It’s not until you start compiling a list of the best African-American actors do you realize the enormous talent pool you’re working with.
So many great characters have been portrayed by talented Black actors on stage, in film, on and television. Whether important stories retelling the history of slavery and civil rights, or hilarious comedies just for a laugh, the number of memorable performances is endless.
Here is our list of the best African-American actors of all time.
1. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje was born in London, England, and began a career as a fashion model.
Akinnuoye-Agbaje transitioned to Hollywood and is best known for his work on the prison drama series Oz as well as Lost and Game of Thrones. He was an early consideration to play the lead in Black Panther.
2. Richard T. Jones
Born in Kobe, Japan, Richard T. Jones has built a solid resume in both film and television. He has worked with Tyler Perry on both Why Did I Get Married? movies as well as the blockbuster Godzilla.
Jones’ television credits include Judging Amy, Hawaii Five-0, and Criminal Minds. He has been a regular on the police drama The Rookie since 2018.
3. Garrett Morris
Garrett Morris is known and loved by audiences for his hilarious comedy work as one of the original cast members of Saturday Night Live.
Morris has continued a career in film and television for more than 50 years. He has appeared on The Jamie Foxx Show, Martin, and in the films Car Wash and The Census Taker.
4. Hill Harper
Hill Harper got his start in acting working on the Spike Lee productions, Get On the Bus and He Got Game.
Hill’s longest-tenured role came as crime scene investigator Sheldon Hawkes on CSI: NY which aired for nine seasons. He is also a regular cast member of the medical drama series, The Good Doctor.
5. D.B. Woodside
D.B. Woodside got his first recurring role on the vampire series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He would also have a long run as Wayne Palmer on the series 24, becoming President of the United States in the sixth season.
Woodside’s other credits include the role of Melvin Franklin in The Temptations, as well as appearances in Parenthood and Lucifer.
6. David Oyelowo
David Oyelowo was born in Oxford, England, and spent part of his childhood growing up in Nigeria. He idolized Sidney Poitier and Denzel Washington.
Oyelowo received critical acclaim for his portrayal of Martin Luther King Jr. in the film, Selma, in which he was nominated for a Golden Globe. He was also nominated for an Emmy Award for his performance in Nightingale.
7. Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is best known for his role as Darryl Philbin on the long-running sitcom The Office.
Robinson has appeared on the big screen in films like Hot Tub Time Machine, Knocked Up, Pineapple Express, and Dolemite is My Name. He frequently collaborates with Seth Rogen.
8. John Boyega
Born in London, England, John Boyega began acting in plays as a child. Following his start in theater, one of his first roles was as Mike Tyson.
Boyega’s major breakthrough came when he was cast as Finn in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. He would reprise the role in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
9. Marlon Wayans
Marlon Wayans grew up in New York City the youngest of ten siblings. He appeared on the Wayans’ sketch series In Living Color before collaborating with his brother Shawn on the sitcom The Wayans Bros.
Wayans has appeared in numerous movies, notably Scary Movie and Scary Movie 2, and starred alongside Shawn in White Chicks and Little Man.
10. Glenn Plummer
Glenn Plummer has been making film and television appearances for more than 30 years. He started out with small roles in the movies Colors, Menace II Society, and Speed.
Plummer is best known for his work as Timmy Rawlins on the hit medical drama ER and for his recurring role on Sons of Anarchy.
11. Kadeem Hardison
Kadeem Hardison will always be remembered for his starring role as Dwayne Wayne in the Cosby Show spin-off A Different World, about black student life at Hillman College.
Hardison also starred in the Disney Channel’s K.C. Undercover and has made numerous guest appearances in film and on television.
12. LL Cool J
James Todd Smith is a Grammy Award-winning rapper better known by his stage name LL Cool J. Smith began acting in the 90s, appearing in several films including Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday.
Smith has been a regular on NCIS: Los Angeles as Special Agent Sam Hanna. He is also the host of Lip Synch Battle.
13. Boris Kodjoe
Born in Venice, Austria, Boris Kodjoe began his career as a model. Kodjoe is known for his work on the drama series Soul Food and his appearance in the movie Brown Sugar.
Kodjoe was a regular cast member of the medical drama series Code Black as well as the Grey’s Anatomy spin-off, Station 19.
14. Blair Underwood
Following a brief stint on the popular soap opera One Life To Live, Blair Underwood starred as attorney Johnathan Rollins on the legal drama series L.A. Law for eight seasons.
Underwood has appeared in numerous films and television series, including the main cast of City of Angels and Dirty Sexy Money.
15. Aldis Hodge
Aldis Hodge made his film debut in Die Hard With a Vengeance. He appeared in the biopic Straight Outta Compton as MC Ren and portrayed Jim Brown in the film One Night in Miami…
Hodge is slated to play Hawkman in the yet-to-be-released Black Adam starring Dwayne Johnson.
16. Arsenio Hall
Actor-comedian Arsenio Hall is best known for his late-night talk show in the early 90s, The Arsenio Hall Show.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Hall worked the comedy circuit before appearing in two Eddie Murphy films, Coming To America and Harlem Nights.
17. Max Julien
Max Julien is a cornerstone of the blaxploitation genre. He is best known for his starring role in the cult classic, The Mack.
Julien received accolades for his performance in 1968’s Uptight! He also wrote the screenplay for Cleopatra Jones, starring Tamara Johnson.
18. Morris Chestnut
Although Morris Chestnut has worked in film and television for the past thirty years, it was his film debut in Boyz N the Hood that may be his most remembered role.
Chestnut joined the main cast of series like Nurse Jackie and The Enemy Within. He was presented with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2022.
19. André 3000
André Lauren Benjamin was born in Atlanta, Georgia. He is better known as André 3000 as part of the hip-hop duo, Outkast.
Benjamin has appeared in several television and film roles, most notably as Jimi Hendrix in the biopic, All Is by My Side. He also created and voiced an animated series, Class of 3000.
20. Michael Jai White
Michael Jai White is a bonafide action movie star thanks in part to his cut physique and his mastery of the martial arts. He became the first African-American superhero in the title role of Spawn.
White has worked with Tyler Perry on several films and starred in the blaxploitation flick, Black Dynamite, in which he also voices the lead character in the animated series.
21. Robert Guillaume
Robert Guillaume had an illustrious career in film, television, and theater that spanned over fifty years. He is best known for his Emmy-winning role of Benson in the sitcom Soap and its spin-off of the same name.
Younger generations would know Guillaume’s voice as Rafiki in The Lion King. He won a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for The Lion King Read-Along.
22. Michael Ealy
Born Michael Brown in Silver Spring, Maryland, Michael Ealy got his first big break in the 2002 movie, Barbershop.
Ealy would go on to appear in numerous films like 2 Fast 2 Furious, About Last Night, and both installments of Think Like a Man. He was also cast in music videos for Mariah Carey and Beyoncé.
23. Jaden Smith
Jaden Smith is the son of Will Smith. He made his film debut with his father at the age of 8 in The Pursuit of Happyness.
Smith also starred with his father in After Earth, a sci-fi action film. Following his role in the remake of The Karate Kid, Smith took a break from acting to focus on his music career.
24. Adolph Caesar
Adolph Caesar was born in Harlem, New York, in 1933. His deep voice secured voiceover work in radio and television commercials.
Caesar gained attention for his role as Army Sergeant. Vernon C. Waters in the award-winning theatrical production, A Soldier’s Play. He would reprise the role in the film adaptation, A Soldier’s Story, earning an Academy Award nomination.
25. Larenz Tate
Larenz Tate started his acting career in television with several small parts before landing a recurring role on the series, Family Matters.
It wasn’t until he was cast as “O-Dog” in Menace II Society did he start getting numerous offers. A prolific career in film and television has followed Tate ever since.
26. Vondie Curtis-Hall
Actor-director Vondie Curtis-Hall grew up in Detroit, Michigan. He played Dr. Dennis Hancock on the medical-drama, Chicago Hope.
Curtis-Hall has numerous film credits to his name, including Passion Fish, Coming To America, andBaz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet.
27. Dennis Haysbert
Before Barack Obama became the first African-American President of the United States, there was Dennis Haysbert. He played the President on the television series 24.
Haysbert also played Pedro Cerrano in the Major League trilogy. His deep baritone voice is also recognizable in commercials as he is the spokesperson for AllState Insurance.
28. Anthony Mackie
Anthony Mackie has an impressive resume at his relatively young age. His debut came in the Eminem film 8 Mile. He followed that with appearances in The Manchurian Candidate and Million Dollar Baby.
Mackie is most widely known for playing Falcon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including Captain America: the Winter Soldier, Ant-Man, and Avengers: Endgame.
29. Paul Robeson
Paul Robeson was a trailblazer as an actor on stage and in film, as a singer, and as a political activist.
Robeson gained accolades on Broadway for his role as Joe in Show Boat, and would also star in the film adaptation of the musical in 1936. His rendition of “Ol’ Man River” is considered the gold standard.
30. Eddie Griffin
Another funnyman who parlayed his comedic talents to the big screen is Eddie Griffin. He starred in Undercover Brother and appears in the Deuce Bigalow comedies.
Griffin also starred in the sitcom Malcolm & Eddie alongside Malcolm Jamal-Warner. The show ran for four seasons on UPN.
31. Damon Wayans
Damon Wayans got his start in stand-up comedy and a spot in the cast of Saturday Night Live. He would join forces with his brothers to create the sketch comedy show, In Living Color.
Wayans has appeared in numerous films and television shows, including Last Boy Scout with Bruce Willis and the sitcom My Wife and Kids.
32. Donald Glover
Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, is a man of many talents. He is an actor, rapper, and comedian.
Glover starred in the sitcom Community and the comedy-drama Atlanta, in which he won an Emmy and a Golden Globe. He has appeared in several films including Spider-Man: Homecoming.
33. Harry Belafonte Is A Black Actor
Harry Belafonte is credited for introducing calypso-style music to an international audience with “The Banana Boat Song.”
Belafonte was a natural in taking his talents to Hollywood, starring in several films including Carmen in 1954. He credits actor Paul Robeson as one of his biggest influences.
34. Ron O’Neal
Ron O’Neal starred in one of the greatest blaxploitation films of all time, Super Fly. He would reprise his role as cocaine dealer Youngblood Priest in the sequel, Super Fly T.N.T.
O’Neal would have a number of television appearances in the years that followed, including The Equalizer and A Different World.
35. Yaphet Kotto
Yaphet Kotto starred in several commercially successful films, including the James Bond thriller Live and Let Die, The Running Man with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Midnight Run opposite Robert DeNiro.
One of Kotto’s most famous roles came in 1979’s sci-fi film, Alien. In the 90s, Kotto starred in the police drama Homicide: Life on the Street.
36. Fred Williamson
Fred “The Hammer” Williamson was born in Gary, Indiana, in 1938. He was a professional football player in the 1960s.
Upon retiring from the sport, Williamson turned to acting. He would appear in several blaxploitation movies through the 70s alongside fellow football star, Jim Brown.
37. Bill Nunn
Bill Nunn appeared in several of Spike Lee’s films, including School Daze, Mo Better Blues, and He Got Game. He also has a recurring role in several Spiderman films.
However, Nunn is best known as Radio Raheem in Do the Right Thing. The film made an important statement on racial injustice, and the police killing of Raheem proved to be an unfortunate foretelling of the future.
38. Shemar Moore
Shemar Moore had a long, ten-year run on the soap opera The Young and the Restless, winning a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor.
Moore had another lengthy television series role starring in Criminal Minds, in which he played Derek Morgan for 11 seasons.
39. Tyrese Gibson
Tyrese Gibson is an accomplished R&B recording artist, having charted several singles on the Billboard Hot 100.
Born in Los Angeles, California, it was only a matter of time before Gibson set his sights on acting. His first starring role was in John Singleton’s Baby Boy before he appeared in the Transformers franchise.
40. Clifton Powell
Born in Washington, D.C, Clifton Powell started his acting career in 1981 and has been one of the busiest actors in the industry ever since.
Powell has appeared in over 100 films and dozens of television roles. The character of Pinky in Friday After Next is a great example of his comedy range and screen presence.
41. Michael K. Williams
Coming from Brooklyn, New York City, it is little wonder that Michael K. Williams rose to fame playing the gritty role of Omar Little on the drama series, The Wire.
Williams was highly praised for his screen presence, earning numerous award nominations for his work on shows such as Boardwalk Empire and Bessie.
42. Mos Def
Dante Terrell Smith changed his popular stage name Mos Def to Yasiin Bey. He is an accomplished rapper and MC, having been nominated for numerous Grammy awards.
Bey has put together an impressive resume of acting credits, appearing in films like 16 Blocks with Bruce Willis and Be Kind Rewind with Jack Black.
43. Trevante Rhodes
Trevante Rhodes came to international attention with his work in the Academy Award-winning movie, Moonlight. The film won Best Picture.
Rhodes has appeared in the films The Predator and Bird Box andstarred as Mike Tyson in the made-for-television series, Mike.
44. Orlando Jones
Orlando Jones broke into the entertainment business as a writer, working on such shows as A Different World and Roc.
Jones’ acting career took off when he joined the cast of the comedy sketch series, MadTV. He was known for his various impressions of other celebrities.
45. Clarence Williams III
Clarence Williams III was born in New York City, New York. His breakout role came as Linc Hayes on the cop-drama Mod Squad which ran from 1968 to 1973.
Williams played Prince’s father in Purple Rain and also had roles in popular films like American Gangster and Reindeer Games.
Tracy Lauren Marrow is better known to the world as rapper Ice-T.
Marrow made his acting debut in a few break dancing movies before his first major role in New Jack City. He would play another police detective on the small screen in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
47. Sterling K. Brown
Sterling K. Brown won his first Emmy Award for his role as Christopher Darden in the limited series The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story.
Brown starred on the hit series This Is Us, adding another Emmy and a Golden Globe Award, becoming the first African-American to win Best Actor in a Television Drama.
48. Jeffrey Wright
Jeffrey Wright first gained critical acclaim off-Broadway, winning a Tony Award for Best Actor for Angels in America. He followed that with a well-received portrayal of painter Jean-Michel Basquiat in the film Basquiat.
Wright has starred in many successful films and television shows since, including Westworld, The Batman, and several James Bond movies.
49. Ernie Hudson
Ernie Hudson has had a fifty-year career appearing in numerous television and film roles. However, he is best known for his turn as Winston in the Ghostbusters series.
Hudson would once again don his jumpsuit and proton pack along with original cast members Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd for the reboot, Ghostbusters: Afterlife in 2019.
50. Keenen Ivory Wayans
Keenen Ivory Wayans exploded onto the scene in the early 90s having created the comedy sketch series In Living Color. He often appears alongside brothers Marlon and Damon.
Wayans directed Scary Movie, which became the highest-grossing movie directed by an African-American at the time.
51. John Witherspoon
Born in Detroit, Michigan, John Witherspoon had a long and storied career spanning more than 50 years.
Witherspoon is best known for his roles in the Friday movies, Hollywood Shuffle, Boomerang, and as the voice of Robert Freeman on the adult animated series, The Boondocks.
52. Chris Tucker
Chris Tucker began his career as a stand-up comedian. He moved to L.A. to appear on the comedy series, Def Comedy Jam.
Tucker went on to appear in several films before gaining international fame starring alongside Jackie Chan as police detectives in the Rush Hour action-comedy movies.
53. Mario Van Peebles
Mario Van Peebles made his movie debut playing his father’s character as a child in Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song. Melvin Van Peebles directed and starred in the lead role.
Born in Mexico City, Mexico, Van Peebles made his directorial debut with New Jack City, co-starring alongside Wesley Snipes, Judd Nelson, and Ice-T.
54. Ice Cube
Born O’Shea Jackson in Los Angeles, California, he is better known by his stage name, Ice Cube. He began a career as a rapper with the group N.W.A. and helped popularize gangsta rap.
Jackson made his acting debut in John Singleton’s Boyz N the Hood. He would evolve into a bankable comedic actor, starring in the Friday films as well as the Barbershop series.
55. Ben Vereen
Ben Vereen gained recognition on Broadway early in his career with a Tony nomination for Jesus Christ Superstar and a Tony Award for Best Actor for the stage play, Pippin.
Vereen would earn an Emmy-nomination for his role as Chicken George in the epic television series, Roots.
56. Keith David
Born in New York City, New York, Keith David is a prolific character actor, having appeared in over 300 roles over his forty-plus year acting career.
David’s deep voice has made him a popular choice as a voice actor for animation and video games. He has voiced the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, and Goliath.
57. Terrence Howard
Terrence Howard first came on the scene with roles in Dead Presidents and Mr. Holland’s Opus. His starring role in Hustle & Flow would earn him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
Howard had a five-year run as Lucious Lyon on the television series Empire. He played a hip-hop mogul running his music empire.
58. Dwayne Johnson
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson rose to prominence as a professional wrestler. He has starred in numerous action films as well as family-friendly movies.
Johnson appears in the last three installments of the Fast and Furious franchise and stars in the Jumanji movies. He is also set to play the Marvel superhero Black Adam.
59. Omar Epps
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Omar Epps is an award-winning actor and producer. He made his film debut alongside Tupac Shakur in the movie, Juice.
Epps appeared on the hospital drama ER beforereturning to success on the big screen with Scream 2 and a starring role in the critically-acclaimed Love & Basketball.
60. Taye Diggs
Taye Diggs got his start on Broadway appearing in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Rent. Diggs would play the character again in the film adaptation.
Diggs gained exposure with a recurring role on the soap opera, Guiding Light, as well as a star turn in his big screen debut, How Stella Got Her Groove Back.
61. Harold Perrineau
Harold Perrineau has found success on both the big and small screens. His first big role was as Mercutio in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet.
Perrineau has also appeared in the Matrix franchise as well as two hugely successful television series, Oz and Lost.
62. Spike Lee
Spike Lee is widely regarded as one of the great directors of his generation. However, when he is in front of the camera, his characters are memorable.
Lee has acted in 11 of his own films. His works often focus on racism, poverty, and social issues, and include the acclaimed biopic, Malcolm X, starring Denzel Washington.
63. Djimon Hounsou
Born in Cotonou, Benin, Djimon Hounsou relocated to Paris and began a modeling career. He got his start in acting by appearing in music videos.
Hounsou gained international recognition in Steven Spielberg’s Amistad and followed that up with the commercially successful blockbuster, Gladiator.
64. Gregory Hines
Gregory Hines may be better known for his tap dancing skills rather than as an actor. However, Hines was able to bring his dancing skills to the big screen with commercial success.
Hines starred alongside ballet guru Mikhail Baryshnikov in White Nights and in the buddy-cop film Running Scared with Billy Crystal.
65. Richard Roundtree
Richard Roundtree is regarded as one of the first black action heroes for his work in blaxploitation films of the 1970s.
He is best known for his role as John Shaft in Shaft. He starred in the two Shaft sequels and had minor roles in the 80s and 90s.
66. Terry Crews
Terry Crews is a former NFL linebacker who turned his impressive physique into a successful comedic acting career.
Crews has appeared in several movies, as well as having a regular role on the comedy cop series, Brooklyn Nine-Nine. He is also the host of America’s Got Talent.
67. Cedric the Entertainer
Cedric Antonio Kyles, better known as Cedric the Entertainer, became one of The Kings of Comedy alongside Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, and Bernie Mac. He appeared as a regular character on the television series, The Steve Harvey Show.
From there, roles in comedy movies followed. One of his most popular characters is Eddie Walker in the Barbershop movies.
68. Ossie Davis
Ossie Davis had a long acting career spanning over sixty years. Like his contemporaries Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby, Davis avoided stereotypical roles for black actors.
Davis would work on several of Spike Lee’s films, including Do the Right Thing and Jungle Fever.
Davis was married to actress Ruby Dee for 57 years until his death in 2005.
69. Redd Foxx
Redd Foxx is best known as everybody’s favorite junk dealer Fred Sanford on the 70s classic sitcom, Sanford & Son.
However, in the 1960s, Foxx was known for his raunchy stand-up performances and party records.
Foxx also appeared in several movies, most notably the Eddie Murphy-directed Harlem Nights.
70. Chris Rock
Chris Rock is another stand-up comedian who was able to parlay his success in comedy to the big-screen. He has appeared in over fifty films.
Rock was the executive producer and narrator of the series based on his childhood called Everybody Hates Chris. He has also hosted the Academy Awards show three times.
71. Billy Dee Williams
Billy Dee Williams’ first taste of fame came with his Emmy-award nominated role as Gayle Sayers in Brian’s Song.
Williams became the first black actor cast in the Star Wars franchise, portraying Lando Calrissian in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. He would reprise the role almost forty years later in The Rise of Skywalker.
72. Mekhi Phifer
Mekhi Phifer was born and raised in Harlem, New York City. He got his first big break when Spike Lee cast him for the leading role in the crime movie, Clockers.
Phifer would have a successful run on television as well. He played Dr. Greg Pratt on the long-running medical drama series, ER.
73. Sammy Davis Jr.
Samuel George Davis Jr. was born in New York City in 1925. He would become a member of The Rat Pack along with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop.
The Rat Pack made several movies together, including Ocean’s 11 and Robin and the 7 Hoods.
74. Charles S. Dutton
Charles S. Dutton had a troubled upbringing in Baltimore, Maryland, and found himself serving time in the state penitentiary. While there he took an interest in acting.
Dutton started his career on Broadway, earning several Tony award nominations. He found success on television with his own comedy series, Roc.
75. Carl Weathers
Carl Weathers will forever be linked to his most famous role, Apollo Creed, in the Rocky franchise. He would star in Rocky II, Rocky III, and Rocky IV.
Weathers would go on to appear in Predator, Action Jackson, and the Adam Sandler golf comedy, Happy Gilmore. More recently he can be seen in the Star Wars series, The Mandalorian.
76. Bill Cosby
Bill Cosby starred in the crime show I Spy, making him the first African-American to win an Emmy Award.
Cosby had a successful run in children’s entertainment with the cartoon Fat Albert, in which he hosted and provided many of the characters’ voices.
Cosby became “America’s Dad” as Cliff Huxtable on the long-running series, The Cosby Show.
77. Bernie Mac
Born in Chicago, Illinois, Bernie Mac established himself as one of “The Kings of Comedy” before transitioning into an acting career.
Mac created and starred in the Emmy-nominated sitcom based on his life, The Bernie Mac Show. He had numerous appearances in comedy films and a recurring role in the Ocean’s Eleven movie franchise.
78. John Amos
John Amos is a beloved actor in the business for over 50 years. He played Gordy the Weatherman on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and is most recognizable as James Evans Sr. on the 70s sitcom Good Times.
Amos was nominated for an Emmy Award for his role as the older Kunta Kinte in the acclaimed television miniseries Roots.
79. Mike Epps
Mike Epps has had a long and successful career as a stand-up comedian, film and television actor, and occasional rapper.
Epps has starred in films like Next Friday and Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins with Martin Lawrence. He is slated to play Richard Pryor in a biopic still in development.
80. Mahershala Ali
Mahershala Ali became only the second black actor to win multiple Academy Awards for acting for his starring roles in Moonlight and Green Book.
Ali also earned accolades for his work in The Hunger Games and an Emmy nomination for his role in House of Cards.
81. Chiwetel Ejiofor
Chiwetel Ejiofor was discovered at the age of 19 by Steven Spielberg and cast in his 1997 film, Amistad.
Born in London, England, Ejiofor is best known for his role as Solomon Northrup in 12 Years a Slave. He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor.
82. Idris Elba
Idrissa Akuna “Idris” Elba was born in London, England. He became a recognized name for his work on the cop-drama The Wire and had a six-episode run on The Office.
Elba’s film credits include the leading role in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and opposite Denzel Washington in American Gangster.
83. Michael Clarke Duncan
Michael Clarke Duncan was a big man with big talent, standing six feet five inches tall and weighing over 300 pounds.
Duncan’s best known role came as John Coffey, a death-row inmate with supernatural powers in The Green Mile. He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
84. Delroy Lindo
Delroy Lindo was born in London, England, and moved as a teen with his mother to San Francisco. He began his acting studies at the age of 24.
Lindo has collaborated with Spike Lee on several films, including Malcolm X, Crooklyn, and Da 5 Bloods.
85. Louis Gossett Jr.
Louis Gossett Jr. started acting on Broadway in the play, A Raisin in the Sun.
Over a career spanning sixty-plus years, Gossett has won an Emmy Award for the television series Roots, and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as a drill sergeant in An Officer and a Gentleman.
86. Wesley Snipes
Wesley Snipes jumped onto the scene as Willie Mays Hayes in the baseball comedy, Major League in 1989.
Snipes starred in the films New Jack City, White Men Can’t Jump, and as a drag queen in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar.
Snipes is best known for his lead role as the Marvel Comics character Blade in the vampire trilogy.
87. Kevin Hart
Kevin Hart grew up in Philadelphia and turned to comedy as a diversion from a difficult childhood. He won a couple of stand-up competitions while honing his craft.
Hart managed to turn his comedy into an impressive acting career. He has starred in many comedy movies, including those inthe Jumanji franchise alongside Dwayne Johnson.
88. Ving Rhames
Born in Harlem, New York City, Ving Rhames is known for his portrayal of Marcellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction. He also plays opposite Tom Cruise in the Mission: Impossible franchise.
Rhames won a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Miniseries or Television Film for his role as Don King in the television movie, Don King: Only in America.
89. Paul Winfield
Paul Winfield carved out a lengthy acting career in television, movies, and theater, becoming one of the greatest character actors of all time.
Born in Dallas, Texas, Winfield was nominated for an Academy Award for his role as a sharecropper in the movie Sounder, and also received an Emmy nomination for his portrayal of Martin Luther King Jr.
90. Michael B. Jordan
Michael B. Jordan got his start in television on a soap opera and the cop-drama, The Wire, before making the jump to bonafide movie star.
Jordan plays Apollo Creed’s son in the extension of the Rocky franchise in Creed and Creed II. He also starred as Erik Killmonger in the billion-dollar blockbuster, Black Panther.
91. Tyler Perry
Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, Tyler Perry became one of the highest-paid people in entertainment.
Perry created and produced several successful series, including Tyler Perry’s House of Payne and The Haves and Have Nots for the Oprah Winfrey Network.
Perry’s most recognizable acting role is his character of Madea, a strong-willed woman who does not take any nonsense.
92. Martin Lawrence
Martin Lawrence was the host of HBO’s groundbreaking Def Comedy Jam bringing him national exposure. This led to Lawrence starring in his own successful sitcom, Martin.
Lawrence made the jump to the big screen, starring in hit movies House Party, Big Momma’s House, as well as the Bad Boys franchise.
93. Cuba Gooding Jr.
Cuba Gooding Jr.’s breakout role came in John Singleton’s Boyz N the Hood.
Gooding Jr.’s career took off from there, resulting in an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Jerry MaGuire.
Gooding Jr. also won an Emmy Award for his portrayal of O.J. Simpson in the drama series, The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story.
94. James Earl Jones
James Earl Jones’ nearly seventy-year career has earned him the distinction of being one of the greatest American actors in cinematic history.
Jones is a member of the exclusive EGOT club, having won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and Tony awards.
Jones has starred in classic films like Field of Dreams andis the voice behind the mask of Darth Vader in the Star Wars trilogy.
95. Richard Pryor
Richard Pryor grew up in Peoria, Illinois, in a brothel run by his grandmother. He directed a movie based on his childhood called Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling.
Pryor parlayed his stand-up comedy into big screen success. One of his most commercially successful comedies was with Gene Wilder in the Sidney Poitier directed, Stir Crazy.
96. Don Cheadle
Don Cheadle was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for his work in Hotel Rwanda. He starred in and co-produced Crash, which wonthe Academy Award for Best Picture in 2006.
Cheadle earned praise for his roles in Devil in a Blue Dress, Boogie Nights, and for his portrayal of Sammy Davis Jr. in The Rat Pack.
97. Jamie Foxx
Jamie Foxx is a comedian, actor, and singer who starred in the sketch comedy series In Living Color before getting his own television sitcom, The Jamie Foxx Show.
Foxx won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Ray Charles in Ray and was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Collateral.
98. Chadwick Boseman
Chadwick Boseman became the first black actor to star in a Marvel Comics movie with Black Panther. The film went on to gross $1.3 billion worldwide.
Boseman also starred in several biopics, notably as Jackie Robinson in 42 and as James Brown in Get On Up.
Boseman received high accolades for his work following his death in 2020, with the posthumous release of Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods and his final film, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
99. Forest Whitaker
Forest Whitaker made his film debut in the coming-of-age comedy, Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The movie also launched the careers of Sean Penn, Nicolas Cage, and Jennifer Jason Leigh.
After appearing in blockbusters Platoon and Good Morning, Vietnam, Whitaker won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland.
100. Danny Glover
Danny Glover is an accomplished actor, most recognizable as Detective Roger Murtaugh in the Lethal Weapon franchise.
Glover has also had leading roles in The Color Purple and Angels in the Outfield.
Not just a well-respected actor, Glover is also a strong presence with his activism, supporting civil rights, humanitarian issues, and global warming awareness.
101. Eddie Murphy
Eddie Murphy parlayed his stand-up comedy career into one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.
Murphy would earn box office success in films like 48 Hours, Coming To America, and The Nutty Professor. He is known to a new generation as the voice of Donkey in the Shrek films.
102. Will Smith
Will Smith exploded on the scene starring in the television sitcom, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, based loosely on his upbringing in Philadelphia.
Smith is one of the most bankable A-list celebrities in Hollywood. His films regularly eclipse the $100 million mark, including Men in Black, Hancock, Suicide Squad, Aladin, and King Richard.
103. Laurence Fishburne
Laurence Fishburne has been playing forceful characters on stage and screen for over forty years.
Some of his most memorable roles have been in John Singleton’s Boyz N the Hood, Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, and as Morpheus in The Matrix.
Fishburne has won Emmy and Tony Awards and has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor.
104. Samuel L. Jackson
Samuel Leroy Jackson was born in Washington, D.C. in 1948.
He is one of the highest-grossing actors of all time with his films combining for a whopping $27 billion and counting.
Jackson has appeared in over 150 films. He has collaborated with filmmaker Quentin Tarantino on several movies, including Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, and Django Unchained.
105. Morgan Freeman
Morgan Freeman has starred in many successful Hollywood movies over his fifty-plus year career. He has earned awards and accolades for his roles in Glory, Driving Miss Daisy, Million Dollar Baby, and Shawshank Redemption.
Freeman has achieved success at the box office without even appearing on screen. He voiced “Vitruvius” in the widely successful Lego Movie franchise.
106. Denzel Washington
There is a good reason why the NY Times named Denzel Washington the Greatest Actor of the 21st Century (So Far).
Washington has magnificently portrayed an ex-slave turned soldier in Glory, legendary civil rights activist Malcolm X, a wrongfully jailed boxer in The Hurricane, a corrupt detective in Training Day, and an alcoholic pilot in Flight.
Over a career spanning four decades, Washington has won two Academy Awards, three Golden Globes, and a Tony Award.
107. Sidney Poitier
Sidney Poitier is widely regarded as Hollywood’s first African-American movie star.
He was the first Black actor to win an Oscar for his role in Lilies of the Field in 1964.
Poitier was on fire in 1967. He starred in three successful and critically-acclaimed films in the same year: To Sir, With Love, In the Heat of the Night, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.
Poitier was also an accomplished director. He had his biggest commercial success with 1980’s Stir Crazy, starring Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, and is definitely one of the best Black actors ever.
Best Black Actors of All Time, Final Thoughts
Some of the most iconic scenes in cinematic history feature the best African-American actors of all time. Sidney Poitier’s Detective Tibbs slapping a white plantation owner. Morgan Freeman walking the beach at the end of Shawshank Redemption.
Not only does our list contain the top Black actors of all time, but some of the greatest actors to have ever graced stage or screen.