On May 16, 1929 the academy presented the first Oscar for Best Actress to Janet Gaynor for her performances in three films: “7th Heaven,” “Street Angel” and “Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans.” Since that first ceremony, a total of 74 leading ladies have received Hollywood’s most prestigious honor for acting. We have compiled the definitive gallery of every Best Actress winner in the 88-year history of the Academy Awards, from Gaynor’s victory to reigning champ Brie Larson (“Room”). Click through our detailed Best Actress photo gallery above.
In the early years of the Oscars, stars could be nominated for multiple performances in the same year, a practice that was abandoned after 1930. The custom of having five nominees in a category was not instituted until the ceremony’s ninth anniversary in 1937. Only one tie has occurred in the history of the category: in 1968, both Barbra Streisand (“Funny Girl”) and Katharine Hepburn (“The Lion in Winter”) earned the exact same number of votes in the Best Actress category, resulting in Streisand winning her first Oscar and Hepburn earning her third.
Hepburn also holds the record for most Oscar wins by any actor, winning four Best Actress trophies for her performances in “Morning Glory” (1933), “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” (1967), “The Lion in Winter” (1968) and “On Golden Pond” (1981). The late Deborah Kerr has the distinction of having the most losses in this category with six nominations and no wins. And Oscar’s most nominated performer, Meryl Streep, holds the record for the most Best Actress nominations, earning 15 of her 19 career nominations in this category. We will see whose name will be added to this distinguished gallery of winners when the 89th Academy Awards are handed out February 26 on ABC, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel.
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