Before you roll your eyes at yet another Academy Awards post, let me hook you by the promise that this article is guaranteed to be at least somewhat divisive as well as an enticing combination of facts-based and subjective. So let me encourage you now to start figuring out in what ways you’re going to argue with me in the comments section.
When it comes to Best Actress, the Oscars skew younger dramatically more than with the male counterparts. The average age of a Best Actress winner is 35 and a half, which is almost a decade younger than Best Actor winners. We could debate the reasons for this, but clearly youth and beauty play a part in not only who wins that golden statuette, but who gets the juicy roles that lead to awards recognition.
Yes, Meryl Streep won last year (probably at least in part a “career win”), but Natalie Portman won the year before. For any example of a mature woman being recognized, I’ll give you three examples of…what’s the opposite of mature in this case… puerile? actresses giving an acceptance speech.
OK, let’s set some ground rules. To be included in the following list an actress must be 35 or under. I picked this age because it approaches but doesn’t necessarily fully envelop the average age of previous best actress winners; it allows me to include the person I’ve ranked #2 on my list (she’ll turn 36 next month); and it allows me to keep thinking of myself as young (if only for a very finite amount of time). This stipulation does eliminate one woman who would otherwise have been at the top of the list: Amy Adams as she is already 38. Also, the actress can’t have previous won an Oscar, which eliminates the aforementioned Ms. Portman, but they can have been nominated.
Now, let me get out in front of some potential controversy by giving a few examples of actresses I’ve not included that may seem like obvious choices. First of all, I was blown away by Quvenzhané Wallis’s performance in Beasts of a Southern Wild. And she made history by becoming the youngest best actress nominee. I’ve not included her in this list because I don’t think she is going to win this year, and I want to wait until she’s had a few more successful roles before I consider her a shoe in for future glory.
For all I know, she may go the way of Keisha Castle-Hughes and all but disappear after leaping to fame in an Academy Award nominated role. I’m also not including some previous young nominees, like Keira Knightley, Hailee Steinfeld, and Anna Kendrick, because they haven’t made a pattern of earning awards-worthy roles in the years since their nominations. This is certainly not to say that they can’t or won’t, or even that I don’t want them to, but simply that I don’t see the pattern emerging that would lead them to certain recognition.
The last three actresses I eliminated from this list (I was tempted to go beyond 10) were Chloë Grace Moretz, Emily Blunt, and Dakota Fanning. I wouldn’t be surprised if any or all of these young women earned academy gold before long, but I deleted Chloë because she’s not yet made enough awards-bait films (Hugo notwithstanding), and I removed Emily because she’s not yet seemed to have earned A-list status with some of the heavy-hitting critic groups (she has received some Golden Globe recognition). I axed Dakota because I felt like there was only space for one Fanning on this list and I think her little sister has a better shot now.
Finally, you won’t find Anne Hathaway here because on Sunday she will be an Oscar recipient. That may seem like cheating, but she is the surest bet this cycle so I’m using her spot in the top ten for someone else.
And with that, let’s look at the 10 young actresses most likely to one day soon earn an Academy Award.
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