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The Greatest Black Actors In Film History

Updated April 15, 2021 91.7k votes 11.0k voters 534.4k 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!

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    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)

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    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)

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    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) 

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    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)

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    Idris Elba

    London Borough of Hackney, London

    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)

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    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)

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    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)

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    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)

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    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)

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    Jamie Foxx

    Terrell, Texas

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

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    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)

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    Don Cheadle

    Kansas City, Missouri

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

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    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)

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    Danny Glover

    California, United States of America

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    Michael B. Jordan

    Santa Ana, California

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    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)

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    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)

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    Cuba Gooding, Jr.

    New York City, USA

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

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    Dwayne Johnson

    Hayward, California

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    Martin Lawrence

    Frankfurt, Germany

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    Bernie Mac

    Chicago, Illinois

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    Terry Crews

    Flint, Michigan

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    Ving Rhames

    New York City, New York

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    Richard Pryor

    Peoria, Illinois

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    Terrence Howard

    Chicago, Illinois

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

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