The Top 40 Male Film Lead Actors of all Time

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

  1. Captaindemotion

    Captaindemotion Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The Avengers had Robert Downey Jr and Samuel L Jackson, while Chris Evans is at least as far along in his career as Ford was then. Chris Nolan's Batman movies have had the likes of Liam Neeson, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman and Heath Ledger, as well as star-making roles from Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the like.

    Nolan's The Prestige had post-Batman Bale, Hugh Jackman and Michael Caine, while his Inception had Leo DiCaprio, Caine, Cillian Murphy, JGL and Ken Wanatabe.

    The Departure had Leo opposite Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen and Alec Baldwin. Bruce Willis and JGL are currently sharing a screen in Looper. And comedy movies frequently feature big-name multiple comedy combos (the latest is Ferrell and Galifianakis in The Campaign). Even the Bond movies have gotten in on the act - instead of the no-name supports of days past, we have Ralph Fiennes and Javier Bardem lending support to Daniel Craig in Skyfall.
     
  2. Karl Shoottheglass

    Karl Shoottheglass Commodore Commodore

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    J.T.B. wrote: ''It was hard to get three top stars together then, too. The biggest combo I can think of was the same year, The Towering Inferno, with Paul Newman, Steve McQueen and William Holden. Even then Holden was seen as on his way down, but it was a real power struggle between McQueen and Newman.''

    So powerful was the struggle that both ''claimed'' top-billing by having Newman's name on the left and McQueen's higher on the right. Officially McQueen's considered the first billed by many sources, but given that he's barely in the movie's first hour, I consider Newman to be top-top-billed.

    Many of these 40 actors, including the final unrevealed three, have appeared as trios in various films. But, like J.T.B. pointed out, they weren't always together. Sean Connery and my number two pick were both in LONGEST DAY, but they never met in a scene, dammit. Even in TOWERING INFERNO, if memory serves, all three male leads never spoke together in any single scene.

    THE CONVERSATION was one of the few with three at one moment. THE OUTSIDERS has at least three in many scenes, possibly more. Both are semi-''retroactive''. Whether you can now have three current superstars in a post-1980 movie is debatable, but the odds seem stacked against it.

    So my emphasis is more on ''three great lead actors in the same scene'' than future, current or washed-up superstar. I appreciated the top-heavy cast of THE DEPARTED....all those great actors, plus one good one (DiCaprio), plus Alec Baldwin. LOOPER will no doubt benefit from Joseph Gordon Levitt, but even pairing him with Willis, you're still one actor short of the ''in-the-same-room'' equation.
     
  3. Karl Shoottheglass

    Karl Shoottheglass Commodore Commodore

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    In another shared opening credit situation, Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman's names were jointly occupying the pre-title spot in CRIMSON TIDE. My guess is this was done not because of star ego, but in the nature of the dueling commanders' plot.

    One actor who seemed sensitive about billing was Raul Julia. In HAVANA he totally withdrew his name from all credits when he was denied over-the-title billing. And in EYES OF LAURA MARS, for reasons I'm still not certain, he had himself listed only as ''R.J.''

    40. Arnold Schwarzenegger
    39. Spencer Tracy
    38. Steve McQueen
    37. Gary Cooper
    36. Daniel Craig
    35. Errol Flynn
    34. Sean Penn
    33. Richard Burton
    32. Tom Hanks
    31. Edward Norton
    30. Paul Newman
    29. Michael Caine
    28. William Holden
    27. Clive Owen
    26. Samuel L. Jackson
    25. Marlon Brando
    24. Al Pacino
    23. Charlton Heston
    22. Burt Lancaster
    21. Frank Sinatra
    20. Tom Cruise
    19. Clint Eastwood
    18. James Cagney
    17. Gary Oldman
    16. Denzel Washington
    15. Jack Nicholson
    14. Harrison Ford
    13. Dustin Hoffman
    12. Sidney Poitier
    11. Humphrey Bogart
    10. Sean Connery
    9. Robert Duvall
    8. Cary Grant
    7. Henry Fonda
    6. Charlie Chaplin
    5. Gene Hackman
    4. Gregory Peck
    3. Robert DeNiro

    Was there ever any doubt?
     
  4. BennyRussel

    BennyRussel Commander Red Shirt

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    Trying to decipher the pattern. I have to guess at least one of these names is int the top 2

    James Stewart
    John Wayne
    Laurence Olivier

    Maybe
    Anthony Quinn?
    Jackie Chan?
    Sly?
     
  5. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    DeNiro used to be a great actor, but his output since the early 1990s has been pretty abysmal. It would be bad enough if he was just awful at picking scripts (like Connery), but lately he hasn't even been trying.
     
  6. Karl Shoottheglass

    Karl Shoottheglass Commodore Commodore

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    The irony of it all is that he's earned more money and received more mainstream popularity than before through MEET THE PARENTS trilogy and other comedies. When I saw his name listed in the ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE cast I too wanted to get off after stopping the world, TAXI DRIVER in-joke or not. God knows there have been other actors in his present situation. If Scorsese would skip DiCaprio for one or two of his projects, maybe they could reteam for something special. I'm sure DeNiro would still be prolific at dramatic roles if Hollywood still was. They claim dramas in general make far less money, so except for September through December they virtually stop making them. It's more a combination of ageism and anti-drama buck-chasing than DeNiro himself, I think.

    And he's one of the select few who excels in pretty much all five major categories mentioned earlier.

    After Number Two is revealed within the next 24 hours I'll list several actors who were passed over but deserving of honorable mention....and then, a day or two later, the winner. After that will come the explanation of how some were chosen over others.
     
  7. Starkers

    Starkers Admiral Admiral

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    One of the top two must be Ben Affleck, he was the bomb in Phantoms...

    Hmm, no DiCaprio so far, but given a posting you made up thread I get the sense you don't rate him...All I can say is, Matt Damon better not be in the top two... :devil:
     
  8. Karl Shoottheglass

    Karl Shoottheglass Commodore Commodore

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    Damon is better than DiCaprio, but he makes too many remakes.

    DiCaprio is better than Mitchum, but he takes too many goodie bags.

    40. Arnold Schwarzenegger
    39. Spencer Tracy
    38. Steve McQueen
    37. Gary Cooper
    36. Daniel Craig
    35. Errol Flynn
    34. Sean Penn
    33. Richard Burton
    32. Tom Hanks
    31. Edward Norton
    30. Paul Newman
    29. Michael Caine
    28. William Holden
    27. Clive Owen
    26. Samuel L. Jackson
    25. Marlon Brando
    24. Al Pacino
    23. Charlton Heston
    22. Burt Lancaster
    21. Frank Sinatra
    20. Tom Cruise
    19. Clint Eastwood
    18. James Cagney
    17. Gary Oldman
    16. Denzel Washington
    15. Jack Nicholson
    14. Harrison Ford
    13. Dustin Hoffman
    12. Sidney Poitier
    11. Humphrey Bogart
    10. Sean Connery
    9. Robert Duvall
    8. Cary Grant
    7. Henry Fonda
    6. Charlie Chaplin
    5. Gene Hackman
    4. Gregory Peck
    3. Robert DeNiro
    2. John Wayne
     
  9. Karl Shoottheglass

    Karl Shoottheglass Commodore Commodore

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    The AFI had John Wayne in the #14 ranking for their top 25 male stars a few years back. I always thought was ridiculously low. Bogart was their #1 choice. Cary Grant was PREMIERE's in one issue when they had a top 50. Tom Cruise may have been as high as three for that one.

    Wayne held superstar status pretty essentially from 1939 to 1976. I think perhaps only Clint Eastwood has surpassed Wayne's longevity record, while not greatly receding in status.

    Here are my 44 honorable mention runners-up, all of whom could justifiably held a spot in the 40. A few are my favorites here as well. A handful of these names arguably should have been included with the others, at least for a top 50 or similar group. In no particular order:

    John Barrymore
    Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.
    Lon Chaney, Sr.
    Bela Lugosi
    Stan Laurel
    Orson Welles
    Toshiro Mifune
    Alan Arkin
    Anthony Hopkins
    George Clooney
    Robert Shaw
    Roy Scheider
    Morgan Freeman
    Kevin Spacey
    Robert Downey, Jr.
    Mel Gibson
    Russell Crowe
    Daniel Day-Lewis
    Liam Neeson
    Brad Pitt
    Bruce Willis
    Sylvester Stallone
    Jack Lemmon
    Laurence Olivier
    Glenn Ford
    Robert Redford
    Gene Wilder
    Yul Brynner
    Jon Voight
    George C. Scott
    Boris Karloff
    Warren Beatty
    Lee Marvin
    Charles Bronson
    Peter Sellers
    Walter Matthau
    Montgomery Clift
    Richard Widmark
    Fredric March
    Clark Gable
    Kirk Douglas
    Gene Kelly
    Groucho Marx
    Buster Keaton

    My personal favorites in these runners-up include Laurel, Arkin, Shaw, Spacey and Freeman. I'll concede it does seem odd not to have Kirk Douglas, Clark Gable and especially Morgan Freeman in the final 40. In Freeman's case, it's probably due to his general shift to supporting roles. In Gable's case? I guess I just don't give a damn. Olivier's strongest work was in live theater, while Lemmon and Mifune among others didn't fall in my favored range. Ask away if you want to know why any of these others didn't get higher. And now we're left with the one name I didn't mention yet.......the final finalist. Guess if you wish. Give Nicolas Cage some hope.
     
  10. Karl Shoottheglass

    Karl Shoottheglass Commodore Commodore

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    He's rarely been accused of badassery.....or chameleonic skill.....and his longevity is not quite as lengthy as John Wayne's....but his talent and cultural impact are at least as huge. So, the champion of the 40 is:


    JAMES STEWART.
     
  11. Karl Shoottheglass

    Karl Shoottheglass Commodore Commodore

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    One reason he scored so high on my particular scale was, in my own personal alternate Oscars, which I refer to as the Ronalds, he won Best Actor three times for MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE and VERTIGO.....while John Wayne won the same category four times.
     
  12. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    Jimmy Stewart was a good actor who starred in a lot of good or great movies -- but he didn't have much range as an actor and was often too old for the parts he was cast in later in his career (see: Vertigo and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance).
     
  13. Karl Shoottheglass

    Karl Shoottheglass Commodore Commodore

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    Those were the days of reverse ageism......
    Stewart's darker range is often visible in his Westerns for Anthony Mann....and to some extent VERTIGO. Though neither he nor Wayne are chameleons by any stretch.
    For my alternate Oscars, John Wayne is unique by getting Best Actor four times. Not for TRUE GRIT.......but for RED RIVER, THE SEARCHERS, RIO BRAVO, and, for pure sentimentalist reasons, THE SHOOTIST. (I won't pretend he gave a better performance than Dustin Hoffman in MARATHON MAN, but I'm mirroring the eccentricities of the real Oscars here.)
    My only Best Actor for DeNiro lies with the spectacular CAPE FEAR remake.
     
  14. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    No love for DeNiro in Taxi Driver or Raging Bull?
     
  15. Karl Shoottheglass

    Karl Shoottheglass Commodore Commodore

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    No love, exactly, but the films have my respect. TAXI DRIVER without knowing it would change history in a sense when John Hinckley noticed Jodie Foster. RAGING BULL showcases DeNiro at his chameleonic best.
    The Academy Awards more often than not ignore good to excellent ''genre'' films. They couldn't ignore DeNiro's take on Max Cady, so they nominated him. Yet somehow they ignored Jack Nicholson in THE DEPARTED, instead nominating the less-memorable Mark Wahlberg role. I don't tend to generally go with the popular flow, but it's worth mentioning that Scorsese's two biggest hits are also both remakes AND genre-thrillers. They are my two personal favorites as well.
    I should also say while I voted THE DEPARTED as Best Picture of 2006, I only gave him Best Director for his segment of NEW YORK STORIES from 1989. That means I didn't award it to Spike Lee that year for DO THE RIGHT THING even though it won my Best Picture, but.......I did give Spike Lee Best Director for INSIDE MAN, another genre-thriller, which narrowly lost Best Picture to...THE DEPARTED. As you see, it can get ridiculously symmetrical.

    Recapping the others in the top ten:
    Gregory Peck was my choice for Best Actor in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. And the Academy's too.
    Gene Hackman won in the same category for, of all things, THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE. (!!!)
    Chaplin won it twice for THE KID and MODERN TIMES.
    Henry Fonda got it for FAIL-SAFE.
    Cary Grant won it for.......CHARADE.(???)
    Robert Duvall got two Supporting Actor wins for MOCKINGBIRD and, of course, APOCALYPSE NOW.
    Sean Connery won Best Actor for his superb if little-seen performance in THE HILL.

    More stats to come......