We are now just a couple of days away from this year’s Academy Awards, and heated conversations and debates continue to be had about many of the categories – and Best Actress is no exception. The competition for the esteemed prize this year is seriously impressive, with all of the stars up for the prize delivering performances worthy of the nominations received. At this point it’s not terribly easy to pick an absolute frontrunner for the award, but the folks here at CinemaBlend have thoughts on the matter.
In the weeks since the Oscar nominations were announced, we’ve been polling members of our staff about the eight major categories, and have calculated rankings for our favorites in each one. Only those who had seen all of the movies up for a particular prize could vote, and nominees were ranked from one (the favorite) to five (the least favorite). We’ve averaged all of the rankings, and these are the results we came up with for Best Actress:
#5. Cynthia Erivo, Harriet
Average Rank: 3.8333333
In CinemaBlend’s survey, the Best Actress category turned out to be the most competitive of all those that we polled for, as evidenced by Cynthia Erivo’s performance in Kasi Lemmons’ Harriet earning the highest average rank of anyone who ended up in the #5 slot. It’s a real testament to the work done by the performer, as Erivo really does do some magnificent work portraying an American icon.
History and stories of Harriet Tubman’s incredible bravery helping to free slaves through the Underground Railroad in the mid-19th century have essentially deified the woman in the minds of everyone who learns about her, but Cynthia Erivo’s turn in the biopic adds an important level of humanity to the hero that is really remarkable. This is the first time that the actress has been nominated for an Academy Award (she only made her big screen debut in 2018), and it definitely won’t be the last.
#4. Charlize Theron, Bombshell
Average Rank: 3.5
Charlize Theron is a remarkable chameleon capable of mind-bending transformation. It was 17 years ago that she shocked and horrified audiences with her turn as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Patty Jenkins’ Monster – a performance that resulted in her winning her first Oscar – and she has continued to do remarkable work since. Most recently we saw her simply become anchor Megyn Kelly in Jay Roach’s Bombshell, and it was no surprise weeks ago when it was revealed she had earned her third Academy Award nomination.
In the story of the sexual harassment scandal that rocked the world of Fox News a few years back, Kelly finds herself trapped between trying to protect her career and her family, and feeling the need to speak out about rampant misconduct, and it’s a line that Charlize Theron walks with grace and intensity. The work may not be CinemaBlend’s top pick for the Best Actress prize, but it’s work worth celebrating all the same.
#3. Saoirse Ronan, Little Women
Average Rank: 3
With Little Women having been adapted many times in the last century, the role of Jo March has been played by some remarkably talented actresses, including Katharine Hepburn, June Allyson, and Winona Ryder (who actually earned an Academy Award nomination of her own for her turn in the 1994 version), but Saoirse Ronan’s work in the Greta Gerwig adaptation still must certainly be considered one of the greatest. The Irish actress captures every ounce of the character’s bold and determined attitude, and delivers a performance that ensures readers for years will think of her face while reading Louisa May Alcott’s novel.
Though she is only 25 years old, this marks the fourth time that Saoirse Ronan has been up for an Academy Award, and while she hasn’t won just yet, it’s surely only a matter of time. This might not be her year, and she isn’t CinemaBlend’s top choice for the Best Actress prize, but there’s still plenty of love felt about Little Women and Ronan’s work in it.
#2. Renee Zellweger, Judy
Average Rank: 2.3333333
It was about 16 years ago that Renee Zellweger last earned recognition from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, her turn in 2003’s Cold Mountain earning her the award for Best Supporting Actress, and few would be surprised if she returns to the Oscar stage this year to accept yet another trophy for her performance in Rupert Goold's Judy. After all, the work been screaming for Oscar attention ever since it made its debut in front of audiences last fall, because Zellweger really is phenomenal in the movie.
Judy Garland was an immensely complicated person who lived a life filled with both success and hardship, and Judy is a beautiful tribute to her – with Renee Zellweger doing a remarkable job capturing the legend’s essence. It’s really a heartbreaking story, following Garland as she does her final set of performances before her death in 1969, but it’s also lovely and emotional, with the star hitting every note perfectly.
#1. Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story
Average Rank: 2.3333333
As you can tell from the numbers, we actually had a statistical tie in this category, but having received more #1 votes than Renee Zellweger (three versus two), we are calling Scarlett Johansson our top choice to win Best Actress at the Academy Awards. We also loved her in Jojo Rabbit, declaring her our second pick to win in the Best Supporting Actress category, but we really want her to hit the stage on Sunday holding a trophy for her work in Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story.
Starring opposite Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson is at her most emotionally engaging and empathetic in the story of a divorce unraveling a family. It’s clear that Nicole doesn’t want to hurt Charlie, but she has also felt stifled in their relationship, and needs the freedom to express herself. It’s a special turn from the actress, and most definitely deserving of acting’s highest honor.
Who do you think should win Best Actress at the 2020 Oscars on Sunday? Rank the nominees in the comments section, answer our poll below, and stay tuned as CinemaBlend continues to break down the eight main categories before the big show.