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Celebrating International Women’s Day: Around the World with 50 Great Actresses

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Despite what Hollywood may have you believe, actresses have been an integral part of the film industry since the earliest days of the medium. Indeed, many film lovers can trace their cinephilia back to the first time they saw actresses like Mary Pickford, Sophia Loren and Meryl Streep grace the screen. And today, that tradition continues, with actresses all across the world delivering scintillating performances in various languages. In the spirit of International Women’s Day and in celebration of their contribution, is therefore proud to shine a spotlight on 50 of these talented women who are currently leaving their mark on contemporary cinema, from Hollywood to Bollywood and beyond. Be sure to learn their names and seek out their fantastic work.

(L-R) Toni Collette, Cécile De France, Lena Headey, Paulina García, Gong Li
(L-R) Toni Collette, Cécile De France, Lena Headey, Paulina García, Gong Li

Érica Rivas (Argentina)
In one of 2014’s most hilarious comic turns, Erica Rivas had her wedding cake, ate it and a whole lot more as the rightfully aggrieved bridezilla in Damian Szifron’s anthology film Wild Tales. The performance earned her top Best Actress honors in her native Argentina, to add to her numerous other laurels spanning film, tv, and theatre.

Toni Collette (Australia)
With a 25-year career that values the work over the celebrity, it’s easy to take Toni Collette for granted. But this talented Aussie actress always manages to be a standout, even in films that aren’t expressly about her character. In 2016, she’ll add roles in The Yellow Birds, Imperium and Unlocked to her already impressive filmography.

Margarete Tiesel (Austria)
In her most well-known role, Margarete Tiesel gave new meaning to the term “brave performance”, playing a middle-aged Austrian woman who ventures to Kenya as a sex tourist in Ulrich Seidl’s provocative Paradise: Love. The part won her the Best Actress award at the Austrian Film Awards, as well a European Film Award nomination.

Cécile de France (Belgium)
Born in Namur, Belgium, Cécile De France moved to Paris at the age of 17 to pursue her acting dreams. Now with 5 César nominations under her belt, de France has certainly lived up to her name, establishing herself as one of French cinema’s most beloved actresses. And with an upcoming role in HBO’s anticipated Jude Law-starrer The Young Pope, her fanbase is expected to expand even further afield.

Lena Headey (Bermuda)
Born on the tiny island of Bermuda and with an early career filled mostly with minor supporting roles, Lena Headey’s rise to stardom is what dreams are made of. Indeed, whether you love her or hate her, there’s no denying that her Queen Cersei is one of the most fascinating characters on television right now.

Fernanda Montenegro (Brazil)
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Fernanda Montenegro had slowed down after her Oscar nominated performance in 1998’s Central Station earned her rare worldwide attention for a Brazilian actress. But more than 15 years later, the 86-year old “First Lady of Brazilian Television” is still going strong, receiving an International Emmy nomination for her work in Doce de Mãe last year (she previously won for Sweet Mother in 2013).

Rachel McAdams (Canada)
What a year it’s been for Toronto native Rachel McAdams. Most commonly associated with girlfriend roles in romance films, she was able to truly stretch herself with the one-two punch of HBO’s True Detective and the award-winning Spotlight, capping the year with her first Oscar nomination. In 2016, her star is expected to rise even higher as she joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe for Doctor Strange.

Paulina García (Chile)
As the title character in Sebastian Lelio’s rich character study Gloria, Paulina García was the toast of the Berlin Film Festival (where she won the Best Actress prize) and the arthouse circuit at large, portraying a character we don’t see often enough in Hollywood. Fumbling through life and love in her 50s, she crafted a relatable, infectiously effervescent character usually reserved for younger coming-of-age starlets. In 2016, we’ll be seeing her in Ira Sach’s Little Men, a Sundance premiere that was picked up by Magnolia.

Gong Li (China)
If you haven’t seen Gong Li in Raise the Red Lantern, then you’re missing out on one of the greatest performances of all time. One of several fruitful collaborations with acclaimed director Zhang Yimou, this brilliantly stoic performance shows why she has been one of Chinese cinema’s pre-eminent stars of the past few decades. And nearly 30 years after her debut in Red Sorghum, she is still in demand, with an upcoming role in The Monkey King: The Legend Begins.

Sofía Vergara (Colombia)
When you think of Sofía Vergara, the first things that come to mind are probably her thick accent and buxom beauty. But underneath all that is a talented performer, with enviable comic timing and undeniable screen presence. In addition to her ongoing signature role as Gloria on Modern Family, Vergara will also star in James Oakley’s The Brits Are Coming later this year.

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Written by Shane Slater

Shane is a passionate cinephile and Tomatometer-approved film critic residing in Kingston, Jamaica. When he's not watching or writing about film, he spends much of his time wishing he lived in a big city. Shane is an avid world traveler and loves attending film festivals. He is a member of the African-American Film Critics Association.


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