Actresses The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time  

Ranker Film
Originally by
50.6k votes 3.7k voters 97.6k views 198 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
1,034 368
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
1,048 275
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
1,107 431
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
1,029 302
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
817 257
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
710 251
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
735 254
Gabrielle Union is listed (or ranked) 7 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

8
710 243
Nia Long is listed (or ranked) 8 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

9
579 250
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, Death Proof, The Rundown, Eagle Eye, ...more

10
617 250
Regina King is listed (or ranked) 10 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

11
721 298
Queen Latifah is listed (or ranked) 11 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

12
585 211
Octavia Spencer is listed (or ranked) 12 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

13
493 185
Regina Hall is listed (or ranked) 13 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

14
478 234
Pam Grier is listed (or ranked) 14 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

15
543 199
Alfre Woodard is listed (or ranked) 15 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

16
692 372
Whoopi Goldberg is listed (or ranked) 16 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

17
581 221
Lupita Nyong'o is listed (or ranked) 17 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

18
521 101
Zoe Saldana is listed (or ranked) 18 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

19
386 179
Dorothy Dandridge is listed (or ranked) 19 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

20
372 198
Ruby Dee is listed (or ranked) 20 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, Do the Right Thing, and ...more

21
412 176
Vanessa Williams is listed (or ranked) 21 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

22
499 203
Sanaa Lathan is listed (or ranked) 22 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

23
461 194
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
391 76
Thandie Newton is listed (or ranked) 24 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

25
447 199
Vivica A. Fox is listed (or ranked) 25 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, Kill Bill, ...more

26
462 204
Loretta Devine is listed (or ranked) 26 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

27
541 230
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
292 178
Diahann Carroll is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Carmen Jones, Paris Blues, Starfest Diahann Carroll is an American television and stage actress and singer. She has had a long, successful career that has spanned nearly six decades. After appearing in some of the earliest major ...more

29
385 161
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
291 172
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
368 204
Jennifer Hudson is listed (or ranked) 31 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

32
345 200
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
409 259
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
310 149
Kimberly Elise is listed (or ranked) 34 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

35
277 125
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
279 196
Maya Rudolph is listed (or ranked) 36 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

37
308 229
Mo'Nique Imes-Jackson is listed (or ranked) 37 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

38
257 165
Zoë Kravitz is listed (or ranked) 38 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

39
274 183
Lisa Bonet is listed (or ranked) 39 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.

40
363 227
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
230 134
Gina Torres is listed (or ranked) 41 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

42
207 68
Tracee Ellis Ross is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Mike Williams Mendes added Daddy's Little Girls, Labor Pains, Hanging Up Tracee Ellis Ross is an American actress, model, comedian, producer and television host. The daughter of singer/actress Diana Ross, Ross began her career acting in independent films, variety ...more

43
147 47
Lynn Whitfield is listed (or ranked) 43 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

44
188 111
Nichelle Nichols is listed (or ranked) 44 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

45
291 208
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
246 142
Tisha Campbell-Martin is listed (or ranked) 46 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

47
262 188
Paula Patton is listed (or ranked) 47 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

48
288 194
Janet Jackson is listed (or ranked) 48 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

49
202 170
Margaret Avery is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Heat Wave, The Color Purple, Welcome Home Margaret Avery is an American actress and singer. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance as Shug in The Color Purple.

50
127 69
Naomie Harris is listed (or ranked) 50 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