The Ten Best Actresses of All Time Relay Race

Since this brilliant blogathon by Nostra of My Filmviews began back at the start of May I was hoping someone would eventually choose me for it, and I was delighted when ace blogger-turned-filmmaker Alex Withrow of And So It Begins… was that person! The idea around the blogathon… well, to use Nostra’s words:

“I’ve created a list of what I think are the best actresses of all time. At the end of the post I, just like in a real relay race, hand over the baton to another blogger who will write his own post. This blogger will have to remove one actress (that is an obligation) and add his/her own choice and describe why he/she did this. At the end the blogger chooses another blogger to do the same. The idea is to make this a long race, so that enough bloggers get a chance to remove and add an actress. We will end up with a list (not ranked in order) which represents a common agreement of the best actresses. It will also mean that those who follow this relay race will get to know new blogs as well!”

Here’s a list of the blogs that have participated thus far:

My Filmviews

The Velvet Café

Martin Teller

The Movie Review Warehouse

Benefits of a Classical Education

Just Another Movie Blog

Film Actually

Public Transportation Snob


Defiant Success

And So It Begins…

And of course, the all-important list of actresses selected:

Ingrid Bergman

Juliette Binoche

Cate Blanchett

Audrey Hepburn

Katherine Hepburn

Julianne Moore

Barbara Stanwyck

Meryl Streep

Kate Winslet

Gena Rowlands

Who am I removing? Sadly, I feel it is time to bid adieu to Kate Winslet, who is of course a fantastic actress but who for me… well, it’s not that she doesn’t deserve to make the cut, but in my eyes I just can’t see her as one of the ten best actresses of all time. She’s great, and she has impressed me in movies like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Heavenly Creatures, but her acting quality has never for me been anything truly stellar, at least, not on the level of the other nine on this list. Feel free to disagree vehemently. I won’t complain if you do, since my choice may or may not be removed sooner rather than later.

I’ve put quite a lot of thought into this. I originally had a shortlist of seven choices, which I narrowed down to three, then two, then one. I won’t mention all the names I originally had, but I will mention the one that so nearly made it but didn’t. Now let’s be clear: Ingrid Thulin is in my eyes the most talented actress that has ever lived. Her performances in Wild Strawberries, Brink of Life, Winter Light, The Silence, Hour of the Wolf, and Cries and Whispers stirred emotion deep inside me that no other actress has ever stirred. The woman is, to put it very lightly, an acting phenomenon. The only reason she was not my choice was because I know very few people would have heard of her and she would be removed almost immediately.

So if not Thulin, who is my choice? Well that difficult decision eventually won out in the favour of a lovely woman named Isabelle Huppert. I have not seen her in very many movies, but her performances in two films called The Piano Teacher and White Material really, deeply moved me. Particularly in the former film, in which she plays a mentally and sexually damaged musician. Her performance in The Piano Teacher is the best acting performance I’ve ever seen. As I mentioned earlier, Thulin is my favourite actress, but Huppert turns out the best performance, one of subtlety and bloodcurdling terror.

There is a scene in The Piano Teacher where Huppert falls in love, and this is a powerful moment. She is actually falling deeply, madly, obsessively in love with a young man named Walter Klemmer, and yet, this ‘falling in love’ scene is unlike any other scene of its kind in any movie. Huppert is not falling to her knees and screaming with joy. Quite the opposite. She is doing absolutely nothing at all. Occasionally, the muscles in her face clench and flinch, but she does her best to hide them. In three haunting shots as Huppert listens to Walter playing music, Haneke gradually gets closer and closer to her face as she stands deathly still, watching him keenly. In her eyes, we can see every circuit and fuse inside her exploding, but on the outside, she is completely calm. To evoke such powerful emotion by doing nothing (and keep in mind this sequence of three shots is quite short) at all is skill and talent, and there are many scenes where we can sense Huppert disguising her character’s emotion beneath a façade of emptiness. For these reasons and more, Huppert’s performance in The Piano Teacher is one of the best I’ve ever seen, closely followed by Ingrid Thulin in Winter Light and Juliette Binoche in Three Colours: Blue. And for this reason, I pick Huppert as my choice for the blogathon.

Now I have to pass this along, so with careful deliberation my choice to continue the blogathon is Andy Buckle at The Film Emporium! I am interested to see who he chooses!


Posted on May 29, 2012, in Lists, Movies, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 32 Comments.

  1. Isabelle Huppert! Oh, magnificent choice. I would’ve gone for Thulin as well.

  2. I have only seen her in The Piano Teacher but that’s enough for me. She is so bloody incredible in that movie. Can’t wait to see more of her stuff.

    • Yeah she is fantastic. Even people who don’t like the film have to admit she’s fantastic in it. I recommend you watch White Material, she’s great in that movie also.

  3. Great choice. Huppert would have been my addition as well, such an ageless living legend. Seeing recent films and photos of her it’s hard to believe she’s almost 60.

  4. I like Huppert, but you had me so excited when you started talking about Thulin!! As a Bergmaniac, I’m a huge fan of hers. But I don’t blame you for wanting to pick someone who wouldn’t be eliminated by someone who wasn’t familiar with her (I did the same thing with Madhabi Mukherjee).

    I like Winslet, but I can’t disagree with your removal of her. There’s not many I could in good conscience remove from the list, she’d probably be my pick too.

  5. Alex Withrow

    Great, switch… I had a strong feeling you’d pick Huppert, and who can argue? I was really close to going with one of Bergman’s babes as well, but at any rate, great choice here, hope she sticks around for a while!

  6. I somewhat knew you were going to choose Huppert. Still, nice to see your participation in it.

  7. Somehow I knew you’d pick a French actress somehow. I definitely need to check out a few of her films now. Kinda sad to see Winslet go though, and I’m still sad about my Dame Judi being removed so quickly 😦 But hey, there’s only room for 10.

    • This blogathon’s brought about a fair amount of gladness and sadness. I’m trying to be detached on a level so that when Huppert is removed I won’t be too annoyed.

  8. Love Huppert and The Piano Teacher but Thulin would be a much better choice. It kinda sucks some of those great actresses get removed only because people don’t know their work. Good call with Winslet, she feels a bit out of place on that list, as great as some of her performances are.

    • I know Thulin would’ve been better; it was such a hard choice! It really annoys me that people remove actresses because they haven’t heard of them. If anything, the actresses you haven’t heard of are the ones you shouldn’t touch.

      • If I had to chose, I’d first try to watch some of the work of the actresses I don’t know. it’s actually a great opportunity to find some great films one hasn’t seen before.

        • thefilmfreak

          I think maybe there should have been a rule in place that one can’t add or remove an actor/actress without having seen at least 3 performances for which to base an opinion. Watching both Ullmann and Rowlands get axed by uninformed bloggers is a tragedy.

        • @Sati: A very good point. If anything, this blogathon should be inspiring people to check out other actresses and their careers.

  9. Luke Caxford

    Kate Winslet is milf

  10. Noooooo, Kate Winslet. 😦

  11. thefilmfreak

    I too wish you’d gone with Thulin, although after seeing what happened to Ullman, it’s safe to say Thulin would be removed by someone who has never seen her work…so I understand your strategy. But this list needs a Bergman regular! I guess I’ll just have to settle for the fact that Ingrid Bergman is on the list (Autumn Sonata). Also, nobody has mentioned the amazing Jeanne Moreau!

    • It was the Ullmann thing that discouraged me from adding Thulin. Originally I was going to add Ullmann back into the competition, but decided not to. I don’t know whether that’s even allowed.

      As for Moreau, I swear she was on my original shortlist. The woman is amazing in everything I’ve seen her in (heads up to her amazing bedsheet-grasping performance in Malle’s The Lovers).

  12. Tyler, I just watched Ingrid Thulin in Wild Strawberries today for the time, and she’s stunning in it. That would have been a great choice, though you make a good point about her prospects to last very long. I’m a big fan of Winslet and wouldn’t think of removing her, but I can see your point when you’re talking about the best of all time. Nice addition!

    • If you thought she was great in that film, you should see Winter Light and The Silence. There is a scene in The Silence where she plays a dying woman who is suffering from incredible pain, and the way she plays the scene makes it unbearable to watch. Bone-chilling stuff. Here’s the scene on YouTube:

  13. Thulin is also magnificent in her final performances, Marco Ferreri’s THE HOUSE OF SMILES. A very different kind of role for her, but she’s an absolute joy in it.

  1. Pingback: Catching up with the Best Actresses of All Time Relay Race | Martin Teller's Movie Reviews

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