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The Best African-American Film Actors

Updated December 24, 2020 43.2k votes 6.1k voters 318.5k views103 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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  • Denzel Washington1
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    Denzel Washington

    Antwone Fisher, Book of Eli

    BirthplaceUSA, New York, Mount Vernon

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  • Morgan Freeman2
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    Morgan Freeman

    Shawshank Redemption, Driving Miss Daisy

    BirthplaceMemphis, Tennessee, United States of America

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  • Samuel L. Jackson3
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    Samuel L. Jackson

    Pulp Fiction, The Avengers

    BirthplaceWashington, D.C., United States of America

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  • Will Smith4
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    Will Smith

    After Earth, I Am Legend

    BirthplacePhiladelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America

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  • Laurence Fishburne5
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    Laurence Fishburne

    The Matrix, Man of Steel

    BirthplaceAugusta, Georgia, United States of America

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  • Forest Whitaker6
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    Forest Whitaker

    The Butler, The Last King of Scotland

    BirthplaceLongview, Texas, United States of America

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  • James Earl Jones7
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    James Earl Jones

    The Lion King, Return of the Jedi

    BirthplaceArkabutla, Mississippi, United States of America

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  • Sidney Poitier8
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    Sidney Poitier

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

    BirthplaceMiami, Florida, United States of America

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  • Danny Glover9
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    Danny Glover

    Lethal Weapon, The Color Purple

    BirthplaceCalifornia, United States of America

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  • Chadwick Boseman10
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    Chadwick Boseman

    42, The Express

    BirthplaceAnderson, South Carolina

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  • Jamie Foxx11
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    Jamie Foxx

    Django Unchained, The Amazing Spider-Man 2

    BirthplaceTerrell, Texas, United States of America

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  • Mahershala Ali12
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    Mahershala Ali

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

    BirthplaceOakland, California, United States of America

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  • Eddie Murphy13
    950
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    Eddie Murphy

    Beverly Hills Cop, Coming to America

    BirthplaceNew York City, New York

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  • Don Cheadle14
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    Don Cheadle

    Crash, Hotel Rwanda

    BirthplaceKansas City, USA, Missouri

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  • Michael Clarke Duncan15
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    Michael Clarke Duncan

    Planet of the Apes, Daredevil

    BirthplaceUSA, Chicago, Illinois

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  • Michael B. Jordan16
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    Michael B. Jordan

    That Awkward Moment, Fruitvale Station

    BirthplaceSanta Ana, California, USA

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  • Cuba Gooding, Jr.17
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    Cuba Gooding, Jr.

    What Dreams May Come, Jerry Maguire

    BirthplaceNew York City, New York, United States of America

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  • Ving Rhames18
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    Ving Rhames

    Pulp Fiction, Dawn of the Dead

    BirthplaceNew York City, New York, United States of America

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    #310 of 1,017 The Best Actors in Film History#162 of 310 The Coolest Actors Ever

  • Wesley Snipes19
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    Wesley Snipes

    Blade, White Men Can't Jump

    BirthplaceOrlando, Florida, United States of America

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  • Terrence Howard20
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    Terrence Howard

    Iron Man, The Best Man

    BirthplaceChicago, Illinois, United States of America

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  • Ice Cube21
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    Ice Cube

    Friday, 21 Jump Street

    BirthplaceSouth Los Angeles, California, United States of America

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  • Louis Gossett, Jr.22
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    Louis Gossett, Jr.

    An Officer and a Gentleman, Iron Eagle

    BirthplaceSheepshead Bay, New York City, New York, USA

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  • Chris Tucker23
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    Chris Tucker

    The Fifth Element, Friday

    BirthplaceGeorgia, USA, Atlanta

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  • Sterling K. Brown24
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    Sterling K. Brown

    Stay, Our Idiot Brother

    BirthplaceSt. Louis, Missouri, United States of America

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    #177 of 258 The Best Marvel Movie Actors Ever#171 of 191 The Greatest Black Actors in Film History

  • Morris Chestnut25
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    Morris Chestnut

    Boyz n the Hood, Kick-Ass 2

    BirthplaceCerritos, California, United States of America

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