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

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382 votes 202 voters 4.9k views 18 items

List Rules Actors 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.
Jeffrey Wright is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list All the Actors Who Have Played Martin Luther King, Jr., Ranked
Photo: HBO Films
1 44 VOTES

Jeffrey Wright


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: 52

Birthplace: Washington, D.C., United States of America

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38 6
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2 60 VOTES

David Oyelowo


Ranker Video
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: 41

Birthplace: Oxford, England

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#43 on The Greatest Non-White Actors in Hollywood

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48 12
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3 46 VOTES

Paul Winfield


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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: Died at 65 (1939-2004)

Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States of America

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#36 on The Best African American Actors in Film

36 10
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4 25 VOTES

Samuel L. Jackson


Ranker Video
Video: YouTube

Play portrayed in: The Mountaintop (2011)

In 2011, Jackson went on Broadway to portray King in this powerful play. This was a poignant role for Jackson, as he was an usher at Dr. King's funeral in 1968.

Age: 69

Birthplace: Washington, D.C., United States of America

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21 4
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