What’s the point of Hollywood if it doesn’t feature the most diverse group of talented people? Besides those token African-Americans and Latinos, plenty more white actors have made a splash in just about every other movie genre. We’re here to highlight 50 such stars. This list ranks 50 famous white actors from all eras of cinema history based purely on their worldwide fame and popularity.
Table of Contents
- 1. Fred Astaire
- 2. Tommy Lee Jones
- 3. Sir Sean Connery
- 4. George Orson Welles
- 5. Christopher Plummer
- 6. Sir Alec Guinness
- 7. Kirk Douglas
- 8. John Wayne
- 9. William Holden
- 10. Richard Burton
- 11. Burt Lancaster
- 12. Peter Finch
- 13. Peter Sellers
- 14. Charles Laughton
- 15. Jason Nelson Robards Jr.
- 16. George Campbell Scott
- 17. Gary Cooper
- 18. William Clark Gable
- 19. Eldred Gregory Peck
- 20. Kevin Spacey Fowler
- 21. Philip Seymour Hoffman
- 22. Russell Ira Crowe
- 23. Sir Ben Kingsley
- 24. Eugene Allen Hackman
- 25. Sean Justin Penn
- 26. Clinton Eastwood Jr.
- 27. Peter Seamus O’Toole
- 28. Jeffrey Leon Bridges
- 29. James Francis Cagney Jr.
- 30. Henry Jaynes Fonda
- 31. Robert Selden Duvall
- 32. Leonardo Wilhelm DiCaprio
- 33. Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin Jr. KBE
- 34. Robin McLaurin Williams
- 35. Sir Michael Caine
- 36. Cary Grant
- 37. James Maitland Stewart
- 38. Humphrey DeForest Bogart
- 39. John Uhler Lemmon III
- 40. Laurence Kerr Olivier
- 41. Spencer Bonaventure Tracy
- 42. Paul Leonard Newman
- 43. Sir Philip Anthony Hopkins
- 44. Dustin Hoffman
- 45. Thomas Jeffrey Hanks
- 46. Sir Daniel Day-Lewis
- 47. Alfredo James Pacino
- 48. Robert Anthony De Niro Jr
- 49. Marlon Brando Jr.
- 50. Jack Nicholson
1. Fred Astaire
Fred Astaire was born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1899. He made a name for himself in movies like “Top Hat” and “Follow the Fleet” (1941) and received two Academy Award nominations. His career spanned five decades, and he set a standard for dancing that is still emulated today. Astaire passed away in 1987 at the age of 88.
2. Tommy Lee Jones
1946 saw the birth of Tommy Lee Jones in San Saba, Texas. He is known as Agent K in the Men in Black movies. In 1993, he won an Academy Award for best-supporting Actor in “The Fugitive,” and has been nominated three times since then. Jones has appeared in over 50 films since 1971 and will return next year to reprise his role as Agent K in “Men in Black.”
3. Sir Sean Connery
Sir Sean Connery was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1930. He is known for playing James Bond in the film series and has appeared in dozens of films, winning an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for “The Untouchables” (1987). In his career, Connery has played several very different roles. At Buckingham Palace, H.M. Queen Elizabeth II knighted him. In 1994, he received the Freedom of the City of Glasgow.
4. George Orson Welles
Orson Welles was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 1915. In addition to making films, he also wrote and directed them. He directed the classic films “Citizen Kane,” “Touch of Evil” and “Chimes at Midnight.” Welles passed away in 1985 at 70 but has since been inducted into the American Film Institute Hall of Fame and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
5. Christopher Plummer
The year 1929 saw the birth of Arthur Christopher Orme Plummer in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is most known for playing Billy Shakespeare in the musical “Pride and Prejudice.” He has also appeared on stage in productions like “Richard II” and “Hamlet.” Plummer has won many awards for his work, including a Tony award (for acting), a Screen Actors Guild Award, and a Tony nomination (for directing).
6. Sir Alec Guinness
Sir Alec Guinness was born in London, England, in 1914. His most well-known performances include playing Colonel Nicholson in “The Bridge on the River Kwai” and Obi-Wan Kenobi in the “Star Wars” film trilogy. Guinness has made appearances in over 100 films throughout his career and played many different roles. He received an Honorary Oscar Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II. He passed away at the age of 86 in 2000.
7. Kirk Douglas
Kirk Douglas was born in Amsterdam, New York, in 1916. He is known for his portrayal of boxer Tony Gazzo in “Champion,” for his role as Colonel Robert E. Lee Clayton in “The Big Sky” (1952), and for playing the title character of the 1960 film “Spartacus.” Douglas starred in many different genres but is best known for his work on-screen. He has had a long, distinguished career and was a major Hollywood icon from the 1950s to the 1980s.
8. John Wayne
John Wayne was born in Winterset, Iowa, in 1907. He is known for his role as Ethan Edwards in “The Searchers” (1956), Will Kane in “High Noon” (1952), and Frank Merriwell in the film series. Wayne received five Academy Awards nominations during his career but never won an award. His career spanned a decade, and he passed away at 72.
9. William Holden
William Holden was born in O’Fallon, Illinois, in 1918. His performance as Joe Gillis in “Sunset Boulevard” is well known (1950), as Dr. Robert Ordway in “The Towering Inferno” (1974), and Detective Bill Gillespie in the film series “The Untouchables.” Holden has been nominated for two Academy Awards throughout his career, winning one for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his work on the film “Stalag 17.” He passed away from throat cancer at the age of 57.
10. Richard Burton
Richard Burton was born in Pontrhydyfen, Wales, in 1925 and died in 1984. His performances in the movies “Cleopatra” (1963), “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (1966), and “The Taming of the Shrew” are what made him most well-known (1967). Burton has starred in over 50 films and won a Golden Globe Award, a Laurel Award, and an Academy award nomination. He was married to actress Elizabeth Taylor from 1964 to 1974.
11. Burt Lancaster
Burton Stephen Lancaster passed away in 1994 after being born in 1913. He is an actor from the USA. His performances in “Birdman of Alcatraz,” “The Scalphunters,” and “The Night of the Hunter” are what made him most famous. For his two times-nominated performances as Paul Muni in “The Life of Emile Zola,” he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor (1937) and as Abraham Lincoln in “The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex” (1939). He went on to win two Golden Globe Awards.
12. Peter Finch
Frederick George Peter Ingle Finch was born in London, England, in 1916 and died in 1977. He is an English film and stage actor. He was born in London, moved to Australia as a young adult, and was reared in Sydney. Before breaking into the Australian film industry, he worked in radio and vaudeville. After the Second World War, he joined the Old Vic Company and enjoyed tremendous critical acclaim in Britain for his stage and movie appearances.
13. Peter Sellers
Peter Sellers was born in London, England, in 1925 and died in 1980. He is most well-known for his roles in “Dr. Strangelove” (1963) and “Being There” (1979). He has acted in over 50 films and is a massive icon to many. His famous catchphrase, “I’m not the Messiah, I’m a very naughty boy”, is probably his most famous line.
14. Charles Laughton
Charles Laughton was born in 1899 in England and died in 1962. He played characters in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and was an English theater and screen actor (1939), “Mutiny on the Bounty” (1962), and Mr. Kurtz in “Apocalypse Now.” His integrity and commitment to the craft have been a large part of what has made him one of the most recognizable actors of all time.
15. Jason Nelson Robards Jr.
Jason Nelson Robards Jr., who passed away in 2000, was born in 1922. An American actor, he was. Robards, renowned for his interpretations of plays by Eugene O’Neill, won two Academy Awards, a Tony Award, a Primetime Emmy Award, and the Best Actor prize at the Cannes Film Festival. He is one of the 24 actors who have accomplished the Triple Crown of Acting.
16. George Campbell Scott
George Campbell Scott was born in 1927 and died in 1999. He was a prominent theater and movie actor, director, and producer from the United States. General Buck Turgidson from Dr. Strangelove by Stanley Kubrick, Claude Dancer in Anatomy of a Murder, Herbert Bock in The Hospital, and Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, Scott is known for playing challenging yet nuanced roles. For his performances as Lt. Kinderman in The Exorcist III and General George S. Patton in the film Patton, he won the Academy Award for Best Actor.
17. Gary Cooper
Gary Cooper was born in 1901 in Indiana and passed away in 1961. He is well-known for his roles in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), For Whom the Bell Tolls (1942), Meet John Doe (1941), Sergeant York (1941), and The Pride of the Yankees (1942). Cooper was nominated for an Academy Award four times and won once. In 1979, he was admitted to the American Theater Hall of Fame.
18. William Clark Gable
William Clark Gable was born in 1901. He is best recognized for his performance in “Gone with the Wind” as Rhett Butler (1939). Gable was nominated for four Academy Awards throughout his career, winning one. He is one of the most iconic actors in American cinema and is also considered a significant icon of masculinity and Hollywood’s Golden Age.
19. Eldred Gregory Peck
Eldred Gregory Peck was born in 1916. Known by many as an American actor and one of the most decorated U.S. combat veterans of the Second World War, he is a big name in Hollywood history. He is considered to be one of Hollywood’s greatest actors of all time. He won two Academy Awards: Best Actor for his performances in “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962) and “The Yearling” (1946).
20. Kevin Spacey Fowler
Kevin Spacey Fowler was born in 1959. His roles in “The Usual Suspects,” “American Beauty,” and “Seven” made him a well-known American actor, director, and producer. He has won two Academy Awards and a Tony Award, among other accolades.
21. Philip Seymour Hoffman
Philip Seymour Hoffman died in February 2014 and was born in 1967. He is an American actor and director. Hoffman began acting in television in 1991, and the following year started to appear in films. In various films, he gained recognition for his supporting work throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s. More recently, he has starred in critically acclaimed films such as “Capote” (2005), “Doubt” (2008), “Charlie Wilson’s War” (2007), and “The Ides of March” (2011).
22. Russell Ira Crowe
Russell Ira Crowe was born in 1964. He is an actor, film producer, and musician. Although a New Zealand citizen, he has lived most of his life in Australia. He received accolades from the Broadcast Film Critics Association, the Empire Awards, the London Film Critics Circle, and the Broadcast Film Critics Association for his portrayal of the Roman General Maximus Decimus Meridius in “Gladiator” (2000). He was also a finalist for the Best Actor Oscar.
23. Sir Ben Kingsley
Sir Ben Kingsley was born in India in 1943. He is an actor, director, and producer. He has received two Best Actor Academy Awards for the movies “Schindler’s List” and “Gandhi” (1982). (1993). In 1993 he shared the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for “Gangs of New York”.
24. Eugene Allen Hackman
Eugene Allen Hackman was born in California in 1930. He is an actor and film producer. Hackman has garnered several accolades for over six decades, including two Academy Awards, four Golden Globes, a Screen Actors Guild Award, two BAFTAs, and a Silver Bear. Hackman, who had five Academy Award nominations, took home two of them for his performances as Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle in the famous thriller The French Connection (1971) and as “Little” Bill Daggett in Clint Eastwood’s Western movie Unforgiven (1992).
25. Sean Justin Penn
Sean Justin Penn was born in 1960 in Santa Monica, California. He is an American actor and filmmaker. With a fleeting cameo in “I’m Dancing as Fast as I Can,” Penn launched his acting career in television (1981). He made his feature film debut in 1982’s “Taps” and gained significant attention as the surfer-stoner Jeff Spicoli in the 1983 comedy “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”.
26. Clinton Eastwood Jr.
Clinton Eastwood Jr. was born in California in 1930. He is an actor, director, producer, musician, and politician. Among his most notable roles are those in the films “Every Which Way but Loose” (1978), “Any Which Way You Can” (1980), “Sudden Impact” (1983), the action Western “Honkytonk Man” (1982), and the psychological thriller “Play Misty for Me” (1971).
27. Peter Seamus O’Toole
Peter Seamus O’Toole was born in 1932 and died in 2013. He is an English actor. After enrolling at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, he started acting professionally. He became well-known for his Shakespearean performances at the Bristol Old Vic and the English Stage Company. He performed in The Long, the Short, and the Tall on the West End in 1959, and in the inaugural Hamlet production at the National Theatre in 1963, he portrayed the title role. O’Toole was well-known for living a “hellraiser” lifestyle while performing brilliantly on the London stage.
28. Jeffrey Leon Bridges
Jeff Bridges was born in 1949. He is an American actor and producer. He came to prominence for his performance as Jeffrey Lebowski, the “Dude”, in the Coen Brothers’ film “The Big Lebowski” (1998). He received the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for his depiction in the 2005 film “Crazy Heart”.
29. James Francis Cagney Jr.
James Francis Cagney Jr. was born in 1899 in New York City. Known as a formidable guy actor in the 1930s and 1940s, he was a leading man in films such as “Yankee Doodle Dandy”, “Angels with Dirty Faces” and “The Public Enemy”. He has accumulated numerous awards during his career, including the Motion Picture Academy Award for Best Actor, Cecil B. DeMille Award for Lifetime Achievement, and the Life Achievement Award from the American Film Institute.
30. Henry Jaynes Fonda
1905 saw Henry Jaynes Fonda’s birth in Grand Island, Nebraska. He is an American film and stage actor with seven decades of career. In 1935, Fonda made his Hollywood film debut after making his name as a Broadway performer. With appearances in movies like Jezebel (1938), Jesse James (1939), and Young Mr. Lincoln, he became a movie star (1939). He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1940 for his portrayal of Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath, which advanced his acting career.
31. Robert Selden Duvall
Robert Selden Duvall was born in 1931 in San Diego, California. He is an actor and director. His career has spanned over seven decades, and he is acknowledged as one of the greatest American performers. He has been honored with an Academy Award, four Golden Globe Awards, a BAFTA Award, two Primetime Emmy Awards, and a Screen Actors Guild Award.
32. Leonardo Wilhelm DiCaprio
Leonardo Wilhelm DiCaprio was born in 1974 in Los Angeles, California. He is an American actor, film producer, and environmentalist. As a model “0000” member, he became famous by appearing on the cover of their 2000 calendar. Before securing recurrent roles in T.V. shows like the soap opera “Santa Barbara,” DiCaprio started his career by making appearances in ads. His first major film release was in 1993’s “Critters 3”, but it wasn’t until he was cast in the 1996 blockbuster hit film “Titanic” that he gained recognition and international fame.
33. Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin Jr. KBE
Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin Jr. was born in 1899 in London, England. He is an English comedian and Actor. His film career began in 1914, with comedy shorts such as “The Laughing Lady” and “The Adventurer”, and when he was still a small boy in 1913 made his first appearance at the age of six in the short film “Aged 14”. Two years later, he made his stage debut as a banjo player at Stoll Theatre as a replacement for the injured Stan Laurel.
34. Robin McLaurin Williams
Rob Robin McLaurin Williams was born in 1951 in Chicago, Illinois. He is an American actor, voice actor, and singer. Williams has gained worldwide attention and acclaim for his portrayal of Mork in the 1980s sitcom “Mork & Mindy”, which won him two Golden Globes awards.
35. Sir Michael Caine
Michael Caine was born in 1933. He is an English actor and author. He received his training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and at the age of 19, while performing with a Shakespearean company touring Italy, he made his professional theatrical debut. His first film was “Zulu” (1964). In 1968, he got a break in “The Ipcress File” and was nominated for an Oscar. Since then, he has appeared in more than 100 movies, and he and Only two actors—Jack Nicholson and John Wayne—have roles in two of the top 100 heroes, according to the American Film Institute.
36. Cary Grant
Cary Grant, real name Archibald Alec Leach, lived from 1904 until he died in 1986. Actor of English and American descent. He was well-known for his Mid-Atlantic accent, dapper bearing, lighthearted acting style, and sense of humor. He played a significant role in the leading man category of classic Hollywood from the 1930s until the middle of the 1960s.
37. James Maitland Stewart
James Maitland Stewart was born in 1908. He is an iconic American movie star and one of the film’s most honored and popular stars. He has won one Academy Award, three Golden Globe Awards, and an honorary Academy Award. He has received five Academy Award nominations. He epitomized the “American ideal” in the middle of the 20th century due to the high moral standards he upheld in real life. On their list of the top American male actors of 1999, the American Film Institute (AFI) placed him third.
38. Humphrey DeForest Bogart
Humphrey DeForest Bogart was born in 1899. He is an American actor and film director. Known for his iconic performance as gangster Rick in Casablanca, he is remembered for his performances as Sam Spade in the Maltese Falcon (1941) and Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep (1946), which established him as one of the film’s leading men. He was ranked number 50 by the American Film Institute on their list of the greatest male stars.
39. John Uhler Lemmon III
In 1925, John Uhler Lemmon III was born in a military hospital at American Army Camp Stuart in Panama’s Panama Canal Zone. He is an American actor and director. He has been a major movie star since the late 1950s, gaining recognition as one of the great leading men of Hollywood with a film such as “Some Like It Hot” (1959), “The Apartment” (1960), and “Days of Wine and Roses” (1962).
40. Laurence Kerr Olivier
Laurence Kerr Olivier, Baron Olivier, OM (born Laurence Kerr O’Neill) was born in 1907 – died in 1989; he was an English stage, screen, and television actor. In 1980, he was knighted and presented with an American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement Award.
Spencer Bonaventure Tracy was born in 1900. He was renowned for his flexibility and natural performance manner. One of the prominent figures of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Tracy was the first performer to get two Best Actor Academy Award nominations in a row. He performed in 75 movies during his career, earning him a reputation as one of the best performers to ever grace the screen among his contemporaries. Tracy was named the 9th best male star of Classic Hollywood Cinema by the American Film Institute in 1999.
42. Paul Leonard Newman
Paul Leonard Newman was born in 1925. He is an American actor, film director, producer, and former racing driver. He is a three-time Academy Award and seven-time Golden Globe Award, winner. On the AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Stars list of the top 50 male and female stars of classic Hollywood cinema, Newman was ranked as No. 6 (his co-star Joanne Woodward as No. 3), making them one of only two married couples to appear on the list together.
43. Sir Philip Anthony Hopkins
Philip Anthony Hopkins was born in the United Kingdom in 1937. He is an English actor. After two decades of starring in films, He rose to popularity worldwide thanks to his portrayal of the cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter in “The Silence of the Lambs.”
44. Dustin Hoffman
In 1937, Dustin Lee Hoffman was born. He is an American filmmaker, producer, and Actor. He is best known for his versatile portrayals of antiheroes and vulnerable characters. Hoffman won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1980 for his role as Benjamin Braddock in “Kramer vs. Kramer”, and in 1989 for his role as Raymond Babbitt in “Rain Man”.
45. Thomas Jeffrey Hanks
Thomas Jeffrey Hanks was born in 1956 in Concord, California. He is an American film actor and voice actor. He has also appeared in many other movies, including “Sleepless in Seattle”, and “Big”.
46. Sir Daniel Day-Lewis
Sir Daniel Michael Blake Day-Lewis was born in 1957. He is an English actor who holds both British and Irish citizenship. He has won three Academy Awards for Best Actor for his portrayals of Christy Brown in “My Left Foot” (1989), Daniel Plainview in “There Will Be Blood” (2007), and Abraham Lincoln in “Lincoln” (2012).
47. Alfredo James Pacino
Alfredo James Pacino was born in 1940. He is an American actor. He has had four Academy Award nominations and two victories, including the Best Supporting Actor award for “Scent of a Woman” (1992), “Dog Day Afternoon” (1975), and “And Justice for All” (1976). (1979)
48. Robert Anthony De Niro Jr
In 1943, Robert Anthony De Niro Jr. was born in New York. He is an American actor and director best known for portraying mobster Vito Corleone in the crime film “The Godfather Part II” (1974). He ranks among the top 10 highest-grossing actors of all time, having starred in some of the most popular films released during his career.
49. Marlon Brando Jr.
Marlon Brando Jr. was born in 1924. He is an American actor, film director, and activist. He is noted for breaking cultural taboos and revolutionizing film acting with his “Method” acting technique, which incorporated emotional memory as a tool for channeling his performance into the work. Brando has been ranked as one of the greatest and most influential actors of all time by the American Film Institute.
50. Jack Nicholson
John Joseph Nicholson was born in 1937. He is an American film, stage, and television Actor known for his tough-guy image. Nicholson is acknowledged as one of the finest actors of all time, with roles in some of the most well-known movies ever produced. For his portrayal of George C. Scott’s brother in “Patton,” he was honored with an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor (1970).