Ranking the 89th Academy Award Nominees for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

In order to judge them fairly, I have taken it upon myself to watch all the nominees for Best Picture, Best Director and the acting categories, and I have to say that this year has some incredible nominees, most of which are deserving of their nominations. I will be ranking them category by category in different posts, from the nominee I feel is the least deserving to the nominee who I found to be superior to all the others. I’ve tried to remain as objective as I can, and taken as much into consideration as I can, in order to judge them fairly and honestly.

Best Actress has always been such a fascinating category – and since I first started taking notice in the Academy Awards, they have always awarded some tremendous performances and nominated some inspiring ladies in this category. Last year, we saw the category at its very best since I started following the Academy Awards, and this year was another strong year – and with the exception of one performance, I really wouldn’t mind any actress winning the Oscar next week. Obviously, I have a favourite that I will defend until the very end, but overall, its a strong category, and even the last-ranked nominee is still pretty good.

#5 – Meryl Streep as Florence Foster Jenkins in Florence Foster Jenkins


Oh Meryl Streep, we get it – you’re the greatest actress working today. We all love and respect you, and adore the fact that you are so versatile as an actress – but I think its best for the existence of other actresses that you just maybe take a short break. Go and record an album, write a book or do a play – just give others a chance to shine, just for a moment. Of course, I’m only joking. Streep is an iconic and brilliant actress and no one can come close to Streep most of the time, and I love how she continues to play diverse and interesting roles in a wide variety of films. But she’s nominated for a weaker performance, and the fact that Streep was nominated here instead of Sandra Hüller, Kate Beckinsale, Taraji P. Henson or Rebecca Hall is really sad, and while Streep was entertaining in the film, she was far from excellent or deserving of a nomination.

#4 – Emma Stone as Mia Dolan in La La Land


I loved La La Land, and I loved Emma Stone in it. The problem is while she was undeniably excellent in it, she just didn’t deliver on the same level as the rest of the nominees here did. While I don’t hate her performance in the least, I feel like she gave the most safe performance, she was comfortably in her wheelhouse. Other than singing and dancing (which she deserves acclaim for), there wasn’t much truly incredible about her performance here. It was a great performance, and she is going to be a worthy winner, but I just think the remaining three performances in this category were much better. However, I love Stone and will always be an enormous fan of her, and I love that her career has hit such tremendous highs, and I know she will continue to be a generation-defining performer. This is certainly not her last nomination, but rather the second of many.

#3 – Natalie Portman as Jacqueline Kennedy in Jackie


I am arguably not the biggest fan of Natalie Portman, but her work in Jackie was devastating. Her portrait of an American icon was so moving and heartbreaking, and she gave one of the best biographical performances in cinema history. The only problem with her performance is that she is just preoccupied with giving a performance rather than being natural, and at a few points, she does sink into artifice, which goes against the innovative and revolutionary way this film was made. Otherwise, Portman has never been better, and she is truly incredible here.

#2 – Ruth Negga as Mildred Loving in Loving


I really found Loving to be dull, but Ruth Negga was simply mesmerizing as Mildred Loving. Much like Charlotte Rampling last year, Negga gives a performance where the emotion and impact is clear through her eyes and expressions. It is a quiet and nuanced performance, and a truly star-making role if there ever was one. Negga is extraordinary in Loving, and I found her to give one of the best performances of the year. I just wish her film was better, because this performance deserved a far better film.

#1 – Isabelle Huppert as Michèle Leblanc in Elle


Where to start? Isabelle Huppert is the greatest actress in the world. Better than any other actress (with perhaps the exception of Tilda Swinton, but that’s my bias talking). In Elle, Huppert gives a performance that is beyond perfect. Funny, terrifying, cold, calculating and utterly brilliant in every single way. There is just something about this performance that drove me insane, in a very good way. Huppert just commits to this performance like actors rarely do, and she shows dedication to creating this incredible character that proves that she is at the very top of her game, and she always has been. I could go on and on about Huppert, but its best to let her performance speak for itself. I will just say not only does she give the best performance out of the nominees in this category, or out of all the nominated performances this year, she gives the greatest cinematic performance of the entire year, and I will willfully debate anyone who declares otherwise (although that debate will probably end up in the suggestion of watching Things to Come, an equally incredible performance from Huppert that proves she is simply the greatest living actress).

So there we have it – I just wish the AMPAS would be inspired and nominate more incredible performances like Huppert (but with previous nominations for Marion Cotillard and Charlotte Rampling the previous two years, it seems like they are able to identify quality) – all the nominated performances here are great – but when you’re up against the greatest, then one tends to pale in comparison.


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