The Greatest Male Movie Stars (Chronological Order of Fame)

by ndude1997 | created - 28 Jul 2014 | updated - 01 Mar 2015 | Public

1. Charles Chaplin

Writer | The Great Dictator

Considered to be one of the most pivotal stars of the early days of Hollywood, Charlie Chaplin lived an interesting life both in his films and behind the camera. He is most recognized as an icon of the silent film era, often associated with his popular character, the Little Tramp; the man with the ...

Starting off the list is Mr. Charlie Chaplin. Arguably the greatest movie star of all time, Chaplin was also one of the first. This British superstar started off his career with one of the greatest rags to riches stories Hollywood has ever seen and originally aspired for dramatic stage performance, but he eventually discovered that comedy movies were his calling. A true showman, Chaplin not only starred in, but also directed and wrote most of his films. He also occasionally wrote the music. Not to mention, his iconic look and tramp character have made him one of the most recognizable figures ever. From </i>The Great Dictator<i> to </i>The Gold Rush<i>, Chaplin was a master.

2. Buster Keaton

Actor | The General

Joseph Frank Keaton was born on October 4, 1895 in Piqua, Kansas, to Joe Keaton and Myra Keaton. Joe and Myra were Vaudevillian comedians with a popular, ever-changing variety act, giving Keaton an eclectic and interesting upbringing. In the earliest days on stage, they traveled with a medicine ...

Buster Keaton was one of the greatest actors to grace the screen during the silent era. Like Chaplin, he directed most of his films as well. Keaton's films usually involve him doing something fantastical or outrageous, while he delivers sidesplitting comedy gold. Keaton has come to be known as "the Master of Deadpan" as most of his films feature him with just one blank expression on his face. This has led him to become a big inspirational figure for comedians everywhere. Plus, he was able to prove his greatness with a career that was anything but short-lived as he was performing in movies from the 20s to the 70s. His best film: </i>Sherlock Jr.<i>

3. Clark Gable

Actor | It Happened One Night

William Clark Gable was born on February 1, 1901 in Cadiz, Ohio, to Adeline (Hershelman) and William Henry Gable, an oil-well driller. He was of German, Irish, and Swiss-German descent. When he was seven months old, his mother died, and his father sent him to live with his maternal aunt and uncle ...

Clark Gable was the Brad Pitt or Johnny Depp of his era: not only a remarkable actor, but also a heartthrob! Yes, the ladies loved Gable, but most everybody did. Every film he's in, he delivers the epitome of honest performance (something every dramatic actor strives for). Charismatic, charming, and funny from time to time, Gable was a force to be reckoned with. Plus, he only become more admirable when he was drafted into World War II, and served his country with pride.

4. Mickey Rooney

Actor | It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World

Mickey Rooney was born Joe Yule Jr. on September 23, 1920 in Brooklyn, New York. He first took the stage as a toddler in his parents vaudeville act at 17 months old. He made his first film appearance in 1926. The following year, he played the lead character in the first Mickey McGuire short film. ...

Mickey Rooney was one of the greatest musical performers Hollywood ever saw. His career was also one of the longest, as he performed as a child in the 30s and 40s until he was an old man in the 2010s. Rooney seemed to be able to take on any role, but he mainly starred alongside Judy Garland in several romcoms throughout the 40s and early 50s. Above all, Rooney is simply entertaining to watch, and has left a strong legacy in Hollywood.

5. Groucho Marx

Actor | A Night at the Opera

The bushy-browed, cigar-smoking wise-cracker with the painted-on moustache and stooped walk was the leader of The Marx Brothers. With one-liners that were often double entendres, Groucho never cursed in any of his performances and said he never wanted to be known as a dirty comic. With a great love...

6. Chico Marx

Actor | Duck Soup

As a kid trying to negotiate his way through various gang territories to a floating crap game or a new pool hall where he was not yet known as a hustler, Leonard (Chico) Marx learned to fake several accents. Because he later employed an Italian accent in the Marx Brothers' act, people assumed his ...

7. Harpo Marx

Actor | A Night at the Opera

With the big, poofy, curly red hair, a top hat, and a horn, the lovable mute was the favorite of the Marx Brothers. Though chasing woman was a favorite routine of his in the movies, Harpo was a devoted father and husband. He adopted the mute routine in vaudeville and carried it over to the films. ...

8. Fred Astaire

Actor | The Towering Inferno

Fred Astaire was born in Omaha, Nebraska, to Johanna (Geilus) and Fritz Austerlitz, a brewer. Fred entered show business at age 5. He was successful both in vaudeville and on Broadway in partnership with his sister, Adele Astaire. After Adele retired to marry in 1932, Astaire headed to Hollywood. ...

Here we have the man who was quite possibly the greatest dancer to ever grace the silver screen. Fred could sing, and he could act, but his most powerful asset was his staggering dance abilities. There have been plenty of great dancers in Hollywood, but none have had what Astaire had. When he danced, it looked simply effortless for him. Fred Astaire could dance circles around seemingly everyone, even other dance legends such as Gene Kelley.

9. James Stewart

Actor | Vertigo

James Maitland Stewart was born on May 20, 1908 in Indiana, Pennsylvania, to Elizabeth Ruth (Johnson) and Alexander Maitland Stewart, who owned a hardware store. He was of Scottish, Ulster-Scots, and some English, descent. Stewart was educated at a local prep school, Mercersburg Academy, where he ...

James Stewart was not only an incredible showman, but he also had a very dynamic career. Stewart started out in the 1930s playing charismatic, fun, romantic roles. Then came </i>It's a Wonderful Life<i>: Stewart's definitive performance. George Bailey gave us Stewart's final significant performance as the happy hero, and gave us a glimpse of what was to come from him. After that film, Stewart took on heavily psychological roles and became a regular for legendary director Alfred Hitchcock. The fact was, Stewart could play any role he wanted, and could give an earnest, believable, and lovable performance.

10. Orson Welles

Actor | Citizen Kane

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 nine) he traveled the world with his father. When his father died (he was fifteen) he became the ward of Chicago's Dr....

Orson Welles started off as a radio star in the 20s and 30s. In fact, his broadcast of HG Wells' </i>The War of the Worlds<i> was so incredible that it lead many listeners to mistake the story for an actual current event! That aside, Welles would earn his claim to fame by simply directing and starring in the greatest movie ever made: </i>Citizen Kane<i>. There simply isn't anything like that movie, and Welles' showmanship in it is one of its strongest forces.

11. Humphrey Bogart

Actor | Casablanca

Humphrey DeForest Bogart was born in New York City, New York, to Maud Humphrey, a famed magazine illustrator and suffragette, and Belmont DeForest Bogart, a moderately wealthy surgeon (who was secretly addicted to opium). Bogart was educated at Trinity School, NYC, and was sent to Phillips Academy ...

12. Marlon Brando

Actor | Apocalypse Now

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 ...

13. Edward G. Robinson

Actor | Key Largo

Edward G. Robinson arrived in the United States at age ten, and his family moved into New York's Lower East Side. He took up acting while attending City College, abandoning plans to become a rabbi or lawyer. The American Academy of Dramatic Arts awarded him a scholarship, and he began work in stock...

14. James Cagney

Actor | Angels with Dirty Faces

One of Hollywood's preeminent male stars of all time, James Cagney was also an accomplished dancer and easily played light comedy. James Francis Cagney was born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York City, to Carolyn (Nelson) and James Francis Cagney, Sr., who was a bartender and amateur ...

15. Gene Kelly

Soundtrack | Singin' in the Rain

Eugene Curran Kelly was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the third son of Harriet Catherine (Curran) and James Patrick Joseph Kelly, a phonograph salesman. His father was of Irish descent and his mother was of Irish and German ancestry.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was the largest and most powerful studio in...

Gene Kelly was another great Hollywood showman. He could sing, dance, act, choreograph, and direct. His masterpiece was the incomparable </i>Singin' in the Rain<i>. Words can't do Kelly justice, as he was simply great and beyond comparison to most other Hollywood stars.

16. Gary Cooper

Actor | High Noon

Born to Alice Cooper and Charles Cooper (not in film business). Gary attended school at Dunstable school England, Helena Montana and Iowa College, Grinnell, Iowa. His first stage experience was during high school and college. Afterwards, he worked as an extra for one year before getting a part in a...

17. Van Johnson

Actor | In the Good Old Summertime

Van Johnson was the well-mannered nice guy on screen you wanted your daughter to marry. This fair, freckled and invariably friendly-looking MGM song-and-dance star of the 40s emerged a box office favorite (1944-1946) and second only to heartthrob Frank Sinatra during what gossipmonger Hedda Hopper ...

18. James Dean

Actor | East of Eden

James Byron Dean was born February 8, 1931 in Marion, Indiana, to Mildred Marie (Wilson) and Winton A. Dean, a farmer turned dental technician. His mother died when Dean was nine, and he was subsequently raised on a farm by his aunt and uncle in Fairmount, Indiana. After grade school, he moved to ...

19. John Wayne

Actor | True Grit

John Wayne was born Marion Robert Morrison in Iowa, to Mary Alberta (Brown) and Clyde Leonard Morrison, a pharmacist. He was of English, Ulster-Scots, and Irish ancestry.

Clyde developed a lung condition that required him to move his family from Iowa to the warmer climate of southern California, ...

20. Henry Fonda

Actor | 12 Angry Men

Henry Jaynes Fonda was born in Grand Island, Nebraska, to Elma Herberta (Jaynes) and William Brace Fonda, who worked in advertising and printing. His recent ancestry included Dutch, English, and Scottish.

Fonda started his acting debut with the Omaha Community Playhouse, a local amateur theater ...

21. Jack Lemmon

Actor | The Apartment

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 ...

22. Charlton Heston

Actor | Ben-Hur

With features chiseled in stone, and renowned for playing a long list of historical figures, particularly in Biblical epics, the tall, well built and ruggedly handsome Charlton Heston was one of Hollywood's greatest leading men and remained active in front of movie cameras for over sixty years. As ...

23. Cary Grant

Actor | North by Northwest

Once told by an interviewer, "Everybody would like to be Cary Grant", Grant is said to have replied, "So would I."

Cary Grant was born Archibald Alexander Leach on January 18, 1904 in Horfield, Bristol, England, to Elsie Maria (Kingdon) and Elias James Leach, who worked in a factory. His early years...

24. Kirk Douglas

Actor | Spartacus

Cleft-chinned, steely-eyed and virile star of international cinema who rose from being "the ragman's son" (the name of his best-selling 1988 autobiography) to become a bona fide superstar, Kirk Douglas, also known as Issur Danielovitch Demsky, was born on December 9, 1916 in Amsterdam, New York. ...

25. Gregory Peck

Actor | To Kill a Mockingbird

Eldred Gregory Peck was born on April 5, 1916 in La Jolla, California, to Bernice Mary (Ayres) and Gregory Pearl Peck, a chemist and druggist in San Diego. He had Irish (from his paternal grandmother), English, and some German, ancestry. His parents divorced when he was five years old. An only ...

26. Clint Eastwood

Actor | Gran Torino

Clint Eastwood was born May 31, 1930 in San Francisco, the son of Clinton Eastwood Sr., a manufacturing executive for Georgia-Pacific Corporation, and Ruth Wood, a housewife turned IBM operator. He had a comfortable, middle-class upbringing in nearby Piedmont. At school Clint took interest in music...

27. 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 ...

28. Robert Redford

Actor | All Is Lost

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, Scottish, Cornish, and Irish ancestry. Robert's mother died in 1955,...

29. Paul Newman

Actor | The Hustler

Screen legend, superstar, and the man with the most famous blue eyes in movie history, Paul Leonard Newman was born on January 26, 1925, in Cleveland, Ohio, the second son of Theresa (Fetsko) and Arthur Sigmund Newman. Paul's father was Jewish, the son of emigrants from Poland and Hungary; he owned...

30. Andy Griffith

Actor | The Andy Griffith Show

Andy Griffith is best known for his starring roles in two very popular television series, The Andy Griffith Show (1960) and Matlock (1986). Griffith earned a degree in music from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In the 1950s, he became a regular on The Ed Sullivan Show (1948) and ...

31. Don Knotts

Actor | The Andy Griffith Show

Don Knotts, the legendary television character actor, was born Jesse Donald Knotts on July 21, 1924 in Morgantown, West Virginia, to William Jesse Knotts and the former Elsie L. Moore. He was the youngest of four sons in a family that had been in America since the 17th century.

His first stint as an...

32. Dick Van Dyke

Actor | Mary Poppins

Dick Van Dyke was born Richard Wayne Van Dyke in West Plains, Missouri, to Hazel Victoria (McCord), a stenographer, and Loren Wayne Van Dyke, a salesman. His younger brother is entertainer Jerry Van Dyke. His ancestry includes English, Scottish, German, Swiss-German, and Dutch. Although he'd had ...

33. 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, ...

34. Harrison Ford

Actor | Raiders of the Lost Ark

Harrison Ford was born on July 13, 1942 in Chicago, Illinois, to Dorothy (Nidelman), a radio actress, and Christopher Ford (born John William Ford), an actor turned advertising executive. His father was of Irish and German ancestry, while his maternal grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Minsk,...

35. Patrick Stewart

Actor | Logan

Sir Patrick Stewart was born in Mirfield, Yorkshire, England, to Gladys (Barrowclough), a textile worker and weaver, and Alfred Stewart, who was in the army. He was a member of various local drama groups from about age 12. He left school at age 15 to work as a junior reporter on a local paper; he ...

36. Tom Cruise

Actor | Top Gun

In 1976, if you had told fourteen year-old Franciscan seminary student Thomas Cruise Mapother IV that one day in the not too distant future he would be Tom Cruise, one of the top 100 movie stars of all time, he would have probably grinned and told you that his ambition was to join the priesthood. ...

37. 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 ...

38. Johnny Depp

Actor | Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

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 ...

39. Morgan Freeman

Actor | Se7en

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...

40. 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 (1985) and low budget horror movies, such as Critters 3 (1991), to a major teenage heartthrob in the 1990s,...

41. Denzel Washington

Actor | Fences

Denzel Hayes Washington, Jr. was born on December 28, 1954 in Mount Vernon, New York. He is the middle of three children of a beautician mother, Lennis, from Georgia, and a Pentecostal minister father, Denzel Washington, Sr., from Virginia. After graduating from high school, Denzel enrolled at ...

42. Matthew McConaughey

Actor | Dallas Buyers Club

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 ...

43. Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Actor | Inception

Joseph Leonard Gordon-Levitt was born February 17, 1981 in Los Angeles, California, to Jane Gordon and Dennis Levitt. Joseph was raised in a Jewish family with his late older brother, Dan Gordon-Levitt, who passed away in October 2010. His parents worked for the Pacifica Radio station KPFK-FM and ...

44. Benedict Cumberbatch

Actor | The Imitation Game

Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch was born and raised in London, England. His parents, Wanda Ventham and Timothy Carlton (Timothy Carlton Congdon Cumberbatch), are both actors. He is a grandson of submarine commander Henry Carlton Cumberbatch, and a great-grandson of diplomat Henry Arnold ...

45. Eddie Redmayne

Actor | Les Misérables

British actor Eddie Redmayne is the first, and thus far only, millennial male to have won an acting Oscar (for The Theory of Everything (2014)).

Edward John David Redmayne was born and raised in London, England, the son of Patricia (Burke) and Richard Charles Tunstall Redmayne, a businessman. His ...