RANKED! Our 20 Favorite Actresses of the Last 20 Years
A movie’s success depends on its cast. Actresses, in particular, can be the force that either endears a movie to audiences or turns them off. It isn’t easy to be both beautiful and talented, but somehow today’s actresses manage to pull off both as well as bring sophistication and strength to the silver screen. Without them, modern Hollywood would just be a boorish sausage fest. In honor of the lovely ladies who class up cinema, we’ve selected and ranked our favorite actresses of the last 20 years. Here’s to at least two more decades of basking in their awesomeness.
Cover Photo: Gareth Cattermole / Staff (Getty Images)
20. Frances McDormand
Frances McDormand is like the funny yet stern aunt we wish we had. In lieu of family ties, the next best thing is to enjoy her critically acclaimed performances and dry comedic wit on screen.
19. Viola Davis
Viola Davis first appeared on our radar with the 2011 film The Help, though she was racking up the roles long before then. With 2018's Widows, she cemented her place in American cinema with her tough, take-no-prisoners demeanor.
18. Greta Gerwig
Greta Gerwig's adorable awkwardness always comes through in her many mumblecore film roles.
17. Gwyneth Paltrow
Gwyneth Paltrow's career has evolved from silly rom-coms to serious dramas to, most recently, recurring roles in some of the biggest comic book action flicks Hollywood has ever seen.
16. Michelle Rodriguez
When a female character needs to kick ass in a film, Michelle Rodriguez is one of the few actresses with enough grit to play her believably.
15. Olivia Colman
This British actress is a hidden gem as far as Hollywood is concerned, but her merciless and cunning approach to acting is unparalleled.
14. Rachel Weisz
There's something wicked about Rachel Weisz and it's what we love about her most. Her characters are smart, sexy, and probably pulling one over on you when you're not looking.
13. Amy Adams
Amy Adams has the ability to disappear into her characters' dark personalities without losing her fiery charm.
12. Cate Blanchett
Cate Blanchett commands the screen, whether she's playing Queen Elizabeth in a period piece or the goddess of death in Thor: Ragnarok.
11. Saoirse Ronan
This 25-year-old Irish-American actress has already amassed a solid resume, including a Golden Globe award for Lady Bird as well as three Academy Award nominations.
10. Natalie Portman
Israeli actress Natalie Portman has an intense gaze and mysterious aura that have kept us glued to our screens since her breakthrough role in 1994's The Professional.
9. Kirsten Dunst
Kirsten Dunst was a mere 11 years old when she kissed Brad Pitt in Interview with a Vampire. Since then, she's grown up on screen in films like Little Women, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and The Beguiled.
8. Halle Berry
Is Halle Berry aging backwards? We swear the 53-year-old just gets hotter as time goes on. Her roles get hotter, too, with her latest in John Wick 3: Parabellum guaranteeing her a spot in our Top 10 favorite actresses.
7. Nicole Kidman
This Aussie actress brings gravitas and elegance to every role she takes on. Her breathy voice and icy stare make her the perfect addition to any thriller or slow-burn drama.
6. Meryl Streep
Meryl Streep doesn't do bad movies. Everything she's been in has been Academy Award worthy (OK, except maybe Hope Springs, but you weren't going to see that anyway). Her recent reign as a vindictive mother-in-law in the second season of Big Little Lies showed us a sinister side that we hope to see more of.
5. Uma Thurman
Um, hello. Kill Bill. 'Nuf said.
4. Brie Larson
Brie Larson is the modern superhero Hollywood needs.
3. Charlize Theron
Whether she's taking out the bad guys in action flick Atomic Blonde, stalking an ex in Diablo Cody's Young Adult, or cuddling up with Keanu Reeves in the rom-com Sweet November, Charlize Theron harnesses our attention and doesn't let go. Catch her next as Megyn Kelly in Bombshell.
2. Margot Robbie
Margot Robbie has made a career playing movie versions of real people. She stole the show from Leonardo DiCaprio as one of Jordan Belfort's wives in The Wolf of Wall Street, embodied figure skater Tonya Harding in I, Tonya, and became Sharon Tate for Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
1. Scarlett Johansson
Scarlett Johansson is a versatile actress whose husky voice and pouty lips also make her the girl-next-door of our dreams. She's one of the few people on this list who seem just as genuine, approachable, and fun off screen as she is on. We would watch her in anything.