Best British Actresses

by alhobbs-789 | created - 29 Sep 2012 | updated - 30 Sep 2012 | Public

A list of the most significant British actresses in British cinema (in my opinion at least). Each one is a national treasure and has put Ole Brittania on the map.

1. Julie Andrews

Actress | The Sound of Music

Julia Elizabeth Wells was born on October 1, 1935, in England. Her mother, Barbara Ward (Morris), and stepfather, both vaudeville performers, discovered her freakish but undeniably lovely four-octave singing voice and immediately got her a singing career. She performed in music halls throughout her...

2. Gemma Arterton

Actress | Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Gemma Christina Arterton was born in Gravesend, Kent, England, where she was raised. She is the daughter of Sally-Anne (Heap), a cleaner, and Barry J. Arterton, a welder. Her mother's cousin is singer-songwriter Eric Goulden.

Her parents divorced when she was age five, and Gemma subsequently lived ...

3. Helena Bonham Carter

Actress | Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Helena Bonham Carter is an actress of great versatility, one of the UK's finest and most successful.

Bonham Carter was born May 26, 1966 in Golders Green, London, England, the youngest of three children of Elena (née Propper de Callejón), a psychotherapist, and Raymond Bonham Carter, a merchant ...

4. Julie Christie

Actress | Doctor Zhivago

Julie Christie, the British movie legend whom Al Pacino called "the most poetic of all actresses," was born in Chabua, Assam, India, on April 14, 1940, the daughter of a tea planter and his Welsh wife Rosemary, who was a painter. The young Christie grew up on her father's plantation before being ...

5. Judi Dench

Actress | Skyfall

Dame Judi Dench was born Judith Olivia Dench in York, England, to Eleanora Olive (Jones), who was from Dublin, Ireland, and Reginald Arthur Dench, a doctor from Dorset, England. She attended Mount School in York, and studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama. She has performed with the ...

6. Anne-Marie Duff

Actress | Nowhere Boy

Anne-Marie Duff is an English actress, born on 8 October 1970 in Southall, London. Her parents, Brendan and Mary (née Doherty), are from Donegal, Ireland. Her father worked as a painter and decorator and her mother worked in a shoe shop.

She first came to the attention of the British public for her ...

7. Sally Hawkins

Actress | The Shape of Water

Sally Cecilia Hawkins was born in 1976 in Lewisham hospital, London, England, to Jacqui and Colin Hawkins, authors and illustrators of children's books. She is of English and Irish descent. Hawkins was brought up in Greenwich, in southeast London. She attended James Allen's Girls' School in Dulwich...

8. Celia Johnson

Actress | Brief Encounter

Celia Johnson was an English actress, once nominated for an Academy Award. Johnson was born in the town of Richmond, Surrey in 1908. Richmond was incorporated into Greater London in 1965, as part of an administrative reform. Celia's parents were John Robert Johnson and Ethel Griffiths. Neither of ...

9. Felicity Jones

Actress | Rogue One

Felicity Rose Hadley Jones is an English actress and producer. Jones started her professional acting career as a child, appearing at age 12 in The Treasure Seekers (1996). She went on to play Ethel Hallow for one series in the television show The Worst Witch and its sequel Weirdsister College. ...

10. Keira Knightley

Actress | Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

Keira Christina Knightley was born March 26, 1985 in the South West Greater London suburb of Richmond. She is the daughter of actor Will Knightley and actress turned playwright Sharman Macdonald. An older brother, Caleb Knightley, was born in 1979. Her father is English, while her Scottish-born ...

11. Vivien Leigh

Actress | A Streetcar Named Desire

If a film were made of the life of Vivien Leigh, it would open in India just before World War I, where a successful British businessman could live like a prince. In the mountains above Calcutta, a little princess is born. Because of the outbreak of World War I, she is six years old the first time ...

12. Helen Mirren

Actress | RED

Dame Helen Mirren was born in Queen Charlotte's Hospital in West London. Her mother, Kathleen Alexandrina Eva Matilda (Rogers), was from a working-class English family, and her father, Vasiliy Petrovich Mironov, was a Russian-born civil servant, from Kuryanovo, whose own father was a diplomat. ...

13. Carey Mulligan

Actress | Never Let Me Go

Carey Hannah Mulligan is a British actress. She was born May 28, 1985, in Westminster, London, England, to Nano (Booth), a university lecturer, and Stephen Mulligan, a hotel manager. Her mother is from Llandeilo, Wales, and Carey also has Irish and English ancestry.

Her first major appearance was ...

14. Vanessa Redgrave

Actress | Atonement

On January 30, 1937, renowned theatre actor Michael Redgrave was performing in a production of Hamlet in London. During the curtain call, the show's lead, Laurence Olivier, announced to the audience: "tonight a great actress was born". This was in reference to his co-star's newborn daughter, ...

15. Kristin Scott Thomas

Actress | The English Patient

The acclaimed Cornish actress Dame Kristin Scott Thomas was born in Redruth, Cornwall, to Deborah (Hurlbatt) and Lieutenant Commander Simon Scott Thomas. Her father was a pilot for the British Royal Navy and died in a flying accident in 1964. Her stepfather, Lt. Cdr Simon Idiens, was also a pilot, ...

16. Maggie Smith

Actress | Gosford Park

One of the world's most famous and distinguished actresses, Dame Maggie Smith was born Margaret Natalie Smith in Essex. Her Scottish mother, Margaret (Hutton), worked as a secretary, and her English father, Nathaniel Smith, was a teacher at Oxford University. Smith has been married twice: to actor ...

17. Imelda Staunton

Actress | Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Imelda Staunton was born on January 9, 1956 in Archway, London, England as Imelda Mary Philomena Bernadette Staunton. She is an actress, known for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007), Shakespeare in Love (1998) and Vera Drake (2004). She has been married to Jim Carter since October ...

18. Tilda Swinton

Actress | We Need to Talk About Kevin

The iconoclastic gifts of the highly striking and ferociously talented actress Tilda Swinton have been appreciated by art house crowds and international audiences alike. After her stunning Oscar-winning turn as a high-powered corporate attorney in the George Clooney starring and critically-lauded ...

19. Emma Thompson

Actress | Sense and Sensibility

Emma Thompson was born on April 15, 1959 in Paddington, London, into a family of actors - father Eric Thompson and mother Phyllida Law, who has co-starred with Thompson in several films. Her sister, Sophie Thompson, is an actor as well. Her father was English-born and her mother is Scottish-born. ...

20. Julie Walters

Actress | Billy Elliot

For decades, British actress and comedienne Dame Julie Walters has served as a sturdy representation of the working class with her passionate, earthy portrayals on England's stage, screen and television. A bona fide talent, her infectious spirit and self-deprecating sense of humor eventually ...

21. Rachel Weisz

Actress | The Constant Gardener

Rachel Hannah Weisz was born on 7 March, 1970, in London, U.K., to Edith Ruth (Teich), a psychoanalyst, and George Weisz, an inventor. Her parents both came to England around 1938. Her father is a Hungarian Jewish immigrant, and her mother, from Vienna, was of Italian and Austrian Jewish heritage. ...

22. Kate Winslet

Actress | Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Ask Kate Winslet what she likes about any of her characters, and the word "ballsy" is bound to pop up at least once. The British actress has made a point of eschewing straightforward pretty-girl parts in favor of more devilish damsels; as a result, she's built an eclectic resume that runs the gamut...



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