Entertainment

The Best Irish Actors of All Time 

Ranker Film
Originally by
Updated September 23, 2019 42.2k votes 5.2k voters 75.2k views 48 items

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

Sure, Colin Farrell is a handsome bad boy, but what about all those other great Irish actors? This list of the best Irish actors of all time reaches back in film history to rank the greatest male actors to have ever hailed from Ireland. Hollywood just wouldn't be the same without Lawrence of Arabia and a whole bunch of James Bond films, and those movies wouldn't be what they were without a few of the top Irish actors ranked here.

Who are the best Irish actors ever? The land of Erin has given the world many good actors, who have played iconic roles, been part of blockbuster and classic films, and represented Ireland on the big screen for decades. Great classic Irish actors like Peter O'Toole and Richard Harris are listed here, along with more modern talents like Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell, and Pierce Brosnan. Think of your favorite movie, and there just might be a good Irish actor starring as the leading man.

This list features the top Irish actors of all time including Peter O’Toole,  Liam Neeson, Noel Purcell, Tony Doyle, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Pierce Brosnan, Richard Harris, and Colin Kenny. Don't see your favorite actor from the Eire? 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 Irish actors to have ever graced the screen.
list ordered by
1
Michael Fassbender is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Irish Actors of All Time
Inglourious Basterds, X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Days of Future Past

Birthplace: Heidelberg, Germany

Nationality: Republic of Ireland, Germany

Michael Fassbender (born 2 April 1977) is an Irish-German actor. His feature film debut was in the fantasy war epic 300 (2007) as a Spartan warrior; his earlier roles included various stage ...more

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#155 of 1,145 The Best Actors in Film History #173 of 330 The Coolest Actors Ever The Best Michael Fassbender Movies

2
Cillian Murphy is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Irish Actors of All Time
The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Batman Begins

Birthplace: Douglas, County Cork, Republic of Ireland

Nationality: Ireland

Cillian Murphy (; born 25 May 1976) is an Irish actor. He began his career performing as a rock musician. After turning down a record deal, he began his acting career in theatre, and in short ...more

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#260 of 1,145 The Best Actors in Film History #192 of 282 The Best (Male) Actors Working Today

3
Daniel Day-Lewis is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Irish 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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#81 of 330 The Coolest Actors Ever #8 of 282 The Best (Male) Actors Working Today Forget Jared Leto, Daniel Day-Lewis Is The Most Insane Method Actor In Hollywood

4
Aidan Turner is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Irish Actors of All Time
Denise Schult added The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Birthplace: Republic of Ireland, Dublin, Clondalkin

Nationality: Republic of Ireland

Aidan Turner (born 19 June 1983) is an Irish actor. He played the roles of Kíli in the three-part fantasy film The Hobbit and Ross Poldark in the 2015–2019 BBC adaptation of The Poldark ...more

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#2 of 48 The Best Irish Actors Working Today #16 of 43 The Top Casting Choices for the Next James Bond Actor

5
Colin Farrell is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Irish Actors of All Time
Minority Report, Daredevil, Horrible Bosses

Birthplace: Castleknock, Republic of Ireland

Nationality: Ireland

Colin Farrell (born 31 May 1976) is an Irish actor. Farrell appeared in the BBC drama Ballykissangel in 1998, made his film debut in the Tim Roth-directed drama The War Zone in 1999, and was ...more

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#172 of 1,145 The Best Actors in Film History #99 of 330 The Coolest Actors Ever The Best Colin Farrell Movies

6
Peter O'Toole is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Irish Actors of All Time
Lawrence of Arabia, Ratatouille, Prometheus

Birthplace: Connemara, Republic of Ireland

Nationality: Ireland, England

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

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#78 of 1,145 The Best Actors in Film History #261 of 330 The Coolest Actors Ever The Best Peter O'Toole Movies

7
Pierce Brosnan is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Irish Actors of All Time
Mars Attacks!, Mrs. Doubtfire, GoldenEye

Birthplace: Drogheda, Republic of Ireland

Nationality: Ireland, United States of America

Pierce Brendan Brosnan (; born 16 May 1953) is an Irish–American actor, film producer, activist, architect and environmentalist. Born in Ireland, Brosnan became a naturalised American citizen. ...more

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#188 of 1,145 The Best Actors in Film History #61 of 330 The Coolest Actors Ever The Best Pierce Brosnan Movies

8
Richard Harris is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Irish Actors of All Time
Gladiator, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Birthplace: Limerick, Republic of Ireland

Nationality: Republic of Ireland

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

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#578 of 1,042 The Best Singers of All Time #13 of 48 The Best Irish Actors Working Today

9
Brendan Gleeson is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Irish Actors of All Time
Braveheart, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Gangs of New York

Birthplace: Dublin, Republic of Ireland

Nationality: Ireland

Brendan Gleeson (born 29 March 1955) is an Irish actor and film director. He is the recipient of three IFTA Awards, two BIFA Awards, and an Emmy Award and has been nominated twice for a BAFTA ...more

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#268 of 329 The Greatest Actors Who Have Never Won an Oscar (for Acting) #7 of 48 The Best Irish Actors Working Today

10
Jonathan Rhys Meyers is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Irish Actors of All Time
Mission: Impossible III, Bend It like Beckham, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

Birthplace: Drimnagh, Republic of Ireland

Nationality: Ireland

Jonathan Rhys Meyers (born Jonathan Michael Francis O'Keeffe; 27 July 1977) is an Irish actor. He is known for his roles in the films Velvet Goldmine (1998), Bend It Like Beckham (2002), Match ...more

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#487 of 1,145 The Best Actors in Film History #169 of 282 The Best (Male) Actors Working Today

11
Bill Murray is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Irish Actors of All Time
Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, Caddyshack

Birthplace: USA, Wilmette, Illinois

Nationality: United States of America

William James Murray (born September 21, 1950) is an American actor, voice actor, comedian, filmmaker, and writer. He first rose to fame on Saturday Night Live, a series of performances that ...more

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#53 of 330 The Coolest Actors Ever #5 of 362 The Funniest People of All Time The Most Delightful Bill Murray Cameos

12
Ian McKellen is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Irish 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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#101 of 330 The Coolest Actors Ever #16 of 282 The Best (Male) Actors Working Today

13
Aidan Gillen is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Irish Actors of All Time
The Dark Knight Rises, Shanghai Knights, Shadow Dancer

Birthplace: Republic of Ireland

Nationality: Republic of Ireland

Aidan Gillen (; born Aidan Murphy; 24 April 1968) is an Irish actor. He is known for his portrayal of Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish in the HBO series Game of Thrones (2011–2017), Dr. J. ...more

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#205 of 282 The Best (Male) Actors Working Today #70 of 88 Celebrities Who Should Be A-Listers

14
Sam Neill is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Irish Actors of All Time
Jurassic Park, The Hunt for Red October, Jurassic Park III

Birthplace: Omagh, United Kingdom

Nationality: New Zealand

Nigel John Dermot Neill (born 14 September 1947), known professionally as Sam Neill, is a New Zealand actor, writer, producer, director, and vineyard owner. Born in Omagh, Northern Ireland, he ...more

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#105 of 329 The Greatest Actors Who Have Never Won an Oscar (for Acting) #11 of 48 The Best Irish Actors Working Today Sam Neill Can’t Stop Talking About His Adorable Farm Animals

15
Kenneth Branagh is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Irish Actors of All Time
Thor, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Thor: The Dark World

Birthplace: Belfast, United Kingdom

Nationality: United Kingdom

Sir Kenneth Charles Branagh (born 10 December 1960) is a Northern Irish actor, director, producer, and screenwriter. Branagh trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, and in 2015 ...more

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#60 of 329 The Greatest Actors Who Have Never Won an Oscar (for Acting) #9 of 48 The Best Irish Actors Working Today

16
Gabriel Byrne is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Irish Actors of All Time
The Usual Suspects, Excalibur, Enemy of the State

Birthplace: Walkinstown, Republic of Ireland

Nationality: Ireland

Gabriel James Byrne (born 12 May 1950) is an Irish actor, film director, film producer, writer, cultural ambassador and audiobook narrator. His acting career began in the Focus Theatre before he ...more

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#243 of 1,145 The Best Actors in Film History #12 of 48 The Best Irish Actors Working Today

17
Jamie Dornan is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Irish Actors of All Time
Lyn May added Marie Antoinette, Fifty Shades of Grey, X Returns

Birthplace: Holywood, Bangor, United Kingdom

Nationality: Northern Ireland, United Kingdom

James Dornan (born 1 May 1982) is an actor, model, and musician from Northern Ireland. He played Sheriff Graham Humbert in the ABC series Once Upon a Time (2011–2013), and serial killer Paul ...more

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#6 of 48 The Best Irish Actors Working Today #119 of 242 The Hottest Men Of 2019, Ranked

18
Sean Bean is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Irish Actors of All Time
janolvegg added 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

Nationality: United Kingdom

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

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#191 of 1,145 The Best Actors in Film History #97 of 330 The Coolest Actors Ever #85 of 329 The Greatest Actors Who Have Never Won an Oscar (for Acting)

19
Domhnall Gleeson is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Irish Actors of All Time
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part I, True Grit

Birthplace: Dublin, Republic of Ireland

Nationality: Republic of Ireland

Domhnall Gleeson (Irish: [ˈd̪ˠoːnˠəl̪ˠ]; born 12 May 1983) is an Irish actor, voice actor, and writer. He is the son of actor Brendan Gleeson, alongside whom he has appeared in a number of films ...more

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#240 of 282 The Best (Male) Actors Working Today #15 of 48 The Best Irish Actors Working Today

20
Chris O'Dowd is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Irish Actors of All Time
Thor: The Dark World, Bridesmaids, The Boat That Rocked

Birthplace: Boyle, County Roscommon, Republic of Ireland

Nationality: Ireland

Christopher O'Dowd (born 9 October 1979) is an Irish actor and comedian, best known for his television roles such as Miles Daly in the Epix comedy series Get Shorty and Roy Trenneman in the ...more

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#202 of 273 The Greatest British Actors of All Time #85 of 184 The Funniest British and Irish Comedians of all Time

21
Colm Meaney is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Irish Actors of All Time
The Last of the Mohicans, Die Hard 2, Con Air

Birthplace: Dublin, Republic of Ireland

Nationality: Ireland

Colm J. Meaney (; Irish: Colm Ó Maonaigh; born 30 May 1953) is an Irish actor known for playing Miles O'Brien in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987–1994) and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine ...more
22
Liam Neeson is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Irish Actors of All Time
The Dark Knight Rises, Batman Begins, Schindler's List

Birthplace: Ballymena, United Kingdom

Nationality: United Kingdom

Liam John Neeson (born 7 June 1952) is an actor from Northern Ireland. He has been nominated for a number of awards, including an Academy Award for Best Actor, a BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a ...more

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#15 of 274 The Most Trustworthy Celebrities in the World #42 of 330 The Coolest Actors Ever The Very Best Liam Neeson Movies

23
Aidan Quinn is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Irish Actors of All Time
Legends of the Fall, Practical Magic, The Mission

Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States of America

Nationality: United States of America

Aidan Quinn (born March 8, 1959) is an Irish-American actor, who made his film debut in Reckless (1984). He has starred in over 80 feature films, including Desperately Seeking Susan (1985), The ...more

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#400 of 1,145 The Best Actors in Film History #5 of 370 340+ Uncircumcised Celebrities

24
Michael Gambon is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Irish Actors of All Time
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Birthplace: Cabra, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

Nationality: Ireland, United Kingdom

Sir Michael John Gambon (born 19 October 1940) is an Irish-born British character actor and private pilot who has worked in theatre, television, and film. He is also known as The Great Gambon as ...more

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#371 of 1,145 The Best Actors in Film History #76 of 273 The Greatest British Actors of All Time

25
Stephen Rea is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Irish Actors of All Time
V for Vendetta, Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, The Crying Game

Birthplace: Belfast, United Kingdom

Nationality: United Kingdom

Stephen Rea ( ray; born 31 October 1946) is an Irish film and stage actor. Rea has appeared in films such as V for Vendetta, Michael Collins, Interview with the Vampire and Breakfast on Pluto. ...more