Black women have been running the acting game for a while and wearing it well. Every day, new black female actors are emerging in all sorts of genres.
We’ve compiled a list of the best female actors of all time, but rookie or vets all deserve their flowers.
Jada Pinkett Smith
Best known for her role in A Different World and other various black sitcoms, Jada is no amateur to the acting game.
She was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and got her big break in 1991. Since then, she’s appeared in numerous movies and TV shows including Woo, The Matrix, and Gotham. She’s truly a woman of versatility.
Fun Fact: A less-known fact about Jada is that she went to school with the music legend Tupac Shakur!
Born in the small town of South Bend, Indiana, Vivica Fox started her acting career on the long-running TV show Soul Train.
Since her debut, she’s appeared in movies and TV shows, including Kill Bill, Sharknado, and Independence Day.
Fox has proven she’s more than just a badass swordfighter, but also a captivating actress on the horror and thriller scene.
Fun Fact: Many don’t know this, but she first appeared on screens in a Clearasil commercial after scouts noticed her eye color.
Born Caryn Elaine Johnson, Whoopi began her acting career right out of Chelsea, Manhattan.
Throughout her career, Whoopi’s been decorated in numerous awards for her TV personality and authorship. Her most notable awards include an Emmy, a Grammy, an Academy Award, and a Tony.
We remember her most from her work on The Sister Act and The Color Purple.
Fun Fact: Whoopi got her comedic name from a Whoopie Cushion after she was gassy during a backstage performance.
Vanessa Williams is not only an American actress but also a model, fashion designer, and musical artist!
She was born in Bronx, New York, and initially began getting recognition after her Miss America win in 1983. She was a star on stage and became the first Black winner.
From there she began appearing in popular movies and TV shows, including Dance With Me, Ugly Betty, and The Librarians. Audiences enjoyed her most alongside Arnold Swarzenegger in Eraser.
Fun Fact: Vanessa was the first black Miss America title recipient!
Meagan has been captivating audiences for years with her amazing talent and beautiful looks.
She was born in 1981 in Los Angeles, California. At the age of 13, she was cast in her first role in the hit movie Friday.
From there, she went on to appear in comedies, dramedies, and horror films. Her most notable work includes Deception, Minority Report, and Think Like A Man.
Fun Fact: Meagan had to learn to skate in her first commercial at age 4.
Although not born in the states, American TV would be nothing without Lupita Nyong’o.
Nyong’o was born in Mexico City but began her acting career in the U.S.
She debuted in 12 Years a Slave in 2013, which earned her an Academy Award. From there, she’s been featured in films such as Little Monsters, Captain Marvel, and the horror film Us.
Fun Fact: Lupita was born in Mexico City but grew up in Kenya.
Rosario has been featured in some of the most timeless and cunning films of our time. She debuted in 1995 in the independent drama Kids, but her work was far from over.
Her most notable work includes the Oscar-winning film Trance, Rent, The Mandalorian, and Seven Pounds.
Dawson can play a variety of roles, but her most famous roles are always chilling and thrilling.
Fun Fact: Rosario describes her ethnicity as a mix between black, Cuban, Puerto-Rican, and Irish.
An all-time favorite, Regina Hall has been delivering the funniest and most comical performances on screen since her debut in the Scary Movie series. Fans loved her role as Brenda and followed her onto other roles.
Regina starred in many movies and TV shows, including The Best Man, Barbershop, Think Like A Man, King’s Ransom, and tons of other black comedies.
With style, grace, and beautifully-timed jokes, Regina Hall deserves all the flowers as one of the best black female actors ever.
Fun Fact: Regina has a Master’s degree in Journalism from NYU.
Born in 1952 right out of Tusla, Oklahoma is Alfre Ette Woodard.
Woodard began her theatre career in 1974 on Washington DC’s Arena Stage, but she craved more exposure. She sought out roles in L.A but was disheartened when so few roles were casting black women. But Woodard didn’t let that stop her.
With determination and persistence, she landed a role in Remember My Name in 1978. From there she went on to appear in The Family That Preys, Annabelle, and Clemency.
As an amazing actress, she’s been decorated in several awards, including a Primetime Emmy.
Fun Fact: Alfre was a cheerleader back in high school.
Octavia was born in Montgomery, Alabama in 1970. Beginning an acting career for a Black woman at this time wasn’t popular nor supported, but Spencer managed to land a few high-profile gigs to get her name out there. From there, her talent did the rest.
Spencer has starred in her films and received numerous awards for her inspiring performances.
Her most notable work includes The Shack, Ma, The Help, and Hidden Figures.
Fun Fact: She’s written 2 novels for middle-school-aged children.
Nia Long is another all-time favorite black actress that can be traced to the most memorable black films.
Long debuted in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Boyz N the Hood in the early 90s. From there, she appeared in other black favorites like Friday, Big Mommas House, and Are We There Yet?
Nia Long has earned several awards throughout her acting career, including recognition by the NAACP in 2000, 2004, 2005, and 2021.
Fun Fact: Her entire family are educators.
Thandiwe is a treasure to American entertainment, although she’s originally from the U.K.
Newton began her acting career in 1991 in the movie Flirting. Can you believe her name was misspelled in the credits? As Newton’s career progressed, she kept up the misspelling for convenience, but recently decided she would not accept the incorrect spelling of her name.
To date, we’ve seen Newton appear in films such as Westworld, Mission Impossible, and the comedy classic Norbit.
Fun Fact: Newton grew up in London, Africa, and Penzance.
Born in Los Angeles, California, Regina King is a beloved black female actor and director.
She’s appeared in many films, including Poetic Justice, A Cinderella Story, and Watchmen, while also directing the popular movies One Night in Miami and Let the Church Say Amen.
With poise and precision, Regina King never fails to put on anything less than stellar performance.
Fun Fact: At the age of 13, Regina was cast in the play 227, which was later turned into a sitcom on NBC.
Born in Newark, New Jersey, Queen Latifah has been our TV queen for decades now.
She got her start in 1991 in the popular film Jungle Fever. From there, she was cast for a role as Khadijah James in the hit sitcom Living Single.
Queen Latifah has been making us laugh and cry for years, and deserves to be on the list of the greatest black female actors of all time.
Fun Fact: Queen Latifah won two championships with her high school basketball team.
Born right out of Omaha, Nebraska, Gabrielle Union has been one of our “It-girls” for a while now.
Our love for Union began with her debut in She’s All That and 10 Things I Hate About You. From there, she mainly played “bad girl” roles, including her role in Bring It On.
As her career blossomed, Union began appearing in all sorts of movies and TV shows, including L.A’s Finest, Being Mary Jane, and Daddy’s Little Girls.
Fun Fact: Gabrielle is an activist for survivors of assault.
Born in 1978, Zoe Saldana has been delivering unmatched performances to American audiences for over 20 years.
Saldana has proven she can play multiple roles, but her most famous range is in the sci-fi genre.
Her most notable roles are in Avatar, Colombiana, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Star Trek.
Fun Fact: Saldana studied dance in her father’s home country of the Dominican Republic.
An absolute treasure to American TV, Cicely Tyson was born in 1924 in New York. Among everyone on the list, she probably experienced the most hardship as an up-and-coming black actress.
She got her start in 1959, playing very small roles in blockbuster films. Some of her earliest work includes the film Who Was That Lady?
As her career blossomed, she began appearing in Oscar-winning films and box-office record breakers.
Tyson died in 2021 with her final performance being Alice from A Fall From Grace.
Fun Fact: In 2018, Cicely became the first black actress to receive an Oscar.
Known as one of the finest TV dramatics, Kerry Washington is a renowned black actress and talented performer.
Washington has appeared in countless movies. Her favorite work, however, is in the TV hit show Scandal.
As far as movies go, Washington has been in a plethora of films dating back to the early 2000s.
Today, she produces and directs her films. It’s safe to say she’s got a pretty dense profile as an entertainer.
Fun Fact: Washington is a spokesperson for L’Oreal Paris.
Best known for her range and versatility, Viola Davis is an inspiring figure for black female actors of all expertise. She made her debut on Broadway in 1996.
Today she appears in the most unforgettable classics of our time, including Suicide Squad, How To Get Away With Murder, and Beautiful Creatures.
Fun Fact: Viola Davis is she is the first black actress to win an Emmy in the category of Outstanding Lead Actress in A Drama Series.
Taraji P. Henson
Taraji was born on September 11, in Washington D.C.
Her acting career began in 2001 with the well-known black film Baby Boy. She played Yvette, the comical girlfriend.
Audiences loved her comedic style and high-energy, so she was awarded many other roles soon after.
Today she can be seen in the popular show Empire, as well as in films like Hidden Figures and What Men Want.
Fun Fact: Taraji’s biggest inspiration is her dad.
If you love Catwoman, it’s probably because of this woman.
Halle Berry’s career began before Catwoman, however. In 1991, Berry played a junkie in Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever. From there she went on to appear in other high-profile films.
Her most notable work includes Monster’s Ball, X-Men, and The Call.
Fun Fact: Halle can play the flute.
Most movies with a strong female lead feature one of a few women, and Angela Bassett is one of them.
Bassett has appeared in horror films, dramas, and thrillers. She never fails to deliver an unnerving performance that keeps you on the edge of your seat entirely.
Her most famous roles are Stella in How Stella Got Her Groove Back, and Ramonda in Black Panther.
Fun Fact: Angela is the first black woman to win the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Musical.
Beyonce is more than the musical mogul we all know and love her to be. She began branching into the acting industry in the early 2000s.
At the beginning of her acting career, Beyonce starred in Goldmember, Obsessed, and The Fighting Temptations.
Beyonce‘s musical talent became more known in her movies when she began playing her roles in Dreamgirls and Cadillac Records.
Fun Fact: Beyonce is a huge Beatles fan.
Zoe is a black female actor who also models and sings.
Kravitz is the daughter of popular black actress Lisa Bonet, so it’s safe to say she was vetted into the entertainment industry.
She starred in classic films like Fantastic Beasts, Madmax, and Divergent. And just when you think she’s taken a liking to strictly fantastical roles, she appears in films such as High Fidelity to remind us of her sweet comical side.
Fun Fact: Zoe’s father is Lenny Kravitz, an American singer, and songwriter.
Rashida has been a comical favorite to audiences of all backgrounds.
Her most memorable roles are on The Office and Parks and Recreation, where she can showcase her satirical nature.
When she’s not making us laugh on a hit sitcom, she’s appeared in animated blockbuster films, including The Grinch and Klaus.
Fun Fact: Rashida’s mom is Jewish.
Laverne is an inspiring black female actor who advocates for LGBTQ rights in the entertainment industry.
Her first major role was on the Netflix original Orange Is The New Black. From there, she’s been cast for many high-profile gigs and continues to spread awareness about industry discrimination.
In 2016, she appeared in The Rocky Horror Picture Show and earned much-deserved recognition from the film.
Fun Fact: Laverne is the first transgender woman to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy.
Born in Chicago, Jennifer Hudson has been blowing us away with her musical performances and talent for decades.
She’s been featured in multiple films showcasing her talent including Dreamgirls, Cats, and Sing.
Throughout her career, Hudson has received numerous accolades for her acting including an Academy, 2 Grammys, a Golden Globe, and a Daytime Emmy.
Fun Fact: Before American Idol, Jennifer worked on Disney Cruise ships.
Born in London, Campbell is no stranger to the workings of high fashion.
At the age of 15, Naomi Campbell began her long-running career as a model, actress, singer, and businesswoman.
As far as acting goes, she’s appeared in tons of Hollywood favorites, including I Feel Pretty and Empire.
Fun Fact: Naomi was the first black woman to appear on French Vogue.
Tracee Ellis Ross
As the daughter of Diana Ross, you’d think Tracee had an easy segway into the entertainment industry. But the truth is, she made a name for herself all on her own!
Tracee began her exhilarating acting career in 1996 and starred in popular sitcoms. It became very apparent she had the energy and face audiences adored, so she went on to appear in livelier media.
To date, her most notable works include Reed Between the Lines and Blackish.
Fun Fact: Tracee won the NAACP’s Outstanding Actress award in 2018.
Aisha is an American female actor born in San Francisco, California in 1970.
Although newer to the industry, she’s no amateur. At the ripe age of 51, she’s already been in the hit show Friends, Ghost Whisperer, and Criminal Minds.
And when Taylor isn’t delivering a stunning TV performance, she’s entertaining children in films such as The Santa Claus 1 and 2.
Keke Palmer was born in 1993 in Harvey, Illinois.
At such a young age, Palmer has already made a name for herself in the entertainment sector.
In 2006, she appeared in Akeelah and the Bee where she delivered a classic performance about a young spelling bee champ. As her career matured, so did her roles.
Today, you can find her in movies such as Brotherly Love, Joyful Noise, and Hustlers.
Fun Fact: Keke’s parents met in a drama class.
Leslie Jones is a well-known actress and comedian.
She was a regular writer for Saturday Night Live between 2014 and 2019. She also does regular stand-up and has her own comedy specials.
With her straight out of Memphis flare, Jones never fails to keep an audience entertained.
Fun Fact: Leslie’s father was in the Army.
Sanaa Lathan has been loaning her voice as a female actress to adult-animated cartoons for years. Her most notable voiceovers are on The Cleveland Show and Family Guy.
Before she was voicing TV moms, Lathan was starring in films such as Drive, The Wood, and The Best Man.
As far as black films go, most would note her most memorable work as being Love and Basketball and Brown Sugar.
Fun Fact: Sanaa’s net worth is around $4 million.
Phylicia is an American actress and stage director.
She’s been directing and starring in films since her role as the Aunt on the Cosby show.
Rashad had been regularly noted as the “Mother of The Black Community” for her numerous roles as a power and authority figure.
Recently, she’s been in A Raisin in The Sun, the Creed trilogy, and A Fall from Grace.
Fun Fact: Rashad won a Tony for her role in the Raisin In the Sun remake.
Born in Staten Island, New York, Skai Jackson began her acting career early on and has already won the hearts of many.
She debuted in 2007 in the hit film Liberty Kid. from then she had no problem finding work.
To date, she’s been featured in many high-profile children’s gigs including Bubble Guppies, the Disney show Jessie, and even Dancing With The Stars.
She may be young, but she does it all!
Wanda Sykes is a leading black comedian, as well as a renowned actress and voice actress. She’s been in countless comedies, from the early Ice Age movies to Evan Almighty.
Sykes can be found as the guest star on many modern sitcoms, including Blackish and The Simpsons. Because of her outrageously great humor, she’s been awarded a Primetime Emmy and a Sports Emmy.
Fun Fact: Wanda’s favorite candy bar is an Almond Joy.
This Guyana-born actress is an amazing performer and action hero.
Letitia wright initially began acting in the television series Top Boy, but most would remember her for her roles on Black Mirror and Black Panther.
She’s worked with some of the biggest names in the industry, including Chadwick Boseman and Tom Holland. We expect to see her in plenty of upcoming work as well.
Fun Fact: Wright lived most of her life in England.
Eve began her career as a rapper with her debut album, Let There Be Eve. Her album charted number one on the Billboard 200 and audiences have been captured by her flow and charisma ever since.
When Eve began her acting career, she starred in popular films like The Cookout and Barbershop.
As her acting career progressed, Eve began appearing in sitcoms and blockbuster films.
This bright-eyed female actor is as funny as she is talented. As a member of the famous singing group Xscape, she’s no stranger to the limelight. Acting came naturally.
After the group dispersed, Kandi ventured into the acting sector by appearing in reality TV shows.
Kandi hosted her show for a while, but her most popular exposure is from The Real Housewives of Atlanta.
Fun Fact: Kandi was on the RHOA for 13 seasons.
Laura is an American model turned actor after a talent agent discovered her. She’s hot on and off the screen, and this woman does it all!
When she’s not dazzling audiences on the runway, she’s appearing in popular shows like Hollywood on Netflix.
You can also find Harrier in the most recent Spider-Man movies.
Uzo Aduba was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and began getting exposure from her role as “Crazy Eyes” on the hit Netflix show, Orange Is the New Black. She’s become a powerful TV personality ever since.
In more recent years, Aduba has been seen in Beats, Miss Virginia, and National Champions.
Fun Fact: Uzo is Nigerian.
China Anne McClain
China was born in 1998 in the bustling city of Atlanta, Georgia. She comes from a family of talented sisters, but most would remember her from her starting roles in Tyler Perry sitcoms and Daddy’s Little Girls.
Although McClain started as a child actress, she remains true to her mature nature by playing young adults in children’s films.
Her most recent appearance was in The Descendants, a popular movie produced by Disney.
Zendaya has been conquering the American film industry for a while now.
From humble beginnings, this Oakland-born actress began getting exposure by modeling and backup dancing. With her talent and personal flair, she was able to get plenty of other high-profile roles.
Her most exciting roles have been in the recent films Malcolm and Marie produced by Netflix, Spider-Man, and the hit HBO show Euphoria.
Fun Fact: Zendaya was once a backup dancer in a Sears commercial with Selena Gomez.
Vanessa Morgan is a black female actor that has been crowned one of the most beautiful women under 30 by Mr. Dustbin.
She began acting on MTV in a popular TV series called Finding Carter. From there, she branched out to more kid-friendly roles on the Disney Channel, appearing in the popular movie My Babysitter’s Vampire.
Today, Vanessa Morgan is married with a child and hasn’t done any recent work aside from Riverdale.
Fun Fact: Vanessa studied Philosophy in college.
Yara is a powerhouse among young black female actors. She’s played many roles but never loses her momentum as an influential character.
Shahidi began acting on Entourage in 2007. She got her first lead role in the movie Imagine That alongside Eddie Murphy.
Today, Shahidi is more than just an actress; she’s also a student, teacher, and activist.
Fun Fact: Michelle Obama wrote Yara’s letter of recommendation for college.
Although young, Amandla Stenberg has been courageously branching out into all sorts of genres to show her superior acting skills.
We first met Stenberg in the popular action movie Colombiana, where she played a young Zoe Saldana.
Stenberg has been in many movies, from romance films to action dramas. Her most inspiring role was in the movie The Hate U Give.
Fun Fact: Amandla took Jaden Smith to prom.
Born in 1996 in Tuskeegee, Alabama, this small town girl became a TV personality sooner than you may think.
She got her start at just 13 years of age on the Ricky Smiley Show. While securing small gigs, Alexus also obtained education from the Alabama Fine Arts Academy.
Since her original debut, she’s also appeared in countless TV dramas, from Empire to 13 Reasons Why.
Paige is another iconic black female actress who you may remember most from her earlier work.
Born in the fast-paced city of Dallas, Texas, Hurd had no trouble finding gigs to portray her talent and beauty.
From 2000 to 2003, she played the role of Natasha on the hit show, Felicity. And then from 2006 to 2009, she played Tasha, alongside Tyler James Williams in Everybody Hates Chris.
Coco Jones is as talented as she is versatile. This woman’s a triple threat!
Born in 1998 in Columbia, South Carolina, Coco Jones’ career began after a brief spotlight interview on Radio Disney’s segment ‘Next Big Thing.’
Since her initial debut, she’s been seen in the Disney movie Let It Shine and more recently, Bel-Air.
Clemons was born in sunny Pensacola, Florida, and quickly rose to fame after her role in the Netflix film, Dope.
Clemons also received critical acclaim from moviegoers and critics after her feature in the hit Disney show Shake it Up, alongside Zendaya and Bella Thorne.
As of recently, she’s made appearances on Fairfax and New Girl.
Jaylen Barron is an American actress born in Reno, Nevada.
She began by starring in TV series like Shake it Up and Bones.
She’s always been good at comedic and dramatic roles, and she was afforded her first lead as Zoe in Free Rein.
More recently, she plays a role in the Netflix comedy Shameless and has been continuing this role for a while.
Chloe is not only a pop star and R&B icon, she’s also a talented actress famous for her roles with her sister Halle Bailey.
Both girls have branched into the acting sector, but Chloe specifically has shown us just how funky her acting style is.
She can be found in the movie Let it Shine and Joyful Noise and in the hit show Grown-ish.
Fun Fact: Chloe is a songwriter and producer as well as an actress.
Ruby was an American icon born in Ohio in 1922.
When Ruby first rose to fame, she starred in A Raisin in The Sun (1961) as Ruby. During her earlier years, she also starred in The Jackie Robinson Story.
Dee was very influential during her time as an actress and regularly used her position to advocate for women’s rights and various causes.
Ruby Dee died in 2014 but remains a legend in our hearts.
Kimberly is an acclaimed actress best known for her early work in Set It Off and Beloved.
She can play a variety of roles, from ruthless convicts to hopelessly romantic single mothers.
Elise has no problem showing us her dramatic side. Her most reputable features are in the movie Pride, For Colored Girls, and Death Wish.
Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Lynn Whitfield has been entertaining audiences with her fiery flair since her 1981 debut.
Whitfield can often be found playing a high-class or well-off villain.
She’s able to show off her commanding and seductive nature in popular films such as The Josephine Baker Story, A Thin Line Between Love and Hate, and more recently Greenleaf.
Fun Fact: Whitfield has been married twice.
Jurnee is a well-known actress who got her start as a young child. She appeared in the television series Full House and On Our Own.
In 2005, she began landing bigger roles, starting in the movie Roll Bounce. As her career progressed, she’s been in countless action and science fiction films from Tyler Perry’s Temptation to Lovecraft Country.
She’s also famously known as the sister of Empire star Jussie Smollett.
Mo’Nique is as funny as she is iconic.
Mo’Nique began entertaining audiences with her dramatic performance in the 2005 film Shadowboxer. During the same year, she performed in several other dramas but was eager to show audiences her versatility.
She starred in her first romantic comedy in 2006 and received a huge following after.
Her most memorable roles to date are her roles in The Parkers and Precious.
Nicole was born in sunny West Palm Beach, Florida, and began acting in 2008 with her leading role in the movie American Violet.
Since her debut, she’s impressed directors and audiences.
She can be seen in popular TV series like Black Mirror and Sleepy Hollow, as well as popular movies like 42.
Issa is more than an iconic female actress; she’s also a stand-up comedian and an even better film producer.
She debuted in 2011 with her comedy web series: The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl. from then she’s starred and directed in her own shows on HBO and movies on Netflix.
Some of Rae’s most notable work include Insecure, The Photograph, and The Lovebirds.
Lauren London is a multi-talented actress and activist.
She started her career in music videos, appearing in videos for Snoop Dogg, Pharrell, and Common.
As she ventured into film production, she starred in popular black movies including ATL, This Christmas, and Baggage Claim.
Loretta Devine is a popular TV mom and beloved actress.
Devine was born in 1942 in Houston, Texas and first appeared on Broadway in 1972 in a popular musical titled ‘A Broadway Musical.’
After graduating college, Devine continued acting in TV and film. Her most memorable roles are in the movies Waiting to Exhale, Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family, and Jumping the Broom.
Paula Patton is an actress and producer in the American film industry. She’s widely known for dating R&B singer Robin Thicke, but her talent can surely speak for itself.
She’s appeared in romantic comedies, action films, and satires. She plays a sexy vigilante in the Netflix film The Do-Over, and a romantic interest in the movie Hitch.
When Patton’s not wowing audiences through film, she appears in popular TV shows, including Warcraft and Sacrifice.
Anika Noni Rose
Anika is counted as the first black Disney princess for her amazing voice performance as Tiana in The Princess and The Frog.
But before this iconic role, Rose appeared in musical films exposing her powerful voice. She’s acted in Dreamgirls alongside Jennifer Hudson and Beyonce, as well as in The Maid.
For her amazing performances, Rose has been awarded a Tony, 2 Lucille Lortel awards, and an Obie.
Fun Fact: Anika had a part in the Broadway musical, Footloose.
Top Black Actresses, Some Of The Best Ever; Final Thoughts
And there you have it!
These women have achieved some of the highest awards and recognition for their work.
Entertainment wouldn’t be the same without black female actors.
From amazing performances, inspiring musical talent, to raunchy humor, black actresses know how to keep an audience wanting more.