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General Musings

The Snooty Ushers’ Top 25 Favourite Actresses – Part 1


Last year, we here at Snooty Usher Towers compiled a list of our Top 25 all time favourite actors.

We had so much fun compiling the list that we are at it again.  We have put our heads together again and come up with our definitive list of our Top 25 Favourite Actresses.  Again, we will stress that this is a favourite list and not necessarily the best or greatest actresses of all time, just the actress and performances that mean the most to us.

So with out further ado, let us get on with the countdown, starting with 25-16…


No. 25 – Jamie Lee Curtis

Jamie Lee CurtisDan: I can trace the roots of my love for horror back to a few inspirational points. R.L. Stines Goosebumps books, Joe Dante’s classic Gremlins and John Carpenter’s Halloween. Jamie Lee Curtis is of course Laurie Strode in that film, the babysitter terrorised by The Shape. Halloween aside her early career was shaped by the horror genre with appearances in The Fog, Terror Train and Prom Night all in quick succession. Now as much as I love Halloween it wasn’t until I watched these other horrors alongside A Fish Called Wanda and Fierce Creatures in a short space of time that she became an actresses who I loved watching. Appearances in True Lies, Trading Places and Forever Young amongst others have cemented her place as one of my favourite actresses. It’s a real shame Curtis isn’t as prominent as she used to be as she is a great actress who can do it all.

Favoutire Role: Laurie Strode/Keri Tate, Halloween: H20 (Steve Miner, 1998)

It may seem like an unusual choice because the role of Laurie Strode is what made her famous in Halloween and Halloween II, but what I love about her in this film is that she goes from constant victim to badass heroine come the end of the film. She’s older, wiser, and a more powerful character than the innocent babysitter being terrorised back in 1978.


No. 24 – Holly Hunter

Holly HunterDave: Whenever I think of a truly great actress Holly Hunter is normally the first name that comes to my mind.  I think that is mainly down to the fact that I think her performance in The Piano (Jane Campion, 1993) was the first time I sat in absolute awe of a female acting performance.  She was simply mesmorising.  She was rewarded with more that just a 17 year old Scotsman’s respect that year as she cleaned up with all the major awards including The Academy Award, The BAFTA and Best Actress award at Cannes.

Looking at her career in broader terms, not only does she can she reach that level of intensity to dominate a film like The Piano (Broadcast News and Crash are further examples), but she is a gifted comic actress too as her work with The Coens’s shows.  Her delightful supporting turn as George Clooney’s wife in O’ Brother Where Art Thou? (The Coens, 2000) is a great example.  She also has the wonderful ability to pull a wonderful performance out of a non-descript part.  In 1993, she turned what was a pretty generic secretary role in the John Grisham legal thriller The Firm (Sydney Pollack, 1993) into a an academy award nomination for supporting actress.  Let’s not forget that she is also the voice Helen Parr AKA Elastigirl in the Pixar’s wonderful The Incredibles (Brad Bird, 2004).  She has been pretty quiet recently, but will be back on our screen next month as a suspicious Senator in Zac Snyder’s Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice.  Let us hope that this is the start of a renaissance.

Favourite Role: Edwina ‘Ed’ McDunnough, Raising Arizona (Joel Coen, 1987)

“We finally go out with decent people and you break his nose. That ain’t too funny, H.I.”

This was her first real lead role.  She plays Ed, a Police office who falls in love with the lovably dumb crook H.I. (a brilliant early role for Nicolas Cage).  She was the cop who kept taking his mug shot when he kept getting arrested.  The pair cant have kids and when a local business tycoon has quintuplets, they hatch a plan to kidnap one and raise it as their own.  Hilarity ensues as they ultimately have to save the child from a pair of criminals and return him to his parents.  Holly Hunter is the heart of the movie and is a wonderful counter balance for the kinetic energy of Nicolas Cage’s H.I.  This was most definitely a sign of the greatness to come from this wonderful actress.



No.23 – Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman

Welshy: One of my early movie crushes. I loved her as Padme in the Star Wars prequel trilogy. I used to read articles and interviews with her on the internet that needed modems.  Years later I realised she was Matilda in Leon (Luc Besson,1994), mind blown.

She wasn’t great in Star Wars but there was many problems with the film that weren’t her fault. Yet she she was brilliant in Brothers and Blueberry Nights. Both roles where she is breaking from the typical beautiful girl, challenging herself as a woman and a wife.

I think she is very demure and understated. as an actress she falls into the Anne Hathaway trap of being disliked just for the sake of it.

Favourite Role: Matilda,  Leon (Luc Besson,1994)

A damaged little girl who’s parents are killed by drug dealers seeks solace and training from Jean Reno to avenge her parents. I think that’s all I need to say on this matter. This was also her first role as an actress.


No. 22 – Marion Cotillard

Marion CotillardWelshy: I remember seeing this woman in La Vie en Rose (Olivia Dahan, 2006). Now the film itself wasn’t my favourite, but I remember Marion really standing out as Edith Pilaf. I thought wow, she is fantastic and when I heard she was nominated for Best Actress at the Oscars, I wasn’t surprised. I started looking back through some of her work, in particular her french films.  In Pretty Things (Gilles Parquet-Brenner, 2001) and A Very Long Engagement (Jean Pierre Jeunet   2004) she showed a real energy in her performances. I think she has really stretched herself as an actress. It hasn’t always went well, but even the best have blots on their records. However for every bad role there is two critically acclaimed roles.  She is going from strength to strength.

I think she is beautiful and also very talented as she is also a singer and has performed many songs for the adverts and the films she stars in. She definitely deserves a place on this list.

Favourite Role: Billie Frechette, Public Enemies  (Michael Mann 2009)

I love this film. It is totally underrated and also pretty accurate for a Hollywood adaptation of a real life criminal. Depp is great and the cinematography is stunning but for me Marion steals it as Dillinger’s love interests. She took painstaking time to perfect the accent and brought a depth to it like nobody else could. She even met with relatives of the real life Frechette to become more familiar with her childhood and potential reasons for falling for Dillinger.


 

No. 21 – Helena Bonham Carter

Helena Bonham CarterJames: Helena Bonham Carter is a highly accomplished actress who (despite having no formal training) who was apparently a “corset queen” with a reputation for playing English roses. This all changed in 1999 with her role in Fight Club, which led to more Hollywood roles.

Favourite Role: That dark, sinister role in that Tim Burton film alongside Johnny Depp. Sorry, cheap shot! It’s actually…

Marla Singer, Fight Club (David Fincher,  1999)

The reason for Helena Bonham Carter making this list, rather than her just being a British actor I quite like. I think every young man has a stage in their life where Fight Club is their favourite film. The isolation, the desperation, the dark, dark humour, I think it speaks to all of us. Her role as Marla is difficult to explain without a bunch of spoilers, but HBC is great.


No. 20 – Alicia Vikander

Alicia VikanderDan: I didn’t know who Alicia Vikander was until I watched the brilliant Ex Machina last January, and by the end of a prolific 2015 she wound up as an actress who I can’t wait to see again in future movies. Ex Machina itself was driven by excellent acting from Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaacs and most notably Alicia Vikander. It was a performance that has made everybody stand up and take note of this bright new talent gracing our screens. Though she was very good in The Man From U.N.C.L.E this year just gone, her performance in The Danish Girl is phenomenal. Vikander has a very bright future ahead of her, and with a scheduled appearance in Jason Bourne this year, and a role opposite partner Michael Fassbender in Derek Cianfrance’s The Light Between Oceans we have a lot to look forward to. I guarantee you she’ll have won a few awards in a matter of years, you just watch.

Favourite Role: Ava, Ex Machina (Alex Garland, 2015)

Admittedly I think her truly heartbreaking performance in The Danish Girl is her best to date. However her performance as Ava in one of my favourite films of last year wins it, why? Partly because it was the first role I saw her in, but mainly because it’s a great character and it must take some pretty strong restraint and skill to play an emotionless artificial intelligence. Which she did so perfectly.


No. 19 – Emma Stone

Emma StoneJames: When we do these lists again in a decades time, I predict that Emma Stone will be even higher on my list. After roles in Superbad and the highly underrated The Rocker, the first time I really noticed Emma Stone was in the excellent Zombielandwhere Wichita is a fantastically pitched character, a hard-ass survivor, but still likable. She then followed up with Easy A, which is so good it’s not even a guilty pleasure.

Stone’s Gwen Stacey  was my favourite bit of The Amazing Spiderman films, and Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker was only really interesting when paired up on screen with Stone (I did like him as Spider-man… but that’s for another time). She also voiced Eep in The Croods, which I am legally obliged to mention since it is a Nic Cage film.

The final film I’m going to mention is the brilliant Birdman, which has Stone playing the lead character’s daughter. This is a brilliant supporting role from Stone, not being a victim of her drug addiction, and dealing with some complex issues with her father in only a small role.

There are other roles that I’ve missed out (The Help, her work with Woody Allen, Aloha) but those are my highlights of this talented young actress. Roll on the 2026 list!

Favourite Role: Olive Penderghast, Easy A (Will Gluck, 2010)

I’d put this up there with Mean Girls, Juno, and Clueless as one of the very best, era-defining high school films – all of which also have iconic leading role performances, but I would argue that Green has already had a better career than the Silverstone and Lohan. While Clueless was loosely based on Emma, Easy A takes its inspiration from The Scarlet Letter, as Stone plays Olive Penderghast, who helps out a gay friend by pretending to sleep with him to stop people bullying him. There’s a nice spin, with the popular klique replaced with a group of Christian students, and some teacher infidelity. Olive is so likable, and Emma Stone is brilliant.


No. 18 – Eva Green

Eva GreenDan: When the time comes on Eva Green bringing her acting career to a close I have a feeling she will have become my favourite actress. That position is currently held by somebody who will be appearing later on in our list but if Green continues on the path that she has forged for herself than it won’t be long before she tops my list. Her acting career is relatively short, so short in fact her fourth film credit was playing Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale. Despite this, in all of her performances she leaves a definitive mark, making her performances unforgettable. After a solid performance as the sultry witch Angelique Bouchard, the best thing about the dire Dark Shadows, she then went on to steal the show in 300: Rise of an Empire and the terrific Penny Dreadful TV series. If you aren’t so sure why I think Eva Green is so good then please just watch Penny Dreadful. It’s one of the best TV series I’ve ever seen, a brilliant addition to the horror genre and Green is just phenomenal throughout.

Favourite Role: Vanessa Ives, Penny Dreadful (John Logan, 2014-2016)

Am I cheating picking a TV role? Well I don’t care because Eva Green absolutely and utterly owns the role of Vanessa Ives in the best horror show on TV. Yeah you heard me, I absolutely adore The Walking Dead but Penny Dreadful is exquisite horror. As a horror fan I’ll always have a soft spot for things that come from the genre, but no matter what your favourite genre is you can’t deny the depth of talent that Eva Green brings to the role. Vanessa Ives is a tough character to play considering what she goes through in the show but Green just takes a chunk out of it and asks for more. Vanessa is a strong, powerful character with honest vulnerability that makes her three dimensional. Eva Green is ace, the show is ace, and the character is ace. Nuff said.


No. 17 – Zhang Ziyi

Zhang ZiyiWelshy: Now, I came into Asian cinema quite late. I started watching about 12-13. My first experience was Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee 2000). From then I was hooked. What Hooked me was the character Jen Yu. She was young, engaging, played a child really well and also a young hot tempered martial artist. It was my first real exposure to a women in martial arts movies. (previously it had been very male dominated American movies).

From then I began to absorb Asian Cinema and the older I got I hunted out this actresses work. She was brilliant in the romantic drama The Road Home (Zhang Yimou 1998) she moved me as the young woman. She has played comedy role in Rush Hour 2 (Brett atner 2001) as the enforcer Hu Li.  She was great in Hero and was just electrifying In Memoirs of Geisha. A role she loved on a personal level as it allowed her to plumb the depth of character and show more to a western audience than just typical Asian martial artist as what the western audience had expected of her.

She is one of the most talented actress in the list in my opinion. In her home country she was considered one of the four most bankable chines actresses. I agree  arduously. I have seen nearly her entire filmography. I suggest you give her a look.

Favourite Role: Mei, House of Flying Daggers (Zhang Yimou 2004) An spectacular Wuxia film that included as much romance as it does martial arts. Mei is the secret agent of the resistance group, The Flying Daggers playing a game of cat and mouse with under cover officer Captain Leo. She plays the role with finesse switching from innocent, aggressive, seductive, dangerous playful and even blind. She is dazzling as the lead character who is the focal point for both the other male leads.



No. 16 – Sigourney Weaver

Sigourney WeaverDan: Admittedly the biggest reason Sigourney Weaver is on this list is because of my deep rooted love of the Alien franchise. The character of Ellen Ripley is completely irreplaceable thanks to Weaver’s portrayal of her. However don’t be mistaken Weaver is not a one trick pony, she has played a wide range of characters and has done so remarkably well. Just look at her roles in Ghostbusters films, Galaxy Quest, Avatar, Copycat and Cabin in the Woods, no matter how big or small her role is she makes an impact, and her addition to any cast is welcome. With a bagful of Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations she’s a heavy hitting experienced actress who is fantastic to watch.

Favourite Role: Ellen Ripley, Aliens (James Cameron, 1986)

“Get away from her you bitch”…Did you even need to ask?


That is all for part 1.  We will be back soon with part 2 as we count down 15-6 (click here for part 2)

Thanks for reading.  Hope you folks enjoyed yourselves, catch ya later on down the trail.

Sam Elliot

About Snooty Usher Dave

Favourite Film : Ghostbusters (1984) Worst Film: Left Behind (2014) Guilty Pleasure: Pitch Perfect (2012) 40 year old family man from Hamilton, Scotland. I have settled in Gateshead with my wife and 2 beautiful daughters. Worked as a Cinema Manager (or glorified usher) for 14 years, now I run a chicken shop. Love Sport especially Football and Tennis. Love comic books, especially DC and particularly Superman. I own 58 Nicolas Cage films.

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