10 Best Italian American Actors

Monday, November 22 by Travis Petersen

The 10 best Italian American actors are among the best American actors of all time. Many would appear on a list of the best American actors, period, because of the amount of iconic roles played by those on this list. The best Italian American actors define the intensity and perseverance of an immigrant group that was later in arriving, but has come to dominate much of popular culture in America, especially through classic gangster films. Here are the best Italian American actors of all time:

  1. Robert DeNiro – The undisputed leader on our list of the best Italian American actors has a number of iconic roles to his credit, many working with the best Italian American director, Martin Scorcese; Jake LaMotta in "Raging Bull," his work in "Goodfellas." He really burst onto the scene in "The Godfather: Part II," playing another Italian American success story: the young Don Corleone.
  2. Al Pacino – DeNiro's co-star in "The Godfather: Part II," yet they never shared a scene. In fact, they would not until the much later "Heat." Pacino's career was also made by the "Godfather" films; his conflicted Michael is one of the most widely revered performances in history, making him competition for the top of the list of the best Italian American actors.
  3. James Gandolfini – The best Italian American actors list could not exist without Tony Soprano, the biggest gangster role of the past twenty years, and one that signaled a major pop cultural shift. Gandolfini's work in "The Sopranos" is possibly the deepest character portrayal in television history.
  4. Leonardo DiCaprio - What DeNiro once was to Scorcese, Leo is now. He rarely plays Italians, but he is one of the best Italian American actors.
  5. Nicolas Cage - Born Nicolas Coppola, Cage changed his name to avoid accusations of nepotism due to his relation to Francis Ford. He made his own mark with a quirkier brand of acting that has gone particularly crazy in recent years. Witness "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans" to see this entry on our list of best Italian American actors at his strange best.
  6. Danny DeVito - A comic mastermind makes his way onto the list of best Italian American actors through sheer force of will. He is enjoying a late career renaissance on FX's "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia."
  7. Sylvester Stallone - "Rocky" made Stallone. For that performance alone, he'd be one of the most iconic entries on the list of best Italian American actors.
  8. John Cazale – Though he appeared in few films, he made them count. The "Godfather" series, "The Deer Hunter," and "Dog Day Afternoon" are just three of his classics.
  9. Frank Sinatra – His acting career was tremendously underrated. View "From Here to Eternity" for evidence.
  10. Paul Giamatti – This underrated "Sideways" star closes out our list of the best Italian American actors. He was also great as a character known as "Pig Vomit" in Howard Stern's "Private Parts" film.