Entertainment

The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time  

Ranker Film
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69.2k votes 5k voters 143.1k views 214 items

List Rules Vote for your favorite black and African-American actresses

This list ranks the very best black and African Americans actresses of all time. Throughout the history of Hollywood, movies have featured talented African American actresses and black actresses from all over the world. These great black actresses have starred in every genre of film from musicals, to dramas to comedies. Some of these black actresses have even won Academy Awards for their work.

Who are some of the greatest African American actresses? Halle Berry made our list. She has starred in memorable movies like Jungle Fever and Monster's Ball. Kerry Washington also appears on this list of the top black actresses. Though she is best known for her work on TV's Scandal, Washington has starred in such movies as Django Unchained and Lakeview Terrace.

Whoopi Goldberg won an Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance in Ghost. She was also nominated for her role in Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple. Jackie Brown actress Pam Grier also made this list, as did the striking Think Like a Man beauty, Meagan Good.

Who do you think is the best African American actress in the history of film? Did we include all of your favorite black actresses on this list? Vote on this list and share your thoughts in the comments section.
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26
Vivica A. Fox is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Born on the Fourth of July, Independence Day, Kill Bill
Vivica Anjanetta Fox is an American actress and television producer. She is best known for her roles in the films Independence Day, Set It Off, Soul Food, Why Do Fools Fall in Love, Booty Call, ...more
27
Jada Pinkett Smith is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
The Women, The Matrix Revolutions, Menace II Society
Jada Koren Pinkett Smith is an American actress, singer-songwriter, and businesswoman. She began her career in 1990, when she made a guest appearance in the short-lived sitcom True Colors. She ...more
28
Diahann Carroll is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Carmen Jones, Paris Blues, Starfest
Diahann Carroll (born July 17, 1935 – October 4, 2019) was an American television and stage actress and singer. She had a long, successful career that spanned nearly six decades. After appearing ...more
29
Phylicia Rashād is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Just Wright, For Colored Girls, A Raisin in the Sun
Phylicia Rashād is an American Tony Award-winning actress, singer and stage director, best known for her role as Clair Huxtable on the long-running NBC sitcom The Cosby Show. She was nominated ...more
30
Hattie McDaniel is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Nothing Sacred, Gone with the Wind, Show Boat
Hattie McDaniel was an American actress. She is best known for her role as Mammy in Gone with the Wind for which she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, making her the first ...more
31
Zoë Kravitz is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
X-Men: First Class, After Earth, Divergent
Zoë Isabella Kravitz is an American actress, singer and model. She is the daughter of musician Lenny Kravitz and actress Lisa Bonet. She has appeared in the films No Reservations, The Brave ...more
32
Keke Palmer is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion, Joyful Noise, Akeelah and the Bee
Lauren Keyana "Keke" Palmer is an American singer, songwriter, actress, and television personality. Palmer was born in Harvey, Illinois and raised in Robbins, Illinois. After Palmer's ...more
33
Oprah Winfrey is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Beloved, The Color Purple, The Butler
Oprah Gail Winfrey is an American media proprietor, talk show host, actress, producer, and philanthropist. Winfrey is best known for her multi-award-winning talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show, ...more
34
Jennifer Hudson is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
The Three Stooges, The Secret Life of Bees, Dreamgirls
Jennifer Kate Hudson is an American singer, actress and spokesperson. She rose to fame in 2004 as a finalist on the third season of American Idol, coming in seventh place. As an actress, she ...more
35
Della Reese is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
FranciscodeSouza added Harlem Nights, Dinosaur, Beauty Shop
Delloreese Patricia Early, known professionally as Della Reese, is an American singer, actress, game show panelist of the 1970s, one-time talk-show hostess and ordained minister. She started her ...more
36
Kimberly Elise is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
John Q, Set It Off, The Great Debaters
Kimberly Elise Trammel, professionally known as Kimberly Elise, is an American film and television actress. She is best known for her roles in such films as Set It Off, Beloved, John Q, The ...more
37
Lisa Bonet is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Enemy of the State, High Fidelity, Bank Robber
Lisa Michelle Bonet is an American actress. She is best known for her role as Denise Huxtable Kendall on the NBC sitcom The Cosby Show, and originally starring in its spinoff A Different World.
38
Gina Torres is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
mixmaster reid added The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions, Serenity
Gina Torres is an American television and movie actress. She has appeared in many television series, including Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena: Warrior Princess, the short-lived Cleopatra ...more
39
Maya Rudolph is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Bridesmaids, The Way, Way Back
Maya Khabira Rudolph is an American actress and comedian. She rose to prominence on the NBC television show Saturday Night Live, where she was a cast member from 2000 to 2007. She has also ...more
40
Whitney Houston is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
The Bodyguard, Sparkle, Waiting to Exhale
Whitney Elizabeth Houston was an American singer, actress, producer, and model. In 2009, Guinness World Records cited her as the most awarded female act of all time. Houston is one of pop ...more
41
Nichelle Nichols is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
FranciscodeSouza added Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
Nichelle Nichols is an American actress, singer and voice artist. She sang with Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton before turning to acting. Her most famous role is that of communications officer ...more
42
Lynn Whitfield is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Victoria Richards added Jaws: The Revenge, Silverado, Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion
Lynn Whitfield is an American actress. Whitfield began her acting career in television and theatre, before progressing to supporting roles in film. She won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead ...more
43
Paula Patton is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, Idlewild, Jumping the Broom
Paula Maxine Patton is an American actress. She made her film debut with supporting role in the 2005 comedy film Hitch, and the following year appeared in musical film Idlewild. Patton had her ...more
44
Mo'Nique Imes-Jackson is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, Soul Plane, Welcome Home
Monique Angela Hicks, known professionally as Mo'Nique, is an American comedian and actress. She first gained fame for her role as Nikki Parker in the UPN series The Parkers while making a name ...more
45
Gabourey Sidibe is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, Tower Heist, Seven Psychopaths
Gabourey Sidibe is an American actress who made her acting debut in the 2009 film Precious, a role that brought her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress. From 2010 to 2013, she ...more
46
Janet Jackson is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Poetic Justice, Why Did I Get Married, For Colored Girls
Janet Damita Jo Jackson is an American singer, songwriter, and actress. Known for a series of sonically innovative, socially conscious and sexually provocative records, as well as elaborate ...more
47
Naomie Harris is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
bigcraig added Skyfall, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
Naomie Melanie Harris is a British actress. She played Eve Moneypenny in the James Bond films Skyfall and will reprise the role in the upcoming Spectre, The Voodoo Witch Tia Dalma/Calypso in the ...more
48
Tisha Campbell-Martin is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
FranciscodeSouza added Little Shop of Horrors, House Party, Zack and Miri Make a Porno
Tisha Michelle Campbell-Martin is an American actress and singer. She is known for her starring roles in the FOX television series Martin as Gina Waters-Payne from 1992 to 1997; and as Janet ...more
49
Tina Turner is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
ColinBoddy added Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Last Action Hero, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Anna Mae Bullock, known by her stage name Tina Turner, is a singer, dancer, actress, and author, whose career has spanned more than half a century, earning her widespread recognition and ...more
50
Lena Horne is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Bride Wars, Words and Music, Cabin in the Sky
Lena Mary Calhoun Horne was an American singer, dancer, actress, and civil rights activist. Horne joined the chorus of the Cotton Club at the age of sixteen and became a nightclub performer ...more