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This list is attempting to actually have the 100 most talented actors of all-time. So while this is subjective, I think I try to be objective when judging acting talent. One of the determinants is the number of lead roles in great movies an actor accrued. So Robert DeNiro was in several tremendous movies, mostly Scorsesi. There may have been another actor who could have commanded a better performance, but Deniro was fortunate. However I did try to picture another actor doing the movie from one of the top actors. If it was nearly impossible, such as Marlon Brando in Apacolypse Now!, I would raise Brando up the list.
There's actors who had incredible performances in one or two movies, and the rest of their career was obscure. These actors were difficult to rank, since they may actually have been among the all-time talented, but for whatever reason, were not able to land several memorable roles. The most notable of this list is Malcolm McDowell. His role in A Clockwork Orange is legendary. However, there is not another main stream movie attached to his name. And that is my favorite movie. So I do not know if I over or undervalued him. Other actors in this category are Guy Pierce, Heath Ledger, and Gabriel Byrne. Actors like Mickey Rourke seem to be a late bloomer and may shoot up the list, while Charlie Sheen had so much success early in his career, only to settle for sitcoms.
The greatest limitations by far is simply the vast number of movies I have never seen. There are so many "classics" that I have never watched, or may have once in a glossing sort of way. Or I may have watched a movie and didn't fully grasp the meaning of it and missed a great actor. But, its a list I wanted to make, since these actors do deserve recognition. And as I often do when comparing athletes of past years to their contemporaries, I believe that the talent pool has gotten better overall. Acting is an art form that has become better over the years. The diversity of movie roles are greater than they used to be. Even with this bias, I still have two actors leading the list with most of their movies made during the 50s, 60s, and 70s.
I know that no woman makes this list. This was intentional. This is not to say that women are not talented enough. Its more of my condemnation of Hollywood for failing to have enough dynamic lead roles for woman. Woman in the early days of films were always submissive to the will of men. Men could be complex while women could not. And this continues on to an extent today. If I did put women on the list, Merryl Streep would be among the elite. I hope I see enough films with women headlining movies, both classics and currently being made. And once I do, I will make a separate list for women, because its hard to compare when the types of roles are so different than lead male roles.