Oscar History

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A Topic That Never Grows Old: Best Actress 1995

Elisabeth Shue had my vote among the Oscar nominees

With the time left -- you can have more money, you can drink all you want -- just stay. That's what I want. I want you to talk. Or listen. Just stay."

Alicia Silverstone, Clueless (MTV Winner, Globe Nominee)
Angela Bassett, Waiting to Exhale (Image Award Winner)
Annette Bening, The American President (Globe Nominee)
Gong Li, Shanghai Triad (None)
Joan Allen, Nixon (SAG Lead Nominee but Oscar Supporting Nominee)
Jennifer Jason Leigh, Georgia (NYFCC Winner, Spirit Nominee)
Jessica Lange, Rob Roy (None)
Julianne Moore, [safe] (Spirit Nominee)
Julie Delpy, Before Sunrise (None)
Kathy Bates, Delores Claiborne (Saturn Nominee)
Michelle Pfeiffer, Dangerous Minds (MTV Nominee, #1 Female Led Box Office Hit)
Nicole Kidman, To Die For (Globe Winner)
Sandra Bullock, While You Were Sleeping (Globe Nominee, #2 Female Led Box Office Hit)
Toni Collette, Muriel's Wedding (AFI Winner, Globe Nominee)

...and the Oscar nominees
Elisabeth Shue, Leaving Las Vegas 
Emma Thompson, Sense & Sensibility (won for Screenplay!)
Meryl Streep, The Bridges of Madison County (#3 Female Led Box Office Hit)
Sharon Stone, Casino (Globe Winner)
Susan Sarandon, Dead Man Walking (The Winner) 

*and I dedicate this list to Pocahontas in Pocahontas who I wish was a real actress

Such riches to choose from! Definitely in the running for Bestest Best Actress Year of All Time? Your ballots please.

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Reader Comments (79)

My choices that year:

Julie Delpy in "Before Sunrise"
Nicole Kidman in "To Die For"
Julianne Moore in "Safe"
Elisabeth Shue in "Leaving Las Vegas"
Alicia Silverstone in "Clueless"

I have Collette as my win in 1994.

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

Julianne Moore, SAFE
Nicole Kidman, TO DIE FOR
Jennifer Jason Leigh, GEORGIA

Meryl would be my winner, to be honest. Even though I'm a huge fan of hers, it's still a close call between all five, but I'd put this in her top three performances.

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJordan

MY TOP 5 (in alphabetical order)
Elisabeth Shue, Leaving Las Vegas
Emma Thompson, Sense & Sensibility
Julie Delpy, Before Sunrise
Meryl Streep, The Bridges of Madison County
Susan Sarandon, Dead Man Walking

Julie Delpy would have been a "sentimental" choice for a nomination (I adore the film). I would have nominate also Isabelle Huppert for "La ceremonie", but that film was released in the US only in December 1996.

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterStefano

Sharon Stone in Casino... always. She was like a wild animal in that, so watchable.

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBia

My ballot:

Julie Delpy, Before Sunrise - Bronze
Julianne Moore, Safe - Winner
Madeline Stowe, 12 Monkeys - 4th
Lili Taylor, The Addiction - Silver
Kate Winslet, Sense and Sensibility (Yeah, I view them as co-leads. Most importantly, because she's "Sense", as in A TITLE CHARACTER.) - 5th

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Toni Collette, Muriel's Wedding
Susan Sarandon, Dead Man Walking
Elisabeth Shue, Leaving Las Vegas
Meryl Streep, The Bridges of Madison
Emma Thompson, Sense & Sensibility

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I'm all about Julianne Moore in [safe] that year. One of the best performances on mental health ever, right up there with Rowland's A Woman Under the Influence.

My other nominees: Shue, Meryl, Nicole and Emma. I feel guilty for not including Sarandon but in my book she'd already have won for Thelma & Louise so I don't care.

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJorge Rodrigues

Where is La Kathy Bates for Dolores Claiborne???

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMatt Mazur

Delpy, Before Sunrise
Julianne, Safe
Silverstone, Clueless
Stone, Casino
Meryl, Bridges

And the Marsha goes to.... Julianne Moore for Safe.

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMarsha Mason

Not in any particular order

Elizabeth Shue
Alicia Silverstone
Julianne Moore
Sharon Stone
Toni Collette

Although I haven't seen a lot of the others listed here, including Streep and Thompson. And I reeeaally have a hard time choosing between Kidman and Silverstone (and I never thought I'd ever say that).

I liked Sarandon, but I don't remember much about the performance, so it loses points for being not as memorable as the others.

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

Meryl's Bridges performance is my personal favorite, both of this year and possibly out of her entire filmography. It doesn't let her scale the dramatic or performance highs of a Sophie or Silkwood but it's such a gorgeous, deeply-felt, and warmly-inhabited gem of a characterization, that it's all but impossible to resist.

Also, between '95 and '96, actressexuals were ridiculously spoiled. That '95 roster of nominees and bridesmaids is impossibly perfect (Meryl, Julianne in Safe, Nicole in To Die For, JJL in Georgia all in the same year?!). Plus, that '96 Best Actress lineup is staggeringly rich, give or take a good-not-great Diane Keaton.

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Eng

Bia -- yeah, "wild animal" does describe it. Such a STAR... at least for a brief time. Though I'm not a huge fan of her performance actually which wouldn't have made my list but i get why people love it.

Matt -- i knew i'd forget someone.

July 17, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

catherine keener - living in oblivion
nicole kidman - to die for (unbelievably, my winner)
alicia silverstone - clueless
susan sarandon - dead man walking
emma thompson - sense and sensibility

(i consider 'muriel's wedding' a 1994 release but toni collette wins either year)

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterpar3182

Nicole Kidman, To Die For
Julianne Moore, Safe
Susan Sarandon, Dead Man Walking
Elisabeth Shue, Leaving Las Vegas (WINNER)
Sharon Stone, Casino (I love this nomination SO. MUCH.)

Leaving Silverstone, Bullock and Bening on the outside.

Georgia and Bridges of Madison County are huge blind spots for me. I need to see them to get a complete picture of this Oscar year, but... I just can't work up the interest.

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

Jason Lee

I keep on changing my mine for a winner between Jason Lee, Kidman, Moore or Sarandon, it's an absolute torture to pick just ONE...

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterstjeans

Julie Delpy, Before Sunrise
Nicole Kidman, To Die For
Julianne Moore, Safe
Alicia Silverstone, Clueless
Sharon Stone, Casino

And, yes, Moore wins.

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPhilippe

I think more people really need to see GEORGIA. Mare Winningham is also fantastic in it. And yes Matthew, I think 1996 is actually better than '95 in terms of Actress... Emily Watson, Brenda Blethyn, McDormand, KST, Lili Taylor, Courtney Love, etc.

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJordan

My top 5, in order:

MERYL STREEP (still my fav of hers)
Toni Collette
Nicole Kidman
Susan Sarandon
Emma Thompson

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSquasher88

Shue (#1)

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDrG

I should say that my nominees would be


but *so many* of the others would make my list in another year.

July 17, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Matthew & Jordan -- the way i see it Oscar and HOllywood were apologizing for 1994 ;) ...not that that didn't have good stuff in it but lord that best actress roster was lame.

July 17, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Ahhh! What a terrific year.

In alphabetical order....

Jennifer Jason Leigh, Georgia
Julianne Moore, safe
Susan Sarandon, Dead Man Walking
Elisabeth Shue, Leaving Las Vegas
Meryl Streep, The Bridges of Madison County

Confession: Haven't seen Casino or Nixon

Either Moore or Shue for the win.

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBen

Such a great year! Always found it funny that, when the nominees were shown, the first one, alphabetically, was Susan Sarandon.

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

Susan Sarandon in The Client kind of says it all about 1994, doesn't it?

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Eng

1. Julianne Moore, [safe]

2. Nicole Kidman, To Die For

3. Heather Matarazzo, Welcome to the Dollhouse

4. Alicia Silverstone, Clueless

5. Elisabeth Shue, Leaving Las Vegas

Others: Delpy (I think her character was way more interesting in Sunset. Cannot wait to see Midnight), Stone (Not my favorite Scorsese by a long-shot but Marty having his first real leading lady since Burstyn will always have me somewhat respecting Casino's existence), Thompson in S&S, Angela Bassett for Strange Days, and Collette for Muriel's Wedding,

To me Allen was supporting. Have not seen Dead Man Walking in years although I do love Susan Sarandon.

Anyway, that deep bench of that list is pretty incredible.

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

Definitely a great year.

Alicia Silverstone, Clueless
Jennifer Jason Leigh, Georgia
Nicole Kidman, To Die For
Sharon Stone, Casino
Sandra Bullock, While You Were Sleeping

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJon A

at the time, i was all about bassett, thompson, moore, pfieffer and stone.

looking back, i'd say li, moore, collette, thompson and stone. given the range those roles stretched those performances, its kind of amazing. such a set of riches.

and i'm all in for stone winning. she was out of her mind good. and never came close to it again.

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterrich

Julianne Moore was phenomenal in Safe even though she wasn't nominated. She was the best that year. Susan Sarandon should have won for her great performances in Atlantic City and Thelma and Louise.

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHe's Murried

Nicole Kidman, To Die For
Julianne Moore, Safe
Elisabeth Shue, Leaving Las Vegas
Meryl Streep, The Bridges of Madison County
Sigourney Weaver, Copycat

I know Weaver is a strange choice, but I just love both her and Holly Hunter in Copycat.

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSad man

Would every person on that list have been able to knock out someone in 1994? I would assume every nominated performance in 1995 would have bee able to take out Lange in 1994.

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

sad man -- i remember liking her in that too. but the movie is such a blur. there were way too many serial killer thrillers in the 90s. thankfully that genre seems to have moved to tv.

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

I love Kathy Bates and Judy Parfitt in Dolores Claiborne. Parfitt is so quotable in the movie. Too bad, Oscar ignored both of them.

Side Note: I don't think many people realize that Meryl Streep has always been a box office draw. After adjusting for inflation, some of her movies not seen as hits today--Sophie's Choice, Silkwood, the French Lieutenant's Woman, the River Wild, and Post Cards from the Edge--have domestic grosses of over $70 million.

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdela

Strong year, average nominees (with the exception of Elisabeth Shue and Meryl Streep).

My picks:
*Julianne Moore, 'Safe'
Elisabeth Shue, 'Leaving Las Vegas'
Meryl Streep, 'The Bridges of Madison County'
Jennifer Jason Leigh, 'Georgia'
Amanda Root, 'Persuasion'

I will never understand the love for Nicole Kidman in 'To Die For.'

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike M.

John T -- i think so. well maybe not Shue. I think she was the best of 'em but she had no "winner's heat" you know? so i think Lange would've still prevailed (weirdly) since Lange is an awards magnet, generally speaking.

1994 is a typical case of when there aren't a lot of traditionally Oscary roles available they make lame choices. even though there was brilliant work that year it was just too NOT OSCARY for Oscar to get behind it. Same things happened in 2003 alas...

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

Jordan: Lili Taylor in The Addiction is phenomenal, such that I'd think that she'd be the second best performance of THE DECADE.

Top Five Lead Actress performances of the 90s (in current esteem):

1. Julianne Moore, [safe]
2. Lili Taylor, The Addiction
3. Patricia Arquette, True Romance
4. Minnie Driver, Grosse Pointe Blank
5. Michelle Pfeiffer, Batman Returns

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

1995 was Streep's comeback year, in a sense. Bridges was one of her best performances but I personally like Elizabeth Shue this year.

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrandz

Could you please add Lili Taylor to this list for The Addiction? Crucial, underseen, but necessary to at least check out.

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

This was a fantastic year for actresses. Of the actual nominees the only one I can justify kicking out would be Sharon Stone, and I would replace her with Nicole Kidman or Julianne Moore. Elisabeth Shue would be my choice for best actress regardless.

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRaul

Oh, and I'd like to add that Elisabeth Shue still looks fantastic. Too bad she wasn't able to capitalize on her success with "Leaving Las Vegas" and has been mostly doing schlocky films and an uninteresting role in CSI.

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRaul

My nominees for 1995: Sarandon, Streep, Shue, Jessica Lange for Losing Isaiah (like a truly great actress, she elevates this Lifetime procedural to another plain). Collette takes the gold.

I admit, I still haven't seen Moore in Safe. I know, I need to get on that.

I hate leaving off Thompson, who is utterly charming in a very real sense, and Stone, who came out of movie purgatory and just sold it. What a difference having the right role and director makes.

Nathan, you're so right, I never realized before what a great race '95 was. Three other great lineups: 1939, 1977 and 1982.

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

When people ask me what Directors actually do, you know besides blowing things up, I usually point to Elisabeth Shue's performance in Leaving Las Vegas. Shue was considered a lightweight before (and since), hence she didn't win, but in this movie she gave a stunning best of class performance. Who knew she had it in her? Well, the director did of course, and he was able to coax far and away her best performance out of her.

I mean, wasn't she playing a nuclear physicist in knee socks and hairbows just a year later? I mean yikes.

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDave in Alamitos Beach

Sharon Stone's nomination was a joke, awful performance.

My list:

Nicole Kidman (To Die For)
Jennifer Jason Leigh (Georgia)
Susan Sarandon (Dead Man Walking)
Meryl Streep (The Bridges of Madison County)
Emma Thompson (Sense and Sensibility)

I have no idea who I would have chosen. They are all excellent.

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMarcelo - Brazil

What, no Geena Davis in Cutthroat Island?

My picks:

Bassett - Strange Days (just because she needs to be nominated for SOMETHING!)

A special shout-out to Lori Petty in Tank Girl because she was awesome and that movie cracks me up.

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPam

Emma Thompson.
Meryl Streep.
Susan Sarandon.
Kathy Bates.
Elisabeth Shue.

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMirko

Why did you not list Winslet in Sense and Sensibility, Nathaniel? Surely you don't consider her Supporting. One of her best performances, for sure.
I LOVE Sarandon's win! She was so incredible in Dead Man Walking.

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTyler

1st: Shue
2nd: Moore
3rd: Streep
4th: Sarandon
5th: Kidman

And although I think 1995 was a better actress year overall than 1996, I think the OSCAR roster of 1996 was even better than 1995's, which is saying a lot. If only Keaton in Marvin's Room (who was only very very good) was replaced by say, Kidman in "Portrait of a Lady" that would have been THE Best Actress shortlist of all Best Actress shortlist.

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

My ballot

stone,streep,kidman,sarandon with shue the winner.

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermark

Streep all the way .. it one of my 4 favorite movies she was in , the others being:

Cry in the Dark ...Silkwood ... and Sophie's Choice

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterrick

Some great performances in a really strong year for female actors but
Bridges is one of Meryl Streep's best performances, and that's saying
something. So
in that order.

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

I had same as Oscar except Stone for Kidman with Shue winning.
Definitely a great year. I was thinking about this year the other day when thinking about all the big names up for actress this year including Streep and Thompson again.

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph

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