Entertainment

The Best African American Actors in Film  

Ranker Film
Originally by
29.5k votes 4.1k voters 210.9k views 80 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
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. (born December 28, 1954) is an American actor, director, and producer. He has received two Golden Globe awards, one Tony Award, and two Academy Awards: Best ...more
2
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 (born June 1, 1937) is an American actor, film director, and film narrator. Freeman won an Academy Award in 2005 for Best Supporting Actor with Million Dollar Baby (2004), and he ...more
3
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 (born December 21, 1948) is an American actor and film producer. A recipient of critical acclaim and numerous accolades and awards, Jackson is the actor whose films have ...more
4
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 Smith Jr. (born September 25, 1968) is an American actor, rapper and media personality. In April 2007, Newsweek called him "the most powerful actor in Hollywood". Smith ...more
5
Forest Whitaker is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
The Butler, The Last King of Scotland, The Last Stand
Forest Steven Whitaker III (born July 15, 1961) is an American actor, producer, and director who has earned a reputation for intensive character study work for films such as Bird, The Crying ...more
6
Idris Elba is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
takizm777 added Thor, Thor: The Dark World, Prometheus
Idrissa Akuna Elba (; born 6 September 1972) is an English actor, writer, producer, musician, DJ, rapper, and singer. He is known for roles including Stringer Bell in the HBO series The Wire, ...more
7
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 (born July 30, 1961) is an American actor, playwright, producer, screenwriter, and film director. He is known for playing Morpheus in The Matrix trilogy, Jason ...more
8
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 (born January 17, 1931) is an American actor. His career has spanned more than seven decades, and he has been described as "one of America's most distinguished and ...more
9
Sidney Poitier is listed (or ranked) 9 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, (; born February 20, 1927) is a Bahamian-American actor and film director. In 1964, Poitier became the first Bahamian and first black actor to win an Academy Award for Best ...more
10
Don Cheadle is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Crash, Hotel Rwanda, Iron Man 3
Donald Frank Cheadle Jr. (; born November 29, 1964) is an American actor, author, director, producer and writer. Following early roles in Hamburger Hill (1987), and as the gangster ...more
11
Chiwetel Ejiofor is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Twelve Years a Slave, American Gangster, Children of Men
Chiwetel Umeadi Ejiofor ( CHOO-ə-tel EJ-ee-oh-for; born July 7, 1977) is a British actor.After enrolling at the National Youth Theatre in 1995 and attending the London Academy of Music and ...more
12
Jamie Foxx is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
eilish added Django Unchained, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Ray
Eric Marlon Bishop (born December 13, 1967), known professionally as Jamie Foxx, is an American actor, singer, songwriter, record producer and comedian. For his portrayal of Ray Charles in the ...more
13
Eddie Murphy is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Beverly Hills Cop, Coming to America, Norbit
Edward Regan Murphy (born April 3, 1961) is an American actor, comedian, and singer. Murphy was a regular cast member on Saturday Night Live from 1980 to 1984. He has worked as a stand-up ...more
14
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 (December 10, 1957 – September 3, 2012) was an American actor best known for his breakout role as John Coffey in The Green Mile (1999), for which he was nominated for the ...more
15
Chadwick Boseman is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Chadwick Boseman 42, The Express, Get on Up
Chadwick Aaron Boseman (born November 29, 1976, or in 1977) (sources differ) is an American actor known for his portrayals of real-life historical figures such as Jackie Robinson in 42 (2013), ...more
16
Danny Glover is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Lethal Weapon, The Color Purple, Shooter
Danny Lebern Glover (; born July 22, 1946) is an American actor, film director, and political activist. He is known for his lead role as Roger Murtaugh in the Lethal Weapon film series. He also ...more
17
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 (born February 9, 1987) is an American actor. He is known for his film roles as shooting victim Oscar Grant in the drama Fruitvale Station (2013), boxer Adonis Creed in the ...more
18
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 Mark Gooding Jr. (born January 2, 1968) is an American actor and director. After his breakthrough role as Tre Styles in Boyz n the Hood (1991), he appeared in A Few Good Men (1992), The ...more
19
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 Dashon Howard (born March 11, 1969) is an American actor and singer. Having his first major roles in the 1995 films Dead Presidents and Mr. Holland's Opus, Howard broke into the ...more
20
Ving Rhames is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Pulp Fiction, Dawn of the Dead, Mission: Impossible
Irving Rameses Rhames (born May 12, 1959) is an American stage and screen actor. He is best known for his starring role as Luther Stickell in the Mission: Impossible film series and his ...more
21
Wesley Snipes is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Blade, White Men Can't Jump, Demolition Man
Wesley Trent Snipes (born July 31, 1962) is an American actor, director, film producer, martial artist, and author. His prominent film roles include New Jack City (1991), White Men Can't Jump ...more
22
Ice Cube is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
takizm777 added Friday, 21 Jump Street, Boyz n the Hood
O'Shea Jackson (born June 15, 1969), known professionally as Ice Cube, is an American rapper, actor, producer, director and writer. Ice Cube initially gained recognition in 1984 as a member of ...more
23
Djimon Hounsou is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Blood Diamond, Gladiator, Amistad
Djimon Gaston Hounsou (; French: [dʒimɔ̃ unsu]; born April 24, 1964) is a Beninese American actor and model. Hounsou began his career appearing in music videos. He made his film debut in the ...more
24
Morris Chestnut is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
takizm777 added Boyz n the Hood, Kick-Ass 2, Identity Thief
Morris Lamont Chestnut Jr. (born January 1, 1969) is an American actor. He first came to attention for his role in the 1991 film Boyz N The Hood. He has appeared in feature films and on ...more
25
Kevin Hart is listed (or ranked) 25 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 (born July 6, 1979) is an American stand-up comedian, actor, and producer. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Hart began his career by winning several amateur ...more