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All the Actors Who Have Played Martin Luther King, Jr., Ranked

Updated June 20, 2018 1.2k votes 366 voters 8.7k views18 items

List RulesActors who played Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in films, on television, or in a play. Vote up the actors who handled the role the best.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a giant impact in the history of America with his leadership in the Civil Rights Movement. It comes as no surprise that King's personality, story, and dream would be touched upon in various forms of popular culture. But which actors have had the skill and the presence to play the good doctor?

Over the past 50 years, there have been several actors who played MLK in film, television, or on the stage. There are even a few who voiced him in cartoons. In fact, those were some of the best MLK performances. Whether it was a serious portrayal of the man or satire that paid respect to his legacy, here's a definitive ranking of all the best actors who portrayed Martin Luther King Jr. Vote up your favorite.
  • Clifton Powell is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list All the Actors Who Have Played Martin Luther King, Jr., Ranked
    Video: YouTube

    Film portrayed in: Selma, Lord, Selma (1999)

    Powell received kudos from critics for his depiction of MLK in this Disney production. The film looks at the Selma march from the perspective of a nine-year-old girl, Sheyann Webb.
    • Age: 64
    • Birthplace: Washington, D.C., USA
    Was he the best?
  • Film portrayed in: Betty and Corretta (2013)

    Yoba got a chance to play MLK in a Lifetime TV movie about the widows of Dr. King and Malcolm X. Fans would recognize him as Vernon Turner in the hit Fox TV show Empire.
    • Age: 53
    • Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States of America
    Was he the best?
  • James Earl Jones is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list All the Actors Who Have Played Martin Luther King, Jr., Ranked
    Photo: Glasgow Film Festival / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    TV mini-series portrayed in: Freedom to Speak (1982)

    The deep voice of Darth Vader and Mufasa portrayed Dr. King in a TV mini-series. Jones has accumulated a number of Emmys and Golden Globes throughout his 60+ year career.
    • Age: 89
    • Birthplace: Arkabutla, Mississippi, United States of America
    Was he the best?

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  • Film portrayed in: Ali (2001)

    Burton is best known as Geordie LaForge in Star Trek: The Next Generation, but portrayed MLK in the Muhammad Ali bio-pic Ali. Burton has won a number of Emmys and a Peabody Award for his work as producer and host of Reading Rainbow.
    • Age: 63
    • Birthplace: Landstuhl, Eurasia, Germany
    Was he the best?

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