A list of the 10 best Best Actress Oscar winners feature women of exceptional talent and striking beauty whose roles have become iconic and whose films have consistently ranked as some of the greatest films of all time. A stunning achievement in the film industry, the Academy Award has become a symbol of extraordinary talent punctuating the careers of screen legends like Katharine Hepburn, as well as the likes of Kate Winslet and Halle Berry who have only just begun to show the world their true potential.

  1. Halle Berry for “Monster’s Ball” (2001) One of the best Best Actress Oscar winners of the decade and the first black woman ever to receive an Academy Award, Halle Berry gave a tearful, impassioned speech about the magnitude of her win, which bought many in the audience to tears as well.

  2. Barbra Steisand for “Funny Girl” (1968) and Katharine Hepburn for “The Lion in Winter” (1968) The 1969 Academy Award show was the first to be televised worldwide and featured the first ever tie in a major category, announced by Ingrid Bergman to a stunned audience. Hepburn had won the previous year and decided to skip the awards, letting Steisand shine by memorably quipping “Hello, gorgeous” upon receiving her statuette.

  3. Charlize Theron for “Monster” (2003) Charlize Theron was only 28 when she won an Academy Award for her portrayal as real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos. Born in the city of Benoni, South Africa, Theron gained 30 pounds for the role and became the first African to win an Academy Award in a major acting category.

  4. Nicole Kidman for “The Hours” (2002) Receiving critical acclaim for her portrayal of author Virginia Wolfe, Nicole Kidman is one of the best Best Actress Oscar winners in years and the first Australian to receive the award. Ascending the stage at the 75th Annual Academy Awards in an amazing black dress, Kidman’s exhibited show-stealing grace and charm.

  5. Marlee Matlin for “Children of a Lesser God” (1986) At the age of 21, Marlee Matlin became the youngest actress ever to win an Academy Award for Best Actress with her debut role as deaf student Sarah Norman in 1986’s “Children of a Lesser God.” Deaf since the age of 18 months, Matlin delivered almost all of her lines in American sign language and became one of the best Best Actress Oscar winners when she signed her acceptance speech as well.

  6. Sally Field for “Places in the Heart” (1984) The second Academy Award win for Sally Field in the category of Best Actress, Field’s acceptance speech is one of the most memorable of all time. Earnest and sincere, Field famously quipped, “I can't deny the fact that you like me. Right now, you like me!”

  7. Sandra Bullock for “The Blind Side” (2009) In a surprising upset against 16-time nominee Meryl Streep, Sandra Bullock stole the show with her Best Actress win to become one of the best Best Actress Oscar winners at the age of 45.

  8. Anne Bancroft for “The Miracle Worker” (1962) At the 1963 Academy Awards, Bette Davis was nominated for her role in “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” Her co-star, Joan Crawford, became infuriated with Davis when she failed to receive a nomination. Thus, in 1963 when Anne Bancroft was unable to attend, Joan Crawford accepted the award on her behalf as a glaring Bette Davis looked on.

  9. Marion Cotillard for “La Vie en Rose” (2007) Marion Cotillard won the only Academy Award for a performance delivered completely in French. The actress arrived in a stunning white gown and gave a thankful, emotional speech, becoming not only one of the best Best Actress Oscar winners in recent years, but also the second French actress ever to win the award.

  10. Kate Winslet for “The Reader” (2008) Kate Winslet became the youngest actress to accrue six Academy Award nominations when she finally won in 2009 for her performance in “The Reader,” acknowledging her father—who had been watching admirably in the audience—in her acceptance speech. That same year “The Reader” also earned Winslet a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress as well as a British Academy Film Award for Best Actress.