The Best Actress Oscar was first handed out in 1929 to Janet Gaynor. In the 93 years since, A-list stars like Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon, and Halle Berry have walked away with the gold trophy for their impeccable work in film. The 2023 Oscars have now come and gone, and five talented women were up for the coveted Best Actress prize. This year’s nominees were Ana De Armas (Blonde), Andrea Riseborough (To Leslie), Michelle Williams (The Fabelmans), Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere All At Once) and Cate Blanchett (Tár), and Michelle took home the prize. Revisit all the Best Actress winners at the Academy Awards since 2000 below.
Michelle Yeoh (2023)
Michelle Yeoh won the award for her portrayal of Evelyn Wang in Everything Everywhere All At Once — a film that did incredibly well at the 95th Annual Academy Awards. Once her name was called, Michelle walked up proudly to the stage in front of her peers and began her emotional and inspiring speech. “For all the little boys and girls who look like me watching tonight, this is a beacon of hope and possibilities. This is proof that dreams — dream big — and dreams do come true,” she said. “And ladies: Don’t let anybody tell you you are ever past your prime.” In February, CNN host Don Lemon shocked viewers when he stated that women in their 50s are past their “prime”.
Michelle Yeoh accepts her #Oscar for Best Actress: "For all the little boys and girls who look like me watching tonight, this is a beacon of hope and possibilities. This is proof that dreams do come true." https://t.co/ndiKiHfmID pic.twitter.com/pQN8nHDhCx
— Variety (@Variety) March 13, 2023
She went on to thank everyone involved in the film before shouting out her family. “I have to dedicate this to my mom — all the moms in the world because they are really the superheroes and without them, none of this would be here tonight. She’s 84 and I’m taking this home to her,” she gushed. She closed her speech by thanking more of her loved ones and the Academy.
Jessica Chastain (2022)
Jessica Chastain won the prize for her role as Tammy Faye Bakker, wife of controversial televangelist Jim Bakker, in The Eyes of Tammy Faye, a biopic that outlined the Bakkers’ troubled marriage and her support for LGBT rights. “For any of you out there who do in fact feel hopeless or alone, you are unconditionally loved for the uniqueness that is you,” the actress said during her speech, while condemning the wave of anti-LGBTQ+ bills sweeping the United States. The film also features Andrew Garfield as Jim Bakker, and Cherry Jones as Tammy Faye’s mother Rachel.
Jessica Chastain gana el óscar a Mejor actriz por su interpretación en "The Eyes of Tammy Faye" y, en su discurso, hace alusión a la legislación anti LGBT+ que se está impulsando en ciertos puntos de EE.UU. #Oscars pic.twitter.com/WyvPsk9h8y
— Bricio Segovia (@briciosegovia) March 28, 2022
Frances McDormand (2021)
Frances McDormand won her third Oscar for starring in Nomadland. She played a widow who ventures around the U.S. Frances also produced the film, which won Best Picture at the 2021 Oscars. In the Best Actress category, Frances came out on top over Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), Andra Day (The United States vs. Billie Holiday), Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman), and Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman).
Renee Zellweger (2020)
Renee Zellweger‘s remarkable performance as Judy Garland in the biopic Judy secured the superstar her second Oscar, and first in the Best Actress category. Renee was up against Cynthia Erivo (Harriet), Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story), Saoirse Ronan (Little Women), and Charlize Theron (Bombshell). The Academy was blown away by Renee showcasing the final year of Judy’s momentous career.
Olivia Colman (2019)
Olivia Colman pulled off the ultimate upset over Glenn Close, who seemed to be a shoe-in to win Best Actress for The Wife. But Olivia’s performance as 1970s British monarch Queen Anne in The Favourite was just too good to let the actress go home empty-handed. In addition to Glenn, Olivia’s fellow nominees included Yalitza Aparicio (Roma), Lady Gaga (A Star Is Born), and Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?).
Frances McDormand (2018)
Frances McDormand‘s second Academy Award was thanks to the crime film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. She starred as Mildred Hayes, a woman who rents three billboards to draw attention towards her daughter’s rape and murder. Frances swept every major awards show and won the Oscar over Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water), Margot Robbie (I, Tonya), Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird), and Meryl Streep (The Post).
Emma Stone (2017)
Emma Stone played musical darling Mia Dolan opposite Ryan Gosling in the beloved La La Land. She couldn’t be beat by fellow nominees Isabelle Huppert (Elle), Ruth Negga (Loving), Natalie Portman (Jackie), and Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins). It was Emma’s first Oscar and second nomination after 2015’s Birdman. La La Land was also memorably announced as the Best Picture winner, before it was correctly stated that Moonlight actually took home that major prize.
Brie Larson (2016)
Brie Larson captivated viewers, and The Academy, for playing a woman held captive with her five-year-old son (Jacob Tremblay). Directed by Lenny Abrahamson, Room earned Brie her first-ever Oscar nomination and win. Her fellow nominees were Cate Blanchett (Carol), Jennifer Lawrence (Joy), Charlotte Rampling (45 Years), and Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn).
Julianne Moore (2015)
After four Oscar nominations, Julianne Moore won her first Academy Award thanks to her dazzling performance in Still Alice. Julianne starred as a linguistics professor who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s shortly before her 50th birthday. Alec Baldwin plays her husband, while Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, and Hunter Parrish play her kids. The Academy awarded Julianne over Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night), Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything), Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl), and Reese Witherspoon (Wild).
Cate Blanchett (2014)
Cate Blanchett‘s second Oscar came from playing a rich Manhattan socialite who moves into her working sister’s apartment in San Francisco. Blue Jasmine got Cate the gold statuette over Amy Adams (American Hustle), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Judi Dench (Philomena), and Meryl Streep (August: Osage County). Cate also won the Golden Globe, the SAG Award, and the BAFTA Award for her leading role in Blue Jasmine.
Jennifer Lawrence (2013)
Remember when Jennifer Lawrence tripped at the Oscars? To remind you, it happened as she was stepping onstage to accept her Best Actress prize over Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty), Emmanuelle Riva (Amour), Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild), and Naomi Watts (The Impossible) for her role as Tiffany Maxwell in Silver Linings Playbook. The critically acclaimed film focused on mental illness and showcased Jennifer and her co-star Bradley Cooper‘s brilliant acting work. Jennifer remains a one-time Oscar winner and four-time nominee.
Meryl Streep (2012)
Meryl Streep won her third Oscar as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. Meryl’s performance marked her 17th Oscar nomination and is considered one of her greatest acting works in her career. Her fellow nominees Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs), Viola Davis (The Help), Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), and Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn) were all fabulous in their respective roles, as well.
Natalie Portman (2011)
Natalie Portman absolutely dominated Darren Aronfsky‘s psychological thriller Black Swan. She portrayed Nina Sayers who loses her mind (that’s putting it lightly) competing in ballet. The Academy had viable picks in the Best Actress category with nominees Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right), Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole), Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone), and Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine). But ultimately, Natalie was just too good to lose.
Sandra Bullock (2010)
Sandra Bullock delivered a tearjerking (and award-winning) performance in The Blind Side, which follows white parents who adopt a Black teenager and assist in his rise into the NFL. The film, which is based on a true story, also starred Tim McGraw as Sandra’s husband, while Quinon Aaron played “Big Mike.” Sandra snagged her first, and so far only, Oscar win over Helen Mirren (That Last Station), Carey Mulligan (An Education), Gabourey Sidibe (Precious), and Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia).
Kate Winslet (2009)
Kate Winslet faced off against Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married), Angelina Jolie (Changeling), Melissa Leo (Frozen River), and Meryl Streep (Doubt) to win her first Academy Award. Her revered role in the Holocaust drama The Reader was as Hanna Schmitz, a Nazi soldier facing war crimes. Her past romance with a German lawyer, played by Ralph Fiennes, is also magnificently showcased. Kate definitely earned this Oscar.
Marion Cotillard (2008)
Marion Cotillard made a splash in U.S. cinema thanks to her role as French singer Edith Piaf in the biographical musical La Vie en Rose. Marion was the first Best Actress winner since Sophia Loren to be rewarded for a foreign-language performance. Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth: The Golden Age), Julie Christie (Away from Her), Laura Linney (The Savages) and Elliot Page (Juno) were the talented stars who lost to Marion in her first Oscar win.
Helen Mirren (2007)
The Queen, written by The Crown creator Peter Morgan, showcased Helen Mirren‘s acting talents in the wake of Princess Diana’s death. Helen plays Queen Elizabeth II, who tires to hold the British monarchy together following the tragedy. Helen, who was nominated at the Academy Awards twice before, deservingly won over Penelope Cruz (Volver), Judi Dench (Notes on a Scandal), Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada), and Kate Winslet (Little Children).
Reese Witherspoon (2006)
Walk the Line took Hollywood darling Reese Witherspoon‘s career to new heights. She portrayed country singer June Carter Cash, wife of music icon Johnny Cash who is played by Joaquin Phoenix in the film. Reese already had memorable film roles in Election and Legally Blonde, but ultimately, it was Walk the Line that secured the superstar her first Academy Award. Her fellow nominees Judi Dench (Mrs. Henderon Presents), Felicity Huffman (Transamerica), Keira Knightley (Pride & Prejudice) and Charlize Theron (North Country) were certainly no slouches in their respective performances.
Hilary Swank (2005)
Hilary Swank took home her second Oscar for playing underdog amateur boxer Maggie Fitzgerald in Million Dollar Baby. Hilary won Best Actress over Annette Bening (Being Julia), Catalina Sandino Moreno (Maria Full of Grace), Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake), and Kate Winslet (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), while the sports drama film won Best Picture.
Charlize Theron (2004)
Charlize Theron murdered the competition in the 2004 Best Actress race for playing serial killer Aileen Wuournos in Monster. Charlize, who also produced the film, starred opposite Christina Ricci, who played Aileen’s lover Selby Wall. Charlize’s performance was universally acclaimed and secured the South African actress a big win over Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider), Diane Keaton (Something’s Gotta Give), Samantha Morton (In America), and Naomi Watts (21 Grams).
Nicole Kidman (2003)
Nicole Kidman‘s performance as depressed novelist Virginia Woolf in The Hours was unforgettable. Salma Hayek (Frida), Diane Lane (Unfaithful), Julianne Moore (Far From Heaven), and Renee Zellweger (Chicago), were nominated against Nicole, but her transformation into Virginia was better than all the rest. The Hours had eight other Oscar nominations, including Best Picture.
Halle Berry (2002)
Halle Berry‘s 2002 Oscar win was historic then and now. To date, Halle remains the only African-American woman to have won Best Actress at the Academy Awards. Her performance in Monster’s Ball was celebrated by fans and critics alike. The Academy made history by rightfully awarding Halle over the talented other nominees Judi Dench (Iris), Nicole Kidman (Moulin Rouge!), Sissy Spacek (In the Bedroom), and Renee Zellweger (Bridget Jones’s Diary).
Julia Roberts (2001)
Julia Roberts became a first-time Oscar winner for playing Erin Brockovich, the real-life legal clerk who started the case against a Pacific Gas & Electric Company for polluting a California town’s water supply. Julia won a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe, and a SAG Award in addition to her Oscar, where she faced off against Joan Allen (The Contender), Juliette Binoche (Chocolat), Ellen Burstyn (Requiem for a Dream), and Laura Linney (You Can Count On Me). Erin Brockovich remains one of Julia’s most celebrated projects.
Hilary Swank (2000)
Hilary Swank won an Oscar before Million Dollar Baby, and it was for playing a real-life trans man who faces a brutal hate crime in Boys Don’t Cry. It’s considered Hilary’s first widely-recognized role in cinema, and was powerful enough to defeat fellow Best Actress noms Annette Bening (American Beauty), Janet McTeer (Tumbleweeds), Julianne Moore (The End of the Affair), and Meryl Streep (Music of the Heart).