Academy Award for Best Actress
The Academy Award for Best Actress is an award presented annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. It is given in honor of an actress who has delivered an outstanding performance in a leading role while working within the film industry. The award is traditionally presented by the previous year's Best Actor winner.
The 1st Academy Awards ceremony was held in 1929 with Janet Gaynor receiving the award for her roles in 7th Heaven, Street Angel, and . Currently, nominees are determined by single transferable vote within the actors branch of AMPAS; winners are selected by a plurality vote from the entire eligible voting members of the Academy. In the first three years of the awards, actresses were nominated as the best in their categories. At that time, all of their work during the qualifying period was listed after the award. However, during the 3rd ceremony held in 1930, only one of those films was cited in each winner's final award, even though each of the acting winners had two films following their names on the ballots.
The following year, this unwieldy and confusing system was replaced by the current system in which an actress is nominated for a specific performance in a single film. Starting with the 9th ceremony held in 1937, the category was officially limited to five nominations per year. One actress has been nominated posthumously, Jeanne Eagels. Since its inception, the award has been given to 77 actresses. Katharine Hepburn has won the most awards in this category, with four Oscars. With 17 nominations, Meryl Streep is the most nominated in this category, resulting in two wins. At age 21, Marlee Matlin became the youngest actress to win this award for Children of a Lesser God and at the age of 80, Jessica Tandy became the oldest winner in this category for Driving Miss Daisy. As of the 2020 ceremony, Renée Zellweger is the most recent winner in this category for her portrayal of Judy Garland in Judy.
Winners and nomineesIn the following table, the years are listed as per Academy convention, and generally correspond to the year of film release in Los Angeles County; the ceremonies are always held the following year. For the first five ceremonies, the eligibility period spanned twelve months from August 1 to July 31. For the 6th ceremony held in 1934, the eligibility period lasted from August 1, 1932, to December 31, 1933. Since the 7th ceremony held in 1935, the period of eligibility became the full previous calendar year from January 1 to December 31.
|Indicates the winner|
was the first winner in this category for her roles in 7th Heaven, , and Street Angel.|alt=Publicity photo of Janet Gaynor for Argentinean Magazine in 1931.
has the most wins in this category for her roles in Morning Glory, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, The Lion in Winter, and On Golden Pond.|alt=Black-and-white photo of Katharine Hepburn circa 1941.
was the first European-born actress to win this award for her role in It Happened One Night |alt=Publicity photo of Claudette Colbert.
won two awards from ten nominations for her roles in Dangerous and Jezebel.|alt=Black-and-white photo of Bette Davis from the 1938 film Jezebel.
was the first and only German actress as well as the first to win two consecutive acting Oscars, for The Great Ziegfeld and The Good Earth ; the youngest two-time winner, at 27 and 28 years old.|alt=Black-and-white photo of Luise Rainer in 1941.
won twice for her roles as Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind, by which she became the first English actress to have won the award and the first for a color movie, and Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire.|alt=Black-and-white photo of Vivien Leigh in 1939.
won for her role in Suspicion.|alt=Photo of Joan Fontaine in 1942.
won twice, for her roles in To Each His Own and The Heiress.|alt=Black-and-white photo of Olivia de Havilland in 1938.
won for her role in Roman Holiday.|alt=Black-and-white photo of Audrey Hepburn from 1956.
won two awards from five nominations for 1960's BUtterfield 8 and 1966's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.|alt=Black-and-white photo of Elizabeth Taylor 1953.
won for her role in Two Women, the first win for a non-English language performance.
won for her performance as the titular character in Mary Poppins.|alt=Photo of Julie Andrews in Sydney, Australia in 2013.
won for her role as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl.|alt=Photo of Barbra Streisand in 1965.
won this award twice for her roles in Women in Love and A Touch of Class.|alt=Glenda Jackson's portrait in 1971
won twice from six nominations for her roles in Klute and Coming Home.|alt=Color photo of Jane Fonda at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.
won this award twice for her roles in Norma Rae and Places in the Heart.|alt=Black-and-white photo of Sally Field in 1981.
has received six nominations in this category, winning for her portrayal of Loretta Lynn in Coal Miner's Daughter.|alt=Photo of Sissy Spacek receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on August 1, 2011.
has been nominated a record 17 times in the Best Actress category, winning twice for Sophie's Choice and as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady.|alt=Color studio portrait of Meryl Streep by Jack Mitchell, circa 1976–79.
won once from five nominations for her role in 1983's Terms of Endearment.|alt=Black-and-white publicity photo of Shirley MacLaine promoting the film The Apartment.
became the youngest, and the only deaf, actress to win in the category of Best Actress for her performance in Children of a Lesser God.|alt=Photo of Marlee Matlin in 2009.
won twice for her roles as Sarah Tobias in The Accused and as Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs.|alt=Photo of Jodie Foster in 1995.
became the oldest winner in this category for her performance in 1989's Driving Miss Daisy.|alt=Publicity photo of Jessica Tandy in the 1950s.
won for her role in Howards End.|alt=Photo of Emma Thompson in 2009.
was nominated five times, winning once in 1995 for her role in Blue Sky.|alt=Photo of Jessica Lange in 2008.
won twice for her roles in Fargo and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
won this award twice for her roles in Boys Don't Cry and Million Dollar Baby.|alt=Photo of Hilary Swank at the 28th Tokyo International Film Festival in 2015.
won for playing the titular character in Erin Brockovich.|alt=Photo of Julia Roberts at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.
won for her role in Monster's Ball, becoming the first and only actress of color to win this category.|alt=Photo of Halle Berry at the 2017 San Diego Comic-Con International.
won for playing Virginia Woolf in The Hours.|alt=Photo of Nicole Kidman at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival.
won for playing Aileen Wuornos in Monster, becoming the first African to win this category.|alt=Photo of Charlize Theron at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.
won for playing June Carter Cash in Walk the Line.|alt=Photo of Reese Witherspoon at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.
won for portraying Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen.|alt=Photo of Helen Mirren at the 2014 Moët British Independent Film Awards.
won for playing Édith Piaf in La Vie en Rose ; the first person to win for a French-language film.|alt=Photo of Marion Cotillard at the 2017 Cabourg Film Festival.
won for her role in The Reader.|alt=Photo of Kate Winslet at the 2011 Venice Film Festival.
won for playing Leigh Anne Tuohy in The Blind Side.|alt=Photo of Sandra Bullock at the Australian premiere of The Heat on July 2, 2013.
won for her role in Black Swan.|alt=Photo of Natalie Portman at the 83rd Academy Awards on February 27, 2011.
won for her role in Silver Linings Playbook.|alt=Photo of Jennifer Lawrence at the 2015 San Diego Comic-Con International.
won for her role in Blue Jasmine.|alt=Photo of Cate Blanchett at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.
won for her role in Still Alice.|alt=Photo of Julianne Moore at the 2014 Tribeca International Film Festival.
won for her role in Room.|alt=Photo of Brie Larson in 2013.
won for her role in La La Land.|alt=Photo of Emma Stone at the 2016 Mill Valley Film Festival.
won for her portrayal of Anne, Queen of Great Britain in The Favourite.
Multiple wins and nominationsThe following individuals received two or more Best Actress awards:
|2||Olivia de Havilland||4|
The following individuals received four or more Best Actress nominations:
|4||Olivia de Havilland|
Multiple character nominations
Multiple nominations from the same film
- Anne Baxter and Bette Davis in All About Eve
- Katharine Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor in Suddenly, Last Summer
- Anne Bancroft and Shirley MacLaine in The Turning Point
- Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger in Terms of Endearment
- Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon in Thelma & Louise
Nominations for portraying multiple characters in the same film
- Meryl Streep as Sara Woodruff and Anna in The French Lieutenant's Woman
|Oldest winner||Jessica Tandy||Driving Miss Daisy||80|
|Oldest nominee||Emmanuelle Riva||Amour||85|
|Youngest winner||Marlee Matlin||Children of a Lesser God||21|
|Youngest nominee||Quvenzhané Wallis||Beasts of the Southern Wild||9|