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The Best English Actors of All Time  

Ranker Film
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77.9k votes 7k voters 57.5k views 114 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
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
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
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
3
Ian McKellen is listed (or ranked) 3 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
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
4
Michael Caine is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Batman Begins
Sir Michael Caine, (; born Maurice Joseph Micklewhite Jr., 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 ...more
5
Gary Oldman is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Batman Begins
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
6
Alec Guinness is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
Star Wars, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi
Sir Alec Guinness, (born Alec Guinness de Cuffe; 2 April 1914 – 5 August 2000) was an English actor. After an early career on the stage, Guinness was featured in several of the Ealing Comedies, ...more
7
Laurence Olivier is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
Spartacus, Clash of the Titans, Rebecca
Laurence Kerr Olivier, Baron Olivier, (; 22 May 1907 – 11 July 1989) was an English actor and director who, along with his contemporaries Ralph Richardson, Peggy Ashcroft and John Gielgud, ...more
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
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
9
Christopher Lee is listed (or ranked) 9 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
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
10
Cary Grant is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
North by Northwest, Bringing Up Baby, His Girl Friday
Cary Grant (born Archibald Alec Leach; January 18, 1904 – November 29, 1986) was an English-born American actor, known as one of classic Hollywood's definitive leading men. He began a career in ...more
11
Jeremy Irons is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
The Lion King, Die Hard with a Vengeance, The Time Machine
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
12
Charlie Chaplin is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
City Lights, The Gold Rush, Modern Times
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
13
Peter Sellers is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, The Pink Panther, Being There
Peter Sellers, CBE (born Richard Henry Sellers; 8 September 1925 – 24 July 1980) was an English film actor, comedian and singer. He performed in the BBC Radio comedy series The Goon Show, ...more
14
Ralph Fiennes is listed (or ranked) 14 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
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
15
Patrick Stewart is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
X-Men, X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men 2
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
16
Christian Bale is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Batman Begins
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
17
Benedict Cumberbatch is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
Star Trek Into Darkness, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, 12 Years a Slave
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
18
Peter O'Toole is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
SandyQ8 added Lawrence of Arabia, Ratatouille, Prometheus
Peter Seamus O'Toole (; 2 August 1932 – 14 December 2013) was a British stage and film actor of Irish descent. He attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and began working in the theatre, ...more
19
John Hurt is listed (or ranked) 19 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
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
20
Richard Harris is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
JackEck added Gladiator, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Richard St. John Harris (1 October 1930 – 25 October 2002) was an Irish actor and singer. He appeared on stage and in many films, appearing as Frank Machin in This Sporting Life, for which he ...more
21
David Niven is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
The Pink Panther, Mutiny on the Bounty, Murder by Death
James David Graham Niven (; 1 March 1910 – 29 July 1983) was a British actor, memoirist and novelist. His many roles included Squadron Leader Peter Carter in A Matter of Life and Death, Phileas ...more
22
Hugh Laurie is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
101 Dalmatians, Monsters vs. Aliens, Sense and Sensibility
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
23
Richard Burton is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
The Longest Day, Cleopatra, Where Eagles Dare
Richard Burton, (; born Richard Walter Jenkins Jr.; 10 November 1925 – 5 August 1984) was a Welsh actor. Noted for his mellifluous baritone voice, Burton established himself as a formidable ...more
24
Tom Hiddleston is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best English Actors of All Time
The Avengers, Thor, Thor: The Dark World
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
25
Sean Bean is listed (or ranked) 25 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
Shaun Mark Bean (born 17 April 1959), credited professionally as Sean Bean (), is an English actor. After graduating from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Bean made his professional debut in a ...more