40 Best Actresses Who Won Oscars For Their Performances


All of the actresses listed below have won an Oscar for Best Actress in a leading role and some of them have won more than one. Many of them have received numerous nominations for Academy Awards. Meryl Streep is one of these with 21 nominations.  Classic actress Katherine Hepburn has had the most Oscar wins.

Katherine Hepburn

Katherine Hepburn acted as a leading lady in Hollywood films for 60 years and received 12 Oscar nominations. This beautiful, unconventional actress won her first academy award for her role in Morning Glory in 1933. Her romantic relationship with Spencer Tracy spanned decades and the last film they made together, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, gave Hepburn her second Academy win. Her other two Oscars were for The Lion in Winter and On Golden Pond.


Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep was nominated 21 times for Oscars and has won three times. She is one of the most respected actresses of all time and is a perfectionist when it comes to preparing for her roles, frequently playing real-life characters. She won Oscars for her performances in Kramer versus Kramer and Sophie’s Choice and received her third one for her performance as Maggie Thatcher in The Iron Lady.


Jodie Foster

Jodie Foster was only 12 years old when she received critical acclaim for her role as a prostitute in Taxi Driver. She later earned an Oscar for her performance in The Accused and another for her role in the blockbuster hit, The Silence of the Lambs. Jody sees an interesting progression from her role in Taxi Driver as a girl who needed rescuing, to her role in The Silence of the Lambs, where she rescued a captive woman.


Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn rose to fame in the U.S. with the film Roman Holiday, for which she won an Oscar. Her elegance, beaut, and style are legendary and she made 31 quality films altogether.  She gave many outstanding performances in ones like Breakfast at Tiffany’s and My Fair Lady. She is one of only 16 actresses to have received an Oscar, an Emmy and a Tony. She was also respected for her humanitarian activities.


Joan Crawford

Crawford began her career as a dancer and it was her role in Our Dancing Daughters in 1938 that gave her star status as an actress. In 1945 she garnered her first Oscar for Best Actress in Mildred Pierce. She was known for her glamorous fashion sense and her “Hunter’s Bow Lips”. Crawford often portrayed women who had suffered a great deal. In 1962 she and Bette Davis starred together in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?


Vivien Leigh

When 26-year-old Vivien Leigh was cast in the role of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, some fans of the novel disapproved as she was British and they felt the part should be played by an American. She received her first Oscar for this role. .She received her second Oscar for her portrayal of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire. Leigh was married to Sir Laurence Olivier for two decades.8

Sally Field

Sally Field received her first Oscar for her role in Norma Rae. In 1984 she received her second Oscar for her role in Places in the Heart. She is known for her roles as a strong mother who tries to make a better life for her children. Other well-known films she played in are Smokey and the Bandit, Murphy’s Romance, Forrest Gump, Steel Magnolias, Lincoln and Mrs. Doubtfire.


Ann Bancroft

Her portrayal of Annie Sullivan in the 1962 film The Miracle Worker won Bancroft her first Oscar. She went on to give acclaimed performances in a number of movies such as The Pumpkin Eater and The Elephant Man but her role as Mrs Robinson in The Graduate gave her iconic status as the ‘older woman’. In real life, she was only 36 at the time and only six years older than fellow star Dustin Hoffman.


Bette Davis

Bette Davis achieved star status after appearing in The Man Who Played God. She became known as an actress who could play tough roles. In 1935 she received her first Oscar for her role in Dangerous and her second in 1938 for Jezebel. She was nominated for five consecutive years (1939-1943), playing roles in a variety of genres. Bette was known for her distinctive, large eyes, her biting sense of humor and her ability to play challenging, complex characters.


Susan Haywood

It was an offbeat little film, Among the Living, that first showed Haywood’s acting talent. She received an Academy Award nomination for her role as Angelica Evans in Smash Up: The Story of a Woman but lost out to Loretta Young. After four other nominations, she wondered whether she would ever win. Finally, her riveting performance as doomed killer Barbara Graham in I Want to Live earned her the Oscar.


Grace Kelly

Grace Kelly’s roles with Alfred Hitchcock as the director made her into a star, beginning with her role in Dial M for Murder and ending with To Catch a Thief that co-starred Carey Grant. However, it was when she played Georgie Elgin in Country Girl opposite Bing Crosby that she would win her first Academy Award. Grace Kelly gave up her career to marry Prince Rainier of Monaco and died when she was only 53, leaving behind three children.


Jessica Lange

Jessica Lange gave her first memorable performance as an adulterous waitress in The Postman Always Rings Twice. The following year was a good one for her with rave reviews for her performance in Frances and a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for Tootsie. She also gave a great performance as Patsy Cline in Sweet Dreams and as a lawyer in Music Box. In 1994 she won the Academy Award for her role in Blue Sky.


Ingrid Bergman

When Ingrid Bergman made Gaslight, the role of Paula Alquist garnered her an Oscar for Best Actress. This versatile actress with unusual beauty was nominated seven times but it was in 1956 when she played the title role in Anastasia that she earned another Oscar. A film starring Ingrid Bergman was always a quality production and her final performance in Autumn Sonata won her another nomination and is regarded by her fans as one of her best performances.


Kate Winslet

Kate Winslet is a British actress whose role in Titanic starring opposite Leonardo DiCaprio thrust her into the limelight. Young girls everywhere saw her as a role model, admiring her refreshingly healthy appearance. She received a Best Actress Award for this role and is the youngest actress ever to have received two Academy Award nominations. It was her role in Sense and Sensibility that earned her a nomination for Best Supporting Actress.


Helen Mirren

Helen Mirren is the only actress to have played both Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Elizabeth 11. At the Venice Film Festival, her performance as Queen Elizabeth 11 in The Queen received a standing ovation and she won an Oscar for this performance. She is one of the best living British actresses and has won three Golden Globes, four Emmys, and four Baftas. She became Dame Helen Mirren in 2003.


Cate Blanchett

Cate Blanchett received numerous awards for playing the title character in Elizabeth but she lost out on the Oscar to Gwyneth Paltrow. It was when she was cast by Woody Allen in the title role in Blue Jasmine that she won her Oscar. In winning an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Katherine Hepburn in Aviator, she was the first actress ever to give an Oscar-winning performance of an Oscar winner.


Mary Pickford

Pickford is the most renowned star of the silent film era and in her prime was known as ‘America’s sweetheart’. The romance drama Coquette was her first ‘talky’ and she won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance, becoming the 2nd actress to receive an Academy Award. She was adored by her fans for playing ingénue roles and feisty young women. In 1976 she received an honorary Academy Award.


Kathy Bates

Kathy Bates kept losing out when award-winning characters she played on stage transferred to the big screen. This changed when she played psychopath Annie Wilkes in Misery. This horror film where she kidnaps her favorite author (James Caan) and tortured him won her a Best Actress Oscar. She also won Best Supporting Actress Awards for her roles in Primary Colors and About Schmidt. She often plays tough, outspoken characters.


Julie Andrews

Julie Andrews made her film debut in Mary Poppins and earned her first Oscar. When the Sound of Music was released in 1965 it became one of the highest grossing films of all time.  She was typecast as a sweet, singing nanny and she battled to get dramatic roles. She didn’t let it keep her down and continued to act for many years. She’s known for her regal manner and her four octave soprano voice.


Julianne Moore

Julianne Moore played the victim of a mummy in Tales from the Darkside: The Movie in her first big screen role. She kept winning better roles and won critical acclaim for her role as Carol White in Safe. In 2003 she was nominated for two Oscars but it was finally in 2014 that she won an Oscar for her performance in Still Alice. She is known for her emotional roles as troubled women.


Ginger Rogers

Ginger Rogers was one of the biggest Hollywood stars in the 1960s and 1970s. She could sing and dance and handle both comedy and drama. She formed a great dance partnership with Fred Astaire and one of their greatest films together was Top Hat. It was in the 19402 that she played a young girl from the wrong side of the tracks in Kitty Foyle and won an Academy Award.


Frances McDormand

Francis McDormand married director Joel Coen and starred in a number of Coen brother’s films. This skilled and versatile actress was nominated for Academy Awards four times for her roles in Fargo, Mississippi Burning, Almost Famous and North Country. She won the Oscar in 1997 for her role as Police Chief Marge Gunderson in Fargo. She is known for her intelligence, sharp wit and the way submerses herself in her roles.


Julia Roberts

Julia Roberts had great success in the romantic comedy Pretty Woman in 1990. She was nominated for four Academy Awards and won an Oscar for her serious dramatic role in Erin Brockovich. In 2003 she received the highest pay ever earned by an actress for portraying a forward-thinking history professor in Mona Lisa Smile. She became one of the most sought-after actresses in Hollywood, known for her wide smile.


Jessica Tandy

Jessica Tandy enjoyed a career that spanned over six decades. When A Streetcar Named Desire opened on Broadway, she played Blanche DuBois and became forever associated with the character. In 1989 as an octogenarian, she won an Oscar for her portrayal of a Southern Jewish widow who forms a bond with her black chauffeur in Driving Miss Daisy. She also enjoyed some of her biggest stage hits in her later years.


Emma Thompson

Emma Thompson starred in a number of successful films in the late 1980s and early 1990s, one being Howards End for which she won an Oscar. She and Kenneth Branagh were married two years after she starred with him in the BBC miniseries Fortunes of War and they formed a production company together. In her Hollywood roles she is known for her skillful, sophisticated performances and her self-satire. She also won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for Sense and Sensibility.


Helen Hayes

Helen Hayes had a great career that spanned eighty years on stage, in television and films. She won an Oscar for Best Actress for her role in The Sin of Madelon Claudet. She returned to the stage and achieved great success in Victoria Regina which ran for three years.  On her return to film, she won another Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Airport.


Julie Christie

Julie Christie’s breakthrough role was in Billy Liar in 1963.  She won an Oscar for her performance in the swinging sixties film, Darling. She followed Darling with a role in Doctor Zhivago. In the following years, she starred in many films and directors loved working with her. She had a lengthy love affair with Warren Beattie and from the early 1980s, her roles in mainstream films decreased.


Jane Wyman

Jane Wyman’s career spanned seven decades. She won an Oscar in 1949 for her role as a deaf mute rape victim in Johnny Belinda. She followed that by appearing in many prestigious films and was Oscar-nominated for her roles in The Blue Veil and Magnificent Obsession. Wyman appeared in almost every episode of Falcon Crest for nine seasons playing the role of the conniving matriarch.


Diane Keaton

In 1977 Diane Keaton appeared in the title role in Annie Hall, a performance that many people regard as her best. Woody Allen wrote the role for her and she won an Oscar for it. She started a trend with her unisex clothing. She appeared in Warren Beattie’s film Reds as a bohemian journalist and received an Academy Award nomination. She is known for her portrayal of free-spirited, eccentric characters.


Claudette Colbert

Claudette Colbert was a beautiful, sophisticated, witty and vivacious leading lady whose career in Hollywood spanned two decades. As Ellie Andrews playing opposite Clark Gable in the mega-hit comedy It Happened One Night, she won an Oscar and achieved superstardom. In 1935 she was nominated again for her role in Private Worlds and then again in 1944 for Since You Went Away.


Patricia Neal

Patricia Neal played opposite Paul Newman in Hud as Alma, a housekeeper and won an Oscar for Best Actress. She received a nomination for her role in The Subject was Roses. She was married to Roald Dahl and had a series of strokes that nearly killed her. She recovered and went on to have her fifth child. She was offered the role of Mrs Robinson in The Graduate, but she turned it down.


Ellen Burstyn

Ellen Burstyn received an Academy Award nomination for her role in The Last Picture Show. She gave a chilling performance opposite Jack Nicholson in The King of Marvin Gardens. For her role in The Exorcist, she was again nominated for an Academy Award but it was for her role as a waitress in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore that she won the Oscar for Best Actress.


Loretta Young

Loretta Young started as a child actress and had a long, varied career. She was beautiful, serene and graceful but was also a woman of purpose. She reached the height of her career in her role as a farmgirl who becomes a congresswoman in The Farmer’s Daughter. The won an Oscar for the role and it is the performance for which she is best remembered. She gained a second Oscar nomination for her role in Come to the Stable.


Joanne Woodward

Joanne Woodward married fellow actor Paul Newman a few months before she won an Oscar for her role as a woman with multiple personalities in The Three Faces of Eve. She went on to star in a number of other films, some of them together with Paul Newman. She is known not only as an actress but as a producer, and an activist.


Jane Fonda

Jane Fonda has had a highly respected and successful acting career. She won two Oscars for her performances in Klute and Coming Home. She was also nominated five more times. She only made one film, On Golden Pond, with her actor father, Henry Fonda. Her successful professional life contrasted with her personal life which was filled with controversy, especially when she became involved in political causes.


Reese Witherspoon

Reese Witherspoon is an actress, director, and entrepreneur. She began acting at an early age and her first breakthrough came in her role as Elle Woods in Legally Blond. She followed this up with the hit Sweet Home Alabama and then took home an Oscar for her role as June Carter Cash in Walk the Line. She was nominated again for her role in Wild.


Sissy Spacek

Sissy Spacek is married to art director, Jack Fisk, and collaborated with him on eight films. Her performance in the film Carrie was a landmark in her career and garnered her an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of a high school student who unleashed telekinetic terror at her senior prom. She won an Oscar for her role in The Coalminer’s Daughter. She gave a powerful performance in In the Bedroom which earned her a sixth Oscar nomination.


Halle Berry

Halle Berry was a beauty queen before she became an actress, winning Miss Teen All-America and first runner-up in Miss U.S.A.  In 2000 she achieved box office success in X-Men, playing Storm, a mutant who can control the weather. In 2001 she starred in the thriller Swordfish. She was the first African-American to win Best Actress for her role as a grieving mother in the drama Monster’s Ball.


Maggie Smith

Dame Maggie Smith has had a distinguished career spanning over 66 years.  She won her first Oscar for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. She won another for her role in California Suite. She performed in over 60 films and was nominated for an Oscar six times. She appeared in the Harry Potter movies as the formidable Professor McGonagall.


Sandra Bullock

Sandra Bullock made her acting debut with a minor role in the thriller Hangmen. Her performances in Demolition Man and Wrestling Ernest Hemingway were memorable but she achieved stardom for her role in the smash hit Speed in 1994. She won an Oscar for her role in The Blind Side. Blockbusters The Proposal, The Heat and Gravity made her a highly paid actress.