Most Beautiful Actresses of All Time

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From the golden era of Hollywood to the modern spotlight, American women have left an indelible mark on the world with their timeless beauty. Explore the most beautiful American women, from the Golden Era of Hollywood to the latest pop culture icons and traverse through time to pay tribute to these iconic figures and their beautiful selves!

Hedy Lamarr (1914–2000)

The enigmatic actress, Hedy Lamarr, not only captivated audiences with her beauty but also contributed to groundbreaking developments in technology. Often dubbed as the ‘Mother of Wi-Fi’, Lamarr is widely recognized for the development of her ‘frequency hopping technology’ that led to critically important wireless communication tools like the GPS and Bluetooth.

Ava Gardner (1922–1990)

A leading lady in Hollywood’s Golden Age, Ava Gardner’s sultry beauty and timeless charm left an indelible mark on cinema. For her exceptional journey as a film actor, Gardner was ranked amongst the American Film Institute’s greatest female screen legends in the classic American era.

Rita Hayworth (1918–1987)

With her fiery red hair and captivating presence, Rita Hayworth was the epitome of 1940s Hollywood glamour. Hayworth, in her passing, brought immense attention to Alzheimer’s disease. Due to such significant attention on her deteriorating health and the disease itself, she helped enhance public and private funding for research into Alzheimer’s.

Dorothy Dandridge (1922–1965)

As the first African-American woman nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, Dandridge’s beauty and talent broke barriers. Dandridge is often widely acknowledged for her contributions to the image of African Americans in American cinema. She gave life to several layered and complicated characters onscreen and, through that, opened avenues for those who aspired to be a part of the American film fraternity.

Katharine Hepburn (1907–2003)

The legendary actress’s independent spirit and classic beauty made her one of the greatest stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age. In her era, Hepburn is often credited with shattering the mould of the ‘woman’ onscreen and bringing to life characters that were strong-willed and, several times, feminist in their leanings. Both on and off screen, her legacy extends beyond film to fashion, as she helped make trousers an acceptable choice of clothing for women, a radical move at the time. For her contributions, Hepburn received the lifetime achievement award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

Grace Kelly (1929–1982)

Before becoming Princess Grace of Monaco, Kelly was a Hollywood star celebrated for her classic beauty and refined style. Her lasting legacy as a theater artist, television actress and film star kept intact by way of the Princess Grace Foundation, set up posthumously by the Royal Family of France, to continue the work Princess Grace had done during her lifetime. Widely known as the ‘classic Hitchcock blonde’, Grace Kelly later went on to contribute a foreword to Donald Spoto’s, ‘The Art of Alfred Hitchcock’. A cinema presence of immense magnitude, Kelly was often referred to as a refreshing change to Hollywood’s film sirens. Endearingly described as the ‘Girl in White Gloves’, she was often called the ‘lady’ or ‘Miss Kelly’ by film journalists of her era.

Audrey Hepburn (1929–1993)

Known for her elegance and grace, Hepburn’s timeless beauty has captured the attention and awe of all generations. Widely recognized as a film actor and fashion icon, Hepburn is held in exceptionally high regard for her humanitarian work with UNICEF—for which she was honored by the organization by way of a statue, ‘The Spirit of Audrey’, at their New York headquarters. Her service for children is also recognized through UNICEF’s ‘Audrey Hepburn Society’. Hepburn traveled widely for her work with UNICEF and was someone who “children would just come up to hold her hand, touch her… she was like the Pied Piper.”

Marilyn Monroe (1926–1962)

An epitome of Hollywood glamour, Monroe’s iconic beauty and sensual charm made her a symbol of the 1950s and 1960s. While Marilyn Monroe’s life in public and private were immensely complex and led to many front-page spreads in her time, she was quite ahead of her time in many respects. Quite widely known among such instances is her public recognition and admiration of the Jazz icon Ella Fitzgerald—whose career and presence soared immensely upon Monroe’s unwavering commitment to attend all her shows from the front row at the Mocambo avenue in Hollywood where the singer was initially denied performance opportunity owing to her race.

Elizabeth Taylor (1932–2011)

The violet-eyed beauty, Taylor’s glamorous Hollywood career and striking looks made her an enduring icon. She is often known as the first ‘new type’ celebrity whose real private life was more interesting to audiences than her onscreen presence, thereby setting the template for the kind of celebrity news that we consume now. Taylor used this enduring appeal among the media and her admirers to bring attention to issues plaguing the LGBT community—in particular HIV/AIDS. Posthumously, GLAAD issued a statement in recognition and admiration of her efforts for the community and their rights.

Shirley Temple (1928–2014)

The child star turned diplomat, Shirley Temple’s timeless innocence and charm endeared her to audiences worldwide. While Temple was widely known for her performance onscreen—most notably as a child star appearing in several films that popularized her famous blonde curls—she is widely known for her role as an American delegate to the 24th United Nations General Assembly, held in 1969. In her passing, Temple brought immense public attention to women’s health issues, in particular breast cancer.

Diana Rigg (1938–2020)

Beyond her captivating beauty, Diana Rigg’s talent graced both stage and screen, leaving an everlasting impact. While her career spanned across decades with numerous stints on the big screen and television, Rigg is perhaps best known for her role as the ‘Bond Girl’ in ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ (1969). In her era as a film star, Ring also drew attention to gender pay inequality and left several notable projects to reinforce her stance on it.

Brigitte Bardot (1934–Present)

The French symbol of iconic beauty, Bardot’s ethereal presence and charisma defined the era of 1950s and 1960s. Often cited as a ‘style icon’ and ‘muse’ for major luxury labels such as Dior, Balmain and Pierre Cardin, Bardot popularized the bikini swimming suit and the Sauerkraut hairstyle, which has inspired generations of women to confidently sport a sort of layered, beehive look. While Bardot’s enduring popularity as one of the most beautiful women in film holds ground, she is also known for her widely publicized distaste for racial mixing, immigration, the role of women in politics and Islam in her book titled, ‘Un cri dans le silence’ (A Scream in the Silence), published in 2003. Notably, Bardot had been fined by French courts thrice before the publication of this book for sharing similar sentiments publicly.

Catherine Deneuve (1943–Present)

The epitome of French elegance, Deneuve’s timeless beauty and acting talent have graced the screens for decades. Dubbed as the ‘Ice Maiden’ for her role in Roman Polanski’s psychological horror thriller, Replusion (1965), Deneuve brought several characters to life onscreen and claimed enduring fame for her glassy stare and confident beauty. While her impressive career and long-lasting popularity still find ground, Deneuve is perhaps less known for signing the ‘Manifesto of the 343’ in 1971 that served as an admission of illegal abortion by its signers, thereby exposing themselves to judicial scrutiny and action— a considerably radical move for her time.

Jane Fonda (1937–Present)

While the Academy Award-winning actress’s timeless beauty have made her a generational favorite for many, it is her activism that has led to her most ardent admirers. Popularly known as ‘Hanoi Jane’ in activist circles, Fonda rallied against the Vietnam War as well as the violation of women rights during the Iraq war, which led Hollywood to effectively blacklist her. However, to this day, Jane Fonda has continued her efforts to give amplify female voices in the media through advocacy and leadership training at the Women’s Media Center that she co-founded with Gloria Steinem and Robin Morgan in 2005.

Julie Christie (1940–Present)

Known for her ethereal beauty, Julie Christie’s acting prowess earned her an Academy Award for her role in ‘Darling’ (1965). While Christie’s career spanned several decades—with her last onscreen stint being the political thriller, ‘The Company You Keep’ (2012)—she has been associated with a number of social causes, such as animal rights, environmental protection and anti-nuclear movement. Most recently, Christie has become a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign among other notable charities.

Natalie Wood (1938–1981)

The darling of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Wood’s innocent beauty and talent garnered her critical acclaim. While her impressive career had troves of loyal admirers, Wood had taken hiatus from her film career in the 1970s to have children. Recognized for representing the transition to the modern American womanhood in her films, Wood was widely adored for portraying characters with child-like innocence as well as adulthood practicality. In her sudden passing in 1981, Natalie Wood’s death has remained a mystery to date.

Mae West (1893–1980)

The bold and witty actress’s beauty and trailblazing career challenged societal norms in the early 20th century. Popular during the Depression era, West gained immense following for her controversial comedy routine on the issue of censorship of the time. For the majority of her career, she remained vocal by way of her films, books and songs. Outside of her film career, Mae West was known for her shrewd investments in her own stage acts and land in sub-urban LA.

Lucille Ball (1911–1989)

The comedic genius of ‘I Love Lucy’, Ball’s expressive features and vibrant personality made her a television legend. Lucille Ball received several accolades throughout her career and posthumously, both for her enduring film career as well as her contributions to the Women’s Movement of her time. While her stance on various issues could be construed as controversial, perhaps most controversial of such moments was her public affiliation to the Communist Party that she later retracted with a claim that she only listed her party affiliation as Communist on the insistence of her Communist grandfather. This statement was then famously forwarded to J. Edgar Hoover in an FBI memorandum.

Vivien Leigh (1913–1967)

Best known for her portrayal of Scarlett O’Hara in ‘Gone with the Wind’, Leigh’s beauty and talent are etched in cinematic history. With the roaring success of her film career, Leigh went on to play several acclaimed characters such as Blanche DuBois in the stage production as well as the film, ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’. This role in particular brought her immense critical acclaim, winning her a second Academy Award for Best Actress but Leigh, famously, shared that she had mixed feelings about the role—calling it the role that “tipped me over into madness”. This was also quite emblematic of Vivien Leigh’s later struggles with mental illness that lasted her lifetime.

Betty White (1922–2021)

The beloved actress’s wit, charm, and classic American beauty made her a national treasure till the end of her days, both onscreen and offscreen. White was celebrated as an enduring cinematic presence throughout her career. She was a pioneer of early television and was widely recognized for her vast television appearances in sitcoms. White was notably the first woman to produce a sitcom and also star in it—’Life with Elizabeth’—which ran for two years from 1953 to 1955. Apart from her impressive career spanning seven decades, Betty White was an ardent supporter of many social causes such as animal welfare, racial equality and LGBT rights.

Doris Day (1922–2019)

The iconic actress and singer’s wholesome beauty and talent left a lasting impact on the entertainment industry. Widely known for her solo career, spanning two decades and 650 songs, Doris Day was also one of the biggest Hollywood stars of her era. She starred in a multitude of films, across genres, and ended her film career on at the height of her fame and pivoted to her own television sitcom, ‘The Doris Day Show’, that ran from 1968 to 1973. Apart from her illustrious film career, Day was also an ardent advocate of animal welfare and actively engaged in bringing awareness to and raising funds for HIV/AIDS research.

Greta Garbo (1905–1990)

The enigmatic Swedish actress, Garbo’s beauty and mystique made her a legend during Hollywood’s silent and Golden eras. While she was widely adored for her silent films, Garbo won her first Academy nomination for Best Actress for her performances in sound films, ‘Anna Christie’ (1930) and ‘Romance’ (1930). Greta Garbo was considered the most alluring actress to grace the motion picture screen and—while she opted to stay out of public eye following her retirement from films—she was often touted as a virtual cult figure at the peak of her popularity.

Ingrid Bergman (1915–1982)

The Swedish actress’s natural beauty and talent made her a three-time Academy Award winner and a timeless star. Ingrid Bergman was one of those rare, multilingual actresses in Hollywood—starring in several Swedish, English, German, Italian and French films—who won several accolades for her notable performances in ‘Gaslight’ (1944), Joan of Arc (1948) and others. Bergman’s performance in ‘Gaslight’ earned her the Academy Award for Best Actress. Notably, she also went to star in three of Hitchcock films, namely, Spellbound (1945), Notorious (1946) and Under Capricorn (1949). Apart from her spectacular film portfolio, Ingrid Bergman publicly protested against racial segregation which led to hate mail and negative publicity at the time.

Joan Crawford (1904–1977)

The iconic actress’s beauty and powerful on-screen presence defined the glamour of Hollywood’s Golden Age. While initially struggling with the roles, Joan Crawford successfully cultivated her image to rival those of stars like Greta Garbo and Norma Shearer in 1930s. Her film career is marked by an ebb and flow that is quite unique. A couple of years prior to winning her Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in Mildred Pierce (1945), Crawford was labeled ‘box office poison’. Following her retirement in 1973, Joan Crawford chose to stay away from public attention for various reasons. In her passing, Crawford was the subject of the book, ‘Mommie Dearest’ (1978), published by Christina Crawford who infamously alleged that the actress chose fame over parenthood and was an abusive parent. Details of the book are highly contested by those who knew and worked with Joan Crawford, often describing her as a generous person who supported several charities, particularly during WWII.

Romy Schneider (1938–1982)

The Austrian-French actress’s delicate beauty and acting talent made her an international star. Schneider’s enduring success as an actress are marked by an impressive portfolio of films with the most critically acclaimed directors of her time. Her career began with ‘When the White Lilacs Bloom’ (1953) at the age of 15 and from thereon, Schneider starred in several commercial successes at the box office. While filming ‘Christine’ (1958), Romy Schneider fell in love with Alain Delon which led to their highly publicized engagement in 1959. While the engagement ended in 1963, Schneider and Delon remained lifelong friends and continued to work on many projects together.

Gwen Stefani (1969–Present)

The singer and fashion icon’s unique style and beauty have made her a trendsetter in the entertainment industry. An enduring fan favorite, Stefani has several accolades in her arsenal for her longstanding career in American pop music. Many ardent admirers also commend Stefani for her support of the LGBT community and her philanthropic efforts for various causes.

Farrah Fawcett (1947–2009)

The iconic poster featuring Fawcett’s radiant smile and feathered hair became an enduring symbol of beauty in the 1970s. Widely known for her role in the television series, ‘Charlie’s Angels’, Farrah Fawcett’s career began with guest roles and commercials in 1960s. Among several enduring moments of her career, Fawcett is perhaps most memorialized for her 1976 poster in the red one-piece bathing suit which went on to be recreated in a limited edition Barbie doll.

Dolly Parton (1946–Present)

The country music legend’s timeless beauty and charisma have made her a beloved figure in American culture and, most significantly, within country music. With a career spanning over five decades, Parton is one of the few artists who have been able to weather the storms of the entertainment industry well. Notably, she has released albums on her own label, Dolly Records, since 2000. Dolly Parton is also the godmother of famous singer-songwriter and actress Miley Cyrus.

Barbra Streisand (1942–Present)

The legendary singer and actress’s distinctive voice and unique beauty have made her an enduring figure in entertainment. Streisand began her career by performing in nightclubs but quickly pivoted to musical stints with record labels in 1960s. Following her success in music, Barbra Streisand ventured into films and went on receive several accolades for her directorial and acting performances, including two Academy awards, Presidential Medal of Freedom and nine Golden Globes.

Diane Keaton (1946–Present)

The Academy Award-winning actress’s unique style and timeless beauty have made her a fashion and film icon. Most notably known for her role in Woody Allen’s, ‘Annie Hall’, for which she won an Academy award in 1977, Keaton has had brought several funny, complex and incredibly human characters to life onscreen and is often lauded for her eccentric gender-bending style.

Cher (1946–Present)

The multifaceted entertainer’s beauty and talent have made her an enduring figure in music and film. Often touted as the ‘Goddess of Pop’, Cher is an empowered female artist in a largely male-dominated industry. With an impressive career spanning decades, Cher has dabbled in music and acting and has consistently opted to work in both fields with great success. In contemporary times, she is often considered an American icon who does it all.

Jessica Lange (1949–Present)

The Academy Award-winning actress’s beauty and talent have defined a generation of film. Her expansive career across decades has many defining moments, particularly through the characters that she brought to life onscreen—who often had troubling internal lives. Apart from her acting career, Lange is an accomplished photographer with five published works.

Julianne Moore (1960–Present)

The Academy Award-winning actress’s natural beauty and versatility in roles have made her a respected figure in Hollywood. Moore studied theatre at Boston University and began her career in television shortly after. She began her film career in 1990 and rose to prominence in mid-90s. Julianne Moore gained international recognition towards the end of the decade for her commercially successful performances in comedy and drama. She enjoyed this success will into her later years of acting and has since pivoted to independent films and streaming projects. Along with her illustrious film career, Julianne Moore is also a children’s author with her first book, ‘Freckleface Strawberry’, which was published in 2007.

Anjelica Huston (1951–Present)

The Academy Award-winning actress’s unique beauty and powerful performances have made her a respected figure in Hollywood. Widely known for portraying eccentric and distinctive characters, Huston made her onscreen debut in 1969 but chose to work as a model in New York until the 1980s, when she actively started pursuing a career in films. While Huston is known for her work in films, she is also well recognized for activism, particularly her involvement with PETA to ensure animal rights. Notably, Anjelica Huston currently sits on the advisory council of Save the Chimps, the largest chimpanzee sanctuary and rescue in history. 

Cybill Shepherd (1950–Present)

The actress and model’s timeless beauty and versatile career have made her an iconic figure. Debuting in 1971, Shepherd worked with major filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen and more. She also worked in television, most notably as Cybill Sheridan on ‘Cybill’ that ran from 1995 to 1998. Apart from her expansive career in film, Shepherd remained an outspoken advocate of gay rights and abortion rights. She also supported same-sex marriage and was honored with the National Ally for Equality award by the Human Rights Campaign in Atlanta.

Goldie Hawn (1945–Present)

The Academy Award-winning actress’s infectious laughter and timeless beauty have made her a Hollywood icon. Hawn began her career in the 60s and rose to fame with NBC’s ‘Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In’ that ran from 1968 to 1970. She starred in multiple commercial box office successes and went to win an Oscar for her performance in ‘Cactus Flower’ (1969). Apart from her successful acting career, Goldie Hawn founded The Hawn Foundation that aims to help educate underprivileged children.

Olivia de Havilland (1916–2020)

The Academy Award-winning actress’s classic beauty and talent graced the screens during Hollywood’s Golden Age. Olivia de Havilland’s cinematic career began in 1935 and continued till 1988, an expanse of time where she played a wide range of characters. Havilland went on to win two Academy awards for her acting performances in ‘To Each His Own’ and ‘The Heiress’. Following her retirement in 1988, she was awarded several accolades for her lifetime contribution to the arts.

Annette Bening (1958–Present)

The Academy Award-nominated actress’s beauty and talent have made her a respected figure in Hollywood. Bening’s career spanned more than four decades, beginning her career with theatre and eventually pivoting to films such as The Grifters, American Beauty, Being Julia, The Kids Are All Right and Nyad, all of which bagged her Academy nominations for her roles. Annette Bening currently serves as the Vice Chair on the board of trustees for The Actors Fund.

Catherine Zeta-Jones (1969–Present)

The Academy Award-winning actress’s beauty and talent have earned her critical acclaim and global recognition. Most widely known for her iconic role in ‘The Mask of Zorro’, Catherine Zeta-Jones has a portfolio that spans decades portraying characters that highlighted her versatility. Aside from acting, Catherine supports a number of charitable causes. Notably, she has been very open about her struggle with depression and bipolar II disorder which led to a three-year sabbatical from her career in films. Since then, she has returned to screen along with television and streaming—most recently appearing in the hit Netflix series ‘Wednesday’.

Nicole Kidman (1967–Present)

The Australian-American actress’s timeless beauty and acting prowess have earned her numerous accolades. Kidman began her career in 1983 and since continued to act in both films and television. Notably, Nicole Kidman has served as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF since 1994 and UNIFEM since 2006.

Emma Stone (1988–Present)

The Academy Award-winning actress’s charm and classic beauty have made her a rising star in Hollywood. Stone has been the recipient of several accolades including the Academy award. Apart from her acting career, Emma Stone is also known for her efforts to bring awareness to women’s health—in particular, breast cancer.

Taylor Swift (1989–Present)

The queen of pop, Taylor Swift is also known for her classic blonde hair. Her beauty and unprecedented talent as a singer and songwriter have earned her the status of a massive cultural icon of this era. Apart from her musical presence, Swift is also a philanthropist and an advocate for artists’ rights and women’s empowerment.

So, there you have it folks! These American women have graced the world with their timeless beauty, leaving an enduring legacy in the realms of entertainment, activism, and culture. As we celebrate the diversity and impact of these remarkable women, let’s appreciate the beauty that transcends time and continues to inspire generations.

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