American People The Best African American Actors in Film  

Ranker Film
Originally by
15.7k votes 1.9k voters 74.7k views 72 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 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. 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.

1
749 144
Denzel Washington is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Denzel Washington Antwone Fisher, Book of Eli, American Gangster

2
600 116
Morgan Freeman is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Morgan Freeman Shawshank Redemption, Driving Miss Daisy, Million Dollar Baby

3
524 122
Samuel L. Jackson is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Samuel L. Jackson Pulp Fiction, The Avengers, Django Unchained

4
426 123
Idris Elba is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
takizm777 added Idris Elba Thor, Thor: The Dark World, Prometheus

5
491 139
Will Smith is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Will Smith After Earth, I Am Legend, Independence Day

6
363 88
Forest Whitaker is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Forest Whitaker The Butler, The Last King of Scotland, The Last Stand

7
297 108
Jamie Foxx is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
eilish added Jamie Foxx Django Unchained, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Ray

8
327 104
Laurence Fishburne is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Laurence Fishburne The Matrix, Man of Steel, Boyz in the Hood

9
302 85
James Earl Jones is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
James Earl Jones The Lion King, Return of the Jedi, Field of Dreams

10
270 82
Don Cheadle is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Don Cheadle Crash, Hotel Rwanda, Iron Man 3

11
222 86
Chiwetel Ejiofor is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Chiwetel Ejiofor Twelve Years a Slave, American Gangster, Children of Men

12
262 92
Eddie Murphy is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Eddie Murphy Beverly Hills Cop, Coming to America, Norbit

13
265 97
Sidney Poitier is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Sidney Poitier Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, In the Heat of the Night, Lilies of the Field

14
204 75
Danny Glover is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Danny Glover Lethal Weapon, The Color Purple, Shooter

15
220 87
Terrence Howard is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Terrence Howard Iron Man, The Best Man, Hustle and Flow

16
191 79
Michael Clarke Duncan is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Michael Clarke Duncan Planet of the Apes, Daredevil, The Green Mile

17
204 82
Cuba Gooding, Jr. is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Cuba Gooding, Jr. What Dreams May Come, Jerry Maguire, Boyz in the Hood

18
149 25
Chadwick Boseman is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Chadwick Boseman 42, The Express, Get on Up

19
146 24
Michael B. Jordan is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Michael B. Jordan That Awkward Moment, Fruitvale Station, Hardball

20
166 82
Kevin Hart is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
takizm777 added Kevin Hart The 40-Year-Old Virgin, This Is the End, Scary Movie 3

21
164 74
Ice Cube is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
takizm777 added Ice Cube Friday, 21 Jump Street, Boyz n the Hood

22
177 98
Wesley Snipes is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Wesley Snipes Blade, White Men Can't Jump, Demolition Man

23
152 73
Ving Rhames is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Ving Rhames Pulp Fiction, Dawn of the Dead, Mission: Impossible

24
135 58
Morris Chestnut is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
takizm777 added Morris Chestnut Boyz n the Hood, Kick-Ass 2, Identity Thief

25
111 61
Djimon Hounsou is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Djimon Hounsou Blood Diamond, Gladiator, Amistad

26
141 74
Richard Pryor is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Richard Pryor See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Stir Crazy

27
106 57
Omar Epps is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
takizm777 added Omar Epps Scream 2, Love & Basketball, Juice

28
143 70
Louis Gossett, Jr. is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Louis Gossett, Jr. An Officer and a Gentleman, Iron Eagle, Roots

29
112 70
Chris Tucker is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
takizm777 added Chris Tucker The Fifth Element, Friday, Silver Linings Playbook

30
106 61
Gregory Hines is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Gregory Hines White Nights, Tap, Running Scared

31
123 67
Billy Dee Williams is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Billy Dee Williams Return of the Jedi, Batman, Brian's Song

32
103 67
Keith David is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Keith David The Princess and the Frog, The Thing, Pitch Black

33
91 62
Redd Foxx is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
takizm777 added Redd Foxx Harlem Nights, Cotton Comes to Harlem, On Location: Redd Foxx

34
99 57
John Amos is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
John Amos Coming to America, Roots, Lock Up

35
81 61
Mike Epps is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
takizm777 added Mike Epps The Hangover, The Hangover Part III, Hancock

36
38 11
Donald Glover is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
GabeBallard added Donald Glover The Muppets, Mystery Team, The To Do List

37
37 11
Daniel Kaluuya is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
GabeBallard added Daniel Kaluuya Johnny English Reborn, Welcome to the Punch, Chatroom

38
73 57
Mos Def is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Mos Def Be Kind Rewind, Something the Lord Made, The Italian Job

39
91 60
Charles S. Dutton is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Charles S. Dutton Gothika, Alien 3, Badass

40
86 59
Paul Winfield is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Paul Winfield The Terminator, Sounder, White Dog

41
82 56
LeVar Burton is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
LeVar Burton Roots, Smart House, Star Trek Nemesis

42
30 9
Taye Diggs is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
jaelle08 added Taye Diggs Chicago, Equilibrium, Go

43
77 52
Larenz Tate is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Larenz Tate The Hot Spot, Menace II Society, Love Jones

44
60 52
Michael K. Williams is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Michael K. Williams 12 Years a Slave, Robocop, Snitch

45
78 58
Yaphet Kotto is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Yaphet Kotto Alien, Live and Let Die, Midnight Run

46
72 52
Courtney B. Vance is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Courtney B. Vance The Hunt for Red October, The Preacher's Wife, The Divide

47
68 50
Giancarlo Esposito is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Giancarlo Esposito Do The Right Thing, The Usual Suspects, Last Holiday

48
42 39
Omar Sy is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Omar Sy Jurassic World, The Intouchables, Micmacs

49
73 58
Jeffrey Wright is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Jeffrey Wright The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Casino Royale, Source Code

50
32 18
Lakeith Stanfield is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Lakeith Stanfield Selma, Short Term 12, Straight Outta Compton