These are the most significant African American actors in film history, ranked by the community to determine who the finest African American actor of all time is. They come from all different historical periods and types of films. These top black actors are not just some of the finest performers but also among the best actors of any race.
The following list might help you identify which best African American film actors in starring roles in Hollywood are the greatest.
1. Will Smith
Willard Carroll Smith II, better known by his stage name, The Fresh Prince, is a native of the United States and works as an actor and rapper. He was born on September 25, 1968.
Because of the more than $9.3 billion in total revenue that his films have generated worldwide as of 2022, he is considered one of Hollywood’s most bankable actors. As a result of his rap performance, he is the recipient of four Grammy Awards.
In 2021, Smith was awarded the title of Best Actor at the Academy Award, the BAFTA Award, the Golden Globe Award, and the Screen Actors Guild Award.
Because of his nominations for the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Prizes, he is one of the very few black performers in the United States who has been considered for all four of the most prestigious entertainment awards in the country.
2. Denzel Washington
Denzel Hayes Washington Jr. is an American actor, director, and producer who has achieved great notoriety in these fields. On December 28th, 1954, he entered this world in the United States.
In light of his acting performance, the so-called “idea of classic cinema notoriety” is believed to have been rethought.
In 1989, he was awarded the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor; nine years later, he was honored with the Academy Award for Best Actor. In 2001, he was honored with both awards.
In recognition of his work in the 2010 Broadway revival of August Wilson’s play Fences, which was nominated for a Tony Award in the Best Actor in a Drama category, he was presented with the award.
In the early spring of 2010, Washington was given the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play, which he went on to win. The award was delivered to Washington.
Within the five decades since the birth of the Academy Honor, Washington is one of just five male artists nominated for the award.
3. Eddie Murphy
Edward Regan Murphy is a well-known performer in the arts of acting, comedy, writing, producing, and singing in the United States. His birthday is April 3rd, 1961, and he was born in the United States.
The top 100 stand-up comedians list can be found on Comedy Central. On that ranking, Murphy comes in at number 10.
In 2007, Murphy was recognized as the best supporting actor at the Golden Globes and was considered for an Academy Award nomination. Additionally, he was awarded the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor for his work.
The success of his films drove him to sixth place on the list of highest-grossing actors in the United States in 2015 and garnered him the Performing Arts Award that same year.
It was the first Emmy award he had ever won, and it was for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for the Primetime Emmys in 2020.
4. Morgan Freeman
Actor, director, and narrator Morgan Freeman was born and raised in the United States. It was on June 1st, 1937, that he was born in the United States.
In addition to the numerous roles he has portrayed in a wide variety of film subgenres, he is most known for the shallow tone of his voice.
1989 marked the first time the actor was considered for an Academy Award nomination and was in the Best Actor category.
Morgan Freeman was awarded the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his efforts in the sports drama “Million Dollar Baby,” released in 2004. “Million Dollar Baby” was directed by Clint Eastwood.
In recognition of his portrayal of Nelson Mandela in the movie “Invictus,” which was directed by Clint Eastwood and released in 2009, he was shortlisted for an Academy Award that year.
5. Danny Glover
Danny Lebern Glover is a well-known political activist, film director, and actor in the United States. On July 22, 1946, he was brought into this world.
Additionally, on September 7, 2011, he was the honored recipient of a tribute bestowed upon him by the Deauville American Film Festival, which takes place in France.
As a gesture of gratitude for Glover’s contributions in the sphere of humanitarianism, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented him with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 2022.
He has also been considered for one Grammy Award, four Primetime Emmy Awards, and one Daytime Emmy Award.
6. Laurence Fishburne
Laurence John Fishburne III is a well-known actor born in the United States on July 30, 1961.
He has been nominated for several awards, including a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1993, a nomination for the Golden Globe Award, and a nomination for the Independent Spirit Award.
Because of his work on television has been nominated for eleven Primetime Emmy Awards and won three. In addition, he has won several Screen Actors Guild Awards.
As recognition for his efforts on stage, he was nominated for two Tony Awards and ultimately won the “Best Featured Actor in a Play” award for his performance in August Wilson’s Two Trains Running in 1992.
7. Wesley Snipes
Wesley Trent Snipes is a well-known American actor and film producer. He was born on July 31, 1962, in the United States.
In 1992, Snipes was considered for the Independent Spirit Award in the category of Best Supporting Male.
Because of his work in the film “One Night Stand” in 1997, he was awarded the Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the ceremony.
Snipes had his most tremendous financial success with Blade in 1998, starring as the titular character in the film, making over $150 million worldwide.
8. Courtney B. Vance
Courtney Bernard Vance is a well-known American actor born on March 12th, 1960, in the United States.
He was nominated for a Tony Award in the Best Actor in a Play category for his remarkable performance at the 45th Annual Tony Awards in 1991.
At the 67th Annual Tony Awards in 2013, he was awarded Best Featured Actor for his work.
He was honored with the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie the year it was presented to him (2016).
He was honored with a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series in 2020.
9. Djimon Hounsou
Djimon Gaston Hounsou is a Beninese-American actor and model. He was born on April 24, 1964, in the United States.
He first got his start in the industry by performing in music videos. He made his debut in the film Without You I’m Nothing (1990), but he first came to wider attention for his performance as Cinqué in Amistad, directed by Steven Spielberg (1997).
He received additional notoriety by being nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Best Supporting Actor for both of the later films he appeared in. Additionally, in the film Furious 7, he had a role as an adversary (2015).
A Golden Globe Award and three Screen Actors Guild Awards have been submitted in his name for consideration.
10. Obba Babatundé
Obba Babatundé is a well-known American actor who was born Donald Cohen on December 1st, 1951.
Babatundé, a native of the borough of Queens in New York City, has participated in over seventeen stage performances, thirty theatrical films, sixty made-for-television movies, and two prime-time shows during his career.
In 2016, Babatundé was honored with two awards: the Daytime Emmy Award for “Outstanding Guest Performer in a Drama Series” and the Peachtree Village International Film Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Both of these honors were presented to Babatundé.
In 2010, Babatundé was recognized as the “Best Lead Male” by the NAACP Theatre Awards. He was awarded “Best Actor” at the NAACP Image Awards.
11. Richard Pryor
Richard Franklin Lennox Thomas Pryor Sr. was an American stand-up comedian and actor. He was born on December 1, 1940, and died on December 10, 2005.
It is generally agreed upon that he is one of the best and most influential stand-up comedians of all time due to the enormous audience he was able to reach with his insightful insights and narrative approach.
Pryor was honored with a Grammy Award and a Primetime Emmy Award. In 1998, the Kennedy Center gave him the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor for the first time.
In 1974, he was honored with the Writers Guild of America Award. He has ranked number one on the list of the best stand-up comedians of all time that Comedy Central compiled.
In 2017, Rolling Stone voted him the finest stand-up comedian of all time and placed him at the top of its list of the 50 best comics.
12. Samuel L. Jackson
Samuel Leroy Jackson is a well-known American actor born on December 21, 1948.
As a result of his participation in movies that have cumulatively earned more than $27 billion throughout the world, he is now the second highest-grossing person in the history of the film industry.
He was considered for a nomination for an Academy Award in the category of Best Supporting Actor in the year 2015.
Jackson was awarded an Academy Honorary Award in March of 2022. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented the award to Jackson.
13. Bill Cosby
William Henry Cosby Jr. is a well-known American comedian, actor, and author. He was born on July 12, 1937, in the United States.
In the 1960s, when Cosby was starting in the entertainment industry, he performed standup comedy at the hungry I nightclub in San Francisco.
During the decade, he was responsible for publishing several standup comedy recordings, each of which won him the Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album between 1965 and 1970.
Cosby was the first African American to get an Emmy Award for acting. He created history when he received the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series in 1966. This achievement made him a historical figure.
14. Chadwick Boseman
Chadwick Aaron Boseman was an American actor. He was born on November 29, 1976, and passed away on August 28, 2020.
Both the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture were bestowed to him in 2018, respectively.
In addition to being included in the 2018 Time 100, he made history by being the first black actor to take the lead role in a Marvel Cinematic Universe film.
After he died in 2021, he was awarded a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance, which he received posthumously.
Boseman was also nominated for four Screen Actors Guild Awards, the most nominations ever given to an actor at a single presentation. He won the Male Actor in a Leading Role award for his performance.
15. Jamie Foxx
Jamie Foxx, whose real name is Eric Marlon Bishop and who was born on December 13, 1967, is a popular name in the entertainment industry in the United States. He is an actor, comedian, and singer.
In 2004, he was awarded the Academy Award, the Golden Globe Award, the Critics’ Choice Movie Award, the Screen Actors Guild Award, and the British Academy Film Award.
The same year, Foxx’s performance as a supporting character in the movie Collateral earned him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
He was recognized with a nomination for a Screen Actors Guild Award in the year 2019.
16. Gregory Hines
Gregory Oliver Hines was an American dancer, actor, choreographer, and singer. He was born on February 14, 1946, and died on August 9, 2003.
He is considered one of the most excellent tap dancers of all time. As an actor, he is best recognized for his roles in the films Wolfen (1981), The Cotton Club (1984), White Nights (1985), and Running Scared (1986), as well as for his roles in The Gregory Hines Show (1997-1998), Ben on Will & Grace (1999-2000), and for providing the voice of Big Bill on the animated children’s television program Little Bill on Nick Jr. (1999-2004).
Hines appeared on Broadway in addition to starring in more than 40 films over his career. He was honored with several awards, including the Screen Actors Guild Award, four Primetime Emmy Awards, a Drama Desk Award, and a Tony Award.
He was also nominated for the Daytime Emmy Award, the Drama Desk Award, and the Tony Award.
17. Mahershala Ali
Mahershala Ali is an American actor born on February 16, 1974, with the name Mahershalalhashbaz Gilmore.
In a career that spanned two decades, he has been honored with some prestigious awards, including two Academy Awards, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe Award, and a Primetime Emmy Award.
2019’s edition of Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world included him in that group.
In 2020, he was placed at number 23 on the list of the 25 Greatest Actors of the 21st Century, compiled by The New York Times.
18. Terrence Howard
Terrence Dashon Howard is a well-known actor born in the United States on March 11, 1969.
Because of his performance in Hustle & Flow, he was considered for a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor.
At the 78th Annual Academy Awards, he was awarded the Oscar for Best Original Song for his work.
19. Forest Whitaker
Forest American actor Steven Whitaker was born in the United States on July 15, 1961.
He has been honored with some prestigious awards, including two Screen Actors Guild Awards, an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, and a British Academy Film Award.
In 2011, he was appointed to the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador position and later elevated to Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation.
He is the Chief Executive Officer of the Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative (WPDI), a non-profit organization’s outreach program.
20. John Amos
John Allen Amos Jr. is a well-known American actor born on December 27, 1939.
He is most known for his portrayal of James Evans, Sr., on the television series Good Times, which aired on CBS.
Amos has been recognized for his work on Roots with many nominations, including one for an Emmy, one for a CableACE award, one for an NAACP Image award, and one for a DVD Exclusive Award.
Amos has won three awards for his work on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Good Times, and the television miniseries Roots, all of which earned him nominations for TV Land Awards.
Amos was honored with entry into the New Jersey Hall of Fame the following year, 2020.