I just went through this rant in my intro to my ‘Top 50 Favorite Modern Actors’. So that post will give a general idea for what went into the list.

EDIT: October, 2013
In order of preference i.e who I get most excited to see, whether during this decade or the 70’s. Who I consider my ‘favorites’ on a personal level. There’s a mix of current interests mixed with constants. Brie Larson and Lola Creton are on the cusp. Kirsten Dunst is also getting back in my good graces. Keep in mind there is a fair amount of fluctuation. It’s an arbitrary counter of who I like at any given moment.

A reminder that this list covers actresses who have had the majority of their career take place between the 1960’s and the present.

Actresses I cut from the original Jan 2012 posting: 
Moon So-ri, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Helena Bonham-Carter, Meryl Streep, Katee Sackhoff, Maggie Smith, Saorsie Ronan, Christina Hendricks, Summer Glau, Kelly Macdonald, Naomi Watts, Emma Stone, Katherine Moennig, Michelle Forbes, Jessica Hynes, Carey Mulligan, Laura Linney, Jeon do-yeon, Gong Li, Lola Creton

50. Emily Browning
Previously: —
Seen in 5 films:
Ghost Ship, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Uninvited, Sucker Punch, Sleeping Beauty

Marion Cotillard#49. Marion Cotillard
Previously: #46
Seen in 10 films: Big Fish, A Very Long Engagement, La Vie En Rose, Public Enemies, Nine, Inception, Midnight in Paris, Contagion, Rust and Bone, The Dark Knight Rises

48. Sarah Gadon
Previously: —
Seen in 4 films: A Dangerous Method, The Moth Diaries, Cosmopolis, Antiviral


47. Laura Dern: 
Previously: —
Seen in: Smooth Talk, Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart, Jurassic Park, Citizen Ruth, October Sky, The Master

Elizabeth Debicki Sydney Photo Shoot
46. Elizabeth Debicki
Previously: —
Seen in 1 film, 1 stage production: The Great Gatsby, The Maids

45. Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Previously: —
Seen in: 
9 seasons of “Seinfeld”, 2 seasons of “Veep”, Hannah and Her Sisters, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Deconstructing Harry, A Bug’s Life

Viola Davis
44. Viola Davis
Previously: —
Seen in:
Doubt, The Help, Traffic, Antwine Fisher, Far From Heaven, Disturbia, Prisoners, State of Play

COFFY43. Pam Grier
Previously: —
Seen in: Foxy Brown, Jackie Brown, “The L Word”, Mars Attacks


42. Elisabeth Moss
Previously: —
Seen in: 6 seasons of “Mad Men”, Top of the Lake

Thora Birch

41. Thora Birch
Previously: #42

Seen in 9 films: All I Want for Christmas, Hocus Pocus, Monkey Trouble, Now and Then, Alaska, American Beauty, The Hole, Ghost World, The Pregnancy Pact

936full-rinko-kikuchi#39. Rinko Kikuchi
Previously: —
Seen in 3 films: Babel, The Brothers Bloom, Pacific Rim

38. Brie Larson
Previously: —
Seen in 7 films, 1 TV show: Sleepover, Greenberg, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, “The United States of Tara” (3 seasons), 21 Jump Street, Short Term 12, Rampart, The Spectacular Now

37. Jessica Chastain
Previously: —
Seen in 6 films: Take Shelter, The Tree of Life, The Help, The Debt, Lawless, Zero Dark Thirty

Mia Wasikowska
36. Mia Wasikowska
Previously: #31

Seen in 6 films, 1 TV show: “In Treatment”, 1 season, Alice in Wonderland, The Kids Are All Right, Jane Eyre, Albert Nobbs, Lawless, Stoker

Keira Knightley

35. Keira Knightley
Previously: #26

Seen in 17 films: Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, The Hole, Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, Love Actually, King Arthur, The Jacket, Domino, Pride and Prejudice, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Atonement, The Edge of Love, The Duchess, Never Let Me Go, Last Night, A Dangerous Method, Anna Karenina

Charlotte Rampling

34. Charlotte Rampling
Previously: #27

Seen in 10 films: The Night Porter, The Verdict, The Wings of the Dove, Swimming Pool, Deception, The Duchess, Life During Wartime, Never Let Me Go, Melancholia, The Mill and the Cross

Michelle Williams

33. Michelle Williams
: #23
Seen in 17 films: Species, Halloween: H20, Dick, If These Walls Could Talk 2, Prozac Nation, Brokeback Mountain, I’m Not There, Deception, Synecdoche, New York, Wendy and Lucy, Shutter Island, Mammoth, Blue Valentine, Meek’s Cutoff, My Week with Marilyn, Take This Waltz, Oz The Great and Powerful 

Angela Bettis
32. Angela Bettis
Previously: #29

Seen in 4 films, 1 TV show: Girl, Interrupted, Bless the Child, May, The Woman, “Dexter”, 2 episodes


31. Hanna Schygulla
Previously: #30
Seen in 3 films: The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, The Marriage of Maria Braun, Edge of Heaven

shelley-duvall-1977#30 Shelley Duvall
Previously: —
Seen in: McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Nashville, 3 Women, Annie Hall, The Shining, Popeye, Time Bandits, “Frankenweenie”, Roxanne, Mother Goose Rock N’ Rhyme, ” Faerie Tale Theatre” (host), Casper Meets Wendy

theresa_russell-22#29. Theresa Russell
Previously: —
Seen in 6 films: Bad Timing, Eureka, Wild Things, Spider Man 3, “Empire Falls”, Liz & Dick

28. Emma Thompson
Previously: #22

Seen in 14 films: Howards End, Much Ado About Nothing, Remains of the Day, In the Name of the Father, Junior, Sense and Sensibility, Love Actually, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Stranger than Fiction, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, I Am Legend, An Education, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Brave (voice)

27. Shirley Henderson
Previously: #19

Seen in 12 films, 1 TV show: Trainspotting, Topsy-Turvy, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, 24 Hour Party People, Intermission, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Marie Antoinette, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Life During Wartime, Meek’s Cutoff, Anna Karenina, “Doctor Who”, 1 episode

26. Olivia Williams
Seen in 8 films, 1 TV show: Rushmore, The Sixth Sense, The Heart of Me, Peter Pan, An Education, The Ghost Writer, Hanna, Anna Karenina, “Dollhouse”, 2 seasons

Vera Farmiga
25. Vera Farmiga
Previously: #18

Seen in 9 filmsReturn to Paradise, The Manchurian Candidate, The Departed, Joshua, Quid Pro Quo, Nothing but the Truth, Orphan, Source Code, The Conjuring

JulieDelpy2#24 Julie Delpy
Previously: —
Seen in 10 films: Europa Europa, Three Colors: White, Three Colors: Blue (cameo), Three Colors: Red (cameo), Before Sunrise, Waking Life, Before Sunset, 2 Days in Paris, 2 Days in New York, Before Midnight

Kate Winslet
23. Kate Winslet
: #7
Seen in 14 films, 1 TV show: Heavenly Creatures, Sense and Sensibility, Hamlet, Titanic, Quills, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Finding Neverland, Little Children, The Holiday, The Reader, Revolutionary Road, Mildred Pierce, Contagion, Carnage, “Extras”, 1 episode

22. Katharine Isabelle
Previously: —
Seen in 6 films, 2 TV shows: Cousins, Ginger Snaps, Insomnia, Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed, Freddy vs Jason, American Mary, “Supernatural;” (2 episodes), “Hannibal” (1 season)

Scarlett-Johansson-Photoshoot-422. Scarlett Johansson
Previously: —
Seen in: Under the Skin, Lucy, The Avengers, Her, Ghost World, Match Point, The Spirit, The Man who Wasn’t There, Lost in Translation, Iron Man 2, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, The Other Boleyn Girl, The Prestige, Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Black Dahlia, In Good Company, “A View from the Bridge” (stage production)


21. Lili Taylor: 
Previously: —
Seen inSay Anything…, Dogfight, Short Cuts, Rudy, Four Rooms, I Shot Andy Warhol, The Haunting, High Fidelity, The Notorious Bettie Page, Public Enemies, The Conjuring, 2 seasons of “Six Feet Under”

aggelikilo#20. Aggeliki Papoulia
Previously: —
Seen in 2 films: Dogtooth, Alps

Ellen+Page+East+Photo+Call+SXSW+4PTcdtt-hIDl19. Ellen Page
Previously: #14
Seen in 9 films: Hard Candy, X-Men: The Last Stand, Juno, Smart People, Whip It, Peacock, Inception, Super, The East 

Helen Mirren

18. Helen Mirren
Previously: #20

Seen in 14 films: The Long Good Friday, The Cook, the Thief, his Wife & Her Lover, The Madness of King George, Gosford Park, Calendar Girls, The Clearing, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Queen, Inkheart, State of Play, RED, The Debt, Phil Spector, Monsters University (voice)

Studio Février 2004 Dimensions du scan 790x1200 150pp
17. Eva Green

Previously: —
Seen in 5 films, 1 TV show: The Dreamers, Casino Royale, The Golden Compass, Cracks, Dark Shadows, “Penny Dreadful” (one season)

Christina Ricci16. Christina Ricci
Previously: #15
Seen in 21 films: Mermaids, The Addams Family, Addams Family Values, Caspar, Now and Then, Gold Diggers: Secret of Bear Mountain, That Darn Cat, The Ice Storm, The Opposite of Sex, Small Soldiers (voice), 200 Cigarettes, Sleepy Hollow, Bless the Child, The Man who Cried, Prozac Nation, Monster, Cursed, Black Snake Moan, Penelope, Speed Racer, AfterLife, “Grey’s Anatomy”, 2 episodes

9255257079_7f208b16ab_h15. Michelle Pfieffer
Previously: #44
Seen in: Grease 2, Scarface, Dangerous Liaisons, Batman Returns, The Age of Innocence, Dangerous Minds, One Fine Day, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, What Lies Beneath, Stardust, Hairspray

Ludivine Sagnier

14. Ludivine Sagnier
Seen in 9 films: Water Drops on Burning Rocks, 8 Women, Swimming Pool, Peter Pan, Paris je t’aime, A Secret, Mesrine: Public Enemy Number 1, Love Crime, The Devil’s Double


#13Léa Seydoux
Previously: —
Seen in 7 films: 
Inglourious Basterds, Midnight in Paris, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Farewell My Queen, Sister, Blue is the Warmest Color, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Liv Ullman

12. Liv Ullman
Seen in 5 films: Persona, Hour of the Wolf, The Passion of Anna, Cries and Whispers, Autumn Sonata

Nicole Kidman

11. Nicole Kidman
Previously: #9
Seen in 24 films: Dead Calm, Days of Thunder, Flirting, Far and Away, My Life, To Die For, Batman Forever, Practical Magic, Eyes Wide Shut, Moulin Rouge!, The Others, The Hours, Dogville, Cold Mountain, The Stepford Wives, Bewitched, Birth, The Interpreter, The Golden Compass, Margot at the Wedding, Nine, Rabbit Hole, Stoker, The Paperboy

10. Sally Hawkins
: #7
Seen in 11 films: Tipping the Velvet, Vera Drake, Layer Cake, Fingersmith, Cassandra’s Dream, Happy-Go-Lucky, An Education, Never Let Me Go, Submarine, Jane Eyre, Blue Jasmine

Winona Ryder

9. Winona Ryder
Seen in 19 films: Beetlejuice, 1969, Mermaids, Edward Scissorhands, Night on Earth, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Age of Innocence, Reality Bites, House of the Spirits, Little Women, How to Make an American Quilt, The Crucible, Girl, Interrupted, Mr. Deeds, The Ten, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, Star Trek, Black Swan, Frankenweenie (voice)

Maggie Cheung

8. Maggie Cheung
: #13
Seen in 9 Films: Centre Stage, Police Story 3: Supercop, Days of Being Wild, The Heroic Trio, Executioners, Irma Vep, In the Mood for Love, Hero, 2046

7. Isabelle Adjani
Previously: —
Seen in 6 films:  The Tenant, The Driver, Nosferatu the Vampyre, Possession, One Deadly Summer, Ishtar

Bae Doona

6. Bae Doona
: #8
Seen in 5 films: Barking Dogs Never Bite, Take Care of My Cat, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, The Host, Cloud Atlas

5. Juliette Binoche
Seen in 12 films: Lovers on the BridgeDamage, Three Colors: Blue, The English Patient, Chocolat, Code Unknown, Cache, Paris je t’aime, Flight of the Red Balloon, Summer Hours, Certified Copy, Cosmopolis

4. Cate Blanchett
Seen in 23 films: Elizabeth, The Talented Mr. Ripley, An Ideal Husband, The Gift, The Man who Cried, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Bandits, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Coffee and Cigarettes, Veronica Guerin, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Aviator, Babel, The Good German, Notes on a Scandal, Hot Fuzz, I’m Not There, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Hanna, Blue Jasmine

3. Tilda Swinton
Seen in 13 films: Vanilla Sky, Adaptation, Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, Thumbsucker, Stephanie Daley, Michael Clayton, Julia, Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Burn After Reading, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, I Am Love, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Moonrise Kingdom 

2. Catherine Deneuve
Seen in 12 films: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Repulsion, The Young Girls of Rochefort, Belle de Jour, Donkey Skin, The Last Metro, The Hunger, Dancer in the Dark, 8 Women, Persepolis (voice), A Christmas Tale, The Girl on the Train

1. Isabelle Huppert
Seen in 12 films: Violette Noziere, Story of Women, La Ceremonie, Sentimental Destinies, Merci Pour le Chocolat, The Piano Teacher, 8 Women, Time of the Wolf, I Heart Huckabees, White Material, Amour, In Another Country, Abuse of Weakness


6 thoughts on “List: Top 50 Favorite Modern Actresses

  1. Nicely considered list. And a beautiful selection of images to accompany it. A few actresses I would have also added to my list: Rosemarie Dewitt, Melanie Lynskey, Toni Collette, Emily Blunt, Kate Winslet, Susan Sarandon, and Meryl Streep. Especially Ms. Streep – who is so unbelievably talented and reportedly quite a classy, generous, humorous lady as well.

  2. This list is interesting! I like that you included Pam Grier, Katharine Isabelle and Thora Birch as they are all wonderful and get nowhere near the attention they deserve. The most glaring omission for me, personally, is Scarlett Johansson!!

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