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366 voters

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.
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  • Paul Winfield
    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 65 (1939-2004)
    • Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, USA
    147
    27
    Was he the best?

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  • Jeffrey Wright
    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: 54
    • Birthplace: Washington, D.C., USA
    123
    35
    Was he the best?

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  • David Oyelowo
    Video: YouTube

    Film portrayed in: Selma (2014)

    Oyelowo has had a number of supporting roles on TV and film over the years, but really broke through in his portrayal of Dr. King in this Oscar-nominated film Selma. Oyelowo won a Golden Globe and an Independent Spirit Award for Best Actor for this role in 2015.

     
    • Age: 39
    • Birthplace: Oxford, England
    110
    46
    Was he the best?
  • Dexter Scott King
    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: 59
    • Birthplace: Georgia, USA, Atlanta
    53
    32
    Was he the best?