In My Opinion: Greatest Male Acting Performances of All Time

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1.
Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando is widely considered the greatest movie actor of all time, rivaled only by the more theatrically oriented Laurence Olivier in terms of esteem. Unlike Olivier, who preferred the stage to the screen, Brando concentrated his talents on movies after bidding the Broadway stage adieu in 1949...
“ For The Godfather and On The Waterfront ” - J-rod31
 
2.
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...
“ For Rocky ” - J-rod31
 
3.
Daniel Day-Lewis
Daniel Day-Lewis is one of the most acclaimed actors of his generation and has earned numerous awards, including three Academy Awards for Best Actor for his performances in My Left Foot, There Will Be Blood and Lincoln, making him the only male actor in history to have three wins in the lead actor category and one of only three male actors to win three Oscars...
“ For There Will Be Blood and Gangs of New York ” - J-rod31
 
4.
Anthony Hopkins
Actor, Hannibal
Anthony Hopkins was born on December 31, 1937, in Margam, Wales, to Muriel Anne (Yeats) and Richard Arthur Hopkins, a baker. His parents were both of half Welsh and half English descent. Influenced by Richard Burton, he decided to study at College of Music and Drama and graduated in 1957. In 1965, he moved to London and joined the National Theatre...
“ For The Silence of the Lambs ” - J-rod31
 
5.
Jack Nicholson
With 12 Academy Award nominations (eight for Best Actor and four for Best Supporting Actor), Jack Nicholson is the most nominated male actor in Academy Awards history. Only Nicholson (1960s-2000s), Michael Caine (1960s-2000s), Paul Newman (1950s-1960s, 1980s-2000s), and Laurence Olivier (1930s-1970s) have been nominated for an acting (lead or supporting) Academy Award in five decades...
“ For One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest ” - J-rod31
 
6.
Clint Eastwood
Perhaps the icon of macho movie stars, and a living legend, Clint Eastwood has become a standard in international cinema. Born May 31, 1930 in San Francisco, the elder of two children in a middle-class family, Eastwood stayed in high school until the comparatively late age of nineteen and worked menial jobs over a period of several years before enrolling at Los Angeles City College...
“ For Million Dollar Baby, Dirty Harry, Gran Torino, Rawhide, Unforgiven, and Blood Work ” - J-rod31
 
7.
Mark Wahlberg
American actor Mark Wahlberg is one of a handful of respected entertainers who successfully made the transition from teen pop idol to respected actor. A Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee for The Departed who went on to receive positive critical reviews for his performance in The Fighter, Wahlberg also is a solid comedy actor, proven by his starring role in Ted...
“ For The Departed and The Fighter ” - J-rod31
 
8.
Denzel Washington
Denzel Washington is an American actor and filmmaker. He has received three Golden Globe awards, a Tony Award, and two Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actor for the historical war drama film Glory and Best Actor for his role as a corrupt cop in the crime thriller Training Day. Denzel Hayes Washington...
“ For Training Day, American Gangster, and Glory ” - J-rod31
 
9.
Russell Crowe
Actor, Gladiator
Russell Ira Crowe was born in Wellington, New Zealand, to Jocelyn Yvonne (Wemyss) and John Alexander Crowe, both of whom catered movie sets. His maternal grandfather, Stanley Wemyss, was a cinematographer. Crowe's recent ancestry includes Welsh (where his paternal grandfather was born, in Wrexham), English...
“ For Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind ” - J-rod31
 
10.
Tom Wilkinson
Popular British character actor Tom Wilkinson was born in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England, and comes from a long line of urban farmers. He is the son of Marjorie (Percival) and Thomas Wilkinson. Economic hardships forced his family to move to Canada for a few years when Wilkinson was a child; after he had returned to England...
“ For Michael Clayton ” - J-rod31
 
11.
Ralph Fiennes
Actor Ralph Nathaniel Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes was born on December 22, 1962 in Suffolk, England, to Jennifer Anne Mary Alleyne (Lash), a novelist, and Mark Fiennes, a photographer. He is the eldest of six children. Four of his siblings are also in the arts: Martha Fiennes, a director; Magnus Fiennes...
“ For Schindler's List ” - J-rod31
 
12.
Christian Bale
Christian Charles Philip Bale was born in Pembrokeshire, Wales, UK on January 30, 1974, to English parents Jennifer "Jenny" (James) and David Charles Howard Bale. His mother was a circus performer and his father, who was born in South Africa, was a commercial pilot. The family lived in different countries throughout Bale's childhood...
“ For The Fighter ” - J-rod31
 
13.
Tom Hanks
Hanks climbed back to the top again with his portrayal of a washed-up baseball legend turned manager in A League of Their Own. Hanks has stated that his acting in earlier roles was not great, but that he subsequently improved. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Hanks noted his "modern era of movie making ...
“ For Forrest Gump, Cast Away, and Saving Private Ryan ” - J-rod31
 
14.
Heath Ledger
Heath Ledger work comprised nineteen films, including 10 Things I Hate About You, The Patriot, A Knight's Tale, Monster's Ball, Ned Kelly, The Brothers Grimm, Lords of Dogtown, Brokeback Mountain, Casanova, Candy, I'm Not There., The Dark Knight and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. He also produced and directed music videos and aspired to be a film director...
“ For The Dark Knight ” - J-rod31
 
15.
Paul Newman
Paul Newman won numerous awards, including an Academy Award for his performance in the The Color of Money, a BAFTA Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Cannes Film Festival Award, an Emmy Award, and many honorary awards. Despite being colorblind, he won several national championships as a driver in Sports Car Club of America road racing...
“ For Cool Hand Luke and Road To Perdition ” - J-rod31
 
16.
Andrew Garfield
Andrew Russell Garfield was born in Los Angeles, California, to a British-born mother, Lynn (Hillman), and an American-born father, Richard Garfield. When he was three, he moved to Surrey, U.K., with his parents and older brother. He is of English and Polish-Jewish heritage. Andrew was raised in a middle class family...
“ For The Social Network ” - J-rod31
 
17.
James Franco
Actor, 127 Hours
Known for his breakthrough starring role on Freaks and Geeks, James Franco was born in Palo Alto, California on April 19, 1978. His mother, Betsy Franco, is Jewish, and his father, Douglas Eugene "Doug" Franco, was of Portuguese and Swedish descent, and ran a Silicon Valley business. James's mother, a writer, has occasionally acted...
“ For 127 Hours ” - J-rod31
 
18.
Ewan McGregor
Ewan Gordon McGregor was born on March 31, 1971 in Perth, Perthshire, Scotland, to Carol Diane (Lawson) and James Charles McGregor, both teachers. His uncle is actor Denis Lawson. He was raised in Crieff. At age 16, he left Morrison Academy to join the Perth Repertory Theatre. His parents encouraged him to leave school and pursue his acting goals rather than be unhappy...
“ For Angels & Demons ” - J-rod31
 
19.
Jesse Eisenberg
Curly haired and with a fast-talking voice, Jesse Eisenberg is a movie actor, known for his Academy Award nominated role as Mark Zuckerberg in the 2010 film The Social Network. He has also starred in the films The Squid and the Whale, Adventureland, The Education of Charlie Banks, 30 Minutes or Less...
“ For The Social Network ” - J-rod31
 
20.
Hailee Steinfeld
Actress, True Grit
Hailee Steinfeld was born on December 11, 1996 in Tarzana, California, to Cheri (Domasin), an interior designer, and Peter Steinfeld, a personal fitness trainer. She has a brother, Griffin. Her uncle is Jake Steinfeld, a fitness trainer, and her great-uncle is actor Larry Domasin. Her father is of Ashkenazi Jewish descent and her mother's ancestry is Filipino...
“ For True Grit ” - J-rod31
 
21.
Javier Bardem
Javier Bardem is the youngest member of a family of actors that has been making films since the early days of Spanish cinema. He was born in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain, to actress Pilar Bardem (María del Pilar Bardem Muñoz) and businessman José Carlos Encinas Doussinague. His maternal grandparents were actors Rafael Bardem and Matilde Muñoz Sampedro...
“ For No Country For Old Men ” - J-rod31
 
22.
Robert Duvall
Veteran actor and director Robert Selden Duvall was born on January 5, 1931, in San Diego, CA, to Mildred Virginia (Hart), an amateur actress, and William Howard Duvall, a career military officer who later became an admiral. Duvall majored in drama at Principia College (Elsah, IL), then served a two-year hitch in the army after graduating in 1953...
“ For Get Low and Broken Trail ” - J-rod31
 
23.
James Arness
American leading man famed as the star of one of the longest-running shows in U.S. television history, Gunsmoke. Born of Norwegian heritage (the family name, Aurness, had formerly been Aursness) in Minneapolis, Minnesota to Rolf and Ruth Duesler Aurness. His father was a traveling salesman of medical supplies and his mother later became a newspaper columnist...
“ For Gunsmoke ” - J-rod31
 
24.
Michael C. Hall
Actor, Dexter
Michael C. Hall was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, to Janice (Styons), a guidance counselor, and William Carlyle Hall, who worked for IBM. Michael is a graduate of NYU's Master of Fine Arts program in acting. He is known for the titular character "Dexter" in Dexter and as mortician "David Fisher" in Six Feet Under...
“ For Dexter ” - J-rod31
 
25.
Ben Affleck
Producer, Argo
American actor and filmmaker Benjamin Géza Affleck-Boldt was born on August 15, 1972 in Berkeley, California, and was raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His mother, Chris Anne (née Boldt), is a school teacher, and his father, Timothy Byers Affleck, is a social worker; the two are divorced. Ben has a younger brother...
“ For The Company Men ” - J-rod31
 
26.
Robert Redford
Actor, The Sting
Charles Robert Redford, Jr. was born on August 18, 1936, in Santa Monica, California, to Martha (Hart), from Texas, and Charles Robert Redford, an accountant for Standard Oil, who was originally from Connecticut. He is of English, Irish, and Scottish ancestry. Robert's mother died in 1955, the year after he graduated from high school...
“ For Jeremiah Johnson and All The President's Men ” - J-rod31
 
27.
Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp is perhaps one of the most versatile actors of his day and age in Hollywood. He was born John Christopher Depp II in Owensboro, Kentucky, on June 9, 1963, to Betty Sue (Wells), who worked as a waitress, and John Christopher Depp, a civil engineer. Depp was raised in Florida. He dropped out of school when he was 15...
“ For Sweeney Todd and Pitates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl ” - J-rod31
 
28.
Matt Damon
Matthew Paige Damon was born on October 8, 1970, in Boston, Massachusetts, to Kent Damon, a stockbroker, realtor and tax preparer, and Nancy Carlsson-Paige, an early childhood education professor at Lesley University. Matt has an older brother named Kyle who is now a sculptor. His father is of English and Scottish descent...
“ For Good Will Hunting ” - J-rod31
 
29.
Robin Williams
Robin McLaurin Williams was born on Saturday, July 21st, 1951, in Chicago, Illinois, a great-great-grandson of Mississippi Governor and Senator, Anselm J. McLaurin. His mother, Laurie McLaurin (née Janin), was a former model from Mississippi, and his father, Robert Fitzgerald Williams, was a Ford Motor Company executive from Indiana...
“ For Good Will Hunting ” - J-rod31
 
30.
Leonardo DiCaprio
Actor, Inception
Few actors in the world have had a career quite as diverse as Leonardo DiCaprio's. DiCaprio has gone from relatively humble beginnings, as a supporting cast member of the sitcom Growing Pains and low budget horror movies, such as Critters 3, to a major teenage heartthrob in the 1990s, as the hunky lead actor in movies such as Romeo + Juliet and Titanic...
“ For Inception, Gangs of New York, Whats Eating Gilbert Grape, Blood Diamond, and The Departed ” - J-rod31
 
31.
Tommy Lee Jones
Tommy Lee Jones was born in San Saba, Texas, the son of Lucille Marie (Scott), a police officer and beauty shop owner, and Clyde C. Jones, who worked on oil fields. Tommy himself worked in underwater construction and on an oil rig. He attended St. Mark's School of Texas, a prestigious prep school for boys in Dallas...
“ For Lonesome Dove and No Country For Old Men ” - J-rod31
 
32.
Sean Penn
Sean Penn is a powerhouse film performer capable of intensely moving work, who has gone from strength to strength during a colourful film career, and who has drawn much media attention for his stormy private life and political viewpoints. Sean Justin Penn was born in Los Angeles, California, the second son of actress Eileen Ryan (née Annucci) and director...
“ For Mystic River and I Am Sam ” - J-rod31
 
33.
Robert De Niro
Actor, Goodfellas
De Niro's longtime collaboration with Scorsese later earned him an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull. He also earned nominations for the psychological thrillers Taxi Driver and Cape Fear, both directed by Scorsese. De Niro received additional Academy Award nominations for Michael Cimino's Vietnam war drama The Deer Hunter...
“ For The Godfather Part 2 and Raging Bull ” - J-rod31
 
34.
Morgan Freeman
With an authoritative voice and calm demeanor, this ever popular American actor has grown into one of the most respected figures in modern US cinema. Morgan was born on June 1, 1937 in Memphis, Tennessee, to Mayme Edna (Revere), a teacher, and Morgan Porterfield Freeman, a barber. The young Freeman...
“ For The Shawshank Redemption ” - J-rod31
 
35.
Tim Robbins
Born in West Covina, California, but raised in New York City, Tim Robbins is the son of former The Highwaymen singer Gil Robbins and actress Mary Robbins (née Bledsoe). Robbins studied drama at UCLA, where he graduated with honors in 1981. That same year, he formed the Actors' Gang theater group...
“ For The Shawshank Redemption and Mystic River ” - J-rod31
 
36.
Will Smith
Willard Carroll "Will" Smith, Jr. (born September 25, 1968) is an American actor, comedian, producer, rapper, and songwriter. He has enjoyed success in television, film, and music. In April 2007, Newsweek called him "the most powerful actor in Hollywood". Smith has been nominated for five Golden Globe Awards, two Academy Awards, and has won four Grammy Awards...
“ For The Pursuit of Happyness and Seven Pounds ” - J-rod31
 
37.
Kevin Costner
Kevin Michael Costner was born on January 18, 1955 in Lynwood, California, the third child of Bill Costner, a ditch digger and ultimately an electric line servicer for Southern California Edison, and Sharon Costner (née Tedrick), a welfare worker. His older brother, Dan, was born in 1950. A middle brother died at birth in 1953...
“ For Dances With Wolves ” - J-rod31
 
38.
Tobey Maguire
Actor, Spider-Man
Tobias Vincent Maguire was born in Santa Monica, California. His parents were 18 and 20, and not yet married, when he was born. His mother, Wendy (Brown), did advertising, publicity, and acting in Hollywood for years as she coached and managed Tobey. His father, Vincent Maguire, was a cook and sometimes a construction worker...
“ For Brothers ” - J-rod31
 
39.
Robert Downey Jr.
Robert Downey Jr. has evolved into one of the most respected actors in Hollywood. With an amazing list of credits to his name, he has managed to stay new and fresh even after over four decades in the business. Downey was born April 4, 1965 in Manhattan, New York, the son of writer, director and filmographer Robert Downey Sr. and actress Elsie Downey (née Elsie Ann Ford)...
“ For Tropic Thunder ” - J-rod31
 
40.
Sylvester Stallone
Actor, Rocky
This athletically built, dark-haired American actor/screenwriter/director may never be mentioned by old-school film critics in the same breath as, say, Richard Burton or Alec Guinness; however, movie fans worldwide have been flocking to see Stallone's films for over 30 years, making "Sly" one of Hollywood's biggest-ever box office draws...
“ For Rocky ” - J-rod31
 
41.
Christoph Waltz
Christoph Waltz is an Austrian-German actor. He is known for his works with American filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, receiving acclaim for portraying SS-Standartenführer Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds and bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz in Django Unchained. For each performance, he won an Academy Award, a BAFTA Award...
“ For Inglorious Basterds ” - J-rod31
 
42.
Brad Pitt
An actor and producer known as much for his versatility as he is for his handsome face, Golden Globe-winner Brad Pitt's most widely recognized role may be Tyler Durden in Fight Club. However, his portrayals of Billy Beane in Moneyball, and Rusty Ryan in the remake of Ocean's Eleven and its sequels, also loom large in his filmography...
“ For The Curious Case of Benjamin Button ” - J-rod31
 
43.
George Clooney
Actor, Gravity
George Timothy Clooney was born on May 6, 1961, in Lexington, Kentucky, to Nina Bruce (née Warren), a former beauty pageant queen, and Nick Clooney, a former anchorman and game show host (who was also the brother of singer Rosemary Clooney). He has Irish, English, and German ancestry. Clooney spent most of this youth in Ohio and Kentucky...
“ For The Men Who Stare At Goats and Michael Clayton ” - J-rod31
 
44.
Matthew McConaughey
American actor and producer Matthew David McConaughey was born in Uvalde, Texas. His mother, Mary Kathleen (McCabe), is a substitute school teacher originally from New Jersey. His father, James Donald McConaughey, was a Mississippi-born gas station owner who ran an oil pipe supply business. He is of Scottish...
“ For A Time To Kill ” - J-rod31
 
45.
Liam Neeson
Liam Neeson was born on June 7, 1952 in Ballymena, Northern Ireland, UK, to Katherine (Brown), a cook, and Bernard Neeson, a school caretaker. Liam worked as a forklift operator for Guinness, truck driver, assistant architect and an amateur boxer. He had originally sought a career as a teacher by attending St...
“ For Schlinder's List ” - J-rod31
 
46.
Jeff Bridges
Jeffrey Leon Bridges was born on December 4, 1949 in Los Angeles, California, the son of well-known film and TV star Lloyd Bridges and his long-time wife Dorothy Dean Bridges (née Simpson). He grew up amid the happening Hollywood scene with big brother Beau Bridges. Both boys popped up, without billing...
“ For True Grit ” - J-rod31
 
47.
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Actor, Capote
Film and stage actor and theater director Philip Seymour Hoffman was born in the Rochester, New York, suburb of Fairport on July 23, 1967. He was the son of Marilyn (Loucks), a lawyer and judge, and Gordon Stowell Hoffman, a Xerox employee, and was mostly of German, Irish, English and Dutch ancestry...
“ For Capote ” - J-rod31
 
48.
Colin Firth
Colin Andrew Firth was born into an academic family in Grayshott, Hampshire, England. His mother, Shirley Jean (Rolles), was a comparative religion lecturer at the Open University, and his father, David Norman Lewis Firth, lectured on history at Winchester University College (formerly King Alfred's College) in Winchester...
“ For The King's Speech ” - J-rod31
 
49.
Geoffrey Rush
Geoffrey Roy Rush was born on July 6, 1951, in Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia, to Merle (Bischof), a department store sales assistant, and Roy Baden Rush, an accountant for the Royal Australian Air Force. His mother was of German descent and his father had English, Irish, and Scottish ancestry. He was raised in Brisbane, Queensland, after his parents split up...
“ For Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl ” - J-rod31
 
50.
Josh Brolin
Actor, W.
Josh Brolin is an American actor. His first role was in the The Goonies. Since then he has appeared in a wide number of films, and is best known for his work as Llewellyn Moss in No Country for Old Men, young Agent K in Men in Black 3, George W. Bush in W. and Dan White in Milk, for which he received Academy Award and SAG Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor...
“ For No Country For Old Men ” - J-rod31