In no order, really.
Holly Hunter as Ada McGrath – The Piano (Jane Campion, 1993)
As a mute piano player, Hunter gives a fearless, bare performance that leaves a huge impression.
Julie Christie as Constance Miller – McCabe and Mrs. Miller (Robert Altman, 1971)
A hotheaded but practical madam with a quirky charm and a hidden tenderness.
Moira Shearer as Victoria Page – The Red Shoes (Powell & Pressburger, 1948)
The best redhead evar, and a triumph of emotional clarity as well as physical expressiveness.
Louise Brooks as Lulu – Pandora’s Box (George Wilhelm Pabst, 1929)
Lulu’s sexual energy and doomed romances make her fascinating to watch.
Irene Jacob as Veronique/Weronika – The Double Life of Veronique (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1991)
Absolutely luminous, Veronique and her double are this film.
Ellen Burstyn as Sara Goldfarb – Requiem for a Dream (Darren Aronofsky, 2000)
Sara’s descent into addiction is physically shocking and absolutely harrowing to watch.
Faye Dunaway as Bonnie Parker – Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn, 1967)
Flighty but strong, lovely and tragic, one half of one of the best screen couples in history.
Kate Winslet as Clementine Kruczynski – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)
Hard to like, impossible not to love.
Princess Nausicaa – Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (Hayao Miyazaki – 1984)
Nausicaa is sort of a fantasy-hippie; a warrior princess with a deep respect for the earth and all its creatures.
Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond – Sunset Blvd. (Billy Wilder, 1950)
Deranged and lost in the past, Norma descends into madness and vanity after an affair with a younger man goes sour.
Vivien Leigh as Scarlet O’Hara – Gone With the Wind (Victor Fleming, 1939)
Willful and stubborn to a fault, Scarlet is a survivor, and a ravishing beauty.
Q’orianka Kilcher as Pocahontas – The New World (Terrence Malick, 2005)
Both grounded and a dreamer at heart, Pocahontas’s personal journey of love and self-discovery is compelling and revealing.
Belle – Beauty and the Beast (Trousdale & Wise, 1991)
Smart, fiercely independent dreamer who refuses to bend to society’s expectations.
Diane Keaton as Annie Hall – Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977)
Mixes ditzy and nerdy charm into one iconic Manhattanite.
Bibi Andersson as Alma – Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 1966)
Gives one of the sexiest monologues in film history – and the rest of her time onscreen isn’t bad either.
Kirsten Dunst as Claudia – Interview with the Vampire (Neil Jordan, 1994)
A frightening, emotionally mature portrayal of a girl who never ages.
Frances McDormand as Marge Gunderson – Fargo (Joel & Ethan Cohen, 1996)
A hugely pregnant police chief with a hilariously positive attitude in the worst circumstances.
Genevieve Bujold as Claire Niveau – Dead Ringers (David Cronenberg, 1988)
Takes a somewhat disposable role and makes it disturbing, unforgettable, and complex.
Audrey Tautou as Amelie – Amelie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001)
Her optimism and creativity are infectious.
Marilyn Monroe as Sugar – Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959)
The sexiest, most charming blonde bimbo ever.