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The Best African-American Film Actors

Updated July 21, 2020 39.7k votes 5.6k voters 290.6k 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
    1,908
    358

    Morgan Freeman

    Shawshank Redemption, Driving Miss Daisy

    BirthplaceMemphis, Tennessee, United States of America

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  • 2
    Denzel Washington
    2,308
    464

    Denzel Washington

    Antwone Fisher, Book of Eli

    BirthplaceMount Vernon, New York, United States of America

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  • 3
    Samuel L. Jackson
    1,719
    358

    Samuel L. Jackson

    Pulp Fiction, The Avengers

    BirthplaceWashington, D.C., United States of America

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  • 4
    Will Smith
    1,582
    466

    Will Smith

    After Earth, I Am Legend

    BirthplacePhiladelphia, Pennsylvania

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  • 5
    Laurence Fishburne
    988
    262

    Laurence Fishburne

    The Matrix, Man of Steel

    BirthplaceAugusta, Georgia, United States of America

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  • 6
    Forest Whitaker
    1,023
    288

    Forest Whitaker

    The Butler, The Last King of Scotland

    BirthplaceLongview, Texas, United States of America

  • 7
    Sidney Poitier
    693
    211

    Sidney Poitier

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

    BirthplaceUSA, Florida, Miami

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  • 8
    Danny Glover
    612
    177

    Danny Glover

    Lethal Weapon, The Color Purple

    BirthplaceCalifornia, United States of America

  • 9
    James Earl Jones
    838
    220

    James Earl Jones

    The Lion King, Return of the Jedi

    BirthplaceArkabutla, USA, Mississippi

  • 10
    Chadwick Boseman
    866
    165

    Chadwick Boseman

    42, The Express

    BirthplaceAnderson, South Carolina

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  • 11
    Eddie Murphy
    889
    296

    Eddie Murphy

    Beverly Hills Cop, Coming to America

    BirthplaceNew York City, USA, New York

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  • 12
    Don Cheadle
    806
    264

    Don Cheadle

    Crash, Hotel Rwanda

    BirthplaceKansas City, Missouri, United States of America

  • 13
    Jamie Foxx
    900
    364

    Jamie Foxx

    Django Unchained, The Amazing Spider-Man 2

    BirthplaceTerrell, Texas, United States of America

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  • 14
    Michael B. Jordan
    795
    205

    Michael B. Jordan

    That Awkward Moment, Fruitvale Station

    BirthplaceSanta Ana, California

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  • 15
    Michael Clarke Duncan
    558
    219

    Michael Clarke Duncan

    Planet of the Apes, Daredevil

    BirthplaceChicago, Illinois, United States of America

  • 16
    Mahershala Ali
    324
    69

    Mahershala Ali

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

    BirthplaceOakland, California, United States of America

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  • 17
    Cuba Gooding, Jr.
    590
    227

    Cuba Gooding, Jr.

    What Dreams May Come, Jerry Maguire

    BirthplaceNew York City, USA, New York

  • 18
    Ving Rhames
    420
    159

    Ving Rhames

    Pulp Fiction, Dawn of the Dead

    BirthplaceNew York City, New York, United States of America

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  • 19
    Wesley Snipes
    486
    230

    Wesley Snipes

    Blade, White Men Can't Jump

    BirthplaceOrlando, Florida, United States of America

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  • 20
    Terrence Howard
    551
    251

    Terrence Howard

    Iron Man, The Best Man

    BirthplaceChicago, Illinois, United States of America

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  • 21
    Ice Cube
    504
    233

    Ice Cube

    Friday, 21 Jump Street

    BirthplaceLos Angeles, USA, California, Baldwin Hills

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  • 22
    Louis Gossett, Jr.
    347
    154

    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
    357
    177

    Chris Tucker

    The Fifth Element, Friday

    BirthplaceAtlanta, Georgia, United States of America

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  • 24
    Richard Pryor
    329
    161

    Richard Pryor

    See No Evil, Hear No Evil

    BirthplacePeoria, Illinois, United States of America

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  • 25
    Morris Chestnut
    395
    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