The first point to make is that there's no such thing as a 'correct list.' One person's trashy performance may be another person's treasure. Our emotional reaction to these women and the way they played their parts makes this a completely subjective topic. In short, these are the Top 10 performances that blew me away between 2000 and 2009.
10. Renee Zellweger
Renee Zellweger delivered what I consider one of the greatest comedic performances of all time in Bridget Jones' Diary. Her character is a hard one to pull off, as there were moments of touching drama thrown into a screenplay filled with hilarious antics. People were furious when they found out that this southern belle was going to play their beloved British heroine. Now, no one could possibly imagine any other actress playing the role. Zellweger managed to encapsulate every kind of emotion imaginable in Bridget Jones' Diary, which is why I consider it an underrated masterpiece of acting.
9. Naomi Watts
Mulholland Dr. is a film that is hated by some and loved by many. Audiences are divided over its choppy timeline and the theories that surround the story. One thing people are NOT divided on is how amazing Naomi Watts' performance is. Her performance is one of a kind. She played a particular character for a huge chunk of screen-time, then suddenly her character switched gears and left audiences trying to pick their jaws up from the floor. The screenplay is debatable, but her performance is not. She nailed it.
8. Maryl Streep
What's a list without THE Meryl Streep? There was once an unenlightened period of my life where I questioned whether Streep was severely overrated. After seeing Doubt, I never doubted her again. THIS WOMAN HAS RANGE. She played a nun on a mission to uncover a horrible truth. Her transformation and dedication to this role sucked me into the film. From pure subtlety to chaotic explosions, this is definitely one of Streep's greatest performances.
7. Imelda Staunton
Few performances have touched me as much as Imelda Staunton's in Vera Drake. Anyone familiar with the Harry Potter series knows her as the wicked Dolores Umbridge. Here, she plays a kind-hearted woman who performs abortions on women who have nowhere else to turn. I tell you, a few scenes in this movie wrenched my heart in ways no other film ever has. It's an extremely confronting film, which wouldn't have worked without the immense talent of Staunton.
6. Kate Winslet
Kate Winslet is an actress with incredible range. She managed to shake off the shackles of being labelled 'Rose Dawson,' after the hugely successful Titanic (1997). With one brilliant performance after another, she hit her peak in 2008 with The Reader, (which won her an Oscar). Her performance was subtle yet powerful. Set in Post WWII Germany, Winslet played Hanna, a tram-worker with many interesting layers to her personality. Hanna's past conflicted the audience as to whether they should feel sorry for her, or hate her. Winslet made this conflict possible by creating a depth that no writer could put into a screenplay. With her subtle emotions, you could get a sense for what kind of human Hanna really was.
5. Felicity Huffman
This one will divide people. I've met quite a few transgendered men and women, each with personal stories that are incredibly touching. Huffman played a transgender woman. In simple terms (and offensive to many, who I apologize to), she played a man going through a sex-change operation to become a woman. This didn't feel gimmicky to me. It didn't reek "Oscar Bait," to me either. Huffman pulled off a heartfelt and amazing performance. It wasn't the story that drew me in, but her character. Her personality and struggle was a privilege to watch, and I enjoyed every second of it. This is a role that few could pull off, and Huffman did that to near-perfection. While they could have hired a real transgender woman, I feel that wouldn't have made a difference to the quality of this film. *Transamerica was made in 2005, not 2006.*
4. Wei Tang
Ahh, 1940s noir... how I've missed these kinds of storylines. Lust, Caution (2007) brings that genre back in a new setting. Set in China, this film has all the elements I love in movies. In the center of it all is the amazing actress, Wei Tang. You know, some performances are so good that it's hard to put into words. This is one of those performances. She plays a young woman on a mission to kill a Chinese traitor. The pure emotion that Tang displayed gave me chills. I felt like I was growing with the character... in fact, at times I felt like I was in her position. Tang just sucked me into the story so deep. I was so invested in her character that I was depressed when the movie ended. If that isn't a great performance, I don't know what is.
3. Marion Cotillard
Do I even need to write a paragraph for this performance? Well... it's only fair. Marion Cotillard delivered a perfect performance as Edith Piaf, in a role she was born to play. Biopics often fall into mediocrity as the lead actors just give 'good impressions,' rather than make it feel like their characters have been reborn onto screen. Cotillard brought Piaf back to life and shared her talent with the world, and for that I'd call it arguably the greatest performance of all time.
2. Ellen Bustyn
Ellen Burstyn gave one of the most heart-breaking performances ever captured on film in Requiem for a Dream. She came back into the spotlight after dominating the 1970s with her talent, and blew everyone away with her intense and confronting performance as a lonely mother who is addicted to diet pills. I was shocked when she didn't win the Oscar (she lost to Julia Roberts for her performance in Erin Brockovich). I'd call that the worst mistake the Oscars ever made. I am blown away every single time I watch this film, all because of the unbelievably touching performance by Burstyn.
1. Charlize Theron
While every other actress on this list transformed into the amazing characters they portrayed... there has been no transformation as incredible as Charlize Theron's in the film Monster'(2003). She played the infamous serial killer, Aileen Wuornos, who on surface value is a person that should be met with nothing but contempt. Theron played this woman with vulnerability and empathy, which made people look at these crimes in an entirely different context. While we're all entitled to our own opinion as to whether Wuornos got what she deserved, there's one thing everyone agrees on: Theron nailed this performance. The courtroom scene at the end has me in tears every time.