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The Best African-American Film Actors

Updated July 21, 2020 40.0k votes 5.6k voters 291.6k views101 items

List RulesVote up the 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? Including Oscar winners, like Denzel Washington, classic actors, like Sidney Poitier, and movie stars, like Will Smith, 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 a movie, or two. 

From young to old, the popular 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 leading Hollywood men.

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  • 1
    Morgan Freeman
    1,925
    362

    Morgan Freeman

    Shawshank Redemption, Driving Miss Daisy

    BirthplaceMemphis, Tennessee, United States of America

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  • 2
    Denzel Washington
    2,319
    468

    Denzel Washington

    Antwone Fisher, Book of Eli

    BirthplaceMount Vernon, New York, United States of America

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  • 3
    Samuel L. Jackson
    1,727
    359

    Samuel L. Jackson

    Pulp Fiction, The Avengers

    BirthplaceWashington, D.C., United States of America

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  • 4
    Will Smith
    1,588
    473

    Will Smith

    After Earth, I Am Legend

    BirthplacePhiladelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America

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  • 5
    Laurence Fishburne
    993
    265

    Laurence Fishburne

    The Matrix, Man of Steel

    BirthplaceAugusta, Georgia, United States of America

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  • 6
    Forest Whitaker
    1,027
    290

    Forest Whitaker

    The Butler, The Last King of Scotland

    BirthplaceLongview, Texas, United States of America

  • 7
    James Earl Jones
    844
    220

    James Earl Jones

    The Lion King, Return of the Jedi

    BirthplaceArkabutla, USA, Mississippi

  • 8
    Sidney Poitier
    696
    214

    Sidney Poitier

    Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, In the Heat of the Night

    BirthplaceUSA, Florida, Miami

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  • 9
    Danny Glover
    615
    180

    Danny Glover

    Lethal Weapon, The Color Purple

    BirthplaceCalifornia, United States of America

  • 10
    Chadwick Boseman
    874
    168

    Chadwick Boseman

    42, The Express

    BirthplaceAnderson, South Carolina

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  • 11
    Eddie Murphy
    891
    302

    Eddie Murphy

    Beverly Hills Cop, Coming to America

    BirthplaceNew York City, USA, New York

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  • 12
    Jamie Foxx
    905
    367

    Jamie Foxx

    Django Unchained, The Amazing Spider-Man 2

    BirthplaceTerrell, Texas, United States of America

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  • 13
    Don Cheadle
    807
    269

    Don Cheadle

    Crash, Hotel Rwanda

    BirthplaceKansas City, Missouri, United States of America

  • 14
    Mahershala Ali
    332
    72

    Mahershala Ali

    The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Place Beyond the Pines

    BirthplaceOakland, California, United States of America

  • 15
    Michael B. Jordan
    802
    207

    Michael B. Jordan

    That Awkward Moment, Fruitvale Station

    BirthplaceSanta Ana, California

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  • 16
    Michael Clarke Duncan
    561
    219

    Michael Clarke Duncan

    Planet of the Apes, Daredevil

    BirthplaceChicago, Illinois, United States of America

  • 17
    Cuba Gooding, Jr.
    593
    228

    Cuba Gooding, Jr.

    What Dreams May Come, Jerry Maguire

    BirthplaceNew York City, USA, New York

  • 18
    Ving Rhames
    424
    159

    Ving Rhames

    Pulp Fiction, Dawn of the Dead

    BirthplaceNew York City, New York, United States of America

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  • 19
    Ice Cube
    512
    234

    Ice Cube

    Friday, 21 Jump Street

    BirthplaceLos Angeles, USA, California, Baldwin Hills

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  • 20
    Wesley Snipes
    488
    232

    Wesley Snipes

    Blade, White Men Can't Jump

    BirthplaceOrlando, Florida, United States of America

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  • 21
    Terrence Howard
    552
    252

    Terrence Howard

    Iron Man, The Best Man

    BirthplaceChicago, Illinois, United States of America

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  • 22
    Louis Gossett, Jr.
    352
    155

    Louis Gossett, Jr.

    An Officer and a Gentleman, Iron Eagle

    BirthplaceNew York City, New York, United States of America

  • 23
    Chris Tucker
    358
    180

    Chris Tucker

    The Fifth Element, Friday

    BirthplaceAtlanta, Georgia, United States of America

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  • 24
    Richard Pryor
    331
    165

    Richard Pryor

    See No Evil, Hear No Evil

    BirthplacePeoria, Illinois, United States of America

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  • 25
    Morris Chestnut
    401
    189

    Morris Chestnut

    Boyz n the Hood, Kick-Ass 2

    BirthplaceCerritos, California, United States of America

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    #29 of 190 The Greatest Black Actors in Film History#1844 of 1,883 The Greatest Actors & Actresses in Entertainment History