American People The Best African American Actors in Film  

Ranker Film
Originally by
15.8k votes 1.9k voters 75.4k 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.

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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 Denzel Hayes Washington, Jr. is an American actor and filmmaker. Washington has received much critical acclaim for his film work since the 1990s, including his portrayals of real-life figures ...more

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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 Morgan Freeman is an American actor, film director, and narrator. Freeman has received Academy Award nominations for his performances in Street Smart, Driving Miss Daisy, The Shawshank ...more

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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 Samuel Leroy Jackson is an American actor and film producer. He achieved prominence and critical acclaim in the early 1990s with films such as Jungle Fever, Patriot Games, Amos & Andrew, ...more

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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 Idrissa Akuna "Idris" Elba is a British actor, producer, singer, rapper, and DJ. Elba is best known for his portrayal of drug lord and aspiring businessman Russell "Stringer" ...more

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495 139
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 Willard Carroll "Will" Smith, Jr. is an American actor, producer, rapper, and songwriter. He has enjoyed success in television, film, and music. In April 2007, Newsweek called him ...more

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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 Forest Steven Whitaker III is an American actor, producer, and director. He has earned a reputation for intensive character study work for films such as Lee Daniels' The Butler, Bird and Ghost ...more

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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 Eric Marlon Bishop, known professionally as Jamie Foxx, is an American actor, singer, comedian, writer, and producer. As an actor, his work in the 2004 Ray Charles biographical film Ray earned ...more

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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 Laurence John Fishburne III is an American actor, playwright, director, and producer. He is known for his roles as Morpheus in the Matrix science fiction film trilogy, Mr. Clean in Apocalypse ...more

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303 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 James Earl Jones is an American actor who in a career of more than 60 years has become known as "one of America's most distinguished and versatile" actors and "one of the greatest ...more

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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 Donald Frank "Don" Cheadle, Jr. is an American actor. Cheadle had an early role in Picket Fences and followed it with performances in Devil in a Blue Dress, Rosewood and Boogie Nights. ...more

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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 Chiwetelu Umeadi "Chiwetel" Ejiofor, OBE is an English actor of film, television, and theatre. After enrolling at the National Youth Theatre in 1995, and then subsequently gaining a ...more

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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 Edward Regan "Eddie" Murphy is an American comedian, actor, writer, singer, and director. Box-office takes from Murphy's films make him the 4th-highest grossing actor in the United ...more

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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 Sir Sidney Poitier, KBE, is a Bahamian-American actor, film director, author and diplomat. In 1964, Poitier became the first African-American to win an Academy Award for Best Actor, for his role ...more

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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 Daniel Lebern "Danny" Glover is an American actor, film director and political activist. Glover is well known for his roles as Mr. Albert Johnson in The Color Purple, Michael Harrigan ...more

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Michael Clarke Duncan is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Michael Clarke Duncan Planet of the Apes, Daredevil, The Green Mile Michael Clarke Duncan was an American actor, best known for his breakout role as John Coffey in The Green Mile, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. He was also ...more

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Terrence Howard is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Terrence Howard Iron Man, The Best Man, Hustle and Flow Terrence Howard is an actor, singer-songwriter, film producer and record producer.

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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 Cuba M. Gooding Jr. is an American film actor. He is best known for his Academy Award–winning role as Rod Tidwell in Cameron Crowe's Jerry Maguire.

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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 Chadwick Aaron Boseman is an American actor, screenwriter, and playwright. He is best known for portraying Jackie Robinson in 42 and James Brown in Get On Up. He will star as the superhero Black ...more

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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 Michael Bakari Jordan is an American actor. He is best known for his roles as East Dillon High School quarterback Vince Howard in Friday Night Lights, teenage drug dealer Wallace in The Wire, ...more

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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 Kevin Darnell Hart is an American actor, comedian, writer, and producer. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Hart began his career by winning several amateur comedy competitions at ...more

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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 O'Shea Jackson, Sr., better known by his stage name Ice Cube, is an American rapper, record producer, actor, and filmmaker. He began his career as a member of the hip-hop group C.I.A. and later ...more

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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 Wesley Trent Snipes is an American actor, film producer, and martial artist. He is best known for his role as the Marvel Comics character Blade in the Blade film trilogy. He formed a production ...more

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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 Irving Rameses "Ving" Rhames is an American actor best known for his work in Bringing Out the Dead, Pulp Fiction, Out of Sight, Baby Boy, Don King: Only in America, Dawn of the Dead, ...more

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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 Morris L. Chestnut is an American actor. He is known for his roles in the films Boyz n the Hood, The Best Man and its sequel, The Brothers, Two Can Play That Game, Like Mike, Ladder 49, The ...more

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Djimon Hounsou is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Djimon Hounsou Blood Diamond, Gladiator, Amistad Djimon Gaston Hounsou is an actor, model, and Beninese expatriate in the United States, who has been nominated for two Academy Awards.

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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 Richard Franklin Lennox Thomas Pryor was an American comedian, actor, film director, social critic, satirist, writer, and MC. Pryor was known for uncompromising examinations of racism and ...more

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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 Omar Hashim Epps is an American actor, rapper, songwriter, and record producer. His film roles include Major League II, Juice, Higher Learning, Scream 2, The Wood, In Too Deep, and Love and ...more

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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 Louis Cameron Gossett, Jr. is an American actor. He is perhaps best known for his Academy Award-winning role as Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley in the 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman, and his ...more

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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 Christopher "Chris" Tucker is an American actor and comedian. He is known for playing the role of Smokey in Friday and as Detective James Carter in the Rush Hour film series. Tucker ...more

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Gregory Hines is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Gregory Hines White Nights, Tap, Running Scared Gregory Oliver Hines was an American actor, singer, dancer and choreographer.

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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 William December "Billy Dee" Williams, Jr. is an American actor, artist, singer, and writer best known for his role as Lando Calrissian in the Star Wars film franchise, as well as ...more

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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 Keith David Williams, better known as Keith David, is an American film, television, voice actor, and singer. He has acted in many mainstream films, such as Crash, There's Something About Mary, ...more

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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 John Elroy Sanford, known professionally as Redd Foxx, was an American comedian and actor, best remembered for his explicit comedy records and his starring role on the 1970s sitcom Sanford and ...more

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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 John Amos is an American actor who played James Evans, Sr. on the 1970s television series Good Times. His television work includes roles in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, the miniseries Roots, for ...more

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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 Michael Elliot "Mike" Epps is an American stand-up comedian, actor, film producer, writer and rapper. He is best known for playing Day-Day Jones in Next Friday and the ...more

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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 Donald McKinley Glover, also known by his stage name Childish Gambino, is an American actor, writer, comedian, rapper, singer, and producer. He first came to attention for his work with Derrick ...more

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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 Daniel Kaluuya is an English actor, comedian and writer, who is best known for playing Posh Kenneth in the E4 teen-drama Skins. He also appeared in the BBC dark comedy series Psychoville playing ...more

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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 Yasiin Bey, better known by his former stage name Mos Def, is an American hip hop recording artist, actor, and activist from Brooklyn, New York City, New York. Best known for his music, Mos Def ...more

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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 Charles Stanley Dutton is an American stage, film, and television actor and director, best known for his roles as "Fortune" in the film Rudy, "Dillon" in Alien 3, and the ...more

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Paul Winfield is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Paul Winfield The Terminator, Sounder, White Dog Paul Edward Winfield was an American television, film and stage actor. He was known for his portrayal of a Louisiana sharecropper who struggles to support his family during the Great Depression ...more

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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 Levardis Robert Martyn Burton, Jr., professionally known as LeVar Burton, is an American actor, presenter, director, producer, and author. Burton is best known for his roles as the young Kunta ...more

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Taye Diggs is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
jaelle08 added Taye Diggs Chicago, Equilibrium, Go Scott Leo "Taye" Diggs is an American theatre, film and television actor, best known by his nickname, Taye Diggs. He is perhaps best known for his roles in the Broadway musical Rent, ...more

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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 Larenz Tate is an American film and television actor. He is best known for his role as O-Dog in the 1993 drama film, Menace II Society. His other films include Dead Presidents, Love Jones, A Man ...more

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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 Michael Kenneth Williams is an American actor. He is best known for his portrayal of Omar Little on the HBO drama series The Wire and Albert "Chalky" White on the HBO series Boardwalk

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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 Yaphet Frederick Kotto is an American actor, known for numerous film roles, as well as starring in the NBC television series Homicide: Life on the Street as Lieutenant Al Giardello. His films ...more

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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 Courtney Bernard Vance is an American actor. He is notable for his roles in the feature film The Hunt for Red October and the television series Law & Order: Criminal Intent, in which he ...more

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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 Giancarlo Giuseppe Alessandro Esposito is a Danish-born American actor, director, and producer of African-Italian descent. He is best known for his portrayal of Gustavo "Gus" Fring on ...more

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Omar Sy is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Omar Sy Jurassic World, The Intouchables, Micmacs Omar Sy is a French actor and comedian. He is best known for his duo with Fred Testot, Omar et Fred, and for his role in The Intouchables. He received a César Award for Best Actor on 24 ...more

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Lakeith Stanfield is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Lakeith Stanfield Selma, Short Term 12, Straight Outta Compton Lakeith Lee Stanfield (born August 12, 1991), sometimes credited as Keith Stanfield, is an American actor and rapper. He made his feature film debut in Short Term 12 (2013), for which he was ...more

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Jeffrey Wright is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best African American Actors in Film
Jeffrey Wright The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Casino Royale, Source Code Jeffrey Wright is an American film, television and stage actor. He is known for such roles as Belize in the HBO miniseries Angels in America, Muddy Waters in Cadillac Records, Jean-Michel ...more