Ten Best [Film and TV] Actresses of All Time

The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, found at GALECA.or and @DorianAwards, announced its members’ collective picks for the organization’s latest “Ten Best” list: GALECA’s Ten Best Actresses of All Time.

The 160-plus members of GALECA, a nonprofit group comprised of professional film and TV critics and entertainment journalists in the U.S., Canada and the U.K., were each asked to name their 10 choices for the finest female actors throughout the history of film and television, without ranking the stars. The actresses with the most mentions are noted below alphabetically (text by GALECA member Dana Piccoli). Note: Actresses who did not make the top 10 here but came closest among the 100 or so listed by members include Joan Crawford, Judi Dench, Sally Field, Judy Garland, Audrey Hepburn, Nicole Kidman, Jessica Lange, Helen Mirren, Elizabeth Taylor and Kate Winslet.

The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association’s Ten Best Actresses of All Time (again, in alphabetical order) are:

Ingrid Bergman

Ingrid Bergman, Casablanca (1942)

The Swedish star is best known to your average Joe as misty-eyed Ilsa in Casablanca, but Bergman devotees know that she starred in many more, including a trio of Hitchcock films and George Cukor’s stellar thriller Gaslight. Bergman is also responsible for another gift to cinema: her daughter, actress Isabella Rossellini.

Cate Blanchett

Cate Blanchette, Elizabeth (1997)

Whether she’s playing a tortured 16th-century monarch or having clandestine glove lunches in 1952, Cate Blanchett radiates. She’s the kind of actress that demands your attention, and you gratefully give it. She’s picked up a host of Oscar and/or Golden Globe nominations (and a few wins) for her stunning performances in such modern classics as Elizabeth, Blue Jasmine and Carol (the latter two also earned her GALECA Dorian Awards).

Bette Davis

Bette Davis, The Little Foxes 1941

The grande dame of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Bette Davis commanded attention with her striking visage and powerful performances in films like All About Eve, The Little Foxes and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (Davis’ off-camera battles with costar Joan Crawford in the latter fuel the upcoming TV series Feud). But from the get-go, she was blazing trails as one of filmdom’s most distinct, eye-expressive actresses.

Viola Davis

Viola Davis, Doubt (2008)

Bette’s not the only Ms. Davis to stand out on the screen (big or small). This Juilliard-trained powerhouse has shown there’s no role she can’t conquer, winning two Tonys, two Oscar nominations (for Doubt and The Help) and, finally, like Stanwyck, an Emmy. That parade of awards will only keep growing as she lends her trademark thoughtfulness to more juicy roles like her current one as Annalise Keating in TV’s How to Get Away With Murder.

Jane Fonda

Jane Fonda, Klute (1971)

Fonda (a GALECA Timeless Star career-achievement honoree) may have come from Hollywood royalty, but she’s been paving her own way with intelligence and subversive wit since the sixties. Be it in the daring crime thriller Klute, feminist office comedy 9 to 5 to or gray-haired sitcom Grace and Frankie, Fonda is a nervy, magnetic presence. And few actresses have such a knack for shedding light on important issues with her brave performances. Witness her Oscar-winning turn in Coming Home.

Katharine Hepburn

Katherine Hepburn, The Lion in Winter (1968)

Few actresses, or actors, have the sort of self-possessed presence that came so naturally to Kate Hepburn. Even after her early success in was deemed a flash in the pan by the 1940s, she showed that talent and a hell of a lot of moxie can’t be quashed. Hepburn picked up three of her four Oscars later in life (see On Golden Pond), working until the age of 87. Her dedication to her art and her iconoclastic personal style translate to indelible.

Isabelle Huppert

Isabelle Huppert, The Piano Teacher (2001)

The French-born Cannes’ darling Huppert has been making waves in the film industry for over 40 years now, with no signs of slowing down. Her haunting performance in 2001’s The Piano Teacher may be her best known work in the U.S., but the BAFTA- and Cesar-winning chameleon has over 50 films under her belt, a testament to her status as one of the world’s most spectacularly natural acting talents. See her cast a spell in the current drama Elle.

Julianne Moore

Julianne Moore, Boogie Nights (1997)

Moore has the makings of a modern legend. She landed on the radar with her high of a performance in 1997’s Boogie Nights and she’s been building a noticeably meaty list of credits ever since. Her subtle and natural style has made her a household name and a favorite during Academy Awards season (and she won a GALECA Dorian Award for Still Alice). While Moore is usually cast in dramas like the heart-wrenching The End of the Affair, her comedic timing in The Big Lebowski is proof she has the chops to do it all.

Barbara Stanwyck

Barbara Stanwyck, Babyface (1933)

The stunningly “real” Stanwyck rose from a childhood filled with poverty and strife to become one of early Hollywood’s most dynamic actresses. The former Ziegfeld Follies dancer elicited tears in Stella Dallas, mesmerized in the noir classic Double Indemnity and delighted in the screwball comedy The Lady Eve. “Missy” later turned heads in television, winning three Emmys, including one for her gutsy performance in The Thorn Birds.

Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep, Sophie’s Choice (1982)

Enigmatic, brilliant, timeless. Meryl Streep’s career is as varied as can be, with Oscar-winning performances in The Iron Lady(which also earned her GALECA’s Dorian Award), Sophie’s Choice and Kramer vs. Kramer to fun frolics in films like Mamma Mia and The Devil Wears Prada. Streep completely loses herself in her roles, making her not only fascinating, but (shhh) GALECA’s number-one Best Actress of All Time.


The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association (GALECA) sponsors the Dorian Awards, annually honoring movies and TV programs of all types, not just “gay.” GALECA’s membership consists of more than 160 professional critics, journalists and editors who cover the worlds of film and/or TV on for legitimate media outlets — from mainstream to LGBTQ-centric — in the United States, Canada and the U.K. More information may be found at galeca.org.

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