20 Most Famous Black Actors of All Time

Have you ever wondered who are the most famous black actors of all time? Well, in this guide, we have listed the twenty most famous black Hollywood actors in history.

The biggest film industry in the world is Hollywood and we can agree on that. We have seen the finest actors in television history, which mostly include the biggest names in Hollywood.

The largest film industry on the planet has given opportunities to several talented entertainers. Initially, Hollywood was dominated by white actors and actresses. They owned the big screen and had major roles in several films from the start. 

Back then when the industry started, black actors did not have the presence just like they do today. But as things began to change and everyone got the equal opportunity they deserve, young black talents stepped into the industry.

The 1980s was the time for black actors like Eddie Murphy. Samuel L. Jackson, and Denzel Washington. These iconic Hollywood actors are some of the names on our list of most famous black entertainers of all time.

Who Are the Most Famous Black Actors of All Time?

When we talk about the most famous black actors of all time, there are several names you should expect to make list. Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Morgan Freeman, Eddie Murphy, and Will Smith are some of the finest black Hollywood actors.

These Hollywood actors have dedicated years of hard work and commitment to be among the greatest black actors of all time. Other black actors that are popular in Hollywood and on our list, include Wesley Snipes, Laurence Fishburne, Forest Whittaker, and Danny Glover.

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20 Most Famous Black Actors of All Time

The top black Hollywood actors on our list have contributed a lot to the industry. Their commitment to the industry led to the discovery of more black talents.

Academy Award winner Will Smith was inspired by Eddie Murphy and Denzel Washington also was also an inspiration to the late Chadwick Boseman.

Now, let us discuss the top 20 most famous black actors of all time.

Most Famous Black Actors of All Time

#1. Denzel Washington

Denzel Washington is one of the most famous black Hollywood stars in history. The tall chocolate-black actor is also a director and a film producer.

Currently, Denzel Washington has starred in over 50 Hollywood films. Denzel Washington played the role of American human rights activist Malcolm X in the 1992 film Malcolm X. 

Washington has been in Hollywood for over four decades. Throughout his acting career, Denzel has received numerous accolades. The Hollywood icon has won two Academy Awards, three Golden Globe Awards, two Siler Bears, and a Tony Award.

The New York Times named Denzel the greatest actor of the 21st century in 2020. In 2022, the actor received the President Medal of Freedom from the U.S. president, Joe Biden.

Arguably, Denzel Washington is one of the most famous black actors of all time.

#2. Morgan Freeman

Born in 1937, Morgan Freeman is a Hollywood actor and director. The American actor is also a narrator who is widely recognized for his distinctive deep voice. 

Freeman was in Memphis, Tennessee but was raised in Mississippi. The actor studied theatre arts in Los Angeles, California and appeared in several stage production.

The actor’s career started in the 1970s when he landed a role in the children’s television series The Electric Company. Freeman was nominated for an Academy Award for best-supporting actor in the 1987 film Street Smart.

Throughout Freeman’s acting career, he has won an Academy Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and a Golden Globe Award.

Morgan Freeman is the narrator of the National Geographic series, The Story of God.

#3. Samuel L. Jackson

Samuel L. Jackson is one of the best black Hollywood actors in history. The American actor was on December 21, 1948, in Washington D.C.

Jackson began his acting career decades ago. It was in the 1970s when Jackson started acting on stage. In 1972, Samuel L. Jackson made his feature film debut in Together for Days.

Jackson has appeared in films that have collectively grossed more than $27 billion worldwide. The Hollywood actor is currently the third highest-grossing actor of all time.

Jackson is widely recognized for his role as Nick Fury in the MCU. He made his MCU debut as Nick Fury (cameo; post-credit scene) in the first Iron Man film. He reprised his role as Nick Fury in Captain America: The First Avenger, Thor, and the Avengers.

Jackson has also starred in films like Django Unchained, Star Wars, The Hitman’s Bodyguard, XXX (State of the Union and Return of Xander Cage), Skull Island, and Pulp Fiction.

#4. Will Smith

The next name on our list of the most famous black actors of all time is Will Smith.

Willard Carroll Smith II is an American actor, rapper, and two-time Academy Award winner. The Fresh Prince is also a two-time Grammy Award winner and a British Academy Film Award winner.

Smith is one of the wealthiest actors in Hollywood, with a net worth of over $400 million. Currently, his film has grossed over $9 billion worldwide.

The American actor is married to Jada Pinkett. They have two children together, Jaden and Willow Smith.

Will Smith starred alongside his son Jaden in the 2013 film After Earth. The father and son initially appeared in The Pursuit of Happyness.

Will was also the lead actor in Hollywood films like Men in Black, Hancock, I Am Legend, Wild Wild West, I, Robot, and Bad Boys.

#5. Eddie Murphy

Eddie Murphy is one of the most famous black Hollywood actors of all time. Murphy is an American actor, comedian, singer, and producer. He was on April 3rd 1961 in Brooklyn, New York.

Murphy was inspired at a very age to become a comedian after listening to Richard Pryor’s comedy album. In the early 1980s, Eddie Murphy made his debut in 48 Hrs.

It was also in the 80s when Murphy starred alongside Arsenio Hall and the legendary James Earl Jones in Coming to America.

#6. Laurence Fishburne

Laurence Fishburne is the next Hollywood star on our list of the most famous black actors of all time.

The actor is widely recognized for his role as Morpheus in The Matrix series. Laurence has won three Emmy Awards and a Tony Award.

Fishburne first appeared in the 1975 film Cornbread, Earl and Me. He played Dr Larabee in Akeelah and the Bee, a film he was also a producer.

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#7. Forest Whitaker

Born in 1961, Forest Whitaker is an American and an Academy Award winner. Forest has also won a Golden Globe Award, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, and a British Academy Film Award.

Whitaker began his acting career in acting back in the early 1980s. He first appeared in Tag: The Assassination Game in 1982. Since then, Whitaker has starred in several Hollywood blockbusters, including Black Panther, Street Kings, Arrival, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

#8. Chadwick Boseman

Everyone who knew Chadwick Boseman and heard about his death in 2020 was devastated by the news.

Chadwick was one of the best black actors of the 21st century. Before his death, the actor played the legendary James Brown in Get on Up. He also portrayed American Baseball player Jackie Robinson in the 2013 biographical film 42.

The late actor won two Screen Actors Guild Awards, a Golden Glove Award, and a Primetime Emmy Award. Chadwick was also nominated for an Academy Award.

#9. Mekhi Phifer

The next name on our list of the most famous black actors of all time is Mekhi Phifer.

Phifer is a Hollywood actor who was born on December 28, 1974. The Hollywood portrayed Dr Greg Pratt on NBC’s drama ER. Phifer was a reoccurring cast member on Fox’s Lie to Me. 

He also starred in Torchwood: Miracle Day, portraying a CIA officer, Rex Matheson. The actor also starred in the 2002 film 8 Mile alongside rapper Eminem.

#10. Danny Glover

Danny Glover is one of the oldest black actors still active in Hollywood. The actor was born on July 22, 1946, in San Francisco, California.

Glover is widely recognized for his role as Roger Murtaugh in the Lethal Weapon film series. Danny Glover also had leading roles in films like Predator 2, Operation Dumbo Drop, The Colour Purple, and Angels in the Outfield.

Glover also appeared in the 2019 film Jumanji: The Next Level.

#11. Sidney Poitier

Born in 1927, Sidney Poitier was a Bahamian and American actor and film director. The late actor was the first black actor and the first Bahamian to win an Academy Award.

He won an Academy Award for Best Actor, won two Golden Globe Awards, a BAFTA, and a Grammy Award.

Poitier died at the age of 94 at his home in Beverly Hills, California.

#12. Jamie Foxx

Jamie Foxx is one of the most famous black actors of all time.

The Academy Award winner was born on December 13, 1967. Jamie is also a singer who has released several studio albums. 

The singer’s debut studio album “Peep This” was released in 1994. His fifth studio album Hollywood: A Story of a Dozen Roses was released in 2015.

Foxx won an Academy Award after portraying Ray Charles in the 2004 biographical film Ray. The American actor also won a Screen Actors Guild Award, BAFTA, and Golden Globe Award for best actor.

#13. Don Cheadle

Award-winning American actor Don Cheadle was born on November 29, 1964. Cheadle is the actor who replaced Terrence Howard as James Rhodes/Iron Patriot in the MCU film Iron Man.

Don Cheadle was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda. Cheadle is one of the most famous black actors of all time.

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#14. Michael B. Jordan

Michael Bakari Jordan is a Hollywood actor born on February 9, 1987. The American actors underwent a massive body transformation to play Adonis Creed in the 2015 film Creed.

He reprised his role as Adonis Creed in the 2018 sequel Creed II. Michael is also a director in the upcoming film Creed III.

#15. Idris Elba

Elba is one of the most famous black actors of all time. The English actor was born on September 6, 1972, in London, England.

Idris was named in People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive in 2018 and he is also one of the most handsome men in the world.

Elba played Heimdall in MCU’s 2011 film Thor. He reprised his role as Heimdall in Thor: The Dark World, Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Avengers: Infinity War, and Thor: Love and Thunder.

#16. Michael Clarke Duncan

Here is another late Hollywood actor on our list. Duncan was an American actor who gained wide recognition for his role as John Coffey in the 1999 film The Green Mile.

The late American actor was nominated for an Academy Award for best-supporting actor for his performance in The Green Mile. He also appeared in films like The Scorpion King, Planet of the Apes, Armageddon, and Sin City.

#17. Larenz Tate

Larenz Tate is an American actor born on September 8, 1975, in Chicago, Illinois.

Tate has appeared in several Hollywood films, including The Postman, Why Do Fools Fall in Love, A Man Apart, and Ray.

Larenz’s first appearance on a television series was in an episode of The Twilight Zone.

#18. Cuba Gooding Jr.

American actor Cuba Mark Gooding Jr. is one of the most famous black actors of all time.

The actor was born on January 2, 1968, in New York City. Cuba first appeared on the big screen in Coming to America. Cuba starred in the 1991 film Boyz n the Hood alongside Laurence Fishburne and Ice Cube.

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#19. Ving Rhames

Ving Rhames is widely recognized for his role as Agent Luther Stickell in the Mission Impossible film series.

The American actor also portrayed Marsellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction. Rhames starred in Dawn of the Dead, Lilo & Stitch, Cobra Bubbles, Only in America, and Con Air.

#20. Wesley Snipes

Wesley Snipes completes our list of the most famous black actors of all time.

One of Hollywood’s finest actors, Wesley Snipes was born on July 31, 1962, in Orlando, Florida. Snipes played Marvel comic character Blade from 1998 to 2004.

Some of the films where Snipes is a lead actor include White Men Can’t Jump, Passenger 57, Demolition Man, The Marksman, The Detonator, and Game of Death.

Conclusion

Black actors in Hollywood have contributed a lot to the industry. Their films have grossed billions of dollars in North America and worldwide. Some of the names on our list are also among the richest actors in Hollywood.

Now you know the most famous black actors of all time, hope your favourite actor is on the list.

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