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Best Actress Oscar-Winners Since 2000, Ranked Worst to Best

From British royalty to the mighty Meryl Streep, our updated list of the ladies who’ve nabbed Academy Awards in the 21st century

Unlike the Best Actor champs of the past 18 years, where Sean Penn and Daniel Day-Lewis have both won twice, the Best Actress field features no two-time winners. Instead, this category has served up a pretty decent rundown of Hollywood’s current acting royalty, including Helen Mirren, Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman, Marion Cotillard – and even a few Americans here and there.

What’s funny, however, is that our finest actresses have rarely won for their finest roles lately, which makes our ranking of this century’s Best Actress victors especially challenging. But we set aside a performer’s body of work in determining our list, focusing instead on the specific role. Consequently, this will probably be the only ranking of great actresses on the Web that puts Meryl dead last. Please know that you’re first in our hearts, Ms. Streep, especially after that kick-ass Golden Globes speech.

So without further ado, our breakdown of the 21st century’s Best Actress Oscar-Winners, from worst to best.

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1

Julianne Moore, ‘Still Alice’

In 1995, Julianne Moore, still relatively unknown at the time, essayed one of the great modern film roles in Safe, playing a suburban housewife who's allergic to the world, a condition that results in her practically disappearing in front of our eyes. Almost 20 years later, now firmly established as one of our best actresses, Moore delivered another astounding performance about a different woman losing herself. Still Alice tells the story of a linguistics professor diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's, and the actress plays her as a bright, poised 50-year-old who quickly learns that her intelligence can't save her from a disease that will ravage her memory. It's a performance that's powerfully internal yet expressed with incredible physicality: The woman's fear, resignation and anger come through in Moore's panicked, anguished eyes, but what's especially remarkable is how she articulates the emptying out of a once-vibrant person. Alice is still there, and yet she's not, and the star honors the mysteries of a body that's lost its inner light and yet retained its ineffable soul.

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