What makes an actor famous? Is it their box office appeal? A long list of awards? Wide media coverage? Extremely good looks? Check out this list and see if you agree that these are the world's top famous actors.
Those who become and remain famous throughout the years share common traits that make their names indelible to the public's hearts and minds: a solid body of work, fascinating talent, recognition from their peers, and an image that makes them larger than life and endears them to their fans worldwide.
Many of the actors in this list have been long-time favorites for their memorable roles and enchanting screen presence. Some equally-renowned ones may not have made it to this list, which can be debatable in some circles. What do you think?
23 Most Famous Actors of All Time
1. Robert de Niro Jr
Robert de Niro Jr is a legendary actor who has undoubtedly ingrained himself into Hollywood history. He is known for his ability to bring depth and nuance to his characters, engrossing moving-going audiences with his energetic performances.
From his iconic role in “The Godfather II” to his Oscar-winning performance in “Raging Bull,” de Niro has proven time and time again that he is one of the most talented actors of all time.
2. Jack Nicholson
When it comes to household names in Hollywood, few actors measure up to the legendary Jack Nicholson. With a filmography of over six decades, he's earned his place among the most talented actors in history.
Jack Nicholson has earned critical acclaim and a legion of fans with his notable performances in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest,” “The Shining,” and his iconic role as the Joker in “Batman.”
3. Tom Hanks
Born in Concord, California, in 1956, Tom Hanks started his career in acting by appearing in minor roles in movies and television shows.
However, it was during the 1990s that Hanks rose to stardom with his unforgettable performances in iconic films such as “Forrest Gump,” “Saving Private Ryan,” and “Cast Away.”
4. Cate Blanchett
Born in Ivanhoe, Victoria, in 1969, the critically acclaimed Australian actress Cate Blanchett has received numerous accolades for her prolific career. Blanchett's career-defining roles in films such as “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “The Aviator,” and “Blue Jasmine” showcase her remarkable versatility and impressive range as an actor.
5. Denzel Washington
Denzel Washington is a legendary actor synonymous with excellence in the entertainment industry. Born on December 28, 1954, in Mount Vernon, New York, Denzel's journey to becoming one of the greatest actors began early. He participated in theater productions in high school and later majored in Drama at Fordham University.
Denzel's ability to bring characters to life on screen is unparalleled, and his performances in movies like “Malcolm X,” “Training Day,” and “Fences” have solidified his place in Hollywood history.
6. Tom Cruise
Born on July 3, 1962, in Syracuse, New York, Tom Cruise has become one of the most famous actors ever. His career in Hollywood started in the early 1980s, and he quickly rose to fame with roles in “Top Gun,” “Mission Impossible” series, and “Jerry Maguire.”
Cruise has won numerous awards for his work, including three Golden Globe Awards and the Cecil B. DeMille Award.
7. Julia Roberts
Julia Roberts is a renowned American actress who has left a lasting imprint on the entertainment industry. Born on October 28, 1967, in Smyrna, Georgia, she grew up in a creative household that sparked her love for acting.
Roberts first gained national recognition in the 1990s with her role in “Pretty Woman,” a romantic comedy that hooked audiences and cemented her status as a Hollywood icon. Since then, she has starred in numerous blockbuster films like “Erin Brockovich,” “Steel Magnolias,” and “My Best Friend's Wedding.”
8. Leonardo Di Caprio
One of the most respected actors of our time, Leonardo DiCaprio, has enraptured audiences since his debut in the early 1990s. Born in 1974 in Los Angeles, California, this talented actor has been recognized for his remarkable performances and impressive range.
Over the years, DiCaprio has showcased his acting chops in critically acclaimed films like “Titanic,” “The Departed,” and “The Revenant,” earning him his long-anticipated Oscar win for Best Actor in 2016.
9. Catherine Deneuve
Catherine Deneuve, born in 1943 in Paris, France, is one of the most influential actresses ever. She's been in the industry for over 60 years. Her performances have truly fascinated audiences not just in Europe but all over the world.
Her impressive filmography includes iconic works such as “Belle de Jour,” “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” and “Repulsion.”
10. Morgan Freeman
Among acting legends, few names are as instantly recognizable as Morgan Freeman. Born on June 1, 1937, Freeman has been a fixture on the silver screen for decades, establishing himself as one of the most revered actors of his generation.
Among his best works are “Street Smart,” “Invictus,” and “The Shawshank Redemption.”
11. Will Smith
Will Smith, born September 25, 1968, is undoubtedly one of the most famous actors ever. He made his acting debut in the television show “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” which catapulted him to fame. He has starred in numerous blockbuster hits such as “Men in Black,” “Independence Day,” and “The Pursuit of Happiness.”
12. Christian Bale
Christian Bale, born on January 30, 1974, is undoubtedly a legendary actor.
From his astonishing portrayal of Patrick Bateman in “American Psycho” to a solid turn as Batman in the Dark Knight trilogy, Bale has developed himself into an incredibly all-round and gifted actor.
13. Sean Penn
Sean Penn is a name that resonates within the world of acting. Born on August 17, 1960, in Santa Monica, California, Penn has become one of the most iconic actors ever.
His acting career started in 1974 when he starred in the “Little House on the Prairie” sitcom. However, his role in the drama film “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” brought him widespread acclaim.
14. Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman, born in 1981, is undeniably one of the most iconic actresses of her generation. She began her acting career in her early teens with Luc Besson's film, “Léon: The Professional,” and immediately showed audiences her immense talent as an actress.
Since that movie, she has taken on many roles that earned numerous awards for her work, including an Oscar for Best Actress in “Black Swan.”
15. Keanu Reeves
Keanu Reeves was born on September 2, 1964. Notable for his diverse talent, he is a multi-faceted artist hailing from Canada. He is skilled in acting, directing, producing, and music.
Reeves became widely known for his roles in the 80s films “Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure” and “Parenthood,” but he became one of the most famous actors of all time for his role as Neo in “The Matrix” trilogy.
16. Dwayne Johnson
The versatile Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, born in 1972, is one of the most celebrated actors of our time. From his wrestling days to his debut in “The Mummy Returns,” the former superstar athlete has come a long way.
With his impressive repertoire of roles, he has become a go-to leading man for Hollywood's biggest action movies, including the immensely successful “Fast and Furious” series, the adventure-packed “Jumanji,” and the high-octane “Hobbs & Shaw.”
17. Angelina Jolie
Angelina Jolie, born in 1975, is the actress, filmmaker, and humanitarian who has garnered immense popularity in the entertainment industry and beyond.
She's been a star performer in movies like “Girl, Interrupted,” and “Maleficent,” inspiring many.
18. Halle Berry
Halle Berry, born August 14, 1966, is a legendary figure in the film industry.
Her career spans over three decades, from early roles in television shows to her acclaimed performances in Oscar-winning films. Some of her famous movies include “Catwoman,” “The Call,” “Kidnap,” and “X-men.”
19. Matt Damon
The famous American actor Matt Damon has been captivating audiences for several decades.
With his debut role in “Good Will Hunting” as a springboard, Damon's career took off, and he cemented his position as a leading Hollywood actor. His performances in the Bourne series have been particularly notable, showcasing his versatility as an action hero.
20. Scarlett Johansson
Born and raised in the bustling city of New York on November 22, 1984, Scarlett Johansson came into the world with a natural flair for performing.
Over the years, Scarlet has graced the big screen with top performances in movies like “Lost in Translation,” “Jojo Rabbit,” and “Marriage Story.” She has been recognized and awarded for her incredible acting prowess, which has earned her a spot on Hollywood's A-list.
21. Salma Hayek
Salma Hayek, born September 2, 1966, is a renowned Mexican-American actress widely regarded as one of the most famous actors ever. Hayek has won various awards, including the Daytime Emmy Award for “Studio 54,” the ALMA for “Frontera,” and the Fiorello H. LaGuardia Award.
She has appeared in numerous films, including “Desperado,” “Frida,” and “Grown Ups.” Hayek has also been recognized for her humanitarian efforts and advocacy for women's rights.
22. Johnny Depp
John Christopher Depp II, born June 9, 1963, is iconic in the entertainment industry. From his early works like “Edward Scissorhands” and “Sleepy Hollow” to the more recent blockbuster hits like “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Fantastic Beasts,” Depp has carved a niche for himself in Hollywood.
23. Ben Affleck
Ben Affleck, born in 1972, is undeniably one of the most famous actors ever. His acting talent shines through in films like “Good Will Hunting,” which earned an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
Affleck has starred in blockbuster hits like “Armageddon,” “Argo,” “Gone Girl,” and “Justice League.”
Conclusion – Famous Actors
Did your favorite make it on this list of famous actors of all time?
Actors are popular for a variety of reasons. Changing seasons also usually bring in a new batch of screen heroes and heroines. But whether currently on the public's mind or overlooked due to the passing of time, these actors have undoubtedly made their mark on the world of entertainment.
Marjolein is the founder of Radical FIRE. She has a finance and economics background with a master’s in Finance. Radical FIRE is a personal finance blog that helps you live your dream life through making more money and investing. We want you to reach your financial goals and have fun while doing it!