|Academy Award for Best Actress|
|Awarded for||"Performance by an actress in a leading role"|
|Presented by||Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences|
|First awarded||1929 (for performances in films released in 1927/1928)|
|First winner||Janet Gaynor,
Seventh Heaven, Street Angel, and Sunrise (1927/1928)
|Currently held by||Sandra Bullock,
The Blind Side (2009)
Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role is one of the Academy Awards of Merit presented annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) to recognize an actress who has delivered an outstanding performance while working within the film industry. Prior to the 49th Academy Awards ceremony (1977), this award was simply known as the Academy Award of Merit for Performance by an Actress. Since its inception, however, the award has commonly been referred to as the Oscar for Best Actress. While actresses are nominated for this award by Academy members who are actors and actresses themselves, winners are selected by the Academy membership as a whole.
Throughout the past 82 years, accounting for ties and repeat winners, AMPAS has presented a total of 83 Best Actress awards to 69 different people. Winners of this Academy Award of Merit receive the familiar Oscar statuette, depicting a gold-plated knight holding a crusader's sword and standing on a reel of film. The first recipient was Janet Gaynor, who was honored at the 1st Academy Awards ceremony (1929) for her performances in Seventh Heaven, Street Angel, and Sunrise. The most recent recipient was Sandra Bullock, who was honored at the 82nd Academy Awards ceremony (2010) for her performance in The Blind Side.
In the first three years of the Academy Awards, individuals such as actors and directors were nominated as the best in their categories. Then all of their work during the qualifying period (as many as three films, in some cases) was listed after the award. However, during the 3rd Academy Awards ceremony (1930), only one of those films was cited in each winner's final award, even though each of the acting winners had had two films following their names on the ballots. For the 4th Academy Awards ceremony (1931), 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. Such nominations are limited to five per year. Until the 8th Academy Awards ceremony (1936), nominations for the Best Actress award were intended to include all actresses, whether the performance was in either a leading or supporting role. At the 9th Academy Awards ceremony (1937), however, the Best Supporting Actress category was specifically introduced as a distinct award following complaints that the single Best Actress category necessarily favored leading performers with the most screen time. Currently, Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, and Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role constitute the four Academy Awards of Merit for acting annually presented by AMPAS.
Actors have also received special awards, or Academy Honorary Awards, for acting in specific films (such as in the case of James Baskett, who received a special honorary award for Disney's Song of the South). Child actors have also been awarded the Academy Juvenile Award.
|Superlative||Best Actress||Best Supporting Actress||Overall|
|Actress with most awards||Katharine Hepburn||4||Shelley Winters
|Actress with most nominations||Meryl Streep||13||Thelma Ritter||6||Meryl Streep||16|
|Actress with most nominations without ever winning||Deborah Kerr||6||Thelma Ritter||6||Deborah Kerr
|Film with most nominations||All About Eve
Suddenly, Last Summer
The Turning Point
Terms of Endearment
Thelma & Louise
|2||Tom Jones||3||All About Eve||4|
|Oldest winner||Jessica Tandy||80||Peggy Ashcroft||77||Jessica Tandy||80|
|Oldest nominee||Jessica Tandy||80||Gloria Stuart||87||Gloria Stuart||87|
|Youngest winner||Marlee Matlin||21||Tatum O'Neal||10||Tatum O'Neal||10|
|Youngest nominee||Keisha Castle-Hughes||13||Tatum O'Neal
Katharine Hepburn, with four wins, has more Best Actress Oscars than any other actress. Eleven women have won two Best Actress Academy Awards; in chronological order, they are Luise Rainer, Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Vivien Leigh, Ingrid Bergman, Elizabeth Taylor, Glenda Jackson, Jane Fonda, Sally Field, Jodie Foster, and Hilary Swank.
Meryl Streep holds the record of 13 nominations in the Best Actress category. Streep has been nominated 16 times (13 for Best Actress and 3 for Best Supporting Actress), which makes her the overall most-nominated performer in all acting categories.
There has been only one tie in the history of this category. This occurred in 1969 when Katharine Hepburn and Barbra Streisand were both given the award. Unlike the earlier 1932 tie for Best Actor, however, Hepburn and Streisand each received the exact same number of votes.
Only two pairs of actresses have been nominated for Best Actress for the same role: Jeanne Eagels and Bette Davis as Leslie Crosbie in The Letter (1929 and 1940), and Janet Gaynor and Judy Garland as Vicki Lester in A Star is Born (1937 and 1954). In addition, Judi Dench and Kate Winslet both received nominations (Dench for Best Actress and Winslet for Best Supporting Actress) for their portrayals of Iris Murdoch at different ages in 2001's Iris. Winslet and Gloria Stuart were also both nominated (Winslet for Best Actress and Stuart for Best Supporting Actress) for their portrayals of Rose DeWitt Bukater in Titanic (1997).
The 71st Academy Awards (1999) presented the unique case of actresses being nominated in the same year for the same character in different films. Cate Blanchett was nominated for Best Actress for playing Queen Elizabeth I of England in Elizabeth, while Judi Dench was nominated for (and won) Best Supporting Actress for playing the same character in Shakespeare in Love.
Halle Berry, who won in 2002 for her role in Monster's Ball, is the only woman of African-American descent to win the Best Actress award. Seven other black actresses have been nominated: Dorothy Dandridge, Diana Ross, Cicely Tyson, Diahann Carroll, Whoopi Goldberg, Angela Bassett, and Gabourey Sidibe.
The only Asian actress to win is Vivien Leigh, whose mother had an Irish and Indian background, while Merle Oberon, born to an Anglo-Sri Lankan mother and father of unknown ethnic origin, was nominated.
Only five actresses of Hispanic or Latin American descent have been nominated for the Best Actress award, but as of 2008 none has yet won: Helena Bonham Carter (1997; her mother is Spanish), Fernanda Montenegro, Brazilian, (1998; the first Latin American actress ever nominated), Salma Hayek, Mexican (2002), Catalina Sandino Moreno, Colombian (2004), and Penélope Cruz, Spanish (2006). However, Cruz won the Best Supporting Actress award for her role in the 2008 film Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
Nicole Kidman is the only Australian actress to win the Best Actress award (The Hours, 2003); other Australian nominees include May Robson for Lady for a Day (1933), Judy Davis for A Passage to India (1984), Cate Blanchett for Elizabeth (1998) and Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007), and Naomi Watts for 21 Grams (2004).
Sophia Loren and Marion Cotillard are the only actresses to win this award for a foreign-language performance: Loren for her Italian-language performance in Two Women (1961) and Cotillard for her French-language performance in La Vie en Rose (2007).
Jane Wyman, Marlee Matlin and Holly Hunter are the only actresses in the post–silent era to receive Academy Awards for roles that were non-speaking (in Wyman's case) or predominantly non-speaking (in Matlin and Hunter's cases). Wyman, playing a deaf-mute rape victim in Johnny Belinda (1948), was the first person in the sound era to win an acting Oscar without speaking a line of dialogue. Matlin, who speaks just once when she argues with actor William Hurt, won the award for her American sign language performance in Children of a Lesser God (1986), and Hunter, who narrates several scenes and speaks on camera in the last scene (although her face is covered) for her British sign language role in The Piano (1993). Unlike Matlin, who is almost completely deaf in real life, Hunter and Wyman can hear.
There have been no posthumous winners of the award. The only posthumous nomination of a woman for any acting award was Jeanne Eagels, who was nominated for Best Actress in 1929 for The Letter. She was the first woman to be posthumously nominated for an Oscar in any category.
In 1984, three of the five nominees—Sally Field in Places in the Heart, Jessica Lange in Country, and Sissy Spacek in The River—were all nominated for playing strikingly similar roles: farmers struggling to keep their properties running against the odds - not a particularly common role. Field won the Oscar for her performance - Lange and Spacek had both won previously.
In 2010, Sandra Bullock became the first actor to date to have won a Razzie Award for Worst Actress and an Academy Award for Best Actress in the same weekend, but for two different roles.
In 2001 Donald A. Redelmeier and Sheldon M. Singh published a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine in which they found that:
"Winning an Academy Award was associated with a large gain in life expectancy for actors and actresses... Winning an Academy Award can increase a performer’s stature and may add to their longevity. The absolute difference in life expectancy is about equal to the societal consequence of curing all cancers in all people for all time (22, 23). Moreover, movie stars who have won multiple Academy Awards have a survival advantage of 6.0 years (CI, 0.7 to 11.3 years) over performers with multiple films but no victories. Formal education is not the only way to improve health, and strict poverty is not the only way to worsen health. The main implication is that higher status may be linked to lower mortality rates even at very impressive levels of achievement."
The authors did an update to 29 March 2006 in which they found 122 more individuals and 144 more deaths since their first publication. Their unadjusted analysis showed a smaller survival advantage of 3.6 years for winners compared to their fellow nominees and costars in the films in which their performance garnered them their award. However, in a 2006 published study by Marie-Pierre Sylvestre, MSc, Ella Huszti, MSc, and James A. Hanley, PhD, the authors found:
"The statistical method used to derive this statistically significant difference gave winners an unfair advantage because it credited an Oscar winner's years of life before winning toward survival subsequent to winning. When the authors of the current article reanalyzed the data using methods that avoided this "immortal time" bias, the survival advantage was closer to 1 year and was not statistically significant. The bias in Redelmeier and Singh's study is not limited to longevity comparisons of persons who reach different ranks within their profession."
Following the Academy's practice, the films below are listed by year of their Los Angeles qualifying run, which is usually (but not always) the film's year of release. For example, the Oscar for Best Actress of 1999 was announced during the award ceremony held in 2000. Winners are listed first in bold, followed by the other nominees.
(Note: The Academy also announced that Robson came in second, and Wynyard last).
(Note: The Academy also announced that Hopkins came in second, and Hepburn third).
As the Academy Awards are based in the United States and are centered on the Hollywood film industry, the majority of Academy Award winners have been Americans. Nonetheless, there is significant international presence at the awards, as evidenced by the following list of winners of the Academy Award for Best Actress.
At the 37th Academy Awards (1965), all four of the top acting honors were awarded to non-Americans for the first time: Rex Harrison (British), Julie Andrews (British), Peter Ustinov (British), and Lila Kedrova (Russian-born French). This occurred for a second time at the 80th Academy Awards (2008), when the awards went to Daniel Day-Lewis (Irish/British), Marion Cotillard (French), Javier Bardem (Spanish), and Tilda Swinton (British).