10 Most Famous African-American Actors

Tuesday, March 22 by Peter Matthews

Some of the best talents in all of Hollywood can be found on this list of the 10 most famous African-American actors. Over the years, these A-Listers have drawn large crowds to the box office, set trends in society, and delivered some of cinema's most memorable performances.

  1. Will Smith. It did not take long for Smith's work on the big screen to overshadow his work in the recording studio. Critics first took notice of him in “Six Degrees of Separation”, but his work in “Independence Day” secured the reputation he still enjoys.

  2. Denzel Washington. An actor with an amazing range, Denzel Washington is also an undisputed heartthrob. From his acclaimed portrayal of civil rights activist Malcolm X to his Academy Award winning performances in “Glory” and “Training Day”, Washington never fails to set the screen on fire.

  3. Sidney Poitier. One of the most famous African-American actors of all time, Sidney Poitier's talent launched a successful film career despite working in some of the most racially divisive times in American history. His work in 1967's “Guess Who's Coming to Dinner” remains an iconic performance.

  4. Morgan Freeman. Simply put, Morgan Freeman is an on-screen powerhouse. From his unforgettable acting in “The Shawshank Redemption” to his work alongside Clint Eastwood in the gritty “Unforgiven”, Freeman always delivers a performance worth talking about.

  5. James Earl Jones. Many people know James Earl Jones best as the voice of Darth Vader and the guy who says, “This is CNN.” That is unfortunate because golden voice aside, Jones's work in films like “Field of Dreams” proves that he has some fantastic acting chops.

  6. Jamie Foxx. One of the more recent performers from this list of most famous African-American actors to emerge on the Hollywood scene, Jamie Foxx is enjoyable to watch on-screen. It will be hard for Foxx to top his Academy Award-winning performance in “Ray.”

  7. Laurence Fishburne. Fishburne is one of the most capable actors in all of Hollywood. While earlier generations might have become familiar with him via his role in “Apocalypse Now,” for younger moviegoers, Fishburne will always be Morpheus from “The Matrix.”

  8. Samuel L. Jackson.  Samuel L. Jackson is best known for playing gritty characters and tough guys. His work in “Pulp Fiction” earned him an Academy Award nomination while his acting in “Snakes on a Plan” proved that a great performance can make even the silliest premise work.

  9. Forest Whitaker. In addition to an Oscar, Mr. Whitaker is also the proud owner of a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award. Despite all of his acting in rather serious movies, his portrayal of an extremely angry football player in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” remains some of the most enjoyable screen time in the history of teen movies.

  10. Eddie Murphy. The only comedian on this list of famous African-American actors, Eddie Murphy has been making audiences laugh for decades. Kids love him as Doctor Doolittle and as the voice of Donkey in the “Shrek” movies. Adults, however, know that Murphy was at his best in films like “Beverly Hills Cop” and “Trading Places.”