Actresses The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time  

Ranker Film
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50.3k votes 3.7k voters 97.5k 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.

1
1,030 368
Angela Bassett is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Angela Bassett 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

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1,047 273
Viola Davis is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Viola Davis 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

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1,104 431
Halle Berry is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Halle Berry 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

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1,025 302
Taraji P. Henson is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Taraji P. Henson 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
816 254
Kerry Washington is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Kerry Washington 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

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709 249
Cicely Tyson is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Cicely Tyson 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

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734 251
Gabrielle Union is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Gabrielle Union 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
577 248
Rosario Dawson is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Rosario Dawson 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

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707 242
Nia Long is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Nia Long 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

10
615 248
Regina King is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Regina King 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

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717 298
Queen Latifah is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Queen Latifah 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

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582 211
Octavia Spencer is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Octavia Spencer 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

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491 185
Regina Hall is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Regina Hall 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
476 233
Pam Grier is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Pam Grier 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
541 198
Alfre Woodard is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Alfre Woodard 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

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690 371
Whoopi Goldberg is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Whoopi Goldberg 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

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518 100
Zoe Saldana is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
bigcraig added Zoe Saldana 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

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578 221
Lupita Nyong'o is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Lupita Nyong'o 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

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384 179
Dorothy Dandridge is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Dorothy Dandridge 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

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370 198
Ruby Dee is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Ruby Dee 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

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411 175
Vanessa Williams is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Vanessa Williams 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

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497 202
Sanaa Lathan is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Sanaa Lathan 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

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460 191
Meagan Good is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Meagan Good 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

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445 198
Vivica A. Fox is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Vivica A. Fox 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

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388 76
Thandie Newton is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
bigcraig added Thandie Newton 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

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459 204
Loretta Devine is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Loretta Devine 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

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538 230
Jada Pinkett Smith is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Jada Pinkett Smith 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

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292 176
Diahann Carroll is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Diahann Carroll 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

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383 160
Phylicia Rashād is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Phylicia Rashād 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

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289 172
Hattie McDaniel is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Hattie McDaniel 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

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367 202
Jennifer Hudson is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Jennifer Hudson 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

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344 198
Keke Palmer is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Keke Palmer 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

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406 259
Oprah Winfrey is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Oprah Winfrey 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

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Della Reese is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
FranciscodeSouza added Della Reese 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

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307 149
Kimberly Elise is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Kimberly Elise 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

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279 193
Maya Rudolph is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Maya Rudolph 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

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306 228
Mo'Nique Imes-Jackson is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Mo'Nique Imes-Jackson 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

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255 164
Zoë Kravitz is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Zoë Kravitz 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

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274 181
Lisa Bonet is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Lisa Bonet 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.

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363 225
Whitney Houston is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Whitney Houston 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

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229 133
Gina Torres is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
mixmaster reid added Gina Torres 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

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188 109
Nichelle Nichols is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
FranciscodeSouza added Nichelle Nichols 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

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205 67
Tracee Ellis Ross is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Mike Williams Mendes added Tracee Ellis Ross 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

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145 47
Lynn Whitfield is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Victoria Richards added Lynn Whitfield 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

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246 140
Tisha Campbell-Martin is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
FranciscodeSouza added Tisha Campbell-Martin 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

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291 206
Gabourey Sidibe is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Gabourey Sidibe 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

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260 188
Paula Patton is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Paula Patton 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

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288 192
Janet Jackson is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Janet Jackson 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

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201 169
Margaret Avery is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Margaret Avery 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.

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97 23
Lena Horne is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Black Actresses of All Time
Lena Horne 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