1. Halle Berry, Best Actress – Monster’s Ball, 2001
Proving she’s capable of playing more than just super sexy Bond girl Jinx, Berry won a Best Actress award for her unforgettable role in Monster’s Ball. Her win made Berry the first Bond girl, but more importantly, the first African-American woman ever to win an Academy Award. She accepted her award weeping, shaking and utterly overwhelmed with emotion—but gave one of the most memorable speeches in the award show’s history, dedicating the award to “every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened.”
2. Charlize Theron, Best Actress – Monster, 2003
Playing America’s first known female serial killer, Aileen Wuornous, Theron impressed critics and fans alike and came away with an Academy Award for Best Actress. To prepare for the role, Theron debeautified—packing on 30 lbs, packed on 30 lbs, shaving her eyebrows and wearing prosthetic teeth. That true dedication proved to be a worthy investment as she convincingly came away with the win in 2003.
3. Grace Kelly, Best Actress – The Country Girl, 1954
Though some critics believe the 1954 Best Actress award deserved to go to Judy Garland for her portrayal in A Star is Born, Grace Kelly came away with the win for her portrayal of Georgie Elgin, the resigned and unhappy wife of an alcoholic actor. Long known as a Hollywood icon who embodies grace and elegance like no other, Kelly went on to become a real-life princess, marrying Prince Rainier III of Monaco. An Oscar win, a prince for a husband and a legacy of chic sophistication? Kelly had it all.
4. Sophia Loren, Best Actress – Two Women, 1960
Though best known for her sultry Italian looks, Loren is an accomplished actress as well, having won the Best Actress Academy Award in 1960 for her role as Cesira in the passionate film, Two Women. Her win earned her a place in the history books, as it was the first Oscar ever given for a performance in a foreign-language film. Though not originally cast in the film, the lead actress became sick and had to be replaced. Lucky for us, Loren stepped in.
5. Marion Cotillard, Best Actress – La Vie en Rose, 2007
This French rose was only the second-ever actress to win a Best Actress nod for her role in a foreign-language film. But it isn’t her role in the film that stands out to most people, but her acceptance speech, which is truly one of the best and most inspirational of all time. Receiving the award in broken English, her true gratitude and emotion shone through when she uttered, “thank you life, thank you love, and it is true…there is some angels in this city.”
6. Elizabeth Taylor, Best Actress – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, 1966 and BUtterfield 8, 1961
A two-time Oscar winner, Elizabeth Taylor, also known as “the Dame,” is the last major movie star to come out of the old Hollywood studio system. Though notorious more for her husband hopping and one-of-a-kind jewelry collection, Taylor is a respected actress in her own right. She began her career as a child in the early 1940s and went on to become a sex symbol, a philanthropist and a Hollywood icon. According to the American Film Institute, Taylor is the seventh Greatest Female Star of All Time.
7. Mira Sorvino, Best Supporting Actress – Mighty Aphrodite, 1995
Earning early fame starring as one half of the lovable airhead duo in Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, Sorvino’s spot in Hollywood history was cemented with her Best Supporting Actress win for her role in Mighty Aphrodite. Inspired by the mythological tale of Pygmalion, Sorvino played the role of Linda Ash, the prostitute and porn star, to a tee. Largely due to Sorvino and director/writer Woody Allen’s genius, Mighty Aphrodite was considered one of the best films of 1995.
8. Gwyneth Paltrow, Best Actress – Shakespeare in Love, 1999
Playing Lady Viola De Lesseps, the forbidden love of William Shakespeare, Paltrow caught the attention of the Academy and film-goers all over the world at the tender age of 26. Accepting the award in a light pink chiffon gown and a sleek chignon, Paltrow was reminiscient of a young Grace Kelly. Proving she was a serious actress and a force to be reckoned with, Paltrow went on to star alongside some of Hollywood’s leading men, including Jude Law, Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey and Morgan Freeman.
9. Reese Witherspoon, Best Actress – Walk the Line, 2005
Believe it or not, Witherspoon was devastated when she found out she won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of June Cash in the Johnny Cash biopic, Walk the Link. Why? Because this enormously talented actress didn’t want to confront her fear of public speaking. Unfortunately for her but fortunately for us, Witherspoon won and delivered an acceptance speech that was close to perfection and showed the world how gracious, humble and sweet this Southern belle really is.
10. Kim Basinger, Best Supporting Actress – L.A. Confidential, 1997
Basinger broke out of the “just-a-pretty-face” mold in 1997 when she played the role of Lynn Bracken, a call girl with Veronica Lake looks, in L.A. Confidential. Nominated for nine Academy Awards, the film, based on the 1990 crime fiction novel L.A. Confidential, was an instant hit despite featuring other relative unknowns, Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce. Praised by New York Times' James Maslin as a "tough, gorgeous and vastly entertaining" film, we think that applies to Basinger as well, whose gritty performance earned her the Best Supporting Actress nod.