Entertainment
11.0k voters

The Greatest Black Actors In Film History

Updated April 15, 2021 90.6k votes 11.0k voters 536.8k views178 items

List RulesBlack male actors only. Vote based on their entire body of work in film.

From any era and genre, these are the greatest Black actors in film history, ranked by the community to determine who is the best of all time. These Black actors are the top in the business, and many are also among the best living actors today. From those who have portrayed classic Black characters in film, to award-winning actors, only the most deserving actors are on this list.

Who are the greatest Black actors in film? How about the most famous Black actors? From Oscar winners like Denzel Washington, classic African American actors like Sidney Poitier, and newer names such as English actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, each of the Black actors on this list has earned his place with an excellent body of work and memorable performances. Some Black comedians and rappers are also on this list, having found success in the world of film as well.

The actors that are featured on this list include some of the best actors of all time, including Morgan Freeman, Don Cheadle, Samuel L. Jackson, Ossie Davis, Forest Whitaker, Danny Glover, and Eddie Murphy. 

Scroll the list below, and vote up the Black actors that you think are best!

Photo:
...more
  • 1
    3,945
    688

    Denzel Washington

    Mount Vernon, New York

    Won for Best Actor Oscar for Glory (1990) and Training Day (2002)
    Won for Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe for Glory (1990) and Best Actor Golden Globe for The Hurricane (2000)
    Winner of the Cecil B. DeMille Award (2016)

    More Denzel Washington 

    The Greatest Characters Played by Denzel Washington, Ranked#189 of 489 Things That Are Not As Cool As People Think They Are

  • 2
    3,513
    605

    Morgan Freeman

    Memphis, Tennessee

    Won for Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Million Dollar Baby (2005)
    Won for Best Actor Golden Globe for Driving Miss Daisy (1990)
    Winner of the Cecil B. DeMille Award (2012)

    More Morgan Freeman 

    26 Facts You Didn't Know About Morgan Freeman#1 of 25 People Who Won Oscars for the Wrong Film

  • 3
    2,913
    584

    Samuel L. Jackson

    Washington, D.C.

    Nominated for Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Pulp Fiction (1995)
    Nominated for Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe for Pulp Fiction (1995) and A Time to Kill (1997), and Best Actor Golden Globe for Jackie Brown (1998) 

    More Samuel L. Jackson 

    Long Before He Started Acting, Samuel L. Jackson Took Part In A Hostage Situation That Included MLK's Dad#6 of 40 Actors Who Are Having Their Best Year In 2019

  • 4
    2,704
    787

    Will Smith

    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

    Nominated for Best Actor Oscar for Ali (2002) and The Pursuit of Happyness (2007)
    Nominated for Best Actor Golden Globe for Ali (2002), The Pursuit of Happyness (2007), and Concussion (2016)

    More Will Smith 

    Rank Will's Freshest Outfits from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air#46 of 219 The Greatest Actors Who Have Never Won An Oscar (For Acting)

  • 5
    1,611
    442

    James Earl Jones

    Arkabutla, Mississippi

    Nominated for Best Actor Oscar for The Great White Hope (1971)
    Nominated for Best Actor Golden Globe for The Great White Hope (1971) and Claudine (1975)
    Winner of Most Promising Newcomer for The Great White Hope (1971)

    More James Earl Jones 

    #5 of 244 The Most Trustworthy Celebrities In The World#49 of 101 The Most Beloved US Veterans

  • 6
    1,531
    417

    Idris Elba

    London, England

    Nominated for Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe for Beasts of No Nation (2016) and Best Actor Golden Globe for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2014)

    More Idris Elba 

    15 Facts About Idris Elba That Will Make You Even Thirstier#4 of 45 The Top Casting Choices for the Next James Bond Actor

  • 7
    1,687
    504

    Laurence Fishburne

    Augusta, Georgia

    Nominated for Best Actor Oscar for What’s Love Got to Do with It (1994)
    Nominated for Best Actor Golden Globe for The Tuskegee Airmen (1996)

    More Laurence Fishburne 

    #6 of 22 Unicef Goodwill Ambassadors For The United States#6 of 15 These Actors Lied To Land Major TV And Movie Roles

  • 8
    1,489
    408

    Eddie Murphy

    New York City, New York

    Nominated for Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Dreamgirls (2007)
    Won for Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe for Dreamgirls (2007)

    More Eddie Murphy 

    Stories From Behind The Scenes Of 'Coming To America'#5 of 233 The Funniest Stand Up Comedians Of All Time

  • 9
    1,787
    550

    Forest Whitaker

    Longview, Texas

    Won for Best Actor Oscar for The Last King of Scotland (2007)
    Won for Best Actor Golden Globe for The Last King of Scotland (2007)

    More Forest Whitaker 

    #12 of 19 Good Actors Who Make Bad Movies Now#77 of 82 Celebrities You Think Are The Most Humble

  • 10
    1,366
    397

    Jamie Foxx

    Terrell, Texas

    Won for Best Actor Oscar for Ray (2005) 
    Won for Best Actor Golden Globe for Ray (2005)

    More Jamie Foxx 

    The Best Songs Feat. Jamie Foxx#8 of 17 The Worst Supervillain Performances In Comic Book Movies

  • 11
    1,556
    471

    Sidney Poitier

    Miami, Florida

    Won for Best Actor Oscar for Lilies of the Field (1964)
    Won for Best Actor Golden Globe for Lilies of the Field (1964)
    Winner of the Henrietta Award for World Film Favorite (1969) and the Cecil B. DeMille Award (1982)

    More Sidney Poitier 

    #890 of 2,753 The Most Influential People of All Time#79 of 170 The Best Living American Actors

  • 12
    1,324
    397

    Don Cheadle

    Kansas City, Missouri

    Nominated for Best Actor Oscar for Hotel Rwanda (2005)
    Nominated for Best Actor Golden Globe for Hotel Rwanda (2005) 

    More Don Cheadle 

    #66 of 75 The Greatest Guest Appearances in The Simpsons History#23 of 39 The Very Best Black Directors, Ranked

  • 13
    921
    169

    Chadwick Boseman

    Anderson, South Carolina

    Nominated for Best Actor Oscar for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2021)
    Won for Best Actor Golden Globe for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2021)

    More 

    'Black Panther' Cast And Marvel Family Pay Tribute To Chadwick Boseman#71 of 242 The Hottest Men Of 2019, Ranked

  • 14
    1,117
    359

    Danny Glover

    California, United States of America

    More Danny Glover 

    #75 of 146 The Best Hallmark Channel Actors#18 of 22 People Share The Actors Who Delivered Iconic Performances As Both The Villain And The Hero

  • 15
    816
    213

    Michael B. Jordan

    Santa Ana, California

    More Michael B. Jordan 

    Everything You Need To Know About Michael B. Jordan#74 of 258 The Best Marvel Movie Actors Ever

  • 16
    976
    301

    Michael Clarke Duncan

    Chicago, Illinois

    Nominated for Best Supporting Actor Oscar for The Green Mile (2000)
    Nominated for Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe for The Green Mile (2000)

    More Michael Clarke Duncan 

    #103 of 107 Celebrities Whose Lives You Want#123 of 432 Famous Tall Men Over 6'2

  • 17
    887
    282

    Chiwetel Ejiofor

    Forest Gate, England

    Nominated for Best Actor Oscar for 12 Years a Slave (2014)
    Nominated for Best Actor Golden Globe for Kinky Boots (2007) and 12 Years a Slave (2014)

    More Chiwetel Ejiofor 

    #40 of 87 Celebrities Who Should Be A-Listers#118 of 220 The Greatest British Actors of All Time

  • 18
    1,093
    400

    Cuba Gooding, Jr.

    New York City, New York

    Won for Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Jerry Maguire (1997)
    Nominated for Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe for Jerry Maguire (1997)

    More Cuba Gooding, Jr. 

    #4 of 113 The Worst Oscar-Winning Actors Ever#69 of 82 The Best Actors to Ever Win Best Actor in a Leading Role

  • 19
    1,225
    392

    Dwayne Johnson

    Hayward, California

    More Dwayne Johnson 

    Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson Memes That Are Funnier Than They Have Any Right To Be#47 of 214 The Hottest Men Of 2021, Ranked

  • 20
    921
    302

    Martin Lawrence

    Frankfurt, Germany

    More Martin Lawrence 

    #69 of 115 The Best Short Actors#334 of 349 The Best TV Actors And Actresses Of All Time

  • 21
    705
    236

    Bernie Mac

    Chicago, Illinois

    More Bernie Mac 

    #136 of 753 People We Wish Were Still Alive#622 of 1,883 The Greatest Actors & Actresses in Entertainment History

  • 22
    739
    221

    Terry Crews

    Flint, Michigan

    More Terry Crews 

    #94 of 339 The Funniest People Of All Time#508 of 904 Celebrity Death Pool 2021

  • 23
    750
    286

    Ving Rhames

    New York City, New York

    More Ving Rhames 

    #317 of 1,017 The Best Actors In Film History#230 of 264 The Best (Male) Actors Working Today

  • 24
    640
    235

    Richard Pryor

    Peoria, Illinois

    More Richard Pryor 

    Richard Pryor Quotes#155 of 439 Famous Men You'd Want to Have a Beer With

  • 25
    863
    345

    Terrence Howard

    Chicago, Illinois

    Nominated for Best Actor Oscar for Hustle & Flow (2006)
    Nominated for Best Actor Golden Globe for Hustle & Flow (2006)

    More Terrence Howard 

    The Best Empire Characters, Ranked#42 of 44 Oscar Loser Faces, Ranked