The 25 Best Male CHARACTER Actors Of All Time

Character actors are usually supporting actors with a history of work on the stage.
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1.
Burgess Meredith
Actor, Rocky
One of the truly great and gifted performers of the century who often suffered lesser roles, Burgess Meredith was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1907 and educated in Amherst College in Massachusetts before joining Eva Le Gallienne's stage company in New York City in 1933. He became a favorite of dramatist Maxwell Anderson...
 
2.
Jason Robards
Powerful and highly respected American actor Jason Nelson Robards, Jr. was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Hope Maxine (Glanville) and stage and film star Jason Robards Sr. He had Swedish, English, Welsh, German, and Irish ancestry. Robards was raised mostly in Los Angeles. A star athlete at Hollywood High School...
 
3.
Jack Warden
Jack Warden was born John Warden Lebzelter, Jr. on September 18, 1920 in Newark, New Jersey, to Laura M. (Costello) and John Warden Lebzelter. His father was of German and Irish descent, and his mother was of Irish ancestry. Raised in Louisville, Kentucky, at the age of seventeen, young Jack Lebzelter was expelled from Louisville's DuPont Manual High School for repeatedly fighting...
 
4.
Martin Balsam
Martin Henry Balsam was born on November 4, 1919 in the Bronx, New York City, to Lillian (Weinstein) and Albert Balsam, a manufacturer of women's sportswear. He was the first-born child. His father was a Russian Jewish immigrant, and his mother was born in New York, to Russian Jewish parents. Martin caught the acting bug in high school where he participated in the drama club...
 
5.
Melvyn Douglas
Two-time Oscar-winner Melvyn Douglas was one of America's finest actors. In addition to his two Oscars, he also won a Tony Award and an Emmy. Douglas would enjoy cinema immortality if for no other reason than his being the man who made Greta Garbo laugh in Ernst Lubitsch's classic comedy Ninotchka, but he was much, much more...
 
6.
Walter Brennan
In many ways the most successful and familiar character actor of American sound films and the only actor to date to win three Oscars for Best Supporting Actor, Walter Brennan attended college in Cambridge, Massachusetts, studying engineering. While in school he became interested in acting and performed in school plays...
 
7.
Claude Rains
Actor, Casablanca
William Claude Rains, born in the Camberwell area of London, was the son of the British stage actor Frederick Rains. The younger Rains followed, making his stage debut at the age of eleven in "Nell of Old Drury." Growing up in the world of theater, he saw not only acting up close but the down-to-earth business end as well...
 
8.
Karl Malden
Born to a Czech mother and a Serbian father in Chicago, on March 22, 1912, Karl Malden didn't learn how to communicate a single word of English until he was in kindergarten. Raised in Gary, IN, a medium-sized steel town, Malden--like many other young men in Gary--got a job in a steel factory when he finished school...
 
9.
Peter Ustinov
Actor, Robin Hood
Peter Ustinov was a two-time Academy Award-winning film actor, a director, writer, journalist and raconteur. He wrote and directed many acclaimed stage plays and led numerous international theatrical productions. He was born Peter Alexander Freiherr von Ustinov on April 16, 1921, in Swiss Cottage, London...
 
10.
Lee J. Cobb
Lee J. Cobb, one of the premier character actors in American film for three decades in the post-World War II period, was born Leo Jacoby in New York City's Lower East Side on December 8, 1911. The son of a Jewish newspaper editor, young Leo was a child prodigy in music, mastering the violin and the harmonica...
 
11.
Charles Durning
Actor, The Sting
WWII veteran, dance instructor and diversely talented stage & screen actor were all inclusions on the resume of this perpetually busy US actor who didn't get in front of the cameras until around the time of his fortieth birthday. The stockily built Charles Durning was one of Hollywood's most dependable and sought after supporting actors...
 
12.
Jack Palance
Actor, Batman
Jack Palance exemplified evil incarnate on film -- portraying some of the most intensely despised villains witnessed in 50s westerns and melodrama. He received two Best Supporting Actor nominations early in his career, but it would take a grizzled, eccentric comic performance 40 years later for him to finally grab the coveted statuette...
 
13.
Ian Holm
Sir Ian Holm is an Academy Award-nominated British film and stage actor who was a star of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and played more than 100 roles in films and on television. He was born Ian Holm Cuthbert on September 12, 1931, in Goodmayes, Essex, UK, to Scottish parents who worked at the Essex mental asylum...
 
14.
Robert Loggia
Actor, Scarface
Born and raised in New York City, Robert Loggia studied journalism at the University of Missouri before moving back to New York to pursue acting. He trained at the Actors Studio while doing stage work. From the late 1950s he was a familiar face on TV, usually as authoritative figures. Loggia also found work in movies such as The Greatest Story Ever Told...
 
15.
John Malkovich
John Gavin Malkovich was born in Christopher, Illinois, to Joe Anne (Choisser), who owned a local newspaper, and Daniel Leon Malkovich, a state conservation director. His paternal grandparents were Croatian. In 1976, Malkovich joined Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre, newly founded by his friend Gary Sinise...
 
16.
Arthur Kennedy
Arthur Kennedy, one of the premier character actors in American film from the late 1940s through the early 1960s, achieved fame in the role of Biff in Elia Kazan's historic production of Arthur Miller's Pultizer-Prize winning play "Death of a Salesman." Although he was not selected to recreate the role on screen...
 
17.
Martin Landau
Actor, Ed Wood
Oscar-winning character actor Martin Landau was born on June 20, 1928 in Brooklyn, New York. At age 17, he was hired by the New York Daily News as a staff cartoonist and illustrator. In his five years on the paper, he served as the illustrator for Billy Rose's "Pitching Horseshoes" column. He also worked for cartoonist Gus Edson on "The Gumps" comic strip...
 
18.
Rip Torn
Rip Torn was born Elmore Rual Torn, Jr. on February 6, 1931 in Temple, Texas. "Rip" is a family name, taken by generations of Torn men and bestowed on Elmore by his father, who was also called "Rip". Torn attended Texas A & M and the University of Texas, where he majored in animal husbandry. Extremely naive when he was young...
 
19.
Frederic Forrest
Frederic Forrest, the Oscar-nominated character actor, was born two days before Christmas Day 1936 in Waxahachie, Texas, the same home town as director Robert Benton. Forrest had long wanted to be an actor, but he was so nervous that he ran out of auditions for school plays. Later, at Texas Christian University...
 
20.
Robert Shaw
Actor, Jaws
Robert Archibald Shaw was born on August 9, 1927 in Westhoughton, Lancashire, England, the eldest son of Doreen Nora (Avery), a nurse, and Thomas Archibald Shaw, a doctor. His paternal grandfather was Scottish, from Argyll. Shaw's mother, who was born in Piggs Peak, Swaziland, met his father while she was a nurse at a hospital in Truro...
 
21.
Hugh Griffith
Actor, Ben-Hur
Enjoyably larger-than-life character actor Hugh Emrys Griffith was born in Marianglas, Anglesey, North Wales, to Mary (Williams) and William Griffith. Griffith left the world of banking (having been employed as a teller) after winning a scholarship to study acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art...
 
22.
Gig Young
Affable, immensely likable American actor, usually in second leads. A native of Minnesota, his parents John and Emma Barr raised him in Washington, DC. He developed a passion for the theatre while appearing in high school plays. After some amateur experience, he applied for and received a scholarship to the acclaimed Pasadena Community Playhouse...
 
23.
Ben Johnson
Born in Oklahoma, Ben Johnson was a ranch hand and rodeo performer when, in 1940, Howard Hughes hired him to take a load of horses to California. He decided to stick around (the pay was good), and for some years was a stunt man, horse wrangler, and double for such stars as John Wayne, Gary Cooper and James Stewart...
 
24.
Thomas Mitchell
Certainly there have been many phrases coined about Thomas Mitchell as one of the most recognizable and exemplary character actors of Hollywood's golden years, but behind that elfish demeanor was a talent to fit many hats. He was a first-generation American of Irish immigrants who settled in New Jersey...
 
25.
Harvey Keitel
Came to prominence in the early films of Martin Scorsese after working in theatre for around a decade, particularly Mean Streets and Taxi Driver. Faded into anonymity in the 1980s even though he turned in some impressive performances in films by some of America's leading directors. He reemergered into star status with his role as Mr...