10 Best Irish Born Actors

Saturday, March 12 by Brenda Daverin

Ireland has contributed a lot to creative works over the centuries, so a list of the 10 best Irish born actors is not hard to do, except where it has to be trimmed down to just ten of them. But, these ten actors are sure to evoke memories of performances as strong and smooth as a fine Irish whisky. Strangely, despite all of the talent in this list, none of them have received an Academy Award. Does the Academy have a problem with Irish-born actors?  

  1. Peter O'Toole. He starred in what has to be the ultimate man's film, "Lawrence of Arabia." For that alone, he'd deserve a mention. But beyond that, his roles have been one powerful man after another. Two different turns as Henry II, Sherlock Holmes, Pop Paul III and even Anton Ego in "Ratatouille."
  2. Richard Harris. Born in Limerick to a farming clan, his initial dream of playing rugby was redirected to acting after tuberculosis ended his athletic career. His place on the ten best Irish-born actors list was secured long before he became Albus Dumbledore with roles like King Arthur and Richard the Lionheart.
  3. Liam Neeson. Neeson is proof that Irish-born actors are amongst the most versatile Hollywood can get. Anyone who can be in movies like "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," "Kinsey," and "The A-Team" and make each role work is an all-purpose acting force to be reckoned with.
  4. Kenneth Branagh. Known more for his directing these days, Branagh's acting chops demand he be included in a list of the best Irish-born actors. From playing the greatest Henry V for our, or any, time (Laurence who?) to faces of evil ranging from Iago to Professor Gilderoy Lockhart, Branagh chews the scenery and makes you love the results.
  5. Colin Farrell. An Irishman whose American accent is so good he's been accused of faking his native Dublin one, Farrell lines up the parts and knocks each one out of the park, good script or bad. His put-upon Stu Shepard in "Phone Booth" stands toe-to-toe with his villainous Bullseye in "Daredevil" for capturing the role and taking you with it.
  6. Gabriel Byrne. First brought to American attention in "Excalibur" as Uther Pendragon, Byrne hasn't stopped giving his all, even in supporting roles. His turn in "The Usual Suspects" as Dean Keaton gave us the pitch-perfect reading of, "You give me one good reason why I shouldn't kill you right now."
  7. Pierce Brosnan. Irish-born and England-raised, Brosnan hasn't forgotten his roots or upbringing. He brought British panache and Irish stubborn to his James Bond, memorable despite the scripts. His turns as Remington Steele and Thomas Crowne were certainly good preparation for it as well.
  8. Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Fans of "The Tudors" know Rhys Meyers brings the boys and the girls to the yard without needing a milkshake to do it. Embodying the young and virile Henry VIII, he rewrote the image of the fattest king of England in millions of minds with one twitch of his brocade codpiece.
  9. Michael Gambon. Taking up Richard Harris' wand in the Harry Potter films seemed a large challenge for this Irish-born actor, but Gambon was more than up to it. After playing Chief Inspector Maigret and Baltus Van Tassel, he was plainly due to rise to loftier things.
  10. Colm Meaney. Unlike the rest of the Irish actors on this list, Meaney is best known for his television work as Chief Engineer Miles O'Brien in the Star Trek universe. But his movies are nothing to shake a warp coil at, either. From "Con Air" to "The Commitments," Meaney is an Irishman's Irishman and a good guy to have a pint with at the pub.