The Old Ain’t Dead Best Actress of All Time Award

Katherine Hepburn & Meryl Streep

We just watched the 2015 Oscars. The two women who won Best Actress Awards this year were Julianne Moore and Patricia Arquette. Both wonderful actresses – accomplished, talented and deserving.

Sometimes the Oscars give Lifetime Achievement Awards. I want to give an award like that. I want to give the Old Ain’t Dead Best Actress of All Time Award. (There are no prizes and the award means nothing. Sorry.)

How do we judge the best actress of all time? Wins or nominations? Or some variation thereof? Why don’t we look at stats?

Is it Oscar wins? If so, the best actress of all time is Katharine Hepburn with 4 wins and 12 nominations.


Katharine Hepburn promo pic” by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio (work for hire) – [7] alt source: [8]. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Is it Oscar nominations? If so, the best actress of all time is Meryl Streep with 3 wins and 19 nominations.


Meryl Streep by Jack Mitchell” by Jack Mitchell. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Either record is phenomenal. To be in 12 films, or 19 films, and do such an outstanding job that your performance is considered worthy of consideration for an Oscar – that’s phenomenal. That’s talent and skill and hard work and love.

I do have an opinion in this stats-based contest between Hepburn and Streep. I’m picking Streep as the winner and here’s why.

Meryl Streep disappears into a part. I’ve seen her in parts where I didn’t even realize it was her, she was so in character. She can be completely different from one film and one character to another.

Katherine Hepburn seems to always be Katherine Hepburn. Not that she couldn’t act – she could. But there was some essential Hepburnness to her voice, her movements, and her posture that was always there no matter the part.

With Meryl Streep, nothing stays the same. There’s no Streep there.

To be fair, Katherine Hepburn was performing in movies in a time when the costuming, the make up, the prosthetics, the technology and techniques were far less sophisticated than they are now.

Even taking that into consideration, I’m still giving the award to Meryl Streep. The Best Actress of All Time is Meryl Streep!

Meryl Streep as 4 different characters

Applause. Applause. Applause. Applause. Applause. Applause.

4 thoughts on “The Old Ain’t Dead Best Actress of All Time Award”

  1. I have read your article and at first I disagreed. But your argument has won me over. Hepburn was top notched actresses in her day and deserving of being considered “The Best” but Streep is the clear winner.

    I have one other actress that I think needs to be considered for “The Best” and that is Betty Davis. She was able to act “past” her larger then life persona and be her character much like Meryl Streep does. Betty did not have the range that Meryl does, but she could immerse herself into her characters and transform herself into whomever she needed to be. She was nominated 10 times and won twice.

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