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The Best Irish Actors of All Time 

Ranker Film
Originally by
Updated April 30, 2020 43.1k votes 5.3k voters 79.5k 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.
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1
Aidan Turner is listed (or ranked) 1 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: Clondalkin, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

Nationality: 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
Michael Fassbender is listed (or ranked) 2 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: 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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The Best Michael Fassbender Movies #58 of 276 The Best (Male) Actors Working Today #40 of 90 Who Is the Coolest Actor in the World Right Now?

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: Greenwich, London, United Kingdom

Nationality: United Kingdom, Ireland

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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The Best Daniel Day-Lewis Movies #67 of 276 The Best (Male) Actors Working Today #62 of 310 The Coolest Actors Ever

4
Cillian Murphy is listed (or ranked) 4 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: Republic of 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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#155 of 276 The Best (Male) Actors Working Today #277 of 310 The Coolest Actors Ever #65 of 240 The Greatest British Actors of All Time

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: Republic of 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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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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The Best Peter O'Toole Movies #240 of 310 The Coolest Actors Ever #24 of 240 The Greatest British Actors of All Time

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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The Best Pierce Brosnan Movies #50 of 310 The Coolest Actors Ever #60 of 240 The Greatest British Actors of All Time

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: 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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9
Bill Murray is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Irish Actors of All Time
Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, Caddyshack

Birthplace: Wilmette, Illinois, United States of America

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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10
Brendan Gleeson is listed (or ranked) 10 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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11
Ian McKellen is listed (or ranked) 11 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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12
Jonathan Rhys Meyers is listed (or ranked) 12 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: Republic of 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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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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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: United Kingdom, 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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15
Jamie Dornan is listed (or ranked) 15 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: 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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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: Republic of 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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17
Kenneth Branagh is listed (or ranked) 17 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: Northern Ireland, 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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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: Handsworth, South Yorkshire, United Kingdom

Nationality: England

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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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: Republic of Ireland, Dublin

Nationality: 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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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: Republic of 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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21
Liam Neeson is listed (or ranked) 21 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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22
Colm Meaney is listed (or ranked) 22 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: Republic of 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

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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, Ireland

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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#453 of 1,030 The Best Actors in Film History #22 of 48 The Best Irish Actors Working Today #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: Republic of Ireland

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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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

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#545 of 1,030 The Best Actors in Film History #30 of 48 The Best Irish Actors Working Today #13 of 13 The Best Living Irish Actors