Famous Actors Of The 20th Century

Without a doubt, the entertainment industry has most evolved in the past century. Films and television today are like never before – technologically advanced, emotionally real and contextually brilliant. Though the process involves a lot of artisans, from script writers and directors to cinematographers and editors, very few of us get into the depth of cinema. We generally are obsessed with the face of cinema – i.e. the actors. They are the people who bring to life characters, plot and story. Though the success or failure of a film depends on the combined effort of the cast and crew, it is generally actors who walk away with the adoration or pay the price for the success or failure of a film. 20th century boasts of a large pool of actors who have redefined cinema with their inherent acting skills and talent. With each outing, they have wowed the audience with their awe-inspiring performances. The past century entertainment industry saw some brilliant actors who were highly endowed and exceptional in their art. They were at the top of the game all through and gave some exceptional performances that have remained etched in the history of cinema; their films now being considered classics. Read through this section to know about some of the best known actors of the 20th century.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonardo DiCaprio.
32
Famous As: Actor, Film Producer
Birthdate: November 11, 1974
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Hollywood, California, U.S.

Leonardo DiCaprio is a name every movie lover reveres. An Oscar, a BAFTA, and 3 Golden Globes does not do justice to DiCaprio’s immensely skilful performances and his top-notch portrayals of addicts, historical figures and business tycoons. From epic dramas and romances to crime and political thrillers, DiCaprio has constantly left a mark in each of his films.

 2 Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp.
24
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: June 9, 1963
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Owensboro

Johnny Depp is one of the most versatile and successful actors in Hollywood today. He wanted to become a musician and became actor by chance.  The star of Pirates of the Caribbean film series is known for selecting challenging roles that have the potential to amaze both audience and critics.

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 3 Robin Williams

Robin Williams.
21
Famous As: American stand-up comedian
Birthdate: July 21, 1951
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Chicago
Died: August 11, 2014

One of the finest comedians of all time, Robin Williams began his career as a stand-up comedian and soon moved to act in television and films. Though widely recognised for his comedic skills, the immensely talented Williams proved his versatility by taking up and successfully performing more serious roles in films like Good Will Hunting and The Fisher King.

 4 Heath Ledger

Heath Ledger.
8
Famous As: Actor, Photographer
Birthdate: April 4, 1979
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Perth, Australia
Died: January 22, 2008

An Australian actor, Heath Ledger grabbed limelight in America with the teen comedy 10 Things I Hate About You. However, it was role in Brokeback Mountain that made him a star and earned him comparisons with greats actors like Marlon Brando. The brilliant actor gave his last performance as Joker in The Dark Knight which became a massive success.

 5 Joaquin Phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix.
35
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: October 28, 1974
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: San Juan

Award-winning actor Joaquin Phoenix is widely regarded as one of the most talented actors of his generation. In his career of four decades, he has starred in numerous films playing characters that have become memorable. These include movies like Gladiator, Joker, Walk the Line and Her. The acclaimed actor is also a social activist, environmentalist, animal rights activist and producer.

 6 Hugh Jackman

Hugh Jackman.
8
Famous As: Actor, Producer
Birthdate: October 12, 1968
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Australian actor Hugh Jackman’s Hollywood debut in the film X-Men made him a transatlantic actor and he went on to do the X-Men film series from 2000 to 2018. Some of his other prominent films are Kate & Leopold, Les Misérables, The Greatest Showman, The Prestige and Australia. He is also a singer, songwriter and a dancer.

 7 John Wayne

John Wayne.
6
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: May 26, 1907
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Winterset, Iowa, United States
Died: June 11, 1979

Famous for his roles in Western films in the mid-20th century, actor John Wayne was among the top box office draws for three decades. In a career spanning over half a century, he starred in 142 motion pictures. Upon his death, he came to be recognized as “an enduring icon who symbolized and communicated American values and ideals.”

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 8 Marlon Brando

Marlon Brando.
7
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: April 3, 1924
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Omaha, Nebraska, United States
Died: July 1, 2004

One of the greatest movie actors of all time, heartthrob of millions of women around the world, and a cultural icon, who had immense influence on actors of future generations, there are very few like Marlon Brando. In a career spanning six decades, Marlon Brando delivered critical and commercial successes in movies like A Streetcar Named Desire and The Godfather.

 9 Jack Nicholson

Jack Nicholson.
12
Famous As: Actor, Filmmaker
Birthdate: April 22, 1937
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Neptune City, New Jersey, United States

From being a stage and B movie actor, Jack Nicholson went on to become one of Hollywood’s most versatile actors and a huge star. The three time Academy award winning legendary actor has, in his six decades career, delivered performances that have become iconic. His notable performances include One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and As Good as It Gets.

 10 James Dean

James Dean.
7
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: February 8, 1931
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Marion, Indiana, United States
Died: September 30, 1955

Best remembered for his role in the film, Rebel Without a Cause, actor James Dean was a cultural icon of teenage disillusionment. Despite having a difficult childhood, he was an exceptional student. He began acting as a young man and was quite successful. Sadly, he was killed in a car crash at the young age of 24.

 11 Paul Newman

Paul Newman.
11
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: January 26, 1925
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Shaker Heights, Ohio, United States
Died: September 26, 2008

One of the most celebrated actors of the 1960s and 1970s, Paul Newman was a multi-faceted man. Apart from winning acting accolades, such as the Academy Award, he had also won many championships as a driver as part of the Sports Car Club of America. Also known for his philanthropy and political activism, Newman founded many nonprofit organizations.

 12 Edward Norton

Edward Norton.
6
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: August 18, 1969
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts

Amongst the most talented actors of his generation, Edward Norton won a Golden Globe Award for his debut film Primal Fear. The formidable actor later went on to work in movies like The Illusionist, The Incredible Hulk, The Birdman and American History X. Norton ventured into film direction with Keeping the Faith. He also supports various environmental and social causes.

 13 Colin Firth

Colin Firth.
8
Birthdate: September 10, 1960
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Grayshott

One of the most decorated English actors of his generation, Colin Firth has had a major impact in both British and American film industries. Also one of the most bankable actors, his movies have grossed over $3 billion worldwide. Also renowned for his activism, Colin was named in Time magazine's 100 most influential people in the world list in 2011.

 14 James Stewart

James Stewart.
6
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: May 20, 1908
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Indiana, Pennsylvania
Died: July 2, 1997

Best known for his everyman screen persona, James Stewart was ranked third in the greatest American male actors list published by the American Film Institute (AFI) in 1999. During his 55-year acting career, he displayed strong morality both on and off the screen, as a result of which he epitomized the ideal American man of the 20th century.

 15 Clark Gable

Clark Gable.
6
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: February 1, 1901
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Cadiz, Ohio, United States
Died: November 16, 1960

Popularly known as The King of Hollywood, Clark Gable appeared as a leading man for 30 years in an acting career that spanned 37 years. One of the most bankable Hollywood stars in the history of American cinema, Clark Gable was named in the greatest male star of classic American cinema list published by the American Film Institute.

 16 Chris Hemsworth

Chris Hemsworth.
12
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: August 11, 1983
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Melbourne, Australia
Australian actor, Chris Hemsworth, shot to superstardom after playing Thor, the crown prince of Asgard in the Thor and The Avengers film series. Before embarking on his Hollywood journey, he had already established himself in Australia with drama series Home and Away. The handsome actor has also won praise for films like Snow White and the Huntsman and Ghostbusters.

 17 Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee.
7
Famous As: Actor, Martial Artist
Birthdate: November 27, 1940
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: San Francisco, California, United States
Died: July 20, 1973

An iconic actor and martial artist, Bruce Lee, in his short life, gained international fame and developed his own form of martial arts, Jeet Kune Do. In films, he debuted as a child actor and became a huge Hollywood star after the release of his last film Enter the Dragon.

 18 Paul Walker

Paul Walker.
9
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: September 12, 1973
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Glendale, California, United States
Died: November 30, 2013

Actor Paul Walker is remembered for his role as Brian O'Conner in the Fast & Furious franchise. A talented star who made his debut as a child actor, he was known for taking up challenging roles, especially in action films. Besides acting, he had a keen interest in marine biology. He was killed in a tragic car accident in 2013.

 19 Don Cheadle

Don Cheadle.
5
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: November 29, 1964
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Kansas City
Don Cheadle is best known for his Academy Award-nominated performance as Paul Rusesabagina in Hotel Rwanda and as War Machine in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He has been a UN ambassador for environment and has won the BET Humanitarian Award for his efforts to end genocide in Rwanda and Darfur.

 20 Kevin Hart

Kevin Hart.
7
Famous As: Comedian
Birthdate: July 6, 1979
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

American comedian and actor, Kevin Hart attained fame as a stand-up comic and then established himself as a leading comedic actor on the big screen with films like Get Hard, About Last Night, Ride Along and The Wedding Ringer. He has also been part of two Jumanji films. He was critically acclaimed for the 2019 comedy-drama film The Upside.

 21 Gregory Peck

Gregory Peck.
5
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: April 5, 1916
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: La Jolla, California, United States
Died: June 12, 2003

American actor Gregory Peck was one of the most famous movie stars between the 1940s and the 1960s. In 1999, Gregory Peck was ranked 12th in the Greatest Male Stars of Classic Hollywood Cinema list published by the American Film Institute. Also known for his humanitarian efforts, Gregory Peck was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969.

 22 Charlton Heston

Charlton Heston.
5
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: October 4, 1923
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Evanston, Illinois, United States
Died: April 5, 2008

Charlton Heston was an American actor whose cinematic legacy became the subject of an 11-film retrospective titled Cinematic Atlas: The Triumphs of Charlton Heston. Also a political activist, Charlton Heston was one of the few Hollywood actors to criticize racism in the 1950s and 1960s; he was also a supporter of the Civil Rights Movement.

 23 Humphrey Bogart

Humphrey Bogart.
11
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: December 25, 1899
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
Died: January 14, 1957

Humphrey Bogart is considered one of the greatest Hollywood actors and a legend. His filmography includes classics such as Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, To Have and Have Not, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, In a Lonely Place and The Caine Mutiny. He won Academy Award for Best Actor for the 1951 film The African Queen

 24 Luke Perry

Luke Perry.
5
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: October 11, 1966
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Mansfield, Ohio, United States
Died: March 4, 2019

Luke Perry was an actor who became a teen idol in the 1990s after portraying Dylan McKay in the popular TV series, Beverly Hills, 90210. Before his death at the age of 52, due to an ischemic stroke, he had advocated the testing of colorectal cancer through colonoscopy.

 25 Terry Crews

Terry Crews.
10
Famous As: Actor, American Football Player
Birthdate: July 30, 1968
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Flint

Terrence Crews is an actor, comedian, activist and a body-builder. He’s also a former professional football player. He has starred in sitcoms like Everybody Hates Chris and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Plus, he has acted in many movies including the Expendables series. In 2017, Crews talked about a sexual assault on him by a Hollywood executive. He fiercely advocates for women's rights.

 26 Dick Van Dyke

Dick Van Dyke.
7
Famous As: Actors
Birthdate: December 13, 1925
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Missouri

Richard Van Dyke is an actor, writer, singer and dancer. He became famous after working on radio and Broadway and later for his role in the television sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show. He tasted more success after starring in musical films such Bye Bye Birdie and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  He has received many awards including Emmy, Tony and Grammy.

 27 James McAvoy

James McAvoy.
6
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: April 21, 1979
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Glasgow, United Kingdom

A frequent performer in West End productions, James McAvoy has also showcased his acting skills in popular Hollywood movies, such as the X-Men series and Split. Although not an adventurer, he did a BASE jump to help raise money for a charity named Retrak, which helps Ugandan children.

 28 Jeffrey Dean Morgan

Jeffrey Dean Morgan.
8
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: April 22, 1966
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Seattle, Washington

Jeffrey Morgan is an American actor who shot to fame with television series Supernatural and Grey’s Anatomy. But it was his role in movie, Watchmen, and the still running zombie horror series, The Walking Dead, that really made him a star. Jeffrey wanted o be a basketball player but an injury ended his sports dream and turned him towards acting.

 29 Henry Fonda

Henry Fonda.
4
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: May 16, 1905
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Grand Island
Died: August 12, 1982
Hollywood legend Henry Fonda, father of Peter and Jane Fonda, is best remembered for his Academy Award-winning role as Norman Thayer Jr. in On Golden Pond. He began his career with Broadway plays and then appeared in classics such as The Grapes of Wrath and 12 Angry Men

 30 Dylan O’Brien

Dylan O’Brien.
4
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: August 26, 1991
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States
Dylan O'Brien is best known as Stiles from Teen Wolf. Fans also loved him as Thomas in the Maze Runner trilogy and as Mitch Rapp in American Assassin. He has a huge fan base on the internet, primarily for his YouTube channel, where he uploads content regularly.

 31 Jeremy Renner

Jeremy Renner.
5
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: January 7, 1971
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Modesto, California

Jeremy Renner is one of the highest-grossing actors of all time. Apart from appearing in the Avengers and Mission: Impossible franchises, he has also performed songs for the soundtracks of several films. He also plays the guitar, drums, and keyboard and practices Arnis and Muay Thai.

 32 Peter Sellers

Peter Sellers.
5
Famous As: Film actor
Birthdate: September 8, 1925
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Portsmouth, United Kingdom
Died: July 24, 1980
Best known for his Academy Award-nominated roles in Dr. Strangelove and Being There, and as Clouseau from the Pink Panther series, Peter Sellers was admired for his impeccable comic skills. He initially toured around Europe as a drummer and also participated in radio shows such as The Goon Show

 33 Steven McQueen

Steven McQueen.
6
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: March 24, 1930
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Beech Grove, Indiana, United States
Died: November 7, 1980

Dubbed the King of Cool, Steve McQueen was an American actor known for his antihero persona. He was one of the most bankable stars during the 1960s and 1970s. Renowned for performing many of his own stunts, McQueen remains a popular star. In the 2019 film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Steve McQueen was played by Damian Lewis.

 34 Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier.
7
Birthdate: February 20, 1927
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Miami, Florida, U.S.

Sidney Poitier is a Bahamian-American actor who became the first Afro-Bahamian and Black male actor to receive an Oscar for Best Actor in 1964. In 2009, he was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His life and work inspired a couple of documentary films, including the 2008 film Sidney Poitier, an Outsider in Hollywood.

 35 Laurence Olivier

Laurence Olivier.
5
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: May 22, 1907
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Dorking, Surrey, England
Died: July 11, 1989
Four-time Academy Award-winning actor Laurence Olivier began his career with stage, mostly playing Shakespearean characters. He founded London’s National Theatre. Some of his noteworthy films were Wuthering Heights, Rebecca, and the movie version of Hamlet. He had received the knighthood, the Order of Merit, and a life peerage.

 36 Cary Grant

Cary Grant.
7
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: January 18, 1904
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Horfield, Bristol, United Kingdom
Died: November 29, 1986

Considered one of the greatest actors ever, Cary Grant’s good looks, popular appeal and a knack for romantic comedy made him an enduring Hollywood star from the 1930s to the 1960s. Penny Serenade, An Affair to Remember, To Catch a Thief, North by Northwest and Charade are some of his classic films. He was bestowed an honorary Oscar in 1970.

 37 David Schwimmer

David Schwimmer.
7
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: November 2, 1966
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Flushing, New York City, New York

David Schwimmer is best known for portraying the role of Ross Geller in the hugely popular and successful American television series, Friends, which ran for 10 seasons from 1994 to 2004. He has also worked in films like Kissing a Fool, Apt Pupil, Picking up the Pieces and The Iceman.

 38 Richard Burton

Richard Burton.
4
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: November 10, 1925
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Pontrhydyfen, Wales
Died: August 5, 1984
Richard Burton is remembered for his tumultuous affair with Elizabeth Taylor, whom he married and divorced twice. The Burton-Taylor duo is also known for their hits Cleopatra and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? A seasoned Shakespearean actor, Burton was known for his baritone voice. He became an alcoholic later.

 39 Alec Guinness

Alec Guinness.
5
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: April 2, 1914
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Maida Vale, London, England
Died: August 5, 2000

Alec Guinness went from being an ad copywriter, to a Shakespearean stage actor, to delivering an Academy Award-winning performance as Colonel Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai. He was part of the Royal Naval Reserve during World War II and received the knighthood for his contribution to arts.

 40 Robert Mitchum

Robert Mitchum.
4
Famous As: Film actor
Birthdate: August 6, 1917
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Bridgeport
Died: July 1, 1997
Robert Mitchum is best known for his film noirs, such as Undercurrent, and for defining the antihero in movies of the 1950s and 1960s. Fans loved him in The Story of G.I. and Joe and as U.S. Navy Captain Victor Henry in The Winds of War and its sequel.

 41 Stanley Tucci

Stanley Tucci.
6
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: November 11, 1960
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Peekskill, New York, United States

American actor, Stanley Tucci, is known for a string of supporting roles that he’s played in many films since his debut in the 1985 film Prizzi's Honor. Some of his notable movies are Deconstructing Harry, Road to Perdition, The Terminal, The Devil Wears Prada, Julie & Julia and The Hunger Games film series.

 42 Seth Rogen

Seth Rogen.
4
Famous As: Stand-up Comedian, Actor, Producer, Director
Birthdate: April 15, 1982
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Vancouver, Canada

Canadian actor Seth Rogen established himself as a bankable and popular comic actor when he starred in Hollywood films Knocked Up in 2007 and Funny People in 2009. His other notable films are Steve Jobs, The Interview, Like Father, Long Shot and An American Pickle. He is active in raising awareness about Alzheimer's disease and is an open marijuana user.

 43 Christopher Reeve

Christopher Reeve.
6
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: September 25, 1952
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
Died: October 10, 2004

Christopher Reeve had a flying start to his acting career as he played the iconic Superman in four films. Unfortunately, he became a quadriplegic after suffering an accident at an equestrian competition. Despite the setback, he continued contributing to the film industry and also founded the Christopher Reeve Foundation as part of his charitable work.

 44 Dean Martin

Dean Martin.
5
Famous As: Actor, Comedian, Singer
Birthdate: June 7, 1917
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Steubenville, Ohio
Died: December 25, 1995

An actor, singer, and comedian, Dean Martin earned the nickname The King of Cool for his effortless self-assurance and charisma. One of the most popular entertainers of the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, Dean performed in nightclubs and concert stages and appeared in film and TV productions. Such is his popularity that his songs continue to be featured across popular culture.

 45 John Candy

John Candy.
5
Famous As: Actor, Comedian, Screenwriter
Birthdate: October 31, 1950
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Newmarket, Ontario
Died: March 4, 1994

John Candy was an important Canadian comedian and actor. In 2006, he was honored by Canada Post as he was featured on a postage stamp. Also a sports enthusiast, Candy was the co-owner of Toronto Argonauts, a football team that participates in the Canadian Football League. Under his ownership, the team won the 1991 Grey Cup.

 46 John Ritter

John Ritter.
5
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: September 17, 1948
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Burbank, California, United States
Died: September 11, 2003

American actor and comedian, John Ritter is best remembered for playing Jack Tripper in sitcom Three’s Company, a work that earned him both the Golden Globe and Emmy Award. His work in television show Hooperman and animated children's series Clifford the Big Red Dog was also appreciated tremendously. John Ritter has also appeared in numerous films and Broadway productions too.

 47 Charles Bronson

Charles Bronson.
5
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: November 3, 1921
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Ehrenfeld, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: August 30, 2003

American actor, Charles Bronson, had a tough-guy on screen persona and is best known for numerous action and vigilante movies. The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, The Dirty Dozen and Hard Times are some of his notable films. Death Wish was his most popular film and it led to four sequels starring him. He worked from the 1950s to 1990s.

 48 Cory Monteith

Cory Monteith.
5
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: May 11, 1982
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Calgary
Died: July 13, 2013

A talented young man whose life was snatched away too soon, Cory Monteith was a Canadian actor, singer, and musician who rose to fame after playing a role in the TV show ‘Glee.’ Despite being a great actor, he had a troubled life involving substance abuse and alcoholism that eventually caused his death at the age of 31.

 49 Steve Martin

Steve Martin.
5
Famous As: Comedian
Birthdate: August 14, 1945
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Waco

A man of many talents, Steve Martin is a successful comedian, actor, and musician. In 2004, he was ranked sixth in Comedy Central's 100 greatest stand-up comics list. Despite achieving great fame and success as a comedian and actor, Steve decided to pursue a career in music and began appearing seldom in films to record and tour with bluegrass acts.

 50 Irrfan Khan

Irrfan Khan
6
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: January 7, 1967
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Jaipur, Rajasthan, India
Died: April 29, 2020