My current Top 5

My current Top 5


Best Actress Ranking - Update

Here is a new update. The newly added performance is highlighted in bold. 

1. Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind (1939)
2. Jessica Lange in Frances (1982)
3. Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard (1950)
4. Olivia de Havilland in The Heiress (1949)
5. Anne Bancroft in The Graduate (1967)
6. Janet Gaynor in Seventh Heaven (1927-1928)   
7. Glenn Close in Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
8. Geraldine Page in The Trip to Bountiful (1985)
9. Edith Evans in The Whisperers (1967)
10. Norma Shearer in Marie Antoinette (1938)

11. Greta Garbo in Ninotchka (1939)
12. Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
13. Bette Davis in The Little Foxes (1941)
14. Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music (1965)
15. Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame (1958)
16. Glenda Jackson in Women in Love (1970)
17. Barbara Stanwyck in Ball of Fire (1941)
18. Julie Christie in Away from Her (2007)
19. Shelley Winters in A Place in the Sun (1951)
20. Ingrid Bergman in The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)

21. Greer Garson in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)
22. Doris Day in Pillow Talk (1959)
23. Meryl Streep in One True Thing (1998)
24. Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity (1953)
25. Katharine Hepburn in Guess who’s coming to dinner (1967)
26. Teresa Wright in The Pride of the Yankees (1942) 
27. Jennifer Jones in Love Letters (1945)
28. Ellen Burstyn in Same Time, Next Year (1978)
29. Susan Hayward in My Foolish Heart (1949)
30. Diane Keaton in Marvin's Room (1996)

31. Loretta Young in Come to the Stable (1949)  
32. Mary Pickford in Coquette (1928-29)
33. Sissy Spacek in The River (1984)
34. Shirley MacLaine in The Turning Point (1977)
35. Irene Dunne in Cimarron (1930-1931)
36. Diana Wynyard in Cavalcade (1932-1933)

Sissy Spacek as Mae Garvey in The River

I think instead of calling the performances that are ranked at the bottom of a list like this „the worst“, I would rather prefer to call them „the weakest“. Because none of them are actually bad (yes, not even Mary Pickford) on a Razzie-worthy level – instead, those at the bottom are simply those performances where an actress failed with her approach, where the role did not give her anything to work with or where the acting itself is quite simply “weak”. But not necessarily “bad”. 

The interesting thing about Sissy Spacek in The River is that most people on the Internet seem to rank her either first or last. I cannot comment yet on the question if she will be last in my personal ranking of 1984, but as you can see from the position she has for now, I am not an admirer. The truth is that I feel quite bad for putting her that low – because looking at The River, there is simply nothing that Sissy Spacek could have done different or better. She plays the part with her usual simplicity that most of the time works so beautifully, she perfectly fits into her surroundings and is always believable as a woman who lives for supporting her husband and her farm. But even within this structure, the part of Mae is a big fat “Nothing”. For this ranking, I have seen parts of her performance probably 20 times in the last couple of weeks and still I fail to remember specific scenes or what exactly Mae is supposed to be. I also wouldn’t call it a supporting performance – rather, the whole role almost completely disappears, even when she has a scene to herself. She leaves absolutely no impression but again I would blame the movie more than Sissy Spacek.

Unlike Places in the Heart and Country, the other two “save the farm”-movies of 1984, The River was not designed as a show case for its leading lady but is rather a showcase for its male character and if that part had not been played by Mel Gibson, I suppose The River would have rather seen its acting nomination come in the Best Actor category. But I guess that Mel Gibson was not taken seriously enough in 1984 and he also played the part with a too obvious determination to change his image, coming across as too forced and unlikable. Sissy Spacek looks like her role as the wife of a farmer – Mel Gibson looks like an underwear model. This also results in the fact that both actors have zero chemistry, they simply do not fit together. Sissy Spacek has a much better chemistry with the actor who plays her former lover and rival of her husband – when she sees him on the street, her eyes immediately tell the audience that there is/was more going on and when she later tells him that it is “too late” for them, it is her only real strong moment in the movie where she is allowed to shine for a moment. But this moment again comes and goes and leaves no impression and when she later slaps her husband and tells him that he is a “stupid, goddamn farmer” it never becomes the kind of powerful moment you have been waiting for but again just another scene the viewer forgets before it’s even over.

In the end, I can only repeat that Sissy Spacek did nothing wrong but the role itself is so shockingly empty that there is nothing that the even most talented actress could do – it is certainly no surprise to me that Jessica Lange left the production to make her own farm movie (I surely don’t think it’s a coincidence that the dead cow in The River is called Jessica…) but it is rather surprising that Sissy Spacek took over. Did she see more in the role than I did? But of course, in the end she got a Golden Globe and Oscar nomination out of it, so what do I know?

And a hint to the next performance that will be ranked: