Top 10 Actors

It’s probably impossible to put together a list of my Top 10 Actors of all time and not offend someone out there, either for the actors I chose or for the ones I didn’t choose. But these are the best actors for my money…each have entertained, inspired, and touched me over my lifetime with their roles. These are actors whose names alone will get me to see a movie, even if it gets a bad review. The Top 5 are really in a league of their own in my opinion. But the Bottom 5 are close behind. It’ll be interesting to see how this list changes over the next 10-20 years. Some of these actors are at the end of their careers, while some are still right in the middle of theirs. Am I missing someone? Leave a comment and add to the conversation.

10. Robin Williams




Robin Williams is at his absolute best when he combines his incredible comedic talents with his equally incredible dramatic talents. With that magic mix of both masks, Williams hits a home run almost every time with me. When his roles fall more into one category or the other, his movies tend to be less satisfying. My favorite performance by Robin Williams is his role as John Keating in Dead Poets Society. I laugh and cry every time I watch that film. And I just can’t imagine anyone else playing that character. My favorite Robin Williams films include:

Dead Poets Society (1989)
Good Will Hunting (1997)
Good Morning Vietnam (1987)
Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
Awakenings (1990)
The Birdcage (1996)
Insomnia (2002)
Patch Adams (1998)
World’s Greatest Dad (2009)
Aladdin (1992)

9. Denzel Washington

Denzel Washington is simply one of the finest actors out there. He just completely inhabits every single one of his roles and brings great intellectual and emotional depth to every film he’s in. I feel like he has nowhere to go but up on this list as his body of work continues to grow. My favorite Denzel Washington films include:

Glory (1989)
Courage Under Fire (1996)
Crimson Tide (1995)
The Pelican Brief (1993)
Philadelphia (1993)
Training Day (2001)
American Gangster (2007)
The Book of Eli (2010)
Inside Man (2006)
Deja Vu (2006)
Remember The Titans (2000)

8. Al Pacino

When it comes to holding a gun, there’s nobody better than Al Pacino. There aren’t too many really good Pacino films without a gun in his hand. I’ll never forget the first time I saw Pacino in a film. It was Heat in 1995. And to this day, I compare every other performance of his to that one (whether you agree with the greatness of that film or not!). For me, it just clicked with my 22-year-old psyche at the time. His role as Lt. Vincent Hanna made my day. I had absolutely no expectations going into that film. I just went along with some friends who chose that film. Who knew I would be blown away by both Pacino and Heat. Since Heat, I’ve followed Pacino’s career with an eagle eye. And I’m still catching up on his older work. Heat will probably be locked in my Top 10 films of all time until the day I die. My favorite Pacino films include (of the ones I’ve seen so far):

Heat (1995)
The Insider (1999)
Scent of a Woman (1992)
Donnie Brasco (1997)
The Godfather (1972)
Insomnia (2002)
The Recruit (2003)
Two For The Money (2005)
Righteous Kill (2008)
The Devil’s Advocate (1997)
Any Given Sunday (1999)

7. Kevin Costner





When Kevin Costner is at his best, he has this great “every-man” quality that’s easy to relate to. He plays these flawed and quirky, but intelligent and likeable characters. Recently his work has been less focused, but some of his best movies are some of my best movies…period. Field of Dreams and Dances With Wolves are two of my Top 10 films of all time. Only one other actor has that same privilege. I do like a lot of Costner’s films. And I feel like he still has some great work left in his career…either in front of or behind the camera. My favorite Costner films include:

Field Of Dreams (1989)
Dances With Wolves (1990)
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)
The Bodyguard (1992)
JFK (1991)
Thirteen Days (2000)
Silverado (1985)
Tin Cup (1996)
Open Range (2003)
Waterworld (1995)
Rumor Has It (2005)
The Untouchables (1997)
No Way Out (1987)
Dragonfly (2002)
The Guardian (2006)
The Company Men (2010)

6. Matt Damon

Matt Damon has single-handedly reinvented the action hero as Jason Bourne in the Bourne Trilogy. I was wondering back in 2000 who was going to replace Harrison Ford as the go-to intelligent action hero, and it’s Matt Damon. He’s the youngster on this list, and most certainly has a lot of work left in his career. I’m personally looking forward to Damon getting behind the camera again with writing and/or directing. I mean this guy won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay (with Ben Affleck) when he was 27!! There’s got to be some more stories that this incredibly talented filmmaker wants to tell. My favorite Matt Damon films include:

Good Will Hunting (1997)
Saving Private Ryan (1997)
The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
The Bourne Identity (2002)
The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
Courage Under Fire (1996)
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
School Ties (1992)
The Departed (2006)
Syriana (2005)
Rounders (1998)
Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
The Rainmaker (1997)
Geronimo: An American Legend (1993)

5. Morgan Freeman



Morgan Freeman deserves more Oscars. He’s only got one Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in Million Dollar Baby. But this guy should have a bookcase filled with Oscars. I mean, just look at this list of great movies he’s been in. His talent just oozes from every pore of his heavily textured face. I’m sensing that Freeman may be at the end of his long career, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes out with a bang! My favorite Morgan Freeman films include:

Se7en (1995)
Glory (1989)
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Unforgiven (1992)
Outbreak (1995)
Lean On Me (1989)
Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
Kiss The Girls (1997)
Deep Impact (1998)
Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Batman Begins (2005)
The Dark Knight (2008)
Gone Baby Gone (2007)
Feast Of Love (2007)
Invictus (2009)

4. Brad Pitt




Brad Pitt has an incredible emotional depth that he brings to every single one of his characters. He is simply one of the most talented actors of his generation. Some people don’t care for him, but I for one like most of his films. Whenever I see his name on a film, I wanna see it…if not right away in the theater, then eventually on TV at home. I for one would like to see Pitt eventually showcase his talents behind the camera if he ever has an interest in directing. He’s got incredible cinematic taste that seems suited for it. My favorite Brad Pitt films include:

Se7en (1995)
Legends of the Fall (1994)
Thelma & Louise (1991)
Meet Joe Black (1998)
Seven Years In Tibet (1997)
Fight Club (1999)
A River Runs Through It (1992)
Twelve Monkeys (1995)
The Assassination of Jesse James (2007)
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
Sleepers (1996)
Spy Game (2001)
Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
Troy (2004)
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Babel (2006)

3. Gene Hackman




Gene Hackman has been a very prolific actor, taking roles in an incredible variety of genres. I fell in love with Hackman when I saw Hoosiers in the theater at age 13, and he hasn’t fallen out of favor with me ever since. To this day, I still think one of his best roles, if not the best, is as Coach Norman Dale. I mean who doesn’t love this movie?! Hackman’s also pretty darn good as Lex Luthor in the original Superman movies. It’s Hackman’s versatility that has won him a place in the Acting Hall of Fame, if there is such a place. Eight of my Top 100 Movies of all time have Hackman front and center. It seems like Hackman has retired since he hasn’t made a film since 2004. Maybe he still has a film or two left in him…who knows. Regardless, his body of work will fill me up the rest of my life! My favorite Hackman films include:

Hoosiers (1986)
Mississippi Burning (1988)
Enemy of the State (1998)
Crimson Tide (1995)
The Firm (1993)
Superman II (1980)
Unforgiven (1992)
Class Action (1991)
Superman (1978)
Geronimo: An American Legend (1993)
The Quick and the Dead (1995)
The Birdcage (1996)

2. Tom Cruise




Tom Cruise. Do I really even need to even say anything more?! Maybe I’m just partial to him because I grew up with him. He’s been there in the great movies I fell in love with from my early teenage years, right to today. The last 10 years haven’t been the best to Tom Cruise in terms of publicity and his personal life. But I think he is one of the most important people in the film business, not just as an actor, but as a producer and as one of our few remaining mega stars. I expect Cruise to find his way back to really good acting in great films, like the recent Valkyrie. I’m not sure when his spark will be back, but I’ll be waiting and replaying his incredible body of work over and over along the way. My favorite Tom Cruise films include:

A Few Good Men (1992)
The Last Samurai (2003)
Top Gun (1986)
Jerry Maguire (1996)
Rain Man (1988)
The Color of Money (1986)
Days of Thunder (1990)
The Firm (1993)
Cocktail (1988)
Mission Impossible (1996)
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Valkyrie (2008)
Risky Business (1983)
Collateral (2004)
Minority Report (2002)
Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
Magnolia (1999)
Vanilla Sky (2001)

1. Harrison Ford




There’s really no topping Harrison Ford for #1 actor…is there? I mean who else has starred in so many epic Hollywood movies. While his star has lost a little luster over the past decade with his recent work, he still rules my Top 100 Movies of all time, with 9 films to his credit. Plus I just love the guy. I mean he’s Han Solo, Indiana Jones, Jack Ryan, and the President. Ford was part of the original trilogies that every movie franchise to this day is compared to. But what really brings Ford to the top of my list is the smaller films he’s made in addition to the blockbusters. I absolutely love The Mosquito Coast, a film that many people think was his worst. And then there’s Witness and Working Girl, both quirky films that found an audience. I still think Ford has a few more good films to come, but even if he doesn’t, I don’t see him ever leaving my Top 10 Actors list. I mean come on…HAN SOLO and INDY!!! My favorite Harrison Ford films include:

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade (1989)
Clear and Present Danger (1994)
Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)
Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983)
The Mosquito Coast (1986)
The Fugitive (1993)
Patriot Games (1992)
Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom (1984)
Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
Blade Runner (1982)
Witness (1985)
Working Girl (1988)
Air Force One (1997)
Six Days Seven Nights (1998)
Presumed Innocent (1990)
What Lies Beneath (2000)
Firewall (2006)

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This entry was posted in Movies, Top 10 Lists by Brad Swenson. Bookmark the permalink.

About Brad Swenson

Appreciating and contributing to the art and craft of movies, television, videos, and photography is my daily mission in life. My canvas for expression is emotion. I'm driven to discover and share interesting stories about people, their actions, their thoughts, their feelings, their work, and their contributions to the web of life.

4 thoughts on “Top 10 Actors

  1. I really enjoyed reading your perspective of the top 10 actors and would have to agree with most of them. I think I might have slightly re-arranged some of them by ranking then removed Kevin Kostner — the only one I don’t really agree with making the list. I absolutely agree about Morgan Freeman, he should have a bookcase of them!

  2. Pingback: Top 10 Actresses | The BLACKBOXBLUE Blog

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