Top 10 Actors of All Time

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Who is the best actor of all time, and how do you choose?

It’s a problem that seems simple enough at first, but as you think about it, you realize that it’s a question that’s essentially impossible to answer. After all, there are many various kinds of performances depending on the undertaking, the genre, and the time period in which they were performed. How do you compare a great dramatic performance to a fantastic comedy performance? An actor might perform Shakespeare brilliantly yet fail miserably when asked to make the audience laugh.

Here are the greatest actors who have endured the test of time and secured their position in entertainment history, from classic Hollywood to the generation of millennials.

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Top 10 Actors of All Time, Top 10 Actors of all time IMDB

10. Denzel Washington (Top 10 Actors of All Time)

Denzel Washington, a skilled performer on both the stage and the cinema, began his career performing Shakespeare off-Broadway. After playing minor roles for a while, Washington gained notoriety for his powerful and accurate depiction of Malcolm X, for which he received an Academy Award nomination.
The man has a fierce sense of rivalry.

Even when playing a supporting role, Denzel Washington always aims to be the most prominent character on film. Washington consistently commands the screen, whether you’re watching him in a domestic drama like “Fences” or an action movie like “Man on Fire.” His charisma and laser focus gives the impression that he is larger than life.

Top 10 Actors of All Time
Denzel Washington – Top 10 Actors of All Time in Movies History

Key Performances: ‘Glory’, ‘Malcolm X’, ‘Training Day’, ‘Flight’, ‘Fences’

Number of Oscars: 2

Recent Projects: ‘Roman J. Israel, Esq.’

9. Dustin Hoffman (Top 10 Actors of All Time)

As a real actor of the Renaissance, Dustin Hoffman was equally at home playing a cynical anti-hero as a young idealist. After he starred in the coming-of-age movie The Graduate, which was later added to the U.S. National Film Registry as having significant cultural, historical, and aesthetic value, he became well-known.

‘Tootsie’ and ‘Rain Man,’ two of his most renowned performances from the 1980s, are probably the best examples of this talent. Most actors could have portrayed either of those roles in an over-the-top manner, but Hoffman succeeds in giving his characters in both films a genuine sense of identity. Hoffman later also, appeared in enduring movies like Midnight Cowboy.

Top 10 Actors of All Time
Credit – BFI – Dustin Hoffman – Top 10 Actors of All Time in Movies History

Key Performances: ‘The Graduate’, ‘Midnight Cowboy’, ‘Tootsie’, ‘Rain Man’.

Number of Oscars: 2

Recent Project: ‘The Meyerowitz Stories’

8. Tom Hanks (Top 10 Actors of All Time)

Tom Hanks has had a shorter career than some of his fellow coworkers on this list, but he has nonetheless had a huge impact on American cinema. Hank is perhaps one of the most known American actors of the modern era due to his exceptional range in his acting technique and his ability to play both dramatic and humorous roles.

Beginning in the late 1980s, Hanks acted in a string of blockbusters, garnering plaudits for his humane approach to acting in films like Philadelphia, Forrest Gump, and Saving Private Ryan. According to Yahoo Finance, the total box office receipts for all of his films have been in the neighbourhood of $5 billion worldwide, placing him as the fifth-highest box office star of all time. After all, even when he does very little, it’s difficult to overstate how much life he can breathe into a movie, Hanks is still going strong, and perhaps his best work is yet to come.

Top 10 Actors of All Time
Tom Hanks – Top 10 Actors of All Time in Movies History

Key Performances: ‘Philadelphia’, ‘Forrest Gump’, ‘Sleepless in Seattle’, ‘Saving Private Ryan’, ‘Cast Away’

Number of Oscars: 2

Recent Projects: ‘The Post’

7. James Stewart (Top 10 Actors of All Time)

James Stewart is an excellent example of an optimistic American commoner. Stewart gives his characters, despite their seeming simplicity, a great deal of depth in his own unique way. No other Hollywood actor of his era had a work ethic like his, and he appeared in a wide variety of excellent films. Many classics have been produced as a result of Mr. Stewart’s partnership with Hitchcock, Capra, John Ford, and Anthony Mann. You can see the innocence in these early, seminal performances, including “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” “The Philadelphia Story,” and, most importantly, “It’s a Wonderful Life.

However, through his collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock, Stewart was also able to play with different shades of gloom and contradict this clean demeanor, giving characters in “Rear Window” and “Vertigo” a voyeuristic quality. The latter is especially fascinating because Stewart is given the opportunity to go from his regular every-man persona to one who is overwhelmed by lusty desire.

Top 10 Actors of All Time
Credit – moviehousememories.com – James Stewart – Top 10 Actors of All Time in Movies History

Key Performances: ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’, ‘The Philadelphia Story’, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, ‘Vertigo’, ‘Rear Window’

Number of Oscars: 1

6. Lawrence Olivier (Top 10 Actors of All Time)

As a stage performer, Lawrence Olivier ruled Shakespeare in the cinema. Actually, almost all of his film adaptations of the playwright’s works, many of which he also directed and featured in, are regarded as some of the best films ever made. There may not have been a better actor during the height of Hollywood’s glory days; he was equally at home playing the starring role or serving as an excellent backup role model. It’s almost impossible to believe that he was denied any Best Actor Oscar, even later receiving an honorary prize in 1979.

Top 10 Actors of All Time
Credit – Quora – Lawrence Olivier – Top 10 Actors of All Time in Movies History

Key Performances: ‘Rebecca’, ‘Spartacus’, ‘Richard III’, ‘Hamlet’

5. Daniel Day-Lewis (Top 10 Actors of All Time)

No other performer in the annals of motion pictures has gone to such pains to remain true to the role. Day-Lewis does not have the vast body of work that some of our other competitors do, but his legacy was cemented by his ability to totally inhabit people, both on and off screen. Day-Lewis has always exuded an air of uncertainty. Since 1988, he has only appeared in six movies, sometimes going up to five years between appearances.

Because of his commitment to his craft, he is the only actor to have received three Best Actor Academy Awards. For My Left Foot (1989), There Will be Blood (2007), and Lincoln, Lewis received the three honours (2012). Sadly, Day-Lewis announced his retirement following the 2017 debut of Phantom Thread.

Top 10 Actors of All Time
Credit – Amazon.com – Daniel Day-Lewis – Top 10 Actors of All Time in Movies History

Key Performances: ‘My Left Foot’, ‘Gangs of New York’, ‘There Will Be Blood’, ‘Lincoln’

Number of Oscars: 3

Recent Projects: ‘Phantom Thread’, which will reportedly be his final performance on screen

4. Al Pacino (Top 10 Actors of All Time)

One of the most successful careers in Hollywood history belongs to Al Pacino. He has been an actor for more than 50 years and is one of the select few to have won the Tony, Academy, and Emmy awards for acting. With his breakout performance as Michael Corleone in Coppola’s The Godfather, he received praise and attention.
In films like “Panic at Needle Park,” “The First Two Godfather Movies,” “Dog Day Afternoon,” “Serpico,” and “Scarface,” Pacino undoubtedly did some of his best work. After nearly ten years in the dark throughout the 1980s, the second run happened. Numerous excellent films, including “Heat,” “The Insider,” “Donnie Brasco,” and “Glengarry Glen Ross,” were produced by Pacino during the 1990s.

Top 10 Actors of All Time
Credit – Forbes – Al Pacino – Top 10 Actors of All Time in Movies History

Key Performances: ‘Dog Day Afternoon’, ‘The Godfather’ trilogy, ‘Carlito’s Way’, ‘Heat’

Number of Oscars: 1

Recent Projects: ‘The Irishman’ (currently filming)

3. Jack Nicholson (Top 10 Actors of All Time)

With some of the most gritty parts to date, Jack Nicholson has carved out a career of frighten[ing] audiences. Additionally, from the 1960s to the early 2000s, he had the uncommon distinction of being nominated for an Oscar. His road to success, though, hasn’t exactly been smooth.
His earliest notable roles were in the existential Westerns of Monte Hellman and Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider (1969). With the release of Five Easy Pieces in 1970, where he portrayed a young guy through an identity crisis, Nicholson’s career began to take off.

Top 10 Actors of All Time
Credit – IMDb.com – Jack Nicholson – Top 10 Actors of All Time in Movies History

Key Performances: ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest’, ‘The Shinning’, ‘Chinatown’, ‘A Few Good Men’

Number of Oscars: 3

Recent Projects: ‘Toni Erdman’ remake (alleged)

2. Robert DeNiro (Top 10 Actors of All Time)

Oscar-winning actor Robert De Niro, one of the most accomplished and well-respected performers of the 20th century and beyond, played a fierce and intimidating presence in a number of acclaimed films directed by Martin Scorsese, including “Raging Bull” (1980) and “Goodfellas” (1990), as well as “The Godfather Part II” (1974), “1900” (1976), “Heat” (1995), “Meet the Parents” (2000), and “S (2012). DeNiro’s commitment was evident in the way he changed his appearance for the roles of a prizefighter and an overweight slob in “Raging Bull” and a mob boss in “Goodfellas,” even down to the way he would handle a bottle of ketchup.

Top 10 Actors of All Time
Credit – IMDb.com – Robert DeNiro – Top 10 Actors of All Time in Movies History

Key Performances: ‘Taxi Driver’, ‘Raging Bull’, ‘The Godfather: Part II’, ‘The Deer Hunter’

Number of Oscars: 2

Recent Projects: ‘The Irishman’ (currently in production)

1. Marlon Brando (Top 10 Actors of All Time)

Brando is unquestionably the best actor of the 20th century, with a storied career spanning more than five decades. He was Stella Adler’s most well-known pupil, from whom he learnt the Stanislavski-recommended method acting style. The fact that Brando could be so crazy on set makes his parts in the 1970s arguably even more fascinating. Moments of lightning-in-a-bottle magnificence may be found in movies like “Apocalypse Now,” in which he had a supporting role and was infamous for showing up to the scene without his lines memorized. Brando set a gold standard for actors in the movies, creating something mythic that the most talented of performer would try and achieve throughout the decades.

Top 10 Actors of All Time
Marlon Brando – Top 10 Actors of All Time in Movies History

Key Performances: ‘Streetcar Named Desire’, ‘On the Waterfront’, ‘The Godfather’, ‘Apocalypse Now’

Number of Oscars: 2

top 10 actors of all time in the world

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