Entertainment

The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time  

Ranker Film
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68.9k votes 4.9k voters 142.2k 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.
list ordered by
1
Angela Bassett is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Jumping the Broom, Boyz n the Hood, How Stella Got Her Groove Back
Angela Evelyn Bassett Vance is an American actress and film director. She has become well known for her biographical film roles portraying real-life women, including Tina Turner in What's Love ...more
2
Viola Davis is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Antwone Fisher, Doubt, The Help
Viola Davis is an American actress. Beginning her career on the stage, Davis won a Tony and a Drama Desk Award for her role in August Wilson's King Hedley II. She won a second Drama Desk Award ...more
3
Halle Berry is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Jungle Fever, X2, Monster's Ball
Halle Maria Berry is an American actress and former fashion model. She won an Academy Award for Best Actress in 2002 for her performance in the romantic drama Monster's Ball, becoming the first ...more
4
Taraji P. Henson is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Something New, Four Brothers, Hustle & Flow
Taraji Penda Henson is an American actress and singer. She is known for her roles as Yvette in Baby Boy, Shug in Hustle & Flow and Queenie in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, for which ...more
5
Kerry Washington is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
A Thousand Words, Django Unchained, Lakeview Terrace
Kerry Marisa Washington is an American actress. Since 2012, Washington has gained wide public recognition for starring in the ABC drama Scandal, a Shonda Rhimes series in which she plays Olivia ...more
6
Cicely Tyson is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Because of Winn-Dixie, The Help, Alex Cross
Cicely L. Tyson is an American actress. She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress, and the Golden Globe Award for her performance as Rebecca Morgan in Sounder. For this role she ...more
7
Regina King is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Jerry Maguire, Poetic Justice, Ray
Regina King is an American film and television actress and director. She played Brenda Jenkins on the NBC sitcom 227 and had a supporting role in the feature film Jerry Maguire. King in her ...more
8
Gabrielle Union is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
The Honeymooners, Bring It On, Bad Boys II
Gabrielle Monique Union Wade is an American actress and former model. Among her notable roles is her performance as the cheerleader opposite Kirsten Dunst in the film Bring It On,. In 2000, she ...more
9
Rosario Dawson is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Grindhouse, Rent, Clerks II
Rosario Dawson is an American actress, singer, and writer. She has appeared in films such as Kids, Men in Black II, 25th Hour, Sin City, Clerks II, Rent, The Rundown, Eagle Eye, Alexander, Seven ...more
10
Octavia Spencer is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
The Help, Beauty Shop, Black or White
Octavia Lenora Spencer is an American actress and author. She is best known for her role as Minny Jackson in the 2011 film The Help, for which she won the BAFTA, Golden Globe, SAG, Critics' ...more
11
Regina Hall is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Last Holiday, The Honeymooners, Think Like A Man
Regina Hall is an American film and television actress known for her lead role of Brenda Meeks in four of the five Scary Movie films, Candace in Think Like a Man and its sequel Think Like a Man ...more
12
Nia Long is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Good Hair, Friday, Boyz n the Hood
Nia Long is an American actress. She is best known for her roles in the television series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Third Watch, and the films In Too Deep, Boyz n the Hood, Friday, Boiler ...more
13
Whoopi Goldberg is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Girl, Interrupted, Ghost
Whoopi Goldberg is an American actress, comedienne, political activist, writer, producer, and television host. Although Goldberg made her film debut in the avant-garde ensemble film Citizen: I'm ...more
14
Lupita Nyong'o is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
12 Years a Slave, Non-Stop, Star Wars: Episode VII
Lupita Nyong'o is a Mexican-Kenyan actress and film director. She was born in Mexico, but was raised in Kenya. She attended college in the United States, earning a Bachelor's degree in film and ...more
15
Queen Latifah is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Jungle Fever, Bringing Down the House, Chicago
Dana Elaine Owens, better known by her stage name Queen Latifah, is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, actress, model, television producer, record producer, comedienne, and talk show host. ...more
16
Pam Grier is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Bucktown, Foxy Brown, Jackie Brown
Pamela Suzette "Pam" Grier is an American actress. She became famous in the early 1970s after starring in a string of moderately successful women in prison and blaxploitation films ...more
17
Zoe Saldana is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
bigcraig added Avatar, Star Trek, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Zoe Yadira Saldaña Nazario, known as Zoë Saldana or Zoe Saldana, is an American actress and dancer. She had her breakthrough roles in the films Center Stage and Crossroads. She later ...more
18
Alfre Woodard is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
How to Make an American Quilt, Scrooged, Grand Canyon
Alfre Woodard is an American film, stage, and television actress, producer, and political activist. Woodard has been named one of the most versatile and accomplished actors of her generation. ...more
19
Vanessa Williams is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Under the Gun, Eraser, Johnson Family Vacation
Vanessa Lynn Williams is an American singer, actress, producer and former fashion model. In 1983, she became the first African-American woman crowned Miss America. Seven weeks before the end of ...more
20
Thandie Newton is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
bigcraig added Crash, Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, The Pursuit of Happyness
Thandiwe "Thandie" Newton is an English actress. She has appeared in several British and American films, and is known for roles such as Linda in The Pursuit of Happyness, Nyah ...more
21
Dorothy Dandridge is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Carmen Jones, Island in the Sun, Porgy and Bess
Dorothy Jean Dandridge was an African-American film and theatre actress, singer and dancer. She is perhaps best known for being the first black actress to be nominated for an Academy Award for ...more
22
Ruby Dee is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
A Thousand Words, Jungle Fever, A Raisin in the Sun
Ruby Dee was an American actress, poet, playwright, screenwriter, journalist and activist. She is perhaps best known for co-starring in the films A Raisin in the Sun, and Do the Right Thing. She ...more
23
Meagan Good is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
One Missed Call, Jumping the Broom, Friday
Meagan Monique Good is an American film and television actress and occasional film producer. Beginning her career at the age of four, Good has appeared in numerous commercials, television shows, ...more
24
Loretta Devine is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Kingdom Come, Jumping the Broom, Dreamgirls
Loretta Devine is an American actress and singer, best known for her roles as Marla Hendricks in the Fox drama series Boston Public, and for her recurring role as Adele Webber on the Shonda ...more
25
Sanaa Lathan is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Something New, Blade, A Raisin in the Sun
Sanaa McCoy Lathan is an American actress and voice actress. She has starred in many films, including the box-office hits The Best Man and the 2013 sequel, Love & Basketball, Brown Sugar, ...more