Today, there are countless successful Black male actors in Hollywood, more so than ever.
Among this plethora of Black superstars, you can find some of the most iconic, beloved names in showbiz history, many of whom are Black male actors over 60.
While these men might have passed by middle age, they are all still working actors, and several names mentioned in this list have won Academy Awards for their outstanding performances.
The first of our Black male actors over 60 is one of the most recognizable celebrities in the world.
Born in December of 1954 in Mount Vernon, New York, Denzel Hayes Washinton Jr. was the middle child of three siblings. When Denzel graduated from high school, he began studying journalism at Fordham University. While he was there, young Washington developed a love for acting after he began appearing in student-led productions on campus.
After he graduated from Fordham, Denzel set off for San Francisco. Soon after arriving, he enrolled at the American Conservatory Theater. After a year at the ACT, he began looking for work as an actor.
In 1981, Denzel starred in his first movie role alongside George Segal in the comedy-drama Carbon Copy. He would then land a choice television role in the NBC medical series St. Elsewhere. Washington played Dr. Philip Chandler on St. Elsewhere for six years.
In 1989, Washington won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in the Edward Zwick Civil War drama Glory. As his career developed, he took on more and more prestigious roles in films like Malcolm X (1992), The Hurricane (1992), Remember the Titans (2000), The Great Debaters (2007), and American Gangster (2007).
He was nominated for an Oscar for The Hurricane but did not win it. It was not until 2002 that he won the Academy Award for Best Actor, thanks to his role in the 2001 film Training Day.
Morgan Freeman is one of the most well-beloved American actors of all time. Known widely for his zen demeanor and rich, familiar voice, Freeman has delighted audiences with his inspired performances for decades.
Born in early June of 1937 to Morgan Sr. and Mayme Edna Freeman of Memphis, Tennessee, Morgan Jr. would eventually enlist in the United State Air Force and work as an Airforce mechanic from 1955 to 1959.
Freeman then attended Los Angeles City College in the early 60s. Around this time, he took acting classes at the Pasadena Playhouse. In 1968, he got his first role in an all-Black Broadway production of the classic musical Hello, Dolly.
He continued working in the theater through the 1970s, winning many awards and even a Tony nomination in 1978. By 1987, he had earned a distinguished reputation as a talented Broadway actor. That year, he had an award-winning run as Hoke Coleburn in the Alfred Uhry play Driving Miss Daisy.
In 1987, Morgan scored an Academy Award nomination for his role in the movie Street Smart. His second nomination came a couple of years later for his big-screen portrayal of Hoke Coleburn in the movie version of Driving Miss Daisy. He also starred alongside Denzel Washington and Matthew Broderick in the Civil War drama Glory.
From there, he would find success with roles in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991), The Power of One (1992), and Unforgiven (1992). In 1993, he directed his first film, a movie called Bopha! He started a production company, Revelations Entertainment, shortly afterward.
Freeman got his third Oscar nomination in 1994 for his role in The Shawshank Redemption (1994). He would not win an Oscar for another decade when he starred as an ex-prize fighter in the Clint Eastwood film Million Dollar Baby (2004).
Born in 1961 in Brooklyn, New York, Edward Regan Murphy was the son of a telephone operator named Lillian and a transit police officer named Charles. Charles also worked as an amateur comedian.
Even as a small child, Eddie dreamed about making it in show business and would regale his family with impromptu stand-up routines in their living room. He was bright for his age but focused more on comedy and impressions than he did his schoolwork.
That dedication paid off, and by the tender age of 15, Murphy was busy gigging as a stand-up comic in lower New York City. By 19, Eddie had signed a contract with Saturday Night Live, where he would develop beloved characters like Gumby, Mr. Robinson, and Velvet Jones.
In 1982, he starred in his first film called 48 Hrs, alongside Nick Nolte. The duo worked well together, and the film was a great success. He would then star in a string of hit films, including Beverly Hills Cop (1984), The Golden Child (1986), and Coming to America (1988).
His role in The Nutty Professor (1996) cemented Murphy’s status as a box office draw, and he soon began taking on more family-friendly roles throughout the 90s and early 2000s. He starred in Doctor Dolittle (1998), Mulan (1998), Shrek (2001), The Haunted Mansion (2003), and Dreamgirls (2006).
The role in Dreamgirls was well received, so much so that it earned Murphy a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the Academy Awards that year.
Samuel L. Jackson
One would be hard-pressed to think of a more prolific modern-day actor than Samuel L. Jackson. He has appeared in more than 100 films and is one of the most recognizable celebrities in the entertainment industry.
Jackson was born in December of 1948 in Washington, DC. Jackson was raised by his mother, Elizabeth Montgomery, and her parents. He grew up there and attended Morehouse College. While in college, he became an active member of the Black student movement.
In the 1980s, he gained notoriety after starring in three Spike Lee joints, Do the Right Thing (1989), Mo’ Better Blues (1990), and Jungle Fever (1991). He went on to star in blockbusters like Patriot Games (1992), True Romance (1993), Jurassic Park (1993), and Pulp Fiction (1994).
The Pulp Fiction role earned him an Oscar nomination, and Jackson continued his successful streak with roles in Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995), Jackie Brown (1997), The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996), Unbreakable (2000), Formula 51 (2001), Black Snake Moan (2006), and Snakes on a Plane (2006).
He even nabbed the role of Mace Windu in the Star Wars prequel trilogy. The late 2000s saw him take a turn as Nick Fury in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and would go on to star in more than a dozen Marvel shows and movies.
James Earl Jones
James Earl Jones has been hailed as one of the best actors in American history and he certainly has the most recognizable voice in all of showbiz. He has worked in films, television, and on stage for more than six decades. James has received an honorary Oscar, three Tony Awards, a Grammy, and three Emmy awards.
Born on January 17, 1931, Jones had a bad stutter as a young child, but poetry and acting helped him overcome the speech impediment. He studied medicine in college and then served in the United States Army during the Korean War. When he arrived back home, James began pursuing a career as an actor.
He made his Broadway debut in 1957 and his feature film debut in 1964. He starred in Stanley Kubrick’s classic film Dr. Strangelove. He continued working in the theater afterward, winning his first Tony Award for his performance in The Great White Hope in 1968.
In 1970, Jones reprised his role in the film adaptation of The Great White Hope and earned an Oscar nomination as well as a Golden Globe nomination. In 1974, he got his second Golden Globe nomination for his role in the romantic comedy Claudine alongside Diahann Carroll.
In 1977, he became the voice of Darth Vader in the sci-fi smash hit Star Wars, a role that would go on to define his career and earn him legendary status among the franchise’s devoted fanbase.
Jones went on to star in many successful roles in films like Conan the Barbarian (1982), Matewan (1987), Coming to America (1988), Field of Dreams (1989), The Hunt for Red October (1990), The Sandlot (1993), and The Lion King (1994).
He never stopped taking roles in the theater, starring in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 2008 and The Best Man in 2021. He starred in an Australian tour of Driving Miss Daisy in 2013. He also reprised his voice-over work as Darth Vader in more recent Star Wars films and Mufasa in 2019’s The Lion King remake.
For more than three decades, Danny Glover has been a staple of television, screen, and stage. He is also a talented producer and a dedicated humanitarian.
Born in San Francisco on July 22, 1946, Glover was the son of two civil rights activists and postal workers named Carrie and James Glover. Danny studied acting at the Black Actors’ Workshop of the American Conservatory Theater and made his Broadway debut in 1982 as Sam in “Master Harold”…and the Boys.
This role earned Glover national recognition, and he was cast in the hit 1984 film Places in the Heart. That marked Glover’s first leading role, and from there, his career took off.
In 1985, he starred in the Peter Weir film Witness, and that same year, he appeared in Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-nominated film The Color Purple alongside Whoopi Goldberg. In 1987, he teamed up with Mel Gibson for the first Lethal Weapon, which would spawn three blockbuster sequels.
Glover starred as Nelson Mandela in the HBO biopic Madela (1987) and earned an Emmy nomination for that role.
Not only is Glover a talented actor, but he is also a well-known activist and philanthropist, working hard to make a positive change in the world. He advocates fiercely for access to healthcare, education, and economic justice for people in the US and Africa. He even served as a goodwill ambassador for the UN from 1998 to 2004.
Forest Whitaker has been making waves in the entertainment industry for 40 years, and in that time, he has carved out a place for himself among the most respected actors of all time.
Born on July 15, 1961, in Longview, Texas, Whitaker was the son of a special education teacher named Laura and an insurance salesman named Forest Sr. When he was only four years old, his family moved to South Central Los Angeles where Forest Jr. would grow up.
Whitaker was athletic as a young man and earned a football scholarship to attend college. He later transferred to USC, where he began to focus instead on music, earning another scholarship as an operatic tenor.
From there, he gained a scholarship to Berkeley, where he began to hone his skills as an actor and a stage performer. By the age of 21, Whitaker had made his feature film debut in the raucous comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982).
His next film role was that of a young wrestler in the movie Vision Quest (1985), and he also starred in the television Civil War miniseries North & South and its sequel series. He found a breakout role in the 1986 film The Color of Money, and from there, A list of offers started rolling in.
Whitaker starred in the hit war film Platoon (1986), followed by a role in Stakeout (1987), and Good Morning Vietnam (1987). Clint Eastwood sought him out to work on a passion project called Bird in 1988, and he won a Canne Film Festival award for his performance. Bird also earned him his first Golden Globe nomination. He went on to star in The Crying Game (1992), Species (1995), Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999), and Phone Booth (2002).
In 2006, he starred as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland, for which he earned an Oscar, a Golden Globe, a SAG award, and a BAFTA award. He co-starred with fellow Oscar winner Denzel Washington in Great Debaters (2007)and acted alongside Keanu Reeves in Street Kings (2008).
Whitaker is also a humanitarian, having brought awareness to charitable organizations like Penny Lane, PETA, and Farm Sanctuary.
Laurence Fishburn is perhaps one of Hollywood’s most versatile actors, with an impressive range and an intensity that few of his peers can emulate.
Born in Augusta, Georgia, on July 30th, 1961, Laurence John Fishburne III was the son of a teacher named Hattie Bell and a juvenile corrections officer named Laurence John Fishburne, Jr.
When his parents divorced, Laurence’s mother took him to Brooklyn, New York, where they began a new life. When Laurence was only ten years old, he appeared in his first play in a tiny Manhattan theater.
When he was 12, Laurence scored a recurring role on the popular ABC soap opera One Life to Live. In 1975, Fishburne made his feature film debut in Cornbread, Earl and Me.
Francis Ford Coppola cast him in the war film Apocalypse Now (1979), and Fishburne had to film for two years in the Philippines. After Apocalypse Now, he took a break from acting for over a year. Coppola would seek out Fishburne for roles in future films like Rumble Fish (1983) and Gardens of Stone (1987).
The 90s saw him gain major stardom through films like Boyz n the Hood (1991) and What’s Love Got to Do With It (1993). The end of the decade brought a supporting role in the smash hit film The Matrix (1999), where he played opposite Keanu Reeves. Fishburne would go on to reprise his role for two Matrix sequels.
He also starred in Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River (2003), as well as Akeelah and the Bee (2006), Predators (2010), and Contagion (2011). More recently, he has appeared in the DC Comics cinematic universe, featuring in Man of Steel (2013) and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) as the editor-in-chief of the Daily Planet, Perry White.
Top Black Male Actors Over 60, Final Thoughts
While there are many other Black male actors over 60 that could have been added to the list, these eight men represent the best of the best and the cream of the crop.
They have all established enviable careers and paved the way for younger Black actors and actresses to succeed and thrive in today’s entertainment industry.
All of these names will go down in history as some of the most exceptional talent ever seen on stage and screen.