My Primetime co-host Tim told me to put this list out on air tonight after we had a discussion about John Goodman and I thought he would make my top 25 actors that are currently acting.
That doesn’t mean he is one of the top 25 of just the last year necessarily, I will still count career achievements for everyone on this list and that will put people higher or lower. Basically it’s the greatest 25 actors of all time that are still active today. I think the criteria to be “still acting today” means they have to have been credited in a movie within the last three years (so we’ll say starting with January 1, 2014).
So even though you could count Heath Ledger and Christian Bale in the same class, I wouldn’t include Heath Ledger. Although, after the Joker and a few other select roles, he’d probably make my top 25.
Also, for the sake of this list and to see where John Goodman may fall, this is male actors only. With that said, there are many actresses I would include in a top 25 list.
This is just my opinion. If I left off someone who you think should be top 10, then too bad. I spent hours looking at this list, so if I didn’t include someone, it’s because they just don’t do it for me personally.
Here you go.
1. Leonardo DiCaprio
Movies I love with them in it: Inception, The Departed, Titanic, The Wolf of Wall Street, Catch Me If You Can
I will say that Leo hasn’t acted in anything much recently, but with him doing The Revenant in 2015, he still makes the list. Leonardo DiCaprio seems to be very selective of the movies he does, which I can respect. It all started really with Titanic and rolled on from there. He’s done some clunkers, like Romeo + Juliet, but the good ones he does (like the ones listed above) are out of this world amazing.
While he’s not in any of my top 10 movies, I do find myself always watching anytime any of the five I listed are on TV, especially Catch Me If You Can or Titanic. He was no doubt the biggest name to have never won an Oscar until last year, and I can’t imagine him not winning another in his life time. He is a clear #1 on this list and I imagine plenty of other people will agree with me. He will go down as one of the biggest and best of all time.
2. Tom Hanks
Movies I love with them in it: Forrest Gump, The Green Mile, Saving Private Ryan, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Toy Story, The Da Vinci Code, Catch Me If You Can, Apollo 13, A League of Their Own, Big, Cast Away
Just look at the number of movies I listed off. He also makes three of my top 10 of all time, starring in all three of them. I think Leonardo DiCaprio is just that good of an actor to be #1, but I think Tom Hanks has consistently been extremely good over the years. He hasn’t been nominated for Best Actor since 2000 with Cast Away, but he has won twice (Forrest Gump and Philadelphia, which I haven’t seen).
He’s also won seven Emmy’s, including for writing Band of Brothers, been nominated for a Tony and won multiple Golden Globes and other awards. He will end up one of the greatest of all time as well, and he actually has movies we’re all looking forward to seeing this year, unlike Leo.
3. Matt Damon
Movies I love with them in it: Good Will Hunting, Saving Private Ryan, Dogma, Ocean’s Eleven, The Departed, The Adjustment Bureau, Behind the Candelabra, Elysium, Interstellar, The Martian
Although one of his most notably roles is that of Jason Bourne, I actually never cared for those movies and instead have liked him in pretty much everything else. It all starts with Good Will Hunting, and I’m glad he at least won an Oscar for writing the movie with Ben Affleck, because he still hasn’t won for acting. He’s been nominated three times – Good Will Hunting, Invictus, and The Martian, but has been outstanding in all of the movies I listed above. He was also nominated for Manchester by the Sea, which he actually stepped away from as an actor and gave to Casey Affleck, who did win Best Actor this year.
4. George Clooney
Movies I love with them in it: Up In The Air, Oceans Eleven, O Brother, Where Art Thou?
His movies have been a little crummy lately with Money Monster, Hail, Caesar! and Tomorrowland. I thought all of them had fairly good plot ideas, but none of them worked for me. Still, the three movies I listed above are good enough to skyrocket him up the list. I’ll admit, I haven’t seen Syriana, which is the one movie he’s won an Oscar for with his acting, but he did have a hand in Argo, which was an outstanding movie.
He’s such a smooth actor, that’s what I like about him. You see it in Up In The Air and the Oceans trilogy. At the same time, he’s so weird in O Brother, Where Art Thou? and pulls it off perfectly as well.
5. Brad Pitt
Movies I love with them in it: Ocean’s Eleven, Fight Club, The Tree of Life, Moneyball, World War Z, The Big Short
He has a lot of movies I can list off that I really like him in, but plenty of them have other actors that really help make the movie what it is, like Oceans and The Big Short being ensemble casts, Edward Norton in Fight Club and Jonah Hill in Moneyball. Still, I typically like most of what Brad Pitt does. I haven’t seen Allied yet, but I want to. Same with Fury. Add in 12 Years a Slave, Inglorious Basters, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – you’ve got a heck of a last decade for Brad Pitt.
This doesn’t add to his acting so much, but you have to mention what he’s done with Plan B Entertainment as well, helping produce movies like Moonlight, True Story, Selma, The Departed and more, plus some TV shows like The OA on Netflix.
6. Denzel Washington
Movies I love with them in it: Remember the Titans, Training Day, John Q., Man on Fire, American Gangster
He’s done a lot of really good movies, but he acts the hell out of every role he ever has. Frank Lucas is one of the scariest people in film from American Gangster, and John Creasy is one of the most sadistic after everything he did in Man on Fire (anyone who sticks a bomb up someone’s butt is crazy). Then Herman Boone is a football coach anyone would want to play for in Remember the Titans.
I’ve never seen Glory, which won him his first Oscar. I’ve also yet to see Fences, but I know it will just add to why he is a top 10 actor of all time.
7. Tom Cruise
Movies I love with them in it: Top Gun, Rain Man, Days of Thunder, A Few Good Men, Mission: Impossible series, Jerry Maguire, Minority Report, The Last Samurai, Collateral, Tropic Thunder, Rock of Ages, Oblivion, Edge of Tomorrow
Tom Cruise has done a lot of good work. He’s a weird guy and Scientology is stupid, but you still can’t deny the great movies he’s done. I haven’t even seen some of his stuff that is supposed to be really good, and the list is still that long for me. The one movie that helps push him up more than anything is The Last Samurai. It’s just outside my top ten of all time. It’s an outstanding movie and he is amazing in it. Jerry Maguire is another one at the top of the list for him along with Days of Thunder and Top Gun.
Another underrated movie is Oblivion. It’s got a big time Tron feel to it, which is probably why I like it, but I think he was good in that.
8. John C. Reilly
Movies I love with them in it: Chicago, Talladega Nights, Step Brothers, Cyrus, Wreck-It Ralph, Kong: Skull Island
The first comedian makes the list here. I’ve always raved about how I really like John C. Reilly, and I mean it. The movies above all prove it and that’s not even mentioning Days of Thunder, Guardians of the Galaxy, Boogie Nights, The Perfect Storm, The Pick of Destiny and his TV stuff as Dr. Steve Brule which is hilarious.
One of the reasons he’s on here is because of Wreck-It Ralph, which showed his voice acting, but another reason is Cyrus. Cyrus was a small movie with Reilly, Jonah Hill and Marisa Tomei. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. It’s more of a serious movie, despite the fact that it’s got two of the bigger comedic actors around these days with Reilly and Hill.
9. Matthew McConaughey
Movies I love with them in it: We Are Marshall, Tropic Thunder, Bernie, The Wolf of Wall Street, Interstellar
Matthew McConaughey has been around for a while, but didn’t really do a movie I cared about until Reign of Fire. He was more into doing chick flicks than good dramas or action movies. Then We Are Marshall really made him shoot up the charts for me. The real underrated movie for him is Bernie, which starred Jack Black, but McConaughey was pretty good in too.
I’ll be honest, I still haven’t seen Dallas Buyer’s Club, but I probably should. Interstellar was the one that solidifies him as a top ten guy for me. I’m also really looking forward to seeing how The Dark Tower pans out.
10. Christian Bale
Movies I love with them in it: Newsies, The Dark Knight trilogy, The Fighter, American Hustle, The Big Short
The Batman movies will be what Bale is most remembered for in the long run, but for me, I’ll never forget Newsies. I was forced to watch that movie more times than I can count in middle school, but that was what really turned me on to Christian Bale since he was a kid actor back then. There were plenty of big movies he did between that and Batman Begins like American Psycho and The Machinist. He was also in Reign of Fire like Matthew McConaughey which I kind of liked.
11. Robert Downey, Jr.
Movies I love with them in it: Anything with Iron Man in it, Weird Science, US Marshals, Tropic Thunder, Due Date, The Judge
I’m not going to let the Marvel Cinematic Universe sway me. Robert Downey, Jr. would be near the top of the list if I just named off great Marvel movies with him in it, which would include seven movies I believe. He did a lot of stuff early in his career that I never cared for. I guess one of the bigger movies he did in the 90’s was Natural Born Killers, and if you know anything about me, you know I’m not watching that. I also know he played Charlie Chaplin, but once again, it just didn’t interest me.
12. Morgan Freeman
Movies I love with them in it: Driving Miss Daisy, The Shawshank Redemption, Bruce Almighty, Million Dollar Baby, The Dark Knight trilogy, Wanted, Olympus Has Fallen, Oblivion, Noew You See Me, Transcendence
Morgan Freeman has been in more movies than most people probably realize because of his narration. That is what bumps him up the list for me. But aside from him being the voice of God (literally sometimes), he can act as well, winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in Million Dollar Baby. He’s the oldest guy on this list and started back in 1964 yet was in three movies in 2016 and has two scheduled for 2017.
13. Gary Oldman
Movies I love with them in it: The Fifth Element, Air Force One, Harry Potter series, The Dark Knight series, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Gary Oldman should be considered for one of the greatest supporting actors of all time. The Fifth Element is near my top ten list and if you go from the role he plays there to the role he plays in Harry Potter to the role he plays in Batman, you can see his acting talent. I also feel like I’ve probably missed some of his best work which might make him even higher on my list.
14. John Goodman
Movies I love with them in it: The Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Monsters, Inc., The Emperor’s New Groove, Evan Almighty, Argo, The Hangover Part III, Inside Llewyn Davis, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Kong: Skull Island
Here he is. This is honestly where I would put him. Not only has he been in a lot of quality movies, but he’s done a lot of great voice work as well. And he’s consistently going too. Roseanne started back in the 80’s, and yet he’s been in three big blockbusters in the last calendar year with Kong, Patriots Day and 10 Cloverfield Lane. He has also appeared in back to back Best Picture winners with The Artist (which I haven’t seen) and Argo.
15. Ben Affleck
Movies I love with them in it: Good Will Hunting, Armageddon, Dogma, Paycheck, The Town, Argo
Some people might wonder why Affleck is this low and it’s for a few reasons. Mostly, he has stunk it up something fierce the last year or so. He’s also put out a lot of crap overall. Let’s not forget that while he’s done some good stuff and just had a Best Picture winner not too long ago, he also starred in what is considered one of the worst movies of all time and one of the biggest box office bombs of all time in Gigli. It’s hard to recover from a movie with 6% on Rotten Tomatoes that cost over $75 million to make and didn’t even gross $7.5 million.
With all that said, he has done some good stuff, like I mentioned above. However, those movies also had other people carrying some of the load. I am actually a fan of Paycheck, despite that being the movie that followed Gigli and only has a 27% on Rotten Tomatoes. But at least it made over 150% of it’s budget.
16. Steve Carrell
Movies I love with them in it: Bruce/Evan Almighty, Anchorman, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Little Miss Sunshine, Get Smart, Despicable Me, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, The Big Short
Another comedian comes in with Steve Carrell, and I didn’t even list The Office, which is one of the best TV shows of all time. Also, I haven’t seen Foxcatcher, so I didn’t include in the list of movies, but he was nominated for an Oscar for it.
17. Will Smith
Movies I love with them in it: Bad Boys, Independence Day, Men in Black, Enemy of the State, Ali, I, Robot, The Pursuit of Happyness, I am Legend, Concussion
Even though he’s put out some stinkers in the last year like Suicide Squad and Collateral Beauty, and he has to force his son on us, Will Smith still deserves to be on this list. His work in the 90’s and early 2000’s were some of the best movies. I really liked his Muhammad Ali portrayal and The Pursuit of Happyness is the only thing his son has been watchable in (because he was only eight years old and hadn’t lost his damn mind by then).
18. Jeff Bridges
Movies I love with them in it: Tron, The Big Lebowski, Iron Man, Crazy Heart, True Grit, The Little Prince, Hell or High Water
This is a little swayed because I have an unhealthy obsession with Tron, but The Big Lebowski is also a big part of it and he was just nominated for his seventh Academy Award and has won one. He also does an amazing job in the voice over in The Little Prince. I think it’s still on Netflix if you want to check it out, it’s a super well done French animated movie that had a lot of great American actors do the voice overs for in the English version.
19. Ralph Fiennes
Movies I love with them in it: Schindler’s List, The Prince of Egypt, Harry Potter series, The Hurt Locker, Skyfall (and other Bond), The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Lego Batman Movie
This is another one that made the list because of amazing acting but also good voice work. I wasn’t quite as high on The Grand Budapest Hotel as other people were, but it was a good movie. His Voldermort was outstanding also. He has a million stage credits along with some decent TV as well. He’s also a perfect fit for the Bond franchise, so I’ll be curious to see whether they keep him as M moving forward or not.
20. Michael Keaton
Movies I love with them in it: Beetlejuice, Batman, Multiplicity, The Other Guys, Birdman, Spotlight, The Founder
Michael Keaton has been killing it lately, starring in two straight Best Picture winners. He had a great career late 80’s/early 90’s and recently, but not a lot in between (at least for me). An underrated film for Keaton is Multiplicity where he plays a guy who gets cloned a bunch of times and has to play multiple personalities throughout the movie.
21. Bruce Willis
Movies I love with them in it: Die Hard series, The Fifth Element, Armageddon, The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Sin City, Red, Moonrise Kingdom
Hard not to include Bruce Willis with the sheer number of movies he’s done, and for me personally, it starts with The Fifth Element. I loved him in that movie along with Gary Oldman, and the only two M. Night Shyamalan movies I can stand are the two he stars in.
22. Samuel L. Jackson
Movies I love with them in it: Jurassic Park, Sphere, Star Wars prequels, Unbreakable, xXx, any Marvel movie he’s in, Kong: Skull Island
There are literally too many movies to name for Samuel L. Jackson, so I’m just naming a few. When a person has accounted for over $16 billion in movies, they belong on the list. He shouldn’t be considered some great Shakespearean actor or anything, but he fills a role perfectly and plays that role in every movie very well.
23. Jake Gyllenhaal
Movies I love with them in it: Donnie Darko, October Sky, Brokeback Mountain, Jarhead, Prince of Persia, Enemy
I’ll admit, I haven’t seen a lot of his recent stuff like Nocturnal Animals, Southpaw or Nightcrawler, but I have seen enough of him to know he belongs on this list. Donnie Darko is an outstanding movie and of course he was great in Brokeback Mountain and earned an Oscar nomination. I also think Prince of Persia, while not a great movie, is one of the better done video game movies of all time.
24. Russell Crowe
Movies I love with them in it: Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, Cinderella Man, American Gangster, Les Miserables
Even though I thought The Nice Guys was one of the worst movies last year, and I’m not looking forward to the new Universal monsters universe, and he has been in the DC extended universe – Russell Crowe has done enough to make this list. Gladiator alone is enough to put him up here, but he was an integral part of American Gangster as well as Les Miserables, which I enjoyed both immensely.
25. Seth Rogen
Movies I love with them in it: Donnie Darko, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Superbad, Kung Fu Panda, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, 50/50, Steve Jobs, Sausage Party
I know right, another comedian? I toyed with possibly putting either Paul Rudd or Jonah Hill on this list because they have both had some good serious roles as well, but Seth Rogen stood out too much and has also had some serious roles that have been well done like Woz in Steve Jobs. He’s also written/produced/directed a lot of stuff too which moves him up into the top 25.
I will say, as much as I didn’t like Funny People, I did like Seth Rogan and Jonah Hill in the movie over everyone else. Seth Rogen can go through so many different types of funny too. Zack and Miri Make a Porno and Sausage Party are two of the most wrong movies I’ve ever seen, but I could not stop laughing through them. Then on the other side of his career, you have 50/50, which is an amazing movie. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. It stars Rogen, Joseph-Gordon Levitt and Anna Kendrick. It’s a comedy-drama that has a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes and Rogen does a good job of being serious and funny in the movie.
(Also, I didn’t include Joseph-Gordon Levitt on this list because outside of the three year span he does Inception, 50/50 and The Dark Knight Rises all back-to-back-to-back, there isn’t much else there for me.)
The next 25 who just missed the cut, but were in consideration (alphabetical order):
Robert De Niro
Not eligible, but might would have made the list:
Jack Nicholson (inactive)
Daniel Day-Lewis (inactive)
Paul Walker (deceased)
Gene Hackman (inactive)
Alan Rickman (deceased)
Here are some of the smaller movies that I mentioned for some actors. I highly recommend all of these:
Cyrus (2010) – John C. Rilley, Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei
50/50 (2011) – Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick
Donnie Darko (2001) – Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore, Seth Rogen, Patrick Swayze, Noah Wyle
Multiplicity (1996) – Michael Keaton, Andie MacDowell
The Little Prince (2015) – Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Paul Rudd, James Franco, Marion Cotillard, Benicio del Toro
Newsies (1992) – Christian Bale, Bull Pullman, Robert Duvall
Bernie (2012) – Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, Matthew McConaughey