actors The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First  

Greg Stopera
8.9k votes 760 voters 19k views 77 items Follow Embed

List Rules Notable Actors Who Made It Big On TV Before Jumping To Movies

This is a list of famous film actors who got famous on TV first, as ranked by experts and fans alike. There are many routes an actor can take to make it big. Some actors start out on in theatre, while others start out in modeling. Many notable actors though start their careers in television.

Television, at one time, was the main gateway to film stardom. In some ways, it still is but now many film actors, like Steve Buscemi and Laura Dern have gone the other direction and found a very lucrative career on hit TV shows. Before the advent of cable -- and quality programming -- actors had to toil on low-rated sitcoms and mediocre dramas before finding that one movie script that could shoot them to superstardom. But sometimes, the actor finds superstardom on television. Massive, worldwide superstardom that easily parlays into film roles.

Many on this list can be considered the greatest actors who were famous on TV first. Actors like Tom Hanks, George Clooney, and Clint Eastwood. Latter generations of film and television fans will be surprised to find out a top-notch actor like Denzel Washington got his start as one of the cast members of "St. Elsewhere" or that Academy Award-winning actress Melissa Leo was one of the stars of "Homicide: Life On The Streets". Maybe this list will prompt them to Netflix a couple of those old episodes.

Please check out this list of top actors who had TV fame before becoming film stars and rank them. And if you don't see your favorite TV-turned-film actors here, feel free to add them so that others can vote for them.

1
+ - 453 46
Tom Hanks is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Tom Hanks Bosom Buddies (1980-1982)

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2
+ - 102 46
Michael J. Fox is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Michael J. Fox Family Ties (1982-1989)

3
+ - 159 89
Denzel Washington is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Denzel Washington St. Elsewhere (1982-1988)

4
+ - 166 94
Robin Williams is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Robin Williams Mork & Mindy (1978-1982)

5
+ - 212 127
Morgan Freeman is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Morgan Freeman The Electric Company (1971-1977)

6
+ - 148 83
Clint Eastwood is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Clint Eastwood Rawhide (1959-1966)

7
+ - 146 82
Bill Murray is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Bill Murray Saturday Night Live (1977-1980)

8
+ - 117 62
Woody Harrelson is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Woody Harrelson Cheers (1985-1993)

9
+ - 106 54
Danny DeVito is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Danny DeVito Taxi (1978-1983)

10
+ - 148 85
Bruce Willis is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Bruce Willis Moonlighting (1985-1989)

11
+ - 104 54
Sally Field is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Sally Field Gidget (1965-1966), The Flying Nun (1967-1970)

12
+ - 133 76
George Clooney is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
George Clooney ER (1994-1999)

13
+ - 150 89
Will Smith is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Will Smith The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990-1996)

14
+ - 165 101
Johnny Depp is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Johnny Depp 21 Jump Street (1987-1991)

15
+ - 85 44
James Garner is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
James Garner Maverick (1957-1962)

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16
+ - 113 66
Eddie Murphy is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Eddie Murphy Saturday Night Live (1980-1984)

17
+ - 84 44
Billy Crystal is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Billy Crystal Soap (1977-1981)

18
+ - 89 49
Dan Aykroyd is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Dan Aykroyd Saturday Night Live (1975-1979)

19
+ - 92 54
Jennifer Aniston is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Jennifer Aniston Friends (1994-2004)

20
+ - 85 49
Michael Douglas is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Michael Douglas The Streets of San Francisco (1972-1976)

21
+ - 101 63
John Travolta is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
John Travolta Welcome Back, Kotter (1975-1979)

22
+ - 102 65
Jamie Foxx is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Jamie Foxx In Living Color (1991-1994)

23
+ - 81 48
Christopher Lloyd is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Christopher Lloyd Taxi (1978-1983)

24
+ - 86 55
Marisa Tomei is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Marisa Tomei A Different World (1987)

25
+ - 97 65
Jim Carrey is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Jim Carrey In Living Color (1990-1994)

26
+ - 67 40
Goldie Hawn is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Goldie Hawn Good Morning, World (1967-1968), Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (1968-1970)

27
+ - 76 48
Steve Carell is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Steve Carell The Office (2005-2011)

28
+ - 72 47
Ryan Reynolds is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Ryan Reynolds Two Guys and a Girl (1998–2001)

29
+ - 73 49
Tim Allen is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Tim Allen Home Improvement (1991-1999)

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30
+ - 67 44
John Belushi is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
John Belushi Saturday Night Live (1975-1979)

31
+ - 61 39
Helen Hunt is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Helen Hunt Mad About You (1992-1999)

32
+ - 22 7
J.K. Simmons is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
J.K. Simmons Oz (1997–2003), Law & Order (1997–2010)

33
+ - 60 43
Greg Kinnear is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Greg Kinnear Talk Soup (1991–1995)

34
+ - 71 55
Alec Baldwin is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Alec Baldwin The Doctors (1980–1982), Knots Landing (1984–1985)

35
+ - 66 52
Queen Latifah is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Queen Latifah Living Single (1993–1998)

36
+ - 64 51
Idris Elba is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Idris Elba The Wire (2002–2004)

37
+ - 20 9
Mary Tyler Moore is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Mary Tyler Moore The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961–1966), The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970–1977)

38
+ - 20 9
Ray Liotta is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Ray Liotta Another World (1978-1981)

39
+ - 21 10
Robin Wright is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Robin Wright Santa Barbara (1984–1988)

40
+ - 76 64
Will Ferrell is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Will Ferrell Saturday Night Live (1995–2002)

41
+ - 60 49
Ryan Gosling is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Ryan Gosling The Mickey Mouse Club (1993–1995)

42
+ - 21 11
Chevy Chase is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Chevy Chase Saturday Night Live (1975–1976)

43
+ - 20 11
Burt Reynolds is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Burt Reynolds Gunsmoke (1962–1965)

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44
+ - 20 11
Ben Stiller is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Ben Stiller The Ben Stiller Show (1992–1993)

45
+ - 69 61
Adam Sandler is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Adam Sandler Saturday Night Live (1990–1995)

46
+ - 19 11
Meg Ryan is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Meg Ryan As the World Turns (1982-1984)

47
+ - 60 53
Cher is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Cher The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour (1971–1974)

48
+ - 17 10
Teri Garr is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Teri Garr Young Frankenstein, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Dumb and Dumber

49
+ - 49 44
Pat Morita is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Pat Morita Happy Days (1975-1976, 1982-1983)

50
+ - 54 51
Chris Farley is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Film Actors Who Got Famous on TV First
Chris Farley Saturday Night Live (1990–1995)