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America's 50 favorite actresses of all time

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Mark Davis // Getty Images

America's 50 favorite actresses of all time

From classic icons like Elizabeth Taylor to newer stars like Jennifer Lawrence, the list of America's favorite actresses is varied and largely reflects personal tastes. Yet there are certain timeless, talented icons who are universally adored across all genres, decades, and styles—even for fans today. 

To determine America's most popular actresses of all time according to today's audiences, Stacker gathered YouGov Ratings data between 2017 and 2018. The information was gleaned from a survey asking respondents to rate their favorite actresses, both living and dead, from a list of 50 stars. The list was selected through monitoring the amount of online activity associated with each actress on the list.

Results, for the most part, were not surprising. One common denominator seemed to be that the most likable actresses were those who adapt easily to different genres. America's most beloved leading women transcend comedy, drama, thriller, and every other classification—and possess a certain star quality that can't always be easily defined.

Read on to see if you agree.

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Jason Merritt/TERM // Getty Images

#50. Tina Fey

Positive opinion: 57%
Negative opinion: 16%
Neutral opinion: 18%
Have heard of: 91%

Known for her quick-witted humor and caustic sarcasm, Tina Fey rose to stardom after being hired as a writer for “Saturday Night Live.” Soon, she was promoted to head writer for the show, the first woman to ever hold the position. Fey went on to create the widely popular comedy series “30 Rock.” On top of all this, she made time to write her own best-selling autobiography, “Bossypants.” She still makes guest appearances on SNL and has starred in various comedy films.

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Allan warren // Wikimedia Commons

#49. Debbie Reynolds

Positive opinion: 57%
Negative opinion: 4%
Neutral opinion: 23%
Have heard of: 84%

This native Texan beauty was not only known for her acting skills, but Debbie Reynolds' humanitarianism and dedication to reducing the stigma around mental health issues. She made her big breakthrough in the 1952 film “Singin' in the Rain,” where she showed off her musical talent and quickly became known as “America's Sweetheart.”

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Sarah Stierch // Wikimedia Commons

#48. Florence Henderson

Positive opinion: 57%
Negative opinion: 4%
Neutral opinion: 20%
Have heard of: 81%

Best known for playing the role of Carol Brady on the popular 1970s series “The Brady Bunch,” Florence Henderson also hosted her own talk show, “The Florence Henderson Show” and cooking show, “Who's Cooking with Florence Henderson.”

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MGM // Wikimedia Commons

#47. Angela Lansbury

Positive opinion: 57%
Negative opinion: 5%
Neutral opinion: 19%
Have heard of: 81%

Although Angela Lansbury had a long and prolific career in film and theater, most people remember her best for her role as Jessica Fletcher, the retired school-teacher-turned-detective on TV's “Murder She Wrote.” The popular series ran for 12 seasons and had so many fans that Lansbury would often make guest appearances as Fletcher in movies long after the series ended.

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Gareth Cattermole // Getty Images

#46. Sigourney Weaver

Positive opinion: 57%
Negative opinion: 6%
Neutral opinion: 21%
Have heard of: 85%

Sigourney Weaver became a household name following her starring role in the 1979 science fiction film “Alien” and its sequels. Many of the films she starred in were equally unconventional, including “Ghostbusters” and “Avatar.”

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TV studio // Wikimedia Commons

#45. Beatrice Arthur

Positive opinion: 57%
Negative opinion: 6%
Neutral opinion: 16%
Have heard of: 80%

Before breaking out as an actress both on Broadway and in film, Beatrice Arthur served in the Marines during World War II.  Best known as the driest wit of the irresistible trio on TV's “The Golden Girls,” Arthur started her acting career with the TV series “Maude” in 1972. It was one of the first shows to portray a strong woman in the leading role and tackled various women's rights issues at the time.

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Mike Coppola  // Getty Images

#44. Kate Hudson

Positive opinion: 58%
Negative opinion: 7%
Neutral opinion: 26%
Have heard of: 91%

The ultimate girl next door, Kate Hudson inherited the sparkling eyes and charismatic smile of her famous mother, actress Goldie Hawn. Hudson easily won over most viewers with her breakout film “Almost Famous,” in which she played a wide-eyed groupie called Penny Lane who trails the fictional touring band Stillwater.

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IMDB

#43. Catherine Zeta-Jones

Positive opinion: 58%
Negative opinion: 5%
Neutral opinion: 24%
Have heard of: 87%

This dark-haired, classic beauty's breakout role came in the 2002 musical film “Chicago,” where her singing and dancing skills helped win her an Oscar. Since then, Catherine Zeta-Jones has had no lack of impressive roles, including “The Terminal” and “Oceans Twelve,” both in 2004.

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kate gabrielle // Flickr

#42. Bette Davis

Positive opinion: 58%
Negative opinion: 4%
Neutral opinion: 21%
Have heard of: 83%

Bette Davis started out on Broadway before transition to Hollywood, where she kept viewers captivated while playing intense, often somewhat broken characters. Davis was famous for her genre-breaking and unconventional performances. While she was highly skilled in those roles, her greatest successes were in romantic dramas.

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Jason Merritt/TERM // Getty Images

#41. Demi Moore

Positive opinion: 58%
Negative opinion: 9%
Neutral opinion: 27%
Have heard of: 94%

Demi Moore starred in the 1990 romantic drama  “Ghost,” the highest-grossing film that year, and one that would earn the young actress a Golden Globe nomination. Moore went on to much commercial success but was probably most famous for her daring choice to star in “Striptease,” making her the highest-paid actress in film history at the time.

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IMDB

#40. Meg Ryan

Positive opinion: 58%
Negative opinion: 6%
Neutral opinion: 24%
Have heard of: 89%

The adorable Meg Ryan garnered instant fame for her scene with Billy Crystal in the romantic comedy film “When Harry Met Sally.” While sitting in an iconic New York deli, she unabashedly demonstrates how dramatically and convincingly women can fake orgasms. Since then, Ryan has played a variety of roles successfully; but most viewers will always see her as the queen of romantic comedy.

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Jacque fresco // Wikimedia Commons

#39. Natalie Portman

Positive opinion: 58%
Negative opinion: 7%
Neutral opinion: 22%
Have heard of: 87%

Born in Israel and raised in New York, Natalie Portman started her acting career as a high-schooler and gained a following for her early role as Queen Amidala in “Star Wars: Episode 1–The Phantom Menace.” She continued acting while pursuing a degree in psychology at Harvard University. Portman is vocal about Israeli politics and is an advocate for animal rights and environmental causes.

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Affiliate Summit // Wikimedia Commons

#38. Queen Latifah

Positive opinion: 58%
Negative opinion: 13%
Neutral opinion: 23%
Have heard of: 94%

Rapper and actress Queen Latifah debuted in Spike Lee's film “Jungle Fever” before pursuing a successful acting career, with notable films including the romantic comedy “Bringing Down the House” and the musical “Chicago,” for which she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

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#37. Farrah Fawcett

Positive opinion: 59%
Negative opinion: 5%
Neutral opinion: 26%
Have heard of: 89%

Farrah Fawcett and her hair will forever remain one of the most classic images of the 1970s. She rose to fame with her famous pinup poster wearing a red bathing suit, and secured her stardom with her role as former policewoman Jill Munroe on “Charlie's Angels.”

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IMDB

#36. Elizabeth Taylor

Positive opinion: 59%
Negative opinion: 6%
Neutral opinion: 25%
Have heard of: 90%

In addition to being an Academy Award-winning actress, Elizabeth Taylor was a humanitarian who was one of the first to take up HIV/AIDS activism. She starred in more than 50 films, including “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and “Cleopatra.” Her personal life often eclipsed her talent; she was the subject of constant scrutiny for her eight marriages and challenges with alcohol and drugs.

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Anthony Harvey // Getty Images

#35. Emma Stone

Positive opinion: 59%
Negative opinion: 6%
Neutral opinion: 23%
Have heard of: 88%

Emma Stone was the highest-paid actress in the world in 2017 and considered by Time magazine to be one of the most influential people in the world. The husky-voiced beauty gained fame with blockbuster hits such as “The Help,” “Crazy, Stupid Love,” and “Superbad.”

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916vince // Flickr

#34. Emma Watson

Positive opinion: 59%
Negative opinion: 6%
Neutral opinion: 22%
Have heard of: 88%

Emma Watson earned worldwide fame for her role as Hermione Granger in the “Harry Potter” film series, from 2001 to 2011. Until that point, the actress had only appeared in school plays. She now also works as a U.N. Women goodwill ambassador, putting her fierce feminism and eloquent activism to use in the real world.

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Christopher Polk // Getty Images

#33. Jennifer Garner

Positive opinion: 60%
Negative opinion: 5%
Neutral opinion: 22%
Have heard of: 87%

Jennifer Garner is known for her simple and direct style, and achieved fame from films such as “Catch me if you Can,” “Daredevil,” and “Juno,” and on TV's “Alias.” Her marriage to, and subsequent divorce from, actor Ben Affleck garnered a flurry of media attention. They have three children.

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Georges De Keerle // Getty Images

#32. Scarlett Johansson

Positive opinion: 60%
Negative opinion: 7%
Neutral opinion: 22%
Have heard of: 89%

Scarlett Johansson is femininity personified, and a fine actress with a distinct vibe of classic beauty straight out of the pinup era. The blonde bombshell tops the list of the world's highest-paid actresses, thanks to her most recent role as Black Widow in Marvel's “Avengers” movies, which allowed her to quadruple her earnings in 2017.

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Emma McIntyre // Getty Images

#31. Jennifer Lawrence

Positive opinion: 60%
Negative opinion: 11%
Neutral opinion: 21%
Have heard of: 93%

Jennifer Lawrence is known for having a cheeky and uncensored style of living, which has made her universally well-liked and even more adored by her fans. The precocious star of “The Hunger Games” proved her acting versatility when she took on roles such as a widowed sex addict in the edgy romantic comedy “Silver Linings Playbook,” and the quietly, steely Ree in “Winter's Bone.”

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Emma McIntyre // Getty Images

#30. Kathy Bates

Positive opinion: 60%
Negative opinion: 6%
Neutral opinion: 19%
Have heard of: 85%


This iconic actress is probably best-known for her chilling portrayal of an obsessive fan in the blockbuster psychological horror film “Misery,” for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress. Kathy Bates later won audience's hearts with her warmth in films such as “Fried Green Tomatoes” and “Titanic.”

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celebrityabc // Flickr

#29. Helen Hunt

Positive opinion: 61%
Negative opinion: 5%
Neutral opinion: 20%
Have heard of: 86%

Helen Hunt became widely adored when she played Jamie Buchman, one half of the lovable young married couple on the TV sitcom “Mad About You.” She went on to acclaim in films, including her Academy Award-winning role in the romantic comedy “As Good as it Gets” opposite Jack Nicholson.

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ROBYN BECK // Getty Images

#28. Olivia Newton-John

Positive opinion: 61%
Negative opinion: 4%
Neutral opinion: 24%
Have heard of: 89%

Probably most widely known for her role as Sandy in the 1978  blockbuster “Grease,” Olivia Newton-John is actually more acclaimed for her musical talent than her acting skills. The four-time Grammy Award winner and one of the best-selling artists of all time, she also is a longtime activist for environmental and animal-rights issues.

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IMDB

#27. Kate Winslet

Positive opinion: 61%
Negative opinion: 5%
Neutral opinion: 22%

Kate Winslet rose to acclaim with her breakout role in 1997's “Titanic,” the intense romantic drama that became the highest-grossing film up to that point. The striking Winslet is known for taking on complicated roles and successfully portraying unhinged characters, and is one of the few actresses to have nailed the trifecta of winning an Emmy, Grammy and Academy Award,

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Christopher Polk  // Getty Images

#26. Michelle Pfeiffer

Positive opinion: 61%
Negative opinion: 4%
Neutral opinion: 24%
Have heard of: 89%

Michelle Pfeiffer rose through the ranks as a versatile actress in the 1980s. Her breakout role was that of gangster Tony Montana's wife in “Scarface,” in which she played a distant and troubled young woman caught up in the Miami drug trade. Pfeiffer went on to succeed in a wide range of roles in films, such as “Dangerous Liaisons” and “The Fabulous Baker Boys.”

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TIZIANA FABI // Getty Images

#25. Cameron Diaz

Positive opinion: 61%
Negative opinion: 10%
Neutral opinion: 24%
Have heard of: 95%

Cameron Diaz is a former model who was "discovered" in Long Beach, Calif., while still in high school. She broke into acting and achieved international stardom for her role as Mary in “There's Something About Mary.” Her sweet, quirky character was impossible not to fall in love with and launched a successful career in not only comedic roles but dramatic ones, such as “Any Given Sunday.” Diaz officially announced her retirement from acting in 2014.

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Scott Barbour // Getty Images

#24. Goldie Hawn

Positive opinion: 62%
Negative opinion: 5%
Neutral opinion: 19%
Have heard of: 86%

Known for her wide smile and infectious spunk, Goldie Hawn was one of the greatest women entertainers for more than three decades. She is also involved in civil causes and in 2003 founded The Hawn Foundation, which helps underprivileged children.

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Dick Thomas Johnson // Wikimedia Commons

#23. Meryl Streep

Positive opinion: 62%
Negative opinion: 17%
Neutral opinion: 15%
Have heard of: 94%

The incomparable Meryl Streep has a list of awards and accolades far too long to mention. Often referred to as the most iconic actress of her time, she is known for her ability to play a wide range of roles and in particular for her knack for a variety of accents. The 69-year-old is still going strong: Her latest film, Steven Soderbergh's “The Laundromat,” is slated for a 2019 release.

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Gage Skidmore // Flickr

#22. Nicole Kidman

Positive opinion: 63%
Negative opinion: 7%
Neutral opinion: 23%
Have heard of: 94%

This American-Australian actress had her first big break with the thriller “Dead Calm” in 1989. Since then, Nicole Kidman has had starring roles in a number of critically acclaimed films, including “Eyes Wide Shut,” the musical “Moulin Rouge,” and “The Hours,” in which she portrayed tormented writer Virginia Woolf.

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Rich Fury // Getty Images

#21. Jodie Foster

Positive opinion: 63%
Negative opinion: 8%
Neutral opinion: 21%
Have heard of: 92%

Jodie Foster began her career as a child model when she was just 3, followed by her acting debut in a TV sitcom at age 6. Her breakout role was in the film “Taxi Driver,” in which she played a teenage prostitute. The Yale graduate went on to overwhelming success starring in a spate of films in versatile roles, including one of her most famous as FBI trainee Clarice Starling in the terrifying “Silence of the Lambs.” Foster now focuses most of her time and energy on directing.

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IMDB

#20. Anne Hathaway

Positive opinion: 64%
Negative opinion: 7%
Neutral opinion: 21%
Have heard of: 92%

She made her debut as the star of Disney's “The Princess Diaries” in 2001 and since then, Anne Hathaway has gained critical acclaim her success in Hollywood and as an outspoken advocate for gender equality. She is a U.N. Women goodwill ambassador and supports several charities that work with women in need.

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CBS Television // Wikimedia Commons

#19. Mary Tyler Moore

Positive opinion: 64%
Negative opinion: 5%
Neutral opinion: 19%
Have heard of: 87%

Mary Tyler Moore catapulted into fame with the titular “Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Her roles often broke gender norms, making Moore an enduring, feminist icon. She became active in charity work in her later years, particularly around vegetarianism and diabetes.

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Frazer Harrison // Getty Images

#18. Carrie Fisher

Positive opinion: 64%
Negative opinion: 5%
Neutral opinion: 22%
Have heard of: 91%

Carrie Fisher was best known for her role as Princess Leia in the “Star Wars” films, but many people do not know she also was a talented writer and comedian. She wrote several novels and was awarded a posthumous Grammy in the category “Best Spoken Word Album.” In her later years, Fisher became an outspoken advocate for mental health and addiction, drawing on her own struggles with bipolar disorder and alcoholism.

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Rhododendrites // Wikimedia Commons

#17. Sally Field

Positive opinion: 65%
Negative opinion: 6%
Neutral opinion: 16%
Have heard of: 87%

Academy Award- and Emmy-winner Sally Field got her acting start in her early 20s as a teenage surfer with a penchant for getting into trouble in the TV series “Gidget.” She has gone on to have a long and prolific career both in film (“Norma Rae,” “Steel Magnolias,” “Mrs. Doubtfire,” and “Forrest Gump”), TV (“Brothers & Sisters”) and directing, and recently wrote a best-selling memoir called “In Pieces.” Field also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer // Wikimedia Commons

#16. Katharine Hepburn

Positive opinion: 65%
Negative opinion: 4%
Neutral opinion: 17%
Have heard of: 85%

Katharine Hepburn in 1999 was named by the American Film Institute as the “Greatest Female Star of Classic Hollywood Cinema.” The free-spirited, fiercely independent actress played a range of roles for more than 60 years, gaining a worldwide following and making her an unforgettable icon.

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Eric Carpenter // Wikimedia Commons

#15. Judy Garland

Positive opinion: 65%
Negative opinion: 4%
Neutral opinion: 19%
Have heard of: 88%

Multi-talented Judy Garland was a singer, dancer, and actress who is best remembered for her role as Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz.” Other defining moments in her acting career included the films “Meet Me in St. Louis” and “Summer Stock.” Despite her success, she lived a troubled life full of personal and financial problems. She died of a drug overdose at the age of 47.

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Gage Skidmore // Flickr

#14. Halle Berry

Positive opinion: 66%
Negative opinion: 8%
Neutral opinion: 21%
Have heard of: 94%

Academy Award-winner Halle Berry gained notice for her role as Storm in 200's “X-Men.” Her slew of subsequent roles helped her to become one of the consistently highest-paid actresses in the world in the early 2000s. Berry also works as a Revlon spokeswoman and devotes some of her time to environmental activism.

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None // Wikimedia Commons

#13. Shirley Temple

Positive opinion: 66%
Negative opinion: 4%
Neutral opinion: 23%
Have heard of: 93%

The child actress with those signature ringlets and dance moves rose to fame during the Great Depression and retired at the ripe age of 22. After Shirley Temple's career in entertainment, she pursued politics and became a diplomat. Templed served as U.S. ambassador to Ghana and later to Czechoslovakia.

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IMDB

#12. Marilyn Monroe

Positive opinion: 67%
Negative opinion: 6%
Neutral opinion: 25%
Have heard of: 97%

An iconic sex symbol of the 1950s and early 1960s, Marilyn Monroe established herself as a memorable entertainer whose films grossed more than $200 million. Monroe had a troubled childhood spent shuffled between orphanages and foster care, and she suffered from crippling insecurity in adulthood. Her rise to stardom was cut short in 1962 when she died of a drug overdose at 36.

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#11. Reese Witherspoon

Positive opinion: 67%
Negative opinion: 6%
Neutral opinion: 21%
Have heard of: 95%

Reese Witherspoon is best known for her role as Elle Woods in the comedy “Legally Blonde.” Other career highlights include her portrayal of June Carter Cash in the film “Walk the Line” and of author Cheryl Strayed in the drama “Wild.” Witherspoon also has a production company, is a mother of three, and is active in various children's and women's advocacy groups.

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skeeze //Pixabay

#10. Audrey Hepburn

Positive opinion: 68%
Negative opinion: 3%
Neutral opinion: 18%
Have heard of: 88%

Audrey Hepburn was always a class act, rising to fame with her unforgettable role of Holly Golightly in the film “Breakfast at Tiffany's.” All told, she starred in 31 films before retiring from acting to raise her family and become a special ambassador to UNICEF to help children in Latin America and Africa.

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#9. Drew Barrymore

Positive opinion: 68%
Negative opinion: 7%
Neutral opinion: 19%
Have heard of: 94%

The perennially adorable Drew Barrymore started her acting career at the height of her cuteness when she starred in the 1982 film “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” at age 7. The rapid rise to fame proved overwhelming; as a result, Barrymore had a highly publicized childhood and adolescence while caught up in substance abuse and partying. She overcame her problems and has become a popular actress and director.

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Alberto E. Rodriguez  // Getty Images

#8. Carol Burnett

Positive opinion: 69%
Negative opinion: 3%
Neutral opinion: 14%
Have heard of: 86%

Comedian and actress Carol Burnett, star of the long-running eponymous “Carol Burnett Show,” became world renowned for her sketch shows and comedic style. The TV series ran for 11 seasons and was the first of its kind to be hosted by a woman. She was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance in the 1959 musical “Once Upon a Mattress” and in January 2019 the inaugural Carol Burnett Award, a Golden Globe lifetime achievement award, was named in her honor.

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Mark Davis // Getty Images

#7. Jennifer Aniston

Positive opinion: 69%
Negative opinion: 8%
Neutral opinion: 19%
Have heard of: 96%

Jennifer Aniston became famous for her role as Rachel Green on the hit TV series “Friends.” Her character was beloved for her slightly snobbish personality, great hair (dubbed "The Rachel") and all-around style. After the series ended in 2004, Aniston went on to pursue a  successful film career.

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IMDB

#6. Julie Andrews

Positive opinion: 69%
Negative opinion: 3%
Neutral opinion: 17%
Have heard of: 89%

Most people know Julie Andrews from her roles in “The Sound of Music” and “Mary Poppins.” The singer and actress most recently lent her voice to Disney cartoons “Shrek” and “Despicable Me.” She is also the author of various children's books and an autobiography.

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Frazer Harrison // Getty Images

#5. Jamie Lee Curtis

Positive opinion: 69%
Negative opinion: 6%
Neutral opinion: 17%
Have heard of: 93%

The 1978 horror classic “Halloween” set Jamie Lee Curtis's career in motion. She followed that with various commercial successes, including “Trading Places,” “A Fish Called Wanda,” and “Freaky Friday. Curtis is also the author of a number of popular children's books.

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#4. Julia Roberts

Positive opinion: 71%
Negative opinion: 8%
Neutral opinion: 17%
Have heard of: 96%

Julia Roberts' first films were “Mystic Pizza” and “Satisfaction,” both in 1988, followed  by “Steel Magnolias” a year later. But it was her unforgettable opposite Richard Gere in “Pretty Woman” that established her as an actress to be reckoned with. Since then, Roberts has dominated the Hollywood scene, proving her depth and versatility. She won an Academy Award for her performance in the title role for the film “Erin Brockovich.”

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Pierre Tourigny // Flickr

#3. Lucille Ball

Positive opinion: 74%
Negative opinion: 4%
Neutral opinion: 14%
Have heard of: 92%

Lucille Ball is known for her hilarious and quirky performances on one of the most popular TV series of all time, “I Love Lucy.” The show ran for six seasons and remains wildly popular all over the world. Ball also became the first woman to run a major TV production company, Desilu Productions, with her husband, Desi Arnaz. Desilu produced several popular TV series, including “Mission Impossible” and “Star Trek.”

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IMDB

#2. Sandra Bullock

Positive opinion: 77%
Negative opinion: 5%
Neutral opinion: 14%
Have heard of: 95%

Sandra Bullock first appeared on stage at age 5 in a German opera, and has had an impressive and varied career ever since. She became widely popular after her appearance in the 1994 thriller “Speed,” and over the years has mastered a variety of roles across genres including comedy, drama, and most recently horror in the hit film “Birdbox” on Netflix.

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IMDB

#1. Betty White

Positive opinion: 82%
Negative opinion: 4%
Neutral opinion: 10%
Have heard of: 95%

Younger generations' appreciation of Betty White draws largely from her roles on TV's “Hot in Cleveland” and  as the ditzy but good-natured Rose Nylund on the long-running TV series “The Golden Girls.” But White's portfolio stretches back for decades, including her role as man-hungry Sue Ann Nivens on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and her own series in 1952, “Life with Elizabeth,” which she produced. She was married to “Password” game show host Allen Ludden and is active in animal-rights issues.

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