Margot Robbie, Jessica Chastain, or Michelle Williams might soon be joining Oscar’s elite ranks for playing real life women. Oscar voters have shown from the beginning that they love actors who portray historic people. Perhaps it’s because they can make easy comparisons. Or, more likely, it’s because they are often heroic figures. Tour our photo gallery above of every single woman who has won Best Actress at the Academy Awards for playing a true life character.
The very first woman to win the illustrious prize for stepping into a real person’s shoes was Luise Rainer, who portrayed entertainer Anna Held in the biopic “The Great Ziegfeld” (1936). Rainer, who died in 2014 at the age of 104, was the first performer to win back-to-back Oscars for acting, taking this prize the very next year for “The Good Earth.”
Since then, actresses as varied as Meryl Streep (“The Iron Lady” in 2011), Sandra Bullock (“The Blind Side” in 2009), Marion Cotillard (“La vie en Rose” in 2007), Helen Mirren (“The Queen” in 2006), Reese Witherspoon (“Walk the Line” in 2005), Charlize Theron (“Monster” in 2003), and Nicole Kidman (“The Hours” in 2002) have all triumphed for effortlessly disappearing into the role of a recognizable figure.
This year offers a plethora of Best Actress contenders who star in biopics. Streep, in fact, could win her fourth Oscar for embodying “Washington Post” publisher Kay Graham in Steven Spielberg‘s “The Post.” She faces competition from Robbie, who brings to life infamous figure skater Tonya Harding in the darkly comedic “I, Tonya.”
Emma Stone could return a year after winning this prize for “La La Land” (2016) for her role as tennis pro Billie Jean King in “Battle of the Sexes.” Previous nominee Jessica Chastain could likewise find herself back in the hunt for playing underground poker queen Molly Bloom in “Molly’s Game.” So could Williams, who portrays devoted mother Gail Harris in Ridley Scott‘s late-breaking kidnapping thriller “All the Money in the World.”
Supporting Actress victor Judi Dench (“Shakespeare in Love” in 1998) could add a Best Actress trophy to her shelf for playing Queen Victoria in “Victoria & Abdul.” Funny enough, Dench received her first Oscar nomination for playing the Queen in “Mrs. Brown” (1997). As well, five-time contender Annette Bening could finally clench that elusive first Oscar for bringing famed actress Gloria Graham to life in “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool.”
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.