Top Actresses of the 1960s (2023)

When you're hot, you're hot and in the 1960s there was no-one more sizzling than these female movie stars...

The social revolution of the 1960s and its accompanying shifts in perspective brought about new standards of beauty in the film industry. The pointy-chested, pancaked-faced, voluptuous babes of the 1950s didn't gel with the emergent youth culture who were looking for something a little more edgy to identify with. Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe were on the way out and Brigitte Bardot and Jane Fonda were on the way in.

It was the era of subversive fashions, revolutionary music, political protest and greater sexual freedom and the new generation had a taste for women who were assertive, freedom-loving, slender, sexy and trendily chic. The actresses featured below represented a new ideal of the individualistic, modern women and they radiated the vibe and energy of the pulsating '60s on screen.

Top Actresses of the 1960s (1)

Queen of the sex kittens, Brigitte Bardot

Source:Dr. Macro

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Brigitte Bardot in the early 60s

Roger Vadim

It's no coincidence that French film director, screenwriter and journalist, Roger Vadim was partner to three of the hottest actresses of the 60s - Brigitte Bardot, Jane Fonda and Catherine Deneuve.

Something of a Svengali, Vadim is credited with helping to create the image that propelled the women to fame, including the blonde hair - all three were originally brunettes, although Jane Fonda eventually rebelled against herBarbarellaimage.

Vadim Tells All

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Brigitte Bardot mmortalised in bronze by Brazilian artist, Christina Motta

Brigitte Bardot

It's hard to overestimate the impact Brigitte Bardot had on filmgoers of the 1960s. Her 'wow factor' body, perfect facial features and the fact she oozed kittenish sexuality from every pore, made it seem like she was purpose-designed to be a sex goddess.

Yet as a child, she was reputedly a plain Jane, who only blossomed in late adolescence. Married at 18 to director/journalist Roger Vadim, who choreographed her career and once described her as 'sex on legs', she was by all reports, a creature of passions. Born into an affluent family, when her parents at first refused to let her marry Vadim, she attempted suicide, suggesting a troubled volatility beneath the sensual surface.

Bardot had already carved out a film career in the 1950s, first by playing curvaceous ingenues and then hitting the big time internationally with a knockout performance as a sun-streaked blonde in the 1956 Roger Vadim film,And God Created Woman.

Set in a 'pagan paradise' on the Riviera, Bardot played an uninhibited orphan girl who languidly revels in her own natural, erotic sensuality and while some US critics panned the film's substance and the sexualisation of the leading lady, most were appreciative of Bardot's physical assets - she simply looked so gorgeous and moved with such comfortable, feline-like grace, that viewers couldn't take their eyes of the screen.

The film and Bardot in particular, were a big hit with the public and she became the centre of global paparazzi attention, in an age where celebrity meant you needed more going for you than fifteen minutes of fame.

By the 1960s, she had acquired a bohemian hipness to go with her mass of tousled, long blonde hair, further cementing her as a wild, free-thinking icon for the new youth generation. It was image that totally gelled with the sexual revolution sweeping the free world.

The Bardot phenomenon, which lasted throughout the decade and beyond was about more than just the creation of another contrived cinematic sex object - a hot body and a pouting mouth. The actress projected a genuine fearlessness about her own sexuality. Even after her looks faded and her film career dissipated, she maintained a strong individualism and subversive style.

I am shocking, impertinent and insolent. That's how it is.

~Brigitte Bardot

"And God Created Woman" Trailer, 1956 [horribly dubbed]

Top Actresses of the 1960s (7)

Before and after - Bardot [above] before her Vadim influenced transformation and [below] in full bloom as a tousled 60s sex kitten

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Catherine Deneuve

Coolly untouchable French actress Catherine Deneuve's beauty was so icy she was red hot. On screen Deneuve radiated a rarified, elegant beauty. Whereas Bardot had worn her free-spirited sexuality openly, Deneuve's sex appeal was more aloof, a groovier version of the classic Hitchcockian ice-blonde and suggestive of that director's vision of the perfect woman - 'a lady in the drawing room and a whore in the bedroom'.

Already a rising star in France via the1964 French filmThe Umbrellas of Cherbourg,Deneuve first made an international ripple in Roman Polanski's 1965 psychological thrillerRepulsion,playing a psychotic beautician whose sex-themed paranoia leads her into some very dark places. It was a role that emphasised her beauty against a mood of fragile brittleness and was perfectly suited to Deneuve's particular brand of sex-appeal.

Born Catherine Dorleac [changed to avoid confusion with Francoise Dorleac, her actress sister, later killed in an auto crash], Deneuve, who had appeared in films since the age of eleven and whose youth coincided with that of the 60s revolution, seemed to slip into stardom easily. In a recreation of Bardot's early life and career, at age 17, the actress took up with Roger Vadim, sixteen years her senior, who moulded her blond image with the same care and attention he had given her predecessor.

Deneuve became the darling of the sophisticated, chic, art-house film demographic , despite largely limited her performances to European cinema, having made only one Hollywood film in the 60s -The April Foolswith Jack Lemmon in 1969. Highly photogenic, Deneuve appeared on countless magazine covers and paparazzi shots - she was even the subject of a playboy shoot in 1965, making her well-known to the English-speaking public. Desired by men and envied and admired by women, she was the kind of celebrity whose refined looks blended nicely with rare wine and expensive cars. Both Deneuve and Bardot did much to introduce an Anglo-centric audience to foreign language films.

As an iconic actress, Deneuve has enjoyed longevity and continued popularity - such was the measure of her fame and success, she eventually displaced Brigitte Bardot as the representation ofMarianne, the national emblem of France.

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Catherine Deneuve in a still from 'Repulsion'

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Jane Fonda as futuristic sex bomb, 'Barbarella'

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Jane Fonda, pre Roger Vadim

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Jane Fonda, a tousle haired blonde by 1963

Jane Fonda

Already equipped with a Hollywood pedigree, having had the good fortune to be born the daughter of established star, Henry Fonda, Jane Fonda's career seemed destined to follow in the mould of the blonde sex kitten/bombshell until an emerging self-awareness and radical politics turned her image and film career toward a more interesting direction. It was a move that probably rescued her from being typecast as a derivative version of Brigitte Bardot, destined for sex-objectification and light comedies.

Always feisty and energetic, Fonda had all the physical attributes of a sex siren with he added bonus of a working brain and the controversies which ensued from that particular combination, including her public activism for civil rights and anti-vietnam causes, only further cemented her as an iconic representative of the 60s spirit.

Born in 1938, Fonda had garnered some stage experience in the 1950s, appearing with her father as a child and later on broadway as an adult - she had also made several films by the time she met and married Roger Vadim, former partner to Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve [he got around, that guy]. However, none of her films had propelled her to box-office stardom untilthe Western, Cat Ballou,which she madein 1965, the same year as her marriage. The film showcased her assertive personality as well as her physical appeal and she went on to make several more US films in the 60s, most notablyBarefoot in the Parkwith Robert Redford andThey Shoot Horses Don't They?In 1968 she made the sex-scifi filmBarbarellawith Roger Vadim, playing the title role of a sexually charged futuristic babe and earning herself a cult following in the process.

Fonda's childhood had been marred by a remote father and a depressive mother, who took her own life when Jane was still a child. Inevitably, 'Hollywood child syndrome' left its mark in early insecurities and self-doubt and it took time for the actresses strengths and inner confidence to unfurl. As Vadim tells it; "Jane didn't leave me for another man, she left me for herself". The flowering of Jane Fonda and her personal 'awakening' in the 60s set the stage for the interesting and varied film career which still lay ahead of her, beginning with the dark-edged psychological thriller,Klutein 1971 - a role which earned her an Academy Award for Best Actress. Unlike some of her contemporaries, she never stopped being hot.

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By the close of the 60s decade, Jane Fonda had transformed herself from pert blonde bombshell to something altogether different

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Julie Christie was an icon of the of the 'swinging London set'

"Darling" Trailer, 1965

Top Actresses of the 1960s (16)

British actress, Julie christie, as she appeared in the 1965 film epic, Doctor Chivago

Julie Christie

British actress Julie Christie was hugely popular in the 1960s. The 'thinking man's sex symbol', Christie combined an understated, warm sensuality with intelligent film performances, making her irresistible to critics and public alike.

Born in India to British parents and raised on a tea plantation, she was educated in England [and expelled from two convent schools], kickstarting her career at 17 on BBC television in the late 50s. Success on TV led her into film and in the early 60s she made two Ealing Studio comedies before appearing in the acclaimed 1963 film,Billy Liarwith Tom Courtney.

This was followed in 1965 by her international breakthrough film,John Sclesinger's, Darlingwith Dirk Bogarde and Laurence Harvey. Her performance as a morally bereft beauty who gets drawn into modelling and the fashionably vacuous media crowd, earned her an Academy Award for Best Actress and from then on the roles and accolades just kept coming.

Christie was very much associated with the swinging London scene and the quirky, off-centre films she appeared in lent her a credibility with the experimental 60s generation. Her appearance in the 1966 film version of Ray Bradbury's sci-fi classic,Fahrenheit 45, set in a future world where firemen burn books, reinforced her 'interesting' image.

While she did go on to make mainstream International films, notablyDoctor Chivago,an epic film version of the Boris Pasternak novel, throughout her career, Christie generally sought out independent films that had edge and emotional bite.

"Tonite, Let's all Make Love in London", 1967

In '67, Christie, along with other influential hip 60s identities, appeared in a Peter Whitehead documentary,Tonite, Let's all Make Love in London,which, as the name suggests,highlighted the ambient groove of the era, of which christie was a major part. As one journalist was prompted to write at the time: "What Julie Christie wears has more real impact on fashion than all the clothes of the ten best-dressed women combined."

The interview section with Julie Christie, filmed in an atmospheric semi-darkness, reveals some of the charm and style that made her so desirable to 60s audiences - the husky voice, a mass of blonde hair, striking eyes and an unusually shaped, sensuous mouth. Yet there's also a slight jitteriness and self-consciousness about her that saves her from being too perfect and instead, makes her seem very human.

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60s heartthrob, Omar "Doctor Chivago" Shariff and Julie Christie. Source:Wiki commons

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Claudia Cardinale

Source:Dr Macro

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Claudia Cardinale publicity shot

Claudia Cardinale

A former beauty contest winner, Italian actress Claudia Cardinale had the kind of red hot Mediterranean looks that made her fascinating to watch onscreen - even hername[pronouncedClowd-ya] sounded voluptuous.

In the 1960s she was the hip poster girl for international film, having worked with some of the greatest European directors of all time - Luchino Visconti, Federico Fellini and Sergio Leone, just to name a few.

Equipped with sultry dark eyes, olive skin, masses of thick, shiny hair and a curvaceous body, Cardinale embodied lush Italian beauty. Her voice was so deep, throaty and unusual that in some of her early films, producers decided it had to be dubbed because it didn't match her womanly appearance. First revealed in Fellini's art house classic 8-1/2, it later, it became a trademark.

Claudia's image was more hip and contemporary to the 60s generation than her sex-goddess compatriots, Sophia Loren or Gina Lolabrigida - she was part of a new wave of assertive actresses who seemed more confident, adventurous and liberated than those from a previous generation. To English-speaking audiences, she was an exotic creature, whose flamboyant European style and volatile personality seemed to embody a new age of broadmindedness.

"If you're not English, you're a foreigner - so you must be sexy. It's an old British cliché."

~Claudia Cardinale

Pegged as the natural successor to Brigitte Bardot, Cardinale never relied on her sex-symbol status, instead proving herself to be an accomplished and versatile actress with an outspoken personality - as director Sergio Leone remarked, she had an admirable 'grit and determination' beneath the womanly charms.

Top Actresses of the 1960s (20)

Still from "Don't Make Waves", 1967, showcasing some of Claudia Cardinale's many assets

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Ursula Andress, the original Bond girl


Top Actresses of the 1960s (22)

Ursula Andress, as she appeared in "Dr. No", the first Bond film


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Promotional poster for "She", 1965

Ursula Andress

Famously pegged as the first Bond girl and a former lover of James Dean, Swiss American Ursula Andress represented the glamorous, fun-loving excess of the 60s jet-set. When Andress, as Honey Ryder, emerged from the ocean in a cream bikini in the 1962 premier Bond film,Dr. No,there were visible stirs in movie theatres.

Andress had chiselled, feminine features, a thick Swiss/German accent, smoking body and a haughty, look-down-on-the-lesser-beings presence and while her acting ability may have been limited, her sex-appeal was not.

Julie Christie, another hot 60s property, had been under consideration for the role of Honey Ryder but dipped out or not being sufficiently well-endowed. That was certainly not a problem for Ursula, whose cinematic appeal lay less in a quirky personality and more in the traditional sex-goddess mould of curvaceous beauty.

The role of Honey Ryder was secured just two weeks before shooting began via a photograph taken by her then husband John Derek and shown to salivating producers. Her performance won her a Golden Globe award, despite the fact that her voice had been dubbed over because of her heavy accent. One wonders if the judging panel were all male.

Andress followed up her femme-fatale persona inDr. Nowith an equallysexsational performance in the 1965 British Hammer horror film,She,where once again, her voice was overdubbed. The film was an international success, spawning a sequel,The Vengeance of She.In theShefilms, Andress played a High Priestess and Queen of a lost civilization, whereshe-who-must-be-obeyedrules a with an iron fist, ruthlessly oppressing an army of slaves.Shea perfect vehicle for the actress's goddess-like beauty and gave her plenty of chances to wear some bust-poppingly sexy and revealing, ancient robes.

Ursula Andress's 60s screen image was all about fantasy, glamour and escapism - she was the ultimate playboy babe, gorgeous to look at but probably much too hot to touch.

Top Actresses of the 1960s (24)

"Dr. No" promotional poster

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Ursula Andress and cat

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Sarah Miles, soft and edgy

"The Servant" Trailer, 1963

Sarah Miles

British actress Sarah Miles was one of the most interesting finds of the 60s. Although physically she was perhaps more girl-next-door thanvava-voom, she possessed a trembling-lip charm, a sweet-voiced naturalness and a sensuous body that 60s audiences responded to.

A graduate of RADA and an accomplished stage actress, Miles was lucky [or selective] with her career choices, appearing in such innovative films asTerm of Trialwith Laurence Olivier, in1962 [for which she won a BAFTA for best Newcomer] and Joseph Losey's,The Servant,[1963]-a steamy drama about an aristocrat and his man-servant, which earned her a BAFTA nomination for best actress and credibility as an artistically adventurous 60s, babe. Her block-buster film and the one that afforded her wide international recognition, even though it was critically panned, was the David Lean classic, Ryan's Daughter,released in 1970.

According to her biographers, Miles was unable to speak for the first nine years of her life, owning to a severe stammer, which makes her achievements as a performer seem all the more remarkable. A sensitive actress with a marked ability to convey emotion, her career continued to flourish into the 1970s and '80s, although she later became branded as a 'whacky eccentric', largely due to such oddities of behaviour as drinking her own urine, mixed with fruit juice, daily and keeping a stuffed [real] dog in her bed.

Miles was reputedly a seductress in real life, who, according to former lover, musician Charles Foskett, came on to everyone "from Robert Mitchum to Laurence Olivier". In a tell-all article in theMail, Foskett described the actress as a 'theatrical child-woman', tremendous fun but prone to tantrums, moody behaviour and bizarre enthusiasms. Whether or not Foskett's portrayal is an accurate one, what came across on the cinema screen in the 1960s was a young woman who wasn't afraid to take risks and projected a strong sense of individualism - both qualities that appealed to the ethos of the time.

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Sarah Miles with co-star Dirk Bogarde in "The Servant", 1963

Top Actresses of the 1960s (28)

Mia Farrow in the 1960s

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Moody poster for "Rosemary's Baby"

Mia Farrow

With her distinctive, soft girly voice, romantic name and big-eyed gamine looks, Mia Farrow offered viewers a sexy combination of vulnerability and offbeat charm. Like Jane Fonda, she had a showbiz pedigree - her mother was Maureen O'Sullivan ofTarzanfame and her father was John Farrow, the Australian-born film director.

Once married to Frank Sinatra [an unlikely pairing], Mia first acquired public prominence playing a regular character in the US 60s soap opera,Peyton Placeand springboarded from that to a successful film career in the late 60s and beyond. A unique screen presence ensured Mia stood out from the standard crop of starlets

Mia was also a trendsetter - when she had all her hair cropped by hip 60s hairdresser, Vidal Sassoon for the 1968 Roman Polanski film,Rosemary's Baby[a role that Jane Fonda had turned down] she inspired a wave of imitators.

Flat-chested, with an oddly boyish figure, Mia was all eyes and bone structure and she departed from the traditional curvaceous, womanly stereotype that had hitherto defined a sex symbol. In fact she was turned down for the role of Liesal inThe Sound of Musicbecause of her flat chest. In many ways she embodied the 60s penchant for Twiggy-like beauty, which in itself borrowed from the 1920s flat-chested flapper look and it's hard to imagine Mia having the same impact in any other decade - shesuitedthe mood of the 1960s.

Rosemary's Babywas a breakthrough film for Mia and despite the fact she was enduring a harrowing divorce from Sinatra at the time [he served her divorce papers on the set] she put in a sterling performance, impressing director Roman Polanski with her professionalism and ability. According to Polanski, Mia was a classic and delicate 60s flower-child, albeit a stylish and original one.

Top Actresses of the 1960s (30)
Mia Farrow, in a still from Polanski's 'Rosemary's Baby'

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