10 Best British Actresses


Here in the UK, we might have only one Queen to rule the country, but we have plenty more to rule the silver screen. Which is why we've put together our Top 10 list of the UK's best actresses. The list is not restricted to a specific era, which means that pretty much every great British female actor who has gained critical acclaim and international popularity was eligible for a place. Oh and, to avoid arguments, it's in no particular order.

But before we get stuck to the actual list, here's a few honourable mentions we just couldn't leave out; Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener) Helen Bonham-Carter (Fight Club) Julie Walters (Billy Elliot) Deborah Kerr (The King and I).


Vanessa Redgrave

A prolific actress who first found fame in London's West End, Vanessa Redgrave starred in over 80 films and achieved almost all that was possible within the world of acting. She has on her mantelpiece an Oscar, two Emmys and a Tony award shining out amongst various other trophies, statuettes and medals. Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams described her as the greatest living actress of our times and we are not about to disagree.


Tilda Swinton

We kick off our list with a Scottish actress of mainstream stardom and arthouse fame. Throughout her career, Tilda Swinton has been able to flicker between blockbuster movies and edgy films with apparent ease and clear excellence. She's probably best known for her role as The White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia, but with a part as the eponymous Orlando, she confirmed her indie credentials. Tilda Swinton's an Oscar winner as well, having picked up the statuette for her supporting role in 2007's Michale Clayton.


Dame Julie Andrews

It's impossible to think of 60's cinema and not to have Julie Andrews in the forefront of your mind. An Oscar for Mary Poppins and a Golden Globe for The Sound of Music, have ensured her name is etched on many a Best Actress list before this one. Her bouncing between genders in Victo Victoria shouldn't be forgotten either, although Andrews will forever be best remembered for her role as the magical, musical Miss Poppins.


Audrey Hepburn

She's one part cinematic icon, one part fashion icon, one part humanitarian and all parts legendary lady. Audrey Hepburn remains one of the most famous names to have lived in the 20th century, and she came to be so through her sheer talent and personality. Breakfast at Tiffany's is Hepburn's standout movie, and its little black dress is her standout look. However, Roman Holiday brought her an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA in just one performance. Hepburn had it all and she really knew what to do with it.


Dame Elizabeth Taylor

With Liz Taylor, it's as much about her character as it is about her career. There's no doubt that she was a fine actress, and her performances in Butterfield 8 and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf proved that point perfectly. But Taylor was as terrific off-screen as she was on it. She married eight times over the course of her life including twice to Richard Burton. She amounted a 150 million jewellery collection and was a well-known humanitarian activist. Taylor certainly lived a life.


Dame Maggie Smith

In the glamorous world of film and TV awards, there are very few which Maggie Smith hasn't won. She has two Oscars, five BAFTAs, three Emmys, three Golden Globes and a Tony to her name. Big screen, small screen or on stage, she dominates them all. And she hasn't wilted with age, either. As Jean Brodie, she played out a career-defining role, but as Professor McGonagall, she will be remembered by hordes of even the youngest Harry Potter fans. Maggie Smith is an all-round wonderful actress and woman.


Emma Thompson

She's a classical actress but she's also a comedic one. Emma Thompson began her career at Cambridge University, where she became the first female member of the famously funny Footlights troupe. For her first film, she starred opposite Jeff Goldblum in the rom-com The Tall Guy, before changing direction, perfecting her diction and assuming roles that were more traditionally romantic. But Thompson's portrayal of Margaret Schlegel in Howards End was her crowning Academy awarding glory.


Kate Winslet

Kate Winslet has achieved more in her relatively short career than most can expect in a lifetime of acting. At age 31 she set the record for the youngest actor to receive five Oscar nominations, and at 33, she set the record for the youngest actor to receive six. In 2008, she actually won the award for The Reader, eleven years after she played the career-making role of Rose in Titanic.


Dame Judy Dench

She's imperious, inspirational, she's nothing short of incredible. Judy Dench's career has been long and laden with awards, however, her biggest successes have come from the mid 90's onward, following her casting as M in Goldeneye (1995). She proved such a hit as the Ms MI6 that she carried the role until 2012 and Skyfall. In terms of Oscars, she's been nominated seven times since 1997 and won one of them as Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in Love.


Dame Helen Mirren

In terms of British actresses that are still active today, Helen Mirren's is a name which first comes to mind, and with good reason. She's garnered a reputation for Shakespearean, classical and period dramas throughout her career, although her sharp tongue and sassiness have led her to less highbrow roles too. Dame Helen has also played three British Queens; Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in The Madness of King George, Elizabeth I in the TV series, and Elizabeth II in The Queen. She's British through and through and through.


Do you agree with our list? Which UK actress did we forget? Drop us a line and let us know if we've missed your favourite, if you think someone shouldn't be on the list at all, or if there are any other top lists you'd like to see. Happy viewing!

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