Entertainment

The Best Black Actors in Film 

Ranker Film
Originally by
Updated March 24, 2020 32.9k votes 4.6k voters 245k views 86 items

List Rules Vote up the black and African-American male actors, living or passed, with the most consistent top acting performances.

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 Black Actors in Film
Antwone Fisher, Book of Eli, American Gangster

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

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

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2
Morgan Freeman is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Black Actors in Film
Shawshank Redemption, Driving Miss Daisy, Million Dollar Baby

Birthplace: Memphis, Tennessee, United States of America

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

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3
Samuel L. Jackson is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Black Actors in Film
Pulp Fiction, The Avengers, Django Unchained

Birthplace: Washington, D.C., United States of America

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

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#55 of 1,145 The Best Actors in Film History #4 of 282 The Best (Male) Actors Working Today The Best Samuel L. Jackson Movies, Ranked List

4
Will Smith is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Black Actors in Film
After Earth, I Am Legend, Independence Day

Birthplace: USA, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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

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5
Forest Whitaker is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Black Actors in Film
The Butler, The Last King of Scotland, The Last Stand

Birthplace: Longview, Texas, United States of America

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

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#119 of 1,145 The Best Actors in Film History #52 of 282 The Best (Male) Actors Working Today

6
Idris Elba is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Black Actors in Film
takizm777 added Thor, Thor: The Dark World, Prometheus

Birthplace: London Borough of Hackney, London, England

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

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7
Laurence Fishburne is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Black Actors in Film
The Matrix, Man of Steel, Boyz in the Hood

Birthplace: Augusta, Georgia, United States of America

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

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8
James Earl Jones is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Black Actors in Film
The Lion King, Return of the Jedi, Field of Dreams

Birthplace: Arkabutla, Mississippi, United States of America

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

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9
Eddie Murphy is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Black Actors in Film
Beverly Hills Cop, Coming to America, Norbit

Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States of America

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

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10
Don Cheadle is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Black Actors in Film
Crash, Hotel Rwanda, Iron Man 3

Birthplace: Kansas City, Missouri, United States of America

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

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11
Sidney Poitier is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Black Actors in Film
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, In the Heat of the Night, Lilies of the Field

Birthplace: Miami, Florida, United States of America

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

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12
Jamie Foxx is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Black Actors in Film
eilish added Django Unchained, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Ray

Birthplace: Terrell, Texas, United States of America

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

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#83 of 282 The Best (Male) Actors Working Today #256 of 2,003 The Greatest Actors & Actresses in Entertainment History The Best Jamie Foxx Movies

13
Chiwetel Ejiofor is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Black Actors in Film
Twelve Years a Slave, American Gangster, Children of Men

Birthplace: Forest Gate, England

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

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14
Danny Glover is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Black Actors in Film
Lethal Weapon, The Color Purple, Shooter

Birthplace: USA, California, San Francisco

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

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15
Michael Clarke Duncan is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Black Actors in Film
Planet of the Apes, Daredevil, The Green Mile

Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States of America

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

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16
Cuba Gooding, Jr. is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Black Actors in Film
What Dreams May Come, Jerry Maguire, Boyz in the Hood

Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States of America

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

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#247 of 1,145 The Best Actors in Film History #140 of 180 The Best Living American Actors The Best Cuba Gooding, Jr. Movies

17
Terrence Howard is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Black Actors in Film
Iron Man, The Best Man, Hustle and Flow

Birthplace: USA, Chicago, Illinois

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

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18
Chadwick Boseman is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Black Actors in Film
Chadwick Boseman 42, The Express, Get on Up

Birthplace: Anderson, South Carolina, United States of America

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

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19
Ving Rhames is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Black Actors in Film
Pulp Fiction, Dawn of the Dead, Mission: Impossible

Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States of America

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

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20
Wesley Snipes is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Black Actors in Film
Blade, White Men Can't Jump, Demolition Man

Birthplace: Orlando, Florida, United States of America

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

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21
Ice Cube is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Black Actors in Film
takizm777 added Friday, 21 Jump Street, Boyz n the Hood

Birthplace: Los Angeles, USA, California, Baldwin Hills

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

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22
Michael B. Jordan is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Black Actors in Film
That Awkward Moment, Fruitvale Station, Hardball

Birthplace: Santa Ana, California, United States of America

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

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23
Louis Gossett, Jr. is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Black Actors in Film
An Officer and a Gentleman, Iron Eagle, Roots

Birthplace: New York City, Sheepshead Bay, USA, New York

Louis Cameron Gossett Jr. (born May 27, 1936) is an American actor. He is best known for his Academy Award winning role as Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley in the 1982 film An Officer and a ...more
24
Djimon Hounsou is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Black Actors in Film
Blood Diamond, Gladiator, Amistad

Birthplace: Cotonou, Benin

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

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25
Kevin Hart is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Black Actors in Film
takizm777 added The 40-Year-Old Virgin, This Is the End, Scary Movie 3

Birthplace: USA, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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

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