actors 17 Actors Who Have Played Richard III  

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A number of highly recognizable actors have risen to the challenge of portraying the title character in William Shakespeare’s Richard III. As this list of actors who played Richard III proves, there's nothing like a difficult character to inspire a great performance.

By many historical accounts, King Richard III was a malicious tyrant. Whatever he was really like, he's certainly a villain in Shakespeare’s play. He’s a tyrant capable of ferocious evil, one who uses Machiavellian power to assume the throne. Most of the stars who played Richard III in film and on stage relied heavily on his evil nature in their portrayals. And why not? Shakespeare’s Richard III was a true villain.

Sir Laurence Olivier dug into the egotistical side of the King in 1955’s Richard III. Olivier also directed and produced the film, in which he delivers his monologues straight to the camera. Benedict Cumberbatch holds the honor of being the only direct descendant of Richard III to portray him. He's Richard's third cousin, 16 times removed, and he played the King in The Hollow Crown in May 2016.

Which of these famous actors who have played Richard III did it best? Take a look at this list, and share your thoughts in the comment section.


Laurence Olivier is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list 17 Actors Who Have Played Richard III
Photo: London Films

Sir Laurence Olivier played Richard III in the 1955 adaptation of Shakespeare's play. He earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for the performance.

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Age: Died at 82 (1907-1989)

Birthplace: Dorking, United Kingdom

Nationality: United Kingdom, England

Characters: Charles Strickland, Lord Marchmain

Also Ranked

#20 on The Greatest Actors & Actresses in Entertainment History

#9 on The Best English Actors of All Time

#36 on The Best Actors in Film History

#11 on The Greatest British Actors of All Time

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Ian McKellen is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list 17 Actors Who Have Played Richard III
Photo: United Artists

Sir Ian McKellen played Richard III in the 1995 British drama Richard III.

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Age: 77

Birthplace: Burnley, United Kingdom

Nationality: United Kingdom, England

Characters: King Lear

Also Ranked

#20 on The Best Actors Working Today

#12 on The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps

#69 on The Greatest Actors & Actresses in Entertainment History

#3 on The Best English Actors of All Time

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Denzel Washington is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list 17 Actors Who Have Played Richard III
Photo: @TheaterHistory/via Twitter

Denzel Washington took on the role of Richard III on Broadway in 1990.

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Age: 62

Birthplace: Mount Vernon, New York, United States of America

Nationality: United States of America

Characters: Dr. Philip Chandler

Also Ranked

#8 on The Best Actors Working Today

#8 on The Best American Actors Working Today

#28 on The Greatest Actors & Actresses in Entertainment History

#11 on The Best Living American Actors

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Kevin Spacey is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list 17 Actors Who Have Played Richard III
Photo: Millmaine Entertainment Marketing/via YouTube

Kevin Spacey played Richard III in a Sam Mendes-directed stage version of Shakespeare's play in 2011.

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Age: 57

Birthplace: South Orange, New Jersey, United States of America

Nationality: United States of America

Characters: Benton, Francis Underwood, Chris, Mel Profitt, Detective Sgt. Cole, + more

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#2 on The Best Actors Working Today

#2 on The Best American Actors Working Today

#30 on The Greatest Actors & Actresses in Entertainment History

#5 on The Best Living American Actors

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