The Ten Best Actress Of All Time Relay Race

Remember the Ten Best Actors of All Time Relay Race I did back in March? Well, The King of Blog Series Nostra @ at My Film Views is at it again, this time with the female counterparts of the race.

Here are the entries from the other participants so far in the Actresses Relay Race:

My Filmviews » The Velvet Cafe » Martin Teller » The Movie Review Warehouse » Benefits of a Classical Education » Just Another Movie Blog » Film Actually

If you’re curious to see where the Top 10 Best Actor’s race is at right now, check out Nostra’s Update
Well, I’m honored to receive the baton from my pal Dan @ Public Transportation Snob. And here are the original rules of the Best Actresses of All Time Relay Race from Nostra:

“I’ve created a list of what I think are the best actresses of all time. At the end of the post I, just like in a real relay race, hand over the baton to another blogger who will write his own post. This blogger will have to remove one actress (that is an obligation) and add his/her own choice and describe why he/she did this. At the end the blogger chooses another blogger to do the same. The idea is to make this a long race, so that enough bloggers get a chance to remove and add an actress. We will end up with a list (not ranked in order) which represents a common agreement of the best actresses. It will also mean that those who follow this relay race will get to know new blogs as well!”

Here is the current list of 10 actresses as it stands now:

Cate Blanchett

Katharine Hepburn

Julianne Moore

Barbara Stanwyck

Meryl Streep

Kate Winslet

Viola Davis

Juliette Binoche

Judy Garland

Ingrid Bergman


Now, picking who I’d like to add is easy and since the one actress I thought of right away is already on the list (hint: the only Aussie on the list), the second one I had in mind happens to be one of her co-stars. Of course, with the fun of choosing who to add comes the arduous task of having to remove one from the list. But hey, that’s what a race is all about right? So with a heavy heart, I choose to remove…

Judy Garland

I’m truly sorry to have to remove a classic actress but between her and Barbara Stanwyck whose work I have not seen, I’m afraid I have to choose miss Garland. Yes I know, most of you probably will cry foul at me for not having seen The Wizard of Oz, but it’s one of those classics that have eluded me to this day and frankly, I don’t know if I will ever see it. Interestingly enough, the 1937 original of A Star Is Born, is said to have been modeled after Stanwyck’s rise to stardom (per IMDb trivia) and Garland was nominated for an Oscar in the 1954 remake. In any case, I have no doubt Judy Garland is a great actress with a wonderful voice and an iconic role, but again, there’s only room for ten, so that’s that.

Now, the easy part.

The actress I think deserves to be on this list is…

Judi Dench

Ok, I didn’t plan on replacing a ‘Judy’ with another one with an ‘i’ but as I’m thinking of a best actress of ALL TIME, my mind just keeps going back to the Dame. She may be petite at 5’1″ but there is nothing diminutive about the 78-year-old English thespian. With six Oscar nominations and one win, plus twice as many BAFTA awards for her work in both TV and films, she is a force to be reckoned with. Not many actress, even of her caliber, could nab an Oscar for only being on screen for 8 minutes! But she did it in Shakespeare in Love in 1998.

I first saw her in Goldeneye as M [the first woman in that role, best casting ever!] but after seeing her in about 16 films, I realize that she’s as outstanding in period dramas as she is in an action thriller as those Bond films. I absolutely LOVE her performance as Queen Victoria in Her Majesty Mrs. Brown, and she often steal scenes even in brief parts, i.e. Pride & Prejudice as the high-and-mighty Lady Catherine de Bourg, the more lowly Mrs. Fairfax in Jane Eyre and also as a curmudgeonly grandmother with a secret in Chocolat. She shines even in so-so films like Nine and My Week with Marilyn, and often is one of the best things about the film.

I wish I could say that I have seen her stage performance as she’s as celebrated as a stage performer as she is a film actress, if not more so. She’s been nominated and won the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award as well as other prestigious theater honor for her stage work. I hope she will last a while in this *race* as I do believe she’s one of THE best actress in the business with 100 titles under her belt!

Who’s next?

I’d like Anna from Defiant Success to continue the relay, who’s well-versed in classic and contemporary cinema. I’m curious to see what she’ll do with the list 🙂

So, what do you think of my decision? Agree/disagree? Well, let’s hear it!

50 thoughts on “The Ten Best Actress Of All Time Relay Race

  1. Gotta love Dame Judi – I remember sitting with my Opa watching the series As Time Goes By. It’s what I associate her the most with and I love it!

  2. To really be considered for the best actress of all time, the woman really needs to have an amazing body of work. You’re right in removing Judy Garland, because other than “Wizard of Oz,” she’s mostly known for melodrama and the “let’s put on a show” films with Mickey Rooney. Viola Davis is a wonderful actor, but she’s really been in two notable roles, and one only lasted a scene or two (despite being nominated for an Oscar for it). Consider Helen Mirren, Alfre Woodard, or Jodie Foster.

    1. Yep, amazing body of work and versatility, that’s what I had in mind, hence the choice. Dame Judi seems right at home no matter what kind of genre. She was even in The Chronicle of Riddick, and though I haven’t seen it, I’m sure she’s great in it. I was considering Helen Mirren too, but I feel like Dench is still the better actress of the two IMO.

      1. I have no complaints about Densch! She’s terrific, and it’s great seeing someone of her age getting so much work and being able to do so many memorable roles.

  3. Great choice! Dench surely deserves a position here. And as for Garland, I’ve only seen The Wizard of Oz and though it’s a great film, I don’t remember thinking it’s one of the best performances of all time. Perhaps I need to see more of her films.

  4. Ted S.

    Good list, I’ve seen most of their except Judy Garland, Ingrid Bergman and Barbara Stanwyck. I’m much into older films so I don’t have any opinions about those three actresses. I did see The Wizard of Oz when I was very young and those damn monkeys scared the crap out of me. Also, I’ve only seen Judy Dench’s work in the Bond films. She’ll be missed after Skyfall.

    One actress I think should also be considered one of the best is Faye Dunaway, her career sort of mellowed out after the 70s but I always thought she a very good actress. Rumors been going around for years that she was the one who insulted Steven Spielberg before he became a big named director by telling him he won’t amount to anything in that town. Whoops! Apparently she was pissed that he didn’t cast her in Jaws. Of course those are just rumors.

    1. I haven’t seen anything by Stanwyck and Garland either Ted, though I’m interested in seeing more of Stanwyck’s work.

      Oh I didn’t know that about Faye. Wow if that’s true, she must’ve regretted that, ahah. Not like her career suffered from it though, she still is a celebrated actress.

  5. Great to see Dench added, I really considered putting her in when I was making the list initially, but just hadn’t seen enough of her work to add her.

  6. Nice list Ruth, those that stick out for me are Cate Blanchett and Kate Winslet, less for talent as such (though they are both undoubtedly fine actresses) and more for charisma and screen presence which I think goes a long way in cinema.

    1. Charisma and screen presence are so crucial in an actor, and both Cate & Kate have ’em in spades. I do think Dame Judi has that PLUS immense talent to boot! Thanks Ronan.

  7. Superb choice! I agree that Dench shines even in mediocre movies. I was watching Notes on Scandal again during the weekend, while the film was very good Dench’s performance was absolutely brilliant and one of my favorites ever.

    1. It’s interesting that Dame Judi has worked with fantastic talents who are on this list already. I haven’t seen Notes on a Scandal but no doubt she’s phenomenal in it.

  8. Ruth, you made the right choice in removing Garland. I was trying to give her a chance since she’d just been added, but I had a feeling she wouldn’t last too long. I would suggest that you check out The Wizard of Oz, though. It’s worth seeing for the spectacle of it all. Nice post!

    1. Thanks again for tagging me Dan. Ahah, I know lots of people have recommended Wizard of Oz but for some reason I’m just not that interested in seeing it 😀

  9. jackdeth72

    Hi, Ruth and company:

    Excellent choices on both ends of the spectrum!

    Judy Garland has always struck me as a talented actress who had been lucky enough to be attached to a few truly great films. Specifically, ‘The Wizard of Oz’, ‘Meet Me in St. Louis’ and ‘A Star is Born’.

    Dame Judith Dench has pulled the plow. Performed well and memorably in many roles in countless plays, films and in television. Taking the lessons learned with The Royal Shakespeare Company and applying them judiciously.

    1. Thanks Jack! I’m glad you think so as I know you’re familiar with both classic and contemporary cinema. I know that Garland has done great work in the past but I do think that Dame Judi is more deserving despite not always getting leading roles. Even in brief scenes, it’s impossible not to notice her. Her undeniable screen presence and even her manner of speaking commands the screen. She’s definitely one of the best RSC actors who’ve made it big on both TV and films.

    1. I highly recommend Mrs. Brown, especially if you’re into period dramas or films about the royal family. It’s a heartwarming film about lost love and deep friendship. It’s also Gerry Butler’s debut in a feature film 😉

  10. THE DENCH!

    I full approve of your substitution of THE DENCH into this list. She deserves to be in there. Her onscreen presence is epic. She has a command over your attention. Brilliant!

  11. Yeah, a decent call. I love Garland, but her skills are more about singing/dancing and less about acting. Plus, Judi Dench ought to replace a number of the ladies on this list. 🙂

    1. That’s what I thought too about Garland, but Judi is the quintessential performer, no matter what medium as she shines in all of them, stage, TV and film.

  12. Nice pick Ruth 😀 I would have removed Garland myself and Dench has been a constant of excellence in acting for the past several decades. Looking forward to her expanded role in Skyfall!

    1. Thanks Castor! I really can’t wait to see her in Skyfall. I might even try to see ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ at the Edina Theater if someone is willing to go with me.

  13. I’m not sure how could Viola Davis, who’s nice but has little roles, steal the place from the unnaturally amazingToni Collette, mindblowingly sensual and disciplined Catherine Zeta Jones or damely Helen Mirren…. not to mention Maggie Smith.
    My list would also include Emily Blunt, Imelda Staunton, Rachel Weisz…..

    1. I think Maggie Smith and Dame Mirren should be on this list, hopefully someone would add ’em in later, unfortunately I could only add one Dezzy 🙂

  14. I have to admit that I am not very familiar with Dench, but I did enjoy her in Casino Royale and My Week With Marilyn, both of which I saw recently. Just another reminder that I need to watch more Bond movies! 😀

    1. Yes, watch more Bond movies! Though I have a lot of recommendations outside of that if you want to watch more Judi Dench films 🙂

  15. Pingback: The Ten Best Actresses of All Time Relay Race « Southern Vision

  16. PrairieGirl

    Great addition of Judi Dench, but I would have removed Julianne Moore and Viola Davis way before Judy Garland… ;-D

  17. Great list, agree with most choices, especially Streep (of course), Blanchett, Winslet and Viola Davis. It surprises me that Bette Davis STILL isn’t on the list. Support you in eliminating Judy Garland in favor of Judi Dench, who definitely deserves a spot in this Top 10 (not saying Garland is not great). About Wizard of Oz, I may be one of very few people in the world who isn’t crazy about it, so I don’t think you’re missing out on much.

  18. Pingback: Catching up with the Best Actresses of All Time Relay Race | Martin Teller's Movie Reviews

  19. Layla

    I think Julie Andrews deserved to be somewhere on the top 5, at least. I personally vote her #1, she is an amazing actress and singer! most the women on “Best Actresses of All Time” lists are can’t sing, or dance, or anythin else. Julie can do all three and much more. She is flawless, perfect, classy, graceful, sweet, nice, hilarious, caring, beautiful, and my favorite actress ever. She is a true classic. Many of the movies are “a classic” that you must watch. She is on the list for “Top 50 Most Important British People” she has one almost all awards in her career catagory, she won an Oscar for the first movie she ever made, she has been so talented for 7 decades. She is the youngest person to perform or a queen. She is a Dame. She is ALWAYS the main character in her 40+ movies. She has just been so amazing and such a great gift to the world. Im so glad to live in a time where she was still such a big actress. Please add her on this list, I think she REALLY deserves it. thanks

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