Should Jodie Foster have won Best Actress in 1988?

Jodiefoster_lEveryone loves a comeback, and Hollywood is no different. Although Jodie Foster had worked steadily since her first Oscar nomination, at 14 for 1976’s Taxi Driver, by the time she starred in 1988’s The Accused, her career had become a string of roles in which reviewers often lamented how good she was with how little she was given. But as a gang rape victim who fights with an assistant D.A. (Kelly McGillis) to prosecute the men who egged her rapists on, Foster finally had a role that was equal to her talents, and she delivered a performance that lived up to her potential. Academy voters rewarded her with her first Oscar for Best Actress.

It wasn’t necessarily an obvious victory. Fellow nominees Glenn Close (Dangerous Liasons) and Sigourney Weaver (Gorillas in the Mist) had also more than paid their dues, so to speak, and each had given standout performances — though as two very different women. Five-time nominee Close just about devours the screen as a conniving French aristocrat, while Weaver settles into a comfortable naturalism as the real-life zoologist Dian Fossey. It was a strong year for Weaver, in fact; she was also nominated for her supporting role in Working Girl alongside fellow Best Actress nominee Melanie Griffith, who turned in a Golden Globe-winning, love-it-or-hate-it performance as a striving secretary who connives her way into Weaver’s corner office. (The "hate it" contingent generally found Griffiths’ breathy, Marilyn Monroe-esque voice like nails on a chalkboard.) Ironically, the only Best Actress nominee pretty much guaranteed not to beat out Foster for the prize was Meryl Streep. Though fearlessly unlikable in A Cry in the Dark as the real life Australian mother accused of murdering the baby she steadfastly claimed was abducted by a wild dingo, Streep had also become something of an Oscar perennial in the 1980s: This was her sixth nomination in eight years.

But after 20 years, all that context — Is it "her time"? Did she recently win? Do we expect to nominate her again? — has melted away, and just the performances themselves remain. Does Foster still deserve her Academy Award? That’s what we’ve asked Hollywood in EW’s Recall the Gold survey revisiting all the major Oscar categories from 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25 years ago, and that’s also what we’ve been asking you, PopWatchers, over the last few months. So vote in our poll below. If you need a reminder of each performance, check out clips from each film after the jump. While you’re at it, if you haven’t already, vote in all the other polls from our ongoing walk down Oscar’s memory lane. Tomorrow, in the final category (!) of our 13 week survey (!!!), we’ll examine the 2003 Best Supporting Actor race, and you can check out coverage of this year’s awards contenders in Dave Karger’s Oscar Watch blog.


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Glenn Close, Dangerous Liaisons

Jodie Foster, The Accused (trailer)

Melanie Griffith, Working Girl

Meryl Streep, A Cry in the Dark

Sigourney Weaver, Gorillas in the Mist

Comments (331 total) Add your comment
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  • paige

    wow what a year! honestly they all deserved it (except melanie lol)… but as time goes on the performances that still hold up for me are Glenn Close and Sigourney… If I wouldve known Jodie was gonna win years later I wouldve given it to Glenn Close who has sadly never won and given Sigourney the Supporting Actress award for Working Girl instead of Geena Davis… Seriously, why hasnt Sigourney Weaver won an Oscar???

  • Stephanie T.

    If I understand correctly, the story with Melanie was that at the time she was shooting Working Girl, she had a problem with alcohol. She was late to work quite often. As for the acting, Foster was a stronger choice only because of the rape scene. I don’t know about you people, but that scene scared the living daylights out of me.

  • Callie

    I wonder why they are only asking these questions about actresses? Seems like there would be as many men’s Oscars to question. Also, honestly, the whole idea of this poll is sort of churlish.

  • David D

    I had forgotten what a tremendous slate of nominees there was that year. I personally would have voted for Meryl — to me, “A Cry In The Dark” is one of her very, very best performances — but Glenn Close’s final shot in “Liaisons” is possibly the greatest final close-up I’ve ever seen. No complaints about Jodie, though, although she REALLY deserved it for “Silence of the Lambs.”

  • t.g. pierson

    I have been waiting for this category. I was amazed, shocked and completely blown away that Glenn Close did not win the Oscar for Dangerous Liaisons. Glenn Close gives the best performance of her impressive career in Dangerous Liaisons. That she didn’t win is one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in Oscar history. It has been 20 years since Glenn Close has been nomination for an Oscar, I am beginning to feel that she may never win.

  • Ryan B

    Just for the clip provided here alone, Meryl Streep should have one a decades worth of Oscars. Incredible.

  • Ryan

    “Won”. Sorry.

  • liaison dangereuse

    This was an astonishing year for this category, any of these performances may have won in weaker years (yes, even Griffith’s comic work). Foster was magnificent and heartbreaking but her most lived-in, indelible character came three years later for Silence of the Lambs. I’d give this to Close because she played the ballsiest courtesan ever put to screen and is one of the greatest demons to assume human form on celluloid. Her final scenes are quietly devastating.

  • Nancy

    I didn’t see all the performances, but Jody Foster’s performance was incredible. Stephanie T., I agree completely with you – that rape scene scared me so much!

  • Brian

    Agreed this was a very strong year. I would say this came down to Close and Streep. One a large scenery-eating role and one amazing in the control exercised.
    Weaver is very good, however, vocally she is always the same and this role is no different. Foster was good as well but not quite where Close and Streep were.

  • Jason

    Jodie Foster deserved the Oscar.

  • CltAndrew

    Wow! What an astonishing slate of nominees! Meryl was phenomenal, as always, and Jodie proved she was a great actress. However, the Oscar truly belonged to Glenn Close. Her performance is one that never gets old to me, and she should have won the Oscar just for the final scene and the scene where she declares war on John Malkovich’s character. Otherwise, I wish Sigourney Weaver had an Oscar. She’s a tremendous actress (who was also later snubbed for the Ice Storm).

  • Nathan

    Great year for actress nominees, you gotta love Close in Dangerous Liaisons but Foster was great too.

  • Sally

    For me, it is a toss up between Jodie Foster and Glenn Close. My personal fav was Glenn for Dangerous Liaisons, but I can justify Jodie’s win.
    Working Girl is a fun movie, but it would have been a travesty if Melanie Griffith won the Oscar. It was a joke she was even nominated.

  • to Adam

    These Oscar columns need to stop. Until you have 2 actors in the same role, there is no way to pick a best actor! The awards are just their to sell tickets and make the show biz community feel even more important. Meryl and Jodie are two of the finest actors around. They elevate everything they are in.

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