Fay Wray’s would forever be considered the iconic Ann Darrow, but one would be hard pressed to call it the most well performed. In 2005, Naomi Watts gave that year’s most undervalued, overlooked performance. Her portrayal of Darrow in Peter Jackson’s version of King Kong deserved every praise it garnered and more. In the film, Watts is pushed down, carried around, thrown in the air, and at times, as the role warrants, she does some vaudeville stunts of her own. Her sympathy for Kong is evident in her sweet gaze on the towering primate and in her protective stance atop the building.
24. Shirley MacLaine as Aurora Greenway in Terms of Endearment (1983)
Strong, incorrigible, and, ultimately, fiercely maternal, Shirley MacLaine’s Aurora Greenway in Terms of Endearment is a strong, significant role that we no longer see so often played by veteran actresses. Whether she's having fun with Jack Nicholson or breaking down at the sight of her daughter (Debra Winger) in pain, MacLaine is simply perfect for the role. She was justified in saying during the awards ceremony that she deserved to win the Oscar for Best Actress that year.
23. Diane Keaton as Bessie Greenfield in Marvin's Room (1996)
Diane Keaton thankfully got nominated for a heartbreaking role in a film that few would probably remember, Marvin's Room. She plays a leukemia patient constantly at odds with her sister Lee (Meryl Streep), and her character's moments with Lee and Lee's son Hank (Leonardo DiCaprio) are precious moments of sincerely acted familial love. All three actors shine in this film, but it is Keaton as Bessie Greenfield, perhaps her most underrated role, that carries the film to its emotional last scenes.
22. Julianne Moore as Cathy Whitaker in Far From Heaven (2002)
2002 is arguably Julianne Moore's best year, with two fantastic performances (as Cathy Whitaker in Far From Heaven and as Laura Brown in The Hours). Until the time I'm writing this, I'm still debating with myself as to which performance I consider "greater," and thus which performance to include in this list. For sheer strength, significance, and the fact that it's so much more memorable, I'm giving that distinction to her Cathy Whitaker, suffering wife and woman. But I'm still citing her Laura Brown as an amazing performance, one that should have either won her the Supporting category or gotten her a co-lead nomination with Nicole Kidman. Think of this as #22a and #22b.
21. Marlee Matlin as Sarah Norman in Children of a Lesser God (1986)
Marlee Matlin is easily one of the actresses I miss seeing the most in films nowadays. Not only is she astoundingly beautiful; she's also a very expressive actress. Though she can speak very fluently, she can shift from speaking to signing and vice versa without missing her rhythm. In Children of a Lesser God, she plays Sarah Norman, an angry, volatile hearing-impaired woman whose love can be as fiery as her anger. It's a great joy watching Matlin perform whatever her emotion is at a certain moment. With her it's like a dance, silent yet powerful, smooth yet fierce.
Introduction and #s 75-51