Top 50 Black actors of All Time

by cmart514 | created - 06 May 2013 | updated - 06 May 2013 | Public

Here's my top 50 Black Actors of all time. I include great character actors, box-office stars, comedic performers and some up and coming rising stars! Enjoy.

1. Sidney Poitier

Actor | In the Heat of the Night

A native of Cat Island, The Bahamas (although born, two months prematurely, in Miami during a visit by his parents), Poitier grew up in poverty as the son of farmers Evelyn (nee Outten) and Reginald James Poitier, who also drove a cab. He had little formal education and at the age of 15 was sent to...

2. Denzel Washington

Actor | Fences

Denzel Hayes Washington, Jr. was born on December 28, 1954 in Mount Vernon, New York. He is the middle of three children of a beautician mother, Lennis, from Georgia, and a Pentecostal minister father, Denzel Washington, Sr., from Virginia. After graduating from high school, Denzel enrolled at ...

3. Morgan Freeman

Actor | Se7en

With an authoritative voice and calm demeanor, this ever popular American actor has grown into one of the most respected figures in modern US cinema. Morgan was born on June 1, 1937 in Memphis, Tennessee, to Mayme Edna (Revere), a teacher, and Morgan Porterfield Freeman, a barber. The young Freeman...

4. Don Cheadle

Actor | Crash

Donald Frank Cheadle was born in Kansas City, Missouri on November 29, 1964. His childhood found him moving from city to city with his family: mother Bettye (North), a teacher, father Donald Frank Cheadle, Sr., a clinical psychologist, sister Dawn, and brother Colin. After graduating high school in...

5. Paul Robeson

Actor | King Solomon's Mines

This handsome, eloquent and highly charismatic actor became one of the foremost interpreters of Eugene O'Neill's plays and one of the most treasured names in song during the first half of the twentieth century. He also courted disdain and public controversy for most of his career as a staunch Cold ...

6. Samuel L. Jackson

Actor | Pulp Fiction

Samuel L. Jackson is an American producer and highly prolific actor, having appeared in over 100 films, including Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995), Unbreakable (2000), Shaft (2000), Formula 51 (2001), Black Snake Moan (2006), Snakes on a Plane (2006), and the Star Wars prequel trilogy (1999-2005), ...

7. Ossie Davis

Actor | Do the Right Thing

Ossie Davis was born on December 18, 1917 in Cogdell, Georgia, USA as Raiford Chatman Davis. He was an actor and writer, known for Do the Right Thing (1989), Bubba Ho-Tep (2002) and The Client (1994). He was married to Ruby Dee. He died on February 4, 2005 in Miami Beach, Florida, USA.

8. Forest Whitaker

Actor | The Last King of Scotland

Forest Steven Whitaker has packaged a king-size talent into his hulking 6' 2", 220 lb. frame. He won an Academy Award for his performance as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the film The Last King of Scotland (2006), and has also won a Golden Globe and a BAFTA. He is the fourth African-American male to...

9. Harry Belafonte

Actor | Bobby

Harold George Belafonte was born on March 1, 1927 in New York City. He was educated at the New York Dramatic Workshop. He grew up in Jamaica, British West Indies, and did folk-singing in nightclubs and theaters, and on television and records. His debut was at the Village Vanguard in New York. Also,...

10. James Earl Jones

Actor | Rogue One

Widely regarded as the one of greatest stage and screen actors both in his native USA and internationally, James Earl Jones was born on January 17, 1931 in Arkabutla, Mississippi. At an early age, he started to take dramatic lessons to calm himself down. It appeared to work as he has since starred ...

11. Laurence Fishburne

Actor | The Matrix

One of Hollywood's most talented and versatile performers and the recipient of a truckload of NAACP Image awards, Laurence John Fishburne III was born in Augusta, Georgia on July 30, 1961, to Hattie Bell (Crawford), a teacher, and Laurence John Fishburne, Jr., a juvenile corrections officer.

His ...

12. Sammy Davis Jr.

Actor | The Cannonball Run

Sammy Davis Jr. was often billed as the "greatest living entertainer in the world".

He was born in Harlem, Manhattan, the son of dancer Elvera Davis (née Sanchez) and vaudeville star Sammy Davis Sr.. His father was African-American and his mother was of Cuban and African-American ancestry. Davis Jr....

13. Will Smith

Music_department | The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Willard Carroll "Will" Smith, Jr. (born September 25, 1968) is an American actor, comedian, producer, rapper, and songwriter. He has enjoyed success in television, film, and music. In April 2007, Newsweek called him "the most powerful actor in Hollywood". Smith has been nominated for five Golden ...

14. Danny Glover

Actor | Lethal Weapon

Actor, producer and humanitarian Danny Glover has been a commanding presence on screen, stage and television for more than 35 years.

Glover was born in San Francisco, California, to Carrie (Hunley) and James Glover, postal workers who were also active in civil rights. Glover trained at the Black ...

15. Paul Winfield

Actor | The Terminator

Signifying intelligence, eloquence, versatility and quiet intensity, one of the more important, critically acclaimed black actors to gain a Hollywood foothold in the 1970s was Paul Winfield. Born in 1939 in Los Angeles, he lived there in his early years before moving with his family to Los Angeles'...

16. Wesley Snipes

Actor | Blade

Wesley Trent Snipes was born in Orlando, Florida, to Marian (Long), a teacher's assistant, and SMSGT Wesley Rudolph Snipes, an aircraft engineer. He grew up on the streets of the South Bronx in New York City, where he very early decided that dance and the theatre were to be his career. He attended ...

17. Louis Gossett Jr.

Actor | An Officer and a Gentleman

Louis Gossett Jr. is one of the most respected and beloved actors on stage, screen and television and is also an accomplished writer, producer and director. Off-screen he is a social activist, educator and author dedicated to enriching the lives of others. Gossett was the first African-American to ...

18. Chiwetel Ejiofor

Actor | 12 Years a Slave

English actor, writer and director Chiwetel Ejiofor is renowned for his portrayal of Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave (2013), for which he received Academy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations, along with the BAFTA Award for Best Actor. He is also known for playing Okwe in Dirty Pretty Things...

19. Eddie Murphy

Actor | The Nutty Professor

Edward Regan Murphy was born April 3, 1961 in Brooklyn, New York, to Lillian Lynch (born: Lillian Laney), a telephone operator, and Charles Edward Murphy, a transit police officer who was also an amateur comedian and actor. After his father died, his mother married Vernon Lynch, a foreman at a ...

20. Jamie Foxx

Actor | Django Unchained

Jamie Foxx is an American actor, singer and comedian. He won an Academy Award for Best Actor, BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, and Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy, for his work in the biographical film Ray (2004). The same year, he was nominated for the Academy...

21. Billy Dee Williams

Actor | Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

Billy Dee Williams was born William December Williams on April 6, 1937 in New York City. Billy Dee has notched up an impressive array of film and television appearances over the past 50+ years. He is easily best known to international film audiences as the roguish Lando Calrissian in the last two ...

22. Ivan Dixon

Director | The Spook Who Sat by the Door

Ivan Dixon, was a handsome, mustachioed African-American actor and director who carried a strong, serious nature about his solid frame, initially earned attention on the ground-breaking stage and film with pronounced themes of social and racial relevance. He would become better known, however, for ...

23. Jeffrey Wright

Actor | Shaft

Born and raised in Washington DC, Wright graduated from Amherst College in 1987. Although he studied Political Science while at Amherst, Wright left the school with a love for acting. Shortly after graduating he won an acting scholarship to NYU, but dropped out after only two months to pursue ...

24. Richard Pryor

Actor | Superman III

Highly influential, and always controversial, African-American actor/comedian who was equally well known for his colorful language during his live comedy shows, as for his fast paced life, multiple marriages and battles with drug addiction. He has been acknowledged by many modern comic artist's as ...

25. Adolph Caesar

Actor | The Color Purple

Born in the Harlem section of New York City, joined the Navy, then studied drama at New York University; was an announcer for then joined the Negro Ensemble Co. in 1970 for such productions as "The River Niger", "Square Root of the Soul" and "The Brownsville Raid"; worked with repertory groups such...

26. Terrence Howard

Actor | Hustle & Flow

Terrence Howard was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Anita Jeanine Williams (née Hawkins) and Tyrone Howard. He was raised in Cleveland, Ohio. His love for acting came naturally, through summers spent with his great-grandmother, New York stage actress Minnie Gentry. He later began his acting career ...

27. Dennis Haysbert

Actor | Far from Heaven

Dennis Haysbert was born on June 2, 1954 in San Mateo, California, USA as Dennis Dexter Haysbert. He is an actor and producer, known for Far from Heaven (2002), 24 (2001) and Heat (1995). He was previously married to Lynn Griffith and Elena Simms.

28. Delroy Lindo

Actor | Get Shorty

On the stage and on the big screen, Delroy Lindo projects a powerful presence that is almost impossible to ignore. Alhough it was not his first film role, his portrayal of the bipolar numbers boss West Indian Archie in Spike Lee's Malcolm X (1992) is what first attracted attention to Lindo's ...

29. Gregory Hines

Actor | History of the World: Part I

Gregory Hines was born on February 14, 1946 in New York City, New York, USA as Gregory Oliver Hines. He was an actor, known for History of the World: Part I (1981), Running Scared (1986) and Will & Grace (1998). He was married to Pamela Koslow and Patricia Panella. He died on August 9, 2003 in ...

30. Djimon Hounsou

Actor | Blood Diamond

Djimon Hounsou was born in Cotonou, Benin, in west Africa, to Albertine and Pierre Hounsou, a cook. He moved to Lyon, France, when he was thirteen. Hounsou has graced the catwalks of Paris and London as a popular male model. He has since left his modeling career and has worked on Gladiator (2000) ...

31. Giancarlo Esposito

Actor | Breaking Bad

Giancarlo Giuseppe Alessandro Esposito was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, to an Italian carpenter/stagehand father from Naples, Italy, and an African-American opera singer mother from Alabama. His parents, working in Europe at the time of his birth, settled in Manhattan by the time he was 6, and ...

32. Charles S. Dutton

Actor | Alien³

Charles S. Dutton was born on January 30, 1951 in Baltimore, Maryland, USA as Charles Stanley Dutton. He is an actor and producer, known for Alien³ (1992), Gothika (2003) and Legion (2010). He was previously married to Debbi Morgan.

33. Jim Brown

Actor | Mars Attacks!

Often mentioned as the greatest player in NFL history, this ruggedly handsome African American fullback for the Cleveland Browns first appeared on movie screens in the western Rio Conchos (1964), followed by a strong supporting role as convict commando "Jefferson" in the terrific WWII action film ...

34. Howard E. Rollins Jr.

Actor | Ragtime

Howard E. Rollins Jr. was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1950. He was the youngest of four children born to Howard E. Rollins Sr. (steelworker) and Ruth R. Rollins (domestic worker). Rollins graduated from Towson State College, where he studied theater. His first break into acting came when a ...

35. Ving Rhames

Actor | Pulp Fiction

Strikingly featured and muscular American actor Ving Rhames was born Irving Rameses Rhames in Harlem, New York, to Reather, a homemaker, and Ernest Rhames, an auto mechanic. A good student, Ving entered the New York High School of Performing Arts, where he discovered his love of acting. He studied ...

36. Clifton Powell

Actor | Ray

Clifton Powell was born on March 16, 1956 in Washington, District of Columbia, USA. He is an actor and producer, known for Ray (2004), Deep Rising (1998) and Next Friday (2000). He is married to Kimberly. They have two children.

37. Blair Underwood

Actor | Deep Impact

Smart, confident, eloquent, exceptionally handsome African-American actor Blair Underwood was born in Tacoma, Washington in 1964, the son of Marilyn Ann, an interior decorator, and Frank Eugene Underwood, Sr., an army colonel. With his family, he lived all over the world. Trained in musical theater...

38. Mario Van Peebles

Actor | Heartbreak Ridge

Mario Van Peebles is a highly regarded director, actor, producer and writer. His directorial skills can be seen in the retelling of the epic mini-series "Roots" starring Forest Whitaker and Matthew Goode. Van Pebbles has directed award-winning shows such as the recent hit "Empire" and "The Last ...

39. Yasiin Bey

Actor | The Italian Job

Regarded as one of hip-hop's most introspective and insightful artists, Mos Def has shaped a career that transcends music genres and artistic medium. Taking a cue from the Afrocentric stylings of the Native Tongues crew, which included De La Soul, Jungle Brothers, A Tribe Called Quest and Andres ...

40. Michael Clarke Duncan

Actor | The Green Mile

Michael Clarke Duncan was born on December 10, 1957 in Chicago, Illinois. Raised by his single mother, Jean, a house cleaner, on Chicago's South Side, Duncan grew up resisting drugs and alcohol, instead concentrating on school. He wanted to play football in high school, but his mother wouldn't let ...

41. Cuba Gooding Jr.

Actor | Jerry Maguire

Cuba Gooding Jr. was born on January 2, 1968, in The Bronx, New York. His mother, Shirley (Sullivan), was a backup singer for The Sweethearts. His father, Cuba Gooding, was the lead vocalist for the R&B group The Main Ingredient, which had a hit with the song "Everybody Plays The Fool". His ...

42. Anthony Mackie

Actor | The Hurt Locker

Anthony Mackie is an American actor. He was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Martha (Gordon) and Willie Mackie, Sr., who owned a business, Mackie Roofing. Anthony has been featured in feature films, television series and Broadway and Off-Broadway plays, including Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, ...

43. Ice Cube

Soundtrack | Friday

Ice Cube was born in South Central Los Angeles, to Doris (Benjamin), a custodian and hospital clerk, and Hosea Jackson, a UCLA groundskeeper. He first came to public notice as a singer and songwriter with the controversial and influential band N.W.A. His compositions with that group included many ...

44. Idris Elba

Actor | Beasts of No Nation

An only child, Idrissa Akuna Elba was born and raised in London, England. His father, Winston, is from Sierra Leone and worked at Ford Dagenham; his mother, Eve, is from Ghana and had a clerical duty. Idris attended school in Canning Town, where he first became involved in acting, before he dropped...

45. Harry Lennix

Actor | Man of Steel

Harry Lennix is an accomplished film, television, and stage actor. His recent credits include Warner Bros.' "Man of Steel", The CW's "Emily Owens, M.D.", Fox's "Dollhouse," HBO's "Little Britain," as well as the critically acclaimed series "24" as Walid Al-Rezani.

Harry Joseph Lennix III was born ...

46. Derek Luke

Actor | Antwone Fisher

Derek Luke was born on April 24, 1974 in Jersey City, New Jersey, USA. He is an actor, known for Antwone Fisher (2002), Glory Road (2006) and Captain America: The First Avenger (2011). He has been married to Sophia Adella Luke since 1998. They have one child.

47. David Oyelowo

Actor | Selma

David Oyelowo (pronounced - "oh-yellow-oh"), is a classically trained stage actor who has quickly become one of Hollywood's most sought-after talents. He graduated from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA), and received the "Scholarship for Excellence" from Nicholas Hytner in 1998.

...

48. Nate Parker

Actor | The Birth of a Nation

Nate Parker was born on November 18, 1979 in Norfolk, Virginia, USA. He is an actor and producer, known for The Birth of a Nation (2016), Arbitrage (2012) and The Great Debaters (2007). He has been married to Sarah DiSanto since 2007. They have four children.

49. Michael B. Jordan

Actor | Black Panther

Michael B. Jordan, the middle of three children, was born in Santa Ana, California and raised in Newark, New Jersey. He is the son of Donna (Davis), a high school counselor, and Michael A. Jordan. His middle name, Bakari, means "noble promise" in Swahili. (He is not related to, or named after, ...

50. John Boyega

Actor | Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens

John Boyega is a British actor, known for playing Finn in Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015). Boyega rose to prominence in his native United Kingdom for his role of Moses in the 2011 sci-fi comedy film Attack the Block (2011), before attaining international recognition for his work ...



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