Top 20 Greatest Character Actors

by peacham | created - 30 Apr 2012 | updated - 30 Apr 2012 | Public

From 1920-The Present these men made film watching all the more enjoyable

1. Harry Andrews

Actor | The Hill

British character actor Harry Andrews had the sort of massive granite face and square jaw that would stamp that career, but he set himself apart with brilliant stage and screen work. He had graduated from Wrekin College in Shropshire and then moved on to the stage, appearing with Liverpool ...

2. Ernest Thesiger

Actor | Bride of Frankenstein

Although he made nearly 60 films in a 50-year acting career, it is for the two he made with director James Whale that Ernest Thesiger will be best remembered. Born Ernest Frederic Graham Thesiger in London on January 15, 1879, he was the grandson of the first Baron of Chelmsford. Educated at ...

3. Jason Miller

Actor | The Exorcist

Character actor and playwright Jason Miller had a variety of jobs before he started a writing career and wrote his own play, "That Championship Season", for which he received the Pulitzer Prize Award. Miller gave up his professional writing career in the early seventies to start acting. In 1973, he...

4. Ned Beatty

Actor | Network

Stocky, genial-looking supporting actor Ned Beatty was once hailed by Daily Variety as the "busiest actor in Hollywood".

Ned Thomas Beatty was born in Louisville, Kentucky, to Margaret (Fortney) and Charles William Beatty. He grew up fishing and working on farms. His hometown of St. Matthews, ...

5. Rip Torn

Actor | Men in Black

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. ...

6. Claude Rains

Actor | Casablanca

William Claude Rains, born in the Clapham 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...

7. Ian Holm

Actor | The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Sir Ian Holm is one of the world's greatest actors, a Laurence Olivier Award-winning, Tony Award-winning, BAFTA-winning and Academy Award-nominated British star of films and the stage. He was a member of the prestigious Royal Shakespeare Company and has played more than 100 roles in films and on ...

8. Cedric Hardwicke

Actor | The Ten Commandments

Sir Cedric Hardwicke, one of the great character actors in the first decades of the talking picture, was born in Lye, England on February 19, 1893. Hardwicke attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and made his stage debut in 1912. His career was interrupted by military service in World War I, ...

9. Bob Gunton

Actor | The Shawshank Redemption

Bob Gunton was born on November 15, 1945 in Santa Monica, California, USA as Robert Patrick Gunton Jr. He is an actor, known for The Shawshank Redemption (1994), Daredevil (2015) and 24 (2008). He has been married to Carey Pitts since August 26, 2006. He was previously married to Annie McGreevey.

10. Walter Huston

Actor | The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

For many years Walter Huston had two passions: his career as an engineer and his vocation for the stage. In 1909 he dedicated himself to the theatre, and made his debut on Broadway in 1924. In 1929 he journeyed to Hollywood, where his talent and ability made him one of the most respected actors in ...

11. Wilfrid Hyde-White

Actor | The Third Man

British character actor of wry charm, equally at home in amused or strait-laced characters. A native of Bourton-on-the-Water in Gloucestershire, he attended Marlborough College and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. His stage debut came in 1922, and by 1925 he was a busy London actor. He married ...

12. Anthony Newley

Soundtrack | Can Heironymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness?

Anthony Newley was born in Hackney, London, England, to Frances Grace Newley and George Kirby, a shipping clerk. He was attracted to acting, after seeing an ad for a child actor in a Fleet Street window. He attended the Italia Conti Stage School from the age of 14 and, two years later, played the ...

13. Ian Richardson

Actor | From Hell

A classical actor (and founding member in 1960 of the Royal Shakespeare Company), Richardson earned international fame as the villainous Francis Urquart in the BBC television trilogy, "House of Cards." Uttered in a cut-glass accent, the Machiavellian Prime Minister's sly "You might well think that ...

14. Richard Haydn

Actor | The Sound of Music

Inimitable London-born character actor, noted for his put-on nasal delivery and pompous, fussy manner. Richard Haydn had a laborious start to his show business career, selling tickets in the box office of London's Daly Theatre. This was followed by an unsuccessful stint with a comedy act in musical...

15. Jules Munshin

Actor | On the Town

Jules Munshin was born on February 22, 1915 in New York City, New York, USA. He was an actor, known for On the Town (1949), Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949) and Silk Stockings (1957). He was married to Bonnie Brandon and Ann Renee Anderson (née Sterndorf, actress). He died on February 19, 1970 ...

16. Freddie Jones

Actor | Dune

The British character actor Freddie Jones came to the acting profession after 10 years of working as a laboratory assistant and acting in amateur theater on the side. To kick off his mid-life career change, Jones attended Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama in Kent, England, on a scholarship. ...

17. Ian McDiarmid

Actor | Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

Ian McDiarmid was born on August 11, 1944 in Carnoustie, Tayside, Scotland. He studied for a Master's degree in Clinical Psychology at the University of St. Andrews, but eventually found that his calling was in theatre. He went to the Royal Academy in Glasgow, where he received the prestigious gold...

18. David Wayne

Actor | The Andromeda Strain

His father was an insurance executive; his mother died when he was four. He attended Western Michigan University then worked as a statistician in Cleveland where he joined a Shakespeare repertory company. Two years later he had a minor role in "The American Way" in New York. He was rejected by the ...

19. Karl Malden

Actor | On the Waterfront

Born to a Czech mother and a Serbian father in Chicago as Mladen Sekulovich, on March 22, 1912, Karl Malden did not speak English until he was in kindergarten. After graduating from high school in the nearby steel town of Gary, Indiana, Malden worked in the industry for three years until 1934, when...

20. Christopher Lloyd

Actor | Back to the Future

Christopher Lloyd was born on October 22, 1938 in Stamford, Connecticut, USA as Christopher Allen Lloyd. He is an actor, known for Back to the Future (1985), Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) and Addams Family Values (1993). He has been married to Lisa Loiacono since 2016. He was previously married to ...