Entertainment

The Best English Actors of All Time 

Ranker Film
Originally by
Updated January 20, 2020 79.8k votes 7.2k voters 59.4k views 115 items

List Rules Male actors from England, dead or alive. Vote based on their entire body of work.

Some of the best actors of all time hail from England, and whether you love these English men for their acting talents or just their accents, there's no denying that many of these English actors are among some of the best actors in film history. Whether living or dead, these men made England a top source for acting talent in Hollywood and will go down in history as the best.

Who are the all-time top English actors in film history? Some of these actors from England became famous for roles as Americans, as Jedi (hi, Alec Guinness!), as detectives, and any number of other memorable characters. There's just something about these English gentlemen that movie audiences love, and their fantastic acting abilities have made many of them award winners as well.

This list features the greatest English actors of all time including Charlie Chaplin, Anthony Hopkins, Benedict Cumberbatch, Christian Bale, Cary Grant, David Niven, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Ewan McGregor. Don't see your favorite actor from England? Add him below so other film fans can vote. Then, be sure to vote and rerank the list according to who you think are the best English actors to have ever graced the screen.
list ordered by
1
Alan Rickman is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
Die Hard, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Birthplace: Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom

Nationality: United Kingdom, England

Alan Sidney Patrick Rickman (21 February 1946 – 14 January 2016) was an English actor and director. Rickman trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and became a member of the ...more

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2
Colin Firth is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
The English Patient, The King's Speech, Shakespeare in Love

Birthplace: Grayshott, United Kingdom

Nationality: United Kingdom

Colin Andrew Firth (born 10 September 1960) is an English actor who has received an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, two BAFTA Awards, and three Screen Actors Guild Awards, as well as the ...more

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#147 of 1,145 The Best Actors in Film History #16 of 273 The Greatest British Actors of All Time The Best Colin Firth Movies

3
Gary Oldman is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Batman Begins

Birthplace: New Cross, London, England, London, United Kingdom

Nationality: United Kingdom

Gary Leonard Oldman (born 21 March 1958) is an English actor and filmmaker who has performed in theatre, film, and television. Known for his versatility and expressive acting style, Oldman is ...more

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4
Ian McKellen is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, X-Men

Birthplace: Burnley, United Kingdom

Nationality: England

Sir Ian Murray McKellen (born 25 May 1939) is an English actor. His career spans genres ranging from Shakespearean and modern theatre to popular fantasy and science fiction. He is the recipient ...more

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5
Michael Caine is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Batman Begins

Birthplace: Rotherhithe, London, United Kingdom

Nationality: England

Sir Michael Caine (born 14 March 1933) is an English actor, producer and author. He has appeared in more than 130 films in a career spanning 70 years and is considered a British film icon. Known ...more

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6
Patrick Stewart is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
X-Men, X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men 2

Birthplace: Mirfield, United Kingdom

Nationality: United Kingdom

Sir Patrick Stewart (born 13 July 1940) is an English actor whose work has included roles on stage, television, and film in a career spanning almost six decades. He has been nominated for ...more

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7
Christopher Lee is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Birthplace: England, London

Nationality: England

Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee (27 May 1922 – 7 June 2015) was an English actor, singer and author. With a career spanning nearly 70 years, Lee was well known for portraying villains and ...more

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#157 of 925 People We Wish Were Still Alive #33 of 273 The Greatest British Actors of All Time

8
Daniel Day-Lewis is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
Gangs of New York, The Last of the Mohicans, There Will Be Blood

Birthplace: London, England

Nationality: Ireland, United Kingdom

Sir Daniel Michael Blake Day-Lewis (born 29 April 1957) is a retired English actor who holds both British and Irish citizenship. He has been hailed by many as one of the greatest and most widely ...more

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9
Benedict Cumberbatch is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
Star Trek Into Darkness, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, 12 Years a Slave

Birthplace: London, England

Nationality: England

Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch (born 19 July 1976) is an English actor who has performed in film, television, theatre and radio. A graduate of the Victoria University of Manchester, he ...more

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10
Ewan McGregor is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Trainspotting

Birthplace: Perth, United Kingdom

Nationality: Scotland

Ewan Gordon McGregor (born 31 March 1971) is a Scottish actor, singer, and director known internationally for his various film roles, including independent dramas, science-fiction epics, and ...more

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11
Charlie Chaplin is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
City Lights, The Gold Rush, Modern Times

Birthplace: Walworth, United Kingdom

Nationality: United Kingdom, England

Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin (16 April 1889 – 25 December 1977) was an English comic actor, filmmaker, and composer who rose to fame in the era of silent film. He became a worldwide icon through ...more

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12
John Hurt is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
Alien, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

Birthplace: Chesterfield, United Kingdom

Nationality: United Kingdom

Sir John Vincent Hurt (22 January 1940 – 25 January 2017) was an English actor whose career spanned more than 50 years. Hurt came to prominence for his role as Richard Rich in the film A Man for ...more

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13
Tom Hiddleston is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
The Avengers, Thor, Thor: The Dark World

Birthplace: Westminster, London, United Kingdom

Nationality: United Kingdom

Thomas William Hiddleston (born 9 February 1981) is an English actor, film producer, and musician. He is the recipient of several accolades, including a Golden Globe Award, a Laurence Olivier ...more

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14
Tom Hardy is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
The Dark Knight Rises, Inception, Black Hawk Down

Birthplace: Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom

Nationality: United Kingdom

Edward Thomas Hardy (born 15 September 1977) is an English actor and producer. After studying acting at the Drama Centre London, he made his film debut in Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down (2001) ...more

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15
Ben Kingsley is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
Schindler's List, Iron Man 3, Shutter Island

Birthplace: Snainton, United Kingdom

Nationality: United Kingdom

Sir Ben Kingsley (born Krishna Pandit Bhanji; 31 December 1943) is an English actor with a career spanning over 50 years. He has won an Oscar, a Grammy, a BAFTA, two Golden Globes, and a Screen ...more

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#89 of 1,145 The Best Actors in Film History #91 of 2,003 The Greatest Actors & Actresses in Entertainment History

16
Jeremy Irons is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
The Lion King, Die Hard with a Vengeance, The Time Machine

Birthplace: Cowes, United Kingdom

Nationality: United Kingdom, England

Jeremy John Irons (born 19 September 1948) is an English actor. After receiving classical training at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Irons began his acting career on stage in 1969 and has ...more

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#117 of 1,145 The Best Actors in Film History #89 of 282 The Best (Male) Actors Working Today #29 of 273 The Greatest British Actors of All Time

17
Anthony Hopkins is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
Ildikó Hirschleger added The Silence of the Lambs, Thor, Thor: The Dark World

Birthplace: Margam, United Kingdom

Nationality: United States of America, United Kingdom

Sir Philip Anthony Hopkins (born 31 December 1937) is a Welsh actor, director, and producer. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1992, and was nominated three additional times. Hopkins ...more

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#15 of 1,145 The Best Actors in Film History #27 of 330 The Coolest Actors Ever The Best Anthony Hopkins Movies

18
Ralph Fiennes is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
Schindler's List, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Birthplace: Ipswich, United Kingdom

Nationality: United Kingdom

Ralph Nathaniel Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes (; born 22 December 1962) is an English actor, film producer, and director. A Shakespeare interpreter, he first achieved success onstage at the Royal ...more

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19
Martin Freeman is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Love Actually

Birthplace: Aldershot, United Kingdom

Nationality: United Kingdom

Martin John Christopher Freeman (born 8 September 1971) is an English actor and comedian, known for portraying Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson's The Hobbit film trilogy (2012–2014), Tim ...more

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#276 of 1,145 The Best Actors in Film History #108 of 282 The Best (Male) Actors Working Today The Best Martin Freeman Movies

20
Bill Nighy is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
Shaun of the Dead, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Hot Fuzz

Birthplace: Caterham, United Kingdom

Nationality: United Kingdom, England

William Francis "Bill" Nighy is an English actor. He worked in theatre and television before his first cinema role in 1981, and made his name in television with The Men's Room in 1991, ...more

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#149 of 282 The Best (Male) Actors Working Today #56 of 273 The Greatest British Actors of All Time

21
John Cleese is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Birthplace: Weston-super-Mare, United Kingdom

Nationality: United Kingdom

John Marwood Cleese (; born 27 October 1939) is an English actor, voice actor, comedian, screenwriter, and producer. He achieved success at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and as a scriptwriter ...more

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22
Idris Elba is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
Thor, Thor: The Dark World, Prometheus

Birthplace: London Borough of Hackney, London, England

Nationality: United Kingdom

Idrissa Akuna Elba (; born 6 September 1972) is an English actor, writer, producer, musician, DJ, rapper, and singer. He is known for roles including Stringer Bell in the HBO series The Wire, ...more

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23
Hugh Laurie is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
101 Dalmatians, Monsters vs. Aliens, Sense and Sensibility

Birthplace: England, Oxford

Nationality: United Kingdom

James Hugh Calum Laurie, (; born 11 June 1959) is an English actor, director, singer, musician, comedian and author. Laurie first gained recognition for his work as one half of the comedy double ...more

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24
Christian Bale is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Batman Begins

Birthplace: Haverfordwest, United Kingdom

Nationality: United Kingdom

Christian Charles Philip Bale (born 30 January 1974) is a Welsh actor who is known for his intense method acting style, often transforming his body drastically for his roles. Bale is the ...more

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25
Eddie Redmayne is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
vida-so added Les Misérables, The Good Shepherd, My Week with Marilyn

Birthplace: England, London

Nationality: United Kingdom

Edward John David Redmayne (; born 6 January 1982) is an English actor and model. Redmayne began his professional acting career as a youth in West End theatre, before making his screen debut in ...more

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