Today we’re going to cover some of the best black male actors of the past 60 years. While it was hard to pick and choose black male actors over 40, I feel this list gives you a diverse selection of film and television actors.
From comedians to action stars, we tried to include something from every acting niche. Hopefully, we included your favorite black male actors on the list.
These actors might be older but they are still in their prime. In order from youngest to oldest, here is a list of black male actors over 40.
1. Kevin Hart
Born in 1979, Kevin Hart is an American comedian and actor from Philadelphia.
He began his career as a stand-up comedian at The Ladd House in Philadelphia. While his career started slowly, Hart won several comedy competitions and found major success in 2009. It was here he headlined major sold-out comedy tours across the United States.
Harts’s acting career began in the 2002 film Paper Soldiers. From there he had smaller parts in smash hits like Scary Movie, Soul Plane, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and Little Thunder.
By the mid-2010s, Hart starred in major box office hits like Ride Along, Get Hard, and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.
Upcoming, you’ll find Hart in The Man from Toronto and the DC League of Super-Pets in 2022.
2. Tyrese Gibson
Tyrese Gibson is an actor-singer from Los Angeles, CA. Born in 1978, Gibson first found success as a hip-hop and R&B singer. He quickly transferred that fame to an acting career in 2001 in the film Baby Boy.
Gibson is best known for his work on two of the largest movie franchises in history. In 2003, Gibson joined the cast of the Fast and Furious franchise for their 2nd film, 2 Fast 2 Furious. Since then, he’s returned for episodes 5 through 9 of the series. Grossing over $6 billion, Gibson is a welcome addition to the Fast and Furious cast.
Gibson also played a major role in the Transformers film series. He starred in 3 of the Transformers films between 2007 and 2011.
Ever busy, you can expect to see Tyrese Gibson reprising his role as Roman Pearce in 2023 and 2024 for two more Fast & Furious sequels.
3. Omar Epps
Since the late 1980s, Omar Epps has been an influential black actor. Born in 1973 in Brooklyn, NY, Epps’ career has spanned over 30 years.
His first feature film, Juice, scored critical and commercial acclaim. From there he went on to starring in comedies, dramas, and horror films throughout the 90s. With roles in Major League II, Higher Learning, and Scream 2, Epps was an inspiration to other black actors of the era.
While Epps dabbled in television in the 90s, his breakout role was as Dr. Eric Forema in 2004. He held the role for almost ten years and won several awards for Supporting Actor in a Drama Series from the NAACP Image Awards.
He’s currently featured as part of the main cast for Power Book III Raising Kanan on Starz.
4. Omari Hardwick
From Savanah, Georgia, Omari Hardwick has been acting in films and television since 2002. An accomplished athlete, Hardwick declared himself for the NFL draft but was not selected. After this, he decided to start his acting career.
Hardwick finally had his first break in 2004. Sucker Free City was a made-for-TV movie directed by Spike Lee. This role sparked his career, and Hardwick has appeared in films like Beauty Shop, Kick-Ass, and Army of the Dead.
During this time, Hardwick made several appearances on hit TVs as well. He was part of the main cast for Dark Blue and Power.Hardwick is currently featured in Netflix’s Pieces of Her.
5. Idris Elba
By the numbers, Idris Elba is one of the most lucrative black male actors to hire for your films. As part of the Marvel, DC, and Fast & Furious universe, Elba’s filmography has made over $11 billion.
While his career began in 1994, Elba’s breakout role was on the HBO crime drama The Wire. Heralded as one of the best tv-shows ever, Elba was integral to its success.
Since then, Elba starred in countless mega-hits, including Prometheus, Zootopia, Pacific Rim, and The Jungle Book. He’s also had important roles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, DC films, and the Fast & Furious Franchise.
Getting older hasn’t slowed Idris Elba down. Other than acting, Elba is also a prolific music producer and DJ.
6. Chris Tucker
Born in 1971 and in Atlanta, Chris Tucker found success as a stand-up comedian before acting in many major film and television projects.
In the late 80s, Tucker started his comedy career in Atlanta. His career didn’t take off until moving to Los Angeles in 1990. By 1992 Tucker became a frequent performer on the HBO series Def Comedy Jam.
While he made his film debut in House Party 3, Tucker’s film career exploded after costarring in Friday with rapper Ice Cube. By 1997, Tucker was co-starring in major projects like The Fifth Element and Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown.
In 1998, Tucker scored a massive hit alongside Jackie Chan with Rush Hour. The film series was a major success and spawned 2 sequels.
7. Will Smith
The Fresh Prince started his career as a family-friendly rapper in the mid-1980s. Born in 1968, this Philadelphia native went on to major Hollywood success as a rapper, television star, and film star.
As part of the hip hop duo, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, Smith scored several major hits, including Parents Just Don’t Understand, Summertime, and Getting Jiggy Wit It.
Smith took this success and converted it into a smash hit tv show, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The show ran from 1990 to 1996 and was a launchpad for Smith’s long acting career.
By 1995, Will Smith was starring in major hits like Bad Boys, Independence Day, and Men in Black. Smith found critical success as well when he portrayed Muhammad Ali in the film Ali.
8. Jamie Foxx
Jamie Foxx is an actor, comedian, and singer from Terrell, Texas. From starring in the TV hit In Living Color to battling Spider-Man in the Marve Cinematic Universe, Foxx has had a long and successful career in Hollywood.
Starting in comedy clubs, Foxx was an integral part of the hit TV show, In Living Color. From here, Foxx went on to star in many major films, including Any Given Sunday, Miami Vice, and Collateral.
In 2004, Foxx won his first academy award for his portrayal of Ray Charles in the film Ray. Other highlights of Foxx’s career include starring roles in Django Unchained, Jarhead, and Spider-Man: No Way Home.
While filming Ray, Foxx had a chance to showcase his singing ability as well. Foxx won a Grammy Award and has released 4 studio albums.
9. Cuba Gooding Jr.
Born and raised in The Bronx, Cuba Gooding Jr. rose to prominence in the 1990s with standout performances in several films.
His first starring role was in the John Singleton film Boyz n the Hood in 1991. Following the critical and commercial success of the film, Gooding Jr. starred in A Few Good Men and Jerry Maguire.
Gooding’s outstanding performance in Jerry Maguire won him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 1996. After his win, Gooding’s highlights include roles in As Good as it Gets, Men of Honor, and Pearl Harbor.
Recently, Gooding found success with roles in the TV series American Horror Story and American Crime Story.
10. Chris Rock
Born in 1965, Chris Rock started his career as a stand-up comedian at the comedy club Catch a Rising Star in New York City. It was here, that Eddie Murphy found the star and gave him his first role in Beverly Hills Cop II.
From there, Rock landed a gig on Saturday Night Live alongside legends like Chris Farley and Adam Sandler. He spent three years on the show and left in 1993. During this era, Rock went on to star in several HBO Comedy Specials and hosted the MTV Video Music Awards.
Along with his stand-up success, Rock starred in several films during the 90s including New Jack City and Lethal Weapon 4.
By the 2000s, Rock focused on behind-the-camera work on several shows and films. He also hosted and produced The Chris Rock Show from 1997 to 2000.
11. Martin Lawrence
Rising to superstardom in the 1990s, Martin Lawrence started his career as a comedian at the New York City club, The Improv. From here, he won a performance spot on Star Search and made it to the final round.
After several small television gigs, Lawrence’s breakout role was for Spike Lee in Do the Right Thing. He was also featured in the House Party films and Boomerang during this time.
His performances on Def Comedy Jam helped launch Lawrence’s self-titled television series, Martin. The series ran for seven years and was a commercial success.
As a film actor, Lawrence had major success with The Bad Boys franchise alongside Will Smith. Other standout feature films include Big Momma’s House and Wild Hogs. Recently, Lawrence starred in the 3rd Bad Boys film, and a 4th is in pre-production.
12. Don Cheadle
Hailing from Kansas City, Missouri, Don Cheadle is an actor and filmmaker. He has an extensive filmography that spans almost 40 years. He’s also a prolific stage actor and has one Tony Award to prove it.
Over the years, Cheadle starred in films like Hamburger Hill, Boogie Nights, Swordfish, and the Ocean’s Eleven series.
Cheadle has won the Golden Globe Awards, Grammy Awards, and a Tony Award, one of the most acclaimed actors on this list. While nominated for his performance in Hotel Rwanda for best actor in 2005, Cheadle lost the Academy Award to Jamie Foxx.
Recently, Cheadle joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe starring James Rhodes (War Machine). He is set to reprise this role for the upcoming Armor Wars television series.
13. Djimon Hounsou
Born in West Africa in 1964, Djimon Hounsou made his film debut in the 1990s Without You I’m Nothing. He gained worldwide acclaim for his critical performances in Clinique and Amistad in 1997.
During the 2000s, Hounsou gained even more popularity for performances in Gladiator, In America, and Blood Diamond. During this time, Hounsou received two Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor.
Recently, Hounsou has been busy working alongside The Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain Marvel in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If you’re a DC fan instead, you can find Hounsou in Aquaman and Shazam!.
Other films you can find Hounsou in include Constantine, Stargate, The Island, and The Fate of The Furious.
14. Andre Braugher
Best known for his stint on the police series Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Andre Braugher has been a working actor since 1989. During his career, he’s also been a character actor and voice actor and won several awards over his 30-year career.
Braugher’s first break came from a part in the 1989 film Glory. Over his film career, Braugher has had supporting roles in several films, including City of Angels, Poseidon, and The Mist.
Most of Braugher’s critical and commercial success came on the small screen. Starting as a detective on Kojak, Braugher found his footing as a detective. From there, he had a role as a detective on Homicide: Life on the Street from 1993 to 1998.
Braugher finally hit it big with his portrayal of Captain Raymon Holt on Brooklyn Nine-Nine and appeared in 153 episodes.
15. Wesley Snipes
Wesley Snipes exploded onto the scene during the 1990s. Snipes starred in hit after hit throughout the decade.
Some of his biggest roles of the decade include New Jack City, White Men Can’t Jump, and Demolition Man. During this time, Snipes won several MTV Movie Awards, Black Reel Awards, and Blockbuster Entertainment Awards.
Known for his martial art prowess, Snipes landed the lead role for the first official Marvel Studio film. While not an official canon film of the MCU, Blade was a hit and gave the production company the confidence it needed to become the powerhouse it is today.
Recently, Snipes co-starred in Dolemite is My Name and Coming 2 America.
16. Eddie Murphy
Born in 1961, Eddie Murphy became one of the most famous actor comedians during the 1980s thanks to his outlandish and lewd comedy specials. From there he rose to fame as a cast member of the show Saturday Night Live from 1980 to 1984.
Not satisfied with the small screen, Murphy went on to star in several blockbusters during the 1980s. Hits like 48 Hrs, Beverly Hills Cop, Coming to America, and Trading Places solidified Murphy as one of the best comedians of the era.
During his later years, Murphy went on to have success with several comedy films aimed at children. Highlights include hits like The Nutty Professor, Dr. Dolittle, and the Shrek franchise.
Recently Murphy has had a return to adult-related comedy and starred in hits like Coming 2 America and Dolemite is My Name.
17. Laurence Fishburne
Best known for his portrayal of Morpheus in the Matrix films, Laurence Fishburne is a prolific stage and screen actor. Throughout his career 50-year career, Fishburne has starred in many of the biggest films and stage plays in recent history.
With several small roles in the 1970s, Fishburne’s first role in a major film came in 1979 when he co-starred in Apocalypse Now. From there, he went on to roles in The Color Purple, The Cotton Club, and Boyz n the Hood.
His most iconic performance came in 1999 when he was cast as Morpheus in The Matrix. The performance as the guru to Keanu Reeve’s Neo is one of the most memorable characters in modern film history.
Fishburne is also a prolific stage and television actor. Throughout his career, Fishburne has won three Emmys and Tony Awards for his outstanding performance on stage and screen.
18. Denzel Washington
Denzel Washington rose to prominence in the 1980s starring as Dr.Phillip Chandler on the television show St. Elsewhere. After leaving the show, he won critical acclaim and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in the film Glory.
In the 1990s, Washington went on to enjoy major success with a string of hits, including Mo’ Better Blues, Malcolm X, Philadelphia, and The Pelican Brief.
Other major roles of Washington include Virtuosity, He Got Game, The Bone Collector, and Remember the Titans.
While always critically acclaimed, Washington had to wait until 2001 to win his first Best Actor Award. In 2001, Washington became one of the few black male actors to win the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal in Training Day.
19. Samuel Jackson
Heralded as the highest-grossing actor of all time, Samuel Jackson is one of the most influential actors in Hollywood. His parts in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, and Jurassic Park franchises make him one of the most lucrative actors of all time.
Jackson is also a critically acclaimed actor and has worked alongside Spike Lee and Quentin Tarantino. His role in Pulp Fiction scored Jackson a nomination for the Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor.
Other highlights of Jackson’s career include roles in Django Unchained, Die Hard With a Vengeance, Unbreakable, and Shaft.
Like Nick Fury, Samuel Jackson is partly responsible for the massive success of Marvel films, and he is to reprise this role in the upcoming series Secret Invasion on Disney+.
20. Morgan Freeman
Known for his distinctive voice, Morgan Freeman’s film career has spanned over five decades. Born in 1937, Freeman started his acting career in the 1960s with bit parts on several television shows.
In 1971, Freeman found a home on the kid’s TV series The Electric Company and stayed with the show until 1977. By the 1980s, Freeman finally had his Hollywood breakout with the film Glory.
After Glory, Freeman co-starred and had critical success with Driving Miss Daisy, Lean on Me, The Shawshank Redemption, and Unforgiven. While nominated for best actor for both Driving Miss Daisy and The Shawshank Redemption, Freeman finally won his first Academy Award for his supporting role in Million Dollar Baby.
Freeman hasn’t let his age slow his career down. Freeman has several films set to release in 2022 and 2023.
21. James Earl Jones
Our oldest member on the list, James Earl Jones, has had a long and exciting acting career. Born with a stutter, acting and learning poetry helped James Earl Jones become an icon of film.
Born in 1931 and growing up in Arkabutta, Mississippi, Jones started his acting career after serving in the United States Army during the Korean War. His debut performances came in 1947 – he performed in versions of several Shakespeare plays.
With one of the longest filmographies on this list, Jones has starred in countless films and shows since 1952. Some of his earlier standout performances include roles in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb and The Great White Hope.
In 1977, Jones landed the role of one of the most iconic villains in cinema history. As the voice of Darth Vader in Star Wars, James Earl Jones became an icon. He’s still performing the legendary role as the Sith lord in the upcoming Obi-WanKenobi TV series in 2022.
Top Black Male Actors Over 40, Final Thoughts
While these actors might be older, they are not over the hill yet. Age is just a number, and actors like James Earl Jones and Morgan Freeman prove that you only get better with age.
Of course, these aren’t the only black male actors over 40. Did we miss your favorite actor? Let us know who else we should add to our list.
Do you want to learn more about rising stars in the industry? Here’s an article about young black male actors in Hollywood.