Actors The Greatest Black Actors in Film History  

Ranker Film
Originally by
76.8k votes 7.9k voters 349.9k views 180 items

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

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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. Are the black male actors you think are best not on the list? Add them to make a truly comprehensive list to determine the best black men in film history.

list ordered by

1
2,697 391
Morgan Freeman is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
Shawshank Redemption, Driving Miss Daisy, Million Dollar Baby Morgan Freeman is an American actor, film director, and narrator. Freeman has received Academy Award nominations for his performances in Street Smart, Driving Miss Daisy, The Shawshank ...more

2
3,011 505
Denzel Washington is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
Antwone Fisher, Book of Eli, American Gangster Denzel Hayes Washington, Jr. is an American actor and filmmaker. Washington has received much critical acclaim for his film work since the 1990s, including his portrayals of real-life figures ...more

3
2,225 475
Samuel L. Jackson is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
Pulp Fiction, The Avengers, Django Unchained Samuel Leroy Jackson is an American actor and film producer. He achieved prominence and critical acclaim in the early 1990s with films such as Jungle Fever, Patriot Games, Amos & Andrew, ...more

4
2,094 600
Will Smith is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
After Earth, I Am Legend, Independence Day Willard Carroll "Will" Smith, Jr. is an American actor, producer, rapper, and songwriter. He has enjoyed success in television, film, and music. In April 2007, Newsweek called him ...more

5
1,468 454
Forest Whitaker is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
The Butler, The Last King of Scotland, The Last Stand Forest Steven Whitaker III is an American actor, producer, and director. He has earned a reputation for intensive character study work for films such as Lee Daniels' The Butler, Bird and Ghost ...more

6
1,336 402
Laurence Fishburne is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
The Matrix, Man of Steel, Boyz in the Hood Laurence John Fishburne III is an American actor, playwright, director, and producer. He is known for his roles as Morpheus in the Matrix science fiction film trilogy, Mr. Clean in Apocalypse ...more

7
1,322 375
James Earl Jones is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
The Lion King, Return of the Jedi, Field of Dreams James Earl Jones is an American actor who in a career of more than 60 years has become known as "one of America's most distinguished and versatile" actors and "one of the greatest ...more

8
1,305 400
Sidney Poitier is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, In the Heat of the Night, Fast Forward Sir Sidney Poitier, KBE, is a Bahamian-American actor, film director, author and diplomat. In 1964, Poitier became the first African-American to win an Academy Award for Best Actor, for his role ...more

9
1,060 312
Don Cheadle is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
Crash, Hotel Rwanda, Iron Man 3 Donald Frank "Don" Cheadle, Jr. is an American actor. Cheadle had an early role in Picket Fences and followed it with performances in Devil in a Blue Dress, Rosewood and Boogie Nights. ...more

10
1,127 218
Idris Elba is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
Thor, Thor: The Dark World, Prometheus Idrissa Akuna "Idris" Elba is a British actor, producer, singer, rapper, and DJ. Elba is best known for his portrayal of Russell "Stringer" Bell in the HBO series The Wire, ...more

11
923 315
Danny Glover is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
Lethal Weapon, The Color Purple, Shooter Daniel Lebern "Danny" Glover is an American actor, film director and political activist. Glover is well known for his roles as Mr. Albert Johnson in The Color Purple, Michael Harrigan ...more

12
1,072 336
Eddie Murphy is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
Beverly Hills Cop, Coming to America, Norbit Edward Regan "Eddie" Murphy is an American comedian, actor, writer, singer, and director. Box-office takes from Murphy's films make him the 4th-highest grossing actor in the United ...more

13
1,039 302
Jamie Foxx is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
Django Unchained, Collateral, Ray Eric Marlon Bishop, known professionally as Jamie Foxx, is an American actor, singer, comedian, writer, and producer. As an actor, his work in the 2004 Ray Charles biographical film Ray earned ...more

14
909 338
Cuba Gooding, Jr. is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
What Dreams May Come, Jerry Maguire, Boyz in the Hood Cuba M. Gooding Jr. is an American film actor. He is best known for his Academy Award–winning role as Rod Tidwell in Cameron Crowe's Jerry Maguire.

15
778 249
Michael Clarke Duncan is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
Planet of the Apes, Daredevil, The Green Mile Michael Clarke Duncan was an American actor, best known for his breakout role as John Coffey in The Green Mile, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. He was also ...more

16
687 236
Chiwetel Ejiofor is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
Twelve Years a Slave, American Gangster, Children of Men Chiwetelu Umeadi "Chiwetel" Ejiofor, OBE is an English actor of film, television, and theatre. After enrolling at the National Youth Theatre in 1995, and then subsequently gaining a ...more

17
653 289
Louis Gossett, Jr. is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
An Officer and a Gentleman, Iron Eagle, Roots Louis Cameron Gossett, Jr. is an American actor. He is perhaps best known for his Academy Award-winning role as Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley in the 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman, and his ...more

18
634 249
Ving Rhames is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
Pulp Fiction, Dawn of the Dead, Mission: Impossible Irving Rameses "Ving" Rhames is an American actor best known for his work in Bringing Out the Dead, Pulp Fiction, Out of Sight, Baby Boy, Don King: Only in America, Dawn of the Dead, ...more

19
752 282
Terrence Howard is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
Iron Man, The Best Man, Hustle and Flow Terrence Howard is an actor, singer-songwriter, film producer and record producer.

20
688 329
Wesley Snipes is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
Blade, White Men Can't Jump, Demolition Man Wesley Trent Snipes is an American actor, film producer, and martial artist. He is best known for his role as the Marvel Comics character Blade in the Blade film trilogy. He formed a production ...more

21
882 289
Dwayne Johnson is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
acc3307 added Fast & Furious 6, Fast Five, The Other Guys Dwayne Douglas Johnson, also known by his ring name The Rock, is an American-Canadian actor, producer and professional wrestler. Johnson was a college football player for the University of ...more

22
691 241
Martin Lawrence is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
Do the Right Thing, Bad Boys, Bad Boys II Martin Fitzgerald Lawrence is an American actor, comedian, and filmmaker. He came to fame during the 1990s, establishing a Hollywood career as a leading actor, most notably in the films House ...more

23
534 244
Djimon Hounsou is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
Blood Diamond, Gladiator, Amistad Djimon Gaston Hounsou is an actor, model, and Beninese expatriate in the United States, who has been nominated for two Academy Awards.

24
390 179
Keith David is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
Platoon, The Thing, Requiem for a Dream Keith David Williams, better known as Keith David, is an American film, television, voice actor, and singer. He has acted in many mainstream films, such as There's Something About Mary, ...more

25
715 246
Ice Cube is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
Friday, 21 Jump Street, Boyz n the Hood O'Shea Jackson, Sr., better known by his stage name Ice Cube, is an American rapper, record producer, actor, and filmmaker. He began his career as a member of the hip-hop group C.I.A. and later ...more