British Actors and Actress

by film geek | created - 27 Oct 2011 | updated - 02 Aug 2012 | Public

1. Laurence Olivier

Actor | Rebecca

Laurence Olivier could speak William Shakespeare's lines as naturally as if he were "actually thinking them", said English playwright Charles Bennett, who met Olivier in 1927.

Laurence Kerr Olivier was born in Dorking, Surrey, England, to Agnes Louise (Crookenden) and Gerard Kerr Olivier, a High ...

2. Maggie Smith

Actress | Gosford Park

One of the world's most famous and distinguished actresses, Dame Maggie Smith was born Margaret Natalie Smith in Essex. Her Scottish mother, Margaret (Hutton), worked as a secretary, and her English father, Nathaniel Smith, was a teacher at Oxford University. Smith has been married twice: to actor ...

3. Judi Dench

Actress | Skyfall

Dame Judi Dench was born Judith Olivia Dench in York, England, to Eleanora Olive (Jones), who was from Dublin, Ireland, and Reginald Arthur Dench, a doctor from Dorset, England. She attended Mount School in York, and studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama. She has performed with the ...

4. Ian McKellen

Actor | The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Widely regarded as one of greatest stage and screen actors, both in his native Great Britain and internationally, twice nominated for the Oscar and recipient of every major theatrical award in UK and US, Ian Murray McKellen was born on May 25, 1939 in Burnley, Lancashire, England, to Margery Lois (...

5. Michael Caine

Actor | The Dark Knight

Michael Caine was born Maurice Joseph Micklewhite in London, to Ellen Frances Marie (Burchell), a charlady, and Maurice Joseph Micklewhite, a fish-market porter. He left school at age 15 and took a series of working-class jobs before joining the British army and serving in Korea during the Korean ...

6. John Gielgud

Actor | Arthur

Born in London, England, John Gielgud trained at Lady Benson's Acting School and RADA, London. Best known for his Shakespearean roles in the theater, he first played Hamlet at the age of 26. He worked under the tutelage of Lilian Bayliss with friend and fellow performer Laurence Olivier and other ...

7. Helen Mirren

Actress | RED

Dame Helen Mirren was born in Queen Charlotte's Hospital in West London. Her mother, Kathleen Alexandrina Eva Matilda (Rogers), was from a working-class English family, and her father, Vasiliy Petrovich Mironov, was a Russian-born civil servant, from Kuryanovo, whose own father was a diplomat. ...

8. Michael Gambon

Actor | Gosford Park

Sir Michael Gambon was born in Cabra, Dublin, Ireland, to Mary (Hoare), a seamstress, and Edward Gambon, an engineer. After joining the National Theatre, under the Artistic Directorship of Sir Laurence Olivier, Gambon went on to appear in a number of leading roles in plays written by Alan Ayckbourn...

9. Peter Ustinov

Actor | Spartacus

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, ...

10. David Niven

Actor | Murder by Death

David Niven was named after the Saint's Day on which he was born, St. David, patron Saint of Wales. He attended Stowe School and Sandhurst Military Academy and served for two years in Malta with the Highland Light Infantry. At the outbreak of World War II, although a top-line star, he re-joined the...

11. Alec Guinness

Actor | Star Wars

Alec Guinness was an English actor. He is known for his six collaborations with David Lean: Herbert Pocket in Great Expectations (1946), Fagin in Oliver Twist (1948), Col. Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor), Prince Faisal in Lawrence ...

12. Ralph Richardson

Actor | Doctor Zhivago

Sir Ralph Richardson was one of the greatest actors of the 20th Century English-language theater, ascending to the height of his profession in the mid-1930s when he became a star in London's West End. He became the first actor of his generation to be knighted. He became Sir Ralph in 1947, and was ...

13. Sean Connery

Actor | The Rock

Sean Connery is best known for portraying the character James Bond, starring in seven Bond films between 1962 and 1983. In 1988, Connery won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Untouchables (1987). His film career also includes such films as Marnie (1964), The Name of ...

14. Vivien Leigh

Actress | A Streetcar Named Desire

If a film were made of the life of Vivien Leigh, it would open in India just before World War I, where a successful British businessman could live like a prince. In the mountains above Calcutta, a little princess is born. Because of the outbreak of World War I, she is six years old the first time ...

15. Angela Baddeley

Actress | Upstairs, Downstairs

Angela Baddeley was born on July 4, 1904 in West Ham, London, England as Madeline Angela Clinton-Baddeley. She was an actress, known for Upstairs, Downstairs (1971), The Speckled Band (1931) and Tom Jones (1963). She was married to Glen Byam Shaw and Stephen Thomas. She died on February 22, 1976 in...

16. Peter O'Toole

Actor | Lawrence of Arabia

A leading man of prodigious talents, Peter O'Toole was raised in Leeds, Yorkshire, England, the son of Constance Jane Eliot (Ferguson), a Scottish nurse, and Patrick Joseph O'Toole, an Irish metal plater, football player and racecourse bookmaker. Upon leaving school, he decided to become a ...

17. Doris Speed

Actress | Coronation Street

Doris Speed was one of Britain's best-loved soap actresses, fondly remembered for her portrayal of Annie Walker, the snooty landlady of the Rovers Return pub in ITV's Coronation Street (1960). She played the role for 23 years and was dubbed by the press as 'The Queen Mother of Soap.'

Born in ...

18. Kate Winslet

Actress | Titanic

Ask Kate Winslet what she likes about any of her characters, and the word "ballsy" is bound to pop up at least once. The British actress has made a point of eschewing straightforward pretty-girl parts in favor of more devilish damsels; as a result, she's built an eclectic resume that runs the gamut...

19. Eileen Atkins

Actress | Gosford Park

Eileen Atkins was born in a Salvation Army Women's Hostel in north London. Her father was a gas meter reader; her mother, a seamstress and barmaid. A drama teacher taught her how to drop her Cockney accent, and she studied Shakespeare and Greek tragedies. Her breakthrough role in "The Killing of ...

20. John Hurt

Actor | Nineteen Eighty-Four

This transatlantic talent was born John Vincent Hurt on January 22, 1940 in Shirebrook, a coal mining village near the busy market town of Chesterfield, in Derbyshire, England. He is the son of Phyllis (Massey), an engineer and one-time actress, and Arnold Herbert Hurt, an Anglican clergyman and ...

21. Christopher Lee

Actor | Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones

Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee was perhaps the only actor of his generation to have starred in so many films and cult saga. Although most notable for personifying bloodsucking vampire, Dracula, on screen, he portrayed other varied characters on screen, most of which were villains, whether it ...

22. James Mason

Actor | Lolita

James Mason was a great English actor of British and American films. He was born in Yorkshire, and attended Marlborough and Cambridge, where he discovered acting on a lark, and abandoned a planned career as an architect. Following work in stock companies, he joined the Old Vic under the guidance of...

23. Derek Jacobi

Actor | Gladiator

Preeminent British classical actor of the first post-Olivier generation, Derek Jacobi was knighted in 1994 for his services to the theatre, and, in fact, is only the second to enjoy the honor of holding TWO knighthoods, Danish and English (Olivier was the other). Modest and unassuming in nature, ...

24. Imelda Staunton

Actress | Pride

Imelda Staunton was born on January 9, 1956 in Archway, London, England as Imelda Mary Philomena Bernadette Staunton. She is an actress, known for Pride (2014), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) and Shakespeare in Love (1998). She has been married to Jim Carter since October 1983. ...

25. Joan Plowright

Actress | Enchanted April

Dame Joan Ann Plowright, the Baroness Olivier, is one of the most distinguished actors of her generation. She may be best remembered as the third wife and widow of Laurence Olivier, generally considered the greatest anglophone actor of the 20th Century, but she had a distinguished career of her own...

26. John Cleese

Actor | A Fish Called Wanda

John Cleese was born on October 27, 1939, in Weston-Super-Mare, England, to Muriel Evelyn (Cross) and Reginald Francis Cleese. He was born into a family of modest means, his father being an insurance salesman; but he was nonetheless sent off to private schools to obtain a good education. Here he ...

27. Julie Andrews

Actress | The Sound of Music

Julia Elizabeth Wells was born on October 1, 1935, in England. Her mother, Barbara Ward (Morris), and stepfather, both vaudeville performers, discovered her freakish but undeniably lovely four-octave singing voice and immediately got her a singing career. She performed in music halls throughout her...

28. Hugh Laurie

Actor | House M.D.

Hugh was born in Oxford, England on June 11, 1959, to Patricia (Laidlaw) and William George Ranald Mundell "Ran" Laurie, a doctor, both of Scottish descent. He was educated at Eton and Cambridge. Son of an Olympic gold medalist in the sport, he rowed for the England youth team (1977) and for ...

29. Jack Hawkins

Actor | Lawrence of Arabia

In Britain, special Christmas plays called pantomimes are produced for children. Jack Hawkins made his London theatrical debut at age 12, playing the elf king in "Where The Rainbow Ends". At 17, he got the lead role of St. George in the same play. At 18, he made his debut on Broadway in "Journey's ...

30. John Mills

Actor | Ryan's Daughter

Sir John Mills, one of the most popular and beloved English actors, was born Lewis Ernest Watts Mills on February 22, 1908, at the Watts Naval Training College in North Elmham, Norfolk, England. The young Mills grew up in Felixstowe, Suffolk, where his father was a mathematics teacher and his ...