Depending on who you ask, the list of the ten best actors of all time can vary greatly and include actors from bygone generations all the way up to those appearing on the silver screen today. However, according to the website of one well-respected organization, the American Film Institute, the ten best actors are:
1. Humphrey Bogart
Humphrey Bogart is an American cultural icon who starred in memorable movies such as Angels with Dirty Faces, Key Largo, Sabrina, Casablanca and The African Queen. After the success as Duke Mantee in The Petrified Forest in 1936, Bogart continued to cast gangster roles until his break-through came as leading man in 1941, with High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon. Bogart is perhaps best known for his trademark performance in the 1942 classic Casablanca as the cynical and ultimately noble Rick Blaine.
2. Cary Grant
Cary Grant, and English-born actor who made women in America swoon, is number two on the list. This award-winning actor’s most famous film credits include The Awful Truth, Bringing Up Baby, His Girl Friday, The Philadelphia Story, To Catch a Thief and An Affair to Remember.
3. James Stewart
Stewart was an actor on both Broadway and in film. He was nominated for five Academy Awards and starred in a long list of movies today all considered classics, including Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Philadelphia Story, Harvey, Rear Window, Vertigo and It’s a Wonderful Life.
4. Marlon Brando
No list is complete without Marlon Brando, who many identify with Vito Corleone of The Godfather. However, the actor performed for more than 50 years and also shined in A Streetcar Named Desire, Apocalypse Now, Superman and many more.
5. Fred Astaire
Hollywood’s famed suave dancing gentleman, Astaire astounded audiences with his voice and moves for many years. His career as a film and Broadway actor and dancer, choreographer and singer lasted more than 76 years and through 31 musical films. Among his most famous titles were Funny Face, Royal Wedding and Swing Time.
6. Henry Fonda
Fonda began acting in 1935 and his career took off after his famous performance in The Grapes of Wrath. His long and impressive career also includes movies like 12 Angry Men, How the West Was Won, Jesse James, On Golden Pond and Jezebel.
7. Clark Gable
Who can forget Clark Gable’s smoldering turn as Rhett Butler in the classic Gone With the Wind? He became known as The King of Hollywood and won an Academy Award for It Happened One Night. He was nominated for awards for Mutiny on the Bounty, and his last film was The Misfits with Marilyn Monroe.
8. James Cagney
Cagney was a well-decorated and acclaimed actor known best for playing tough guys on the screen. His top film credits include Angels with Dirty Faces, Frisco Kid, The Oklahoma Kid and Yankee Doodle Dandy. The film The Public Enemy quickly became one of the top gangster movies of the time, and catapulted Cagney into stardom.
9. Spencer Tracy
Tracy appeared in 74 films, but got his start in the Broadway play The Last Mile. While he is known for his lasting affair with actress Katharine Hepburn, Tracy starred in acclaimed films including Adam’s Rib, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Father of the Bride and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
10. Charlie Chaplin
Chaplin is the only silent film star to make AFI’s list of top actors. He broke onto the screen and rapidly became one of the top film stars in the world. His comedic routines involved miming and slapstick comedy, and his most famous role was The Tramp from the Keystone comedy Kid Auto Races at Venice.