Best of the Decade: Actresses

With the decade drawing to a close, One Large Popcorn, Please! has been honouring the greatest films of the past ten years. But this week, Tom will be revealing his favourite female thespians from this period.

Men have long been the dominant figures in cinema, with women being secondary to their achievements in every respect. In recent years though, there has been a growing acknowledgement of female talent, a fact reflected in the number of ladies being gifted with leading roles in big-budget projects.

Having already made a list of the ten best (male) actors of the 2010s, this week yours truly will be revealing the Top Ten Actresses of the Decade. As with last week, consideration has been given to their body of work, consistency of their output and the quality of their performances – be they lead or supporting.


10. Cynthia Erivo

Bad Times - Erivo

Bad Times at the El Royale. Widows. Harriet. With just these three pictures to her name, this actress has already established herself as one of the industry’s greatest performers. Erivo’s career began on the stage – with a brief stint as a professional singer – before appearing in bit parts on television and breaking into Hollywood as Darlene Sweet in Bad Times. Barely a year later, her much-proclaimed portrayal of Harriet Tubman earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. Possessing the shortest filmography on this list, but by no means short of talent, the Briton is destined to make her mark in the coming decade.


9. Toni Collette

Knives Out - Collette

Her fellow Australians fondly remember Collette as the quirky titular protagonist from Muriel’s Wedding way back in the Nineties; yet to the rest of the world, she is a renowned character actor capable of playing any personality she pleases. Collette was a dominant force in America’s indie scene in the early 2010s, amassing supporting roles in the likes of Hitchcock and The Way, Way Back; by decade’s end, she had wowed many cinemagoers as a tormented mother in Hereditary and impressed countless more in the ensemble comedy Knives Out – clearly, her range is second-to-none.


8. Jacki Weaver

Animal Kingdom - Weaver

Like her compatriot above, Weaver is better recognised for her supporting performances than she is taking the lead role, which is by no means a slur on her abilities. An Oscar-nominated performance in the Australian crime film Animal Kingdom proved the catalyst for her international stardom, resulting in her being cast in Hollywood productions like Silver Linings Playbook, Parkland, The Disaster Artist and Widows. Not wishing to forget her antipodean roots, she also made memorable appearances in the local productions Last Cab to Darwin and Goldstone. No matter the role, Weaver gives it her all.


7. Tessa Thompson

Sorry to Bother You - Thompson

Beginning the decade in low-budget, unassuming roles, by the mid-2010s Thompson had gained wider recognition with her appearances in the politically-charged satire Dear White People and powerful biopic Selma. Soon after, Thompson was cast as Bianca in Creed, the love-interest of the title character, a role which she reprised for its sequel three years later; by that time, she had also memorably played Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok. Whether it’s a comedic part or a dramatic one, this actress always makes an impact.


6. Lupita Nyong’o

Black Panther - Nyong'o

The limited number of projects this thespian has fronted hasn’t stopped her from being a cinematic force. Breaking through with an Oscar-winning performance in 12 Years a Slave, Nyong’o very quickly became part of Hollywood’s mainstream, securing secondary roles in the blockbusters Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Jungle Book and Black Panther; yet it’s her main role in the horror film Us that truly showcases her talents, easily and convincingly playing the dual roles of a tormented mother and freakish outsider. Here’s hoping similar opportunities come her way soon.


5. Saoirse Ronan

Brooklyn - Ronan

An Irish lass who began her career as a child actress, Ronan is now a celebrated performer with a resume and assuredness that belies her relatively young age. Being cast as a supporting player in The Grand Budapest Hotel helped establish her credibility, resulting in a lead role in the widely-praised, award-winning Brooklyn. Ronan continued to play leading characters in the coming-of-age flick Lady Bird; the historical drama Mary, Queen of Scots; and Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of Little Women, proving effortlessly capable of carrying a film in all three.


4. Amy Adams

Arrival - headphones

There are few actors, male or female, who are capable of portraying both cheery personalities and cold, distant characters easily and convincingly. Adams first gained this author’s attention in The Muppets, making an instant impression with her singing, dancing and comic timing. To most people though, she is better remembered for her dramatic performances in the Academy Award-nominated films The Fighter, The Master, Her, American Hustle, Arrival and Vice, her contributions to all proving memorable and invaluable.


3. Margot Robbie

I, Tonya - Robbie

From her humble beginnings on Australian television to being the most sought-after performer in Hollywood, Robbie has had a truly remarkable decade. A sultry role in The Wolf of Wall Street proved the perfect launching pad for her career, presenting the opportunity to showcase her talents as a lead in Focus, doing so phenomenally. Then came her performance in I, Tonya – which secured her first Oscar nomination – followed by appearances in the awards-contenders Mary, Queen of Scots, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Bombshell, being impressive in all.


2. Charlize Theron

Theron header

Any doubts held about this South African’s abilities were well and truly laid to rest in the 2010s. Starting with a highly-praised turn in the black comedy Young Adult, Theron then took the lead in the high-octane blockbusters Mad Max: Fury Road and Atomic Blonde, proving a resourceful heroine in both. She further demonstrated her comedic skills in Long Shot, before capping of the decade with an Oscar nomination for her performance in Bombshell. The range of Theron is exceptional – no matter the genre, she is nothing but faultless.


1. Emma Stone

The Help - Stone

Charismatic, gifted, dedicated and capable of carrying an entire movie – something which is difficult for even the most seasoned performers to do – Emma Stone is a very rare breed. After earning top-billing in the coming-of-age movie Easy A, she continued to impress critics and audiences in Crazy, Stupid, Love and The Help, resulting in her being cast as love-interest Gwen Stacy in The Amazing Spider-Man. Next came a supporting turn in the Academy Award-winning Birdman, followed by a leading role in La La Land that earned Stone an Oscar of her own. Subsequent films witnessed two more awards-calibre performances in Battle of the Sexes and The Favourite, verifying Stone as the greatest actress of her generation.


Honourable Mentions: Crafting this week’s list of thespians proved less difficult than this author anticipated, with fewer names considered for the Final Ten. Sandra Bullock was initially listed, but her lack of major parts saw her ruled out relatively early. Scratched for much the same reason was the endlessly charming Australian Miranda Tapsell who has, at the time of writing, just two feature-length performances to her name.

Despite her magnetism and obvious talent, Jennifer Lawrence missed out owing to a poor choice of roles in the decade’s latter half and her association with a certain young-adult franchise; Kristen Stewart faced a similar dilemma, appearing in numerous arthouse and independent pictures yet continuing to be dogged by her Twilight years. Finally, thought was also paid to Meryl Streep for her effortless class and ability to be nominated for seemingly every accolade in the industry. Well, almost every accolade.


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