The biggest selling blog piece I ever wrote was an article on the 25 biggest actresses in Hollywood written in early 2009/late 2008. Here's an update.
Also note I wrote this from a phone so likely a lot of spelling and grammatical errors:
1 Meryl Streep-Even though she's a generation above the type of woman that usually would merit the title preeminent actress of Hollywood, how can I possibly ignore Meryl Streep anymore? (I ranked her #3 in 2008) She hits a home run in everything she's in and shows no signs on letting up the Oscar haul.
2 Charlize Theron-Theron is supremely talented and is capable of giving an unquestionably breathtaking performance like the one that stole critical thunder from all the actresses critics were taking seriously in 2003 with Monster. In the nearly ten years since, she's shown Monster was no fluke with North Country and Young Adult and she's also shown she can do action, period pieces, and romance.
3 Naomi Watts-A supremely talented actress may not win the Oscar with The Impossible but she's been a darkhorse for a long time now missing out on several nominations and the film seems to be carving out a larger piece of the public consciousness than Beasts of the Southern Wild or Amour. Watts has long been Hollywood's best keep secret in my opinion. She turns everything she's in to Gold. With her second Oscar nomination, she might no longer be under the radar.
4 Nicole Kidman-She gives out an Oscar calliber performance nearly every year. Is there a such thing as the offseason in movie acting, I haven't seen it from her in over ten years. Even performances from her that get zero Oscar buzz like The Interpreter in 2005 are brilliant.
5 *Anne Hathaway-Initially, I thought she was too feminine to fit a wide mold of parts but her playfulness with the action lead in Get Smart and her ugliness in the psychological head trip Rachel Getting Married changed my mind. If she wins an Oscar for Les Miserables, it will be well-deserved for a pretty impressive body of work to date.
6 *Jessica Chastain-From the prism of moviegoers like us, Jessica Chastain looks like a mad workahaulic on par with Jude Law, Cate Blanchett, or Michael Caine in the 80s (DoubleCheck). She had 6 movies out in 2011, four in 2012, and is slated for four next year. She's earned Oscar nods both years so far and if she wasn't nominated for "The Help" last year, she deserved to be nominated for "The List."
7 *Jennifer Lawrence-Who would've thought that the third lead from the highly forgettable Bill Evangl show would amount to be the proverbial homecoming queen of Hollywood?
8 Julianne Moore-The best actress of her generation to be without an Oscar, Moore is still hacking away and while she hasn't been as prolific in the last few years, she continues to hold a strong batting average in projects with Crazy Stupid Love, A Single Man, and HBO's Game Change for which she won an Emmy.
9 Kiera Knightley-Although she hasn't been nominated since 2005 for Oscar, she has found herself in the middle of Oscar speculation three times since: Anna Karennia, Atonement, A Dangerous Method. Add The Duchess to those four films and Knightly has cornered the market on period film leading ladies. Moreso, Knightly has been open to stretching herself with action ("Domino"), quirky indie film ("Seeking a Friend for the End of the World") and romcom ("Love Actually")
10 Helen Mirren-Only 67, Mirren can still play a wide array of parts and I don't see any signs that her newfound poularity for winning an Oscar in The Queen has waned at all.
11 Cate Blanchett-Cate Blanchett was #2 (behind Kidman) on my last list because at the time, she was cranking out two or three movies a year and none of them were dinky films everyone forgets about. Just to refresh your memory in the 3 years leading up to late 2008, she was in Notes on a Scandal, Good German, and Babel in 2006; a double nominee in 2007 with I'm Not There and Elizabeth: The Golden Age, and then a year AFTER THAT, she was the villain in Indiana Jones AND the love interest in the Oscar-nominated Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Even if Indy 4 was disappointing, you have to admit its a big deal that she was the villain. And she might have been in more if I bothered to look it up. In contrast, I can't name a single film she's been in since 2009 from memory. Still, I'll bet she probably was in something recently AND that if she wants to, shell be in something soon enough and she'll kill it.
12 Judi Dench-Just look at the Oscar buzz surrounding Dench in 2012 to see how she can infuse thankless parts into performances that get noticed. Her role in Skyfall as M was one of the first instance of an actress in a Bond film (along with Bardem) getting enough critical acclaim to make a dent on the Awards circut. In Exotic Marigold, her storyline comptered with that of Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, and Tom Wilkinson, yet she somehow pulls it together enough to be considered a lead.
13 Amy Adams- Adams looks more like a character actress than a star and four supporting actress nominations proves that point but, then again, four supporting actress nominations in an eight-year span is quite a feat. She's also proven she can lead a film
with "Enchanted", "Sunshine Cleaning," and "Muppet Movie" and her range of films-from a tentpole like "Night at the Museum" to a Will Ferrell-John C. Rielly romp in "Talladega Nights" to a prestige pic like "Doubt"- is greater than any other actress on this list.
14 *Emma Stone-With her casting as the Garfield's love interest she is officially the Kirsten Dunst of the '90's.Among her filmography this decade are prestigious films that did a respectable job at drawing audiences such as The Help and Crazy Stupid Love. On the other end of the spectrum, her populist crowd pleasers- Easy A and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World- got good critical reviews and transcended the teen genre. The best of both worlds.
15 *Marion Cotillard-Cotillard was 100% a product of the French film industry and 0% embedded in Hollywood when she won the Oscar in 2008 for "La Vie en Rose." Since then, she's transitioned nicely as a viable leading lady in Hollywood with notable performances in Public Enemies, Inception, Dark Knight Rises, and an Oscar-worthy entry with Rust and Bone for which she was likely the unlucky 6th place finisher in Oscar voting.
16 Cameron Diaz-For someone who was tagged early in her career as a sex symbol, Diaz has proven remarkably resillient with age as her charm, acting chops, and comedic instincts have become larger parts of her main appeal. She went full awards bait in the underrecognized My Sister's Keeper and shows her ease in comedic leading roles like Bad Teacher or Knight and Day (a time capsule of a movie taking us back to the day when Tom Cruise was a charming leading man).
17 Natalie Portman-Portman won the Oscar two years ago and I'm not writing her out of the top 15 because of that distance. If she won in 2011, I still would give her the same rank. While Portman's winning an Oscar wasn't as much of an outliar as Monique (he was essentially a comedian/sitcom personality) in relation to her body of work, I don't see much in Natalie Portman in terms of appeal or versatility outside of that one performance. In No Strings Attached, she was more awkward than dopelganger (who had Friends with Benefits out the same year) Cameron Diaz and has too grave a demeanor to fit in well in romantic comedies. She's also too mousy and feminine for action and she wouldn't be my first choice in her age group for a period piece.
18 *Rooney Mara-In her two introductions to mainstream audiences-Social Network and Girl with the Dragon Tatoo-she made an immediate impression and earned a surprise nomination in the latter.
19 *Carey Mulligan-A relatively young Best Actress nominee at the age of 24, Mulligan has been getting some of the most coveted roles in Hollywood since with Oliver Stone's sequel Wall Street 2, Great Gatsby, and Shame. She also wisely chose a winner by participating in Drive in 2011 as well.
20 *Rachel Weicz-The inconspicous actrss with a gap in her teeth and a wedding peak unleashed a playful and sexy side of her and won an Oscar for it in The Constant Gardener in 2005/2006. She continues to pop up with good performances significantly under the radar as in The Brothers Bloom (did you see her do all those tricks?) and Deep Blue Sea and she's got the hardware which gives casting directors an extra incentive to cast her.
21 Laura Linney-Hollywood's thinking woman has three Oscar nominations and can command lead parts well and an Emmy (John Adams). She brings thoughtful aura to her films.
22 Kate Winslet-Where has Kate been lately? Id put her on the list of people who could come back tomorrow and give the best performance of the year. Winslet was #4 on my last list
23 Reese Whitherspoon-Where has Reese been? She was my #6 in 2008
24 Maggie Smith-Smith got buzz for two performances this past year-Exotic Marigold and Quartet- but I think she looks just a little older than Dench and Mirren. Heck, she was relegated to the wise old woman role in Best Exotic Marigold among a group of retirees. I could look up their ages but that's not as relevant because I'm talking about perception. As is, she's supremely talented but I can't classify her as a hot commodity in Hollywood because I have little confidence that she'll see a starring role like Quartet again. Quartet was a very rare movie.
25 *Kristen Wiig- Wigg was a lightning rod of an SNL cast member during a six and a half year stint in which she inconspicuously rose from the shadows of the Fey-Rudolph-Poehler Era to become the show's premiere talent. Her detractors (quite vocal on the internet, they were) said she was hogging the spotlight and did too many recurring characters, but few of her haters doubted her talent. Her high stature in Hollywood at the moment is based on the success of Bridesmaids, but I rank her highly based on the way she's effortlessly fit into a large number of supporting roles (i.e. Ghost Town, Knocked Up, Walk Hard, Extract) and enhanced so many films.
People who were on my last list that no longer are:
Catherine Zeta-Jones, Kirsten Dunst, Jennifer Connelly, Julia Roberts, Joan Allen, Tilda Swinton, Rene Zellweger (who was all the way up at #5), Scarlett Johannsen (who was #8) , Penelope Cruz, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Halle Berry