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Let’s face it. Sometimes, it’s not the plot that attracts us when a new movie or show is introduced to the world. Instead, it’s the faces that you see bringing these new, exciting characters to life. Our list of the most famous actresses features award-winning women who have flawlessly taken on some of the most memorable roles in Hollywood, both in television and film.
Here is our list of the 44 most famous actresses. Did your favorite make the list?
1. Meryl Streep
Who else could start off our most famous actresses list than the queen of the silver screen, Meryl Streep? She’s been a devil disguised in Prada, a troubled wife on the brink of divorce and the embodiment of a woman’s life in Africa.
With three Academy Awards and eight Golden Globe Awards to her name, Streep is genuinely one of the queens of Hollywood.
2. Sandra Bullock
Sandra Bullock seemingly came into the world of film undercover (We Love You, Gracie Lou Freebush), but she was soon coming out on top as one of the most sought-after actresses in Hollywood.
After getting her feet wet with films like Speed, While You Were Sleeping, and Hope Floats in the 1990s, by the late 2000s, she was proving that she was here to stay. While her performances in such comedies as The Proposal (2009) and Ocean’s 8 (2018) were fantastic, she truly proved her talents in 2009 as Leigh Anne Tuohy in the drama film The Blind Side. That performance earned her the ultimate recognition, Best Actress, from the Academy Awards.
3. Julia Roberts
She’s the Pretty Woman, a Runaway Bride, and even the attempted homewrecker for her Best Friend’s Wedding, but Julia Roberts clearly knows how to bring charm to every single one of these roles.
She stole our hearts in her breakout role in Steel Magnolias alongside Dolly Parton and Sally Fields, and she’s been one of the most famous actresses in Hollywood ever since. With an Academy Award, a British Academy Film Award, and three Golden Globe Awards as part of her many accolades, we’re excited to discover what beloved role she brings to life next.
4. Jennifer Aniston
Jennifer Aniston came into people’s homes for 10 years as the loveable, though often spoiled, Rachel Green on the hit sitcom Friends (1994-2004), but ever since, she’s also proved her talent as an actress in film.
Starring in multiple films alongside Adam Sandler, Jim Carrey, and more, it is clear that she’s taken after her dad, famed soap opera actor John Aniston, and taken things to a whole new level. Aniston is America’s sweetheart, and we’re here for it.
5. Reese Witherspoon
Reese Witherspoon is the embodiment of one of her most iconic roles. Just like Elle Woods, she may seem like the girly, dumb blonde, but in reality, she is sharp, intelligent, and fierce.
Witherspoon may be Legally Blonde, but she knows how to bring heart and passion to her roles. It’s why she won our hearts as Melanie Carmichael in Sweet Home Alabama and her Academy-Award-winning role as June Carter Cash in the Johnny Cash musical biopic Walk the Line in 2005.
She’s not only one of the most famous actresses but also proving her fame as a producer, with her producing debut in 2014’s Wild, based on the best-selling book.
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6. Anne Hathaway
Anne Hathaway didn’t just play a princess on screen for the hit Princess Diaries movies alongside Dame Julie Andrews. She was soon the princess of our hearts as she continued to appear in many beloved roles, including alongside the devil in Prada herself, Meryl Streep.
Her biggest career high, which further solidified her as one of the most famous actresses in the business, came in her portrayal of Fantine in the movie musical Les Misérables. Her performance as the “lady of the night” who is dying of tuberculosis earned her the first Academy Award of her career as Best Supporting Actress.
7. Jennifer Lawrence
She became famous for portraying Katniss Everdeen in the top-rated Hunger Games franchise, but Jennifer Lawrence has done well to prove why she deserves her spot amongst the most famous actresses in the world.
Earning her first Oscar for Best Actress at only 22 for her portrayal of a troubled young widow in Silver Linings Playbook in 2012, she is the second youngest person ever to receive the honor. Listed as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2013 and the Forbes Celebrity 100 list four years in a row (2013-2016), Lawrence is one actress that’s seemingly here to stay.
8. Angelina Jolie
When they think of Angelina Jolie, many probably think of her high-profile relationship with fellow actor Brad Pitt, but that doesn’t outshine the work she’s done as an actress.
With an Academy Award and three Golden Globes to her name, her stunning performances have earned her the title of Hollywood’s highest-paid actress on multiple occasions, and that’s no small feat.
9. Ellen Pompeo
Speaking of being one of Hollywood’s highest-paid actresses, Ellen Pompeo is another one on our list of the most famous actresses who has also earned that title.
Pompeo became a star when she came on the small screen as Meredith Grey in the hit medical drama Grey’s Anatomy. By 2018, 13 years after the show premiered and upon negotiating a new contract, Pompeo became the highest-paid woman on television, making $20 million per year.
“I’ve chosen to financially empower myself,” Pompeo said at the time.
10. Betty White
Betty White was America’s Golden Girl for more than 80 years. Even though the world had to say goodbye to her when she passed away on December 31, 2021, she will forever remain in our hearts.
Giving life to such beloved characters as Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls while also giving such heart toward causes she held most dear, particularly animal rights, White was arguably the most famous actress in Hollywood.
11. Nicole Kidman
Nicole Kidman is the blonde-bombshell Australian who stole our hearts following her work in the 1990 film Days of Thunder, and she has continued to win us over ever since.
With more classics such as The Hours, which earned her an Academy Award for Best Actress, and The Golden Compass, she will always be one of our favorites.
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12. Emma Watson
Emma Watson was clearly meant to be in the film industry, considering her first audition turned her into an international blockbuster actress. Since starring as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter franchise, she has kept up her status as one of Hollywood’s most famous actresses with starring roles in the live-action remake of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and the Little Women remake.
If that weren’t enough to solidify her fame, her continued efforts as an activist for women’s rights have further made her significant in the public eye.
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13. Audrey Hepburn
Audrey Hepburn is proof that some of the most famous actresses are so because of their classic and memorable films, even if they were many decades ago.
With classic Hollywood cinematic films such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) and My Fair Lady (1964) as part of her repertoire of work, Hepburn will continue to influence the art of film for decades to come.
14. Scarlett Johansson
Scarlett Johansson is yet another on our most famous actresses list to earn the title of the world’s highest-paid actress.
In 2019, she was seemingly at the height of her career when she starred in two separate films that earned her simultaneous Academy Award nominations for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. The accolades came from her performances in Marriage Story and Jojo Rabbit, respectively.
15. Emily Blunt
The Devil Wears Prada directors and producers sure knew what they were doing when they cast three of the most famous actresses for the hit film.
With Emily Blunt rounding out the dynamic trio between her, Streep, and Hathaway, all three showed how great of actresses they were during the 2007 Oscars. As Blunt and Hathaway presented the award for Best Costume Design, upon spotting Streep in the audience, all three quickly transitioned into their iconic roles in a moment that will be remembered for years.
Blunt has further shaped her career with memorable performances in A Quiet Place alongside her husband, John Krasinski, in 2018, Mary Poppins Returns in 2018, and Oppenheimer in 2023.
16. Anna Kendrick
When Anna Kendrick appeared in the arguably annoying supporting role of Jessica in The Twilight Saga, it was hard to imagine that she would eventually become one of America’s sweethearts one day. That day, however, is here.
Kendrick won America over when she starred in the Pitch Perfect film series, delivering one of the most iconic scenes in cinema as her character performed “Cups,” aka “When I’m Gone” flawlessly.
Ever since, Kendrick has continued to show her unbelievable range as an actress and a singer with roles in Into the Woods, A Simple Favor, and, most recently, the thriller Alice, Darling, just to name a few.
17. Jennifer Garner
Jennifer Garner is arguably one of the most versatile actresses in Hollywood.
While she has been known to show off her domineering sides in films like Daredevil (2003) and Elektra (2005), she is also the perfect sweet hero of any romantic comedy, as proven in her roles in 13 Going on 30 (2004), Juno (2007), and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (2009).
While she hasn’t received as many high-profile accolades as her fellow famous actresses, she has still proven to be one of the most recognizable faces in film.
18. Drew Barrymore
Drew Barrymore first gained recognition as a child actress when she appeared in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and she’s proven that she had what it took to take her career to the next level in adulthood. It’s a feat that’s not always easy for some to achieve.
In the 1990s and 2000s, she dominated the industry with a string of successful films like Never Been Kissed, Ever After, and The Wedding Singer. While she hasn’t appeared in as many movies in recent years, she is still in the spotlight as the host of her own talk show, The Drew Barrymore Show.
19. Sally Field
No matter how old she gets, Sally Field will always remain one of Hollywood’s finest thanks to her roles in movies like Smokey and the Bandit, Steel Magnolias, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Forrest Gump.
With accolades that expand beyond just Academy Awards and Golden Globes, including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a National Medal of Arts, a Kennedy Center Honor, and a Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award, it seems there’s no award too big for her to earn.
20. Jodie Foster
Jodie Foster may have started as a Disney child star, but she proved that she had talent beyond just the wholesome family screen.
She went on to gain recognition for her roles in films such as Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974) and Taxi Driver (1976), and after getting a degree from Yale University, expanded her range even more. Her subsequent roles as a rape victim in The Accused (1988) and Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs (1991) earned her two Academy Awards.
21. Margot Robbie
She may look like just another blonde, but Margot Robbie proves you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.
After breaking out in Hollywood for her roles in The Wolf of Wall Street, she gained well-earned recognition for her work in The Legend of Tarzan and as Harley Quinn in the many DC Extended Universe franchise of films.
Just this year, she became an even more considerable box office success thanks to her portrayal of the titular character in the Barbie Movie alongside The Notebook star Ryan Gosling.
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22. Charlize Theron
Charlize Theron has had several hit films throughout her career that have achieved her international acclaim, like The Devil’s Advocate and Mighty Joe Young. What solidified her as one of the most famous actresses in the business, though, was her role in the 2003 film Monster, for which she portrayed serial killer Aileen Wuornos.
Her performance was so memorable that it earned her a Silver Bear and the Best Actress Academy Award. The latter subsequently earned her the title of the first South African to win an Oscar for acting.
23. Goldie Hawn
If you want to learn what acting is, just watch Goldie Hawn in almost any role she takes on, and you’ll get a master’s class every time.
Hawn is responsible for giving us not only an Academy Award and Golden Globe Award-worthy performance in Cactus Flower but so many memorable laughs on NBC’s Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In from 1968 to 1970. She also gave us yet another gift that would rise to become one of the most famous actresses in the world.
24. Kate Hudson
Speaking of Goldie Hawn, her daughter Kate Hudson has most certainly taken after her mother as one of the glamorous females of Hollywood.
First gaining prominence for her role in 2000’s Almost Famous, Hudson has continued to achieve recognition for her flawless performances in the most beloved romantic comedies of the decade like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days; You, Me and Dupree, and Bride Wars.
25. Judy Garland
“Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” we’ll find Judy Garland smiling again one day. Until then, she will always have a place as one of the most famous actresses to ever grace the screen.
With her breakout performance in the classic musical The Wizard of Oz, Garland not only continued to gain recognition as an actress but also a singer as she became the first woman to win the Album of the Year Grammy Award for her 1961 live recording of Judy at Carnegie Hall.
Related: How Did Judy Garland Die?
26. Mary Tyler Moore
Our list of the most famous actresses continues with Mary Tyler Moore, another enduring star who whose legacy lives on.
Although the world lost her in 2017, Moore’s memorable performances on The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show throughout the 1960s and 1970s remain some of the most classic in television history. For that, she will always be a star.
27. Lucille Ball
Lovingly known as the Queen of Comedy, Lucille Ball was a fiery redhead with an unmistakable knack for comedic timing.
Although she was best known for her show I Love Lucy, starring for six seasons alongside her ex-husband, Desi Arnaz, Ball knew how to expand beyond just that. For her impressive body of work, she not only received five Primetime Emmy Awards but also two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, an induction into the Television Hall of Fame, and more.
28. Rachel McAdams
There is one reason and one reason only that has to be given to prove Rachel McAdams’ spot on the most famous actresses list. Who else could play the despicable Regina George and the loveable Allie Hamilton all in the same year?
In 2004, McAdams did just that as her role in the Mean Girls comedy and The Notebook romantic drama proved that she was no ordinary actress. Her follow-up roles since have only confirmed that.
29. Helena Bonham Carter
Helena Bonham Carter is one of Hollywood’s most famous character actresses. She is a proven expert when it comes to bringing life to some of the most unique characters in popular films.
From Bellatrix Lestrange in Harry Potter to Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd, she isn’t afraid to go to the extreme when giving a memorable performance. All the while, Bonham Carter has also shown her talent for period dramas, thanks to her roles in Lady Jane, The King’s Speech, and more. Is there anything she can’t do?
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30. Winona Ryder
When Winona Ryder took on a starring role in Tim Burton’s Halloween classic Beetlejuice and proved her worth amongst some of Hollywood’s brightest stars of the day, it was clear that a new star was quickly rising.
Her performance led to her gaining prominence in films like Heathers, Edward Scissorhands, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. While she has been less seen in recent years, she will always be remembered thanks to these classic films.
31. Kirsten Dunst
Kirsten Dunst first debuted in films as a child, and she has been taking over the big screen ever since.
Although she provided memorable performances in her role as Mary Jane Watson in the Spider-Man trilogy starring Toby McGuire and the titular character in Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, we’ll always remember her most for her starring role in the cult classic cheerleading film Bring It On. Although it inspired a multi-installment franchise, she is the reason the OG film will always be the best.
32. Gwyneth Paltrow
When the world viewed Shakespeare in Love in the late 1990s, one thing was certain. We all came out of it in love with Gwyneth Paltrow, and we’ve remained in love with her ever since.
While she significantly lowered her presence in the acting world after a few more films to focus on being a mom, she has remained active. She even earned a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress for portraying Holly Holliday on Fox’s hit show, Glee.
33. Penelope Cruz
Penelope Cruz is best known for her Academy-Award-winning role as Marie Elena in Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona and has since continued to remain in the spotlight, appearing in films such as Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Murder on the Orient Express, and Official Competition.
34. Melissa McCarthy
Melissa McCarthy was already a star to many thanks to her role as Sookie St. James in the hit series Gilmore Girls, but she has since let her abilities shine even brighter.
McCarthy further proved her skills as an actress, particularly in comedy, thanks to her roles on the CBS sitcom Mike & Molly, as well as in many blockbuster films like Bridesmaids, Identity Thief, and, most recently, the musical fantasy film The Little Mermaid, in which she took on the role of the villain, Ursula, flawlessly.
35. Carrie Fisher
The force has been with Carrie Fisher since she first appeared on the silver screen as Princess Leia in Star Wars: A New Hope in 1977. For that role, she will always be considered one of the most famous actresses in our books.
While she also held other roles over the years before she died in 2016, she is one of those actresses without which we cannot imagine the Star Wars films. This is apparent as she was even able to posthumously reprise the role in the most recent installments of the galactic universe. We certainly love what technology can do.
36. Shirley Temple
Shirley Temple may have only been a child star, but she’s a child star who is still talked about to this day. Known for her singing voice, memorable curls, and all-over loveable persona, she was Hollywood’s number-one box-office draw from 1934 until 1938.
Throughout that time, her most recognizable role was during 1934’s Bright Eyes, for which she won a special Juvenile Academy Award at just 6 years old. While she turned toward a diplomatic career in adulthood, Temple will forever live in our hearts as that beloved child star.
37. Kristen Stewart
When it was announced that Stephenie Meyer’s popular book series Twilight would be adapted into a film, everyone wondered who would bring the heroine, Bella Swan, to life. Enter Kristen Stewart, and the rest is history.
After completing her work on the high-grossing film franchise, Stewart didn’t slow down, starring in films like Snow White and the Huntsman and Still Alice. Most recently, she took on the role of Diana, Princess of Wales, for the 2021 biographical drama Spencer, for which she earned a Best Actress Academy Award nomination.
38. Julie Andrews
With films like Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, Mary Poppins, and The Sound of Music as part of her body of work, Dame Julie Andrews is the epitome of what it means to be a classy lady in Hollywood.
With a singing voice that is arguably just as famous as her films, Andrews has been a household name for years. Although illness led to her losing her singing voice, she proved why she’s still one of the most talented actresses in the world with her portrayal of Queen Clarisse Renaldi in The Princess Diaries alongside Anne Hathaway. She also brought the world to tears when we heard her sing again in the 2004 sequel as she dueted with Disney star Raven-Symoné for “Your Crowning Glory.”
39. Maggie Smith
Let the Dames rule the world. While our most famous actresses list has many Harry Potter stars, Dame Maggie Smith is our absolute favorite of them all.
Although she has many accolades for her work on Broadway and other films like Sister Act and its sequel Sister Act II: Back in the Habit, The Lady in the Van, and The Secret Garden, she proved while filming the Harry Potter films why she deserves to be one of the most famous actresses. While filming Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Smith was battling breast cancer and undergoing heavy treatment, but you’d never know it. And that’s one of the many reasons why we love her.
40. Judi Dench
Just one more Dame for our list, and that spot belongs to Dame Judi Dench.
As one of the most prominent Shakespearean actresses, taking on starring roles as Ophelia in Hamlet, Lady Macbeth in Macbeth, and Juliet in Romeo and Juliet with the Old Vic Company, she is best known recently for playing M, the boss of 007, in multiple installments of the James Bond franchise. She became the first woman to portray the character.
41. Marilyn Monroe
Few actresses are more recognizable than the stunning Marilyn Monroe. Best known for playing comedic “blonde bombshell” characters throughout her career, she is also one of the most popular sex symbols in the 50s and 60s.
Although her life was cut tragically short, she still earned her spot on the list of the greatest screen legends during the Golden Age of Hollywood by the American Film Institute in 1999.
Related: How Did Marilyn Monroe Die?
42. Carol Burnett
Carol Burnett was the queen of sketch comedy with her hit show, The Carol Burnett Show, running for 11 straight years.
With memorable repeat sketches like Mama’s Family and classic movie spooks like Went with the Wind, Burnett was a comedic star. Thanks to syndicated television, new generations are discovering the show every year, continuing to keep Burnett a household name across the world.
43. Cameron Diaz
While Cameron Diaz was out of the spotlight for nearly 10 years, her recent comeback has proved why she is still loved by many.
With memorable roles in films in The Mask, Shrek, The Holiday, and In Her Shoes, Diaz proved to be the “it” girl in Hollywood for many years. We guess we can’t blame Steven Tyler for hitting on her when the opportunity presented itself, even if he’s old enough to be her father.
44. Mila Kunis
Mila Kunis’ entrance into prominence was sneaky, considering she lied about her age to get a role on That ’70s Show, but through it, she proved a force to be reckoned with.
Upon moving on from her role in the hit show, Kunis became a mainstream movie star with roles in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Black Swan, and the Bad Moms franchise. She has also brought life to Meg on the hit animated series Family Guy. If that weren’t enough to solidify her fame, she became even more prominent when she started dating and eventually married her That 70’s Show co-star, actor Ashton Kutcher, in 2015. Now, they’re one of the most popular power couples in Hollywood.
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