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The 2018 recipient: Olivia Colman
The 2018 recipient: Olivia Colman

Best Actress in a Leading Role is a British Academy Film Award presented annually by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) to recognize an actress who has delivered an outstanding leading performance in a film.

  • From 1952 to 1967, there were two Best Actress awards presented, Best British Actress and Best Foreign Actress.
  • From 1968 onwards, the two awards merged into one award, which from 1968 to 1984 was known as Best Actress.[11]
  • From 1985 to present, the award has been known by its current name of Best Actress in a Leading Role.[12]

Winners and nominees

Note: Between 1964–1973, several actresses were nominated for multiple performances in a single year, these each count as one nomination.[14] Scarlett Johansson's two mentions in 2003 count as two separate nominations.[15] The two mentions received by Kate Winslet in both 2004 and 2008 count as two separate nominations each time.

Note: The 2013 ceremony was the first time in the history of BAFTA that two French actresses were nominated for French-language performances in this category: Marion Cotillard for Rust and Bone and Emmanuelle Riva for Amour.[16]


Note: Meryl Streep and Judi Dench tie for the record of a total of 15 BAFTA Film nominations, with Streep having 12 Best Actress nominations and 3 Best Supporting Actress nominations. Dench has 5 Best Actress nominations and 9 Best Supporting Actress nominations. Dench's 15th nomination is for Best Newcomer in 1966 (which she won). This gives her 6 BAFTA Film wins. In addition, she has won 4 BAFTA TV awards (from 12 nominations). In total, she has received 27 BAFTA Film & TV nominations with 10 wins. In 2001, Dench also received an honorary BAFTA: The BAFTA Fellowship.

Note: Maggie Smith has a total of 13 BAFTA Film nominations, for Best Actress (8), Best Supporting Actress (4) and Best Newcomer (1), winning 5. She also has 5 BAFTA TV nominations. This gives her a total of 18 BAFTA Film and TV nominations. In addition, Smith has received two honorary awards: The BAFTA Special Award (1993) and BAFTA Fellowship (1996).

Multiple nominations

Multiple awards

  • Maggie Smith
  • Anne Bancroft
  • Audrey Hepburn
  • Simone Signoret
  • Cate Blanchett
  • Leslie Caron
  • Judi Dench
  • Jane Fonda
  • Katharine Hepburn
  • Shirley MacLaine
  • Patricia Neal
  • Rachel Roberts
  • Meryl Streep
  • Emma Thompson
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