For decades, black actors have left their mark on the cinematic and television landscape. We have the honour of ranking the most famous black actors in the world today. These black actors have blazed our screen with their charisma, talent, artistry, work ethics, confidence and great performance. They have a strong fanbase and are at the pinnacle of Hollywood fame. Some of these famous black actors in our list have accomplished almost everything and are accorded the ‘legendary status’ deservingly. Others have fascinated us with their unforgettable performances and first-rate filmography.
Without further ado, let’s explore 20 of the most famous black actors in the world today.
Denzel Washington is one of the most famous black American actors today. The star actor has been known to play movie roles with so much grandeur and charm. He is a recipient of more than 30 awards. He won his first Academy award in 1980 for his role in the American war drama film Glory. He clinched the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016 for his ‘outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment’. Denzel Washington has won rave reviews for his acting and excellent portrayal of roles. His acting career is characterised by longevity as he has starred in more than 20 movies since the 1990s.
Apart from being famous for his unique baritone, Morgan Freeman is among the most celebrated and respected black actors of all time. He is a recipient of more than 30 awards, including the Film critics awards, NAACP Image Awards, Golden Globe Awards and the Academy Awards. Growing up in Mississippi, he spends some of his childhood years taking part in various school plays. His first major role was in 1971 in the movie Who Says I Can’t Ride a Rainbow! In 1987, his role as Leo Smalls in the movie street smart brought him fame. In 2004, he clinched the Best Supporting Actor for his role in the movie Million Dollar Baby. He co-owns his movie production firm, Revelations Entertainment, which produced one of the most popular films of 2009, Invictus.
Samuel L. Jackson
Samuel L. Jackson is another wildly popular and well-regarded black actor. He has appeared in several movies that have collectively made more than 30 billion dollars. He is the second highest-grossing movie icon in Hollywood (after Stan Lee). His role in movies like True Romance, Jungle Fever, Django Unchained, Patriot Game and Die Hard with a Vengeance brought him to public prominence. His filmography is copious, as he has starred in more than 100 movies and animation flicks.
Lawrence Fishburne is one of the most talented and gifted black actors in hollywood. He has won a lot of accolades for his authoritative roles in movies like The Matrix, Boyz n the Hood and John Wick. He received the Gregory Peck Award for Cinematic Excellence in 2019. His first movie role was as Wilford Robinson in the movie Cornbread, Earl and Me (1975). He also stars as Earl “Pops” Johnson in the situational comedy television series black-ish. He is the first black actor to play the role of Othello in major cinematic filming, which he did in 1995.
Wesley Trent Snipes is a Black American actor and producer. He is known for his role in blockbusters like Blade film Trilogy, The Expendable, White man can’t Jump and New Jack City. He owns his film production firm, Amen-Ra Films, established in 1991.
Born in California, Danny Glover has graced the movie industry for more than three decades. His popularity skyrocketed after he starred in the film Master Harold…and the Boys. He is also known for his role in movies like The Colour Purple and Witness. Glover has won a lot of awards for his artistic prowess, and they include Independent Spirit Award for Best Actor and the NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Motion Picture. This black actor is also engaged in a lot of activism and philanthropic works, especially for the promotion of justice, better education and health care across Africa.
Whoopi Goldberg was born in 1955 in Manhattan, New York. A daughter of a pastor and nurse, she is known for her artistic talents as well as her distinct political and social views. Whoopi Goldberg had her big breakthrough in the 1985 movie The Colour Purple. She received much rave reviews for her performance in the movie. She became a household name after she starred in the 1990 movie Ghost, which earned her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She also made an appearance in the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1987. In 1992, she played a role in the movie Star Act, which further bolstered her popularity. She also played prominent roles in comedy movies like Eddie, The Associate and Rat Race.
Ving Rhames (Full name: Irving Rameses Rhames) grew up in New York. His father was a mechanic and was able to sponsor his education at the New York High School of Performing Art, where he found his passion for acting. He also attended Juilliard School of Drama and participated in stage performances across New York. Although he made small appearances in some television series, Ving Rhames found fame after his role in 1994 American black comedy movie Pulp Fiction. In 1996, the black actor starred with Tom Cruise in the smash hit movie Mission Impossible. After spectacular performances in these movies, he became a regular face in the movie industry. He starred in Don King: Only in America in 1997, which earned him Best Actor in the Golden Globes Awards of 1998. He has starred in other sensational movies such as Lilo & Stitch and Dawn of the Dead.
A proud native of South Carolina, Viola Davis has achieved a great amount of fame and respect from the movie industry. She is the first and only Black actress to accomplish the much-coveted ‘Triple Crown of Acting’ as she has won an Academy Award, Tony Award and Emmy Award. She has also been recognised by Time magazine as one of the most influential persons on earth.
In 1999, she starred in the play Everybody’s Ruby which earned her an Obie Award. She also won the Tony Award for her performance in the play King Hedley II. She skyrocketed to national prominence after her performance in the movie Doubt in 2008. She has won several awards for her role in movies like The Help and Widows. She is the first black actress to have won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series after her role in How to Get Away with Murder.
Thandie Newton is known for her role in movies like Mission: Impossible 2, Crash, The Pursuit of Happyness, RockNRolla, W., 2012 and Solo: A Star Wars Story. Her performances in these movies have won her numerous accolades and awards like Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, Critics Choice Awards, BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role and the Critics Choice Awards.
Born in 1958, Giancarlo Esposito is one of the most versatile black actors in Hollywood. He is popular for his role in television series Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. He has won numerous awards for his acting skills including Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series and National Board of Review Award. Esposito has starred in some movies including Ali, Last Holiday, Okja and Maze Runner: The Death Cure.
A renowned comedian and entertainer, Bill Cosby is a very popular black actor. He is known for his role in The Cosby show, the show was widely successful and became America’s most-watched sitcom in the late 1980s. His reputation took a significant decline after he became a subject of sexual assault and rape. He is presently behind bars.
Richard Pryor is a popular black actor and comedian. His intelligent perspective and narrative style of comedy won him a lot of recognition and popularity. He is often cited as one of America’s greatest comedians. As a black actor, he made an appearance in movies like Silver Stream, Blue Collar and Superman III. He has received many awards and recognition for his talent including an Emmy Award, American Academy of Humor and Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Rolling Stone ranks him as the best stand-up comedian of all time.
Chiwetel Ejiofor is a tremendously talented black actor, born in London in 1977. He is known for his roles in movies such as Half of a Yellow Sun, 12 years a Slave, The Lion King, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil and Sherlock Gnomes. He has received numerous awards including the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor and the BAFTA Orange Rising Star Award.
Apart from his hulky frame and method acting, Forest Whitaker is the fourth black actor to win an Academy Award for Best Actor. He is known for starring in movies like The Last King of Scotland, The Butler, Platoon and Black Panther.
Michael Kenneth Williams
Michael Williams is among the most celebrated black actors today. Apart from his charisma and versatility, he can fascinate movie watchers with his performances. He is known for his role in The Wire. He has also starred in movies like 12 Years a Slave, Bessie, The Road and The Night Of.
Born in 1968, Will Smith (Full name: Willard Carroll Smith) is one of Hollywood’s most revered actors and highly successful entertainers. He has been awarded more than 180 times throughout his career and is the toast of the black community. He started as a rapper ‘The Fresh Prince’. His role in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air made him a household name in the movie industry. He starred in blockbuster movies that have grossed more than 5 billion dollars and is one of the most bankable movie stars in the world.
The Beninese actor has won a lot of accolades for his performance in movies like Blood Diamond, In America, Furious 7 and Gladiator. He has won Black Reel Awards for Best Supporting Actor twice and the NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actor.
Terrence Howard is known for his role in Hustle & Flow, which earned him a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor. Since then, he has found success in the movie industry. The black actor has starred in popular movies like The Brave One, Prisoners, Get Rich or Die Tryin’ and Ray. Just recently, he played the lead character in the musical series Empire.
Born in New York, this black actor has gone on to play prominent roles in movies like Outbreak, Jerry Maguire, Boyz n the Hood, What Dreams May Come and Selma. In 1996, he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He played the role of O.J Simpson in the television series The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story in 2016.