LIST: Top 15 best female film performances of 2017

The end of the Oscars marks another cinematic year of film excellence. Perhaps, more than ever, we could all agree that 2017 was a dynamite year for women in the biz. I initially wanted to make a gender-neutral list, but there are just so many female performances, both leading and supporting combined, that need due recognition for their outstanding work.

READ MORE: Oscars 2018 List of Winners

As part of my annual tradition, here are my top 15 favorite female performances of 2017:

15. Elle Fanning as Alicia in The Beguiled

Elle Fanning showcases her provocative wit and fearless sensuality, whilst balancing innocence and maturity in her scene-stealing role in Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled.

14. Michelle Pfeiffer as Her in mother!

2017 is often coined as the year of Michelle Pfeiffer’s comeback. For her to create a burning presence inside a nameless character that haunts movie goers for her eerie stares and wicked one-liners, Pfeiffer proves that her ability to enchant the audience is still as fiery as ever.

13. Vicky Krieps as Alma Elson in Phantom Thread

For someone who seemingly came out of nowhere, Vicky Krieps truly is the unsung hero of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread. She fiercely juggles naivety and ferocity as a woman who refuses masculine manipulation. In my opinion, she gave the best performance in the film.

12. Tiffany Haddish as Dina in Girls Trip

Tiffany Haddish gives a performance that seemingly feels like a non-stop firecracker that’ll leave your cheeks in pain for her incredulous comedic timing. She will take you to a 2-hour joyride. You’ll keep wanting more from her, and yet, she’ll give you exactly what you expect, even more.

11. Holly Hunter as Beth in The Big Sick

It is very rare for comedic performances to be as honest, raw and heartfelt as Holly Hunter is in The Big Sick. She couldn’t care less about the theatricality that surrounds her character’s environment. What she delivered was a very universal performance of a loving mother, elevated by a nuanced script that gave her juicy bits of sharp and cutthroat lines, making it one of the most memorable performances of the year.

10. Kirsten Dunst as Edwina Morrow in The Beguiled

Kirsten Dunst’s best performance since 2010’s Melancholia. In The Beguiled, Dunst delivers a sexually reserved performance whose hunger and frustration spew out on screen. The stillness and silence of her performance is tonally adjacent with Coppola’s intentions for the film, making her the perfect muse for this period feminist piece.

9. Allison Williams as Rose Armitage in Get Out

Because I don’t want to spoil anything about Get Out‘s brilliant twist, I’ll keep this short by just stating that this is the single most underrated performance of the year by any actor, male or female, lead or supporting, without a doubt.

8. Laurie Metcalf as Marion McPherson in Lady Bird

Easy, nuanced, and effortless — Laurie Metcalf, literally, epitomizes what every mother is like. She gives a performance that speaks universally, without any ironies or gimmicks. She gave a beautifully arched foil relationship to Saoirse Ronan’s titular character in Lady Bird where it clearly wouldn’t be in the household of realism without her impeccably layered performance.

7. Frances McDormand as Mildred Hayes in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Without a shadow of a doubt, Frances McDormand gave a monstrously fierce yet tenderly sensitive performance as a grieving mother in search for justice in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which gave her the second Oscar win of her career. Although it’s not my favorite female performance of the year, no one can take away the fact that McDormand slayed this character with such honesty and fire.

6. Saoirse Ronan as Christine McPherson in Lady Bird

Iconic. We will forever remember Saoirse Ronan as that ballsy, red-head, catholic school girl from Sacramento with a pink cast on her right arm, who gives herself the name Lady Bird because she’s the epitome of every rebellious teenager who wanted to breakaway from the norms of her mundane life. As one of the most talented actresses of her generation, Ronan just can’t do anything wrong, really.

5. Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding in I, Tonya

Now Academy Award nominee Margot Robbie, whose unparalleled commitment to her character, radiates nothing but gusto and bravery to completely transform herself in the (ice skating) shoes of one of the most controversial athletes in figure skating history. Without a single hint of vanity, Robbie has managed to make a very unlikable persona into someone who’s very endearing, sensitive and human.

4. Iza Calzado as Jane Ciego in Bliss

Truth be told, Iza Calzado’s performance in Jerrold Tarog’s Bliss is just so crazy good, it’s hard to miss it on this list. Her chilling portrayal of Jane Ciego took us to the horrific paradigm of reality versus fantasy, and it reminded me so much of Naomi Watts’ Betty/Diane in Mulholland Drive. Yes, I went that far.

3. Allison Janney as LaVona Harding in I, Tonya

I’ll keep this short: she J.K. Simmon‘d this year. Enough said.

2. Jennifer Lawrence as mother in mother!

Love or hate her, the fact remains that Jennifer Lawrence is the best actress of her generation. We’ve seen her transform and commit to multifaceted roles from year to year, and her surreal performance in 2017’s mother! simply isn’t an exception — even perhaps, her best performance since 2010’s Winter’s Bone. For a character that is almost on the borderline of nonsense and ridiculous, only an actor with a high caliber of talent can pull that off. No other female actor can carry a film as divisive and as polarizing as mother! like Jennifer Lawrence can. Only she can do it.

1. Sally Hawkins as Elisa Esposito in The Shape of Water

Sally Hawkins didn’t need a single line to evoke every emotion she felt in her performance as the mute Elisa Esposito in Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water. She didn’t need a human co-star to make us feel her love and affection. She literally relied onto every single micro muscle of her face and every minute movement of her eyes to take us into Del Toro’s magic realism world where everything felt like so human. Every stare, her eyes pierce with a hundred layers of emotions. Her mouth moves as if she is dying to speak her entire life. Her body language vibrates what she feels inside; every tick of a finger and every stomp of her foot made me feel something from her. She didn’t need a word to convey these emotions. I felt her contentment; I felt her simple joys, I felt her sexual frustrations; I felt her anguish; I felt her love. Hawkins’ gave the best female performance of the year.


  1. Sally Hawkins should have won the Oscars best actress, or at least some of the major ones if not the Oscars. Well it happens often, not always the most deserving, the most powerful performances that ends up winning.


  2. Sally Hawkins should have won the Oscars best actress, or at least some of the major ones if not the Oscars. Well it happens often, not always the most deserving, the most powerful performance that ends up winning.


  3. Agreed! Although I’m not mad win McDormand’s win. But Hawkins gave easily one of the best female performances of the decade.


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