A Complete History of Every Best Actress Oscar Winner

Look back at the legendary leading ladies who have claimed the coveted accolade since the first Academy Awards in 1929

Michelle Yeoh accepts the Best Actress award for "Everything Everywhere All at Once" onstage during the 95th Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on March 12, 2023 in Hollywood, California.
Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty

In 1929, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences began awarding on- and off-screen filmmakers for their annual achievements. Each year, standout films and the people who make them happen are honored with golden statues and coveted titles, including the highly sought-after Best Actress award.

Each year, another woman is added to the historical list of actresses who've claimed the Oscar. From four-time winner Katharine Hepburn to 17-time nominee (and two-time winner) Meryl Streep, see every leading lady who added her name to Hollywood history by winning the Academy Award for Best Actress.

Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh accepts the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role for "Everything Everywhere All at Once" onstage during the 95th Annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California on March 12, 2023.
Michelle Yeoh. PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty

2023: Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All at Once

Yeoh made history as the first Asian actress to win in the category for her leading performance as Evelyn Wang in the absurdist action film. Everything Everywhere All at Once also won the Oscar for Best Picture.

Jessica Chastain
Jessica Chastain. Neilson Barnard/Getty

2022: Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Chastain won for her portrayal of the late televangelist personality in this biographical film.

2021: Frances McDormand, Nomadland

McDormand's award-winning character, Fern, sells her possessions and embarks on a nomadic life, driving a van around the country after the death of her husband. This marked McDormand's third Best Actress win.

Nomadland also received the Oscar for Best Picture.

2020: Renée Zellweger, Judy

Zellweger retold the life and career of a Hollywood icon in the Judy Garland biopic.

91st Annual Academy Awards, Governors Ball, Los Angeles, USA - 24 Feb 2019
Olivia Colman. Michael Buckner/REX/Shutterstock

2019: Olivia Colman, The Favourite

Colman won for the role of Queen Anne, the real-life ruler of Great Britain in the 18th century.

2018: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Winning her second of three Best Actress accolades, McDormand became the aggrieved mother Mildred Hayes, whose daughter was raped and murdered. In the film, McDormand's character demands a thorough investigation of the crimes that took her daughter's life.

ABC's Coverage Of The 89th Annual Academy Awards
Emma Stone. Eddy Chen/ABC

2017: Emma Stone, La La Land

In the romantic musical set in Los Angeles, Stone played (and won as) aspiring actress Mia Dolan.

2016: Brie Larson, Room

Larson took home the Oscar for her performance of a young woman who escapes the captivity in which she and her son (played by Jacob Tremblay) have been held for years.

2015: Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Moore won for her performance as Alice, a linguistics professor diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease.

2014: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

Blanchett nabbed the Best Actress award thanks to her leading role in Woody Allen's film about a New York City socialite who has fallen on hard times.

HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 24: Actress Jennifer Lawrence reacts after winning the Best Actress award for "Silver Linings Playbook" during the Oscars held at the Dolby Theatre on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images); HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 24: Actress Jennifer Lawrence accepts the Best Actress award for "Silver Linings Playbook" during the Oscars held at the Dolby Theatre on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Jennifer Lawrence. Kevin Winter/Getty (2)

2013: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook

Though she famously (and elegantly) tripped on the stairs as she made her way up to the Oscars stage, Lawrence accepted the award for her starring role as Tiffany, a young widow struggling with her mental health.

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2012: Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady

Streep won for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in the biographical drama of the first female British Prime Minister.

2011: Natalie Portman, Black Swan

Portman earned the Best Actress award for her lead performance as Nina Sayers, a professional dancer who suffers a nervous breakdown under the pressure of her lead role as the White Swan in the famed ballet Swan Lake.

2010: Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side

In the big-screen adaptation of this true story, Bullock played Leigh Anne Tuohy, the resolute Southern mother who adopts teen Michael Oher. In real life and in the film, Oher went on to become a first-round NFL draft pick.

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 22: (EDITORS NOTE: NO ONLINE, NO INTERNET, EMBARGOED FROM INTERNET AND TELEVISION USAGE UNTIL THE CONCLUSION OF THE LIVE OSCARS TELECAST) Actress Kate Winslet speaks on stage after winning the Best Actress award for "The Reader" during the 81st Annual Academy Awards held at Kodak Theatre on February 22, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Kate Winslet. Kevin Winter/Getty

2009: Kate Winslet, The Reader

Winslet won for her role as Hanna Schmitz, a former Nazi guard who is tried for the war crimes she committed at Auschwitz.

2008: Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose

Cotillard took home the golden statue for her portrayal of French singer Édith Piaf in the musical biopic named for her most famous song.

Helen Mirren accepts Best Actress in a Leading Role award for ?The Queen? at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles, California (Photo by Michael Caulfield/WireImage)
Helen Mirren. Michael Caulfield/WireImage

2007: Helen Mirren, The Queen

Mirren earned the Oscar for her performance as Queen Elizabeth II in the British biopic set after the death of Princess Diana.

2006: Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line

Witherspoon took home the Best Actress award for her depiction of June Carter, the object of Johnny Cash's affection and his eventual wife, in both the biopic and in real life.

2005: Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby

Swank won her third Best Actress Oscar for her role as Maggie Fitzgerald, an up-and-coming boxer, in Clint Eastwood's sports drama movie.

HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 29: (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER AND US TABS OUT) Actress Charlize Theron poses with her Oscar for Best Actress during the 76th Annual Academy Awards at the Kodak Theater on February 29, 2004 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)
Charlize Theron. Frank Micelotta/Getty

2004: Charlize Theron, Monster

In this crime drama, Theron plays real-life criminal Aileen Wuornos. Her semi-fictional portrayal of the serial killer earned Theron the coveted acting award.

2003: Nicole Kidman, The Hours

Kidman won for her portrayal of 20th-century writer Virginia Woolf in this drama, which also starred fellow Best Actress winners Julianne Moore and Meryl Streep.

Best Actress winner Halle Berry at the 74th annual Academy Awards at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, Ca., 3/24/02.
Halle Berry. Frank Micelotta/ImageDirect/Getty

2002: Halle Berry, Monster's Ball

Berry became the first Black woman to win in the category with her performance as Leticia Musgrove, the widow of a convicted murderer. Berry's character finds new love in a man whom she eventually discovers assisted in her late husband's execution.

2001: Julia Roberts, Erin Brockovich

Roberts fought the Pacific Gas and Electric Company as the titular character in this dramatic portrayal of one woman's real-life class action lawsuit against the corporation.

2000: Hilary Swank, Boys Don't Cry

Swank's win for playing Brandon Teena in Boys Don't Cry made her one of only three other actresses to win the Best Actress award twice before the age of 30. (The other two to claim this achievement are Luise Rainer and Jodie Foster.)

gwyneth paltrow
Gwyneth Paltrow. vogue

1999: Gwyneth Paltrow, Shakespeare in Love

In this period drama, Paltrow plays the muse and lover of William Shakespeare (played by Joseph Fiennes). Her performance as the fictional Viola de Lesseps also stole the hearts of the Academy, and Paltrow took home the Oscar for Best Actress.

1998: Helen Hunt, As Good as It Gets

Hunt's portrayal of Carol Connelly, a struggling working mother, landed her the title of Best Actress in 1998.

1997: Frances McDormand, Fargo

McDormand won her very first Oscar thanks to her leading role as pregnant police chief Marge Gunderson in the crime film.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 25: Oscar Winner Susan Sarandon backstage at Academy Awards Show, March 25,1996 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Getty Images/Bob Riha, Jr.)
Susan Sarandon. Bob Riha, Jr./Getty

1996: Susan Sarandon, Dead Man Walking

Sarandon nabbed the Best Actress honor for her portrayal of Sister Helen Prejean, the spiritual counselor of a death row inmate in Louisiana.

1995: Jessica Lange, Blue Sky

In Blue Sky, Lange plays Carly Marshall, a woman struggling with her mental health and the domestic confines of her role as an army officer's wife living on a military base.

1994: Holly Hunter, The Piano

Hunter picked up an Oscar for her work as Ada McGrath, a mute Scottish pianist who expresses herself through the music she plays.

Emma Thompson (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)
Emma Thompson. Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty

1993: Emma Thompson, Howards End

Thompson won Best Actress for her performance as Margaret Schlegel in the period drama based on E.M. Forster's novel of the same name.

1992: Jodie Foster, The Silence of the Lambs

Foster's iconic role as FBI trainee Clarice Starling won the actress her second Best Actress accolade, making Foster the second woman to win it twice before the age of 30 years old.

1991: Kathy Bates, Misery

Bates won for her performance as manically obsessive Annie Wilkes in the film adaptation of Stephen King's psychological thriller novel.

1990: Jessica Tandy, Driving Miss Daisy

At age 80, Tandy won the Best Actress award for her role as Daisy Werthan in the dramedy, making her the oldest star to win in the category to date.

Jodie Foster at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)
Jodie Foster. Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection/Getty

1989: Jodie Foster, The Accused

Foster won Best Actress for her performance as Sarah Tobias, a victim of gang rape, in the legal drama.

1988: Cher, Moonstruck

In Moonstruck, Cher plays Loretta Castorini, a widow engaged to a man she doesn't love — instead, she loves his brother. The heartfelt performance earned the "Goddess of Pop" her only Oscar win.

1987: Marlee Matlin, Children of a Lesser God

At 21 years old, Matlin made history as the youngest person to win Best Actress in 1987 and the first deaf person to win an Oscar, for her film debut in the role of janitor Sarah Norman.

1986: Geraldine Page, A Trip to Bountiful

Page won Best Actress for her performance as Carrie Watts, an elderly woman who journeys back to her hometown — the fictional haven of Bountiful, Texas — against the advice of her doctor and family members.

Sally Field. Time Life Pictures/Getty

1985: Sally Field, Places in the Heart

Field took home her second Best Actress Oscar for her lead role as Edna Spalding, a widowed mother handling life in Texas during the Great Depression.

1984: Shirley MacLaine, Terms of Endearment

MacLaine's Best Actress-winning performance in Terms of Endearment sees her as Aurora Greenway, a mother struggling with her daughter's coming of age and the death of her husband.

55th Academy Awards
Meryl Streep. Michael Montfort/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

1983: Meryl Streep, Sophie's Choice

Streep's emotional portrayal of Zofia "Sophie" Zawistowski won her the 1983 Academy Award for Best Actress.

The Hollywood icon holds the record for most Best Actress Oscar nominations. Streep has won twice, but has been nominated a total of 17 times. She's also been nominated four times in the Supporting Actress category.

1982: Katharine Hepburn, On Golden Pond

Hepburn won her last of four total Best Actress Oscars for her performance as Ethel Thayer in On Golden Pond.

Sissy Spacek
Sissy Spacek. Bettmann/Getty Images

1981: Sissy Spacek, Coal Miner's Daughter

Spacek won for her leading performance in this biopic of Loretta Lynn's journey to country music glory.

1980: Sally Field, Norma Rae

Field nabbed her first Best Actress Academy Award for her portrayal of a resilient cotton mill employee who organizes a union to advocate for her fellow workers' rights.

1979: Jane Fonda, Coming Home

For her performance as disillusioned army wife Sally Hyde, Fonda won her second Best Actress Oscar.

Diane Keaton wins an Oscar for Annie Hall
Diane Keaton. Everett

1978: Diane Keaton, Annie Hall

In this romantic comedy, Keaton plays the elusive girlfriend of Woody Allen's neurotic lead role, and she took home the golden statue for her spirited performance.

1977: Faye Dunaway, Network

For her role as Diana Christensen, an uptight, determined television executive, the Academy named Dunaway the Best Actress of that film season.

LOS ANGELES,CA - MARCH 29,1976: Actress Louise Fletcher poses backstage after winning the "Best Actress" award for "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" during the 48th Academy Awards at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles,California. (Photo by Michael Montfort/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Louise Fletcher. Michael Montfort/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

1976: Louise Fletcher, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Fletcher earned widespread acclaim for her portrayal of heartless, hostile Nurse Mildred Ratched, who oversees the mental institution in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, which also won Best Picture.

1975: Ellen Burstyn, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore

Burstyn won Best Actress for her performance as Alice Hyatt, a widow who seeks a fresh start with her son in California, away from her old life in New Mexico.

1974: Glenda Jackson, A Touch of Class

For her role as divorced London-based mother Vickie Allessio, Jackson picked up the Best Actress Oscar in 1974.

1973: Liza Minnelli, Cabaret

In this famous Bob Fosse musical set during the rise of Nazi Germany, Minnelli plays lively American performer Sally Bowles. She took home the Oscar for her buoyant yet nuanced portrayal of the rising star.

Actress Jane Fonda at Academy Awards
Jane Fonda. Getty Images

1972: Jane Fonda, Klute

This neo-noir crime drama features Fonda in the role of Bree Daniels, an escort with acting aspirations who becomes entangled in a missing persons mystery. The character earned Fonda her first Academy Award.

1971: Glenda Jackson, Women in Love

Jackson won Best Actress for her performance as Gudrun Brangwen, an intellectual woman and artist living in England during the early 20th century.

1970: Maggie Smith, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

Smith portrays an unlikely teacher at an all-girls school in Scotland, one who often lauds the likes of Mussolini, Franco and other fascists. Her performance of the eccentric educator earned Smith her only Best Actress Oscar. (She won for Best Supporting Actress in 1978.)

Barbra Streisand. Bettmann/Getty

1969: Katharine Hepburn, The Lion in Winter & Barbra Streisand, Funny Girl

Two stars took home the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1969, the only tie in Oscars history to date: Katharine Hepburn, for her role as Eleanor Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter, and Barbra Streisand, for her portrayal of Fanny Brice in Funny Girl.

1968: Katharine Hepburn, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

For her performance as Christina Drayton, a progressive thinker married to a conservative man, Hepburn earned her second Best Actress accolade.

Married actors Elizabeth Taylor (1932 - 2011) and Richard Burton (1925 - 1984) attend the BAFTA Awards dinner at Grosvenor House in London, 26th April 1967. They won the Best British Actress and Best British Actor awards for their roles in 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?', and Taylor shows off the Academy Award which she won for the same part. Taylor is wearing her Bulgari diamond and emerald necklace. (Photo by Trevor Humphries/Central Press/Getty Images)
Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. Trevor Humphries/Central Press/Getty

1967: Elizabeth Taylor, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Taylor took home the Oscar for Best Actress thanks to her portrayal of Martha, daughter of a university president and wife of a history professor employed by her father.

1966: Julie Christie, Darling

Christie won for her performance as Diana Scott, a British model and actress who finds fame and success in her career, but questions her virtues and the depth of her relationships along the way.

1965: Julie Andrews, Mary Poppins

For her whimsical performance as the famed magical caretaker in this Walt Disney musical, Andrews won the Oscar for Best Actress.

Patricia Neal. Chris Ware/Keystone Features/Hulton Archive/Getty

1964: Patricia Neal, Hud

In this Western drama, Neal plays Alma Brown, the housekeeper of a rancher family and love interest of the titular character portrayed by Paul Newman.

For her strong-willed performance, Neal won the Oscar for Best Actress, which she can be seen here showing three of her children at home.

1963: Anne Bancroft, The Miracle Worker

Bancroft won for playing Anne Sullivan in this biopic of Helen Keller's tutor.

1962: Sophia Loren, Two Women

The film features Loren in the lead role of Cesira, a widow, shopkeeper and mother raising her daughter in Rome during World War II. The Italian-American star took home the Best Actress award for her emotional portrayal.

British-born American actress Elizabeth Taylor (1932 - 2011), with her Oscar for Best Actress in 'Butterfield 8', at the 33rd Academy Awards, Santa Monica, California, 17th April 1961. (Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images)
Elizabeth Taylor. Archive Photos/Getty

1961: Elizabeth Taylor, Butterfield 8

Taylor earned her first Academy Award for starring as Gloria Wandrous, a beautiful yet troubled woman navigating her affair with a married man.

1960: Simone Signoret, Room at the Top

In Room at the Top, Signoret plays Alice Aisgill, a married, wealthy yet unsatisfied woman who strikes up an affair with a younger, working-class man.

1959: Susan Hayward, I Want to Live!

In I Want to Live!, Hayward plays real-life criminal Barbara Graham, who faced the death penalty after being charged with the murder of an older woman. Hayward won Best Actress for her complex portrayal of the character.

Joanne Woodward
Joanne Woodward. Getty Images

1958: Joanne Woodward, The Three Faces of Eve

In The Three Faces of Eve, Woodward plays a woman who suffers from dissociative identity disorder, previously known as multiple personality disorder. The star won the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayals of each of her character's personalities: Eve White, Eve Black and Jane.

1957: Ingrid Bergman, Anastasia

Bergman won for her portrayal of the titular character in this period drama, about a girl claiming to be the daughter of Russia's last Tsar, and therefore the only Romanov family member who escaped execution.

1956: Anna Magnani, The Rose Tattoo

Best Actress winner Magnani took home to award for her on-screen work as Serafina Delle Rose, an Italian-American seamstress living in Louisiana with her daughter and husband, who is killed early on in the film.

1955: Grace Kelly, The Country Girl

Shortly before she became the Princess of Monaco, Kelly won the Best Actress Academy Award for her portrayal of Georgie Elgin, the loyal wife of an alcoholic actor who faces blame for her husband's declining stardom.

Audrey Hepburn Holding Oscar
Audrey Hepburn. Getty

1954: Audrey Hepburn, Roman Holiday

Hepburn won for her role as Princess Ann, a bored royal who visits Rome on stately duties but instead enjoys the Italian city alongside an American reporter.

1953: Shirley Booth, Come Back, Little Sheba

In Come Back, Little Sheba, Booth plays housewife Lola Delaney whose life of trouble has left her unhappy and whose alcoholic husband has left her lonely. The heartbreaking portrayal won Booth the award for Best Actress.

1952: Vivien Leigh, A Streetcar Named Desire

Leigh won for her role of Blanche DuBois, a southern belle who travels to New Orleans to live with family as she deals with her tumultuous past.

1951: Judy Holliday, Born Yesterday

Holliday took home the Best Actress accolade for her portrayal of naturally smart (though not formally educated) woman. Her character, Billie Dawn, falls in love with the man her husband sends her to teach her about manners and culture.

(Original Caption) 3/25/50-Hollywood, California: Actress Olivia De Havilland proudly displays her second "Oscar," awarded for her performance as the Best Actress of 1949 for her role in "The Heiress." Miss De Havilland also won top honors in 1946.
Olivia De Havilland. Bettmann Archive

1950: Olivia de Havilland, The Heiress

Havilland won Best Actress for her portrayal of Catherine Sloper, the reserved and awkward daughter of a wealthy New York City doctor who disapproves of the young man with whom she falls in love.

1949: Jane Wyman, Johnny Belinda

In her Oscar-winning performance, Wyman plays Belinda MacDonald, a deaf-mute woman who finds companionship in a physician before a tragic incident further ostracizes her from her community.

1948: Loretta Young, The Farmer's Daughter

Young won for her role as Katie Holstrom, a maid turned congresswoman, in The Farmer's Daughter.

1947: Olivia de Havilland, To Each His Own

For her award-winning performance in this drama set during World War II, Havilland plays Jody Norris, a woman reckoning with her decision to give up a son she had out of wedlock.

Joan Crawford
Joan Crawford. Silver Screen Collection/Getty

1946: Joan Crawford, Mildred Pierce

Crawford won Best Actress for her titular performance in the melodrama Mildred Pierce. Since she claimed to have pneumonia at the time of the ceremony, Crawford accepted the award from the comfort of her own bed.

1945: Ingrid Bergman, Gaslight

In the psychological thriller Gaslight, Bergman plays Paula Alquist, a woman who moves into the house where her aunt was murdered. The role earned her the Oscar for Best Actress that year.

1944: Jennifer Jones, The Song of Bernadette

Jones won for her portrayal of Bernadette Soubirous in the biopic of a girl who claimed to have seen visions of the Virgin Mary.

1943: Greer Garson, Mrs. Miniver

Garson plays Kay Miniver in this romance set during World War II, and she won Best Actress for her performance as the English housewife coping with the ongoing global conflict and guiding her family as they do the same.

1942: Joan Fontaine, Suspicion

In the role of Lina McLaidlaw, Fontaine plays a naive woman who falls for and marries a man whom she begins to believe wants to kill her. The actress' performance in the psychological drama earned her an Oscar win.

James Stewart (1908-1997), US actor, wearing a black tuxedo, a white shirt and black bow tie, with Ginger Rogers (1911-1995), US actress and dancer, wearing an evening gown, both holding their Oscar statuettes, at the 13th Academy Awards, at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, California, USA, 27 February 1941. Stewart won Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance in 'The Philadelphia Story', and Rogers won Best Actress in a Leading Role for her performance in 'Kitty Foyle'. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Ginger Rogers, with Jimmy Stewart. Hulton Archive/Getty

1941: Ginger Rogers, Kitty Foyle

Rogers played the title character in this drama, about a saleswoman who grapples with a life-changing decision to either run away to South America with a rich man or marry her fiancé, a poor doctor.

1940: Vivien Leigh, Gone with the Wind

Leigh won for her role as Scarlett O'Hara, a plantation owner's daughter, in this epic though controversial romance set in the South during the American Civil War.

1939: Bette Davis, Jezebel

Davis took home the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance as Julie Marsden, a southern belle engaged to a man whom she drives away with her promiscuous behavior.

Luise Rainer holds the 1937 Academy Award she received for her performance in The Good Earth.
Luise Rainer. Bettmann Archive

1938: Luise Rainer, The Good Earth

Rainer became the first woman to win two Best Actress Oscars before the age of 30 thanks to her award-winning performance as O-Lan in The Good Earth.

1937: Luise Rainer, The Great Ziegfeld

In the musical drama, Rainer plays Anna Held, a French star who falls for an American performer. The role won Rainer her first Oscar.

1936: Bette Davis, Dangerous

Davis won for her portrayal of Joyce Heath, an actress pushed out of the Hollywood mainstream due to her scandalous streak.

Shirley Temple and Claudette Colbert. Hulton Archive/Getty

1935: Claudette Colbert, It Happened One Night

Shirley Temple presented Colbert with her Best Actress Oscar when she won for her portrayal of heiress Ellie Andrews in the romantic comedy. It Happened One Night was also named Best Picture.

1934: Katharine Hepburn, Morning Glory

Hepburn, who holds the record for most Best Actress wins, started off her winning streak when she received the award for her performance in Morning Glory. She played the determined, aspiring actress Eva Lovelace in the drama.

1933: Helen Hayes, The Sin of Madelon Claudet

Hayes won for her portrayal of Madelon Claudet, a French woman who turns to a life of crime to support her son after she is wrongly imprisoned.

1932: Marie Dressler, Min and Bill

Dressler's award-winning performance as Min Divot sees her running a dockside inn and caring for her daughter.

Norma Shearer
Norma Shearer. AP

1931: Norma Shearer, The Divorcee

In The Divorcee, Shearer plays Jerry Martin, a woman who discovers her husband is having an affair and has her own in retaliation.

1930: Mary Pickford, Coquette

Pickford's winning performance in Coquette sees her as a headstrong, wealthy woman who falls in love with a simple man of whom her father doesn't approve.

Douglas Fairbanks presents Janet Gaynor with the first Academy Award for Best Actress, for her work in Seventh Heaven, as well as Street Angel, and Sunrise, at the first Academy Awards in 1929.
Janet Gaynor. Bettmann Archive

1929: Janet Gaynor, 7th Heaven, Street Angel and Sunrise

At the first-ever Academy Awards in 1929, Gaynor took home the Best Actress award for three different characters she'd played in the two years prior: Diane in the 1927 film 7th Heaven, Angela in the 1928 drama Street Angel and The Wife in Sunrise.

The Oscars air live on ABC on Sunday, March 12, at 8 p.m. ET.

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