The Academy Awards have been recognizing exceptional actresses since 1929 when Janet Gaynor won the first Best Actress Oscar. Over the past 93 years, iconic actresses like Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon, and Halle Berry have been honored with the coveted gold trophy for their outstanding contributions to film. At the 2023 Oscars, five talented actresses were nominated for the Best Actress award, including Ana De Armas, Andrea Riseborough, Michelle Williams, Michelle Yeoh, and Cate Blanchett. Ultimately, Michelle Williams won the prize. Take a look back at all of the incredible actresses who have won the Best Actress award at the Academy Awards since 2000.
Michelle Yeoh (2023)
Michelle Yeoh dazzles as Evelyn Wang at the 2023 Oscars: See the Stunning Photos! (Photo: David Fisher/Shutterstock/Allyson Riggs / © A24 / Courtesy Everett Collection)
Michelle Yeoh delivered an emotional and inspiring speech after winning the Best Actress award at the 95th Annual Academy Awards for her portrayal of Evelyn Wang in Everything Everywhere All At Once. In her speech, Michelle expressed her gratitude and dedicated the award to all the little boys and girls who look like her, saying that it’s proof that dreams do come true. She also had a powerful message for women, saying, “Don’t let anybody tell you you are ever past your prime.” This statement was in response to CNN host Don Lemon’s controversial comment that women in their 50s are past their prime, which sparked outrage among many viewers.
Michelle Yeoh accepts her #Oscar for Best Actress: “For all the little boys and girls who look like me watching tonight, this is a beacon of hope and possibilities. This is proof that dreams do come true.” https://t.co/ndiKiHfmID pic.twitter.com/pQN8nHDhCx
— Variety (@Variety) March 13, 2023
After delivering an empowering message to young viewers, Michelle Yeoh thanked the cast and crew of Everything Everywhere All At Once and expressed her gratitude towards her family. “I have to dedicate this to my mom – all the moms in the world because they are really the superheroes and without them, none of this would be here tonight. She’s 84 and I’m taking this home to her,” she said. Michelle then went on to thank more of her loved ones and the Academy before concluding her speech.
Jessica Chastain (2022)
Jessica Chastain stars in the critically acclaimed film ‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye’, based on the true story of televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker.(Stephen Lovekin/Searchlight Pictures/Moviestore/Shutterstock)
Jessica Chastain won the prize for her role as Tammy Faye Bakker, wife of controversial televangelist Jim Bakker, in The Eyes of Tammy Faye, a biopic that outlined the Bakkers’ troubled marriage and her support for LGBT rights. “For any of you out there who do in fact feel hopeless or alone, you are unconditionally loved for the uniqueness that is you,” the actress said during her speech, while condemning the wave of anti-LGBTQ+ bills sweeping the United States. The film also features Andrew Garfield as Jim Bakker, and Cherry Jones as Tammy Faye’s mother Rachel.
Jessica Chastain took home the Best Actress award for her outstanding performance in The Eyes of Tammy Faye, a biographical film that follows the life of televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker and her tumultuous marriage to Jim Bakker, while also highlighting her advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community. In her acceptance speech, Chastain addressed those who feel hopeless or alone, assuring them that they are loved and valued for who they are. She also spoke out against the recent surge of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in the US. Alongside Chastain, the film stars Andrew Garfield as Jim Bakker and Cherry Jones as Tammy Faye’s mother Rachel.
— Good Morning America (@GMA) March 28, 2022
Frances McDormand (2021)
Frances McDormand Wins Best Actress for ‘Nomadland’ at 2021 Oscars (Photo: Chris Pizzello/Pool/Searchlight Pictures/Moviestore/Shutterstock)
Frances McDormand took home her third Academy Award for her role in the film Nomadland. In addition to starring in the movie as a widow who travels around the United States, Frances also served as a producer for the project, which won the coveted Best Picture award at the 2021 Oscars. Her competition in the Best Actress category included talented actresses such as Viola Davis in (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), Andra Day in (The United States vs. Billie Holiday), Vanessa Kirby in (Pieces of a Woman), and Carey Mulligan in (Promising Young Woman).
Renee Zellweger (2020)
Renee Zellweger takes home the award for her portrayal of Judy Garland in the film ‘Judy’ at the 92nd Academy Awards. (Photo: Rob Latour/BBC Films/20th Century Fox/Kobal/Shutterstock)
Renee Zellweger’s portrayal of Judy Garland in the biographical drama film “Judy” earned her a well-deserved Academy Award for Best Actress, her second Oscar overall. She faced strong competition from talented actresses including Cynthia Erivo(Harriet), Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story), Saoirse Ronan (Little Women), and Charlize Theron (Bombshell). Renee impressed the Academy with her performance that depicted the last year of Judy’s iconic career, showcasing her versatility and depth as an actress.
Olivia Colman (2019)
“Olivia Colman in ‘The Favourite’: A Captivating Performance in a Twisted Tale” (Photo: Andrew H. Walker/BEI/A Nishijima/20thCenturyFox/Kobal/Shutterstock)
Olivia Colman caused a major upset at the Academy Awards by taking home the Best Actress award, beating out front-runner Glenn Close who was expected to win for her role in The Wife. Colman’s stunning portrayal of Queen Anne in The Favourite left no doubt as to why she deserved the coveted award. The other nominees in the category included Yalitza Aparicio (Roma), Lady Gaga (A Star Is Born), and Melissa McCarthy for Can You Ever Forgive Me? Colman’s well-deserved win will undoubtedly go down in Oscars history.
Frances McDormand (2018)
“Frances McDormand’s Raw and Riveting Performance in ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri'” (Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/20th Century Fox/Moviestore/Shutterstock)
Frances McDormand‘s earned her second Academy Award for her exceptional performance in the crime drama, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Portraying the character of Mildred Hayes, a mother who seeks justice for her daughter’s brutal murder, McDormand captivated audiences with her raw and riveting portrayal. Her outstanding performance earned her top honors at every major awards show, including the highly coveted Oscar, where she triumphed over other talented nominees including Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water), Margot Robbie (I, Tonya), Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird), and Meryl Streep (The Post). Frances McDormand’s remarkable talent has cemented her as one of the greatest actresses of our time.
Emma Stone (2017)
“Emma Stone in ‘La La Land’: A Captivating Performance in a Cinematic Masterpiece” (Photo: Jim Ruymen/UPI/Dale Robinette/Black Label Media/Kobal/Shutterstock)
Emma Stone delivered a stunning performance as Mia Dolan, the talented musician in the critically acclaimed movie La La Land. Her acting prowess was acknowledged by the Academy when she won her first Oscar award, beating out Isabelle Huppert (Elle), Ruth Negga (Loving), Natalie Portman (Jackie), and Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins). Emma had previously been nominated for an Oscar for her role in Birdman in 2015. The Oscars ceremony was also marked by the memorable mix-up when La La Land was initially announced as the winner for Best Picture, before it was later revealed that Moonlight had actually won the award.
Brie Larson (2016)
“Brie Larson Shines in the Powerful Film ‘Room’: A Compelling Performance That Captivates Audiences” (Photo: Chelsea Lauren/Caitlin Cronenberg/Element/No Trace Camping/Kobal/Shutterstock)
Brie Larson’s spellbinding portrayal of a woman trapped with her young son in the movie ‘Room’ was both haunting and powerful, earning her recognition from both viewers and The Academy. Under the direction of Lenny Abrahamson, ‘Room‘ garnered Brie her very first Academy Award nomination, which she went on to win. Competing against formidable actresses such as Cate Blanchett (Carol), Jennifer Lawrence (Joy), Charlotte Rampling (45 Years), and Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn), Brie’s win was a testament to her exceptional acting talent.
Julianne Moore (2015)
“Julianne Moore Delivers a Compelling Performance in ‘Still Alice’: A Heart-Wrenching Portrayal of Alzheimer’s Disease”(Photo: Jim Ruymen/UPI/Jojo Whilden/Killer/Big Indie/Sony/Kobal/Shutterstock)
Julianne Moore incredible acting career culminated in her long-overdue Academy Award win, for her exceptional performance in ‘Still Alice’. In the movie, Julianne plays the role of a linguistics professor who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, just before her 50th birthday. Alec Baldwin plays her supportive husband, while Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, and Hunter Parrish portray their children. The Academy recognized Julianne’s outstanding acting talent over fellow nominees Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night), Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything), Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl), and Reese Witherspoon (Wild).
Cate Blanchett (2014)
“Cate Blanchett’s Stellar Performance in ‘Blue Jasmine’: A Compelling Portrayal of a Woman on the Verge of Collapse”(Photo: Jim Ruymen/UPI/Gravier Prods/Perdido Productions/Kobal/Shutterstock)
Cate Blanchett‘s second Oscar came from playing a rich Manhattan socialite who moves into her working sister’s apartment in San Francisco. Blue Jasmine got Cate the gold statuette over Amy Adams (American Hustle), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Judi Dench (Philomena), and Meryl Streep (August: Osage County). Cate also won the Golden Globe, the SAG Award, and the BAFTA Award for her leading role in Blue Jasmine.
Cate Blanchett‘s phenomenal talent as an actress was showcased in her outstanding performance in ‘Blue Jasmine’, a movie that earned her a second Academy Award. In the movie, Cate portrays the character of a wealthy Manhattan socialite who moves in with her sister in San Francisco, as she faces a personal crisis. Cate’s exceptional performance earned her the coveted award, beating out other noteworthy actresses including Amy Adams (American Hustle), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Judi Dench (Philomena), and Meryl Streep (August: Osage County). Additionally, Cate received recognition for her performance in ‘Blue Jasmine‘ with the Golden Globe, SAG Award, and BAFTA Award for Best Actress.
Jennifer Lawrence (2013)
“Jennifer Lawrence’s Award-Winning Performance in ‘Silver Linings Playbook’: A Touching Portrayal of Mental Health and Romance” (Photo: Jim Ruymen/UPI/Mirage Enterprises/Kobal/Shutterstock)
Do you recall when Jennifer Lawrence stumbled at the Academy Awards? Just to refresh your memory, it occurred as she was making her way to the stage to receive the Best Actress award, beating out Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty), Emmanuelle Riva (Amour), Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild), and Naomi Watts (The Impossible) for her outstanding portrayal of Tiffany Maxwell in Silver Linings Playbook. The widely acclaimed film focused on mental illness and highlighted the exceptional acting skills of both Jennifer and her co-star Bradley Cooper‘s. Jennifer is a recipient of one Oscar and has been nominated four times.
Meryl Streep (2012)
Meryl Streep Stars in ‘The Iron Lady’ (Image: Phil Mccarten/UPI/Pathe/Kobal/Shutterstock)
Meryl Streep portrayal of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady” earned her the third Academy Award of her career. This remarkable performance also marked Meryl’s 17th Oscar nomination and is widely regarded as one of the greatest acting achievements of her illustrious career. Among her fellow nominees were Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs), Viola Davis (The Help), Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), and Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn), all of whom delivered outstanding performances.
Natalie Portman (2011)
Natalie Portman Shines in ‘Black Swan’ (Image: Phil Mccarten/UPI/Fox Searchlight/Kobal/Shutterstock)
Natalie Portman delivered a breathtaking performance in Darren Aronfsky‘s psychological thriller “Black Swan,” where she portrayed Nina Sayers, a ballerina who slowly loses her sanity while striving for perfection. The Best Actress category of the Academy Awards had several strong contenders, including Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right), Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole), Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone), and Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine). However, Natalie’s mesmerizing acting skills were too remarkable to ignore, and she emerged victorious as the well-deserved winner.
Sandra Bullock (2010)
Sandra Bullock Shines in ‘The Blind Side’ (Image: Phil Mccarten/UPI/Warner Bros Pictures/Kobal/Shutterstock)
Sandra Bullock remarkable performance in “The Blind Side” earned her both critical and commercial acclaim. The movie, which is based on a true story, follows the story of a white family who adopts a Black teenager and supports his journey to becoming an NFL player. Alongside Sandra, the film starred Tim McGraw as her husband, and Quinon Aaron as “Big Mike.” Sandra’s performance in the movie earned her an Academy Award, her first and only win so far, in a category that included other brilliant actresses such as Helen Mirren (That Last Station), Carey Mulligan (An Education), Gabourey Sidibe (Precious), and Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia).
Kate Winslet (2009)
Kate Winslet Shines in ‘The Reader’ (Image: Jim Ruymen/UPI/Weinstein Co/Kobal/Shutterstock)
Kate Winslet competed against Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married), Angelina Jolie (Changeling), Melissa Leo (Frozen River), and Meryl Streep (Doubt) to earn her first Academy Award. She was honored for her portrayal of Hanna Schmitz, a former Nazi concentration camp guard on trial for war crimes, in the Holocaust drama film “The Reader“. Her character’s relationship with a young lawyer, played by Ralph Fiennes, is also masterfully portrayed. Kate’s Academy Award win was well-deserved.
Marion Cotillard (2008)
“Marion Cotillard’s spellbinding performance in ‘La Vie en Rose’ captivates audiences”
Marion Cotillard made a splash in U.S. cinema thanks to her role as French singer Edith Piaf in the biographical musical La Vie en Rose. Marion was the first Best Actress winner since Sophia Loren to be rewarded for a foreign-language performance. Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth: The Golden Age), Julie Christie (Away from Her), Laura Linney (The Savages) and Elliot Page (Juno) were the talented stars who lost to Marion in her first Oscar win.
Marion Cotillard rose to fame in the American film industry with her outstanding portrayal of legendary French singer Edith Piaf in the biographical musical “La Vie en Rose.” Her exceptional performance earned her the distinction of being the first Best Actress winner for a foreign-language role since Sophia Loren win. Marion bested other highly talented actresses, including Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth: The Golden Age), Julie Christie (Away from Her), Laura Linney (The Savages) and Elliot Page (Juno) for her well-deserved Oscar win.
Helen Mirren (2007)
“Helen Mirren reigns supreme as ‘The Queen’ in critically acclaimed performance” (Photo: Alex Berliner/BEI/Pathe/Kobal/Shutterstock)
In the aftermath of Princess Diana’s untimely death, screenwriter Peter Morgan created “The Queen” as a platform to showcase Helen Mirren’s exceptional acting abilities. In the film, Helen portrays Queen Elizabeth II as she tries to keep the British monarchy intact amidst the tragedy. Helen’s remarkable performance earned her a well-deserved Academy Award win, beating out stiff competition from Penelope Cruz (Volver), Judi Dench (Notes on a Scandal), Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada), and Kate Winslet (Little Children). This was Helen’s third nomination at the Oscars, and her win was widely celebrated as a crowning achievement in her illustrious career.
Reese Witherspoon (2006)
“Reese Witherspoon’s powerhouse performance in ‘Walk the Line’ earns her Oscar gold” (Photo: Jim Smeal/BEI/Suzanne Tenner/20th Century Fox/Kobal/Shutterstock)
Reese Witherspoon‘s portrayal of country music icon June Carter Cash in “Walk the Line” propelled her career to new heights, securing her first Academy Award win. Despite her notable roles in films such as “Election” and “Legally Blonde,” it was her powerhouse performance as June Carter Cash that truly solidified her status as a Hollywood superstar. Competing against fellow nominees Judi Dench (Mrs. Henderon Presents), Felicity Huffman (Transamerica), Keira Knightley (Pride & Prejudice) and Charlize Theron (North Country), Reese emerged as the deserving winner, showcasing her range and depth as an actress.
Hilary Swank (2005)
“Hilary Swank delivers a knockout performance in ‘Million Dollar Baby’ to clinch Oscar win” (Photo: Jim Smeal/BEI/Warner Bros/Kobal/Shutterstock)
Hilary Swank took home her second Oscar for playing underdog amateur boxer Maggie Fitzgerald in Million Dollar Baby. Hilary won Best Actress over Annette Bening (Being Julia), Catalina Sandino Moreno (Maria Full of Grace), Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake), and Kate Winslet (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), while the sports drama film won Best Picture.
Hilary Swank portrayal of a determined amateur boxer, Maggie Fitzgerald, in “Million Dollar Baby” earned her a second Academy Award win. Hilary’s stellar performance in the sports drama film prevailed over other nominees Annette Bening (Being Julia), Catalina Sandino Moreno (Maria Full of Grace), Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake), and Kate Winslet (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). Additionally, the film itself was recognized with the Best Picture award, solidifying its place as one of the most critically acclaimed movies of the year.
Charlize Theron (2004)
“Charlize Theron’s transformative performance in ‘Monster’ earns her well-deserved Oscar win” (Photo: Gene Page/Mdp/New Market/Kobal/Shutterstock)
Charlize Theron captivating portrayal of real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos in “Monster” earned her a well-deserved Best Actress win at the 2004 Academy Awards. Not only did Charlize deliver a riveting performance, but she also produced the film and starred alongside Christina Ricci as Aileen’s lover Selby Wall. Despite stiff competition from Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider), Diane Keaton (Something’s Gotta Give), Samantha Morton (In America), and Naomi Watts (21 Grams). Charlize’s portrayal of the complex character was widely acclaimed, cementing her status as a Hollywood heavyweight.
Nicole Kidman (2003)
Nicole Kidman’s Oscar-nominated performance in ‘The Hours’ (Photo: Picture Perfect/Clive Coote/Paramount/Miramax/Kobal/Shutterstock)
Nicole Kidman’s portrayal of Virginia Woolf in ‘The Hours‘ left an indelible impression on viewers. Despite stiff competition from Salma Hayek (Frida), Diane Lane (Unfaithful), Julianne Moore (Far From Heaven), and Renee Zellweger (Chicago), Kidman’s transformation into Woolf was simply unparalleled. The film, which received a total of nine Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, remains a shining example of Kidman’s exceptional acting ability.
Halle Berry (2002)
Halle Berry’s groundbreaking performance in ‘Monster’s Ball’ (Photo: BEI/Jeanne Louise Bulliard/Lions Gate/Kobal/Shutterstock)
Halle Berry‘s Academy Award win in 2002 for Best Actress was a groundbreaking moment in Hollywood history that still resonates today. As the only African-American woman to have received the honor to date, her performance in ‘Monster’s Ball‘ was widely lauded by both fans and critics. The Academy’s decision to award Berry over the other deserving nominees, including Judi Dench (Iris), Nicole Kidman (Moulin Rouge!), Sissy Spacek (In the Bedroom), and Renee Zellweger (Bridget Jones’s Diary). marked a significant moment of progress and recognition for diversity in the film industry.
Julia Roberts (2001)
Julia Roberts’ iconic performance in ‘Erin Brockovich’ (Photo: Bei/Bob Marshak/Universal/Kobal/Shutterstock)
Julia Roberts career reached new heights with her portrayal of real-life legal clerk Erin Brockovich, for which she received her first-ever Academy Award. In addition to her Oscar win, Roberts was also recognized with a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe, and a SAG Award for her powerful performance in the film. Her triumph at the Oscars came after beating out strong competition from Joan Allen (The Contender), Juliette Binoche (Chocolat), Ellen Burstyn (Requiem for a Dream), and Laura Linney (You Can Count On Me). ‘Erin Brockovich’ remains one of the most celebrated projects in Julia Roberts’ impressive filmography.
Hilary Swank (2000)
Unleashing Hilary Swank’s raw talent in ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ (Photo: Stewart Cook/Creator: Moviestore/Shutterstock)
Hilary Swank won an Oscar before Million Dollar Baby, and it was for playing a real-life trans man who faces a brutal hate crime in Boys Don’t Cry. It’s considered Hilary’s first widely-recognized role in cinema, and was powerful enough to defeat fellow Best Actress noms Annette Bening (American Beauty), Janet McTeer (Tumbleweeds), Julianne Moore (The End of the Affair), and Meryl Streep (Music of the Heart).
Hilary Swank remarkable talent was recognized in Hollywood even before her iconic role in Million Dollar Baby. She received an Academy Award for her portrayal of a real-life transgender man who was subjected to a vicious hate crime in Boys Don’t Cry. This was a breakthrough moment for Hilary, as it marked her first major role in cinema and cemented her position as a leading actress in the industry. She beat out other accomplished actresses like Annette Bening (American Beauty), Janet McTeer (Tumbleweeds), Julianne Moore (The End of the Affair), and Meryl Streep (Music of the Heart). to take home the Best Actress award.