The Quick Report

Top 10 Worst Best Actress Oscar Wins of All Time

The Oscars is Hollywood’s most prestigious award ceremony, but there have been many occasions where the Best Actress category has raised eyebrows. While we can all accept these awards are incredibly subjective, it is frustrating to watch someone win an award for a performance that isn’t even their best.

From performances that failed to resonate to victories overshadowed by more deserving contenders, here are the top 10 worst Best Actress Oscar wins of all time:

Gwyneth Paltrow — Shakespeare in Love (1998)

Shakespeare in Love - Miramax, YouTube
Miramax, YouTube

Gwyneth Paltrow is a very talented actress, but her win for her performance as Viola de Lesseps in Shakespeare in Love came as a surprise to many. In fact, many believe she only won the award because she campaigned very hard for it.

And, while her performance was charming, many believed Cate Blanchett should’ve won for her work in Elizabeth.

Julia Roberts — Erin Brockovich (2000)

Erin Brockovich - Universal Pictures, YouTube
Universal Pictures, YouTube

Julia Roberts’ portrayal of real-life legal clerk Erin Brockovich earned her critical acclaim, but some argued her win was more a result of her star power rather than the depth of her performance.

In fact, many felt that Ellen Burstyn’s transformative role in Requiem for a Dream. But, despite it maybe not being her best work, there’s no question Roberts deserves an Oscar!

Sandra Bullock — The Blind Side (2009)

The Blind Side - Rotten Tomatoes Classic Trailers, YouTube
Rotten Tomatoes Classic Trailers, YouTube

Sandra Bullock’s win for her role as Leigh Anne Tuohy in The Blind Side was met with skepticism. In fact, some critics felt her performance veered into sentimentality rather than being a fully immersive performance.

And, her victory over powerhouse performances by actresses like Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia raised questions about the Academy’s decision-making process.


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Jennifer Lawrence — Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Silver Linings Playbook
The Weinstein Company

Jennifer Lawrence’s win for her portrayal of Tiffany Maxwell was seen as premature by some. Lawrence was only 22 years old at the time, making her one of the youngest actresses to ever win in that category, and some felt Jessica Chastain deserved it more for her performance in Zero Dark Thirty.

Some critics also felt that Lawrence’s performance, while undoubtedly charismatic and well-executed, may not have been her most outstanding work to date.

Meryl Streep — The Iron Lady (2011)

The Iron Lady - eOneFilms, YouTube
eOneFilms, YouTube

Meryl Streep is arguably the most talented actress of all time, but that doesn’t mean all of her Oscar wins were deserved! Streep’s win for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher was met with criticism from some who felt the film was more of a showcase for her transformative makeup than her acting prowess.

In fact, many believed that Viola Davis’s performance in The Help deserved more recognition.

Jessica Tandy — Driving Miss Daisy (1989)

Driving Miss Daisy
Warner Bros.

Tandy’s win over contenders like Michelle Pfeiffer in The Fabulous Baker Boys was seen as a safe choice, with some feeling her performance lacked the depth of other nominees.

Critics argued Tandy’s performance, while undoubtedly solid, wasn’t particularly groundbreaking or transformative compared to the other nominees. It was also during a time when the Academy tended to favor more conventional and crowd-pleasing films.

Halle Berry — Monster’s Ball (2001)

Monster's Ball
Lion’s Gate Films

Halle Berry’s historic win as the first Black woman to receive the Best Actress Oscar was marred by criticism over the film’s portrayal of race and her character’s controversial relationship.

In fact, some argued her win was more a result of the Academy’s desire to make a statement rather than a reflection of her performance. While Berry did a great job in the movie, it was unfortunately overshadowed by a lot of the noise.

Grace Kelly — The Country Girl (1954)

The Country Girl
Paramount Pictures

Grace Kelly’s win was met with surprise, with many feeling that Judy Garland’s performance in A Star is Born was more deserving of recognition. Not to mention, there were rumors that MGM, the studio behind the film, engaged in aggressive campaigning and lobbying efforts to secure Kelly’s win.

Some critics even alleged that MGM used its influence within the Academy to sway the vote in Kelly’s favor, despite the perception that Garland’s performance was more deserving of the win.

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Hilary Swank — Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Million Dollar Baby
Warner Bros. Pictures

Hilary Swank’s second Best Actress win for her role as Maggie Fitzgerald in Million Dollar Baby raised eyebrows among critics who felt the film’s portrayal of disability was problematic.

Not to mention, many believed that Annette Bening’s performance in Being Julia was more deserving of the award. And, because she had won just a few years earlier, many believed other actresses should have been recognized for their work.

Read More: 10 Categories the Oscars Need to Add ASAP

Nicole Kidman — The Hours (2002)

The Hours
Paramount Pictures

Nicole Kidman’s win for her portrayal of Virginia Woolf in The Hours was met with criticism from some who felt her prosthetic nose overshadowed her performance.

Many also believed Julianne Moore’s role in the same film or Renée Zellweger’s in Chicago were more deserving of recognition. But, despite the critics, Kidman has proven she’s a very worthy Best Actress winner.

Read More: 10 Best Actor Oscars We Would Retcon if We Could