THE 100 BEST ACTORS OF THE 21ST CENTURY

by laura_papicha | created - 26 Jul 2012 | updated - 26 Jul 2012 | Public

The actors that give me the most emotions, in NO particular order.

1. Ryan Gosling

Actor | Blue Valentine

Canadian actor Ryan Gosling is the first person born in the 1980s to have been nominated for the Best Actor Oscar (for Half Nelson (2006)).

He was born Ryan Thomas Gosling on November 12, 1980, in London, Ontario, Canada. He is the son of Donna (Wilson), a secretary, and Thomas Ray Gosling, a ...

Drive The Notebook Blue Valentine Lars and the Real Girl

2. John Goodman

Actor | 10 Cloverfield Lane

John Stephen Goodman is a U.S. film, television, and stage actor. He was born in St. Louis, Missouri, to Virginia Roos (Loosmore), a waitress and saleswoman, and Leslie Francis Goodman, a postal worker who died when John was a small child. He is of English, Welsh, and German ancestry. John is best ...

The Big Lebowski Red State Monsters and Cie Roseanne The Flinstones

3. Stanley Tucci

Actor | Big Night

Actor Stanley Tucci was born on November 11, 1960, in Peekskill, New York. He is the son of Joan (Tropiano), a writer, and Stanley Tucci, an art teacher. His family is Italian-American, with origins in Calabria.

Tucci took an interest in acting while in high school, and went on to attend the State ...

The Devil Wears Prada Lovely Bones Easy A Julie and Julia

4. Steve Buscemi

Actor | Fargo

Steve Buscemi was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Dorothy (Wilson), a restaurant hostess, and John Buscemi, a sanitation worker. He is of Italian (father) and English, Dutch, and Irish (mother) descent. He became interested in acting during his last year of high school. After graduating, he moved to...

Monsters and Cie Interview The Sopranos Delirious John Rabe

5. Kevin Spacey

Actor | The Usual Suspects

Kevin Spacey Fowler, better known by his stage name Kevin Spacey, is an American actor of screen and stage, film director, producer, screenwriter and singer. He began his career as a stage actor during the 1980s before obtaining supporting roles in film and television. He gained critical acclaim in...

American Beauty Pay it Forward K-Pax The Life of David Gale

6. Kevin Costner

Actor | The Postman

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 ...

Dances with Wolves The War Field of Dreams

7. Tom Hanks

Producer | Cast Away

Thomas Jeffrey Hanks was born in Concord, California, to Janet Marylyn (Frager), a hospital worker, and Amos Mefford Hanks, an itinerant cook. His mother's family, originally surnamed "Fraga", was entirely Portuguese, while his father was of mostly English ancestry. Tom grew up in what he has ...

Saving Private Ryan Toy Story Catch me if you Can You've got Mail Apollo 13 Philadelphia A League of their Own

8. Matthew Macfadyen

Actor | Pride & Prejudice

David Matthew Macfadyen was born in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, to Meinir (Owen), a drama teacher and actress, and Martin Macfadyen, an oil executive. He is of Scottish and Welsh descent. Because of his father's career, he spent at least part of his childhood in Indonesia, before finishing his ...

Pride and Prejudice

9. Colin Firth

Actor | A Single Man

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...

Girl with a Pearl Earring Love Actually Pride and Prejudice

10. Brendan Fraser

Actor | The Mummy

Brendan James Fraser was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, to Canadian parents Carol Mary (Genereux), a sales counselor, and Peter Fraser, a journalist and travel executive. He is of Irish, Scottish, German, Czech, and French-Canadian ancestry. As his parents frequently moved, Brendan can claim ...

The Mummy Bedazzled Scrubs Airheads

11. James Gandolfini

Actor | The Sopranos

James Gandolfini was born in Westwood, New Jersey, to Santa (Penna), a high school lunchlady, and James Joseph Gandolfini, Sr., a bricklayer and head school janitor. His parents were both of Italian origin. Gandolfini began acting in the New York theater. His Broadway debut was in the 1992 revival ...

The Sopranos

12. 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 (1989) and Operation Dumbo Drop (1995), you get the impression that something is smoldering inside of him. Liotta maintains a steady stream...

Goodfellas Corrina, Corrina Blow

13. Sean Penn

Actor | Mystic River

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 ...

Mystic River I am Sam Carlito's Way

14. Steve Schirripa

Actor | The Sopranos

Steve Schirripa was born on August 1, 1958 in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York, USA. He is an actor and producer, known for The Sopranos (1999), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) and Must Love Dogs (2005). He has been married to Laura Lemos since April 22, 1989. They have one child.

The Sopranos

15. Paul Giamatti

Actor | Sideways

Paul Giamatti is an American actor who has worked steadily and prominently for over twenty years, and is best known for leading roles in the films American Splendor (2003), Sideways (2004), and Barney's Version (2010) (for which he won a Golden Globe), and supporting roles in the films Cinderella ...

Sideways American Splendor

16. Steve Carell

Actor | The Office

Steve Carell, one of America's most versatile comics, was born Steven John Carell on August 16, 1962, in Concord, Massachusetts. He is the son of Harriet Theresa (Koch), a psychiatric nurse, and Edwin A. Carell, an electrical engineer. His mother was of Polish descent and his father, of Italian and...

Bruce Almighty The Office Get Smart Date Night Little Miss Sunshine Crazy Stupid Love

17. Al Pacino

Actor | Serpico

One of the greatest actors in all of film history, Al Pacino established himself during one of film's greatest decades, the 1970s, and has become an enduring and iconic figure in the world of American movies.

Alfredo James Pacino was born on April 25, 1940, in the Bronx, New York, to an ...

The Godfather The Godfather II Donnie Brasco

18. Bill Murray

Actor | Lost in Translation

Bill Murray is an American actor, comedian, and writer. The fifth of nine children, he was born William James Murray in Wilmette, Illinois, to Lucille (Collins), a mailroom clerk, and Edward Joseph Murray II, who sold lumber. He is of Irish descent. Among his siblings are actors Brian Doyle-Murray, ...

Lost in Translation The Royal Tenenbaums Groundhog Day Ghostbusters

19. Dustin Hoffman

Actor | Rain Man

Dustin Lee Hoffman was born in Los Angeles, California, to Lillian (Gold) and Harry Hoffman, who was a furniture salesman and prop supervisor for Columbia Pictures. He was raised in a Jewish family (from Ukraine, Russia-Poland, and Romania). Hoffman graduated from Los Angeles High School in 1955, ...

Kramer VS Kramer Hook Straight Time Wag the Dog Tootsie

20. John Cusack

Actor | Grosse Pointe Blank

John Cusack is, like most of his characters, an unconventional hero. Wary of fame and repelled by formulaic Hollywood fare, he has built a successful career playing underdogs and odd men out--all the while avoiding the media spotlight. John was born in Evanston, Illinois, to an Irish-American ...

Serendipity Say Anything High Fidelity 1408 Anastasia Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

21. Robert Downey Jr.

Actor | Iron Man

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 ...

Iron Man Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Zodiac Ally McBeal

22. Christian Bale

Actor | The Dark Knight

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 ...

The Fighter

23. Edward Norton

Actor | American History X

American actor, filmmaker and activist Edward Harrison Norton was born on August 18, 1969, in Boston, Massachusetts, and was raised in Columbia, Maryland.

His mother, Lydia Robinson "Robin" (Rouse), was a foundation executive and teacher of English, and a daughter of famed real estate developer ...

25th Hour Down in the Valley

24. Kate Winslet

Actress | Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

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...

Titanic Little Children The Holiday Carnage

25. Jodie Foster

Actress | The Silence of the Lambs

Alicia Christian Foster was born in Los Angeles on November 19, 1962. She is the daughter of Evelyn Ella "Brandy" (Almond) and Lucius Fisher Foster III, an Air Force lieutenant colonel and later real estate broker. Brandy had filed for divorce in 1959 after having three children with Lucius, but ...

Taxi Driver Panic Room Inside Man

26. Toni Collette

Actress | Little Miss Sunshine

Toni Collette is an Academy Award-nominated Australian actress, best known for her roles in The Sixth Sense (1999) and Little Miss Sunshine (2006).

Collette was born Toni Collett (she later added an "e") on November 1, 1972, in Blacktown, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. She is the first of three...

Muriel's Wedding Little Miss Sunshine In Her Shoes About a Boy

27. Greg Kinnear

Actor | Little Miss Sunshine

Greg Kinnear was born on June 17, 1963, in Logansport, Indiana, USA to Edward Kinnear, a career diplomat with the US State Department, and Suzanne (Buck) Kinnear, a homemaker. Greg has two brothers--James, vice president-investments at Wachovia Securities in Arizona who was born in 1957, and Steve,...

Little Miss Sunshine The Kennedys

28. Reese Witherspoon

Actress | Wild

Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon was born on March 22, 1976 at Southern Baptist Hospital (now Memorial Medical Center) in New Orleans, Louisiana. She is the second child of Mary Elizabeth "Betty" (Reese) and Dr. John Draper Witherspoon, Sr. Her father was a military surgeon specializing in ear, nose ...

Walk The Line Legally Blonde Pleasantville Freeway

29. Michael J. Fox

Actor | Back to the Future

Michael J. Fox was born Michael Andrew Fox on June 9, 1961 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, to Phyllis Fox (née Piper), a payroll clerk, and William Fox. His parents moved their ten-year-old son, his three sisters, Kelli Fox, Karen, and Jacki, and his brother, Steven, to Vancouver, British Columbia, ...

Back to the Future Part II Spin City The Hard Way The Frighteners

30. Heath Ledger

Actor | Brokeback Mountain

When hunky, twenty-year-old heart-throb Heath Ledger first came to the attention of the public in 1999, it was all too easy to tag him as a "pretty boy" and an actor of little depth. He spent several years trying desperately to sway this image, but this was a double-edged sword. His work comprised ...

Brokeback Mountain

31. Jonah Hill

Actor | 21 Jump Street

Jonah Hill was born and raised in Los Angeles, the son of Sharon Feldstein (nee Chalkin), a fashion designer and costume stylist, and Richard Feldstein, a tour accountant for Guns N' Roses. His siblings are music manager Jordan Feldstein and actress Beanie Feldstein. He graduated from Crossroads ...

Superbad Get Him to the Greek

32. Scarlett Johansson

Actress | Lost in Translation

Scarlett Johansson was born in New York City. Her mother, Melanie Sloan, is from a Jewish family from the Bronx, and her father, Karsten Johansson, is a Danish-born architect, from Copenhagen. She has a sister, Vanessa Johansson, who is also an actress, a brother, Adrian, a twin brother, Hunter ...

Lost In Translation Girl with a Pear Earring Match Point

33. Giovanni Ribisi

Actor | Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

Antonino Giovanni Ribisi is an American actor who was born in Los Angeles, California. His parents both have careers in the entertainment industry. His mother, Gay Ribisi (née Landrum), is a talent manager for actors and writers, and his father, Albert Anthony Ribisi, is a musician. He has a twin ...

Friends Saving Private Ryan

34. Nicolas Cage

Actor | Leaving Las Vegas

Nicolas Cage was born Nicolas Kim Coppola in Long Beach, California, the son of comparative literature professor August Coppola (whose brother is director Francis Ford Coppola) and dancer/choreographer Joy Vogelsang. He is of Italian (father) and Polish, German, and English (mother) descent. Cage ...

Face/Off The Weather Man Family Man Saylor & Lula

35. Meg Ryan

Actress | When Harry Met Sally...

Blond-haired, blue-eyed with an effervescent personality, Meg Ryan was born Margaret Mary Emily Hyra in Fairfield, Connecticut, to Susan (Duggan), an English teacher and one-time actress, and Harry Hyra, a math teacher. She is of Ruthenian, Polish, Irish, and German ancestry ("Hyra" is a Ruthenian ...

When Harry Met Sally You've Got Mail Addicted to Love Anastasia

36. Steve Martin

Writer | Roxanne

Steve Martin was born on August 14, 1945 in Waco, Texas, USA as Stephen Glenn Martin to Mary Lee (née Stewart; 1913-2002) and Glenn Vernon Martin (1914-1997), a real estate salesman and aspiring actor. He was raised in Inglewood and Garden Grove in California. In 1960, he got a job at the Magic ...

Father of the Bride Planes, Trains & Automobiles

37. Bob Hoskins

Actor | The Long Good Friday

Bob Hoskins was born on October 26, 1942, in Bury St. Edmund's, Suffolk, where his mother was living after being evacuated as a result of the heavy bombings. He is the son of Elsie Lillian (Hopkins), a nursery school teacher and cook, and Robert William Hoskins, Sr., who drove a lorry and worked as...

Who Framed Roger Rabbit Mermaids Hook Paris je t'aime

38. Bill Paxton

Actor | Aliens

Bill Paxton was born on May 17, 1955 in Fort Worth, Texas. He was the son of Mary Lou (Gray) and John Lane Paxton, a businessman and actor (as John Paxton). Bill moved to Los Angeles, California at age eighteen, where he found work in the film industry as a set dresser for Roger Corman's New World ...

Apollo 13 Twister

39. Isla Fisher

Actress | Wedding Crashers

Isla Lang Fisher was born on February 3, 1976 in Muscat, Oman, to Scottish parents Elspeth Reid and Brian Fisher, who worked as a banker for the U.N. She spent her early childhood in Scotland before moving to Australia with her family in the early 1980s. From a young age, Isla showed an interest in...

Wedding Crashers Confessions of a Shopaholic

40. Melissa Leo

Actress | The Fighter

Melissa Leo was born on September 14, 1960 in New York City, New York, USA as Melissa Chessington Leo. She is an actress and producer, known for The Fighter (2010), 21 Grams (2003) and Oblivion (2013).

The Fighter Red State

41. Joan Cusack

Actress | Grosse Pointe Blank

Actress Joan Cusack was born in New York City, New York, and is the daughter of Nancy (née Carolan) and Dick Cusack. Her father was an advertising executive, writer and actor, and her mother was a math teacher. Her siblings - Susie Cusack, John Cusack, Ann Cusack and Bill Cusack also act. Her ...

Shameless War, Inc Toy Story II High Fidelity

42. Frances McDormand

Actress | Fargo

Frances Louise McDormand was born on June 23, 1957 in Chicago, Illinois. She was adopted by Canadian-born parents, Noreen Eloise (Nickleson), a nurse from Ontario, and The Rev. Vernon Weir McDormand, a Disciples of Christ minister from Nova Scotia, who raised her in the suburbs of Pittsburgh. She ...

Almost Famous Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day Friends With Money

43. Amy Adams

Actress | Arrival

Amy Lou Adams was born in Vicenza, Veneto, Italy, to American parents, Kathryn (Hicken) and Richard Kent Adams, a U.S. serviceman who was stationed at Caserma Ederle in Italy at the time. She was raised in a Mormon family of seven children in Castle Rock, Colorado, and has English, as well as ...

Enchanted The Fighter Catch Me If You Can Junebug

44. Jennifer Garner

Actress | Alias

Jennifer Garner, who catapulted into stardom with her lead role on the television series Alias (2001), has come a long way from her birthplace of Houston, Texas. Raised in Charleston, West Virginia by her mother, Patricia Ann (née English), a retired teacher of English, and her father, William John...

Juno The Invention of Lying 13 Going On 30 Serena

45. Jason Bateman

Actor | Arrested Development

Jason Bateman is an American film and television actor best known for his role as Michael Bluth on the television sitcom Arrested Development (2003), as well as his role on Valerie (1986).

He was born in Rye, New York, USA. His father, Kent Bateman, from a Utah-based family, is a film and television...

Arrested Development Juno

46. Anna Kendrick

Actress | Up in the Air

Anna Kendrick was born in Portland, Maine, to Janice (Cooke), an accountant, and William Kendrick, a teacher. She has an older brother, Michael Cooke Kendrick, who has also acted. She is of English, Irish, and Scottish descent.

For her role as "Dinah" in "High Society" on Broadway, Anna Kendrick was...

Up In The Air Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

47. Lorraine Bracco

Actress | Goodfellas

Lorraine was voted the "ugliest girl in the 6th grade" at her Long Island grade school. She moved to France in 1974 where she became a fashion superstar for Jean-Paul Gaultier. Her sister is Elizabeth Bracco. Has two daughters, Stella Keitel by ex-boyfriend Harvey Keitel and Margaux Guerard by ...

Goodfellas The Sopranos

48. Helena Bonham Carter

Actress | Les Misérables

Helena Bonham Carter is an actress of great versatility, one of the UK's finest and most successful.

Bonham Carter was born May 26, 1966 in Golders Green, London, England, the youngest of three children of Elena (née Propper de Callejón), a psychotherapist, and Raymond Bonham Carter, a merchant ...

Fight Club Planet of the Apes A Room with a View Sweeney Todd

49. James McAvoy

Actor | Atonement

McAvoy was born on 21 April 1979 in Glasgow, Scotland, to Elizabeth (née Johnstone), a nurse, and James McAvoy senior, a bus driver. He was raised on a housing estate in Drumchapel, Glasgow by his maternal grandparents (James, a butcher, and Mary), after his parents divorced when James was 7. He ...

X-Men First Class The Conspirator Becoming Jane Atonement

50. George Clooney

Actor | Up in the Air

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 television host (who was also the brother of singer Rosemary Clooney). He has Irish, English, and German ancestry. Clooney ...

Ocean's Eleven The Descendants Up In The Air

51. Mark Ruffalo

Actor | The Avengers

Mark Ruffalo was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin, to Marie Rose (Hebert), a stylist and hairdresser, and Frank Lawrence Ruffalo, a construction painter. His father's ancestry is Italian, and his mother is of half French-Canadian and half Italian descent. Mark moved with his family to Virginia Beach, ...

Zodiac The Avengers In the Cut

52. Vincent Gallo

Actor | Buffalo '66

Vincent Gallo. American-born, Buffalo, New York, 1961. Left home, moved to New York City in 1978, and began playing in the experimental musical group, Gray, with artist Jean Michel Basquiat. After leaving Gray, he formed the band, Bohack, and recorded the highly regarded avant-garde industrial ...

Buffalo 66'

53. Maya Rudolph

Actress | Bridesmaids

Maya Rudolph was born in Gainesville, Florida, on July 27th, 1972, to Dick Rudolph, a music producer, and soul singer Minnie Riperton. Her mother was African-American and her father is Ashkenazi Jewish (from a family from Lithuania, Russia, Germany, and Hungary). In 1973, Maya, her parents, and her...

Bridesmaids Away We Go

54. Allison Janney

Actress | The Help

Allison Janney is an award-winning actress who has earned a solid reputation in stage productions and in many supporting roles on screen, and who more recently has become prominent by portraying one of the major characters in the popular TV series The West Wing (1999).

Entertainment Weekly magazine ...

Juno The Help Away We Go

55. J.K. Simmons

Actor | Whiplash

J.K. Simmons is an American actor.

He was born Jonathan Kimble Simmons in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, to Patricia (Kimble), an administrator, and Donald William Simmons, a music teacher. He attended the Ohio State University, Columbus, OH; University of Montana, Missoula, MT (BA in Music).

He had ...

Spiderman Juno

56. Mark Wahlberg

Producer | The Fighter

American actor Mark Wahlberg is one of a handful of respected entertainers who successfully made the transition from teen pop idol to acclaimed actor. A Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee for The Departed (2006) who went on to receive positive critical reviews for his performance in The Fighter (...

Lovely Bones The Departed

57. Patricia Clarkson

Actress | The Green Mile

This remarkable, one-of-a-kind actress has, since the early 1990s, intrigued film and TV audiences with her glowing, yet careworn eccentricity and old world-styled glamour. Very much in demand these days as a character player, Patricia Clarkson nevertheless continues to avoid the temptation of ...

Vicky Cristina Barcelona Whatever Works

58. Emily Mortimer

Actress | Lars and the Real Girl

English actress Emily Kathleen Anne Mortimer was born in Hammersmith, London, England, to writer and barrister Sir John Mortimer and his second wife, Penelope (née Gollop). She was educated at St Paul's Girls' School in West London, and it was whilst there she began acting. Mortimer moved on from ...

Match Point Lars and the Real Girl City Island

59. James Spader

Actor | The Blacklist

James Todd Spader was born on February 7, 1960 in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of teachers Jean (Fraser) and Stoddard Greenwood "Todd" Spader. He attended Phillips Academy in Andover with director Peter Sellars; he dropped out in eleventh grade. He bused tables, shoveled manure, and taught yoga ...

Secretary

60. Robert De Niro

Actor | Cape Fear

One of the greatest actors of all time, Robert De Niro was born on August 17, 1943 in Manhattan, New York City, to artists Virginia (Admiral) and Robert De Niro Sr. His paternal grandfather was of Italian descent, and his other ancestry is English, Dutch, German, French and Irish. He was trained at...

Awakenings Casino Midnight Run Raging Bull

61. Ed Helms

Actor | The Hangover

Ed Helms was born on January 24, 1974 in Atlanta, Georgia, USA as Edward Parker Helms. He is an actor, known for The Hangover (2009), The Office (2005) and Vacation (2015).

The Office

62. Michael Imperioli

Actor | The Sopranos

Imperioli was born James Michael Imperioli in Mt. Vernon, New York on March 26, 1966. His film work began in the late 1980s. An early part that brought him recognition was in Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas (1990), as Spider, a local kid who works for the gangsters and has a run-in with a psychopathic ...

The Sopranos

63. Richard Dreyfuss

Actor | The Goodbye Girl

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 ...

Jaws Close Encounters of the Third Kind