Entertainment

The Greatest Black Actors in Film History  

Ranker Film
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90.5k votes 9.7k voters 470k views 183 items

List Rules Black 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. 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
Denzel Washington is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
Antwone Fisher, Book of Eli, American Gangster
Denzel Hayes Washington Jr. (born December 28, 1954) is an American actor, director, and producer. He has received two Golden Globe awards, one Tony Award, and two Academy Awards: Best ...more

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2
Morgan Freeman is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
Shawshank Redemption, Driving Miss Daisy, Million Dollar Baby
Morgan Freeman (born June 1, 1937) is an American actor, film director, and film narrator. Freeman won an Academy Award in 2005 for Best Supporting Actor with Million Dollar Baby (2004), and he ...more

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3
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 (born December 21, 1948) is an American actor and film producer. A recipient of critical acclaim and numerous accolades and awards, Jackson is the actor whose films have ...more

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4
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 Smith Jr. (born September 25, 1968) is an American actor, rapper and media personality. In April 2007, Newsweek called him "the most powerful actor in Hollywood". Smith ...more

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5
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 (born July 15, 1961) is an American actor, producer, and director who has earned a reputation for intensive character study work for films such as Bird, The Crying ...more

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6
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 (born July 30, 1961) is an American actor, playwright, producer, screenwriter, and film director. He is known for playing Morpheus in The Matrix trilogy, Jason ...more

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7
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 (born January 17, 1931) is an American actor. His career has spanned more than seven decades, and he has been described as "one of America's most distinguished and ...more

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8
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, (; born February 20, 1927) is a Bahamian-American actor and film director. In 1964, Poitier became the first Bahamian and first black actor to win an Academy Award for Best ...more

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9
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 Cheadle Jr. (; born November 29, 1964) is an American actor, author, director, producer and writer. Following early roles in Hamburger Hill (1987), and as the gangster ...more

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10
Danny Glover is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
Lethal Weapon, The Color Purple, Shooter
Danny Lebern Glover (; born July 22, 1946) is an American actor, film director, and political activist. He is known for his lead role as Roger Murtaugh in the Lethal Weapon film series. He also ...more

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11
Idris Elba is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
Thor, Thor: The Dark World, Prometheus
Idrissa Akuna Elba (; born 6 September 1972) is an English actor, writer, producer, musician, DJ, rapper, and singer. He is known for roles including Stringer Bell in the HBO series The Wire, ...more

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12
Jamie Foxx is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
Django Unchained, Collateral, Ray
Eric Marlon Bishop (born December 13, 1967), known professionally as Jamie Foxx, is an American actor, singer, songwriter, record producer and comedian. For his portrayal of Ray Charles in the ...more

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13
Eddie Murphy is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
Beverly Hills Cop, Coming to America, Norbit
Edward Regan Murphy (born April 3, 1961) is an American actor, comedian, and singer. Murphy was a regular cast member on Saturday Night Live from 1980 to 1984. He has worked as a stand-up ...more

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14
Ving Rhames is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
Pulp Fiction, Dawn of the Dead, Mission: Impossible
Irving Rameses Rhames (born May 12, 1959) is an American stage and screen actor. He is best known for his starring role as Luther Stickell in the Mission: Impossible film series and his ...more

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15
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 (December 10, 1957 – September 3, 2012) was an American actor best known for his breakout role as John Coffey in The Green Mile (1999), for which he was nominated for the ...more

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16
Louis Gossett, Jr. is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
An Officer and a Gentleman, Iron Eagle, Roots
Louis Cameron Gossett Jr. (born May 27, 1936) is an American actor. He is best known for his Academy Award winning role as Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley in the 1982 film An Officer and a ...more

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17
Cuba Gooding, Jr. is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
What Dreams May Come, Jerry Maguire, Boyz in the Hood
Cuba Mark Gooding Jr. (born January 2, 1968) is an American actor and director. After his breakthrough role as Tre Styles in Boyz n the Hood (1991), he appeared in A Few Good Men (1992), The ...more

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18
Martin Lawrence is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
Do the Right Thing, Bad Boys, Bad Boys II
Martin Fitzgerald Lawrence (born April 16, 1965) is an American stand-up comedian, actor, producer, talk show host, and writer. Lawrence came to fame during the 1990s, establishing a Hollywood ...more

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19
Chiwetel Ejiofor is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
Twelve Years a Slave, American Gangster, Children of Men
Chiwetel Umeadi Ejiofor ( CHOO-ə-tel EJ-ee-oh-for; born July 7, 1977) is a British actor.After enrolling at the National Youth Theatre in 1995 and attending the London Academy of Music and ...more

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20
Dwayne Johnson is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
acc3307 added Fast & Furious 6, Fast Five, The Other Guys
Dwayne Douglas Johnson (born May 2, 1972), also known by his ring name The Rock, is an American actor, producer, and former professional wrestler. Johnson was a professional wrestler for the ...more

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21
Terrence Howard is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
Iron Man, The Best Man, Hustle and Flow
Terrence Dashon Howard (born March 11, 1969) is an American actor and singer. Having his first major roles in the 1995 films Dead Presidents and Mr. Holland's Opus, Howard broke into the ...more

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22
Ice Cube is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
Friday, 21 Jump Street, Boyz n the Hood
O'Shea Jackson (born June 15, 1969), known professionally as Ice Cube, is an American rapper, actor, producer, director and writer. Ice Cube initially gained recognition in 1984 as a member of ...more

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23
Wesley Snipes is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
Blade, White Men Can't Jump, Demolition Man
Wesley Trent Snipes (born July 31, 1962) is an American actor, director, film producer, martial artist, and author. His prominent film roles include New Jack City (1991), White Men Can't Jump ...more

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24
Chris Tucker is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
The Fifth Element, Friday, Silver Linings Playbook
Christopher Tucker (born August 31, 1971) is an American actor, stand-up comedian, and book writer. He is known for playing the role of Smokey in F. Gary Gray's Friday and as Detective James ...more

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25
Bernie Mac is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Black Actors in Film History
Transformers, Friday, Ocean's Eleven
Bernard Jeffrey McCullough (October 5, 1957 – August 9, 2008), better known by his stage name Bernie Mac, was an American comedian, actor, and voice actor. Born and raised on Chicago's South ...more

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