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Who Was Hollywood’s Leading Man The Year You Were Born?

Updated June 23, 2020 116k views46 items

Who was the biggest actor the year you were born? These leading men by year signify the sign of the times. Will it be a hunky stud like Brad Pitt or Robert Redford? Or a comedic genius like Jack Lemmon or Steve Martin? How about a cool cat like Steve McQueen or Sean Connery? Check out the biggest actor by year from 1960-2005.

These screen icons all have one thing common: For at least one year, their acting careers were absolutely on fire. Perhaps their movies ruled the box office. Or, perhaps they earned Academy Award recognition for their work. What were the films that made them such a big deal?

Who was the most popular actor the year you were born? Is the leading man one of your favorites? Is he still relevant today? Read on to find out.

  • Photo: Goldfinger / United Artists

    Sean Connery played the spy with a license to kill in seven different Bond movies. His third turn as 007 in 1964's Goldfinger may have been his best. Goldfinger is often ranked among the top all-around Bond movies. It featured the famous Bond girl Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman) and the eponymous villain Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe). 

    In 1964, the dashing Scottish actor also appeared in what could possibly be labeled Alfred Hitchcock's most psychologically twisted movie, Marnie. In the mystery, Connery plays Mark Rutland opposite Tippi Hedren as Marnie. Rutland blackmails the title character into marrying him and then makes an attempt to save her from her psychological problems.

    • Age: 91
    • Birthplace: Fountainbridge, UK
  • Photo: A Patch of Blue / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

    In 1964, Sidney Poitier became the first African-American actor to win an Academy Award for Best Actor. He earned the honor for his performance in the 1963 film Lilies of the Field. Afterward, Poitier could have taken less risky roles as he worked his way through uncharted territories. But the screen icon would not stop pushing boundaries.

    The following year, Poitier appeared in four movies, including The Greatest Story Ever Told. However, it was his Golden Globe-nominated turn in the controversial drama A Patch of Blue that is perhaps his most daring performance ever. In the film, Poitier plays Gordon Ralfe, a Black man who helps a poor blind white girl (Elizabeth Hartman) to escape her abusive mother (Shelley Winters) during a racially divided era.

    • Age: 94
    • Birthplace: Miami, FL, USA
  • Photo: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf / Warner Bros.

    In 1966, Richard Burton appeared in his career-defining role. It came in Mike Nichols's acclaimed drama Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. The Welsh actor starred opposite real-life wife Elizabeth Taylor in an adaptation of Edward Albee's play, in which married couple George (Burton) and Martha (Taylor) bitterly, drunkenly lay out their longstanding emotional baggage.

    The film won five Academy Awards. Burton was nominated but did not win, although it is often cited as one of the biggest Oscar snubs of the decade. Paul Scofield won over Burton for his performance in A Man for All Seasons. Taylor took home the trophy for Best Actress.

    Of course, Burton was also constantly in the public eye in 1966. Burton and Taylor were two years into their marriage and the biggest Hollywood power couple of the time.

    • Age: Dec. at 58 (1925-1984)
    • Birthplace: Pontrhydyfen, UK
  • Photo: The Graduate / Embassy Pictures

    Dustin Hoffman took on the role of aimless recent college alum Ben Braddock in Mike Nichols's coming-of-age film The Graduate. The seminal drama made Hoffman an instant star and proved that succeeding in the industry was not all about matinee idol looks. Talent and good fortune were perhaps even more important. 

    The Graduate earned more than $100 million worldwide - which, adjusted for inflation, amounts to over $800 million in 2020 dollars. Still, The Graduate is not just about its impressive box office numbers. The film is timeless. It's a snapshot of an uncertain time that all young adults must experience - the process of growing up, even if we don't even want to talk about it.

    Two years later, Hoffman was an Oscar winner (for Midnight Cowboy), and continued to be an industry heavyweight for decades, starring in films such as Marathon Man, Tootsie, Kramer vs. Kramer, Straw Dogs, and Rain Man, for which he won his second Academy Award.

    • Age: 84
    • Birthplace: Los Angeles, CA, USA