With the Oscars done, it’s time to start the discussion: Who are the best actors in Hollywood working today?
There’s a massively long list of contenders, but we’ve sized it down to 50.
Some of these luminaries can carry a movie to box-office glory in their sleep, while others bring the acting talent that makes a good movie great.
Here are the 50 best, broken down into four categories.
Did your favourite make the cut?
She hasn’t been attached to any major titles of late, but she’s still one of the most talented actors. It seems like the six-time Oscar nominee will be in the conversation at next year’s Oscars when Sony Picture Classics releases “The Wife,” which wowed audiences at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival.
If any movie has Dame Judi in it you know, despite what you think of the film, she’s going to be one of the most memorable things about it. With her regal swagger, if a story needs some class, she’s still the top one to call.
Robert De Niro
One of the greatest actors who has ever lived, De Niro continues to deliver mesmerising performances. Most recently, it was playing Bernie Madoff in “The Wizard of Lies,” which earned him an Emmy nomination. Now he’s reteamed with Martin Scorsese for the years-in-the-works gangster movie “The Irishman.” We cannot wait!
One of the handful of actors who can get any project instantly green-lighted if he’s attached, DiCaprio is at the top of his game and works with only the top auteurs. He’s got two Scorsese projects in the pipeline and is attached to Tarantino’s upcoming “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.”
Whether he’s the voice of God or giving a riveting onscreen performance, at 80 Freeman is still a powerhouse.
Of course America’s Dad would make the list! Hanks has evolved from the romantic comedy roles of his younger days to the Oscar-calibre work he does today. And next he will play Fred Rogers of “Mr. Rogers Neighbourhood” fame, so get ready to up that likability on him a tad more.
Hopkins has been jumping all over the place of late, from a role in the latest “Transformers” to returning to the Thor franchise in “Ragnarok.” But it was the first season of “Westworld” that really showed he still has zip on his fastball. His performance on the head-trip show was one of his best in recent years.
Samuel L. Jackson
If it feels like Sam Jackson is always coming out with something – you’re right! He’s constantly working. But he’s one of the few actors that even though he has movie releases multiple times a year we don’t get tired of him. It’s a testament to his talents and the diverse roles he chooses.
Recently nabbing her second Oscar only confirms what we all have known for years – McDormand is a treasure. Drama, comedy, lover, overprotective mother, she is phenomenal in any kind of role she decides to take on.
And here is another treasure. Throw Mirren in anything (even a “Fast and Furious” movie or playing a firearm heiress in “Winchester”) and she is going to own it.
In recent years Neeson has redefined himself as an action star, but he’s never lost his dramatic chops as he showed recently in Scorsese’s “Silence” (seriously, see this movie).
Though Oldman finally took home his first-ever Oscar this year for his work on “Darkest Hour,” he’s one of those actors who had delivered so many memorable characters over the years that the Oscar doesn’t really matter (though he’s probably happy he has one now).
If you created a Mt. Rushmore of actors this guy would certainly be on it. He’s hit or miss these days with the movies, but when he’s on he’s really on: “Phil Spector,” “The Humbling,” “Danny Collins,” the upcoming “Paterno” and “The Irishman” (teaming him again with De Niro and marking his first time working with Scorsese).
The two-time Oscar winner is due for a big hit, and that may come with the upcoming Beau Willimon Hulu series “The First,” which marks his first major TV role. The series will focus on the first human mission to Mars.
I mean, is there an explanation needed for why she’s on this list? Twenty-one Oscar nominations (a record). A winner three times.
Another living legend. Washington’s work is powerful, whether it’s an intense drama or a crazy genre movie like “The Equaliser” (which he’s making a sequel to).
THE BOX-OFFICE TITANS
Still one of the most bankable actors at age 55, Cruise continues to redefine the Hollywood action star. With others like Dwayne Johnson trying to take the crown from him in the action space, with new “Mission: Impossible” and “Top Gun” movies on tap, if the box office keeps rolling in Cruise isn’t going to go anywhere.
Robert Downey Jr.
He’s the man who launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the success of “Iron Man,” and established the quality of actor the MCU should have going forward.
She’s the highest-grossing female actress working today, and that’s from incredible talent as well as jumping on some major moneymaking movies over the years. But her raw talent can be seen in the movies that aren’t box-office sensations, like the insane “Lucy” and the failed comedy “Rough Night” (which she is great in).
At 27, she’s already got an Oscar and been the face of a global box office sensation with the “Hunger Games” franchise. Lawrence’s acting ability is such a rarity and we can’t wait to see what she’ll give us in the years to come.
There are very few actors who can guarantee big box office all over the world, but Will Smith has been doing just that for decades. You might not love all his movies, but you (or someone you love) will certainly see them.
She’s played every kind of character you can think of and just wows us every time she’s onscreen. It’s shocking to think that she doesn’t have an Oscar win yet (been nominated five times), but that’s certainly on its way. Until then, we’ll just continue to love everything she does (yes, even playing Lois Lane).
Bale has been doing incredible performances since he first came on the scene as a kid actor, and he’s only done better and more challenging work as he’s gotten older. From “American Psycho” to his stint as Batman, Bale has matched his talent with his intense dedication to his roles, leading to some memorable performances.
This two-time Oscar winner has proved she can do any kind of dramatic work thrown in front of her, and recently she’s moved on to lighter material and shown she can be amazing doing that as well. Last year it was playing the villain in “Thor: Ragnarok” (and, let’s face it, she didn’t have much to work with in that role), and this year it will be starring in the all-women’s “Ocean’s Eleven” movie “Ocean’s 8.”
Building a career of playing strong-willed characters, Chastain has consciously show to young actresses coming up in the business that the most rewarding roles are the ones that can inspire as well as entertain.
Responsible for one of the greatest TV characters ever to grace the screen with Walter White in “Breaking Bad,” Cranston has shown flashes of greatness in the movie roles he’s done since. It’s kind of hard to top Walter White, but when he needs to turn it on, he still delivers powerful performances.
Damon’s mix of action movies (“The Great Wall,” “Jason Bourne”) and unique dramas (“Suburbicon,” “Downsizing”) has not led to the kind of box office the studios had hoped for, but for us it has shown his incredible range, which has been an asset throughout his career.
Gosling’s greatness is that he has a knack for choosing unique projects on both the independent and the studio sides. His leading-man quality is not limited to one, and it’s fun to watch.
An actor who was sucked into the Hollywood-franchise-making machine (“Prince of Persia”) when he was younger and lived to tell the tale, Gyllenhaal has gone on to take risky role after risky role, and it has paid off big time.
Nicole Kidman has always had sparks of being an incredible talent, but in the past few years she’s really come into her own with “Lion,” “The Beguiled,” and “Big Little Lies.”
The Oscar winner is one of the most talented out of the current young Hollywood crop, and the world is waiting patiently for her onscreen as the lead of the first female standalone MCU movie, “Captain Marvel,” when it opens in March 2019.
What’s great about Moore is she can play either a character who is comforting and sweet, or take on a role where she is vicious and evil with the same greatness. And we can’t wait to see her in the lead of the Gloria Steinem biopic, directed by Julie Taymor, later this year.
Since coming on the scene in 1996 to deliver an Oscar-nominated performance in “Primal Fear,” Norton has become one of the most sought-after actors in Hollywood, and he has gone on to deliver memorable performances. And if you think he’s great in Wes Anderson movies, he’ll be in the director’s next one, the stop-motion “Isle of Dogs.”
Since winning her Oscar for her work in “12 Years a Slave,” Nyong’o has gone on to be in one blockbuster after another: “The Jungle Book,” two “Star Wars” movies, and “Black Panther.” For each, she shows off her incredible range as no one character is the same.
Since getting the Oscar for playing Johnny Cash in “Walk the Line,” Phoenix has moved further from the studio system and has delivered fantastic performances. This makes the rumours of Phoenix being the next Joker even more intriguing.
Portman’s incredible talent has shone over the years, and it’s exciting to see what kind of roles she’ll be looking for in a post-Time’s Up world.
Robbie has quickly shot up the ranks to become one of the most sought-after actresses working today, and that’s not a fluke: She’s the real deal. From bringing Harley Quinn to life to making you feel sympathy for Tonya Harding, those things take true talent to pull off.
With her recent performances in “Brooklyn” and “Lady Bird,” Ronan has shown off her range of talents. Next we’ll see her in “Mary, Queen of Scots,” and we cannot wait.
Her emotionally gripping performances have made her a hot commodity. It will be fascinating to watch her bring her talents to a movie like her next one, “Venom.”
With a countless number of powerful credits, Winslet always brings her A game. (The one movie you probably didn’t see of hers that you should is “The Mountain Between Us”).
Another actor with so many memorable roles. But we might see her best yet when she becomes the face of the final season of “House of Cards.”
Despite having played almost every kind of part you can imagine since he started in the mid 1980s, Cheadle’s still a wonder to watch. It’s criminal that he doesn’t have an Oscar yet.
Not many had a better 2017 than Davis. Collecting awards at the Emmys (“How to Get Away With Murder”) and the Oscars (“Fences”), she instantly jumped from character actor to leading lady. And it’s only going to get better. She is signed on to play the lead in a Harriet Tubman biopic.
Benicio del Toro
The best thing about del Toro is he’s never going to give you a safe performance. Sometimes it’s glaring like Fenster in “The Usual Suspects,” sometimes it’s subtle like in “Sicario,” but there’s always something he brings to his characters that make them memorable.
Whether she’s the muse of David Lynch or a badass Resistance fighter in “Star Wars,” Laura Dern pulls it all off with a fantastic mix of finesse and intensity that is so much fun to sit back and watch.
Dinklage is known best for playing Tyrion Lannister on “Game of Thrones,” but he’s so believable in the roles he does that you forget him as Tyrion when he’s playing someone else, whether that’s James in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” or the lead in the upcoming post apocalyptic “I Think We’re Alone Now.”
She’s another of those character actors who have elevated to being a star, thanks to becoming Ryan Murphy’s muse. Looking forward, we can’t wait for her to be part of the cast of “Ocean’s 8” and “Glass,” the sequel to the horror hit, “Split.”
One of the highlights of this year’s Oscars was seeing Rockwell win. He’s always given incredible performances, and for this one he finally hit the jackpot. And get ready, because coming up he’s going to play George W. Bush in the Dick Cheney movie starring Christian Bale as the former vice president.
The king of motion capture, Serkis has brought to life some of the most memorable characters of the past decade. But his secret weapon is when he doesn’t have little dots all over his face. As he recently showed in “Black Panther,” he can grab us when he’s in his own skin.
The name might not ring a bell but the face should. From playing Arnold Rothstein on HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” to starring in this year’s best picture Oscar winner “The Shape of Water” (and also in two other best picture nominees, “Call Me by Your Name” and “The Post”), Stuhlbarg makes any movie he’s in better.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.