This is a list of famous film actors who got famous on TV first, as ranked by experts and fans alike. There are many routes an actor can take to make it big. Some actors start out on in theatre, while others start out in modeling. Many notable actors though start their careers in television.
Television, at one time, was the main gateway to film stardom. In some ways, it still is but now many film actors, like Steve Buscemi and Laura Dern have gone the other direction and found a very lucrative career on hit TV shows. Before the advent of cable -- and quality programming -- actors had to toil on low-rated sitcoms and mediocre dramas before finding that one movie script that could shoot them to superstardom. But sometimes, the actor finds superstardom on television. Massive, worldwide superstardom that easily parlays into film roles.
Many on this list can be considered the greatest actors who were famous on TV first. Actors like Tom Hanks, George Clooney, and Clint Eastwood. Latter generations of film and television fans will be surprised to find out a top-notch actor like Denzel Washington got his start as one of the cast members of "St. Elsewhere" or that Academy Award-winning actress Melissa Leo was one of the stars of "Homicide: Life On The Streets". Maybe this list will prompt them to Netflix a couple of those old episodes.Please check out this list of top actors who had TV fame before becoming film stars and rank them. And if you don't see your favorite TV-turned-film actors here, feel free to add them so that others can vote for them.
- Bosom Buddies (1980-1982)
- 21 Jump Street (1987-1991)
- Taxi (1978-1983)
- Moonlighting (1985-1989)
- Family Ties (1982-1989)
- Cheers (1985-1993)
- In Living Color (1990-1994)
- The Wire (2002–2004)
- Mad About You (1992-1999)
- Saturday Night Live (1990–1995)
- Saturday Night Live (1995–2002)
- Rawhide (1959-1966)
- Star Trek, Shaun of the Dead
- ER (1994-1999)
- Two Guys and a Girl (1998–2001)
- Saturday Night Live (1980-1984)
- The Office (2005-2011)
- Taxi (1978-1983)
- Friends (1994-2004)
- Welcome Back, Kotter (1975-1979)
- Good Morning, World (1967-1968)
- As the World Turns (1982-1984)
- Soap (1977-1981)
- Airplane!, The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!
- Gidget (1965-1966), The Flying Nun (1967-1970)