Entertainment

The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time 

Ranker Film
Originally by
Updated March 25, 2020 78k votes 5.4k voters 159.1k views 226 items

List Rules Vote up the black and African-American actresses, living or passed, with the most consistent top acting performances.

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
Age 60 from Harlem
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

More Angela Bassett 

#96 of 940 The Best Actresses in Film History #72 of 326 The Best Actresses Working Todaylisted on Unicef Goodwill Ambassadors For The United States

2
Taraji P. Henson is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Age 45 from Washington
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

More Taraji P. Henson 

#567 of 940 The Best Actresses in Film History #61 of 190 The Greatest Actresses Who Have Never Won an Oscar (for Acting) The Best Cookie Quotes From Empire

3
Halle Berry is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Age 52 from Cleveland
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

More Halle Berry 

#141 of 940 The Best Actresses in Film History #228 of 315 The Most Beautiful Women Of 2020, Ranked The Best Halle Berry Movies of All Time, Ranked

4
Kerry Washington is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Age 42 from New York City
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

More Kerry Washington 

#217 of 274 The Most Trustworthy Celebrities in the World #330 of 771 American Public Figures Who Are National Treasures 16 Facts About Kerry Washington That Will Make You Love Her Even More

5
Viola Davis is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Age 50 from St. Matthews
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

More Viola Davis 

#24 of 87 Who Is the Coolest Actor in the World Right Now? #46 of 940 The Best Actresses in Film History The Best Viola Davis Movies

6
Gabrielle Union is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Age 46 from Omaha
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

More Gabrielle Union 

#203 of 326 The Best Actresses Working Today #954 of 2,003 The Greatest Actors & Actresses in Entertainment History

7
Cicely Tyson is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Age 85 from Harlem
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

More Cicely Tyson 

#161 of 940 The Best Actresses in Film History #926 of 2,003 The Greatest Actors & Actresses in Entertainment History #157 of 232 The Greatest American Actresses Of All Time

8
Regina King is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Age 48 from Los Angeles
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

More Regina King 

#406 of 470 Famous Women You'd Want to Have a Beer With #201 of 225 The Greatest Child Stars Who Are Still Acting

9
Nia Long is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Age 45 from New York City
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

More Nia Long 

#682 of 940 The Best Actresses in Film History #556 of 771 American Public Figures Who Are National Treasures

10
Zoe Saldana is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
bigcraig added Age 40 from Passaic
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

More Zoe Saldana 

#191 of 940 The Best Actresses in Film History #35 of 470 Famous Women You'd Want to Have a Beer With The Best Zoe Saldana Movies

11
Rosario Dawson is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Age 39 from New York City
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

More Rosario Dawson 

#566 of 2,003 The Greatest Actors & Actresses in Entertainment History #129 of 225 The Greatest Child Stars Who Are Still Acting

12
Octavia Spencer is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Age 45 from Montgomery
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

More Octavia Spencer 

#114 of 940 The Best Actresses in Film History #49 of 326 The Best Actresses Working Today #1,890 of 2,003 The Greatest Actors & Actresses in Entertainment History

13
Queen Latifah is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Age 48 from Newark
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

More Queen Latifah 

#253 of 274 The Most Trustworthy Celebrities in the World #205 of 935 The Best Female Vocalists Ever The Best Queen Latifah Movies

14
Alfre Woodard is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Age 66 from Tulsa
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

More Alfre Woodard 

#253 of 940 The Best Actresses in Film History #124 of 326 The Best Actresses Working Today #1,729 of 2,003 The Greatest Actors & Actresses in Entertainment History

15
Lupita Nyong'o is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Age 35 from Mexico City
Lupita Nyong'o (born March 1, 1983) 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 ...more

More Lupita Nyong'o 

#171 of 940 The Best Actresses in Film History #90 of 326 The Best Actresses Working Today #1,220 of 2,003 The Greatest Actors & Actresses in Entertainment History

16
Regina Hall is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Age 48 from Washington
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

More Regina Hall 

#468 of 940 The Best Actresses in Film History #1,091 of 2,003 The Greatest Actors & Actresses in Entertainment History

17
Meagan Good is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Age 37 from Panorama City
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

More Meagan Good 

#843 of 940 The Best Actresses in Film History #59 of 94 The Best Hispanic & Latina Actresses

18
Whoopi Goldberg is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Age 63 from New York City
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

More Whoopi Goldberg 

#258 of 362 The Funniest People of All Time #128 of 326 The Best Actresses Working Today Interesting Facts and Trivia About Whoopi Goldberg

19
Vanessa Williams is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Age 55 from Millwood
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

More Vanessa Williams 

#146 of 935 The Best Female Vocalists Ever #58 of 85 The Best Broadway Stars of the 21st Century #110 of 198 The Greatest Women in Music, 1980s to Today

20
Dorothy Dandridge is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Dec. at 43 (1922-1965) from Cleveland
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

More Dorothy Dandridge 

#377 of 940 The Best Actresses in Film History #1,072 of 2,003 The Greatest Actors & Actresses in Entertainment History

21
Pam Grier is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Age 69 from Winston-Salem
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

More Pam Grier 

#291 of 771 American Public Figures Who Are National Treasures #109 of 190 The Greatest Actresses Who Have Never Won an Oscar (for Acting)

22
Thandie Newton is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
bigcraig added Age 46 from London
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

More Thandie Newton 

#153 of 273 The Greatest British Actors of All Time #29 of 58 The Best English Actresses Working Today

23
Sanaa Lathan is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Age 47 from New York City
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

More Sanaa Lathan 

#573 of 940 The Best Actresses in Film History #1,095 of 2,003 The Greatest Actors & Actresses in Entertainment History

24
Vivica A. Fox is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Age 54 from South Bend
Vivica Anjanetta Fox (born July 30, 1964) is an American actress, producer and television host. Fox began her career with roles on the daytime television soap operas Days of Our Lives (1988) and ...more

More Vivica A. Fox 

#404 of 940 The Best Actresses in Film History #1,233 of 2,003 The Greatest Actors & Actresses in Entertainment Historylisted on The Best 'Dancing With The Stars' Contestants, Ranked

25
Jada Pinkett Smith is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Age 47 from Baltimore
Jada Pinkett Smith (born September 18, 1971) is an American actress, comedian, singer-songwriter, screenwriter and businesswoman. She began her acting career in 1990, with a guest appearance on ...more

More Jada Pinkett Smith 

#409 of 940 The Best Actresses in Film History #170 of 378 The Best American Actresses Working Today A Complete Timeline Of Will Smith And Jada Pinkett Smith's Relationship