This post begins a series of posts where I will showcase my selections of the top ten Black Actresses in American cinema for every decade since the 1930s. In coming up with this list, I have had several revelations about Hollywood and its history with Black women, especially those Black women who sought to become actresses in the film industry. This list considers for these best of lists those actresses who constantly capture the big roles and deliver incredible performances on the big screen. Where these qualities get to be somewhat impractical as qualifiers, namely in the decades preceding the 1970s, those actresses whose images are most prominent in the public eye are considered. And so without further ado, this list will begin with the most recent decades and move backwards, listing actresses in no particular rank or order....
1. Queen Latifah
This Oscar nominated actresses has proven her mettle over the past two decades and has emerged as one of the most sought after Black actresses in the film industry. With her acclaimed, Oscar nominated performance as Big Mama Thornton in Chicago and scoring major hits with such films as Beauty Shop, Last Holiday, Hairspray, and The Secret Life of Bees Queen Latifah has dominated the Hollywood scene and proven herself to be one of the greatest actresses of her generation.
2. Halle Berry
Halle Berry is truly one of the most talented actors in the world. From her striking first appearance on the big screen as the crackhead Vivian in Spike Lee's Jungle Fever to a string of notable roles and powerful performances throughout the nineties, Halle Berry has grabbed her privileged position in the new millenium by nabbing the Oscar for Best Actress in 2001 for her performance in Monster's Ball and earning herself the distinction of being the first Black actress to win that distinguished award.
3. Kerry Washington
Kerry Washington is perhaps the best actress, in terms of sheer talent, in Hollywood today. Delivering incredible, Oscar-worthy performances in such films as Ray, The Last King of Scotland, and For Colored Girls, Kerry Washington has earned her spot as one of Hollywood's most bankable leading actresses. An Oscar is most certainly somewhere in her future.
4. Kimberley Elise
Establishing herself in the 90's with memorable performances in Set it Off and Oprah Winfrey's Beloved, Kimberley Elise soared in the 2000s delivering powerful performances in Diary of a Mad Black Woman, The Great Debaters, and For Colored Girls. Elise delivers a sweet vulnerability to the screen that adds a complex flavor to every role she brings to the screen.
5. Regina King
The little girl from 227 is all grown up and has made her way to the Hollywood A-list, pegging her stake into such franchises as the Legally Blonde series and the Miss Congeniality films. Her Oscar-worthy performance as Margie Hendricks in 2004's Ray alone stands to make her one of the best Black actresses of the new millenium.
6. Jada Pinkett Smith
The other half of one of Hollywood's royal couples, Jada holds her own crown as one of the most talented Black actresses in the business. Her most powerful performance to date has been as gun wielding defender of integrity, Sloan Hopkins in Spike Lee's hit film Bamboozled. She has also gotten her share of some major franchises, including prominent roles in The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. Jada also delivered a powerful performance in 2001's Ali as Sonja Roji.
7. Jennifer Hudson
Jennifer Hudson is by far the most versatile and talented actress in Hollywood today. With her meteoric rise to fame in 2006's smash hit Dreamgirls and her subsequent Oscar win for her performance as Effie White, Jennifer's track record is comparable to that of Barbra Streisand in terms of her versatility and her staying power. She has maintained momentum in her rise to the top with an appearance in 2008's smash hit, Sex and the City and a noteworthy performance in The Secret Life of Bees. She is scheduled to play Winnie Mandela in the upcoming biopic Winnie.
8. Thandie Newton
Thandie Newton's is a quiet, yet powerful force to be reckoned with on the Hollywood scene. From her first tantalizing appearances on screen as Sally Hemings in 1995's Jefferson in Paris and her role as the title character in Oprah Winfrey's Beloved, Newton's career has blossomed into one of the most promising careers in the industry. Her performance as Christine Thayer in 2004's Crash was both unforgettable and Oscar-worthy.
9. Taraji P. Henson
Taraji has solidified her reputation as a serious dramatic actress and one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood. Scoring an Oscar nod with her performance as Queenie in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, she has also made an impact with such films as Not Easily Broken, Talk To Me, Hustle and Flow, and The Family that Preys.
Who would ever have thought that the incredibly funny and outrageous comedienne from all of those B grade movies in the 1990s and early 2000s would not only blossom into a full-fledged actress, but also go on to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Mary in Lee Daniel's 2009 hit Precious? Monique has amazed us all with the depth of her acting ability and leaves us wanting for more from her incredible talent. She is scheduled to play Hattie MacDaniel in the upcoming biopic about the life of that famed actress who was the first Black person to win an Academy Award.