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Team Top Ten: Oscar's Greatest Losers (Actress Edition)

Hepburn won 4 Oscars. Every win leaves a trail of four lossesAmir here, to bring you our newest Team Top Ten. You may remember we tackled the best directors of the new century in our first episode and each first Tuesday of the month Nathaniel and all the contributors will vote on a new list. This time it’s all about two things I’m sure you all love as much as we do:

...Actresses & Oscar.

This is a list of the greatest performances that lost the Best Actress award. We’ve looked at the pool of 337 performances that were nominated for an Oscar in that category but failed to win and we ranked them in the order of our individual preference, irrespective of the actresses that won in any given year.

It was quite a heavy task, as you can imagine. How would you go about choosing only ten among so many stellar turns? 80 different performances managed to get at least one vote from our contributors. Actresses who have had multiple unsuccessful nominations were generally the victims of an internal spread of votes. Meryl Streep is the most glaring example, of course. Four of her performances garnered votes, but none was popular enough to make the cut. Katharine Hepburn’s performances were similarly divisive, though one of them stood head and shoulders above the rest as you will see below. There were surprising inclusions and even more surprising exclusions but the main takeaway was consensus over performances that have found their place in the critical canon. Only 6 ladies from this new century made the top 30, which is reason to rejoice, in my opinion -- old treasures aren’t forgotten just yet.

Swanson gave good face.

Nathaniel will share runners-up and some juicy trivia and stats because this experiment really deserves a lot more than a list of ten names. For now, however, here are the actresses Team Experience deems the greatest Oscar losers of all time:

are after the jump...

surprise! Holly Hunter made the list

10. Holly Hunter (Broadcast News, 1987)
Lost to Cher in Moonstruck

"The leads in so many romantic comedies blend together into a blandly likable blur. Not so with Holly Hunter in Broadcast News. She takes the trope of the hardworking professional woman who is great at her job but unlucky in love, and imbues her with a crackling specificity. Far from sanding down her rough edges, Hunter embraces them, from her crying jags, to her stubbornness, to her clumsy grabs at love, to that southern accent she makes no attempt to disguise. Hunter’s Jane Craig topped my ballot because she is the gold standard against which I measure all other romantic comedy performances."
- Michael C.

nine more iconic performances after the jump...

09. Katharine Hepburn (The Philadelphia Story, 1940)
Lost to Ginger Rogers in Kitty Foyle

"It is probably inaccurate to call The Philadelphia Story a star vehicle, and yet Katharine Hepburn’s turn as Tracy Lords might make you think otherwise. She channels all the perceived characteristics of herself, and familiar characteristics of old characters – the supercilious glare, the self consciousness beautifulness, the goddess like quality combated by her tangible realness –into creating this maddening, beguiling, delightful, spoiled woman. Consequently, even when the film and its characters seems to be plotting against her interest, Katharine/Tracy coaxes it, not very gently, into submitting to her. This may be an ensemble film and Hepburn may not even have top billing – but the way Tracy Samantha Lords endures in your mind for a lifetime afterward is proof one of the brightest star turns by an actor."
- Andrew K.

08. Julianne Moore (Far From Heaven, 2002)
Lost to Nicole Kidman in The Hours

"Cathy Whitaker, is a woman who is living in purgatory: so trapped in her roles as devoted wife and mother, that she can only see heaven as something unattainable. Moore's performance however is miraculous, she takes one of the most parodied styles of acting - the 1950s melodrama - and through endless layers of fear, restrained passion and endless compassion, turns it into something sublime."
- Jose Solis

07. Gloria Swanson (Sunset Boulevard, 1950)
Lost to Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday

"The thing about Gloria Swanson's performance is that you remember it. I last saw Sunset Boulevard several years ago, and indeed my favorite thing about the movie is not her performance, but that when you think about the film, you see her. She is indelible in one's mind, iconic, terrifying, and tragic. She is repulsive, but you can't turn away, and you'll never forget."
- Deborah Lipp

06. Gena Rowlands (A Woman Under the Influence, 1974)
Lost to Elle Burstyn in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore

"Gena Rowlands' Mabel Longhetti is a woman whose mental demons are realised physically, raging and crying and spitting in reaction to the actions and people who send her spiralling around in her own headspace. The way Rowlands extends the script into her movement is almost exhausting. It's an ingeniously visceral performance that is acutely attuned to a woman who recognises her demons but cannot bare to admit them, and is constantly in a fierce battle with both herself and those around her. When Mabel says to her children that she hopes they never grow up, you know it's because she wishes she never had, because she doesn't know how to behave in a world with a stopper on emotion, and Rowlands' pure energy, whether excitably waiting for the school bus or viciously ranting against her husband, shades that longing with an unsurpassable melancholy."
- David Upton

... and now the top five, though it should be noted that Gena Rowlands at #6 was in a virtual tie with the next two ladies (Ballots were weighted to reflect high placements and appearance on multiple lists)

05. Emily Watson (Breaking the Waves, 1996)
Lost to Frances McDormand in Fargo

"I suppose that there are more obscure performances nominated for the Best Actress Oscar than Emily Watson's as the special and religious Bess McNeil in Breaking the Waves, but there are none with more pressing mysteries. How could an actress start over and exude such innocence? How could someone embark on the most operatic descents in movie history and not make it seem exploitative? We'll never know, but when we watch Bess we take on her philosophy - we stop asking, we start believing."
- Paolo

04. Barbara Stanwyck (Double Indemnity, 1944)
Lost to Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight

"The greatest femme fatale in the history of the species, not least because Stanwyck isn’t in the remotely interested in playing the simplistic, misogynistic figure familiar from so many later noirs. Her Phyllis Dietrichson isn’t just an ice-blooded fiend (though she’s never not that); she makes sure to let us in on the nerves, the almost girlish anticipation, and the mixture of satisfaction and paranoia that shows how this killer is first of all a person, with motivations and impulses that are uncomfortably recognizable despite her warped inhumanity."
- Tim Brayton

3. Kate Winslet (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, 2004)
Lost to Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby

"By the time Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was released, Kate Winslet had already gained a reputation as an emotionally fearless actress and the go-to when the role required a corset. So, when she appeared in Michel Gondry's head-tripping, heart-stirring, modern-day masterpiece, shed of the period garb, her hair, a series of crayola-hued concoctions, and full of a new, spontaneous energy, it was a Kate we had never seen before. But, even if we hadn't been aware of her work previously, Winslet's Clementine Kruczynski would still be an astonishing achievement. In what could have easily turned into a manic pixie dream girl, Winslet fully fleshes her out –finding the flaws and insecurities behind the quirks. Impulsive, combative, and irrational at times, Winslet never shies away from making her a real, complex–even unlikable–woman. But, despite her faults, we come to realize this "f***ed-up girl, just trying to find her own piece of mind" is someone we'd never erase from our memory."
- "Abstew" Andrew Stewart

... The top two were clear and decisive winners of this poll, far ahead of the pack. Praise be to the 1950s and that decades glorious actressing.

02. Bette Davis as Margo Channing (All About Eve, 1950)
Lost to Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday

"How many roles as famous as those like Bette Davis as Margo Channing in All About Eve were originally cast with different actors? Davis did such an outstanding, iconic turn as aging Broadway star Channing that it’s hard to imagine Claudette Colbert in the role as originally planned. It’s hard to imagine why I’m even having to write this passage. Alas, that’s what comes from being a participant in what is surely one of the most famous actress line-ups of all time. Losing votes to equally iconic Gloria Swanson as well as her own co-star, Anne Baxter, meant that Judy Holliday walked away with the statue. Davis lost the Golden Globe, too, but at least she won a prize from the hoi polloi of the Cannes Film Festival!"
- Glenn Dunks

01. Judy Garland (A Star Is Born, 1954)
Lost to Grace Kelly in Country Girl

"What Garland ultimately presents is an astonishing synthesis of Gene Kelly's indefatigable physical energy and Bette Davis's dramatic intensity, including in moments where her acting stands wholly apart from musical performance. You have to have real mettle to survive the unexpectedly vicious tirade that a studio publicist unleashes on her when Vicki won't attend an Academy benefit in the final minutes of the film, for patently obvious reasons. Garland survives it, and then bellows back with her own redoubtable gust of jealous self-defense, even as the character's nerves are obviously, completely frayed."
- From Nick Davis's essay on Garland's performance

Did your all-time favorite make the list? Would you have handed Oscars to all ten of these women?

RELATED: Part Two #11-25 from out lists, the "just-missed" ladies that gathered a lot of support

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Reader Comments (95)

Of their fields: Everyone but #10 and #2 wins their year, personally preferring Swanson's high energy turn to the more subtle work from Bette Davis and Glenn Close's Alex Forest (who also lost, lest we forget)
Of their years:
10. Close Still Wins (for Fatal Attraction)
9. Rosalind Russell, His Girl Friday
8. Yep
7 & 2. Machiko Kyo, Rashomon (has to realize four different people and make them all seem equally plausible. No one really talks about this perf. If Acting is like high-diving, then this deserves more recognition just on the insanely increased degree of difficulty.)
6. Yep.
5. Brenda Blethyn (view McDormand as supporting)
4. Yep
3. Holly Hunter, The Incredibles (yes, voice stumping again)
1. Grace Kelly, Rear Window. (Of the field, Garland's loss is more than a little disappointing, but the result was that weird "right person, wrong movie" thing that happens a lot with the Oscar.)

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Volvagia -- except that Grace in Rear Window isn't even a patch on Judy's enormous perfect performance. I realize that the princess mythology is deeply embedded with Oscar (and with society at large... see also Jennifer Lawrence beating Emmanuelle Riva and more... there's an obvious example AT LEAST once a decade) but it's really silly to me that Grace Kelly has an Oscar and so many great great movie stars wtih far richer, longer filmographies don't. She was a beautiful movie star who could also act. but was she ever oscar worthy? I'd say no.

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenternathanielr

i personally think Swanson and even Anne Baxter deserved it more than Davis that year

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commentereduardo

Sally Kirkland - Anna
Julianne Moore - Far From Heaven
Gena Rowlands -Gloria
Bette Davis - All About Eve

I won't bore anyone further. :-)

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBilly Held An Oscar

No Cate Blanchett's "Elizabeth"???

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGolden

my 10

shue - leaving las vegas
streep - silkwood
spacek - in the bedroom
tyler moore - ordinairy people
goldberg - the color purple
close - dangerous liasons
fontaine - rebecca
bergman - autumn sonata
sarandon - thelma and louise
bonham carter - the wings of the dove

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermark

I didn't rank these, but this is my Top Ten:

Marsha Mason in Only When I Laugh

Ellen Burstyn in The Exorcist

Julie Christie in Away From Her

Anne Bancroft in The Graduate

Ellen Burstyn in Requiem For a Dream

Jessica Lange in Frances

Jennifer Jones in Love Letters

Greta Garbo in Camille

Bette Davis in All About Eve

Judy Garland in A Star is Born

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Billy -- oh sally. i could have easily filled my top ten with all 80s performances ;)

May 7, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Until I get my hands on a copy of Edith Evans's work in "The Whisperers," I have to refrain. (I trust Nick D.'s take on this film and am dying to see it.)

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterzig

Kidman's win was category fraud because she should have been competing against Streep and Moore anyway. Moore should have won for Far From Heaven.

1950 was tough. I adore the 3 pics so much, but I think it went the right way. I loved Holliday's performance.

1944 I go with Greer Garson for Mrs. Parkington. Having watched some of her films recently, I think she was quite good, although under the heavy thumb of Mayer. Very Streep-like in so many ways. Stanwyck would be my #2 in this year, but she was robbed earlier for Stella Dallas, Ball of Fire, and later, Sorry, Wrong Number.

Hunter and Close were awesome, but I still go with Cher.

Garland losing out to Grace Kelly is definitely the most heartbreaking loss and much worse than, ssy, Paltrow's win over Blanchett.

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPam

Bravo (and brava) gang! Wonderful selections. Yeah I probably would have put Streep's Silkwood in here - replacing Holly Hunter but I totally get what Michael C writes. I want to really applaud the inclusion of Gena Rowlands (although I think she should be higher on the list - just behind Stanwyck but in front of Winslet and Watson). Her performance in WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE is one of the most raw experiences I've ever watched. But I do agree that there are 5 absolutely classic, one-of-a-kind, probably couldn't be matched performances on this list and they are: Hepburn, Swanson, Stanwyck, Davis and Garland. 5 magical moments of when the absolute perfect actress found herself in a perfect role for herself. I'm sorry but I can't believe there were any better actresses for those roles and that's marvelous when it happens. Yes - I believe Streep's was Sophie's Choice and Taylor's was Virginia Woolf but it doesn't happen that often, does it? Thanks for this list - very much fun to read - and I'm looking forward to tomorrow's runner-ups. Streep better be in that list!!! lol

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbillybil

11. Cate Blanchett - Elizabeth
9. Gena R
8. Edith Evans - The Whisperers
7. Michelle Pfeiffer - The Fabulous Baker Boys
6. Emmanuelle Riva - Amour
5. Ellen Burstyn - Requiem for a Dream
4. Joanne Woodward - Rachel, Rachel
3. Glenn Close - Dangerous Liaisons
2. Kim Stanley - Seance of a Wet Afternoon
1. Katharine Hepburn - Long Day's Journey Into Night

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterManolis

My top 5:
1. Bette Davis in All About Eve
2. Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard
3. Judy Garland in A Star Is Born
4. Glenn Close in Dangerous Liaisons
5. Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterStefano

11. Cate Blanchett - Elizabeth
10. Isabelle Adjani - The Story of Adele H.
9. Gena Rowlands - Opening Night
8. Edith Evans - The Whisperers
7. Michelle Pfeiffer - The Fabulous Baker Boys
6. Emmanuelle Riva - Amour
5. Ellen Burstyn - Requiem for a Dream
4. Joanne Woodward - Rachel, Rachel
3. Glenn Close - Dangerous Liaisons
2. Kim Stanley - Seance of a Wet Afternoon
1. Katharine Hepburn - Long Day's Journey Into Night

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterManolis

streep - bridges of madison county
bergman - autumn sonata
blanchett - elizabeth

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commentergeorge

Pam, thanks for the shoutout to Greer--she is my second favorite of all time, and so underappreciated.

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Oh boy. This list will be exhausting.

20s Pickford and Gaynor both won. No qualms.

30s Irene Dunne, The Awful Truth

40s Joan Fontaine, Rebecca
Barbara Stanwyck, Ball of Fire
Celia Johnson, Brief Encounter
Barbara Stanwyck, Double Indemnity
Irene Dunne, I Remember Mama (though my favorite that year was Stanwyck in Sorry, Wrong Number)

50s Gloria Swanson, Sunset Boulevard and Bette Davis, All About Eve (But I do love Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday)
Judy Garland, A Star is Born (Wyman in Magnificent Obsession and Hepburn in Sabrina also much more deserving)
Carroll Baker, Baby Doll
Elizabeth Taylor, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Shirley MacLaine, The Apartment (Liz HATED winning this Oscar)
Bette Davis, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (But Bancroft winning did give us one of the greatest acts of passive aggression ever shown at the Academy Awards by Joan Crawford accepting Bancroft's award)
Anne Bancroft, The Graduate
Jane Fonda, They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

Glenda Jackson, Sunday Bloody Sunday
Barbra Steisand, The Way We Were
Gena Rowlands, A Woman Under the Influence
-This decade was the least disagreeable. Performances I loved were at least acknowledged and nominated. But hard to argue with winners.

Diane Keaton, Reds
Jessica Lange, Frances
1984 was so weak in the infamous 'You really, really like me!' Oscars
Whoopi Goldberg, The Color Purple
Sigourney Weaver, Aliens (Why was I not aware this was nominated?)
Glenn Close, Dangerous Liaisons
Michelle Pfeiffer, The Fabulous Baker Boys

Dammit, why did Thelma & Louise happen the same year as Silence of the Lambs?
Mary McDonnell, Passion Fish
Winona Ryder, Little Women (It was a WEAK year)
Kate Winslet, Titanic
Fernanda Montenegro, Central Station
Julianne Moore, The End of the Affair

Ellen Burstyn, Requiem of A Dream
Nicole Kidman, Moulin Rouge!
Kate Winslet, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Keira Knightley, Pride & Prejudice
Penelope Cruz, Volver
Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married

Viola Davis, The Help
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty (Sorry, y'all. I was always Team Trintignant before Team Riva)

Celia Johnson, Brief Encounter
Jane Fonda, They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Judy Garland, A Star is Born
Bette Davis, All About Eve
Gena Rowlands, A Woman Under the Influence
Shirley MacLaine, The Apartment
Sigourney Weaver, Aliens
Barbara Stanwyck, Double Indemnity
Carroll Baker, Baby Doll

Honorable mentions: Pfeiffer, Chastain, Bancroft, Swanson, and Goldberg

You wonder why Jane Fonda never got the princess treatment early in her career when she learned her lesson from her Barbarella days and briefly returned as Henry Fonda's daughter. It was in her most tumultuous decade she got 2 Oscars, one directly related to a conflict people still see and talk about when she is brought up. Basically I'm saying They Shoot Horses, Don't They? would have been the worthiest princess crowning because it is one of the best performances of the 60s.

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

I said it before & I'll say it again & AGAIN:

GLENN CLOSE "DANGEROUS LIAISONS" the fact that she lost to a performance that was, at BEST t.v. movie material is SURREAL!...

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterstjeans

Nat: I can kind of see that, but, sorry, Garland is just second place for me that year, on an overall basis.

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Great article! Might not agree with all of them but all these "losers" were fabulous in their respective films.

Just want to point out that Katherine Hepburn's character is Tracy Lord, not Lords. I kept thinking of that other Traci Lords. HA HA

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterIsabel

Oh, I did it wrong. Here's my new list w/o ranking:

Garland- Star is Born
Streep - Silkwood
Clayburgh - An Unmarried Woman
Fontaine - Rebecca
Sarandon/Davis tie - Thelma and Louise
Goldberg - The Color Purple
Streisand - the Way We Were
Stanwyck - Stella Dallas
Thompson - Remains of the Day or S&S
Blanchett - Elizabeth

Davis - The Help
Lombard - My Man Godfrey or Made For Each Other (not nominated)
Baxter - All About Eve
Kerr- The Sundowners
MacLaine - The Apartment

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPam

Making this list was maybe the hardest thing I've ever done, and that's without having seen about half of the nominated performances! I'll hold off on saying who I voted for until after the runners-up article, but I will say that, partially against my better judgment, I did not include Bette Davis in All About Eve, because every time I had her on the list, I couldn't live with myself for not including Anne Baxter (who has a trickier part and is just about as good as Davis is), and I just couldn't give up two slots to one movie. Same thing happened with my beloved Thelma and Louise, although I eliminated them early on because I've never been able to separate them.

The only inclusions which surprised me (but only slightly) were Hunter and Watson. But that was mostly because there were two performances that I felt certain would make this list that didn't, despite their relative new-ness. I think this list is proof, though, that certain performances really do just stand above the rest.

She wasn't my #1 (this time), but Judy Garland in A Star is Born is definitely in my Top 10 performances given by anyone, ever, on film. Monuments should be built in honor of that performance.

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

I recently found some youtube vids of an old game show "what's my line", in which some of these glorious ladys (Gloria Swanson, Bette Davis, Judy Garland and Liza, Gena Rowland) all appears. It was great entertainment.

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRicopolo

Brookesboy-- every once in awhile I get insomnia and stay up watching classic movie montages on YouTube. Found a great one the other day called "The Pidgeons". Check it out!

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPam

I know I've written this before but here I go again - Glenn Close played her role in Dangerous Liaisons with too much calculation. If you had the chance to see the original play you'd understand why the character should be so womanly, so sensual, so passionate because then her calculation just adds a tremendous dimension to the part. THE actress who should have played the female lead in this movie was/is Kathleen Turner. OMG she would have been magnificent in the part. So passionate, so sensual, so womanly and yet you also would totally believe she was that caluclating and powerful. God I wish one of the two movie versions would have cast this role correctly. YES - this is a role even Streep couldn't have played as well as Turner.

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbillybil

yes - I can certainly see Burstyn in Requim landing pretty high in the runner-ups - another amazing actor/role moment and a very raw performance

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbillybil

Mary Tyler Moore and Anne Bancroft should be on this list, but I'm glad Judy is #1.

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Gloria Swanson's loss for 'Sunset Boulevard' is the one that bugs me the most. I don't understand how she lost...not only was her performance amazing, but she had sentiment on her side. It's a real shame that she was never properly recognized by the film industry.

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike M.

Good list. Of course I would have included my favorite film performance of all time - Glenn Close as the Marquise de Merteuil, and Bening's Carolyn Burnham had to be close to making the list.

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSawyer

Glenn Close deserves her own annual month at The Film Experience if for no other reason as protest against her lack of statuettes on the mantel from the Academy. Dangerous Liaisons will not be moved from its position as the gravest Oscar injustice of them all.

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

Mike M.: I agree. If only 'Sunset Boulevard' had been released a little earlier! Principal photography was completed by mid-1949. The release was delayed when test audiences reacted poorly to the original opening scene.

And 'Born Yesterday' came out at the very end of 1950. If it had been pushed back a bit, I'm sure we would have had Gloria Swanson in 1949, Bette Davis in 1950, and Vivien Leigh in 1951. How's that for a holy trinity?

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLynn

Meryl Streep, "Silkwood"
Michelle Pfeiffer, "The Fabulous Baker Boys"
Cicely Tyson, "Sounder"
Sissy Spacek, "Carrie"
Jane Fonda, "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?"
Joan Allen, "The Upside of . . ." OH wait, she WASN'T even nominated (Non-nominated Actresses = another list that would be filled with equally great performances)

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

Seven of my top ten made the final list, which is a pretty damn good hit rate - and I can't argue against the others that made it, especially Holly Hunter, which I'd never have called! I'm especially glad that it was this Hepburn performance that had the consensus, because for some reason I do worry that it gets overlooked, when it's really a crowning jewel of a romantic comedy performance.

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

I'm shocked that through one article and 24 comments mentioning approximately 67 performances, not one mention of Carol Kane in Hester Street, who lost to Louise Fletcher in a supporting role.

And for God's sake. Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia.
No? OK, Meryl Streep, Doubt.
No? OK, Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada.

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKen

Thanks so much guys! Delicious list.

I like/love all the performances on the top 10 except for the one I haven't seen: Hunter.

I'd love a list with the best not-nominated performances but then again I love all actress-related lists.

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

billybil -- Turner for Liaisons is actually a really interesting proposition. And that was right in the time period in her career where she was still highly sought after but starting to make weird choices. (switching channels. WTH?)

david -- i am horrified that a couple of mine didn't make the list but i'll bitch about that tomorrow

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenternathanielr

I wonder where Laura Linney in "You Can Count on Me" placed? I'm starting to switch to that camp over Ellen in Requiem the more I think of Linney's performance.

Off the top of my head:
Deborah Kerr in The Sundowners over Liz in BUtterfield 8

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSanty.C

Nathan, Switching Channels is outright crap. Kathleen usually can make even her lesser films worthwhile, but this drek is just unsalvageable in every aspect. Can you imagine how Dangerous Liaisons that same year could have buoyed her career for at least half a decade?! Ah, the twists of fate. I'm still stunned looking back on how quickly her star sank.

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Yes brokesboy - can you just imagine if Turner had gotten that role instead of Close!! I agree Close is a very fine actress but so is Turner and it would have put Turner in a whole other place in her career. Also people were already taking Close for granted a little bit and the role in Liaisons was the sort of role I think people felt she could do in her sleep. But if Turner had played the part it might have been enough of a surprise that she would have won the Oscar! Ah well - it is true fate plays tough tricks on actresses every single day. And even though I am one of those Streep idolizers it does have to really hurt right now if you're a great actress of a certain age and all the great parts go to her first.

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbillybil

billy, I agree, I think Kathleen would have brought a slinky seductiveness to the role, and melted some of the frosty intellectualism off the piece. It would have been a very different movie, but probably an even more compelling one. Regarding Streep, I do get so annoyed that Jessica Lange and Diane Keaton are not getting some of these great parts. Makes me crazy.

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I would have included Geraldine Page in Sweet Bird of Youth.

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPete

Pete -- she was on my list!

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenternathanielr

I desperately want to know the runner-ups. It must have been pure drama!

I miss Susie, Alex and Peggy. What can I say? I'm a child of the 80s.

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Pouring one out for my #1 choice. Luv u, Laura Linney.

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoe Reid

How about Isabelle Huppert for The Piano Teacher?

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSigLNY

Judi Dench - Notes on a Scandal
Annette Bening - American Beauty
Meryl Streep - The Devil Wears Prada
Kate Winslet - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKareem

Please - no arguments about 1987. The correct winner was selected. so - snap out of it.

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterjimmy

My personal top ten,.

1. Gloria Swanson - Sunset Boulevard
2. Meryl Streep - Silkwood
3. Sissy Spacek - Carrie
4. Faye Dunaway - Chinatown
5. Shirley Maclaine - The Apartment
6. Kate Winslet - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
7. Julie Christie - McCabe & Mrs. Miller
8. Geraldine Page - Interiors
9. Julie Andrews - The Sound of Music
10. Whoopi Goldberg - The Color Purple

And, if we're including category fraud (lead performances nominated in supporting), I'd easily throw Ronee Blakley on the list for Nashville, who I think should have been lead. But that's another story.

Another fun list!

Here are some of my suggestions:

Maria Falconetti, La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc, 1928
Louise Brooks, Pandora's Box, 1929
Greta Garbo, Camille, 1937
Barbara Stanwyck, Ball of Fire, 1941
Jean Arthur, The More the Merrier, 1943
Olivia de Havailland, The Snake Pit, 1948
Bette Davis, All About Eve, 1950
Judy Garland, A Star Is Born, 1954
Katharine Hepburn, Summertime, 1955
Audrey Hepburn, The Nun's Story, 1959
Deborah Kerr, The Sundowners, 1960
Katharine Hepburn, Long Day's Journey into Night, 1962
Edith Evans, The Whisperers, 1967
Gena Rowlands, A Woman Under the Influence, 1974
Sissy Spacek, Carrie, 1976
Ingrid Bergman, Autumn Sonata, 1978
Diane Keaton, Reds, 1981
Meryl Streep, Silkwood, 1983
Sigourney Weaver, Aliens, 1986
Sally Kirkland, Anna, 1987
Glenn Close, Dangerous Liaisons, 1988
Michelle Pfeiffer, The Fabulous Baker Boys, 1989
Elizabeth Shue, Leaving Las Vegas, 1995
Judy Dench, Mrs.Brown, 1997
Cate Blanchette, Elizabeth, 1998
Ellen Burstyn, Requiem for a Dream, 2000
Imelda Stauton, Vera Drake, 2004
Felicity Huffman, Transamerica, 2005
Tilda Swinton, Julia, 2008
Tilda Swinton, I Am Love, 2009
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole, 2010
Viola Davis, The Help, 2011
Emmanuelle Riva, Amour, 2012

The 1980s seemed to be a pretty divisive decade, at least for me -- and I bet for critic's groups as well. the 2010s don't look like they're starting out well, either.

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCraig

Faye Dunaway should have Katharine Hepburn's 1967 Oscar.....Sissy Spacek should have Faye Dunaway's 1976 Oscar.....and Mary Tyler Moore should have Sissy Spacek"s 1980 Oscar. And either Diane Keaton or Marsha Mason should have Hepburn's 1981 Oscar. The looons....the loooons......Nahmahn....you're my knight in shining ah-mah!

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterjimmy

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