Sabrina (1954) by Steve Geise
She may not have been the most technically impressive actress, but there's no denying that Audrey Hepburn was a captivating screen presence. This is the movie where she first worked her magic on me, and it's still my favorite of hers.
Frankly, I'm not at all fond of her later hits such as My Fair Lady, Breakfast at Tiffany's, or Charade (especially Charade), but her fresh-faced innocence here was completely winning in this fairy tale of a working-class girl finding love among the wealthy, nicely paralleling her own journey from ingenue to film royalty. It's not just the story, as evidenced by the weak 1995 remake with Julia Ormond and Harrison Ford. It's also not about the chemistry with her co-star, as it's still inconceivable that she would ever fall for Humphrey Bogart's ancient character. It's all about the magic that Hepburn brings to the role, and the film is still a treat thanks entirely to her.
Vivre sa vie (1962) by Dusty Somers
There's perhaps no director/actor relationship in all of cinema quite like that of Jean-Luc Godard and Anna Karina. Godard is not what you'd call a romantic filmmaker, but there was some aspect of him that couldn't help it when shooting his muse Karina. With her large eyes and silky hair, she's stunning in a way that transcends mere physical beauty.
Shortly after Godard and Karina were married, they made Vivre sa vie, a portrait of a woman's descent into prostitution. It's one of my favorite Godard works, and Karina is a captivating presence, both in her matter-of-factness and during her small cracks of vulnerability, like when she attends a screening of Dreyer's La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc. The film's Brechtian tableau storytelling is sharply used to highlight its social commentary, but as unsentimental as Vivre sa vie is, Raoul Coutard's gorgeous black-and-white images of Karina are pure cinematic bliss.
Charade (1963) by Shawn Bourdo
Yesterday's movie, Philadelphia Story, had the same supporting actor - and if there was a day this month for actors that make other actors better - Cary Grant would win hands down.
Charade shines because of Audrey Hepburn. It might be her third best film - but it's the one that proves to me that she's more than just a pretty face. It's also where she truly pulls us through a film. The film is all Hitchcock although not directed by Hitchcock. You can place it right along North By Northwest and The Man Who Knew Too Much. Hepburn's Reggie character finds strength aas things unknown are happening aroumd her her pursuit - romantically and otherwise of Grant is powerful. She's my favorite actress at the top of her game.
Defending Your Life (1991) by El Bicho
Meryl Streep's performances are memorable no matter if she's the lead, as in her Oscar-winning role as the titular character in Sophie's Choice, or has a small supporting part playing Woody Allen's ex-wife in Manhattan. While a few of her male contemporaries no longer appear able to generate the same magic that launched them to the top of their field, Streep continues to impress with her recent work in films such as Doubt and Julie & Julia.
Though known for burying herself under make-up and accents to create her characters, one of my favorite performances by Streep is in Albert Brooks' charming romantic comedy set in the afterlife. Here she plays a different Julia, an average American woman who lived her life with courage and selflessness, which means she is going to move on to the next stage of existence. That becomes a problem when she and Daniel (Brooks) begin to fall in love because his life was lived in fear, meaning he has to return to Earth and try again. Streep proves deft at comedy and comes off very natural.
Into the Wild (2004) by Amanda Salazar
Now this one was difficult for me because I love a lot of different female actors for different reasons; there are the America's sweethearts, femme fatales, and girlie girls. When it came down to it, I have always loved her, in every role that I have seen her in (specifically in Into the Wild) and that is Catherine Keener. In this film she didn't even have a large part, she played the hippie mother that picked up the lead character, Chris, on the side of the road and gave him some motherly advice. She played such a carefree, confident, and tenacious woman that you could see loving everyone.
What I also particularly like about her is that she is not afraid to try different roles, whatever the genre. I first encountered her in Being John Malcovich then in Death to Smoochy (two darker roles) and she went on to The 40-Year-Old Virgin and then Capote Even in her short time on screen in Into the Wild she resonated enough for me to vividly remember her part in the film. Her tone of voice, smile, confidence, and natural beauty create a warmth in all of her characters that makes her so likable and familiar. When it comes down to it, I would want to cast her as my mother in a movie about my life; I simply adore her.