Lists, Top 5 Performances, Top 5s — February 27, 2012 at 3:01 am

KAI’S TOP 5 FEMALE PERFORMANCES OF ALL TIME

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I recently did a similar list with my favorite male performances. Now it’s time to take a look at the ladies. Though, before we jump in, here’s the genesis behind this post…

With everybody gearing up to hear who will be given the Oscar for best performances of the year, I couldn’t help but start thinking about my favorite performances of all time. While some of them managed to take home the trophy, others did not. Unlike my male list though, all these women managed to get a nomination.  However, I think they all carved their names into the Hall of Fame of acting performances. Here’s my favorite performances of all time:

SIDENOTE: I  had planned on doing a Top 10 but I didn’t love all my choices and knew I was forgetting a few names so I went with a Top 5 that I feel pretty good about. I’ve included some Honorable Mentions as a result.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

*JULIE ANDREWS in SOUND OF MUSIC.
*
KATE WINSLET in TITANIC & ETERNAL SUNSHINE ON THE SPOTLESS MIND.
*
DIANE KEATON in ANNIE HALL.
*
KATHY BATES in MISERY.
*
ELLEN BURSTYN in REQUIEM FOR A DREAM.
*
VIVIEN LEIGH in GONE WITH THE WIND.
*NATALIE PORTMAN in BLACK SWAN.

5. LOUISE FLETCHER in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST.

I pretty much love this movie from top to bottom. The story is amazing but it’s the performances are what put it over the top. Fletcher makes my list for playing Nurse Ratched, a woman who might be the most sinister bitch to ever hit the silver screen. And I don’t use the term “sinister bitch” lightly… unless I’m talking about ex-girlfriends.

4. FRANCES MCDORMAND in FARGO.

I wonder if this is the pick I’ll get the most shit for. Frances McDormand’s turn as Marge Gunderson almost comes across like a stereotype or a poor characature but, the fact is, it’s a very layered performance. At the end of the movie, we see how smart she really is and learn that all these crazy events are just another day’s work for a mid-western cop. McDormand breezes through the film sunk deep into her character and delivers a character that is not only likeable but also kind of bad-ass.

3. JULIA ROBERTS in PRETTY WOMAN.

It may seem inevitable that a Romantic Comedy would pop up on here. It may also seem like a bit of a slight. True, the Rom-Com is the bread and butter of the female acting community but it rarely does aything to showcase their acting capabilities. Except on the rare occasion when you get a film like this which is nothing special really. However, Roberts was able to take the character of Vivian Ward and rise above the rest of the film. Not only using it as a launching board for her career but using it to make America fall in love with her and become America’s Sweetheart. It took a recent re-watch of this film to remember just how charming and wonderful she is in this classic Rom-Com.

2. MERYL STREEP in ANYTHING.

I think Meryl Streep might be the finest working actor of all time. Not actress… actor! It’s hard to dispute her resume. As is it to pick a favorite. She’s even great in flops like She-Devil and Death Becomes Her. If I had to narrow it down to one performance, I’d probably lean towards Sophie’s Choice. In full disclosure, I have only seen part of the film. However, that part, the one where Sophie makes said choice, might be the most moving scene I have ever seen in a film.

1. SIGOURNEY WEAVER in ALIENS.

No big shocker here. Hell, my two dogs are named Ripley and Noot (yeah, I spelled that way… thanks, Newt Gingrich!). Not only is Ellen Ripley probably the baddest chick to ever be caught on film but the role set a new standard proving that action films weren’t just a boy’s club. On top of that, this was an Oscar nominated performance. Something that makes me sad because, in the 80s it seems, the Academy used to recognize films of this nature. A trend I really wish they’d get back to.

So, who are some of your favorites?

18 Comments

  • Meryl Streep in anything – yep, I agree with that – what an extraordinary actress.

    …but perfect choice for number one Kai! 🙂

    • Thank you, sir. I have loved that film since seeing it at the completely inappropriate age of 8.

      • I got you beat. I was seven when I saw it. I know because I remember me and my Mum watched it while we were having our sofas recovered, so they had crappy sheets over them. We managed to trace it back to the very year and I was seven. I didn’t sleep for a week. But the film blew me away! A true classic of the genre and one of my all time faves.

  • Amen to your number one choice. No matter how many times I’ve seen that movie it’s always just as badass.

  • Oh wow, I have only seen one of these films; Pretty Woman. Guess I’ve been missing out on some of the best performances ever?

    • You MUST see Aliens… and then see the rest. Whether or not you agree they are the best performances, I would say they are all must see films.

  • For what it’s worth, you could pretty easily grab a bunch of your honorable mentions and make a top-10.

    Naturally, I’d throw on a bunch of classic performances, but it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t.

  • Missing some earlier gems and don’t think Gone with the Wind cuts it…Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity, Bette Davis in All About Eve, Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday, Katherine Hepburn in just about anything?

    • Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd. When I said I had old-school additions, Swanson in that, Stanwyck in Double Indemnity, and Bette Davis in All About Eve or Now, Voyager were the ones I had in mind. Katherine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story would merit a thought, too.

      • Yes, sorry, Emily. I am not a big classic film fan.

        Though, remember, we don’t do definitive lists. We do our favs. These are mine but I’ve heard great things about many of yours as well.

  • I think I actually like the honorable mentions list more than I do the actual list lol.

    Since you’re obviously a fan, you’ll probably curse me, but I never cared for Alien. And just to really ensure you hate me, I have never been a fan of Streep either. She annoys me honestly. In all honestly, I think she’s quite often guilty of flat-out overacting.

    Moving to the honorable mentions list: Kathy Bates. I think that woman isn’t praised enough. Her work in Misery was brilliant. It’s not often that I see her on best actresses lists and I honestly think she should be on there most of the time. From Fried Green Tomatoes to Misery to Dolores Claiborne to About Schmidt, she’s always great.

    Ellen Burstyn’s performance in Requiem is bone-chilling and blood-curdling. Brilliant performance by her in there, and I honestly think it was her work that almost made that movie. It definitely did a lot to help make the movie as unsettling and impactful as it was.

    I like Portman’s work in Black Swan too (which I think should’ve been BP last year). I think it’s her best performance to date. Such a layered performance and she shows more range in one movie, due to the transformation, than most actresses do in their entire career.

    • Agreed on Bates (LOVE Fried Green Tomatoes), Burstyn and Black Swan but could not agree more on Streep. Though she is a non-traditional movie star so at times she gets cast because she’s Streep though not necessarily right for the part, last few years excluded. I love her though.
      And I have never liked Alien (I’ve done numerous podcast tangents on it) that much either but I am OBSESSED with Aliens.

  • I thought for sure that Winslet’s turn in Eternal Sunshine would have been top five material.

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