Best of 2021 – Lead Actress

Today I’m continuing my celebration of the best performances from the past year. We spent the last two days covering the top supporting work of 2021. Now we’re moving to the lead categories beginning with Best Actress. This is a stacked group of incredible talent and narrowing them down proved to be tough. As before, I’ll begin by naming a few worthy honorable mentions.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Tilda Swinton (“Memoria”), Isabelle Huppert (“Mama Weed”), Emilia Jones (“CODA”), Olivia Munn (“Violet”), Millicent Simmonds (“A Quiet Place II), Jessica Chastain (“The Eyes of Tammy Faye”), Nicole Kidman (“Being the Ricardos”), Rebecca Hall (“The Night House”), Lady Gaga (“House of Gucci”), Niamh Algar (“Censor”), Renate Reinsve (“The Worst Person in the World”), Noomi Rapace (“Lamb”), Thomasin McKenzie (“Last Night in Soho”)

#5 – Kristen Stewart (“Spencer”)

The buzz coming out of Venice following the world premiere of “Spencer” had everyone talking about Kristen Stewart’s portrayal of Princess Diana. The buzz has died down a little but she still seems to be an Oscar front-runner. The good thing is she has earned the hype. From her voice to her mannerisms, Stewart gets it right while also melding nicely with the film’s psychological edge.

#4 – Mélanie Laurent (“Oxygen”)

Mark this as a movie that fell under too many radars. “Oxygen” is a taut claustrophobic sci-fi thriller where Mélanie Laurent wakes up in an airtight medical cryogenic unit with no idea how she got there. For the most part Laurent is the lone cast member and she quite literally carries the movie. “Oxygen” is sharply written and directed, but it’s Laurent who keeps us locked in.

#3 – Rachel Zegler (“West Side Story”)

While the supporting cast of “West Side Story” has gotten the bulk of the attention (and understandably so), Rachel Zegler makes a splash in her feature film debut. With a sparkling presence and a powerful voice, Zegler sings her way through some of the film’s best scenes. She also has a budding charisma that promises only to grow as her career continues.

#2 – Jodie Comer (“The Last Duel”)

In Ridley Scott’s medieval epic “The Last Duel”, Jodie Comer’s character finds herself trapped within a brutal and oppressive world ruled by men. It’s a role that sees Comer tackling a range of emotions and often suppressing her character’s feelings out of fear of retribution. But there’s also a strength and resilience in her performance that is crucial to the story. She is a star on the rise.

#1 – Olivia Colman (“The Lost Daughter”)

Whenever you see Olivia Colman’s name you know the kind of top-notch performance you’re going to get. Her work in Maggie Gyllenhaal’s “The Lost Daughter” is further proof of that. Here she’s explores a character clearly troubled and full of mystery. As the layers of the story are shrewdly peeled back, Colman gets some material she can really sink her teeth into. It’s one of her best performances in a career full of great performances.

Check back tomorrow as we finish up with the Best Actor Category

11 thoughts on “Best of 2021 – Lead Actress

  1. I haven’t seen any of these performances yet but here is who I have so far:

    1. Emma Stone-Cruella
    2. Thomasin McKenzie & Anya Taylor-Joy (tie)-Last Night in Soho
    3. Agathe Rousselle-Titane
    4. Marion Cotillard-Annette
    5. Florence Pugh-Black Widow (she made me ugly-cry in Hawkeye)

  2. Holy cow, I don’t even remember your review of The Lost Daughter, I apologize! Like you said, these lead categories are so stacked it’s easy to lose sight of all the films and names.

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