Entertainment The Best African American Actors in Film  

Ranker Film
Originally by
24.1k votes 3.2k voters 145.5k views 79 items

List Rules Only male actors.

From any era and genre, these are the greatest African American actors in film history, ranked by the community to determine who is the best African American actor of all time. These top black actors are the best of the best and many are also among the best living actors today. From those who have portrayed classic black characters, to award winning actors, only the best African American male actors are on this list. (Click here to vote on the best black actresses.)

Who are the greatest African American actors in film? From Oscar winners like Denzel Washington, classic actors like Sidney Poitier, and other names such as Terrence Howard, each of the famous black actors on this list has earned his place with an excellent body of work and memorable performances. Some African American comedians and rappers are also on this list, having found success in the world of film as well. 

The black male actors that are featured on this list include some of the best actors of all time including, Morgan Freeman, Don Cheadle, Samuel L. Jackson, Ossie Davis, Forest Whitaker, Danny Glover, and Eddie Murphy. Of course, you'll also find young black actors who've recently risen to the top. Is the African American actor you think is best not on the list? Add him to make a truly comprehensive list to determine the best African American actors in film history.

list ordered by
1
1,215 231
Denzel Washington is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Antwone Fisher, Book of Eli, American Gangster
Denzel Hayes Washington, Jr. is an American actor and filmmaker. Washington has received much critical acclaim for his film work since the 1990s, including his portrayals of real-life figures ...more
2
987 183
Morgan Freeman is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Shawshank Redemption, Driving Miss Daisy, Million Dollar Baby
Morgan Freeman is an American actor, film director, and narrator. Freeman has received Academy Award nominations for his performances in Street Smart, Driving Miss Daisy, The Shawshank ...more
3
869 204
Samuel L. Jackson is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Pulp Fiction, The Avengers, Django Unchained
Samuel Leroy Jackson is an American actor and film producer. He achieved prominence and critical acclaim in the early 1990s with films such as Jungle Fever, Patriot Games, Amos & Andrew, ...more
4
831 241
Will Smith is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
After Earth, I Am Legend, Independence Day
Willard Carroll "Will" Smith, Jr. is an American actor, producer, rapper, and songwriter. He has enjoyed success in television, film, and music. In April 2007, Newsweek called him ...more
5
663 236
Idris Elba is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
takizm777 added Thor, Thor: The Dark World, Prometheus
Idrissa Akuna "Idris" Elba is a British actor, producer, singer, rapper, and DJ. Elba is best known for his portrayal of Russell "Stringer" Bell in the HBO series The Wire, ...more
6
565 138
Forest Whitaker is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
The Butler, The Last King of Scotland, The Last Stand
Forest Steven Whitaker III is an American actor, producer, and director. He has earned a reputation for intensive character study work for films such as Lee Daniels' The Butler, Bird and Ghost ...more
7
518 150
Laurence Fishburne is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
The Matrix, Man of Steel, Boyz in the Hood
Laurence John Fishburne III is an American actor, playwright, director, and producer. He is known for his roles as Morpheus in the Matrix science fiction film trilogy, Mr. Clean in Apocalypse ...more
8
456 120
James Earl Jones is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
The Lion King, Return of the Jedi, Field of Dreams
James Earl Jones is an American actor who in a career of more than 60 years has become known as "one of America's most distinguished and versatile" actors and "one of the greatest ...more
9
461 196
Jamie Foxx is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
eilish added Django Unchained, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Ray
Eric Marlon Bishop, known professionally as Jamie Foxx, is an American actor, singer, comedian, writer, and producer. As an actor, his work in the 2004 Ray Charles biographical film Ray earned ...more
10
337 138
Chiwetel Ejiofor is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Twelve Years a Slave, American Gangster, Children of Men
Chiwetelu Umeadi "Chiwetel" Ejiofor, OBE is an English actor of film, television, and theatre. After enrolling at the National Youth Theatre in 1995, and then subsequently gaining a ...more
11
423 142
Don Cheadle is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Crash, Hotel Rwanda, Iron Man 3
Donald Frank "Don" Cheadle, Jr. is an American actor. Cheadle had an early role in Picket Fences and followed it with performances in Devil in a Blue Dress, Rosewood and Boogie Nights. ...more
12
427 161
Eddie Murphy is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Beverly Hills Cop, Coming to America, Norbit
Edward Regan "Eddie" Murphy is an American comedian, actor, writer, singer, and director. Box-office takes from Murphy's films make him the 4th-highest grossing actor in the United ...more
13
381 128
Sidney Poitier is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, In the Heat of the Night, Lilies of the Field
Sir Sidney Poitier, KBE, is a Bahamian-American actor, film director, author and diplomat. In 1964, Poitier became the first African-American to win an Academy Award for Best Actor, for his role ...more
14
300 113
Michael Clarke Duncan is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Planet of the Apes, Daredevil, The Green Mile
Michael Clarke Duncan was an American actor, best known for his breakout role as John Coffey in The Green Mile, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. He was also ...more
15
309 105
Danny Glover is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Lethal Weapon, The Color Purple, Shooter
Daniel Lebern "Danny" Glover is an American actor, film director and political activist. Glover is well known for his roles as Mr. Albert Johnson in The Color Purple, Michael Harrigan ...more
16
318 61
Chadwick Boseman is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
42, The Express, Get on Up
Chadwick Aaron Boseman is an American actor, screenwriter, and playwright. He is best known for portraying Jackie Robinson in 42 and James Brown in Get On Up.
17
334 71
Michael B. Jordan is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
That Awkward Moment, Fruitvale Station, Hardball
Michael Bakari Jordan is an American actor. He is best known for his roles as East Dillon High School quarterback Vince Howard in Friday Night Lights, Reggie Montgomery in All My Children, Steve ...more
18
321 122
Cuba Gooding, Jr. is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
What Dreams May Come, Jerry Maguire, Boyz in the Hood
Cuba M. Gooding Jr. is an American film actor. He is best known for his Academy Award–winning role as Rod Tidwell in Cameron Crowe's Jerry Maguire.
19
320 138
Terrence Howard is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Iron Man, The Best Man, Hustle and Flow
Terrence Howard is an actor, singer-songwriter, film producer and record producer.
20
268 121
Ice Cube is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
takizm777 added Friday, 21 Jump Street, Boyz n the Hood
O'Shea Jackson, Sr., better known by his stage name Ice Cube, is an American rapper, record producer, actor, and filmmaker. He began his career as a member of the hip-hop group C.I.A. and later ...more
21
227 99
Ving Rhames is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Pulp Fiction, Dawn of the Dead, Mission: Impossible
Irving Rameses "Ving" Rhames is an American actor best known for his work in Bringing Out the Dead, Pulp Fiction, Out of Sight, Baby Boy, Don King: Only in America, Dawn of the Dead, ...more
22
260 137
Wesley Snipes is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Blade, White Men Can't Jump, Demolition Man
Wesley Trent Snipes is an American actor, film producer, and martial artist. He is best known for his role as the Marvel Comics character Blade in the Blade film trilogy. He formed a production ...more
23
283 152
Kevin Hart is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
takizm777 added The 40-Year-Old Virgin, This Is the End, Scary Movie 3
Kevin Darnell Hart is an American actor, comedian, writer, and producer. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Hart began his career by winning several amateur comedy competitions at ...more
24
190 86
Djimon Hounsou is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Blood Diamond, Gladiator, Amistad
Djimon Gaston Hounsou is an actor, model, and Beninese expatriate in the United States, who has been nominated for two Academy Awards.
25
213 91
Morris Chestnut is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
takizm777 added Boyz n the Hood, Kick-Ass 2, Identity Thief
Morris L. Chestnut is an American actor. He is known for his roles in the films Boyz n the Hood, The Best Man and its sequel, The Brothers, Two Can Play That Game, Like Mike, Ladder 49, The ...more