10 Best Asian Male Actors

Wednesday, April 13 by Shawn Lealos

The best Asian male actors work in a variety of different genres, from action martial arts epics and crime movies to serialized television and comedy. These men have become crossover sensations, building a large fan base in American as well as Asia while delivering some of the best acting roles in cinema today.

  1. Ken Leung – Ken Leung made his cinema debut in Brett Ratner’s “Rush Hour,” helping him immediatel break out as one of the best male Asian actors in Hollywood. He followed it up with a blockbuster role in the third “X-Men” movie and television roles on both “The Sopranos” and “Lost.”
  2. Jackie ChanJackie Chan remains one of the most popular and famous Asian male actors working in cinema today. Chan is popular for doing many of his own stunts in movies such as “Drunken Master” and “Police Story.” He recently stretched his acting muscles with the remake of the ‘80s hit, “The Karate Kid.”
  3. Jet Li – In 2010, Sylvester Stallone chose to include Jet Li in his homage to action flicks, “The Expendables.” That is a good choice since Jet Li remains one of today’s quality action heroes. He has starred in great action flicks over his career such as “Hero” and “Unleashed.”
  4. Daniel Dae Kim – Daniel Dae Kim is better known for his television work. He reached mainstream popularity thanks to his role on the television series “Lost.” Other than that iconic role, he has also appeared in “CSI” and, more recently, starred in the CBS remake of “Hawaii Five-0.”
  5. Kal Penn – Kal Penn is a comedy actor best known for his role in the stoner comedy “Harold and Kumar.” That is very interesting since a few years later, he accepted a role on President Obama’s staff as a member of the White House Office of Public Engagement. Penn starred on the TV series “House” prior to his assignment.
  6. Chow Yun Fat – Chow Yun Fat garnered national critical acclaim for his work his Asian director John Woo in three of the director’s greatest films, “A Better Tomorrow,” “The Killer,” and “Hard Boiled.” He also starred in the Oscar nominated Ang Lee film, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”
  7. Ken Watanabe – Ken Watanabe earned an Oscar nomination for his role in “The Last Samurai.” More mainstream audiences recognize him for his roles in two Christopher Nolan films. He was Ra’s al Ghul’s stand-in in “Batman Begins” and also appeared as Saito in “Inception.”
  8. Ken JeongKen Jeong is an Asian male actor that people either love or hate. He is a former doctor who turned to entertainment. He became a standup comedian and then hit it big with his small role in “The Hangover.” He has since appeared in a number of movies including the upcoming “Hangover II.”
  9. John ChoJohn Cho became famous thanks to his appearance in the “American Pie” movies where he helped popularize the term “MILF.” He then teamed with fellow Asian male actor Kal Penn in the “Harold and Kumar” movie franchise.
  10. Tony JaaTony Jaa is an Asian male actor who has followed in the footsteps of Jackie Chan by performing most of his own stunts in his films. His most popular role has been in the “Ong-Bak” film franchise as well as the martial arts epic, “The Protector.”


  1. April 13, 2011 10:48 pm


    By excluding Tony Leung Chiu-Wai from this list, you have completely negated the purpose of it’s existence. He IS the most gifted actor in Asia – period, and is known the world over for his roles in John Woo’s “Bullet in the Head,” “Hard Boiled,” and most recently, “Red Cliff”. He shared the big screen with Jet Li in “Hero,” and provided much of it’s soul (along with the wonderful Maggie Cheung.). He starred in one of the first films that depicted the relationship of a gay couple, without the film being a preachy film about acceptance, or a tragedy ending with AIDs in Wong Kar Wai’s, “Happy Together.”. Leung’s performance was strong enough that he only missed sharing the Best Actor prize with Sean Penn 1997’s Cannes Film by one vote. He eventually Best Actor at Cannes in 2000 for Wong Kar Wai’s “In the Mood for Love” and has become one of the most sought after actors on the world since. He originated the role Leonardo Di Caprio played in “The Departed,” in its inspiration, “Infernal Affairs,” won the admiration of Robert DeNiro with his role in “2046” – DeNiro proclaimed Leung as “Asia’s answer to Clark Gable”, and broke new ground in his abilities in Ang Lee’s “Lust, Caution”. The man in terms of talent can stand shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Anthony Hopkins, DeNiro, Robert Duvall, and more. He definitely belongs on this list, because even though he’s yet to make a Hollywood film, his work is being watched the world over.

    BTW, you neglected mentioning Jet Li’s best acting role, so far, his 2007 Best Actor Hong Kong Film Award winning performance in “The Warlords.”. It’s Jet at a whole new level – sublime!

  2. April 13, 2011 10:48 pm


    Lol! Please excuse my typos. I hate typing on an iPhone!

  3. April 13, 2011 10:48 pm


    Lol! Please excuse my typos. I hate typing on an iPhone!

  4. April 13, 2011 10:48 pm


    John Cho is god tier.

  5. April 13, 2011 10:48 pm

    Cheryl Nakao

    I’m going to bet that some guy, no older than 24, wrote this list. Only 4 of the 10 actually belong on a list of “best Asian male actors”. A few of the rest have potential, but really, the best? Outside of Ken Watanabe, Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Chow Yun Fat, the rest are more or less unproven.

    Any list of “best Asian male actors” where most of the actors are stars of “martial arts” films is pretty pathetic. What about Mako? What about Pat Morita? What about George Takei? Even Garrett Wang has more of a substantial body of work than some of the people on this list.

  6. April 13, 2011 10:48 pm


    What about Tim Kang? John Cho as Sulu in Star Trek? Poorly researched article..

  7. April 13, 2011 10:48 pm


    I will say, though, from what little work of his that I have seen, John Cho has loads of potential. His work on the tv series, “Flash Forward,” really won me over. I really look forward to seeing more of his work, and hope Hollywood will make more room for Asian actors. It’s embarrassing how much talent we’re missing out on in the West, not only Tony Leung Chiu Wai, but Tony Leung Ka Fai, Sean Lau, Andy Lau, the late Leslie Cheung, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Maggie Cheung, Carina Lau, and many, many more. I’ve had so much fun over the last year, finally catching up with these talented people. Asian cinema has been a whole new world, fresh & exciting!

    I apologize for being snotty, earlier. Just go check out the work of these people, and I hope you have as much fun as I have!

  8. April 13, 2011 10:48 pm

    Silva Kaw

    Jackie Chan is the best Actor

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