1. Amy Adams, Junebug

Adams - who has been seen in small but memorable roles in CatchMe If You Can, among other films - won aspecial acting prize at Sundance this year. She could go all the way to anOscar nomination for her delicious performance as the pregnant, na've andadoring sister-in-law Ashley in Phil Morrison's Junebug.

2. Maria Bello, AHistory Of Violence

Bello took acting honours in David Cronenberg's finethriller as a woman slowly realising her husband is not who she thought he was.Bello, whose roles in The Cooler, Silver City and Thank You For Smokinghave made her an indie favourite, has never been more convincing.

3. Hope Davis, Proof

In a role which she could have played as bossy andinsensitive, Davis managed to bring humour and depth to the character ofCatherine's sister, Claire. Acknowledged as one of the best actresses at worktoday, Davis could finally land an Oscar nomination.

4. Gong Li, MemoirsOf A Geisha

Gong dazzled in her first English-language role as reigninggeisha Hatsumomo in Memoirs Of A Geisha. Capturing the pain of ageing andrepressed love behind her character's bitchy, condescending demeanour, theveteran Chinese beauty is a force of nature.

5. Catherine Keener,Capote

The ever-reliable Keener gave an intelligent performance asHarper Lee, who accompanies Truman Capote to Holcomb, Kansas, to investigatethe Clutter killings, in Capote. Theactress sparks up a witty chemistry with Philip Seymour Hoffman's Truman andbalances the film's first half with her reassuring presence.

6. Melissa Leo, TheThree Burials Of Melquiades Estrada

Leo almost scored nominations two years ago for playingBenicio Del Toro's wife in 21 Grams, andshe demonstrates her talent for playing ballsy working-class women again as thegutsy but ultimately cowardly waitress Rachel in Tommy Lee Jones' directorialdebut.

7. Laura Linney, TheSquid And The Whale

A previous double Oscar nominee, Linney gives yet anothersterling performance as the woman spreading her wings, shedding her controllinghusband and flourishing in her own writing career, despite opposition from herchildren.

8. Shirley MacLaine,In Her Shoes

Showing a restraint which she did not access in her otherfilms this year (Rumour Has It, Bewitched),MacLaine creates her most memorable character in years as the long-lostgrandmother of the two sisters at the film's heart.

9. Thandie Newton, Crash

Newton leapt off the screen as an affluent black woman whoselife is thrown into turmoil after being molested by a corrupt cop. Combiningfrailty and rage at both the cop and her husband, the British actress stood outin the ensemble cast of Crash.

10. Rachel Weisz, TheConstant Gardener

Finally landing a role worthy of her talent, Weisz was thedynamic lifeforce of The Constant Gardener,a questioning, crusading woman who disrupts a world of corrupt andopportunistic men. A shoo-in for a supporting actress nomination.

11. Michelle William,Brokeback Mountain

The excellent Williams, an under-rated actress with strongwork to her name in films such as Prozac Nation and The Station Agent,makes a big impression in just a few scenes as a young woman who faces the facther husband is gay. Both loving and angry, tender and frustrated, she makes herpresence felt.