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My Favorite Living Actresses, in No Particular Order

  • Apr 16, 2011
Meryl Streep
Nominated for the Academy Award an astonishing 15 times, Meryl Streep is considered by many to be America's greatest living actress. Known as perfectionist, she can always be counted on to turn in an outstanding performance. Who can forget her work in such diverse films as Kramer vs Kramer, Sophie's Choice, The Hours, Julie and Julia, and Doubt?  Of her performance in Sophie's Choice, the irascible Roger Ebert said, "There is hardly an emotion that Streep doesn't touch in this movie, and yet we're never aware of her straining. This is one of the most astonishing and yet one of the most unaffected and natural performances I can imagine."
Ms. Streep is now 62, and she only gets more beautiful, though she's never afraid to play women who are decidedly unattractive. She's a master of dialect and accents, and occasionally even sings. A Yale graduate, she has received an honorary doctorate from Harvard and Princeton, and even has a Sesame St. character - Meryl Sheep - named for her!  Meryl Streep is truly a national treasure.
Helen Mirren
She was recently called "the thinking man's sex symbol", and she's 65! Helen Mirren made her debut in the 60's and continued to work in the 70's, but didn't really gain much recognition until she played Detective Jane Tennyson in the 90's BBC series Prime Suspect. An actress of astonishing talent, versatility and presence, she's won countless awards and nominations, winning the the Academy Award in the best actress category for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen (2006). She definitely has her bawdy side as well. I like actors who can disappear into their roles, and that's true of no one more than Ms. Mirren.
Julia Roberts
It's hard to pin down the" je ne sais quoi", the factor that makes me admire Julia Roberts. There always comes a point in each of her movies where a part of her performance will really affect me. The scene that comes to mind right now is the one in My Best Friend's Wedding, when her character realizes how snotty she's been, and begs her best friend to forgive her. But there are countless others. She's so real up there on the screen.
Helena Bonham Carter
Every bit as individualist as Johnny Depp, Helena BC is another British standout. Her first leading roles were in Lady Jane and A Room with a View (1985), and most recently has played Queen Elizabeth against Colin Firth in The King's Speech. She is now married to Tim Burton, and the couple has collaborated on several quirky projects, including Alice in Wonderland and Sweeney Todd. My favorite among all of HBC's roles is that of Helen in Howard's End.  In early 2009, Bonham Carter was named one of The Times newspaper's top 10 British Actresses of all time.  It's always fun to look for her on Red Carpets because of her interesting choices in evening wear.
Sandra Bullock
Quintessentially American, down to earth, with a real sense of humility, Sandra Bullock makes you wish you knew her. Her acting style is refreshingly natural. She's stunning, yet can play ordinary women with total credibility. And the roles she picks are almost always interesting ones. So she has questionable taste in men.... Nobody's perfect.
Judi Dench
Dame Judi has been around for a long time, turning out stellar performances that reflect her classical training. From Shakespeare to Telly Britcom, from The Importance of Being Earnest to Ladies in Lavender, she is equally at home on stage and in front of a camera. Married for 30 years, until the death of her husband, Michael Williams, Ms. Dench is not afraid to show, or act, her age. She is beloved both in England and America. I've never seen a better Queen Elizabeth I or Queen Victoria.
Emma Thompson
Not conventionally beautiful, Emma Thompson brings a quiet sophistication and wry sense of humor to her roles. She has the distinction of being the only person to win both acting and screenplay Oscars. Ms. Thompson's range as an actress is vast; she can do Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and Nanny McPhee with equal aplomb. Among her dozens of roles, my favorites are Margaret in Howard's End, for which she won the best actress Oscar, Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing with her then husband Kenneth Branagh, and Kate in Last Chance Harvey, with the great Dustin Hoffman.
Aussie Cate Blanchett first caught my attention when she played the Queen in Elizabeth. Perhaps her most difficult role was that of Katherine Hepburn, an icon if there ever was one, but Cate pulled it off in 2004 in The Aviator, for which she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. Since then her performances in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Notes on a Scandal with Judi Dench, and Lord of the Rings have garnered her countless nominations and awards. Always elegant while managing a slight edginess, her acting range is wide and deep, and she's something of a chameleon. A pleasing mix of beauty, brains, and talent.

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April 23, 2011
Yes they are all brilliant and if I would make this list it would be very similar.
April 22, 2011
Good list! Most of these are my favorites too!
April 21, 2011
Great list! Meryl Streep is my all-time favorite actress.
April 19, 2011
Oh, I love all these women as well! Every single one would be on my own list. Thanks for sharing :)
April 19, 2011
Lots of great British actresses here, but where is Maggie Smith? ; )
April 19, 2011
Well, Count, this is a list of faves, not greats,and good as MS is, she's not quite a fave!
April 19, 2011
Have you compiled a list of favorite male actors as well?
April 20, 2011
Yes, a few weeks ago. Who are your favorites?
April 20, 2011
LOL! Those are lists that I've tried to make several times, but I'm always changing my mind or realizing I've forgotten someone. Alec Guinness remains my favorite male actor and Maggie Smith is probably my favorite female actor, but there are so many that it's impossible for me to name them all in an organized way unless I simply alphabetized them.
April 20, 2011
What about a list called "some of my favorites"?
April 19, 2011
Meh. Outside of Cate Blanchett, I don't see much agreement. Too many "safe" choices. Helen Mirren has some serious chops, though. I could probably get behind that. But Julia Roberts? Really? Sandra Bullock? I just don't see any range on those two actresses yet.
April 19, 2011
Hi Trek, it's a list of faves, not of greats. I like Julia and Sandra because they always manage to affect me emotionally.
April 18, 2011
I love your entire list with the exception of Julia Roberts. I just don't get what it is about her that is so great. Otherwise, Helen Mirren is the hottest woman in the universe and Helena Bonham Carter is one of the main reasons I watch Tim Burton's work!
April 17, 2011
Fine choices...but let's have a little love for the French...Isabelle Huppert...and Chinese...Gong Li.
April 17, 2011
I'd love to include them but am not familiar with their work.
April 16, 2011
ahhh...I dunno why, I have a crush on # 2 and 8. ;)
April 17, 2011
Don't blame you!
April 17, 2011
About the list creator
Linda ()
Ranked #63
After 21 years as a school psychologist, I now work part-time at two local historical museums, giving tours and teaching special programs. This leaves me more time to enjoy my little grandchildren, and … more
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