The Best Actress Oscar winners of the 2000s included some of the biggest stars in Hollywood. Whether they won for their powerful performances, their star power, or a combination of both, each of the decade’s winners commanded their movies in their own ways. But which Best Actress winner of the 2000s do you consider the best?
The 2000s began with Julia Roberts winning for her charismatic turn as the title character in “Erin Brockovich,” followed by Halle Berry’s historic victory as the only African American woman to win Best Actress in Oscar history, for “Monster’s Ball.” Nicole Kidman and her prosthetic nose won next for playing Virginia Woolf in “The Hours,” while Charlize Theron was made even more unrecognizable to play Aileen Wuornos in “Monster” the next year. Hilary Swank became a two-time Best Actress winner for playing a boxer in “Million Dollar Baby.”
A pair of biopic performances was next — Reese Witherspoon as June Carter Cash in “Walk the Line” and Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II in “The Queen.” Marion Cotillard became the second person to win Best Actress for a foreign language performance, playing Édith Piaf in “La Vie en Rose.” The decade ended with Kate Winslet finally winning her Oscar, for playing a Nazi guard in “The Reader” and Sandra Bullock getting gold as Leigh Anne Tuohy in “The Blind Side.”
So which Best Actress performance is your favorite? Let’s look back on all of them and be sure to vote in our poll below.
Julia Roberts, “Erin Brockovich” (2000) — Julia Roberts pulled off a clean sweep, winning the Golden Globe, SAG, BAFTA and Oscar for her electrifying performance in “Erin Brockovich.” The role relies heavily on Roberts’ charisma, having to play a single mom with enough gumption to take on a huge energy corporation. This was Roberts’ third nomination, after “Steel Magnolias” (1989) and “Pretty Woman” (1990), eventually earning another nomination for “August: Osage County” (2013).
Halle Berry, “Monster’s Ball” (2001) — Halle Berry delivers a heart-wrenching performance in “Monster’s Ball” as Leticia Musgrove, a mother whose husband is executed in prison and later develops a relationship with her husband’s executor, unbeknownst to her. Berry was the first (and is still the only) black Best Actress winner in Oscar history. She was shocked to win the award, having only won the SAG Award among that year’s precursors, and delivered a memorable, tearful speech. “Monster’s Ball” remains Berry’s only Oscar nomination and win.
Nicole Kidman, “The Hours” (2002) — Nicole Kidman took home Oscar glory as literary icon Virginia Woolf in “The Hours.” Sporting a prosthetic nose for the role, it was unlike any performance she had turned in before, while spouting big monologues about the meaning of life. This is one of the shortest winning Best Actress performances in Oscar history at just 28 minutes, but Woolf’s writing is largely what drives the story forward, having a presence even when she’s not onscreen like Anthony Hopkins in “The Silence of the Lambs.” Kidman was nominated the previous year for “Moulin Rouge!” and earned additional nominations for “Rabbit Hole” (2010) and “Lion” (2016). She won two Emmys for her work on the HBO series “Big Little Lies.”
Charlize Theron, “Monster” (2003) — Charlize Theron has become the poster child of the “deglam,” thanks to her unrecognizable work as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in “Monster.” Her ferocious embodiment of Wuornos, which Roger Ebert famously hailed as one of the “greatest performances in the history of the cinema” earned her trophies at Critics’ Choice, the Golden Globes, SAG and the Oscars, despite being the only nomination for the film. Theron was nominated at the Oscars two years later for her performance in “North Country” (2005).
Hilary Swank, “Million Dollar Baby” (2004) — Hilary Swank added a second Oscar to her collection with “Million Dollar Baby,” having won in 1999 for “Boys Don’t Cry.” In “Million Dollar Baby,” Swank plays Maggie Fitzgerald, a waitress who trains to become a boxer while suffering blow after blow in both her personal and professional life. Swank has a perfect record at the Oscars, winning with both of her nominated performances, an honor she shares with Helen Hayes, Vivien Leigh, Luise Rainer, Kevin Spacey and Christoph Waltz.
Reese Witherspoon, “Walk the Line” (2005) — Reese Witherspoon was next to sweep all the major Best Actress prizes, for her likable performance as June Carter Cash, wife of Johnny Cash, in “Walk the Line.” The role is perfectly suited to Witherspoon’s sensibilities, full of spirited determination and charming wit, with enough pathos to make her performance feel weighty. Witherspoon was nominated in Best Actress again for “Wild” (2014), and she just won an Emmy for producing “Big Little Lies.”
Helen Mirren, “The Queen” (2006) — Helen Mirren pulled off one of the most dominant sweeps in recent history, not only taking all the major awards for her performance in “The Queen” but most of the critics awards as well. As Queen Elizabeth II grappling with the untimely death of Princess Diana, Mirren is effortlessly regal as the Queen struggles to determine what is best for England. Mirren was previously nominated for “The Madness of King George” (1994) and “Gosford Park” (2001) and later for “The Last Station” (2009).
Marion Cotillard, “La Vie en Rose” (2007) — Marion Cotillard emerged from French cinema to accept an award on Hollywood’s biggest stage with her soul-stirring performance as singer Édith Piaf in “La Vie en Rose.” This was a bit of an upset considering “Away From Her’s” Julie Christie had won most of the Best Actress awards leading up to the Oscars, but Cotillard’s performance is a true force of nature, portraying Piaf at various stages of life and wearing heavy makeup.
Kate Winslet, “The Reader” (2008) — Kate Winslet’s victory for “The Reader” is a unique one in Oscar history in that she had been campaigned in Supporting Actress where she won at Critics’ Choice, the Golden Globes and SAG. But The Academy decided she was more of a lead in the film and placed her in Best Actress. In “The Reader,” Winslet plays Hanna Schmitz, a German woman who has an affair with a teenage boy and is later tried for war crimes committed in the Holocaust, delivering a complex, emotional performance of a woman haunted by the past. Winslet had five previous nominations, including “Sense and Sensibility” (1995), “Titanic” (1997), “Iris” (2001), “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004) and “Little Children” (2006) and another later for “Steve Jobs” (2015).
Sandra Bullock, “The Blind Side” (2009) — Sandra Bullock finally earned awards attention in 2009 for playing Leigh Anne Tuohy in “The Blind Side.” Playing a woman who takes in young Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) and raises him to become a football star, Bullock’s performance is full of compassion with a mix of charismatic spunk, not unlike Roberts and Witherspoon. Bullock was later nominated for her performance in “Gravity” (2013).
Be sure to check out how our experts rank Oscar contenders in this and the other top races. Use the drop-down menus at the top of each page to see the other categories. Then take a look at the most up-to-date odds before you make make your Oscar nomination predictions. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominees are announced on January 23.