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The Greatest Black Actresses Of All Time

Updated April 19, 2021 100.9k votes 7.1k voters 219.1k views214 items

List RulesVote 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 American actresses of all time. These great Black actresses have starred in every genre of film from musicals and dramas to comedies. Some of these Black actresses, like Viola Davis, 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. Angela Bassett is another of the famous Black actresses.

Who do you think is the best African American actress in the history of film? Vote up your favorite Black female actors below. Then check back to see if your favorite popular Black actresses topped the list! 

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  • 1

    Angela Bassett

    Harlem, New York City
    2,039
    732

    CreditsWhat's Love Got to Do with It, Malcom X, Black Panther

    Won for Best Actress Golden Globe for What's Love Got To Do With It (1994)

     

  • 2

    Viola Davis

    St. Matthews, South Carolina
    2,093
    583

    CreditsThe Help, How to Get Away with Murder, Fences, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

    Won for Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Fences (2016)

  • 3
    bigcraig added

    Zoe Saldana

    Passaic, New Jersey
    1,425
    367

    CreditsAvatar, Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Trek Into Darkness, Star Trek

  • 4
    bigcraig added

    Thandiwe Newton

    London, England
    1,138
    243

    CreditsThe Pursuit of Happyness, Mission: Impossible II, 2012, Westworld

    Won for Outstanding Supporting Actress Emmy for Westworld (2016)

  • 5

    Halle Berry

    Cleveland, Ohio
    2,003
    765

    CreditsX-Men, Boomerang, Monster's Ball

    Won for Best Actress Oscar for Monster's Ball (2002)

  • 6

    Taraji P. Henson

    Washington, D.C.
    1,814
    674

    CreditsEmpire, Hidden Figures, The Karate Kid, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

    Nominated for Best Supporting Actress Oscar for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2009)

  • 7

    Kerry Washington

    New York City, New York
    1,480
    565

    CreditsDjango Unchained, Confirmation, The Prom

    Nominated for Best Actress Emmy for Little Fires Everywhere (2020)

  • 8

    Regina King

    Los Angeles, California
    1,336
    496

    CreditsIf Beale Street Could Talk, Watchmen, One Night in Miami...

    Won for Best Supporting Actress Oscar forIf Beale Street Could Talk (1994)

  • 9

    Cicely Tyson

    Harlem, New York City
    1,341
    494

    CreditsThe Help, How to Get Away with Murder, Sounder, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittmanan

    Won for Best Actress Emmy for The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1982)

  • 10

    Lupita Nyong'o

    Mexico City, Mexico
    1,314
    385

    CreditsStar Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens, 12 Years a Slave, Us

    Won for Best Supporting Actress Oscar for 12 Years a Slave (2014)

  • 11

    Regina Hall

    Washington, D.C.
    1,086
    367

    CreditsGirls Trip, Law Abiding Citizen, Think Like A Man

  • 12

    Dorothy Dandridge

    Cleveland, Ohio
    713
    290

    CreditsCarmen Jones, Porgy and Bess, Bright Road, Sun Valley Serenade

    Nominated for Best Actress Oscar for Carmen Jones (1954)

  • 13

    Octavia Spencer

    Montgomery, Alabama
    1,248
    474

    CreditsThe Help, Hidden Figures, The Shape of Water

    Won for Best Supporting Actress Oscar for The Help (2012)

  • 14

    Alfre Woodard

    Tulsa, Oklahoma
    1,024
    414

    CreditsClemency, Cross Creek, Juanita

    Won for Best Actress Emmy for Miss Evers' Boys (1997)

  • 15

    Nia Long

    Brooklyn, New York
    1,233
    489

    CreditsThe Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Big Momma's House, Are We There Yet?

  • 16

    Gabrielle Union

    Omaha, Nebraska
    1,312
    616

    Credits10 Things I Hate About You, Bring It On, Bad Boys II, Being Mary Jane

  • 17

    Queen Latifah

    Newark, New Jersey
    1,245
    567

    CreditsThe Equalizer, Last Holiday, Girls Trip

    Nominated for Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Chicago (2003)

  • 18

    Sanaa Lathan

    New York, New York
    867
    265

    CreditsLove & Basketball, Nappily Ever After, The Perfect Guy

  • 19

    Rosario Dawson

    New York, New York
    1,050
    521

    CreditsTrance, Kids, Men in Black II

  • 20

    Jada Pinkett Smith

    Baltimore, Maryland
    902
    403

    CreditsGirls Trip, The Nutty Professor, Gotham

  • 21

    Vanessa Williams

    Millwood, New York
    754
    343

    CreditsEraser, Ugly Betty, Dance With Me, Desperate Housewives

    Nominated for Best Supporting Actress Emmy for Ugly Betty (2007 - 2009)

  • 22

    Meagan Good

    Panorama City, California
    856
    393

    CreditsAnchorman 2: The Legend Continues, Deception, Venom

  • 23

    Ruby Dee

    Cleveland, Ohio
    617
    289

    CreditsAmerican Gangster, Do the Right Thing, Guiding Light, Jungle Fever

  • 24

    Vivica A. Fox

    South Bend, Indiana
    715
    355

    CreditsKill Bill: Vol. 1, Soul Train, Missing

  • 25

    Loretta Devine

    Houston, Texas
    786
    305

    CreditsSpell, Waiting to Exhale, Grey's Anatomy

    Won for Best Guest Actress Emmy for Grey's Anatomy (2011)