Like many other years, 2011 has seen some brilliant performances by some of the most talented actresses around. These women were given roles that not only demanded a strong degree of theatrical ability but also the more daunting prospect of an emotional connect to their characters and a great deal of work to uncover the nuances behind each subtle aspect of the character and the story's personality.
However, these women are the best because they are capable of doing just that.
Check out the ten best actresses, for 2011, and the roles they essayed:
Kirsten Dunst for Melancholia
The German-American Dunst, 29, is exceptional and utterly convincing in the lead role. She plays a young woman, Justine, with a promising career and a seemingly perfect life. However, events conspire against her, leading her into a depressive state and exposing the more cynical aspects of her character. Nevertheless, Dunst portrays a good deal of inner strength as the film wears on and her character becomes visibly stronger in response to events in her life.
Dunst won Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival.
Tilda Swinton for We Need to Talk about Kevin
Swinton, 51, won an Academy Award, in 2007, for her character in Michael Clayton. This time out the British actress plays the role of the mother of a teenage boy, who went on a killing spree at his high school. Her performance as a mother trying to balance her own grief and loss and the sense of responsibility for her child's actions is an amazing one.
Swinton won Best Actress at the European Film Awards.
Michelle Williams for My Week with Marilyn
American actress Michelle Williams, 31, whose prior credits include the controversial 2006 film, Brokeback Mountain, stars in this dramatic remake of the 1957 film, The Prince and the Showgirl, as one of the most iconic of Hollywood's glamour girls, Marilyn Monroe. Williams rises to the challenge, capturing both her magnetism and allure and vulnerability and inner demons, with aplomb.
Elizabeth Olsen for Martha Marcy May Marlene
The younger sister of twins Mary-Kate and Ashley, Elizabeth, 22, breaks free from under her sisters' spotlight, with a mesmerizing debut performance in a film billed as a psychological thriller. Olsen, who plays Martha, a young woman who flees from an abusive cult in the Catskill Mountains, delivers a solid performance that rises to the top despite a less than impressive plot and character development.
Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady
There are few actresses in the world today who are as universally acclaimed, by both peers and the audience, over significant periods of times and across a variety of roles, as Meryl Streep. The 62-year-old veteran of 16 Academy Award nominations and 25 Golden Globe nominations (more than anybody else in the history of either award), are testament to her brilliance. True to form, the American delivers a performance of towering proportions, when she takes on the daunting task of portraying the late Baroness Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and, in her time, one of the most powerful women in the world. While the film has courted controversy, over allegedly displaying the title character as suffering from an advanced loss of her mental faculties, Streep's intensity and perfection cannot be denied.
She won Best Actress at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards.
Charlize Theron for Young Adult
The first African actor to receive an Academy Award in a major acting category (for her role in Monster, in 2007), the 36-year-old South African plays Mavis Gary, a writer of literature for teenagers, who returns to her small hometown to relive her glory days. Charlize Theron delivers a masterful performance in a role that deliberately intensifies the emotional pressure on her character; a stand-out scene must certainly be the one in which a drunken Mavis screams in regret and pain for having had an abortion 20 years earlier.
Glenn Close for Albert Nobbs
A veteran of both stage and screen, the 64-year-old Glenn Close is wonderful as Albert Nobbs, a woman who passes herself off as a man, in order to gain employment in 19th century Ireland. Close delves into so much detail with her role that, at time, the American actress well and truly does disappear into her character.
Viola Davis for The Help
The 46-year-old American, Viola Davis, was primarily a stage actress, winning a Tony Award in 2001, for her role in King Hedley II and another in 2010, for Fences. Her role as Aiblieen Clark, in the film adaptation of Kathryn Stockett's The Help, is perhaps indication of her superb quality in front of a camera. She has played, to significant critical acclaim, the role of a middle-aged black maid, who has spent her life raising white children and has recently lost her only son.
Felicity Jones for Like Crazy
The 28-year-old television actress from the UK was a complete unknown to most cinematic audiences, before her performance as Anna, in Like Crazy. After this though, she must be counted as a name to be reckoned with. Jones' performance was particularly impressive because of the fact that the film was one of those low-budget, independent efforts; so independent and low-budget, in fact, that she had to do her own hair and make-up and even improvise her dialogue as the film went on. The measure of her performance is in the number of awards it has received!
She won the Special Jury Prize (Dramatic) at the Sundance Film Festival.
Selma Blair for Dark Horse
The versatile 39-year-old Selma Blair plays an immature and troubled woman in search of success. Her character, Miranda, has recently moved back home, following a failed academic/literary career, and is courted by Abe, a 30-something man living with his parents. The film also stars Mia Farrow and Christopher Walken. While further details are sketchy, there is enough to suggest that Blair's performance will leave you, in alternate and equal measure, laughing and crying.