MovieChat Forums > Sophie's Choice (1982) Discussion > What's the SECOND best female performanc...

What's the SECOND best female performance?


The general consensus, and rightly so, is that this is the finest performance by a film actress ever. I have watched this movie many times, with many different goals (one included evaluating the movie without considering Streep's performance), and yes, it is almost certainly the best performance by a female actor ever filmed.

So my thread is this: Let's assume that this is the best performance. What's your pick for the second best performance by a female in film? Please include reasons. Being a fan is a reason but not a good enough one. Explain why you're a fan then.


I am thinking, my personal candidates would be:

Helen Mirren in The Queen, since she really did nail it and walked a very delicate tightrope. When you think about it, any decent actress would consider this to be one of the most terrifying roles she could take. Especially if she were a British actress. Mirren was both fearless and flawless.

Jennifer Connelly in Requiem for a Dream. Once again, another horrifying descent into a different type of abyss for an actress. Her unquenchable rage just barely beneath the surface of what could have been a two dimensional portrait of a rich junkie girl is what did it for me. The scene where she stands completely nude in the mirror and examines herself -- What happened to my life, how did I get here? That was heartbreaking. Her sex scene for drugs made me feel filthy and horrible and violated.

Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine. I am going to be biased and pick this as my second best female performance ever. I am a huge fan of the Great (younger) Kate, because all of her characters have some unknowable and slightly dangerous trait of unpredicatability. No matter what her character is, there is always the chance that things could turn dark and dangerous, and quickly. In Eternal Sunshine, her character knows this. Clem knows she is a crazy girl and she probably knows exactly why and how and when and where. She has all the answers but not the solution. She still doesn't have access to peace and joy and security. She knows she just might run even if she doesn't want to. What was amazing to me was that most of our exposure to Clem happens in Joel's head. We get to know Clem through Joel's eyes and memories. It was amazing for Kate to add that extra layer on top of this unstable and unpredictable character, to make her not just Clementine, but Joel's (mostly accurate) version of Clementine. And we fall for her as we go back in time, and we discover along with Joel just what it was about her that made him and us fall for this kooky girl to begin with.

Those are my three ideas, with Kate in Eternal Sunshine being my official second best female acting performance in film. It is just my opinion, and I am sure there might be demonstrably better choices that I simply haven't seen yet.

Come on, this would be a good discussion point. I want to hear what others think and why.

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I haven't seen sophie's choice(though I've looked for it everywhere !!) so my number one performance by an actress couldn't be Streep's. It's actually Nicole Kidman's performane in the hours, and it is NOT because of the nose . I just felt that she was completely possessed by virginia woolf on screen, it was like a metamorphosis physically and technically ( voice, mannerism ...) but also emotionally, amd I've only become a fan of kidman after watching this performance so I wasm't influenced or anything. By the way, she was also AMAZING in to die for, moulin rouge, birth , dogville, the others, she's just a fantastic actress.
Then there's a tie between Meryl Streep's performance in the same movie and Ellen Burstyn's in Requiem for a dream.
I was really impressed by Meryl Streep's interpretation of a normal contemporary woman struggling to find happines. I think she perfectly expressed her emotional confusion and her desire to be happy despite all the obstacles she had to overcome .
On the other hand, you have ellen burstyn playing a despereate lonely old woman that finds herself imprisoned in a monotonous meaningless life, I like how the character changes step by step until she becomes a completely other person. A wonderful, heartbreaking performance !

Other incredible performances : Charlize Theron in Monster, Judi Dench in Notes on a Scandal, Kate Winslet in ESOTSM, Glenn Close in Dangerous liaisons , Felicity Huffman in Transamerica

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Mine is also Nicole's The Hours.
That scene where she pured her heart out to her hubby at the train station, it's just magical to watch.

Not only was it completely natural and unforced, I completely had forgotten that Nicole was playing that role.
So there, I do agree with you and that should be the 2nd best performance.
It was natural, heart wrenching and completely transformed me into that world.

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I have to agree. I'm glad you put this, because I had completely forgotten how intensely I was moved by Ellen Burstyn's performance in Requiem for a Dream. I mean, "wow!" She did an expertly great job (inmy opinion) I found that what she was dealing with (a lonely woman who watches infomercials, desperately believing them...) oh my gosh, it was simply heart-wrenching to watch her decay throughout the movie...
"I-I-just wanted to be on T.V. ..."
So sad. So well done.

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HALLE BARRY- MONSTER'S BALL AND CHARLIZE THERON IN MONSTER.

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Sofia Coppolla in the Godfather Part III

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My second choice would go to Kathy Bates in Misery - she scared the crap out of me - the gradual build up of tension was unbelievable, and she showed that psychopaths can take many different forms.

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a tie between CHARLIZE THERON in MONSTER and HILARY SWANK in BOYS DON'T CRY

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Mine will be the impeccable Jessica Lange in Frances.I always think that performance is very similar to Meryl's Sophie's Choicer.Well both of the movies are deeply melancholy and both of them were nominated for a leading role that year.The Academy should've tied their perfomance together!

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Too many to name. It is really hard to say any of these are the best or second best but it also seems like a lot of people on here have not seen a movie pre 1970. Plus not every great performance HAS to be a Drama that makes you cry. In the end it is all an opinion. Here are just a few of the women that deserve to fight over the top spots....

Carole Lombard in My Man Godfrey
Faye Dunaway in Chinatown
Katharine Hepburn in Long Days Journey into Night, Philedelphia Story, Lion in Winter
Gong Li in Raise the Red Lantern
Bette Davis in The Letter, Jezebel, All About Eve
Joanne Woodard in Rachel, Rachel, Three Faces of Eve
Whoopi Goldberg in The Color Purple
Elizabeth Taylor in Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf
Angela Bassett in What's Love Got To Do With it?
Olivia de Havilland The Snake Pitt, The Heiress
Glenn Close in Dangerous Liasons
Cicley Tyson in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman
Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth, The Aviator
Vivien Leigh in Streetcar Named Desire, Gone With THe Wind
Jane Fonda in The Shoot Horses Dont THey, Klute
Diana Ross in Lady Sings The Blues
Penelope Cruz in Volver
Barbara Stanwyck in The Lady Eve
Julianne Moore- Far From Heaven, Boogie Nights
Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce
Mia Farrow in Rosemary's Baby
Cloris Leachman, The Last Picture Show
Alfre Woodard- Miss Evers Boys, Piano Lesson
Greta Garbo in Ninotchka, Camille
Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday
Shelly Winters in A Place in The Sun
Reese Witherspoon in Election
Judy Garland in A Star is Born

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i have yet to see "sophie's choice" actually, and for me im not sure there is one clear favourite, bebut if i was forced to pick one, it would probably be nicole kidman in "the hours".

"they should give nicole kidman an oscar for being able to show any emotion after THAT much botox".

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I don't know to whom the 'general consensus' belongs, because I consider the attempts to choose the "best performance ever' a very stupid thing. So if anyone asks me if Meryl Streep's performance was the greatest one in the movie history, I would firmly say 'No', even though it was outstanding.

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Well acting is an art so we can only have an opinion. You can't measure if something is a good performance. A group of people can do an average of what they think but clearly most people have not seen EVERY movie. Like I can't agree with the person that said Nicole Kidmans performance as Virgina Woolf should be on that list. I thought it was just ok, but I can't tell them they are wrong because I can't prove it is not.

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Charlize Theron in Monster or Helen Mirren in Elizabeth I

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Holly Hunter in The Piano

Who wants to go to heaven when it’s filled with Christians? Sounds like hell to me.

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my 2nd is vivien leigh in gone with the wind

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Great choices. I think Ellen Burstyn also did a terrific job in Last Picture Show.

All in all, I agree...there are far two many performances for one to be called the definitive best (or second best). Also, it's highly subjective...which requires more talent-- comedy or drama, etc. I think "favorite performance" would more accurately descibe what you're asking for here, as that's likely what you're receiving. (:

Personally, I think I have too much bloom. Maybe that's the trouble with me.

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I would probably say Elizabeth Taylor in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?".

I agree that Meryl Streep in "Sophie's Choice" is number one.

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Are you living in my head??

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Ms. Lange should have won. Period!

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I agree. Kathy Bates is amazing there. Scary as all get out, and the character shows in her breathing and eyes how much she loves Paul Sheldon ... even as she is breaking his ankles with a sledgehammer. Incredible depth in that performance.

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Nice one. (:

Personally, I think I have too much bloom. Maybe that's the trouble with me.

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hahaha

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i aint kidding, your post cracked me up...im still laughing....its your delivery...with no hint of your post being a joke and properly capitalization...no tag line..and the funniest part, all the other posts around it seem oblivious....funny, funny stuff

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Those are excellent contemporary contenders.

However, I'd have to say that whatever you may think about these people and their other roles outside of these, these two females get my vote for second best performance.

Elizabeth Taylor as Martha in _Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?_ When I first read this play, I envisioned her exactly as Taylor portrayed her.

Anne Bancroft as Annie Sullivan in _The Miracle Worker_. There's a pivotal scene in there where there are no words spoken, and all the communication done there is amazing to me.

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It is about time someone said Elizabeth Taylor as Martha besides me! Very good!

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Bette Davis in All About Eve

or

Charlize Theron in Monster




"There are some days when even I think I'm overrated......But not today!"
--Meryl Streep

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jodie foster in "the accused"

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Stunning in requiem for a dream. Burstyns acting deserved 20 oscars. Made me soo emotional.

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For me Bjork in Dancer in the Dark is number 2 (or somewhere around there). She is just raw and full of almost unimaginable emotion, and what makes it even more great is that she had never really acted before and never really did again. She is on my shortlist of best debut's performances with Oprah and Whoopi Goldberg from the Color Purple.

-----
Support the ABFA

My names Robbie, pleased to meet you.

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Stunning in requiem for a dream. Burstyns acting deserved 20 oscars. Made me soo emotional.


It's orange😂

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i haven't seen them all, but i'd go with Helen Mirren in The Queen and definitley Vivien Leigh as Blanche in Streetcar Named Desire.

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Meryl Streep - The Hours
Hilary Swank - Boys Don't Cry
Hilary Swank - Million Dollar Baby
Hilary Swank - Freedom Writers

...nuff said.

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Olivia de Havilland in "The Heiress"

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definatly one of the following

Bjork- Dancer in the dark, i'm sad she won't act againg because of that movie. She's an AMAZING actress

Cate Blanchett- Elizabeth, the 1998 one

Ellen Burnstyn- Requim for a dream

Merry Streep- A Cry in the Dark

Charlize Theron- Monster

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Here are a few that haven't been mentioned:

Brenda Blethyn - Secrets & Lies (I'd consider this right up there with Meryl's performance in Sophie's Choice; please give it a look)

Emily Watson - Breaking the Waves (both Blethyn and Watson were nominated the same year and lost out to Frances McDormand in Fargo, a character and movie I really enjoyed, but seriously you Academy nitwits...!)

Joan Allen - The Contender

Rita Hayworth - Gilda (mostly because I don't think any other actress could have pulled it off as well as she did)

Of course, we all know the problem with lists such as the one mentioned in the original posting. Anyone who reads Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time will surely be as stunned as I was at many of the choices on that one. Ben Kingsley comes in at #99 for Sexy Beast, but not at all for Gandhi?!?!? Dustin Hoffman gets #5 for Midnight Cowboy, but nothing for Rain Man or Kramer vs. Kramer?!?!? Brenda Blethyn doesn't make the list, nor does Don Cheadle for Hotel Rwanda. No mention of Sir Laurence Olivier or Michael Caine in Sleuth (the original). I could go on and on, but you all get the point. I think the only reason such lists are ever made is to get people pissed off and debating.

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I'm so glad someone else said this one! Its not one many have seen because it's a silent, foreign film, but you REALLY NEED TO! Granted, I have not seen Sophie's Choice yet, but in my opinion, Renee Falconetti is the most amazing actress to ever grace the screen. I could watch her for days. le sigh.

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Meryl Streep - A Cry in the Dark/Ironweed
Liv Ullman - Face to Face/Scenes from a Marriage/Cries & Whispers
Kim Stanley - Seance on a Wet Afternoon
Maggie Smith - The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne
Cate Blanchett - Elizabeth/Heaven
Anjelica Huston - The Grifters
Gong Li - Farewell My Concubine
Gena Rowlands - A Woman Under the Influence
Giulietta Masina - Nights of Cabiria
Emily Watson - Breaking the Waves

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I definitely think Naomi Watts in 21 Grams is up there, and honestly, Reese Witherspoon in Walk the Line.

Hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!

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bjork in dancer in the dark is one of the best and most underrated performances of all time. jessica lange in frances is up there for me as well as one of the best. honestly i liked meryl in deer hunter better than in sophies choice but thats just my opinion. i do feel that anything kate winslet plays is gold and hopefully her character in next years revolutionary road will be one of the best in history.

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I'll be the first to admit I'm not a big fan of Streep. Too many times it just looks like she's trying to hard. I have the same quip about Spencer Tracy. Nonetheless, Sopie's Choice was a great performance. This one just seemed to flow out of her with no thought which is what it should look like. I would not however say this is number 1. In fact it isn't in my top 10 performances. Here is my top 10 without much order since I can't choose but it is in groups.

Definitely in top 5:
Katharine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story and The Lion in Winter
Vivien Leigh in Gone With The Wind
Bette Davis in All About Eve

Performances vying for #5 spot:
Ann Bancroft in The Miracle Worker
Rosaind Russell in His Girl Friday
Judy Garland in A Star is Born

Rounding out Top 10
Bette Davis in Little Foxes
Julie Andrews Sound of Music
Olivia de Haviland in The Heiress

I stress this is my thoughts on BEST performance not favorite performance which would be almost all Kate.

"Life is hard. After all, it kills you."-Katharine Hepburn

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The best performance I ever saw (and many agree) was Gena Rowland's in A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE. Other memorable performances were Jane Alexander in TESTAMENT, Cate Blanchett in ELIZABETH, Liz Taylor in WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF, and Meryl Streep in THE DEER HUNTER.

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