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

Updated June 20, 2018 1.6k votes 374 voters 9.2k 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.
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  • Photo: HBO Films

    Film portrayed in: Boycott (2001)

    Jeffrey Wright has a storied career, playing such characters as Felix Leiter in the James Bond franchise and Colin Powell in W. Wright showed off his acting chops in his portrayal of Dr. King in a film focused on the civil rights bus boycott.
    • Age: 55
    • Birthplace: Washington, D.C., United States of America
    • Nationality: United States of America
    262
    33
    Was he the best?

    #164 of 170 The Best Living American Actors#34 of 107 The Best African-American Film Actors#134 of 262 The Greatest Male Celebrity Role Models

  • Video: YouTube

    TV mini-series portrayed in: King (1978)

    Winfield powerfully portrayed Dr. King in a critically-praised performance. The mini-series earned a number of Emmy nominations, including Best Actor for Winfield's performance as MLK.


    • Age: Dec. at 64 (1939-2004)
    • Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States of America
    • Nationality: United States of America
    136
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    Was he the best?
  • 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: 65
    • Birthplace: Washington, D.C., USA
    • Nationality: United States of America
    107
    37
    Was he the best?
  • Photo: CBS

    TV mini-series portrayed in: The Rosa Parks Story (2002)

    Who better to portray Dr. King than his own son? Dexter played his father in this TV mini-series about Rosa Parks.
    • Age: 60
    • Birthplace: Georgia, USA, Atlanta
    • Nationality: United States of America
    51
    31
    Was he the best?