The Top 5 Actresses of 2009


All of these actresses may not be Academy Award nominees this year, but whether they appeared in small indies, Oscar bait or big blockbusters, these women all made their mark at the movies in 2009.

But before I get to the Top 5, here are a pair of actresses who deserve honorable mentions for their work in 2009:

Gabourey “Gabby” Sidibe (in “Precious”) — Between Gabourey Sidibe and “District 9’s” Sharlto Copley, 2009 has been a great year for first-time actors. Though she had no prior experience before “Precious,” Sidibe gave one of the year’s most heart-wrenching yet hopeful performances.

Marion Cotillard (in “Public Enemies” and “Nine”) — This year Cotillard has given standout performances in “Public Enemies” and “Nine,” which were otherwise mediocre films. With a role in Christopher Nolan’s highly-anticipated “Inception” in summer 2010, her Oscar win for “La Vie en Rose” has ensured her a spot on Hollywood’s A-list.

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5. Meryl Streep — “Julie and Julia,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “It’s Complicated”

Meryl Streep has been considered the greatest actress of our time for many years (and rightly so with 15 Oscar nominations). But in 2008 the already-thriving actress managed to reinvent herself with her comedic turn in the musical “Mamma Mia,” followed by a strong dramatic performance in “Doubt.” In 2009, her streak of consistent excellence continued with her spot-on portrayal of chef Julia Child in “Julie and Julia” (which will likely earn her a 16th Oscar nomination), her voice acting alongside George Clooney in “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and another comic performance in “It’s Complicated.” Streep can do it all, and at age 60, she shows no signs of slowing down.

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4. Anna Kendrick — “The Twilight Saga: New Moon,” “Up in the Air”

The year 2009 proved to be a big one for 24-year-old Anna Kendrick. First she returned to her role as Jessica Stanley in “The Twilight Saga: New Moon,” in which she plays Kristen Stewart’s best friend. Though she only appears onscreen a handful of times, she steals every scene she’s in with her impeccable comic timing. She also got the chance to demonstrate her comedy skills in “Up in the Air,” in which she plays Natalie, a high-strung young corporate downsizer. She plays perfectly off of movie veteran George Clooney and adds depth, heart and a nuanced complexity to a character that could have easily been flat. Audiences will undoubtedly see more great things from Kendrick in the future.

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3. Zoë Saldaña — “Star Trek,” “Avatar”

Zoë Saldaña has been in the business for years, likely someone audiences recognize but whose name they couldn’t recall. After the year she’s had, people likely won’t be forgetting Saldaña’s name any time soon. First, she held her own in a cast full of men as Uhura in “Star Trek,” paying homage to the original character but at the same time making the role her own. Then she played Neytiri in “Avatar,” unrecognizable to audiences beneath the character’s blue complexion. She crafted the character beautifully in a film in which she acted primarily against a blue screen. Between her performances in two of the year’s most epic films, Saldaña has cemented herself as a go-to leading lady for sci-fi films.

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2. Carey Mulligan — “Public Enemies,” “An Education,” “Brothers”

If anyone deserves the title of 2009’s It Girl, it’s British actress Carey Mulligan. Her performance in “An Education,” her first lead role, is considered a lock for an Oscar nomination at this point. In the coming-of-age film, Mulligan flawlessly portrays a wide-eyed, 16-year-old dreamer who learns about the realities of life and relationships through her romance with an older man. With small roles in this year’s “Public Enemies” and “Brothers” and five upcoming films under her belt, including the buzzed-about “Wall Street” sequel, audiences will become even more familiar with Mulligan’s talents in the coming years.

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1. Sandra Bullock (“The Proposal,” “The Blind Side,” “All About Steve”)

OK, so we’ll pretend “All About Steve” didn’t happen, which is probably the way Sandra Bullock would prefer it. But in spite of that one misstep, Bullock has undoubtedly had an incredible year. Between “The Proposal” and “The Blind Side,” she made a huge career comeback this year. “The Proposal” reminds audiences what a funny and charming romantic comedy star she makes, and “The Blind Side” allowed her combine her wit with dramatic talent viewers have rarely gotten the chance to see from her. She received Golden Globe nominations for both films, and they were also the biggest box office hits of her career. At age 45, when Hollywood typically dictates her roles should become more limited, Bullock’s career is blossoming like never before.

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Do you agree with these choices? Who else should have made the list? Sound off in the comments section.

1 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Jason #

    Very good list. I really loved Anna Kendrick and Carey Mulligan in particular. I might have included Kristen Stewart herself, for “New Moon” and “Adventureland” from earlier in the year.
    Also, Penelope Cruz for “Nine” and her much lauded performance in Pedro Almodovar’s “Broken Embraces.” And though she was only in one film, my favorite female performance of the year was from Melanie Laurent in “Inglourious Basterds.”