I'm liking the Catherine O'Hara and Imelda Staunton citations especially, and I love that you gave Laura Linney multiple mentions.

But most of all, yay! Miranda Richardson. She truly should have received more recognition for SPIDER; she was simply tremendous. It's a pity she doesn't really get the work these days. I saw her in a Wallace Shawn play last May called 'Grasses of a thousand colours' in London, and she was just fantastic.

Ryan said...

Tilda Swinton- MICHAEL CLAYTON in your top dozen...


Ryan said...

here's my rough top dozen...

Cate Blanchett – THE AVIATOR
Nicole Kidman – MOULIN ROUGE!
Julianne Moore – FAR FROM HEAVEN
Imelda Staunton – VERA DRAKE
Tilda Swinton – JULIA
Charlize Theron – MONSTER
Uma Thurman – KILL BILL

...and if one counts hbo then i'd easily make room for both Edie Falco- THE SOPRANOS "Whitecaps" & Meryl Streep- ANGELS IN AMERICA. ;)

Paul Outlaw said...

With the exception of Thurman and Linney, I am totally down with Nat's list. I would add:

Cate Blanchett, I'm Not There
Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal
Catherine O'Hara, For Your Consideration
Charlize Theron, Monster
Emmanuelle Devos, Sur mes lèvres
Judi Dench, Iris
Kristin Scott Thomas, Il y a longtemps que je t'aime
Marion Cotillard, La môme
Michelle Yeoh, Wo hu cang long


Meryl Streep, Angels in America (sorry, but I don't care)

Dean said...

I'm sad not to see Marissa Tomei for either In the Bedroom or The Wrestler make your list.

Also I'm not sure if you ever saw Nothing but the Truth from last year, but Kate Beckinsale is exceptional in it and makes my list of best of the decade (not to mention wonderful performances from Vera Farmiga, Angela Bassett, Alan Alda, Matt Dillon, and even David Schwimmer).


"whitecaps" is pretty insane intense.

and if you counted HBO i'd totally include Meryl in Angels in America, too.

Robert said...

Sibel Kekilli in Head-On was a revelation for me.


Paul... it was REALLY hard not to have Michelle Yeoh on there. OUCH. I never feel like i've given that performance enough due. It's always just missing my awwards and lists and whatnot. :(

i should probably watch that movie again pronto.

Unknown said...

You almost gave a heart attack man. When you separated Nicole Kidman's three performances with her photo I just jumped "WHERE THE HELL IS SATINE!!!!". There she is.
And isn't surprising at all that Kidman is the only one, male or female with 3 performances listed. I would add Dogville, but you can't have everything.
Great, great list.

Marcin said...

Kidman: "The hours", "Birth", "Moulon Rouge!" and "Dogville".
Winslet: "Eternal sunshine...", "Little children", "Revolutionary road" and "The reader". That's all.

Unknown said...

I simply cannot belive that I've seen all the 50 male performances but missed 9 from the female list.
Completly ashamed of myself.

Rocío said...

I second the Kidman love! she is really the actress of the aughts!
I would have also included Dogville, she was fantastic there.
Other choice I love is Maggie Cheung, she was marvelous in that picture.And Birth is yor favorite Kidman performance now, before it was Satine do you remember?

Pedro said...

I think we all know who is your gold medalist in best actress this year...


Jeff -- yeah... well I almost highlighted MOULIN ROUGE! so it's kind of a toss up really.

Victor -- Nicole in Dogville was in the 4 or 5 i had to axe. so it's right outside.

Danny said...

What's the obvious one from this year that you would include?

Dave said...

Now, I know Nicole is already on there three times, but Dogville is her best performance so I'm rather distressed about it not being there.

An excellent list otherwise, though. Sad that the wider world still hasn't been allowed to see Secret Sunshine.

Ann McD said...

Judging performances is by nature a subjective process, however could you possibly give some reasoning behind not including Charlize Theron for Monster?
I'm just curious on your view of it since so many people including me consider it one of the best ever, and I've never really heard an argument made against it.

Rocío said...

well she was a godess in both, but she was just amazing in "Birth".
A surprise omission is Michelle Williams in "Brokeback Mountain" you had her above Rachel Weisz and Amy Adams in 2005.Though I am not complaining there because I didn't love her that much.

Nigel said...

Two of my favourite performances of the last few years went Oscar nomination-less - and it's just further proof that the Academy can't think for themselves unless they're spoonfed by critics awards.

Those performances are Joan Allen in "The Upside of Anger" and Toni Collette in "In Her Shoes".

And I'll throw Uma in for "Kill Bill Vol 2" - excellent.

francisco said...

great list, and yay! nicole!


kinda sad for not seeing penny lane

but i guess no one likes that performance anymore thanks to kate's career choices

Craig said...

Jennifer Connelly -- House of Sand and Fog
Charlize Theron -- Monster
Naomi Watts -- 21 Grams

mrripley said...

I think what shocks me more than anything is there is only 1 kate winslet performance listed.

Kurtis O said...

I'd also like to hear an explanation for the absence of Charlize Theron in "Monster." I consider it the best performance of the decade.

Clarence said...

My top 3 favorite performances from the decade are Marion Cotillard in La Vie En Rose, Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada, and Uma Thurman in Kill Bill

Sebastian Gutierrez said...

No love for Toni Collette (LIttle Miss Sunshine) or Natalie Portman (Closer)?

Anonymous said...

I know you don't like her much, but Bridget Jones?

Marisa said...

No Evan Rachel Wood in thirteen? I thought you liked that performance =/

DavidC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Howler said...

I'm so glad to see Nicole in "Birth" highlighted. She takes my silver medal in 2004 and it means a lot since it's 2004!
Kate Winslet in "Eternal Sunshine..." is easily my no. 1.

Alex said...

I'm a fan of almost all on the list (I'm in the minority against Sally Hwakins). Anyway, I also would've included...

Laura Linney, "The Squid and the Whale"
Marisa Tomei, "The Wrestler"
Sissy Spacek, "In the Bedroom"
Catherine Keener, "Capote"
Laura Dern, "We Don't Live Here Anymore"

Also, because I believe in the power of HBO...

Meryl Streep, "Angels in America"
Mary-Louise Parker, "Angels in America"
Emma Thompson, "Wit"
Jessica Lange, "Grey Gardens"
-(could've won Best Supporting Actress this year...)

Caden said...

On my (admittedly weird) list:

Dianne Wiest, Synecdoche
Frances McDormand, Almost Famous
Jennifer Aniston, The Good Girl
Lindsay Beamish, Shortbus
Maggie Cheung, Clean
Margo Martindale, Paris je t'aime
Rachel McAdams, Mean Girls
Samantha Morton, Synecdoche
Sarah Michelle Gellar, Southland Tales
Sasha Grey, The Girlfriend Experience

Jude said...

No Renee for Chicago, Bridget Jones, or Down With Love? C'mon, you can't hate her that much!

Also I think Amy Adams in Enchanted would be a nice addition to this great list

Unknown said...

Off the top of my head, I'd add:

Julianne & Meryl, "The Hours"
Rachel McAdams, "Mean Girls"
Lucy Liu, "Kill Bill v.1"
the other chick, "Mulholland Dr."

I guess not enough of my co-workers are movie people for me to know how off-consensus I am or how excluded I'd feel if I shared, but enough of them have told me how "amazing" (overused word of the decade) Sandra Bullock is in "The Blind Side" that I'm happy I've generally not asked. Oh well, life is about taking rejection well (esp. if you're MM!)

I'm surprised at how comedic performances tend to grow on me more than dramatic ones (Julianne not withstanding.)

NicksFlickPicks said...

@Nathaniel: That performance came out in 2008 in most markets besides the U.S., so you can have her on here if you want her!

Howler said...

"the other chick, 'Mulholland Dr.'"
I can't remember her name, either. But she was terrific.

Nigel said...

I second Jude's comment on Amy Adams in Enchanted. I thought she was great and honestly thought she'd get a nomination for that one. Stupid Academy.

Cinema com Ana Rodrigues said...

Cate Blanchett - I'm not there
Cate Blanchett - Aviator
Cate Blanchett - The Golden Age
Cate Blanchett - Notes on a Scandal
Cate Blanchett - Heaven
Cate Blanchett - Benjamin Button

Blanchett is the best actress of the decade !

Cinema com Ana Rodrigues said...

Cate Blanchett - I'm not there
Cate Blanchett - The Aviator
Cate Blanchett - The Golden Age
Cate Blanchett - Notes on a Scandal
Cate Blanchett - Heaven
Cate Blanchett - Benjamin Button

And Marion Cotilard - Piaf

Blanchett is the best actress of the decade !


Dave -- i cannot figure how Secret Sunshine didn't get released. sad. that would have been a medalist for me that year probs.

Marisa -- i do like the evan rachel wood performances. But i had to make cuts somewhere. even if you only went by "nominees" that's 90 performances and then some years have worthier performances than others and then the snubs are easy nominees in other years. so it's craziness. 2004 is obviously the greatest actress year that I can remember. it was just one brilliant start turn after another (which is why the Oscar race made me insane because while a certain someone was good, I believe I thought she was only #12 of that year there was so much absolute genius around.

Ann McD / Kurtis -- i like the Monster performance a lot but I was never as big a fan as others. There's something about it that feels too "effortful" for me. Like I'm watching a performance aiming for / knowing it will be regarded as greatness more than I'm just watching greatness. Now, the fact that she wasn't in my nominee list that year I blame totally on my Academy-caused bias against "deglam" performances. The trend had been so cemented as just about the only way for beautiful actresses to win the Oscar by that point that I was just despairing when Charlize got all the credit for what to me should have been a slam dunk Oscar trophy for the Monster makeup team (who weren't even nominated)

anyway my point is this: we are all fallible and that's one performance i just couldn't love the way others could. even though i think it's very good... and i get why people would think it's stupid that she's not listed ;)

Jude -- i love Renee's work in NURSE BETTY and BRIDGET JONES but i didn't have room for them here. And even had i expanded this to 60 they might not have made it due to: evan rachel wood 13, cate blanchett i'm not there, nicole dogville, sissy spacek in the bedroom, kirsten dunst crazy/beautiful, michelle yeoh crouching tiger, jamie lee curtis freaky friday, charlize monster, and both Marisa Tomeis (among others)

this is a happy list. Even the omissions bring a huge smile to my face. so much joy from actresses doing their thang.

Anonymous said...


She was amazing as Chicago's Roxie, Gave the only bit of heart to Cinderella Man, Had classic movie stardom about her in Down With Love, broke my heart in Cold Mountain


created one of, if not the most legendary characters in nougthies cinema, Bridget Jones

Nathaniel you're amazing, but please love renne like i do, she had me at hello

Rodrigo said...

Ok, Tilda for Michael Clayton... but not for JULIA???? Have you seen the movie right??? OMG

curiosityjoe said...

i had to check twice if this was three performances? if only nathaniel had been more objective with the list, i would have agreed 100% with his choices.

Travis said...

No Keira Knightley in "Pride & Prejudice"? Travesty!

Billy Held An Oscar said...

I am thrilled to death that you did not include Charlize Theron in 'Monster'.


josh said...

Laura Dern in Inland Empire was easily the best performance of the decade in my opinion, possibly even of all time.


Rodrigo -- here in the US, Tilda Swinton in JULIA is a 2009 release and i was only including 2000-2008 releases.

If I were including 2009...

duh. she's genius in "Julia"

curiousjoe -- i will never apologize for backing Nicole Kidman as the actress of this particular decade. It's too bad she confuses and angers so many people but it's obvious that there's something about her persona that people can't get around. There was a huge fascinating comment discussion of this very site a few years ago and it was AMAZING to read all the people who clearly wanted blood when it came to her... her career being "over" wouldn't be enough for them. And then there was the other section who totally understood that if she were a man, it wouldn't matter that she wasn't a "loveable" actress and people would respect her for her craft.

But in the end great work pays off and after you're dead... respect! In 2060 the younguns might totally be into her ;)

Cluster Funk said...

Bravura list!

Surprised to see Scarlett Johansson's LiT performance omitted and Judi Dench's shortlisted for NoaS but, as you say, it's your personal, subjective list, people! Reading the comments, you would think half of the posters either don't listen or refuse to pay attention to your well-put disclaimers. Oy!

Keep up the good work!

P.S. This is rhetorical but, seriously, has any actress OR actor in the last decade stretched so far and delivered such an enviable palate of characterizations than Nicole Kidman? Love or hate her, she's master class and top of the heap for good reason. (Birth, too, is my personal fave, by the way.)

Jim T said...

Nathaniel, thank you once again! The Tilda joke's quality was almost equal to the performance's :p

I didn't see the brilliance in the Michael Clayton performance but I became aware of Tilda's genius in Julia. That performance is what fascinated me most this year in the movies.

I'm wondering, is your number 1 between Moore and Staunton? And which is it? Can you say?

DJ said...

Can't agree with leaving out Keira Knightley (P&P) and Marion Cotillard (La Vie En Rose/Nine) out.

Craig said...

Have to add --

Melissa Leo -- Frozen River
Hallie Barry -- Monster's Ball
Sissy Spacek -- In the Bedroom
Jennifer Connelly -- Requiem for a Dream


Craig... you know what's weird? i didn't care that much abotu Jennifer Connelly's performance in 2000 (Requiem) and now I totally love it.

i think because everything she's done thereafter has reduced me to a gigantic cacophony of snores. so that one feels way more special to me 10 years later.

saltysweet said...

"if only nathaniel had been more objective with the list, i would have agreed 100% with his choices."

Interesting logic there...

cal roth said...

Kidman is the actress of the decade if you only consider English-language performers. I loved her in Dogville, Birth, The Others, Moulin Rouge and even in The Hours, but there's NO FUCKING WAY she gave stronger performances than Isabelle Huppert in The Piano Teacher (the performance of the decade - give or take Julianne Moore), Time of the Wolf, My MOther, Comedy of Power, Gabrielle and Merci Pour Le Chocolat. Plus: She worked with Chabrol, Haneke, Honoré, Ozon, O'Russell, Chereau and Denis. Try to see all these movies when you reboot you Actress of the Aughts project.

Same for Juliette Binoche: not a single performance remembered, but her work in The Flight of the Red Balloon was better than at least half of your list.

But I LOVE THE FACT that today you'd give Rachel Weisz the bronze medal you gave to Reese Witherspoon. Rachel Weisz breaks my heart in this movie and in My Blueberry Nights. Too bad she doesn't know how great she is.

Too bad you didn't make room for voice work. Ellen DeGeneres was sublime in Finding Nemo.

And Zhang Ziyi in 2046 was the best supporting perfomance of the decade.

And Kate Winslet's best performance was in Little Children, I think.

cal roth said...

I'd really want to see Renne Zellweger being great again. And she had me at hello, too.

Jorge Rodrigues said...

As the greatest actresses do (Streep and Hepburn are two big examples that come immediately to mind), Nicole Kidman was always going to divide the public in some time of her career.

Hepburn was box office poison for many years (and Oscar waited 34 years to give her a 3rd Oscar) and Meryl was very disliked for a big period in the late 80s-early 90s (and she's waiting for that damn 3rd Oscar for 27 years).

Nicole was so brilliant during her early 2000s run (Moulin Rouge!, Dogville, Birth, The Hours (even for The Others) that people have started to discredit anything she gives us... It's like that with big successful stars (I can't even imagine what would happen if she lived in Hepburn's period, she would probably be locked in the Pandora's box or in a dungeon for all eternity).

I don't understand all the hate, I really don't. Nicole is not even my favourite actress of the 00s but I have to admit she is one of the top actresses of the 2000s if not even the #1.

People get thrilled when she does not succeed, I still remember the horrible stuff which was written about her by the time she did Bewitched and The Golden Compass.

joe burns said...

I haven't seen Monster yet, but I'm really surprised that Theron isn't on this list.

Steolicious said...

Adriana Barraza - Babel
Amy Adams - Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day
Björk - Dancer in the Dark
Brenda Blethyn - Pride & Prejudice
Cate Blanchett - The Aviator
Catherina-Zeta Jones - Chicago
Charlize Theron - Monster
Ellen Burstyn - Requiem for a Dream
Ellen Page - Hard Candy
Emily Blunt - The Devil Wears Prada
Emily Mortimer - Match Point
Felicity Huffman - Transamerica
Frances McDormand - Friends with Money
Frances McDormand - North Country
Geraldine McEwan - The Magdalena Sisters
Helen Mirren - Gosford Park
Helen Mirren - The Queen
Helena Bonham-Carter - Sweeney Todd
Imelda Staunton - Vera Drake
Jennifer Connelly - House of Sand and Fog
Judi Dench - Iris
Judi Dench - Notes On A Scandal
Julia Jentsch - Sophie Scholl - Die letzten Tage
Julia Roberts - Erin Brockovich
Julianne Moore - The Hours
Kate Winslet - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Kate Winslet - Little Children
Kate Winslet - Revolutionary Road
Keria Knightley - Pride & Prejudice
Kristin Scott Thomas - I´ve Loved You So Long
Laura Linney - Kinsey
Laura Linney - The Savages
Maggie Smith - Gosford Park
Maggie Smith - Tea with Mussolini
Marion Cotillard - La Vie En Rose
Meryl Streep - Adaptation
Meryl Streep - The Hours
Michelle Pfeiffer - White Oleander
Nicole Kidman - Moulin Rouge!
Nicole Kidman - The Hours
Nicole Kidman - The Others
Parker Posey - For Your Consideration
Penelope Cruz - Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Rinko Kikuchi - Babel
Sally Hawkins - Happy-Go-Lucky
Sigourney Weaver - The Girl in the Park
Tilda Swinton - Julia
Tilda Swinton - Michael Clayton
Toni Collette - The Hours
Toni Collette - The Sixth Sense

Jorge Rodrigues said...

Yeah, I second that about Huppert.

And yes, if I had to choose, I'd name Julianne Moore's "Far From Heaven" performance THE best of the decade as well.

Jorge Rodrigues said...

And there you have it:

"Finally, Sandra Bullock rang in the new year by also making box-office history. With The Blind Side grossing $4.5 million on Friday for fifth place, Bullock is now the only actress ever to have a film marketed with her name solely above the title (i.e. based on her star power alone, and not a franchise or tent-poll picture) pass the $200 million mark in domestic gross."

Sandra Bullock makes cinematic history. $200 million.

Anonymous said...

Wow no:
Natalie Portman in CLOSER
Renee Zellweger in COLD MOUNTAIN
Audrey Tautou in AMELIE
Marion Cotilliard in LA MOME
Naomi Watts in 21 GRAMS
Keira Knightley in ATONEMENT
Jennifer Connelly in REQUIEM FOR A DREAM
i don't get it?????

CanadianKen said...

I've listed my choices year by year. EYE OF THE BEHOLDER's usually cited as a 1999 release, but as far as I know it didn't get into theatres till January 2000. So I'm including it.

ASHLEY JUDD "Eye of the Beholder"
JOAN ALLEN "The Contender"
ELLEN BURSTYN "Requiem for a Dream"
LUPE ONTIVEROS "Chuck and Buck"

MARY McDONNELL "Donnie Darko"
MARISA TOMEI "In the Bedroom"
EMILY WATSON "Godsford Park"

CATHERINE KEENER "Lovely & Amazing"
DIANE LANE "Unfaithful"
JULIANNE MOORE "Far From Heaven"
RAVEN GOODWIN "Lovely & Amazing"

MEG RYAN "In the Cut"
& Fog"
KATRIN SASS "Good Bye Lenin"

"Maria Full of Grace"
KATE BOSWORTHN "Beyond the Sea"
PATRICIA RAE "Maria Full of Grace"
SISSY SPACEK "A Home at the End
of the World"

GRETCHEN MOL "The Notorious Bettie
DAKOTA FANNING "War of the Worlds"
TARAJI P.HENSON "Hustle & Flow"
GONG LI "Memoirs of a Geisha"

GONG LI"Curse of the Golden Flower"

LAURA LINNEY "The Savages"
The Golden Age"
AMY MADIGAN "Gone Baby Gone"

DEBRA WINGER "Rachel Getting
LIZZIE CAPLAN "Cloverfield"

kent said...

where are the 2001 best supporting actresses? helen mirren and maggie smith from GOSFORD PARK, IRIS' kate winlet, and marisa tomei's IN THE BEDROOM surely deserve a spot somewhere.

i think it's possibly the strongest best supporting actress lineup this decade.

Ryan Ray said...

Anon above me, don't even try to bring up La Mome to Nathaniel! Haha

I finally just watched Mulholland Dr. (Yikes, only 8 years or so off...) and I definitely agree on the Naomi mention. Laura Harring was great too, but Naomi's audition scene sealed the deal for me.

My favorites on your list are also Bjork, Hathaway, Burstyn, Hannah, Thurman, Cruz and Streep.

cal roth said...

@Jorge Rodrigues You can make a tie for the best perfomance of the decade. it's impossible to choose between Huppert and Moore. But if you look the whole filmography of both of them this last 10 years, Huppert can't lose. Try to find a Laws of Attraction or a Next. Huppert is the most consistent actress of the world since the 80's, and her perfomances are always difficult and abrasive. Sometimes I can't even look at her.

cal roth said...

@CanadianKen I've read Thandie Newton in Crash? Now that was an awful performance by an awful actress.

Bryan said...

I agree that my list of actresses would have more multiple-actress citations than my actor list. I would have multiple entries for Clarkson, Kidman, Moore, Streep, and Winslet.

Hayden said...

I'm a little disappointed/surprised/saddened to see that Julie Christie isn't top 12 for Away From Her. You fought so hard for that performance! And just like many of us, I thought you held her level of subtlety and nuance at a much higher level than this list indicates.

I understand there were MANY wonderful performances by actresses this decade, but certainly Julie's heartbreaking performance stands out in a more unique way than, say, Ellen Burstyn's run-of-the-mill "addict" work. If anything, the advent of "Intervention" has put some perspective on how hysterical and messy that whole film was.

I typically think we have very similar taste in actresses, but Jules would be a no-brainer for my tippy-top-of-the-line female performances of the decade.

sphinx said...

Do you mind compiling a list of the best male/female cameos of the decade. I strongly believe some of the best performances in movies come from actors in brief scenes of utter brilliance (aka Ingrid Bergman in Murder on the Orient Express or to something from the decade - Lynn Redgrave in Kinsey).

Andrew K. said...

I guess you were no Hours fan, they'd all be there for me [and maybe even Miranda]. And Meryl's Clarissa is still my favourite of hers of this decade, and the last. It's weird seeing Julie Delpy here and not seeing Ethan Hawke on the male list. Just saw the movie, and think he was awesome!

And I am surprised to see no Marisa Tomei...though the women are always tougher

brandz said...

I too believe in the power of HBO. Meryl for Angels in America, Laura Linney for John Adams, Emma Thompson for Wit and Jessica Lange for Grey Gardens are all worth a mention.

Timmie said...

Love this list. There are definately some performances missing, in my humble opinion:
Amy Adams in Doubt
Marion Cotillard in La Mome
Nicole Kidman in Dogville
Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls
Shoreh Agdashloo in House of Sand and Fog
Emma Thompson in Love Actually
Sigourney Weaver in Snow Cake
Helen Mirren in The Queen
Annette Benning in Running With Scissors
Felicity Huffman in Transamerica

Will said...

How could you not include "Dogville" for Kidman? I was so disappointed when I read that AP article reviewing Hollywood's last decade. They included The Others, Moulin Rogue, and The Hours as Kidman's greatest films. Now even my fave film blogger disappoints:(

skydiver8 said...

I have to say, I am SO happy to see Laura Linney on your list for "You Can Count on Me" of the best movies of the decade that no one ever saw. *cry* Also noticed Mark Ruffalo on your male list for the same film.

I'm glad Linney got an Oscar nom that year for the role, but gutted she didn't win it. Something about the performance just hit home with me.

mcnellie said...

Why do people complain about Nathaniel's list being different from any of ours would be? That's inevitable right? Or saying that he disappointed you or let you down. Why take his list so personally? Whether he does or doesn't include your favorite performance doesn't take it away from you does it. I get making positive cases for our own favorites, but a lot of these comments come across as hostile, or like we're injured victims when he doesn't mirror everything we like.

I would have had some more Asian actresses and people from some indie movies like Oksana Akinshina in Lilya 4ever, Vera Farmiga in Down to the Bone, Elpidia Carrillo in Bread and Roses, Allison Garland in All or Nothing (a great overlooked Mike Leigh movie) but if I wasn't interested in Nathaniel speaking his mind I wouldn't go to his site. Its like people build him up to this cult figure and hang on his every post but then get bitter and gang up when he turns out to be just a guy with his own point of view. There are even people here bitching about this list and then asking him to make more lists!

Seeking Amy said...

Top 5 of the decade

Julianne Moore in Far from Heaven
Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine
Naomi Watts in Mulholland Drive
Marion Cotillard in La Vie en Rose
Penelope Cruz in Volver

I agree with a majority of your list Nathaniel, though I'm curious, you gave Annette gold in 2004, but she isn't cited in red here. What order would you have your three medalists in lead in 2004 now?

Craig said...

I feel that Charlize Theron's performance in Monster is taken for granted sometimes. It seems that it's only because it's a beautiful woman transforming. When men like Daniel Day Lewis or Phillip Seymour Hoffman transform they gets praised to death with no criticisms about it being a "stunt". But Charlize Theron gives a performance for the ages, that stands alone and head and shoulders above the other winning performances this decade. Then some focus on shallow things and dismiss it as just another beautiful actress uglying up. That's a shame because it's really stunningly raw work. One needs to see her in that bus stop scene to know that performance went far beyond surface things.

Furthermore, the effort that goes into a performance shouldn't matter. It's the result. Playing Aileen Wuornos who was meant to be a larger than life showy person wasn't supposed to be easy. And the fact that it is a very Oscar-baity role shouldn't be held against it if it's a brilliant performance given in that Oscar-baity role. That's how I feel.

NicksFlickPicks said...

@Craig: I think that's a great defense of Theron, who's a big favorite of mine, too. But I know Nathaniel's never been a convert and has his own reasons (described above).

@McNellie: Totally. It's an easy line to cross sometimes, but I agree that there's a difference between stumping for perfs you love that aren't listed here and going all, "Nathaniel, how could you??" Plus, a lot of his omissions (and favorites) have been explained in detail in earlier posts and reviews. If you're surprised by something, look it up! And of course some of the finer points of how much he loves some perfs in relation to others will shift a bit over the years. But I admit that I'm biased from seeing how much time and work he pours into this site; maybe if you aren't keeping that in mind it's easier to zing the list kind of harshly or not be more mindful of tone. Anyway, I don't mean to go all schoolmarm; I just think it's cool you said what you said.

Meanwhile, I have got to see Secret Sunshine soon... but I did see Pandora's Box, Nathaniel! Louise Brooks is as amazing as you and everyone else have always said!

NicksFlickPicks said...

Oh, and -

@CanadianKen: I love when you pipe up! It's been a while!

And @Cal Roth: From my POV, I think you make a good argument for Huppert, especially since you concede that Kidman gives her a solid run for her money. I don't think Huppert is infallible; I didn't see her finding all that much in the Ma mère part, but then I thought that movie was pretty aggressively awful. I'd swap in 8 Women to her long list of peaks, since I appreciated seeing her vary things up with such deftly managed comedy (with the distinct feeling of game self-parody). I also liked her lower-key work in Private Property, and I'm expecting phenomenal things from White Material. Have you seen that yet?

Binoche and Emmanuelle Devos, who I know are also favorites of yours, seem like estimable contenders for Actress of the Decade, too.

The Jaded Armchair Reviewer said...

Love the Miranda Richardson mention Nat. Where would Fiona Shaw in The Black Dahlia (your silver medalist for that year if I remember correctly)have ended up if you had expanded the list?

Actressexual said...

Marion Cotillard - La Vie en Rose
Julianne Moore - Far From Heaven/The Hours (inseparable - they're like companion pieces!)
Cate Blanchett - Heaven/The Aviator (her most emotional performance vs. her most technical)
Toni Collette - Japanese Story (did you not SEE this movie!??!!?)
Isabelle Huppert - La pianiste
Naomi Watts - Mulholland Dr./21 Grams
Kate Winslet - Eternal Sunshine
Charlotte Gainsbourg - Antichrist (simply brilliant, its such a shame its been ignored by everyone except Cannes)

mrripley said...

Can we inc Drew Barrymore in Grey Gardens whom i think would've won Best Actress this year if the film was not on tv first.

Marshall1 said...

I don't know if anyone has mentioned it, but I can't believe Nate you didn't put Emma Thompson's performance on "Wit" on your list!!
Yes, it is HBO (again!), but I think this is one of the best performance, maybe even top 10 (on my list). I was so touched by it everytime I watched this movie.

Marshall1 said...

But kudos to including the actress from secret sunshine, it's a gut-wrenching performance. Have you seen Mother yet?

So Stacie said...

I would add Nicole Kidman in Margot At The Wedding (2007) - what a confronting but totally realistic persona she took on in that film!

Alexis said...

I don't know which ones to take out but I would add Kirsten Dunst in Marie Antoinette and Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones Diary,the only time I really really liked her...

P.S. Loving the Kidman Love

Anonymous said...

great list!

totally agree with you on kidman, linney and bello. and blunt. and björk of course.

Unknown said...

Nicole Kidman & Cate Blanchett own this decade.

Kidman most notably in "Birth" and "The Hours", Cate in almost everything after "The Aviator";
She was just gorgeous in Benjamin Button.

Meryl is da Devil and everyone will remember that, not Julia Child :)

I also could not love Charlize in "Monster" even though I love Charlize in general :)

Daryl Hannah had to be at least Oscar nominated for Kill Bill 2, she was fantastic!!! That was an effortless performance I think.

Dench - Notes on a Scandal
Kate Winslett - Eternal Sunshine; no love for "The Reader", "Rev Road" in my book.

Anonymous said...

and yes, you forgot Tomei in "The Wrestler".

Faux said...

My top ten:


1. Charlize Theron, Monster
2. Ellen Burstyn, Requiem for a Dream
3. Kate Winslet, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
4. Julianne Moore, Far From Heaven
5. Nicole Kidman, The Hours
6. Helen Mirren, The Queen
7. Penélope Cruz, Volver
8. Judi Dench, Notes on a Scancal
9. Annete Bening, Being Julia
10. Laura Dern, Inland Empire


1. Cate Blanchett, I'm Not There
2. Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardener
3. Penélope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
4. Meryl Streep, Adaptation
5. Julianne Moore, The Hours
6. Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone
7. Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler
8. Natalie Portman, Closer
9. Amy Adams, Junebug
10. Maria Bello, A History of Violence

Anonymous said...

Renée Zellweger in "My One and Only".

And now I feel like making such a list, too. But that's a ton of work. Love your passion...

Faux said...

OMG I totally forgot:

Felicity Huffman, Transamerica

She's absolutelly in my top ten choices...

Stephanie Fey said...

So, so pleased to see that Kidman makes it to your list! Two good choices, I must say!

But I mustn't think about Nicole. Mustn't, mustn't, mustn't. I mustn't, after all, break my promise to myself.

Happy to have found your blog and I look forward to future posts.

Steph Fey x


@Marshall1 -- I haven't seen mother yet. It was only screened once here that i know of and I missed the screening. Grrr.

@Curdley -- could you imagine if i had included both Dogville and Margot? People would have freeeeeeked

@Robert -- i thought Sibel was pretty stunning in HEAD ON too.

@Hayden -- (re: Julie Christie) i think that saying something is the best of its year and one of the 50 best of the decade is holding it in pretty high esteem. It's weird to me that people are thinking that this list is somehow insulting if someone only has one performance or if someone isnt in the top 12. I assure you that every performance on this list I love. I have lots of love to give........ actresses.

@Cal --so quick to criticize ;). how about a little props for having foreign language performances here at all --kidding (!) but do you realize how many movie sites ignore them? and i am sometimes a staunch champion (though admittedly I could do better) -- And most of the ones you requested while bitching better be here in your comment over in the "male list" are actually here ...but no thanks for that? I was actually giggling to myself reading your comment about that a couple days back because i knew that all of those people were on this list.

still i appreciate passionate advocacy for actresses (especially ones as fine as Isabelle Huppert... though I agree with Nick that Ma Mere was pretty insubstantial for her. Maybe I've seen her play the sexually debased older woman too many times. i dunno)

@Actressexual -- hey you're stealing my name! ha ha. But yes I have seen Japanese Story and Toni Collette is great in it. Toni is a weird case for me because it seems like she is ALWAYS just missing my nominee list for something or another but i actually prefer her to at least 1/2 the actresses on this list.

@Nick and McNellie -- thanks. I understand that people get personally affected by lists. I DO TOO. I'm always like "WHAAaaaaaa?!?" when i venture to other sites or magazines and read their reviews/favorites. Like I can't believe that EW (which i can usually never get behind when it comes to Oscar coverage. I mean they were leading the "Crash" bandwagon with Ebert in '05, you know) is stumping for Maya Rudolph and Alec Baldwin this year for nominations when there are so manybrilliant people that need the boost from a major magazine that Academy voters read.

but all that said, i do sometimes wish people were nicer ---not so much in this thread but in general... the internet is just so depressed with negativity sometimes.

and if you're favorite isn't here at least be cognizant that one is able to love more than 50 performances. Especially when one sees at least 1000+ new movies a decade. Trust that I coulda gone to 200 ;)


Faux -- i have never understood the Felicity Huffman thing. I don't even like her on TV!

Miss Topanga -- i love the passion of all who love the actresses. and i agree that Tomei is pretty great in The Wrestler.

cal roth said...

(I've had posted this from a friend's computer and to delete)

@NathanielR and Nick I'm minority when it comes to Ma Mère: I was really disturbed by that movie. Maybe it's the incest, a step further from The Piano Teacher, but it's really the movie, and not the performance. Anyway, Huppert is really intense in it.

And I'm not criticizing! I love how you always give medals to people like Tang Wei and Emmanuelle Devos. The point is that sometimes I feel some English language performers don't take many risks. Even when they're superb, I can't remember people like Laura Linney or Patricia Clarkson trying something like Ma Mére, for example.

Even Kate Winslet - when did we last see her really raising some eyebrows and pissing onscreen? Holy Smoke? (And I love her in Litlle Children or even The Reader).

These days I'm more attracted to extreme work, like Kate Dickie's in Red Road and Charlotte Gainsbourg in Antichrist, even when these works are as perfect as Meryl Streep's last performance. That's why Huppert is my muse.

For the record, I'm saying all these things but my favorite performance of the year is Carey Mulligan's in An Education.

cal roth said...

*and had to delete

Chris Na Taraja said...

Viola Davis in DOUBT
Mo'nique in PRECIOUS
Helen Miren in THE QUEEN
Sissy and Marisa in IN THE BEDROOM
Marion Cottillard in LA VIE ON ROSE
Tilda Swinton THE DEEP END

These are the ones that come to mind (besides the ones on your list) that really blew me away in these past ten years.

Chris Na Taraja said...

Sandra OH and Virginia Madson in SIDEWAYS

This could go on. We had a decade of some good film.

Chris Na Taraja said...


Chris Na Taraja said...

Amy Adams in JUNEBUG
Charleze Theron in MONSTER
Maggie Smith in GOSFORD PARK
Ann Hathaway in RACHEL GETTING MARRIED 9 i know you already had this, but I love this movie)

Jo said...

Poor Sissy Spacek and In the Bedroom. So forgotten. So good.

adelutza said...

I very much agree with cal roth. I love Kidman and I stand by her and all that, but French cinema has given me personally way more than the American cinema. Don't get me wrong, there were great films and performances here in America but actresses like Bonnaire, Hupert, Binoche, Emmanuelle Devos and Catherine Deneuve ( to mention just a few ) are so constantly great and prolific. It's true that the subject matter of the French films is way more varied than the American movies, and that gives them the chance to showcase a greater acting range, but still, I think there's a lot to learn from French cinema in general.

In any case, this is Nathaniel's list and I don't understand why people have to agree or disagree. For me, the greatest thing that comes from reading other people's list is discovering films I wouldn't have seen otherwise. And that happened quite a few times this year reading lists on this blog.

cal roth said...

God, I just remembered another French movie performance that absolutely belongs to my top ten of this decade. Valeria Bruni Tedeschi in Ozon's 5 x 2, anyone?

Unknown said...

These would be mine, also excluding 2009:

Amy Adams-Junebug
Bjork-Dancer in the Dark*
Catalina Sandino Moreno-Maria Full of Grace
Catherine Zeta-Jones-Chicago
Charlize Theron-Monster*
Ellen Burstyn-Requiem for a Dream
Evan Rachel Wood-Thirteen
Gwyneth Paltrow-Proof
Helena Bonham Carter-Conversations With Other Women
Helena Bonham Carter-Sweeney Todd
Imelda Staunton-Vera Drake*
Isabelle Huppert-The Piano Teacher
Joan Allen-The Upside of Anger
Judi Dench-Notes on a Scandal
Julianne Moore-Far From Heaven*
Julianne Moore-The Hours*
Julia Roberts-Erin Brockovich*
Julie Christie-Away From Her
Julie Delpy-Before Sunset
Kate Winslet-Eternal Sunshine…*
Kate Winslet-Revolutionary Road
Keira Knightley-Atonement
Keira Knightley-Pride and Prejudice
Laura Linney-You Can Count On Me*
Maggie Gyllenhaal-Sherrybaby
Maggie Smith-Gosford Park
Marcia Gay Harden-Pollock
Marcia Gay Harden-Mytic River
Marion Cotillard-La Vie en Rose
Marisa Tomei-The Wrestler
Marisa Tomei-In the Bedroom
Meryl Streep-The Hours
Meryl Streep-Adaptation
Michelle Williams-Brokeback Mountain
Michelle Williams-Wendy and Lucy
Naomi Watts-Mulholland Drive
Natalie Portman-Closer*
Nicole Kidman-Moulin Rouge*
Nicole Kidman-The Others
Nicole Kidman-The Hours
Nicole Kidman-Birth*
Nicole Kidman-Dogville
Nicole Kidman-Margot at the Wedding
Penelope Cruz-Volver*
Penelope Cruz-Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Rachel Weisz-The Constant Gardener
Rinko Kikuchi-Babel
Samantha Morton-Morvern Callar
Sienna Miller-Factory Girl
Tilda Swinton-Michael Clayton

*my top 12

But I would rather do top 200 too:)
Too many are left out, and I have probably too many repeats(although I'll stand by Kidman till the day I die:)).

Probit. said...

Yet Gong Li has never won an Oscar. Ridiculous!

Daryn said...

Thora Birch in Ghost World
Catherine Zeta-Jones in Chicago
Penelope Cruz in Volver
Kristin Scott Thomas in I've Loved You So Long
Ann Hathaway & Rosemarie DeWitt in Rachel Getting Married
Meryl Streep in The Manchurian Candidate
Uma Thurman in Kill Bill 1 & 2
Darryl Hannah in Kill Bill 2
Christina Ricci in Monster

Sammyray said...

Wow ... no Carey Mulligan from AN EDUCATION? What a phenomenal performance, and better han anything with Kidman in it LOL.

Lara said...

Oh. My. Goodness. Sammy Ray.
READING the post and the comments section will help.
And Nathaniel, I love your lists. And I definitely would have added Dogville. LOL.

Rick said...

Streep in "Devil Wears Prada". "The Hours", Adaptation

Marion Cotilliard in "LaVien Rose"

Julie Christy in "Neverending Story"

OtherRobert said...

I know not everyone likes May, but I would never consider trying to tackle the best female performances of the Aughts without Angela Bettis' masterful work. I rewatched the film on New Years Eve and, yes, it's more flawed than I remembered it, but Bettis is gold. Even when pushed to straight up bouncing off the walls crazy person histrionics, Bettis makes May feel real and sympathetic. There is no reason to like this crazy woman after the first twenty or so minutes of the film, yet I do. I really do. It's like a more extreme version of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, only less artsy and more stabby.

I'd like to be clear that I am not criticizing your list. I love your list. I commend you for making these lists.


OtherRobert -- i haven't seen that one. Any other May fans in the house?

Connor said...

since no one else is gonna mention it, I absolutely LOVE the Maggie Gyllenhaal mention for Happy Endings. She is SOOOO good in that movie.

josh said...

It's such a shame that so few people have actually seen Inland Empire. No one has commented on Laura Dern's performance, aside from the initial list, and it really is the best performance of the decade in my opinion.

Anyone who appreciates great acting should try and get a hold of Inland Empire soon! Laura Dern is truly incredibly in it. It's a very bizarre film but every viewing makes it an even more unbelievable experience. It's criminal that Dern wasn't even nominated for an Oscar.

vg21 said...

I really like this list, and here's my top 10, although I missed way too many films, unfortunately (it's not always easy to find them where I live):

Meryl Streep in The Hours, The Devil Wears Prada and Adaptation.
Catherine Deneuve in Changing Times,
Judi Dench in Iris,
Kate Winslet in Little Children, Helen Mirren in The Queen,
Kristin-Scott Thomas in I've Loved You So Long
Sally Hawkins in Happy-Go-Lucky
Francis McDormand in Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day

Also, if HBO counted, I would definitely include Emma Thompson in Wit (I can't understand why that film was made for television) and Meryl Streep in Angels in America!

Anyway, there is no rank among these performances, I love them equally, and there are so many more I love just as much :).

Clover said...

2006 was such a great year for Actresses: Dench and Blanchett in Notes on a Scandal, Kate Winslet in Little Children, Penelope Cruz in Volver, Maggie Gyllenhaal in Sherrybaby, Streep and Blunt in Prada, the Babel girls, etc.

In my opinion, Best Actress 2006 = Best lineup of the decade

OtherRobert said...

Nathaniel, you simply must try May. It's dark comedy mixed with mental breakdown character study and a healthy sprinkling of slasher and Modern-Frankenstein in the final reel. It's...special, is what it is. The writer/director Lucky McKee is a class act who actually expanded the screenplay to add scenes for his favorite auditioners that lost out on the leads to Angela Bettis, Jeremy Sisto, and Anna Faris. It tends to be very polarizing, though most agree about Bettis doing something wonderful here.

erika said...

I would have add :

Kidman - Margot at the wedding
Kidman - Dogville

/3rtfu11 said...

Instead of criticizing your list for zero black actresses on it – I opted for the healthier alternative. I made my own list which highlights black actresses from this decade.

Mo’Nique – Precious (2009)
Tracie Thoms – Death Proof (2007)
Sharon Warren – Ray (2004)
Beyonce – Cadillac Records (2008)
Alfre Woodard – The Family that Preys (2008)
Queen Latifah – Chicago (2002)
Sophie Okonedo – The Secret Life of Bees (2008)
Taraji P Henson – Baby Boy (2001)
Lynn Whitfeld – Madea’s Family Reuion (2006)
Nona Gaye – Ali (2001)

Special Spotlight on a TV Performace –
S Epatha Merkerson – Lackawanna Blues (2005)

par3182 said...

did you run out of red ink before you typed the lovely laura linney - you can count on me?

i can't think of any other reason...

Peggy Sue said...

Oh Nathaniel! This would be my list in a 95%. I also must say I adore Bridget Jones so don't hold it against me!

What a joy to see so many marvelous performances listed here although it's also kind of sad to realize how some careers have kind of faded or not fulfilled my expectations.

Maybe I would add Carmen Maura in Volver and I would find a spot for Moore and Streep in The Hours. Those kitchen scenes...

But anyway, totally agree that Kidman rules the decade. And I'm not even her biggest fan! She does very good work in very different genres and she takes huge risks like in Fur. Love her in Birth.

And yes, Laura Linney is so good she could haver three or four mentions here.

curiousjoe said...

nathaniel, i do like nicole kidman, but i would never consider her as the actress of the decade. she was certainly the biggest female star of the first couple of years of the decade, but unfortunately, right after she won the Oscar in 2002, everything went downhill for her. she became a box-office poison. with the exception of "happy feet", not one of her movies really made money. i was hoping that "nine" would finally break the jinx, but it didn't.

but then again, i will always believe she will forever be remembered as an important actress. i am sure of that.

Garen said...

I'm really glad that you included Julia Roberts for EB. I think too many people have written off the acclaim of that performance as some fluke star moment. I've always loved J-Ro as E-Bro.


/3rtfu11 -- if i were including 2009 (which i didn't on purpose) Mo'Nique would have definitely made the list.

I don't care much for Tracie Thoms from what I've seen thus far (or think much of Beyonce as an actress) but i have plenty of time for Queen Latifah, Alfre Woodard and Taraji P Henson. I just wish they would get better bigger opportunities.

gabrieloak said...

Love Michelle Yeoh and Ziyi Zhang in Crouching Tiger.

Tarantino Junkie said...

I agree with most of your list (THANK YOU for including Uma Thurman and Daryl Hannah!), but here are a few I'd probably add. I loved each of these actresses, but understand that I'd have to eliminate a few if I were to make a 50 list, but I feel especially strongly about Cotillard and Theron, so PLEASE explain their snubs!

-Viola Davis for DOUBT (What she did in her brief scene left me speechless)

-Marion Cotillard for LA VIE EN ROSE (She embodied the ups and downs of Piaf like no one else could have)

-Kristin Scott-Thomas for IL YA LONGTEMPS A QUE JE T'AIME or "I've Loved You So Long" (She and Anne Hathaway topped my 2008 leading actress list and I think she's totally underrated in this low-profile foreign film that easily overshadows her Oscar-nominated English Patient performance last decade)

-Cate Blanchett for I'M NOT THERE (She played Bob Dylan! And nailed it! Her performance here tops her Oscar-winning Katherine Hepburn on my list)

-Marcia Gay Harden for POLLOCK and/or MYSTIC RIVER (How could you forget about her? She is definitely another Laura Linney or Tilda Swinton in my book)

-Jennifer Hudson in DREAMGIRLS (Since Catherine Zeta-Jones' incredible Velma Kelly, no actress has reached this level of bravura in a musical movie. Though her material could've been way better, she was the best part of that musical)

-Charlize Theron for MONSTER (Snubbing her is a major crime! She gave one of the most chilling, complex performances of the decade. As much as I liked Streep in Prada and Kidman in Moulin Rouge!, I'd knock out either of their multiple mentions to make way for this heart-wrenching portrayal of the humanity of a criminal. She'd probably make my top 10 or 20, definitely my 50!)

Jeremy Helligar said...

Love your list. I'm especially glad to see Ellen Burstyn, Judi Dench and Meryl Streep in the Top 10 (loved Tilda, too, and thought she deserved her surprise Oscar win, but I am shocked to see her in the Top 10), and Anne Hathaway, Annette Bening, Joan Allen, Julie Christie, Julie Delphy, Sally Hawkins, Virginia Madsen and Meryl's other great '00s performance included. And I love that you didn't bow down to Helen Mirren in The Queen! My list would also include Jamie Lee Curtis in Freaky Friday, Naomi Watts in 21 Grams, Charlize Theron in Monster, Diane Keaton in Something's Gotta Give, Julie Walters in Billy Elliott, Tilda Swinton in The Deep End and maybe Michelle Pfieffer in What Lies Beneath and Catherine Zeta-Jones in Traffic. And what about Shohreh Aghdashloo in House Of Sand And Fog?

Anonymous said...

curiousjoe: who cares about box office? we are discussing the performances of the decade...

Nat: glad there is no renee and charlize, would add nicole in dogville and margot at the wedding

David said...

I find it interesting that with all of the flack that Nicole Kidman has generated in recent years that she's the only actress with three entries on your list. I love her!!

Jeffrey said...

What about Hilary Swank? I've never seen "Boys Don't Cry" but I deffinitely would have included her for her performance in "Million Dollar Baby" ( it's because of this performance that Kate Winslet didn't win the Oscar for "Eternal Sunshine").

Joel said...

As they come to my mind right now

Jennifer Connelly -requiem for a dream
Ellen Burstyn- requiem for a dream
Cate Blanchett - Aviator
Tilda Swinton - Michael Clayton
Keira Knigthley- The Duchess
Penelope Cruz - Volver
Marion Cotillard- La vie en Rose
Diane Keaton- Something´s gotta give
Reneé Zellwegger- Chicago , Bridget Jones, Cold Mountain
Catherine Zeta Jones - Chicago
Queen Latifah- Chicago
Nicole Kidman- The Hours , Cold Mountain, The Others
Natalie Portman- Closer
Kate Winslet- The Reader , Eternal Sunshine, Revolutionary Road
Meryl Streep - Doubt
Amy Adams- Doubt
Uma Thurman - Kill Bill
Diane Lane- Unfaithfull
Catherine Keener - Into the Wild
Diane Kruger - Inglorious Basterds
Kate Hudson - Almost Famous
Toni Colette - Little Miss Sunshine
Abigail Breslin- Little Miss Sunshine
Angelina Jolie- Changelling
Helen Mirren- The Queen

And many , many others


Jeffrey -- which was a travesty! Hilary was the weakest member of that lineup. what a great year that was.

but it's often like that as we know

Kate said...

Where the heck is Charlize Theron for Monster. Aside from that missing, the rest is good,

Edd Cort said...

Nicole Kidman Dogville??!!

bubba said...

Great list... but no Juliette Binoche?! She was a breath of fresh air in "Flight of the Red Balloon" and "Summer Hours".

Anonymous said...

Angelina Jolie in A Mighty Heart + The Good Shepherd are missing from your list. Such underrated performances.

Goya said...

Anyone who doesn't list Angelina Jolie for any number of great performances (A Mighty Heart, Changeling, The Good Shepherd, Taking Lives, original Sin to name a few) and includes Uma Thurman and Maria Bello loses all credibility.

Bill_the_Bear said...

Some I would add which have already been mentioned by commenters:

Helen Mirren in "The Queen";
Cate Blanchett in "Notes on a Scandal";
Kate Winslet in "Little Children";
Kristin Scott Thomas in "I've Loved You So Long";
Sigourney Weaver in "Snow Cake".

Two others as yet unmentioned would definitely make my list:

Hiam Abbass in "Lemon Tree" (even better than she was in "The Visitor");
Isabella Rossellini in "The Saddest Music in the World".

Jason said...

Joan Allen in "Yes" - yes.


Goya -- so let me get this straight: if anyone prefers something to something you prefer they have no credibility?

i like your reasoning!

p.s. i'm quite fond of Angelina Jolie and she's a more consistent talent than Uma (who tends to be really bad when she's bad) but Angelina's never been as good as Uma was in Kill Bill (the others you mentioned are kind of apples and oranges situations)

... though i will definitely stand up for her A MIGHTY HEART performance. So good.

Anonymous said...

Great list. Particularly like Maria Bello in A History of Violence and Rachel Weisz in the Constant Gardener. I honestly feel like every Kate Winslet and Meryl Streep performance of the past decade should be on the list. I know that it is rather generic to talk about how amazing they both are, but its common for a reason. They are both amazing actresses.

francisco said...

just watched "Birth" for the first time ever thanks to this list

and its true, Nicole is really amazing

thanks Nathaniel

oh i also saw an education last night and carey mulligan is great, anyone who loves great female performances should see that movie

Fernando Moss said...

well, now that some of you mention the "Actress of the Aughts" title.. I've said before that I think Nicole Kidman is the Actress of the first ahlaf of the 00's and Penélope Cruz the Actress of the second half... but if I had to choose one definite Actress of the 00's I think it would be LAURA LINNEY (You Can Count on Me, Mystic River, Jindabyne, The Savages, The Squid and the Whale, P.S., Kinsey, The House of Mirth, Love Actually... she was even good in The Nanny Diaries, The Mothman Prophecies, The Exorcism of Emily Rose AND she was the ONLY good thing in The Life of David Gale), I think she's the most consistent actress of the decade.

Anonymous said...

NATHANIEL R, have you seen The Good Shepherd? Jolie and Tammy Blanchard are my favourite performances of the underrated film.

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

Zooey Deschanel, All the Real Girls
Maribel Verdú, Y Tu Mamá También

That's all I see missing. At the moment. :)

Anonymous said...

haha , the most mesmerizing performance ain't in this list !
charlize theron-monster,
cheeck your movie info then ...!

hamid said...

haha , the most mesmerizing performance ain't in this list !
charlize theron-monster,
cheeck your movie info then ...!

Romilly said...

I really like your list! How close did Scarlett Johansson (Lost In Translation/Girl With a Pearl Earring) and Keira Knightley (Pride & Prejudice) come to making the list?

Kiev said...

A very good list. I have one that hasn't been mentioned yet: Oksana Akinshina from Lukas Moodysson's harrowing film, "Lilja 4-ever". This film and Akinshina's performance are going to stick with me forever.

Francesco said...

Gwyneth Paltrow The Royal Tenenbaums/Sylvia/Proof

Emma Thompson/Laura Linney Love Actually

Laura Linney/Gillian Anderson The House of mirth

Cate Blanchett The Aviator/Notes on a scandal

Judy Dench Notes on a scandal/Iris

Helen Mirren Calendar Girls/The Queen/Gosford Park

Julianne Moore/Nicole Kidman/Meryl Streep/Miranda Richardson/Tony Colette The Hours

Nicole Kidman/Anne Heche Birth

Juliannne Moore Far From Heaven

Meryl Streep Doubt

Amy Adams Enchanted

Kate Winslet Revolutionary Road

Naomie Watts King Kong/Mulholand Drive/The Painted Veil

Isabelle Huppert La Pianiste

Kristin Scott-Thomas/Jessica Biel Easy Virtue

Maggie Cheung In the mood for love

Renée Zellweger : Chicago/White Oleander/Nurse Betty

Diane Lane Unfaithful

Annette Benning Being Julia

Maggie Smith Gosford Park/Keeping Mum

Björk Dancers in the dark

Penelope Cruz/Carmen Maura Volver

Catherine Frot Crime Is Our Business

Sabine Azema The Perfume of the Lady in Black

Lindsay Lohan Mean Girl

Diane Keaton Something´s gotta give

Abigail Breslin Little Miss Sunshine

Martina Gedek Chère Martha

Tilda Swinton Michael Clayton/Narnia

Unknown said...

marisa tomei, the wrestler
she pole dances wth dignity.


that she does michaeladolph, that she does.

Anonymous said...

Meryl Streep is a phenomenom. Every time critics said: "Her career is over", she went back on screen and now... BOOM! Box office queen! At the age of SIXTY!

I simply adore her in Adaptation, Angels in America, The Devils wears Prada and love her in Julie&Julia.

I'd like to add her in "A Prairie Home Companion" together with Lily Tomlin and Lily in "I Heart Huckabees", too. Just awesome!

And Felicity Huffman was strongly impressing in Transamerica. I really wonder why she didn't get an Oscar for that performance.

Timothy Griffiths said...

There are probably at least ten actresses on the list I would've easily replaced with Sissy Spacek for "In The Bedroom".

But then, I seem to value that movie a lot more than others do. Maybe because I'm a short story writer and my interests are in quiet moments and milking every word of a story? Too many screenplays and nominated acting performances are just TALK TALK TALK over and over again. I wish sometimes that films would just shut up. Is that too much to ask?

number 6 said...

Performances that where left out.

Ziyi Zhang: wo hu cang long, Hidden Dragon and The House of Flying Daggers. Proving in both films that beauty is in itself a weapon.

Although Catherine Zeta-Jones may have won for Chicago, her turn in Traffic was far better.

Same with Kate Winslet. The Reader was nothing special, neither was her performance. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Revolutionary Road are both better films and performances.

Marion Cotillard is tres belle, but in the LE Vie en Rose, her face is almost unrecognizable, but it doesn't hinder her performance, it simply adds to it.

Penolope Cruz has not had too many good films in Hollywood, that is not the case in her native Spain. All the work she has done with Pedro Almodovar is fantastic, from All about my Mother to Broken Embraces. Vicky Cristina Barcelona is a start.

Gwenyth Paltrow - The Royal Tannenbaums

Marisa Tomei who has show that she has simply gotten better with age. Case in point: Before the Devil Knows Your Dead is a film that shows two brother fighting over everything including a woman; and when she as looks as good as Tomei, why not. The Same beauty adds to The Wrestler as well.

Kelly MacDonald was one of the better performances in Gosford Park, and added some much need humanity to No Country for Old Men.


Penélope Cruz did make the list, though. Twice!

Sean said...

I think Sasha Grey was good in the Girlfriend Experience. I also think that Jada Pinket Smith was great in the Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions.

simba said...

Unforgettable bittersweet smile ...

Kate hudson - Almost famous

Sachin said...


1. Tilda Swinton in MICHAEL CLAYTON
2. Shohreh Aghadashloo in HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG
4. Holly Hunter in THIRTEEN
5. Amy Adams in JUNEBUG
6. Amy Ryan in GONE BABY GONE
7. Seema Biswas in WATER
8. Hilary Swank in MILLION DOLLAR BABY
9. Naomi Watts in MULHOLLAND DRIVE
10. Samantha Morton in IN AMERICA

Manuel said...

Nathaniel: Have you seen the Swedish movie Lilya 4-Ever? You should cause Oksana Akinshina is FANTASTIC in the movie
Others performances I truly love are:

Maggie Chung - In the Mood for Love
Nicole Kidman - Birth or Dogville
Cate Blanchett - Im not There/ Heaven
Charlotte Rampling - Under the sand
Naomi Watts - Mulholland Drive
Michelle Yeoh - Croucing Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Bjork - Dancer in the Dark
Kristin Scott Thomas - I have loved you so long
Ellen Burstyn - Requiem for a dream
Samanatha Morton - Minority Report
Monique - Precious
Isabelle Huppert - The Piano Teacher
Judi Dench - Notes on a Scandal
Julianne Moore - Far from Heaven
Evan Rachel Wood - Thirteen
Tilda Swinton - I Am Love
Marion Cotillard - La Mome
Meryl Streep - The Hours
Catherine Zeta Jones - Chicago
Sissy Spacek - In the Bedroom
Monica Bellucci - The Passion of the Crist
Mozhan Marnò - The Stoning of Soraya M.