The Top 40 Male Film Lead Actors of all Time

Discussion in 'TV & Media' started by Foxhot, Sep 15, 2012.

  1. Foxhot

    Foxhot Commodore Commodore

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    It sounds like Downey, Jr. (assuming he invented the Wood rumor) was engineering some ONION-style humor. I can appreciate that. (Makes my OP less WTF in a way, so the pressure's off me.) Even Christopher Walken was alleged to have said ''Look.....people drown all the time.''

    For me, Wood's best moment as an actress were the last two minutes of WEST SIDE STORY. As good as REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE is, I wasn't as taken with her character in that, nor her all-time-best unforgettable roles in METEOR, THE CANDIDATE or BRAINSTORM. Meaning even if Bujold hadn't obliterated my top 40 all-time-best actresses, Wood wouldn't finalize them.

    JTW wrote:

    ''This is a subject that I'd enjoy engaging in, but making it into a days-long, one-name-at-a-time project pretty much kills my interest.''

    He's right, dammit. Time for responsive action.

    39. Spencer Tracy
    38. Steve McQueen

    Funny thing is, I'm not even a Tracy fan. He picks sharper projects than most, however. I'm a fan of his Stanley Kramer productions especially.
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2012
  2. Mr Silver

    Mr Silver Commodore Newbie

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    A lot of people (including myself) are going to list the same choices, none the less:

    Paul Newman
    Marlon Brando
    James Stewart
    Henry Fonda
    Al Pacino
    Sidney Poitier
    Clint Eastwood
    Charlton Heston
    Jack Nicholson
    John Wayne
     
  3. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    "Who are you?"
    In other words, nothing that can substantiate the rumors.
     
  4. lurok

    lurok Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    McQueen was cool but really pretty limited as an actor.

    Eastwood
    Mitchum
    Peck
    Stewart (underrated)
    Grant (effortless)
    Fonda
    Hackman (rarely if ever a bad performance)

    Some actors I just enjoy even if movie sucks: Gibson, Russell, Washington. And a soft spot for Karl Malden and Udo Keir :)
     
  5. stj

    stj Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Douglas Fairbanks
    Lon Chaney
    Rudolph Valentino
    Alec Guiness
    William Powell
    Edward G. Robinson
    Gregory Peck
    Burt Lancaster
    Charles Laughton
    Kenneth Branagh


    I don't think anyone's thought of these candidates!

    PS I think there's some intrinsic difficulty in the op standards. b&d are pretty much the same, but neither has any relationship at all to c&e!

    After all, by c&e, we should nominate Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff and Anthony Hopkins as well as Peter Cushing.
     
  6. Captaindemotion

    Captaindemotion Vice Admiral Admiral

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    1. Paul Newman

    2. Marlon Brando.

    3. Humphrey Bogart

    4. Sean Connery

    5. Robert DeNiro

    6. Al Pacino

    7. Cary Grant

    8. Steve McQueen

    9. Gene Hackman

    10. Dustin Hoffman

    Bubbling under, I would say are Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Mitchum (how the hell can anyone say he was one of the worst?!), Cagney and Jimmy Stewart.

    I think it's too early to judge with many of today's stars but I do think that Sean Penn, Jeff Bridges and Tom Cruise have a good shout at being well-remembered in years to come.

    Yes, I said Tom Cruise.
     
  7. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    I seriously considered nominating Karloff, who is one of my favorite actors, but decided to go with Cushing instead since the unspoken theme seemed to be heroic leading man types and Karloff, even when he got top billing, didn't play many "badass" roles.

    Christopher Lee is another contender, but that struck me as too predictable after mentioning Cushing . . . .

    I notice that Errol Flynn seems to be overlooked as well. Is swashbuckling not considered "badass" these days?
     
  8. Foxhot

    Foxhot Commodore Commodore

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    STJ wrote:

    ''Douglas Fairbanks
    Lon Chaney
    Rudolph Valentino
    Alec Guiness
    William Powell
    Edward G. Robinson
    Gregory Peck
    Burt Lancaster
    Charles Laughton
    Kenneth Branagh


    I don't think anyone's thought of these candidates!''

    You are right and wrong.....in my case, anyway. Between one and nine of them DID make it. But who......who?

    McQueen may be the greatest actor with the smallest range. Anyone ever notice his facial similarity to Robert Reed's? I'm not even going to claim Schwarzenegger is a legitimate actor as his range is, um....unseen so far, but culturally he is justifiable and his talent for laughable line-delivery at least is unparallelled. Two examples from PREDATOR and TOTAL RECALL prove this theory:

    ''Hawkin!! Have Blain check tha peremitah and ron-day-voo at tha station house NOW!!!''

    ''Vy are yoo DOOING diss, Lori??''

    My least favorite of his dialogue comes at the beginning of THE RUNNING MAN:

    ''Tell him to turn off da signal or it's all our heads!!''

    The words were fine. It was his whining tone that killed my appreciation for the film's many remaining nuances.

    Like Admiral M says, lots of us will be choosing identical icons in the end, but it's the order you choose them that will create tension before the inevitable triumphant freeze-frame and end credits. Still, 40 won't get everybody great in the door. My list is as subjective as anyone's and my true favorites are being saved for its final 17 picks. All I can say is the 1910s won't be represented but the 2000s may be.
     
  9. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    What's a little confusing is that the original post seems to conflate several different things: movie star, leading man, screen icon, great actor, and action hero. And while there may be a select few individuals who are all of the above, those are overlapping categories, not one thing.
     
  10. BennyRussel

    BennyRussel Commander Red Shirt

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    That is what makes it a tougher list to make. Which is fun.

    Anyway, here is my list of 40 listed alphabetically by first name.


    1 Al Pacino
    2 Arnold Schwarzenegger
    3 Bill Murray
    4 Bruce Willis
    5 Cary Grant
    6 Charlie Chaplin
    7 Charlton Heston
    8 Clint Eastwood
    9 Daniel Day-Lewis
    10 Denzel Washington
    11 Dustin Hoffman
    12 Eddie Murphy
    13 Fred Astaire
    14 Gene Kelly
    15 George Clooney
    16 Glenn Ford
    17 Harrison Ford
    18 Henry Fonda
    19 Humphrey Bogart
    20 Jack Lemmon
    21 Jack Nicholson
    22 Jackie Chan
    23 James Cagney
    24 James Stewart
    25 Jerry Lewis
    26 John Wayne
    27 Kirk Douglas
    28 Laurence Olivier
    29 Marlon Brando
    30 Paul Newman
    31 Peter O'Toole
    32 Richard Burton
    33 Robert DeNiro
    34 Robert Redford
    35 Sean Penn
    36 Sidney Poitier
    37 Spencer Tracy
    38 Steve McQueen
    39 Sylvester Stallone
    40 Tom Hanks
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2012
  11. JarodRussell

    JarodRussell Vice Admiral Admiral

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    It's complex and complicated, isn't it? In contrast to a Top 40 Female Film Lead Actresses of All Time ranking, because there we have only one category: Bra cup size.
     
  12. stj

    stj Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Sorry to have overlooked it.
     
  13. chardman

    chardman Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I'm getting a bit sick and tired of folks who are dismissive of Jack Black's acting talent. The current buzz in the industry is that he's a shoo-in for a "Best Actor" Oscar nomination for his performance in "Bernie", in which he shows some pretty incredible range.

    In the past he's won the Chicago Film Critics Award for best supporting actor for his roll in "High Fidelity" and both the Golden Globe and the New York Film Critic's Circle Awards for best actor for his performance in "School of Rock".

    You may dislike most of the characters he plays, but that's probably because he plays a lot of characters that you dislike, and plays them so incredibly well that you can't distinguish the difference between him and the roles he plays.
     
  14. Captaindemotion

    Captaindemotion Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I like Jack. If you don't enjoy School of Rock or his performance in High Fidelity, you might want to check if your sense of humour has been clinically removed.
     
  15. Foxhot

    Foxhot Commodore Commodore

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    It'd be unfair to be dismissive of Jack Black's acting talent if we could truly see the talent.....as a leading man. Starting out, as supporting character actor, he didn't usually live long enough to get bad early (see THE JACKAL and MARS ATTACKS for examples). As a lead, I find him steadily unappealing, obnoxious and/or snooze-inducing. (see BE KIND REWIND, KING KONG 2005, or TROPIC THUNDER for key examples). While it can be true bad directors can exacerbate or encorage bad performances from normally-good actors, the three good directors from the films I just mentioned---especially Ben Stiller----managed to get good performances from everyone in those films EXCEPT Jack Black. Raise your hands if anyone feels he came close to matching Stiller, Downey Jr.,Cruise or any other of the TROPIC actors. Not having seen either HIGH FIDELITY, BERNIE or SCHOOL OF ROCK, which got generally good reviews, I'll take your word Black's decent in them, but it may be three more cases of good direction bettering his acting. Thumbs up the three if they achieved this miracle.

    Stj: you didn't overlook it, since I've barely revealed it yet.

    JarodRussell: well, that's just harsh and totally unwarranted. Okay, PARTIALLY unwarranted. I don't want to think about Bette Davis's.....never mind. Raquel Welch....better.

    BennyRussel: thanks for your 40, but do have one all-time winner out of that group? Or a top five or ten?

    More incoming finalists below in bold:

    40. Arnold Schwarzenegger
    39. Spencer Tracy
    38. Steve McQueen
    37. Gary Cooper
    36. Daniel Craig
    35. Errol Flynn

    Some on this list have less longevity than others, but they make up for it in badassery.
     
  16. gblews

    gblews Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Really? And then you go on to include in your list of 40 best:

    Eastwood
    Mitchum
    Stewart (underrated)
    Grant (effortless)

    All the aforementioned actors are as "limited" as any actors who have come down the pike. However, being "limited" can be quite meaningless in the face of unrelenting charisma, charm, badassery (McQeen, Mitchum, and Eastwood in particular), and star power. In nearly every role these guys played, you always knew it was them but hardly anyone cared because of what they all brought to their roles.

    Although the o/p listed character actor as one of the criteria, that is the one acting trait I would have eliminated in choosing the top 40 actors. Most of the actors listed in this thread aren't character actors.

    Most of the best character actors in Hollywood history -- actors who can cover themselves in a character to the point you don't even see the real actor or actors who specialize in a particular type of character -- usually aren't all that well known by their names. Guys like Johnny Depp, Marlon Brando, James Dean, character actors who become movie stars, are rare indeed.
     
  17. BennyRussel

    BennyRussel Commander Red Shirt

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    Not really but here are my standouts:

    Al Pacino
    Bill Murray
    Eddie Murphy
    Glenn Ford
    Humphrey Bogart
    Jackie Chan
    Sidney Poitier
    Steve McQueen
    Sylvester Stallone

    Also, a few biggies that missed my list:
    Tom Cruise (not as big a fan as I used to be)
    Samuel L. Jackson (one too many dogs on his list)
    Gene Hackman (just ran out of room on my list)
    Robert Duvall (like him better as a supporting actor)
    Morgan Freeman (like him better as a supporting actor)
    Steve Martin (not enough standout movies)
    James Dean (lack of longevity)
     
  18. Foxhot

    Foxhot Commodore Commodore

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    Longevity was to James Dean what quality is to Jack Black.

    ''Guys like Johnny Depp, Marlon Brando, James Dean, character actors who become movie stars, are rare indeed.''-----gblews

    Those who do both in alternation----the chameleon stars----need representation on the list, though not all of the notable ones will necessary reach the 40. When done, several popular males will be noticeably absent.

    Daniel Craig is obviously the up-and-comer of the bottom six names. He's come far from TOMB RAIDER, at any rate.
     
  19. J.T.B.

    J.T.B. Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    I will admit he could "coast" on a rather mannered set of acting chops, but when he was feeling it he was terrific. The scene of him breaking down in The Sand Pebbles is a pretty unforgettable, and his back is to the camera!

    My top ten in rough order except for number one:

    Henry Fonda
    Richard Widmark
    Spencer Tracy
    James Garner
    Robert Duvall
    Charles Laughton
    John Wayne
    Anthony Hopkins
    Paul Newman
    #1: William Holden

    Justin
     
  20. gturner

    gturner Admiral

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    ''Guys like Johnny Depp, Marlon Brando, James Dean, character actors who become movie stars, are rare indeed.''-----gblews

    I don't get why Johnny Depp is called a character actor, or why anyone would think he was acting at all. He's just being himself.