16 Best Black Actors of All Time

Hollywood is a huge industry and considered one of the most progressives one. But the fact remains that it is not above the socio-political things that go around in the world. During early years of the industry in the 20th century, black actors were considerably less in number compared to the white actors. They were not given roles and even if they were it was a significantly insignificant one. It is recently in the last few decades that they have been getting lead roles and have played a very important role in the entertainment industry. Their contribution cannot and should not go unappreciated.

There have been many superb roles and performances by the black actors throughout the time in the history of Hollywood, all may not be included in the list but here is the list of top 16 greatest black actors ever.


16. Mahershala Ali

Relatively a newcomer in the industry, Mahershala Ali has earned his name in the industry in the last decade. His first major release was David Fincher’s ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ (2008). Since then, he has played significant roles in movies like the ‘Hunger Games’, ‘Predators’, ‘Hidden Figures’ and ‘Moonlight’. He received an Academy award for the best supporting actor for his role in ‘Moonlight’ (2016) and also got several nominations for this role in different awards like BAFTA and Golden Globes. He played an important supporting role in Netflix’s ‘House of Cards’ and was the main antagonist in ‘Marvels Luke Cage’ TV series.


15. Michael Clarke Duncan

Known for his booming voice, Michael Clarke Duncan has a long list of films and TV series in which he has played amazing characters. His most famous role came with 1999’s ‘The Green Mile’ for which he got several nominations of prestigious awards including an Oscar and Golden globe. He has since had roles in comic book adaptations like ‘Daredevil’, ‘Sin City’, ‘Green Lantern’ and several TV series. He expired in 2012 following an heart attack. His contributions haven’t gone unnoticed.


14. Cuba Gooding Jr.

The first thing that comes in mind when we hear Cuba Gooding Jr. is his enthusiastic and extremely unconventional reaction and speech on winning the Oscar for best supporting actor in ‘Jerry Maguire’ (1996). Till date it is one of the most overwhelming acceptance speeches to watch. He has since starred in movies like ‘Men of Honor’, ‘Pearl Harbor’, ‘American Gangster’ and ‘Selma’. He has also some critically acclaimed TV series. He portrayed O.J. Simpson in 2016’s ‘American Crime Story: The People v. O. J. Simpson’ for which was nominated for a Primetime Emmy award.


13. Chiwetel Ejiofor

Chiwetel Ejiofor is a British actor who began his career with a role in Steven Spielberg’s Amistad (1997). He has since starred in movies like ‘Love Actually’, ‘Serenity’, ‘Children of Men’, ‘American Gangster’, ‘2012’, ‘Salt’, ’12 years a Slave’, ‘The Martian’ and MCU’s ‘Doctor Strange’ to name a few. He received critical acclaim for his role of Solomon Northup in ’12 Years a Slave’ (2013) for which he received nominations for the Academy award, BAFTA and the Golden Globes. He will be lending his voice for Scar in Jon Favreau’s upcoming movie ‘The Lion King’.


12. Don Cheadle

Nowadays, Don Cheadle is famous and most known for playing Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes / War Machine/Iron Patriot in the Marvel Cinematic Universe but Cheadle has an extensive list of films he has acted in. He has been active since mid-80’s acting in films like ‘Swordfish’, Ocean’s Trilogy, ‘Hotel Rwanda’, ‘Crash’ and several MCU films. He received a Golden Globe award for best supporting actor- Series, Miniseries or Television Film for ‘The Rat Pack’. He produced and starred in 2005’s Academy Award winning Best Picture ‘Crash’. He is also famous for getting several nominations and a Golden Globe win for the critically acclaimed role in the TV series ‘House of Lies’.


11. Laurence Fishburne

Laurence Fishburn was the first African-American to portray Othello in a motion picture in 1995. He is well-known for portraying Morpheus in the epic sci-fi ‘The Matrix’ trilogy and Mr. Clean in 1979’s Apocalypse Now. He has also done a few roles in theatre. He has had roles in films like ‘Mystic River’, ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’, ‘John Wick_-Chapter 2’ and ‘Contagion’. He was cast as Perry White in DCEU and will also play the role of Bill Foster / Black Goliath in the upcoming MCU movie ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’. He received an Academy award in a Leading role nomination for his role in the movie ‘What’s Love Got to Do with It’ (1993).

1 comment

  • Let’s just be honest here, Poitier is a Legend with some classics movies under his belt but Washington accomplished much more as an actor, he played a wider, more complex, more fascinating array of characters and has been at the top of his game for a much longer period than Poitier (whose career declined in the early 70’s). Poitier was a fine actor limited by his time, Washington tooks his torch and carried it much further.