Friday, December 2, 2022

20 Best Actors in the World

We are in a golden age of film. And as a result, when we tried selecting our favorite performers, we realized that it is an impossible feat. There’s no formula for determining the best (just bickering), and this list is both fundamentally subjective and perhaps agitating in its omissions. Some of these famous actors are new(ish) to the scene; others have been in the arena for decades.


In making our selections, we have concentrated on this century and looked past Hollywood. And while there are established stars in the mix and a smattering of Oscar-holders (also, just an Oscar… spoiler alert!), we have also included famous character actors and acting chameleons, action stars, and art-house favorites. Presenting a list of 20 reasons we still love films, maybe more than before:

20 Best Actors in the World

20. Shah Rukh Khan

Shah Rukh Khan

Although typecast as Bollywood’s quintessential romantic hero, Khan started his career as an anti-hero. A few of his earlier projects that are rated high, saw him in a negative avatar. The movie Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge was what kicked off his journey as a romantic hero in Bollywood and an international star, earning him tags such as “The King of Romance”, making him one of the highest-earning actors out there, more so than some of his Hollywood counterparts, and undoubtedly the biggest Indian superstar of his generation.

Even though Shah Rukh Khan’s ‘anti-hero’ characters became successful after Darr and turned into a myth after Anjaam, it was with Baazigar that it all began. Considering Khan is best recognized for his romantic roles, it is interesting that the character of Ajay Sharma, a psychopath, was what made him a household name. It also makes many fans speculate as to why Khan adhered to a stereotype for so many years after he dared to venture into a ‘negative’ role early in his career. He truly pushed the boundaries of what a ‘hero’ could get away with, in a Bollywood film.

19. Oscar Isaac

Oscar Isaac

When actors make an intense first impression, they often get bound up with your opinions on what they can achieve. After “Inside, Llewyn Davis,” many associated Oscar with soulful defeat, with a trace of grudging resentment. Scarce other roles shored up this opinion of his innate mournfulness, including his appearance as a besieged mayor in the HBO show “Show Me a Hero” (2015).

This somewhat has to do with his broody, romantic appearance, and his perfectly framed eyes. And then there’s the voice, its lovely sound, but also how its resonance builds intimacy. Even when he fixes on a nasal quality, his voice retains an essence of closeness, one reason it often feels like Llewyn is singing more for himself than the listeners. Isaac’s voice softens his beauty, pulling you in. Sometimes he uses that intimacy for something insinuating, and sinister, take his role in “Ex Machina”, for example.

18. Tilda Swinton

Tilda Swinton

The woman of so many otherworldly faces, Tilda Swinton, has generated enough personas — with countless wigs, outfits, and accents — to have built a roster of one. She’s a character actor, a performance artist, a trickster, and a star all-in-one package. Her pale, sharp facial features offer an ideal canvas for makeup and prosthetics and are capable of showing an unnerving stillness. You want to understand her but can’t.

That helps turn her into a terrific villain, whether she’s a demon, a queen, or a corporate lawyer. In 2009’s “Julia”, she loses that wall to present an out-of-control alcoholic slash child-snatcher, delivering a full-throttle performance so visceral and transparent, you notice the character’s feelings and thoughts furiously at work, like little parasites moving beneath the skin.

17. Zhao Tao

Zhao TaoSince 2000, Chinese actress Zhao Tao and director Jia Zhangke have created more than a dozen feature films and short films, dramas, and documentaries together and work resisting such neat categorization. Their filmmaking partnership is so holistic and natural that it is hard to guess what these films would seem like without Zhao’s face and grounding appearance. She’s frequently called his muse (they’re married), yet that doesn’t come close to seizing the richness of her participation — it’s a metaphor, emotional granularity, it is poetry captured on the reel.

16. Willem Dafoe

Willem Dafoe

One of the most versatile artists today, Willem Dafoe, is a genuine everyman. Formerly having made his start in theater in his home state of Wisconsin and then moving to New York to transition into cinema, Dafoe now sees himself weighing between starring in grandiose blockbusters and acclaimed independent movies.

There is no shortage of his acclaimed roles to be considered with a filmography that flourishes with over a hundred films and more on the way, including Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch. He is a quiet legend.

15. Song Kang-Ho

Song Kang-Ho

The Korean actor Song Kang-Ho seemingly first came into the consciousness of most international audiences in the 2020 Oscar winner for best-picture “Parasite”, acting as an impoverished, conniving patriarch.

He can add life and rawness to each moment on film. Even if a scene includes complex dialogue or extremely technical camerawork, he can find a way to make it seem seamless and spontaneous. Every take will be different, and the heaviest dialogue will come across as improvisation. It’s astounding and a joy to witness.

14. Denzel Washington

Denzel WashingtonDenzel Washington is one of the most famous and popular black actors. He makes his work — by which I mean acting — resemble breathing. There’s a reason he was sublime as Easy Rawlins in the “Devil in a Blue Dress”, a primary defining role. Since then, he has played many characters who embody law or corruption and some who survive in the space separating the two. Along the way, he has grown into a dominant totem for specific male self-assurance, the same as John Wayne and Clint Eastwood before him. Denzel Washington can show anguished vulnerability, but he will also tower like a colossus, towering over worlds like some Old Testament patriarch — it’s remarkable given the representations of Black masculinity onscreen not long ago.

13. Daniel Day-Lewis

Daniel Day-Lewis

At the beginning of “There Will Be Blood” (2007), a guy in a deep, dark hole rhythmically hits the wall with a pickaxe, throwing up sparks and dust. You only completely see him when he raises his head to gaze up at the sky, letting light flood his face. Behold, the hero — behold, Daniel Day-Lewis!

It’s an introduction as remarkable, as character-defining, and star-shaping as he deserves.

Day-Lewis is probably one of the most revered artists of the past half-century, a distinction based on his inspiring filmography and polished by an aura of renown that has turned near-mystical in proportion. His well-publicized homework for his roles and persistence in remaining in character during production have grown legendary, the stuff of exciting headlines and fan fetishism. His repeated announcements of retirement have only expanded his esteem, and so has his selectivity: he’s made only six movies this century, all remarkable masterworks.

12. Morgan Freeman

Morgan Freeman

Morgan Freeman has been celebrated for so long that it’s easy to forget that the legendary star didn’t break out on the big screens till the age of 50. Since then, the 83-year-old legend has performed in more than 100 films and earned five Oscar nominations.

In Frank Darabont’s Oscar-nominated movie, Freeman and Tim Robbins co-star as a couple of convicts sentenced to rot away in Maine’s imposing Shawshank Prison. Even though the screenplay was adapted from one Stephen King novella, the film is not a horror story. Instead, it’s a poignant reflection on friendship as these doomed souls grapple and try to hold on to hope in a situation where hope goes to die. Freeman’s Red is stunningly understated, combining compassion, desperation, resignation, and ultimately something like ecstasy when he finally tastes freedom, reunited with his friend, Robbins’s Andy Dufresne, on a sunny beach in Mexico. It’s a film that gets better and more profound with each viewing.

11. Maggie Smith

Maggie Smith

When it comes to current Hollywood legends, few cross my mind instantly without really thinking about it. Still, Dame Margaret Natalie Smith always comes up, an ingénue who has bestowed us with her talents over several decades, from the theater to the big screen and then on to the small screen.

Maggie Smith is one of the best actresses of all time. One way or another, you have seen her best movies – and maybe even her best performances on television. She has been around the block, delivering performances all nuanced and so different from one another, that you wonder if it is the same face behind them all. From her time in the fantasy genre with The Harry Potter movies, or perhaps even her leading role in the Downton Abbey TV show — Maggie can do it all.

In the movie ‘A Room With a View’, Dame Maggie plays Charlotte Bartlett in the Ruth Prawer Jhabvala adaptation of EM Forster’s famous novel of the same name, directed by James Ivory. It is a short but very potent part as the cautious and disapproving chaperone to a yearning younger cousin Lucy Honeychurch, played by another British legend — Helena Bonham Carter. The tour is primarily throughout Italy, holidaying up in Florence. The character is annoyed when their rooms do not have a “view” of the Arno. Maggie somehow condenses and displays her ironic inability to see the passionate possibilities laid out before her character with perfect delivery.

  1. Christian Bale

There is no other actor in the Hollywood film industry who has gone through as many drastic physical transformations as Christian Bale. For his role in “American Psycho”, he gained weight and used elaborate dental work, whereas to play the character of an insomniac in “The Machinist”, he reportedly lost 60 pounds. Then, he gained 40 pounds back to portray Dick Cheney in the biopic “Vice”. Your head might spin a bit just reading all this.

His first brush with fame was when he was picked from over 4000 kids to play the role of a British boy in Steven Spielberg’s “Empire of the Sun”. However, this fame came at a cost. Bale was bullied in his school and soon grew distasteful of the acting profession. Kenneth Branagh had to convince him a lot to get back into acting. Since then, Bale has gained worldwide fame with roles like Patrick Bateman in American Psycho and Batman in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. Playing the role of racing legend Ken Miles in Ford v Ferrari was a fitting ode to the man who lost his life while doing something he loved dearly.

  1. Willem Dafoe

With over 100 movies in his vast filmography, Willem Dafoe is one of Hollywood’s greatest actors alive. He started his acting career at the age of 17 in 1977 in the theater. He is well known in the film industry for playing versatile roles and for his eagerness to appear in controversial roles.

His hunger for reinventing himself has helped him bag some of the finest works in the mainstream as well as independent cinema. To date, he’s received four Oscar awards – 3 for Best Supporting Actor in Platoon (1987), Shadow of the Vampire (2001), The Florida Project (2018), and 1 for Best Actor in At Eternity’s Gate (2019).

The proof of his versatility and taking risks lies in the eclectic group of characters he’s played so far. An elite assassin in John Wick, Green Goblin in Spider-Man, The Fox in controversial Antichrist, and one of the suspects in Murder on the Orient Express.

After marrying Italian director Giada Colagrand in 2005, the couple have made three films together: Padre, A Woman, and Before It Had a Name.

  1. Gary Oldman

One of the finest actors of his generation, Gary Oldman can morph into any character he plays like a chameleon – an acclaimed playwright in Prick Up Your Ears, a prodigious musician in Immortal Beloved, a blood-thirsty vampire in Dracula, a wizard with an aura of mystery around him in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Gary Oldman started his acting career in British theater and later switched to playing minor characters in films and television. He was recognized for playing the role of Sid Vicious in Sid and Nancy (1986). 

By the mid-’90s Gary Oldman had become the first option for all villainous roles. In 2018, he bagged the Oscar Award for Best Actor for playing the character of Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour.

  1. Robin Williams

Robin Williams is recognized as a comedic actor for his roles in movies such as Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Night at the Museum. His comedy was as natural as breathing air, effortless.

But, he is not acclaimed for playing funny characters only. His inspiring roles in movies such as Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting too were great. For his role as psychiatrist Dr. Sean Maguireto in Good Will Hunting, he was awarded an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. This proved that he was not a one-dimensional brand, but a versatile actor. His roles, whether they were funny or dramatic, uplifted audiences and made them not just watch, but contemplate.

His role as John Keating in Dead Poets Society taught us about the value of marketing your passion, and the importance of “carpe diem” and “sucking the marrow out of life”.

  1. Tom Hanks

He is Hollywood’s most-loved actor. He made his breakthrough with leading roles in comedies like Splash (1984) and Big (1988). In 1994, he gave us his most iconic character in a career-defining movie Forrest Gump. His role in the movie earned him his second Oscar for Best Actor. The first Oscar for Best Actor was bagged by him a year earlier in 1993 for his role in Philadelphia

He has played a diverse range of characters with relative ease. A charming romantic lead in You’ve Got Mail, a gay lawyer battling discrimination in Philadelphia, a brave soldier in Saving Private Ryan, a real-life hero and pilot in Sully, America’s favorite neighbor, Mr. Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, a goofy immigrant in the Terminal, and a renowned symbologist in the Robert Langdon series.

  1. Al Pacino

In the history of Hollywood, Al Pacino has had one of the most prolific careers. He is one of the best Hollywood actors of all time. Spanning over 50 years, he’s one of the very few actors to have received the Triple Crown of Acting – Academy, Emmy, and Tony Awards in the acting category. He earned his name and fame with his breakthrough role as Michael Corleone in Coppola’s The Godfather.

Though he was almost typecast in the gangster role, Pacino actively looked out for different roles. From the early 1970s to the recent decade, he’d played a small-time crook, a cop, a mafia boss, a football coach, a blind army veteran, and a truth-seeking journalist. 

He now manages his studio named Chal Productions. The first two alphabets ‘Ch’ are a tribute to his friend and acting mentor, Charles Laughton who is also a co-founder of the company.

  1. Robert De Niro

Robert De Niro has won two Oscars over his illustrious career. The first one was for his role as Vita Corleone in Coppola’s crime saga The Godfather Part II in 1974, and the second one was for playing a boxer named Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull. To transform himself physically, vocally, and psychologically into the character he was playing was De Niro’s biggest strength.

Besides playing tough-guy roles, De Niro has also played quite a few poignant roles in movies such as The Deer Hunter (1978), The King of Comedy (1982), and Awakenings (1990). Midnight Run (1988) features one of his greatest-ever comedic roles. 

  1. Jack Nicholson

Jack Nicholson’s film career involves terrifying audiences with some of the grittiest roles to date. He also holds the rare distinction of being nominated for an Oscar every decade from the 1960s to the early 2000s. Nicholson’s career took off with Five Easy Pieces (1970), where he played an angry young man with an identity crisis.

From playing troublemakers, and unhinged men to authority figures and mischievous rascals, Nicholson has left behind a huge legacy of great roles.

His career-defining role as Jack Torrance came in the 1980s with Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining. He also played another iconic villain The Joker in Tim Burton’s Batman. Some of his other well-received films were The Departed, A Few Good Men, As Good as it Gets, and About Schmidt.

  1. Anthony Hopkins

Anthony Hopkins is the oldest actor in Hollywood to win an Oscar Award for acting for his role in The Father (2020) as an elderly man grappling with dementia. However, his most memorable role came years earlier as the terrifying Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs

It is said that Hopkins is highly influenced by the legendary actor Richard Burton. Hopkins is also known for his roles in the movies Magic (1978), Remains of the Day (1993), and The Two Popes (2019).

One of the greatest actors of all time, Anthony Hopkins is well-known for his preparation for roles. He tends to go over the multiple lines until it sounds natural to him. When shooting Steven Spielberg’s Amistad, he shocked the cast and crew by delivering a seven-page speech flawlessly in one go.

  1. Dustin Hoffman

In an incredible career spanning over 50 years, Dustin Hoffman has made versatility synonymous with his name. His tryst with acting took place when he took up an acting class at Santa Monica College from where he landed up at the Pasadena Playhouse. He broke out to the scene with Mike Nicholls’ The Graduate where he was seen playing the role of Benjamin Braddock. This earned him his first Oscar nomination but he lost to Rod Steiger in a close call.

His career-defining role came in 1976 when Dustin featured alongside stalwarts like Olivier and Jon Schieder in Marathon Man. It is said that Dustin could not sleep for days before the movie shoot. After three years, he bagged an Oscar for Best Actor for his powerhouse performance in Kramer vs Kramer. Later he played the role of an autistic but prodigious brother to Tom Cruise’s character in Rain Man.


So that was all about the 20 best actors in the world. A great actor hits us so deeply with the actions of the fictional character he or she is playing that for a while we forget that these actions are taking place in the realm of fiction. If you think that we miss any of the great actors, do comment in the comments box. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • Which actor has been in the most movies ever?

Mel Blanc is regarded as the actor who has rendered his voice in more than 1200 movies. He is popularly called the “Man of a Thousand Voices”. Mel Blanc has voiced Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, and many, many more cartoon characters since the 1930s.

  • Who is No 1 hero in the world?

American actress Scarlett Johansson is the number one star in the world with a net worth of $165 million. She is one of the most popular and highest-paid actresses in the world and has been for over a decade. She is one of the high-grossing box office stars of all time, with her films grossing over $14.3 billion worldwide.

  • Who is the God of acting?

According to IMDB, Mohanlal is the god of acting. His natural talent for acting is amazing. He has bagged 5 National Awards, and 9 Filmfare Awards (similar to Oscar Awards in India), and has been also honored with Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri awards by the Government of India.

  • Who has won 3 or more Oscars?

Walter Brennan became the first to receive three or more Academy Awards (winning the third for a 1940 film), followed by Hepburn (1968), Bergman (1974), Nicholson (1997), Streep (2011), Day-Lewis (2012), and, most recently, McDormand (2020).

  • Who has the most beautiful face in Hollywood?

As per the Greek face-mapping technique Phi, the Hollywood actors Amber Heard and Robert Pattinson of the movies Aquaman and The Batman are the ‘most beautiful person in the world.

  • Who is the most famous male actor?

In 2022, Dwayne Johnson tops the top 10 most popular Hollywood actors in the world.

  • Who is the male crush of the world?

As per People magazine, Chris Hemsworth, the world’s sexiest man, is the male crush of the world. The magazine has named him “Sexiest Man Alive”.

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Sameeksha Medewar
Sameeksha Medewar
Sameeksha is passionate about cooking and trying several new recipes. Her passion for cooking and baking has led her to be a food blogger, where she shares vegetarian recipes. Her recipes are a good blend of health and good taste.

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