As an avid film viewer, I see a lot of movies. Among friends, I love it when we've seen the same movie and we recite/discuss dialog in pivotal scenes. Like any typical movie fan, I have my favorites, particularly men. In my younger days, it was Robert Redford and Harrison Ford. These days, it's Clive Owen and George Clooney.
Up until the last decade, it was very hard for me to find female actors in the same way. Probably because much more complex, strong and intelligent roles are more prevalent for women now. Plus, the majority of films we go out to see are independent or foreign films. My personal favorites, a.k.a. "girl crushes" are all huge stars in their native homeland. Not really surprising for me, my list has no Americans. One is British, two are European and the other two, Asian.
Recent recipient of an Academy Award for her role in "The Queen", Ms. Mirren is the most well-known of my girl crushes. She got my respect as no-holds-barred/balls-busting cop Jane Tennison in the "Prime Suspect" series. According to imdb.com, she's played a queen 5 other times, so that should say something about her portrayals of command and authority. She has an impressive résumé of work.
One of the most well-known film actors in Hong Kong cinema, she's starred in movies with fellow heavyweights Chow Yun-Fat, Tony Leung and Jackie Chan. Her first roles started out as the typical eye candy/supporting girlfriend roles, but lead to meatier roles as she got older. She first got my attention when she did "In The Mood For Love" with Tony Leung, looking fabulous in her chong-sams. Floored me when I saw her last night as a recovering drug addict on Comcast's On Demand in "Clean". Made me jealous when she spoke fluently 3 languages (English, French and Cantonese) throughout the film.
Nicknamed "La Binoche" in her native France, I first saw her in "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" and "Bleu". It was awesome when she crossed over into English-language films, which for me was seeing her in "The English Patient". She didn't do too badly, as she received an Academy Award in a supporting role. She is probably best known to American audiences in the film "Chocolat". Ms. Binoche's latest American film is "Dan In Real Life" co-starring Steve Carell and MLB's World Series spokesman Dane Clark.
A native of Sweden, I first saw her in the same film as Ms. Binoche, "The Unbearable Lightness of Being", and again in a smaller role in "Chocolat". Ms. Olin has gotten considerable exposure in TV, particularly as Jennifer Garner's kick-ass mom in "Alias". While she was not always the good girl, never, ever mistake her for being weak or complacent.
While I've seen her in only 2 films, "Tomorrow Never Dies" and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", she got to show off her martial arts skills both times. She is Ms. Cheung's co-star in "The Soong Sisters", which I haven't seen but should put in my Netflix queue. Like Ms. Olin, she looks great when she's fighting bad guys (or girls, as the case may be). I'd like to her see venture out into more independent projects. To see more of her as a real person, like someone we know among our family and friends.
Cate Blanchett, Judi Dench and Kate Winslet should be on this list, but to me, their work already gets considerable recognition. I consider Naomi Watts, Renée Zellweger, and Natalie Portman on my list of Honorable Mentions, but I'd like to see what role choices they make when they're a bit older.