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“International Women’s Day”: Top 25 greatest living actresses of all times

“International Women’s Day”: Top 25 greatest living actresses of all times

On 8 March we’ll celebrate another “International Women’s Day” which is one of the most important events to discuss women’s achievements and raise awareness about women’s equality. To pay tribute to women and their importance to build up a better world, I have created a list of “Top 25 greatest living actresses of all times”, considering their talent and significant journey in the Cinema, Television and Theatre fields, but also their commitment to women right and inclusiveness in this unfair world.

Check out the actresses on the list below:

1 – Meryl Streep 

The American actress is considered by media and critics as the greatest living actress. Streep has been nominated for the Academy Award, an astonishing 21 times (record among categories linked to acting) and has won it three times. She is known mainly for her versatility to play her characters with different accents. Streep debuted in the cinema with the film “Julia” (1978) and “Kramer vs. Kramer” (1979) followed by, among others such as “Sophie’s Choice” (1982), “Out of Africa” (1985), “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006), “Mamma Mia! “(2008) and “The Iron Lady” (2011).

She also received 29 Golden Globe nominations, winning eight, also a record for the award. The actress also received three Emmys, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, the best actress award at the Cannes Film Festival and the Berlin Festival, five New York Film Critics Circle Awards, two BAFTA, two Australian Film Institute Awards, four Grammy Award nominations and a Tony Award nomination, among other awards.

2 – Nicole Kidman 

She is an Australian actress, singer, and producer who has received an Academy Award, two Primetime Emmy Awards, and five Golden Globe Awards. She was ranked among the world’s highest-paid actresses in 2006, 2018, and 2019. In 2020, The New York Times ranked her fifth on its list of the greatest actors of the 21st century up to that point.

Kidman began her acting career in Australia with the 1983 films “Bush Christmas” and “BMX Bandits“. In 1990, she made her Hollywood debut in the racing film “Days of Thunder“, opposite Tom Cruise. She went on to achieve wider recognition with lead roles in “Far and Away” (1992), “Batman Forever” (1995), “To Die For” (1995) and Eyes Wide Shut” (1999). Kidman won the Academy Award for Best Actress for portraying the writer Virginia Woolf in the drama “The Hours” (2002). Her other Oscar-nominated roles were as a courtesan in the musical “Moulin Rouge!” (2001) and emotionally troubled mothers in the dramas “Rabbit Hole” (2010) and “Lion” (2016). 

3 – Fernanda Montenegro

Fernanda Montenegro

Considered by many the greatest Brazilian actress of all time, she is often referred to as the great lady of Brazilian theatre, cinema and performing arts. She is the only Brazilian yet nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress. She is also the only actress nominated for an Oscar for a performance in the Portuguese language for her work in “Central Station” (1998). In addition, she was the first Brazilian to win the International Emmy in the category of best actress for her performance in the Brazilian drama series “Doce de Mãe” (Sweet Mother). 

4 – Viola Davis 

The American actress and producer won an Academy Award, a Primetime Emmy Award, and two Tony Awards, she is the first African-American to achieve the “Triple Crown of Acting“. Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2012 and 2017. She played minor roles in several films and television series in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Davis’s film breakthrough came in 2008 when her role as a troubled mother in the film “Doubt ” won her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Greater success came to Davis in the 2010s. She won the 2010 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for playing Rose Maxson in the Broadway revival of August Wilson‘s play Fences. In 2014, Davis began playing lawyer Annalise Keating in the ABC television drama series “How to Get Away with Murder“, and in 2015, she became the first Black woman to win the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. In 2020, Davis garnered universal acclaim for her performance in the titular role of the film adaptation of “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom“. Davis is also widely recognized for her advocacy and support of human rights and equal rights for women and women of colour.

5 – Kate Winslet 

The British actress is arguably the modern queen of period projects, she has racked up seven Oscar nominations so far, winning one for her role as a Nazi camp guard in “The Reader” (2008).  

It was clear she was a brilliant actor from the time she was a teen, playing a young murderer in “Heavenly Creatures” (1994). From there, roles in beloved classics such as “Titanic” (1997) and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004) showed the immense range she possessed. The British star has won three BAFTAs on eight nominations so far and also won an Emmy for her work in HBO’s 2011 miniseries, “Mildred Pierce.”

For her performance of Joanna Hoffman in Steve Jobs (2015), she received her seventh Academy Award nomination.

6 – Julianne Moore

She has been one of Hollywood’s most dependable leads since the late 1990s. She’s racked up five Oscar nominations so far and has proven her power in intense dramas such as Paul Thomas Anderson movies’ “Magnolia” (1999) and “Boogie Nights” (1997), also “The Hours” (2002) and out-there comedies “The Big Lebowski” (1998). In recent years, she’s put together a string of highly acclaimed performances in movies like “The Kids are All Right”(2010), “Gloria Bell” (2018) and her Oscar-winning turn in 2014’s “Still Alice,” in which she played a brilliant professor who lives with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

7 – Cate Blanchett

The Australian actress, director and producer is regarded as one of the greatest actresses of her generation. She is noted for her versatile roles in blockbusters, independent films, and in her stage work in various theatre productions. After graduating from the National Institute of Dramatic Art, Blanchett began her acting career on the Australian stage, taking on roles in “Electra” in 1992. She came to international attention for portraying Elizabeth I in the drama film “Elizabeth” (1998), for which she won the Golden Globe and BAFTA Award for Best Actress, and received her first of seven Academy Award nominations. 

Her portrayal of Katharine Hepburn in Martin Scorsese‘s “The Aviator” (2004) won her the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, and she later won the Academy Award for Best Actress for playing a neurotic former socialite in Woody Allen‘s comedy-drama “Blue Jasmine” (2013).

She stared in films include “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy (2001–2003) and “The Hobbit” trilogy (2012–2014), “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (2008) and “Ocean’s 8 “(2018).

8 – Susan Sarandon

She is an American actress, activist, and producer. She is the recipient of numerous accolades, including an Academy Award, and BAFTA Award. In 2002, she was honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contributions to the film industry.

Sarandon began her acting career in the drama film “Joe” (1970), before appearing in the soap opera A World Apart (1970–1971). Sarandon was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for “Atlantic City” (1980), “Thelma & Louise” (1991), “Lorenzo’s Oil” (1992), and “The Client” (1994), before winning for “Dead Man Walking” (1995). She has also won the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for “The Client”, and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actress for “Dead Man Walking”. 

Her other films include “The Witches of Eastwick” (1987), “White Palace” (1990), “Little Women” (1994), “Stepmom” (1998), “Enchanted” (2007), “The Lovely Bones” (2009), and “A Bad Moms Christmas” (2017). Also known for her social and political activism, Sarandon was appointed a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 1999 and received the Action Against Hunger Humanitarian Award in 2006.

9 – Renée Zellweger  

The American actress is the recipient of numerous accolades, including two Academy Awards, two BAFTA Awards, and four Golden Globe Awards. She was one of the world’s highest-paid actresses by 2007 and was named the Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year in 2009.

Zellweger rose to prominence with starring roles in “Jerry Maguire” (1996), “One True Thing” (1998), “Me, Myself and Irene” (2000), and”Nurse Betty” (2000), winning her first Golden Globe Award for the lattermost.

For her portrayals of Bridget Jones in the romantic comedy “Bridget Jones’s Diary” (2001) and its sequels, she became internationally loved and popular. Zellweger garnered consecutive nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actress with her Bridget Jones, and and Roxie Hart in the musical crime drama Chicago (2002). 

10 – Judi Dench 

The British actress built up an amazing career and established herself as one of the most significant British theatre performers but, also received critical acclaim for her work on television. During the 70s and 80s her film appearances were infrequent and included supporting roles in major films, such as A Room with a View (1985). She rose to international fame as M in “GoldenEye” (1995), a role she continued to play in James Bond films until her final appearance in “Spectre” (2015).

A seven-time Academy Award nominee, Dench won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Queen Elizabeth I in “Shakespeare in Love” (1998); her other Oscar-nominated roles were in “Mrs Brown” (1997), “Chocolat” (2000), “Iris” (2001), “Mrs Henderson Presents” (2005), “Notes on a Scandal” (2006) and “Philomena” (2013). 

11 – Reese Witherspoon 

She is an American actress, producer, and entrepreneur. The recipient of various accolades, including an Academy Award, two Golden Globe Awards, and a Primetime Emmy Award, she is one of the highest-paid actresses in the world as of 2019.  Forbes listed her among the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women in 2019.

Witherspoon began her career as a teenager, making her screen debut in “The Man in the Moon” (1991). Following a leading role opposite Mark Wahlberg in “Fear” (1996), her breakthrough came in 1999 with a supporting role in “Cruel Intentions“, and for her portrayal of Tracy Flick in the black comedy “Election“. She gained wider recognition for her role as Elle Woods in the comedy “Legally Blonde” (2001) and its 2003 sequel. In 2005, she garnered critical acclaim for her portrayal of June Carter Cash in the biographical musical film “Walk the Line“, which won her the Academy Award for Best Actress.

She produced and starred as Cheryl Strayed in the drama “Wild” (2014), which earned her a second nomination for “Best Actress” at the Academy Awards. Witherspoon has since begun work in television, by producing and starring in the HBO drama series “Big Little Lies” (2017–2019), the Apple TV+ drama series “The Morning Show” (2019–present), and the Hulu miniseries “Little Fires Everywhere” (2020). For the first of these, she won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Limited Series.

Witherspoon is actively involved in children’s and women’s advocacy organisations. 

12 – Glenn Close

The American actress and producer is long considered one of the great actresses of our time”, according to Vanity Fair. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including three Primetime Emmy Awards, three Tony Awards, and three Golden Globe Awards. She has also been nominated seven times for Academy Awards, holding the record for the most nominations without a win for an actress. 

Her film debut came in “The World According to Garp” (1982), which was followed by supporting roles in the films “The Big Chill” (1983) and “The Natural” (1984); all three earned her nominations for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Close went on to establish herself as a Hollywood leading lady with roles in “Fatal Attraction” (1987) and “Dangerous Liaisons” (1988), both of which earned her nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actress.

From 2007 to 2012, Close starred as Patty Hewes in the drama series “Damages“, which won her a Golden Globe Award and two Primetime Emmy Awards. In 2014, she received two additional Best Actress Academy Award nominations for “Albert Nobbs” (2011) and “The Wife” (2017), winning a third Golden Globe for the latter.

She has made political donations in support of Democratic politicians and is vocal on issues such as gay marriage, women’s rights, and mental health.

13 – Jane Fonda 

One of the most beautiful and talented actresses from the 70s, an activist of human rights and an ex-model. Her debut on the screen was in “Tall Story” (1960) marked the beginning of a highly successful and respected acting career highlighted by two Academy Awards for her performances in “Klute” (1971) and “Coming Home” (1978), and five Oscar nominations for “Best Actress” in “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” (1969), “Julia” (1977), “The China Syndrome” (1979), “The Morning After” (1986) and “On Golden Pond” (1981). Recently, she played the elegant business Grace on Netflix’s comedy-drama series “Grace and Frankie”.

Fonda was a visible political activist in the counterculture era during the Vietnam War. She was photographed sitting on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun on a 1972 visit to Hanoi, during which she gained the nickname “Hanoi Jane”. During this time she was effectively blacklisted in Hollywood. She has also protested the Iraq War and violence against women, and describes herself as a feminist and environmental activist.

 In 2005, she co-founded the Women’s Media Center, an organization that works to amplify the voices of women in the media through advocacy, media and leadership training, and the creation of original content.

14 – Diane Keaton

Known for her idiosyncratic personality and dressing style, Keaton has received an Academy Award, a BAFTA Award, two Golden Globe Awards, and the AFI Life Achievement Award. Keaton rose to prominence with her first major film role as Kay Adams-Corleone in “The Godfather” (1972), a role she reprised in its sequels “The Godfather Part II (1974) and “The Godfather Part III” (1990). The films that most shaped her career were those with director and co-star Woody Allen, such as “Play It Again, Sam” (1972), “Sleeper” (1973) and “Love and Death” (1975), which established her as a comic actress. Her fourth, the romantic comedy “Annie Hall” (1977), won her the Academy Award for Best Actress.

To avoid being typecast as her Annie Hall persona, Keaton became an accomplished dramatic performer, starring in “Looking for Mr. Goodbar” (1977) and “Interiors” (1978). Keaton’s other popular films include “Manhattan” (1979), “Father of the Bride” Part I (1991) and Part II (1995), “Manhattan Murder Mystery” (1993), “The First Wives Club” (1996), “The Family Stone” (2005), “Morning Glory (2010), and “Book Club (2018).

15 – Jessica Lange

The American actress is the 13th actress to achieve the Triple Crown of Acting, won two Academy Awards, three Primetime Emmy Awards, and a Tony Award, along with a Screen Actors Guild Award and five Golden Globe Awards. Lange holds the record for most nominations for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film.

Between 2011 and 2014, she won her first Screen Actors Guild Award, first Critics Choice Award, fifth Golden Globe Award, three Dorian Awards and her second and third Emmy Awards for her performances in the first, second and third seasons of FX‘s horror anthology series “American Horror Story” (2011–2015, 2018). 

16 – Julia Roberts

The American actress and producer won three Golden Globe Awards, from eight nominations, and has been nominated for four Academy Awards for her film acting, winning the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in “Erin Brockovich” (2000). She established herself as a leading lady in Hollywood after headlining the romantic comedy film “Pretty Woman” (1990), which grossed $464 million worldwide. Her films have collectively brought box office receipts of over $2.8 billion, making her one of the most bankable actresses in Hollywood, especially considering that most of her films are not comic book based blockbusters. 

 Her most successful films include “Sleeping with the Enemy” (1991), “My Best Friend’s Wedding” (1997), “Notting Hill” (1999), “Runaway Bride” (1999), “Erin Brockovich” (2000), “Eat Pray Love” (2010), “Money Monster” (2016), and “Wonder” (2017). 

Roberts was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie for her performance in the HBO television film “The Normal Heart” (2014). In 2018, she starred in the Prime Video psychological thriller series “Homecoming“. Roberts was the highest-paid actress in the world throughout most of the 1990s.

17 – Emma Thompson

The brilliant British actress has got two Oscars — one for acting and one for screenwriting — a Golden Globe, an Emmy and three BAFTAs, which are Britain’s version of the Oscars. She’s proven to be as comfortable playing roles like an absentminded professor in the “Harry Potter” movies as she is playing a cancer-stricken English professor in 2001’s “Wit.”

Thompson has continued to move effortlessly between the art film world and mainstream Hollywood, though even her Hollywood roles tend to be in more up-market productions. She continues to work on television as well, but is generally very selective about which roles she takes. She writes for the screen as well, such as the screenplay for Sense and Sensibility” (1995), in which she also starred as Elinor Dashwood, and the teleplay adaptation of Margaret Edson‘s acclaimed play “Wit” (2001), in which she also starred. Always classy and witty, Thompson truly makes acting look effortless.

18 – Natalie Portman  

She is the first person born in the 1980s to have won the Academy Award for Best Actress for Black Swan (2010). Natalie was born in Jerusalem, Israel, but she raised in New York, where she still lives to this day. She was discovered by an agent in a pizza parlour at the age of 11. She was pushed towards a career in modelling but she decided that she would rather pursue a career in acting. She made her powerful film debut in the movie Leon (1994). Natalie won roles in such films as Heat (1995), Beautiful Girls (1996), and Mars Attacks! (1996), Closer (2004).

She received a second nomination for Best Actress, for playing Jacqueline Kennedy in Jackie (2016).

19 – Lisa Kudrow

The American actress, comedian, writer, singer, and producer, after making appearances in several 1980s television sitcoms, became internationally famous in the 1990s portraying Phoebe Buffay in the American sitcom “Friends“, which earned her Primetime Emmy and Screen Actors Guild awards. Her Friends character was widely popular while the series aired and was later recognised as one of the greatest female characters in American television.

Kudrow starred in the cult comedy film “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion” (1997) “The Opposite of Sex” (1998), which won her the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress. In 2005, she went on to produce, write and star in the HBO comedy series “The Comeback“, which was revived nine years later for a second season. 

She produced and starred in the Showtime program “Web Therapy” (2011–2015), which was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award. 

20 – Queen Latifah 

 She is an American singer, songwriter, rapper, actress, and producer. Latifah starred as Khadijah James on the FOX sitcom “Living Single” from 1993 to 1998. Latifah garnered acclaim with her role of Matron “Mama” Morton in the musical film “Chicago” (2002), receiving a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

She created the daytime talk show “The Queen Latifah Show“, which ran from late 2013 to early 2015 on CBS. She has appeared in a number of films, such as “Bringing Down the House” (2003), “Taxi” (2004), “Barbershop 2: Back in Business“(2005), “Beauty Shop “(2005), “Last Holiday” (2006), “Hairspray” (2007), “Joyful Noise” (2012), “22 Jump Street” (2014) and “Girls Trip” (2017).

Latifah received critical acclaim for her portrayal of blues singer Bessie Smith in the HBO film “Bessie” (2015), which she co-produced, winning the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Television Movie. From 2016 to 2019, she starred as Carlotta Brown in the musical drama series “Star“. In 2020, she portrayed Hattie McDaniel in the miniseries “Hollywood“. She has been described as a “feminist” rapper and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2006. 

21- Drew Barrymore

The American actress, producer, director, talk show host and entrepreneur, is a member of the Barrymore family of actors, and the granddaughter of John Barrymore. Barrymore achieved fame as a child actress with her role in “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” (1982). She went on to appear in a string of successful films throughout the 90s decade, including “Poison Ivy” (1992), “Boys on the Side” (1995), “Mad Love” (1995), “Batman Forever” (1995) and “Never Been Kissed” (1999). Barrymore collaborated with Adam Sandler on three films, “The Wedding Singer” (1998), “50 First Dates” (2004) and “Blended” (2014).

Barrymore’s other films include “Charlie’s Angels” (2000), “Donnie Darko” (2001), “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” (2002), “Fever Pitch” (2005), and “Miss You Already” (2015).

Barrymore made her directorial debut film “Whip It” (2009), in which she also starred. She received a SAG Award and a Golden Globe for her performance in “Grey Gardens” (2009). She starred in the Netflix black comedy series, “Santa Clarita Diet“. 

22 – Jodie Foster 

One of the most gifted child actors ever, Jodie Foster has been a mainstay of American screens since she was barely old enough to talk. Her role as a 14-year-old prostitute in “Taxi Driver” (1976) earned her the first of four career Oscar nominations so far. She won two of the statues in wildly different roles, one for playing a traumatised rape survivor in “The Accused” (1988) and one for playing a whip-smart FBI agent in “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991).

Foster has spent more time behind the camera in recent years, earning two Emmy nominations for directing and producing TV shows, but her work as an actress is up there with the best.

23- Michelle Pfeiffer

The American actress and producer is well-known for pursuing eclectic roles in a wide range of film genres, she has consistently received acclaim for her versatile performances. One of the most prolific actresses of the 1980s and 1990s, her accolades include a Golden Globe Award and a British Academy Film Award, as well as nominations for three Academy Awards and one Primetime Emmy Award.

 Her breakout role was that of gangster Tony Montana’s wife in “Scarface” (1983) in which she played a distant and troubled young woman caught up in the Miami drug trade. She starred in “The Witches of Eastwick” (1987), “Married to the Mob” (1988), for which she was nominated for her first of six consecutive Golden Globe Awards, “Dangerous Liaisons” (1988), “The Fabulous Baker Boys” (1989), “The Age of Innocence” (1993) and “White Oleander” (2002), “Wolf “(1994) and “What Lies Beneath“.

Considered a Hollywood sex symbol, several media outlets have cited Pfeiffer among the world’s most beautiful women.

24 – Sally Field

In a career that has spanned more than 50 years on screen, Sally Field has proven to be capable of every role an actor could be offered. She got her start as an innocent-looking, doe-eyed young woman in 1960s shows like “Gidget” and “The Flying Nun” before transitioning to more dramatic roles and instantly proving herself as a powerhouse. She won two Oscars for best leading actress in five years, for her work in 1979’s “Norma Rae” and 1984’s “Places in the Heart.” Those roles followed her Emmy-winning turn in 1976’s “Sybil,” in which she played a woman suffering from mental illness. 

In the 2000s, Field returned to television with a recurring role on the NBC medical drama “ER“, for which she won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series in 2001 and the following year made her stage debut with Edward Albee’s The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?. From 2006 to 2011, she portrayed Nora Walker on the ABC television drama “Brothers & Sisters“, for which she received the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 2007. 

Ageing has only bolstered her career, with Field earning immense acclaim for roles in “Lincoln” (2012) and “Hello, My Name is Doris” (2015).

25 – Lily” Tomlin 

The American actress, comedian, writer, singer, and producer, started her career as a stand-up comedian as well as performing Off-Broadway during the 1960s. She currently stars as Frankie Bergstein on the Netflix series “Grace and Frankie“, which debuted in 2015 and has earned her nominations for four Primetime Emmy Awards, three Screen Actors Guild Awards and a Golden Globe Award.

In 1974, Tomlin made her film debut with Robert Altman‘s Nashville, which earned her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Her other notable films include “9 to 5” (1980), “All of Me” (1984), “Big Business” (1988), “Flirting with Disaster” (1996), “Tea with Mussolini” (1999), “I Heart Huckabees” (2004), and “Grandma” (2015).

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I am a script and creative writer, journalist, producer, and marketing content developer with over 9 years of experience in Media (TV / Film Production), Communication, Journalism and Marketing. I worked for companies such as MTV, Animal Planet, Band, Discovery and, Fremantle Media. I am from Brazil, but I've been living in Dublin, Ireland, since 2017. I am also maniac for entertainment and pop culture.
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