Most underrated actors

View:
Log in to copy items to your own lists.
1.
Ben Gazzara
Ben Gazzara's screen career began with two critically acclaimed roles as heavies in the late 1950s. He turned to television in the 1960s but made a big screen comeback with roles in three John Cassavetes films in the 1970s. The 1980s and 1990s saw Gazzara work more frequently than ever before in character parts...
 
2.
George Kennedy
George Harris Kennedy, Jr. was born on February 18, 1925 in New York City, to Helen A. (Kieselbach), a ballet dancer, and George Harris Kennedy, an orchestra leader and musician. Following high school graduation, Kennedy enlisted in the United States Army in 1943 with the hope to become a fighter pilot in the Army Air Corps...
 
4.
John Cazale
John Cazale was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to an Irish-American mother, Cecilia (Holland), and an Italian-American father, John Cazale. Cazale only made five feature films in his career, all which many fans and critics alike call classics. But before his film debut, the short The American Way, he won numerous Obie Awards for his stage performances in "The Indian Wants the Bronx" and "The Line"...
 
5.
Woody Harrelson
Academy Award-nominated and Emmy Award winner Woody Harrelson was born on July 23, 1961 in Midland, Texas, to Diane Lou (Oswald) and Charles Harrelson. He grew up in Lebanon, Ohio, and, after receiving degrees in theater arts and English from Hanover College, had a brief stint in New York theater. He was soon cast as Woody on TV series Cheers...
 
6.
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...
 
7.
Lee Van Cleef
One of the great movie villains, Clarence Leroy Van Cleef, Jr. was born in Somerville, New Jersey, to Marion Lavinia (Van Fleet) and Clarence LeRoy Van Cleef, Sr. His parents were both of Dutch ancestry. Van Cleef started out as an accountant. He served in the U.S. Navy aboard minesweepers and subchasers during World War II...
 
8.
Burt Lancaster
Burt Lancaster, one of five children, was born in Manhattan, to Elizabeth (Roberts) and James Henry Lancaster, a postal worker. All of his grandparents were immigrants from Northern Ireland. He was a tough street kid who took an early interest in gymnastics. He joined the circus as an acrobat and worked there until he was injured...
 
9.
Fred MacMurray
Fred MacMurray was likely the most underrated actor of his generation. True, his earliest work is mostly dismissed as pedestrian, but no other actor working in the 1940s and 50s was able to score so supremely whenever cast against type. Frederick Martin MacMurray was born in Kankakee, Illinois, to Maleta Martin and Frederick MacMurray...
 
10.
Jack Lemmon
Jack Lemmon was born in Newton, Massachusetts, to Mildred Burgess LaRue (Noel) and John Uhler Lemmon, Jr., the president of a doughnut company. His ancestry included Irish (from his paternal grandmother) and English. Jack attended Ward Elementary near his Newton, MA home. At age 9 he was sent to Rivers Country Day School...
 
11.
Pete Postlethwaite
Actor, Inception
Classically-trained actor Pete Postlethwaite was born Peter William Postlethwaite in 1946 and was a distinguished character actor on stage, TV and film. Growing up in Warrington, Lancashire amid middle-class surroundings, he went to college and while completing his studies developed an interest in theatre...
 
12.
Delroy Lindo
Actor, Up
On the stage and on the big screen, Delroy Lindo projects a powerful presence that is almost impossible to ignore. Alhough it was not his first film role, his portrayal of the bipolar numbers boss West Indian Archie in Spike Lee's Malcolm X is what first attracted attention to Lindo's considerable talents. Since then, his star has slowly been on the rise...
 
13.
Tom Berenger
Actor, Inception
Born in Chicago, Oscar nominee, Golden Globe and Emmy winner Tom Berenger was raised in a working class home as the son of a printer for the Chicago Sun-Times. Tom attended the University of Missouri to study journalism. It was there he first auditioned for a role in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" at the college theater on a whim and a bet with a roommate...
 
14.
Willem Dafoe
Actor, Spider-Man
Willem Dafoe was born in Appleton, Wisconsin, to Muriel Isabel (Sprissler), a nurse, and Dr. William Alfred Dafoe, a surgeon. He is of German, French, English, Irish, and Scottish descent. In 1979, Dafoe was given a small role in Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate from which he was fired. His first feature role came shortly after in Kathryn Bigelow's The Loveless...
 
15.
Abe Vigoda
Tall, dour-faced and slouch-shouldered character actor Abe Vigoda proved himself in both gritty dramatic roles, and as an actor with wonderful comedic timing. Vigoda was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Lena (Moses) and Samuel Vigoda, both Russian Jewish immigrants. His father was a tailor on the Lower East Side...
 
16.
Norman Reedus
Norman Reedus was born in Hollywood, Florida, to Marianne (Yarber), a teacher, and Norman Reedus. He is of Italian (from his paternal grandmother), English, Scottish, and Irish descent. Norman's first film was in 1997 the Guillermo del Toro horror thriller film Mimic, where he played the character Jeremy...
 
17.
David O'Hara
David O'Hara was born in Glasgow, Scotland, to Patrick and Martha O'Hara. After leaving school he was accepted for a Youth Opportunities Programme, at a community theatre based at the Glasgow Arts Centre. It toured local schools under the direction of Robin Peoples. David moved to London at age 17...
 
18.
Ray Winstone
Ray Winstone was born on February 19, 1957, in Hackney Hospital in London, England, to Margaret (Richardson) and Raymond J. Winstone. He moved to Enfield, at age seven, where his parents had a fruit and vegetable business. He started boxing at the age of twelve at the famous Repton Amateur Boxing Club...
 
19.
Seymour Cassel
Actor, Rushmore
Seymour Cassel, the veteran character actor who was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as the hippie swinger Chet in John Cassavetes' Faces, studied acting at the American Theatre Wing and at the Actors Studio. He made his movie debut in Cassavetes' first film, Shadows, on which he also served as associate producer...
 
20.
Ben Kingsley
Ben Kingsley was born Krishna Bhanji in Scarborough, Yorkshire, England. His father, Rahimtulla Harji Bhanji, was a Kenyan-born medical doctor, of Gujarati Indian descent, and his mother, Anna Lyna Mary (Goodman), was an English actress. Ben began to act in stage plays during the 1960s. He soon became a successful stage actor...
 
21.
Harry Dean Stanton
Actor, Alien
Prolific character actor Harry Dean Stanton's drooping, weather-beaten appearance and superb acting talent have been his ticket to appearing in over 100 films, and 50 TV episodes. Stanton was born in West Irvine, Kentucky, to Ersel (Moberly), a cook, and Sheridan Harry Stanton, a barber and tobacco farmer...
 
22.
Lennie James
Actor, Snatch
Lennie James was born in South London to Trinidadian parents. His mother, Phyllis Mary James, died when he was 12. Lennie and his older brother went into a council children's home. When he was 16 he was fostered with a social worker who had two older children, and they remain very close. Within a year...
 
24.
Frank Vincent
"Go home and get your shine box....", so said ill-fated Billy Batts in Goodfellas. However, Billy Batts is better known to a legion of crime-film fans as the talented actor, musician, and comedian Frank Vincent. Multi-talented Vincent was born in North Adams, Massachusetts, but was raised in the Greenville section of Jersey City...
“ Salud Tommy! ” - steelnutz
 
25.
Mickey Rourke
Mickey Rourke was born Phillip Andre Rourke, Jr. on September 16, 1952, in Schenectady, New York, the son of Annette (Cameron) and Phillip Andre Rourke. His father was of Irish and German descent, and his mother was of French-Canadian, English, and German ancestry. When he was six years old, his parents divorced...
 
26.
Jonathan Banks
Actor, Wiseguy
Versatile veteran character actor Jonathan Banks was born in Washington D.C in 1947. While growing up he always had an interest in acting and stage work, so decided to pursue a career in entertainment. To this day he is a very accomplished stage actor. While acting in film, he usually plays sinister types or villains. He can be seen in Better Call Saul as Mike Ehrmantraut.
 
27.
James Russo
A Manhattan-born character player who attended New York University, actor James Russo wrote and starred in a prize-winning short film, "The Candy Store", while attending college. His first big film break was as a convenience store robber in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Possessed with a stare that can bring shivers down one's back...
 
28.
Frank Sivero
Actor, Goodfellas
Frank Sivero (born January 6, 1952) is an American character actor, perhaps best known for playing the roles of Genco Abbandando in Mario Puzo's and Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather Part II and Frankie Carbone (based on Angelo Sepe) in Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas. Sivero was born Francesco LoGiudice in Siculiana...
 
29.
Temuera Morrison
Morrison was born in the town of Rotorua, in the North Island of New Zealand, the son of Hana (née Stafford) and Laurie Morrison, a musician. He is of Maori, Scottish, and Irish descent. His sister was performer Taini Morrison and his uncle was musician Sir Howard Morrison. His secondary education took place at Wesley College...
 
30.
Tom Sizemore
Tom Sizemore rose in prominence throughout the 1990s, establishing himself as a memorable tough-guy actor, sought by the most respected directors in the business. Thomas Edward Sizemore, Jr. was born in Detroit, Michigan, to Judith (Schannault), an ombudsman staff member, and Thomas Edward Sizemore...
 
31.
Christopher Walken
Nervous-looking lead and supporting actor of the American stage and films, with sandy colored hair, pale complexion and a somewhat nervous disposition. He won an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor for his performance in The Deer Hunter, and has been seen in mostly supporting roles, often portraying psychologically unstable characters...
 
32.
John Savage
This American film actor also multitasks as a producer, composer and production manager. He rose to fame in the 1970s, praised for his range and sensitivity. His blonde rugged looks helped viewers connect even more easily to his powerful performances. Born John Youngs in Old Bethpage, New York, Savage attended the American Academy of Performing Arts...
 
33.
Brian Cox
Actor, Troy
Brian Cox is an Emmy Award-winning Scottish actor. He was born on June 1, 1946 in Dundee, Scotland, to Mary Ann Guillerline (McCann), a spinner, and Charles McArdle Campbell Cox, a shopkeeper and butcher. His father was of Irish ancestry and his mother was of Irish and Scottish descent. Cox first came to attention in the early 1970s with performances in numerous television films...
 
34.
Barry Pepper
Barry Robert Pepper was born on April 4, 1970, in Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada, as the youngest of three sons. He has two older brothers named Alex and Doug Pepper. The Peppers didn't stick around Campbell River for too long. They had been building a ship in their backyard for years. When Barry was five years old...
 
35.
Vincent D'Onofrio
Vincent Phillip D'Onofrio was born on June 30, 1959 in Brooklyn, New York, to Phyllis, a restaurant manager and server, and Gene D'Onofrio, a theater production assistant and interior designer. He is of Italian descent and has two older sisters. He studied at the Actors Studio and the American Stanislavski Theatre...
 
36.
Ray Liotta
Actor, Goodfellas
Intense is the word for Ray Liotta. He specializes in psychopathic characters who hide behind a cultivated charm. Even in his nice guy roles in Field of Dreams and Operation Dumbo Drop, you get the impression that something is smoldering inside of him. Liotta maintains a steady stream of work, completing multiple projects per year...
 
37.
Stephen Graham
Stephen Graham was born August 3, 1973, in the small town of Kirkby, Lancashire, to a pediatric nurse mother and a social worker father. His paternal grandfather was Jamaican, and one of his grandmothers was Swedish. After years of small parts, he finally got his big break in an unexpected way, playing the dim-witted Tommy in Guy Ritchie's film...
 
38.
Sterling Hayden
Born to George & Frances Simonson Walter, and named Sterling Relyea Walter. Father died in 1925. Adopted by stepfather 'James Hayden' renamed Sterling Walter Hayden. Grew up in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., and Maine. Though very poor, attended prep school at Wassookeag School in Dexter...
 
39.
Warren Oates
Warren Oates was an American character actor of the 1960s and 1970s and early 1980s whose distinctive style and intensity brought him to offbeat leading roles. Oates was born in Depoy, a very small Kentucky town. He was the son of Sarah Alice (Mercer) and Bayless Earle Oates, a general store owner...
 
41.
Orson Welles
His father was a well-to-do inventor, his mother a beautiful concert pianist; Orson Welles was gifted in many arts (magic, piano, painting) as a child. When his mother died (he was seven) he traveled the world with his father. When his father died (he was fifteen) he became the ward of Chicago's Dr...
 
42.
Richard Dreyfuss
Actor, Jaws
Richard Dreyfuss is an American leading man, who has played his fair share of irritating pests and brash, ambitious hustlers. He was born Richard Stephen Dreyfus in Brooklyn, New York, to Geraldine (Robbins), an activist, and Norman Dreyfus, a restaurateur and attorney. His paternal grandparents were Austro-Hungarian Jewish immigrants, and his mother's family was Russian Jewish...
 
43.
Michael York
Michael York was born in Fulmer, England, 27 March 1942. He performed on stage with the National Youth Theatre in London's East End and on international tour. Other early acting experience came through the Oxford University Dramatic Society (he graduated Oxford 1964), the Dundee Repertory, and Laurence Olivier's National Theater Company - where he worked with Franco Zeffirelli...
“ Logan from Logan's run, an iconic character in an iconic Sci Fi movie ” - steelnutz
 
44.
Al Lettieri
Menacing looking Italian American actor who developed into the quintessential on-screen hoodlum via several strong roles in key crime films of the early 1970s. Lettieri played the villain against some of Hollywood's biggest screen names including chasing Steve McQueen in The Getaway, intimidating Charles Bronson in Mr. Majestyk...
“ This was it man, he was the ultimate villain in the first Godfather and in the Getaway with Steve McQueen as well ” - steelnutz
 
45.
“ Guy was Manolo in Scarface, Don Eladio in Breaking Bad, and revived his career recently in the show Ray Donavan ” - steelnutz
 
46.
“ This was the man and played my favorite characters in Shameless, Fargo, and Boogie Nights as well ” - steelnutz