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The 10 greatest female actors of all time


Women have only recently started to achieve similar representation in the film industry to their male counterparts, especially when it comes to the creative and technical side of things. In 2022, the third ever woman took home the prize for Best Director at the Oscars, and there are still so many places that we’re working towards progress.

However, if there’s one place in which women have been able to shine rather well in recent decades, it’s onscreen. There are so many incredible and talented female actors that have been working all throughout history, and while it’s difficult to compile a list of the very best, it is important to give recognition to those great talents both among past generations and working today.

There have been so many actresses throughout the years who haven’t had the same opportunities to exhibit their talents, and for this reason, it’s important to continue working towards a future of equality in the film industry, and throughout society as a whole.

Here are some of the most notable and talented female actors throughout history, although there are so many more beyond this list.

The 10 greatest female actors:

10. Kristen Stewart

Although this choice might surprise people who knew her in her Twilight days, Kristen Stewart’s more recent roles have proven her beyond capable of standing beside the best. She’s also still in the early end of her career, and it seems that she has so much more to explore.

From Café Society to The Clouds of Sils Maria, Still Alice, Seberg, and of course, Spencer, Kristen Stewart has not only explored her side as a skilled dramatic actor, but she also has shown her ability to chameleon into different roles flawlessly.

9. Kathy Bates

Misery, Fried Green Tomatoes, American Horror Story, anyone? Kathy Bates is an actor who seems like she has had an entire lifetime of a career, but is somehow still in her prime. She’s been acting for a while, but her stills seem to get better and better with every year.

She has a range like so many wish they could achieve, and it seems that she has plenty left to explore. Bates doesn’t seem like she’s stopping anytime soon.

8. Jessica Lange

Jessica Lange is another actor who has aged graciously into all different roles throughout her time. She had her time to play the ingenue, but it seems that she had the most fun upon ageing out of that. Just take American Horror Story for example, where she displays her talent, grace, and beauty in one of the most captivating performances of her career.

King Kong, Cape Fear, and even Tootsie proved smash hits for Lange, but nothing captivated the world quite like her roles on American Horror Story. People obsessed over her more than anyone else on that show, and it’s easy to see why.

7. Viola Davis

As the holder of an Academy Award, a Primetime Emmy Award, and two Tony Awards, Viola Davis is the first African-American to achieve the Triple Crown of Acting. But is it any surprise how decorated Davis is? She’s far from seeing the end of her award-winning days, so only time will tell what more she can accomplish.

From her performances in The Help, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, How to Get Away With Murder, and so many more, Viola Davis seems like she can make every project she touches turn to gold.

6. Lucy Liu

Lucy Liu is one of the most iconic actresses of the past few decades, and she has absolutely done so much to show it—even though she doesn’t look her age, and likely never will. Regardless, there are few out there who can hold a candle to both her beauty and her acting chops.

From her work in Kill Bill to Charlie’s Angels, Liu has a presence about her that makes her performances entirely unique and unforgettable. She more than deserves her spot among legends.

5. Ingrid Bergman

Ingrid Bergman might not be one of the most flashy names from the era of classic cinema, but she happens to be one of the greatest and most influential talents of her time. Although she may not have achieved Marilyn-levels of fame, it isn’t a stretch to say that notoriety like that would be well deserved for Bergman, too.

The Swedish actress can be seen in Casablanca, Gaslight, and plenty of other classic films. Her beauty, grace and acting prowess are all considered to be extremely influential on films and actresses that came after her.

4. Diane Keaton

Diane Keaton is an actress that has an entirely unique presence about her. Not only is she a highly accomplished actress in films such as Annie Hall, Something’s Gotta Give, Book Club, The First Wives Club, and so many more, but she also has made a name for herself with a distinguished style that fans can recognise anywhere.

In films like Annie Hall, Keaton incorporated elements of her personal style for a look that expressed the unique nature of her personality, and added to the character.

3. Angela Bassett

Angela Bassett is in her 60 (although you’d never know it by looking at her), and she’s been making waves since the early days of her career. Her acting skills have been recognised widely, and it seems that her career is still in its prime.

A Yale graduate, Bassett is the recipient of three Black Reel Awards, a Golden Globe Award, seven NAACP Image Awards, and a Screen Actors Guild Award. She’s also been nominated for Emmy awards as well as Oscars. Black Panther, London is Falling, What’s Love Got to Do With It, 9-1-1, and so many more, she has a sharpness, a wit, and a grace to her that’s simply captivating.

2. Meryl Streep

Often described to be the best actress of her generation, Meryl Streep makes her way onto nearly every list of the world’s best actresses. Even others who work in the industry with her are routinely starstruck and nervous to meet her.

Shailene Woodley said of working with her, “She knows everyone’s lines. She knows my lines and Nicole Kidman’s lines and Reese Witherspoon’s lines and probably the dog’s bark, too.” Truly a master of the craft.

Even making an attempt to name every accolade she’s achieved for her work would be futile, but they include three Oscars among 21 nominations, three Emmy Awards, and nominations for countless others. Her performances stand the test of time, and they will continue to do so for generations.

1. Audrey Hepburn

This likely won’t surprise anyone, but Audrey Hepburn is one of the most distinguished and talented actors of all time. She is both a film icon and a fashion icon, with her beauty and style placing her in the history books. Much like Diane Keaton, her personal style was routinely incorporated into her characters onscreen to contribute to her presence.

With films like Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Roman Holiday, My Fair Lady, and Sabrina, she’s both highly recognisable in her many roles and brings a varied presence to each. And beyond her film work, she spent many years doing valuable work as a humanitarian and activist.

She was a lovely and graceful presence, and nearly every film she touched became a classic, solidifying her in the minds of many as one of the greatest performers of her time.