6. Halle Berry, 'Monster's Ball'
Because Halle Berry had mostly done comedies and X-Men movies before Monster's Ball, it's possible that her Oscar triumph was partly a surprised reaction from some Academy voters that she had such dramatic chops. But that patronizing attitude doesn't do justice to what's an exceedingly raw portrayal of Leticia, a working-class Georgian who loses both her husband and son over the course of the film, falling into an ill-advised love affair with Billy Bob Thornton's racist prison guard. (The buildup to their intense, fumbling sex scene — in which Leticia begs him to "make me feel good" — remains one of the century's most intimate, visceral mergers of pain and release.) Berry plays her with such wounded pride that it's almost too much to take, and in the year of #OscarsSoWhite, it's worth pointing out she's still the only African-American to ever win Best Actress.