The Best Actress Oscar winners of the 1990s have all had long careers of success in Hollywood to varying degrees. From overdue actresses finally getting their first statue like Susan Sarandon to younger talent like Gwyneth Paltrow, the decade is full of diverse performances. Now, two decades later, which do you think holds up as the top Best Actress performance of the ’90s?
Take a look back on each winning performance and make sure to vote in our poll at the bottom. (See 2018 Oscar predictions for Best Actress.)
Kathy Bates, “Misery” (1990) — Kathy Bates in “Misery” is a great example of an actress breaking through in an unconventional way. Playing Annie Wilkes, deranged fan of an author who tortures him mercilessly, Bates became one of few actresses to win for a pure horror movie. She would later earn supporting nominations for “Primary Colors” (1998) and “About Schmidt” (2002).
Jodie Foster, “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991) — While Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter is the most well-known performance in “The Silence of the Lambs,” Jodie Foster as FBI cadet Clarice Starling is iconic in her own right. Foster won Best Actress just three years earlier for “The Accused,” with additional nominations for “Taxi Driver” (1976) and “Nell” (1994).
Emma Thompson, “Howards End” (1992) — Emma Thompson won her Oscar for “Howards End,” in which she plays Margaret Schlegel, a woman who is bequeathed the titular country home by a friend, whose family becomes outraged. She earned two nominations the very next year for “The Remains of the Day” and “In the Name of Father,” and in 1995 she was nominated for acting in and writing “Sense and Sensibility,” winning for the latter.
Holly Hunter, “The Piano” (1993) — Holly Hunter is one of a small group of actors who have won an Oscar for playing a mute character. In “The Piano” she plays Ada McGrath, a mute piano player who is sent to New Zealand for an arranged marriage. Hunter had another nomination that year in Supporting Actress for “The Firm,” and was previously nominated for “Broadcast News” (1987) and later “Thirteen” (2003).
Jessica Lange, “Blue Sky” (1994) — Jessica Lange won her second Oscar (following 1982’s “Tootsie”) for the independent film “Blue Sky.” Lange plays Carly Marshall, wife of a engineer, who becomes embroiled in a nuclear coverup. Lange’s other Oscar nominations include “Frances” (1982), “Country” (1984), “Sweet Dreams” (1985) and “Music Box” (1989). She recently found success on “American Horror Story” for which she won two Emmys.
Susan Sarandon, “Dead Man Walking” (1995) — Susan Sarandon (Lange’s sparring partner on 2017’s “Feud: Bette and Joan”) finally won her Oscar after five nominations, for “Dead Man Walking.” The actress plays real-life nun Helen Prejean, who befriends a convicted murderer on death row. Sarandon was previously nominated for “Atlantic City” (1981), “Thelma & Louise” (1991), “Lorenzo’s Oil” (1992) and “The Client” (1994).
Frances McDormand, “Fargo” (1996) — Frances McDormand began a streak of comedic performances winning Best Actress. In “Fargo” McDormand plays Marge Gunderson, a perky, pregnant police officer who tracks down a pair of murder suspects using her intuition. She was also nominated for “Mississippi Burning” (1988), “Almost Famous” (2000) and “North Country” (2005), and is currently nominated for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” for which she is the frontrunner to win.
Helen Hunt, “As Good as It Gets” (1997) — Helen Hunt won her Oscar while simultaneously starring in her TV sitcom “Mad About You.” Hunt plays Carol Connelly in “As Good as It Gets,” a single mom working as a waitress who forms an unlikely friendship with a difficult novelist and a gay artist. She was nominated for Best Supporting Actress 15 years later for “The Sessions” (2012).
Gwyneth Paltrow, “Shakespeare in Love” (1998) — Gwyneth Paltrow charmed Academy voters in 1998 with her performance in “Shakespeare in Love.” In the film Paltrow plays Viola de Lesseps, daughter of a rich family who dresses up as a man to act in William Shakespeare’s plays and subsequently catches the eye of the author himself. This remains Paltrow’s only Oscar nomination and win.
Hilary Swank, “Boys Don’t Cry” (1999) — Swank earned her first Oscar for “Boys Don’t Cry,” a harrowing drama based on the true story of Brandon Teena. Swank plays Brandon, a trans man who grapples with love and deep prejudice in Nebraska. Swank was nominated five years later for “Million Dollar Baby” for which she would win another Oscar. Having won for her two nominations, she is in a rare group of performers to win multiple Oscars and never lose.
Be sure to make your Oscar predictions so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions until just before winners are announced on March 4. And join in the fierce debate over the 2018 Oscars taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our movie forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.