Entertainment

The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time  

Ranker Film
Originally by
72.3k votes 5.1k voters 149k views 221 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 (born August 16, 1958) is an American actress and activist known for her biographical film roles, most notably her performance as Tina Turner in the biopic What's Love Got ...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 (born August 11, 1965) is an American actress and producer. Having won an Academy Award, an Emmy Award, and two Tony Awards, she is the first black actress to achieve the Triple ...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 (born Maria Halle Berry; August 14, 1966) is an American actress. Berry won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in the romantic drama film Monster's Ball ...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 ( tə-RAH-jee; born September 11, 1970) is an American actress and author. She studied acting at Howard University and began her Hollywood career in guest roles on several ...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 (born January 31, 1977) is an American actress. She gained wide public recognition for starring as Olivia Pope, a crisis management expert, in the ABC drama series ...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 (born December 19, 1924) is an American actress and former fashion model. In a career spanning more than six decades, she became known for her portrayal of strong ...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 Rene King (born January 15, 1971) is an American actress and television director. She is the recipient of various accolades, including an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, and three ...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 (born October 29, 1972) is an American actress, activist, and author. She began her career in the 1990s, appearing on television sitcoms, before landing supporting ...more
9
Rosario Dawson is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Grindhouse, Rent, Clerks II
Rosario Isabel Dawson (born May 9, 1979) is an American actress, producer, singer, comic book writer, and political activist. She made her feature film debut in the 1995 independent drama Kids. ...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 (born May 25, 1972) is an American actress, author, and producer. She is the recipient of several accolades, including an Academy Award, and a Golden Globe Award. She is ...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 Lee Hall (born December 12, 1970) is an American actress and comedian. She is best known for her multiple leading roles, most recently in Girls Trip (2017), Little (2019) and Shaft ...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 Talita Long (born October 30, 1970) is an American actress. She is known for her roles in the television series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Third Watch and Empire, and the films Boyz n the ...more
13
Lupita Nyong'o is listed (or ranked) 13 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
14
Pam Grier is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Bucktown, Foxy Brown, Jackie Brown
Pamela Suzette Grier (born May 26, 1949) is an American actress. Grier became known in the early 1970s for starring in a string of 1970s women in prison and blaxploitation films such as The Big ...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 (born March 18, 1970), known professionally as Queen Latifah, is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, actress, and producer. Born in Newark, New Jersey, she signed with ...more
16
Zoe Saldana is listed (or ranked) 16 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
Zoë Yadira Saldaña Nazario is an American actress. Following her performances with the theater group Faces, Saldana made her screen debut in a 1999 episode of Law & Order. Her ...more
17
Whoopi Goldberg is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Girl, Interrupted, Ghost
Caryn Elaine Johnson (born November 13, 1955), known professionally as Whoopi Goldberg (), is an American actor, comedian, author, and television personality. She has been nominated for 13 Emmy ...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 (; born November 8, 1952) is an American actress, producer, and political activist. Woodard has been named one of the most versatile and accomplished actors of her generation. She ...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 (born March 18, 1963) is an American singer, actress, and fashion designer. She initially gained recognition as the first woman of African-American descent to receive the ...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
Melanie Thandie Newton (; born 6 November 1972) is a British actress, who has appeared in British and American films. Newton is known for her starring roles, such as the title character in ...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 (November 9, 1922 – September 8, 1965) was an American film and theatre actress, singer, and dancer. She is perhaps one of the most famous black actresses to have a ...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 (born Ruby Ann Wallace, October 27, 1922 – June 11, 2014) was an American actress, poet, playwright, screenwriter, journalist, and civil rights activist. She is perhaps best known for ...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 (born August 8, 1981) is an American actress. Beginning her career as a child actor, Good has appeared in numerous television shows, films, and music videos as both a child ...more
24
Sanaa Lathan is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Something New, Blade, A Raisin in the Sun
Sanaa McCoy Lathan (born September 19, 1971) is an American actress. As a voice actress, from 2009 to 2013, she voiced Donna Tubbs in The Cleveland Show and in all concurrent and subsequent ...more
25
Loretta Devine is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Kingdom Come, Jumping the Broom, Dreamgirls
Loretta Devine (born August 21, 1949) 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 ...more