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The Best African-American Film Actors

Updated July 21, 2020 38.7k votes 5.4k voters 283.4k 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 is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best African-American Film Actors
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    Morgan Freeman

    Shawshank Redemption, Driving Miss Daisy

    BirthplaceMemphis, Tennessee, United States of America

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  • 2
    Denzel Washington is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best African-American Film Actors
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    Denzel Washington

    Antwone Fisher, Book of Eli

    BirthplaceMount Vernon, New York, United States of America

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  • 3
    Samuel L. Jackson is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best African-American Film Actors
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    Samuel L. Jackson

    Pulp Fiction, The Avengers

    BirthplaceWashington, D.C., United States of America

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  • 4
    Will Smith is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best African-American Film Actors
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    Will Smith

    After Earth, I Am Legend

    BirthplacePhiladelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America

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  • 5
    Laurence Fishburne is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best African-American Film Actors
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    Laurence Fishburne

    The Matrix, Man of Steel

    BirthplaceAugusta, Georgia, USA

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  • 6
    Forest Whitaker is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best African-American Film Actors
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    Forest Whitaker

    The Butler, The Last King of Scotland

    BirthplaceLongview, Texas, United States of America

  • 7
    Sidney Poitier is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best African-American Film Actors
    682
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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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  • 8
    James Earl Jones is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best African-American Film Actors
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    James Earl Jones

    The Lion King, Return of the Jedi

    BirthplaceArkabutla, Mississippi, United States of America

  • 9
    Danny Glover is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best African-American Film Actors
    597
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    Danny Glover

    Lethal Weapon, The Color Purple

    BirthplaceCalifornia, United States of America

  • 10
    Chadwick Boseman is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best African-American Film Actors
    817
    162

    Chadwick Boseman

    42, The Express

    BirthplaceAnderson, South Carolina

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  • 11
    Eddie Murphy is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best African-American Film Actors
    871
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    Eddie Murphy

    Beverly Hills Cop, Coming to America

    BirthplaceNew York City, New York, United States of America

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  • 12
    Don Cheadle is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best African-American Film Actors
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    Don Cheadle

    Crash, Hotel Rwanda

    BirthplaceKansas City, Missouri, USA

  • 13
    Jamie Foxx is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best African-American Film Actors
    872
    364

    Jamie Foxx

    Django Unchained, The Amazing Spider-Man 2

    BirthplaceTerrell, Texas, United States of America

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  • 14
    Michael Clarke Duncan is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best African-American Film Actors
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    Michael Clarke Duncan

    Planet of the Apes, Daredevil

    BirthplaceChicago, Illinois, United States of America

  • 15
    Mahershala Ali is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best African-American Film Actors
    303
    66

    Mahershala Ali

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

    BirthplaceOakland, California, United States of America

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  • 16
    Michael B. Jordan is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best African-American Film Actors
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    Michael B. Jordan

    That Awkward Moment, Fruitvale Station

    BirthplaceSanta Ana, California

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  • 17
    Cuba Gooding, Jr. is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best African-American Film Actors
    581
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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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  • 18
    Ving Rhames is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best African-American Film Actors
    413
    157

    Ving Rhames

    Pulp Fiction, Dawn of the Dead

    BirthplaceNew York City, New York, United States of America

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  • 19
    Wesley Snipes is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best African-American Film Actors
    475
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    Wesley Snipes

    Blade, White Men Can't Jump

    BirthplaceOrlando, Florida, United States of America

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  • 20
    Terrence Howard is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best African-American Film Actors
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    249

    Terrence Howard

    Iron Man, The Best Man

    BirthplaceUSA, Chicago, Illinois

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  • 21
    Ice Cube is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best African-American Film Actors
    493
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    Ice Cube

    Friday, 21 Jump Street

    BirthplaceLos Angeles, California

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  • 22
    Louis Gossett, Jr. is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best African-American Film Actors
    342
    151

    Louis Gossett, Jr.

    An Officer and a Gentleman, Iron Eagle

    BirthplaceNew York City, New York, United States of America

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  • 23
    Chris Tucker is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best African-American Film Actors
    346
    174

    Chris Tucker

    The Fifth Element, Friday

    BirthplaceAtlanta, Georgia, United States of America

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  • 24
    Richard Pryor is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best African-American Film Actors
    326
    154

    Richard Pryor

    See No Evil, Hear No Evil

    BirthplacePeoria, USA, Illinois

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  • 25
    Keith David is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best African-American Film Actors
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    Keith David

    The Princess and the Frog, The Thing

    BirthplaceHarlem, New York City, New York, United States of America

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