Silver Screen Excellence: 26 Actors and Actresses Whose Every Performance Commands Attention

A big factor that determines what movie or TV show we'll put in is the people starring in it. Some actors and actresses always deliver must-see performances, no matter how good (or bad) the rest of the film is.

Recently, an online discussion dives into a list of actors and actresses whose work we can't miss no matter what.

1. Tom Hanks

Finch Tom Hanks
Image Credit: Apple TV+.

Tom Hanks is my favorite actor, so he is, without a doubt, an example of someone I will watch just about anything with. With a career of over 40 years, Hanks is a gifted performer. Whether comedy or drama, he can be equally charming, funny, and moving.

2. Denzel Washington

Roman J. Israel, Esq. Denzel Washington
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing.

Denzel never fails to deliver. Although he generally sticks with dramas or action films, Washington has an impeccable track record of choosing crowd-pleasers, and poignant films, always giving a powerhouse performance.

3. Rachel McAdams

True Detective Rachel McAdams
Image Credit: HBO.

McAdams is a favorite actress of mine and many others. She is also one of the most versatile performers today. She can play sweet, inspiring, or mean in films like The Notebook, Spotlight, and Mean Girls. If I find a movie with her, it is worth a watch.

4. Amy Adams

Justice League Amy Adams
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Amy Adams is another favorite whose career I follow closely. I've watched a film on more than one occasion simply because she stars in it. Adams is another who shines in comedic and dramatic roles. She can be an effervescent princess, naive nun, or brilliant scientist. 

5. Sam Rockwell

See How They Run Sam Rockwell
Image Credit: Searchlight Pictures.

Rockwell is a highly varied actor and has found great success, mainly as a supporting player. He proves that the secondary actors in a film can be the most memorable. He is one of Hollywood's chameleons, portraying vastly different characters over his career.

6. Willem Dafoe

A Most Wanted Man Willem Dafoe
Image Credit: Lionsgate.

Willem Dafoe elevates anything he is in. Whether it's a frightening villain like the Green Goblin in Spider-Man or the sensitive Klaus in The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, you can count on Dafoe to bring his distinct talents.

7. J.K. Simmons

One Day as a Lion J.K. Simmons
Image Credit: Lionsgate.

Several users mention the superb J.K. Simmons, and it's easy to understand why. He shows amazing range and brings depth to every character he plays. That range has served him well throughout his career, no matter the film.

8. Stanley Tucci

A Little Chaos Stanley Tucci
Image Credit: Lionsgate.

One of the most versatile actors out there is undoubtedly Stanley Tucci. He's the type of performer who never lets himself be typecast, performing vastly differing roles in The Devil Wears Prada, The Hunger Games, and Easy A

9. Kate Winslet

The Dressmaker Kate Winslet
Image Credit: Universal Pictures International.

If I see Winslet in the cast, it's a direct sign I'm in for an amazingly acted film. She is another actress who plays both sweet and severe with heart and gravitas, often nailing an accent different than her natural British one.

10. Toni Collette

The Staircase Toni Collette
Image Credit: HBO Max.

Collette is another performer who always gives a solid performance in both lead and supporting roles. And very rarely does she use her natural Australian accent. She is severely underrated. 

11. Lee Pace

Halt and Catch Fire Lee Pace
Image Credit: AMC Studios.

Lee Pace is an actor who has an exceptional under-the-radar career impressing audiences who take note of his talent. If I see Pace in a show or film, it increases my motivation to watch. He can be sweet and charismatic, like in Pushing Daisies, cold, like in The Hobbit, and calculating, like in Halt and Catch Fire. He also has spoken with a British accent in several projects so convincingly that I know of several people who had no idea he was American.

12. Cate Blanchett

Carol Cate Blanchett
Image Credit: Weinstein Co.

Cate Blanchett has won two Oscars and has been lauded with heaps of praise in her career, deservedly so. She is a gifted actress who plays myriad roles, all exceptionally. She nailed her role as Queen Elizabeth, and keenly inhabited another brilliant actress: Katharine Hepburn.

13. Cary Grant

Once Upon a Time Cary Grant
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

Cary Grant is one of classic Hollywood's finest and had one of the most incredible filmographies ever. Grant is a class all his own, and I will truly watch anything with him. And I've seen almost every film of his.

14. Humphrey Bogart

The Maltese Falcon Humphrey Bogart
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Much like Grant, the legendary Humphrey Bogart rarely misses throughout his career. He is an actor who can elevate a mediocre film and shines in the brilliant ones. And he had a multitude of the latter. Choosing a Bogart movie is always a wise choice.

15. Philip Seymour Hoffman

A Most Wanted Man Philip Seymour Hoffman
Image Credit: Lionsgate.

Widely regarded as one of the most talented of his generation, the late Seymour Hoffman steps into any part and makes it memorable. I've watched several films I may not have otherwise seen his gift on screen. He was a masterful performer.

16. Russell Crowe

The Loudest Voice Russel Crowe
Image Credit: Showtime.

Russell Crowe is talented and fantastic at choosing great projects such as Gladiator, Master and Commander, and The Next Three Days. Crowe is mainly a dramatic actor. But he is capable of lighter roles as well, so his impact as a well-rounded performer is still strong.

17. Samuel L. Jackson

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Samuel L. Jackson
Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

Samuel L. Jackson is one of the busiest actors in Hollywood and is someone many take note of and follow closely. His distinctive presence always adds to whatever the film is, and he is equally capable of portraying a hero, a villain, or someone in between.

18. Johnny Depp

Sleepy Hollow Johnny Depp
Image Credit: Summit Entertainment and Warner Bros.

Depp is an incredible actor who has a keen ability to portray characters who are off-kilter, offbeat, or just plain different. His protagonists are never rudimentary or conventional, making his career extremely unique. If Depp is in the film, I will always check it out.

19. Katharine Hepburn

Sylvia Scarlett Katharine Hepburn
Image Credit: RKO Radio Pictures.

One of the most celebrated and revered performers of the classical era, Hepburn is not only brilliant in everything, but her films rarely disappoint. Getting through her filmography would be a great joy, especially with her distinct persona and voice. There will only ever be one Katharine Hepburn.

20. Jude Law

Genius Jude Law
Image Credit: Summit Entertainment and Roadside Attractions.

Jude Law is another extremely busy actor who chooses incredible roles to embody, all different than the next. Whether it's a selfish socialite in The Talented Mr. Ripley, the charming father in The Holiday, Dr. Watson, or Albus Dumbledore, Law never disappoints.

21. Sandra Bullock

The Proposal Sandra Bullock
Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

Although we often think of Bullock as the rom-com queen, she seamlessly slips into darker roles. She is a favorite actress of mine and has a pristine eye for choosing entertaining movies to be a part of.

22. Ewan McGregor

The Ghost Writer Ewan McGregor, Elli Wallach
Image Credit: Optimum Releasing.

From Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequels to Christian in Moulin Rouge and the title role in Halston, is there anything McGregor cannot do? This charismatic actor picks exceptional projects and always brings his best to these varied roles. He deserves so much praise.

23. Joaquin Phoenix

Her Joaquin Phoenix
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Phoenix is an actor that audiences naturally gravitate toward and pays attention to because of his incredible ability to inhabit his characters. Whether it's the twisted Joker or singer Johnny Cash, Phoenix slips into these parts easily; it makes viewers want to watch anything and everything he is in.

24. Gary Oldman

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Gary Oldman
Image Credit: StudioCanal.

Several movie watchers mention Gary Oldman has a chameleon-like ability to disappear into his roles. He easily becomes the character he's portraying, so much so that many movie fans have struggled to spot him on the screen! 

25. Viola Davis

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom Viola Davis
Image Credit: Netflix.

Davis has paid her dues but is finally getting the recognition she deserves. No matter the size of the role, Davis brings gravitas to her character and makes it memorable. She excels in both film and television and brings authenticity to every part. It's a wonder to behold.

26. Nick Offerman 

Nick Offerman
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Nick Offerman is a legend, and he is able to play a variety of roles with incredible line delivery and emotional range. From the stoic Ron Swanson in Parks and Recreation to the steadfast Richard McDonald in The Founder, every project Offerman takes on is a hit. 

Source: Reddit.

Marianne Paluso is a freelance writer and artist and holds a Masters Degree in English and Children’s Literature. Inspired by her favorite films, television, theme parks and all things pop culture, she especially loves Disney, classic films, fairy tales, period dramas, musicals, adventures, mysteries, and a good rom-com. She joined Wealth of Geeks in 2021, and has also contributed to The Nerd Machine, Catholic News Agency. She writes on her own website, creates art that is sold on Redbubble and Etsy, and also partakes in the occasional Disneybound, cosplay, and YouTube video