The explanation for this list is significantly more complicated than the ‘classic’ list. Why? Well, first it is meant to represent the actors I am the most excited about at the moment. On the other hand, it has to balance those actors I love whose careers may not be in the most exciting spots today, but were at one point (usually in the 70’s) making iconic after iconic film. And then there are the old standards; actors who are not recent additions and don’t necessarily represent ‘in the moment’, but are people I always save spots for. The ‘modern’ lists are significantly hard to cut down; I had almost twice this number when I brainstormed and a great many actors who deserve a spot just as much as many of those who made it on. And really, in the end, it is completely arbitrary both who made it and where they are placed. I think of myself as a legitimate fan of Tom Cruise and Jim Carrey, two actors I could not get on here and yet when they get a role that showcases their talents appropriately (i.e I Love You Philip Morris or MI4), there are few things I enjoy more than watching them.

Yet I wanted to get actors on here that are new to me. For example, my number 50, Nicolas Duvauchelle. I first saw him in White Material where he owned his role and legitimately had me frightened of what his character may be capable of. Next, I saw him in The Girl on the Train, a severely underrated film and I was aware of just how happy I was to see him. And again, several months ago when I saw Inside for the first time. I was giddy when he popped up, which broke through the unrelentingly dark and disturbing journey of that film. Other actors, like Sam Rockwell and Christian Bale, who normally break into my Top 10 don’t appear. Why? I just felt like favoring other actors this time around. Ryan Gosling, Robert Downey Jr, Matt Damon, Martin Freeman,  Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Gael Garcia Barnal, Laurence Fishburne, Paul Giamatti, Robert De Niro, Viggo Mortenson, Jeff Daniels, Ray Winstone, Nathan Fillion, Simon Pegg, Michael Douglas, Kevin Spacey, and so many more…all of these people are not on the list yet I count them among my favorites. Actors like Tom Hiddleston, John Boyega, Edgar Ramirez and Jeffrey Combs I’d gladly rank along with the 50, but I do not see them often enough or their careers are just getting started. Lastly, the numbers are not meant with any finality; it’s just a frivolous fun list I’ve been making for a long time. I really just keep it as a record for myself and decided to share on this blog. Dustin Hoffman, Aaron Paul, Jon Hamm, Geoffrey Rush, Jeremy Irons

50. Nicolas Duvauchelle
Previously: 50
Seen in 3 films: White Material, The Girl on the Train, Inside

caleb landry jones
#49. Caleb Landry Jones
Previously: —
Seen in 3 films: Byzantium, Antiviral, X-Men: First Class, 2 episodes of “Breaking Bad”

48. Peter Dinklage
Seen in 4 films, 1 TV show: Living in Oblivion, Elf, Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Penelope, “Game of Thrones”, 3 seasons

46. Takeshi Kitano
Seen in 6 films: Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, Violent Cop, Sonatine, Hana-bi, Battle Royale, Outrage

Idris Elba

43. Donald Sutherland
Seen in 13 films: M*A*S*H, Don’t Look Now, Kentucky Fried Movie, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, National Lampoon’s Animal House, Ordinary People, JFK, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, Cold Mountain, Pride and Prejudice, Horrible Bosses, The Hunger Games

Daniel Radcliffe

41. Eddie Marsan
Seen in 14 films: The Bunker, Gangs of New York, 21 Grams, Vera Drake, The New World, Mission Impossible III, The Illusionist, V for Vendetta, Happy-Go-Lucky, Me and Orson Welles, Red Riding, The Disappearance of Alice Creed, Tyrannosaur, War Horse

40. Peter Mullan
Seen in 14 films: Shallow Grave, Braveheart, Trainspotting, Fairy Tale: A True Story, Session 9, The Magdalene Sisters, Children of Men, Boy A, Red Riding: 1974, Red Riding: 1980, Red Riding: 1983, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, Tyrannosaur, War Horse

H. Jon Benjamin

39. Chris Eigeman
Seen in 6 films: Metropolitan, Barcelona, Kicking and Screaming, Highball, Mr. Jealousy, The Last Days of Disco

37. John Malkovich
Seen in 18 films: The Glass Menagerie, Empire of the Sun, Dangerous Liaisons, Of Mice and Men, In the Line of Fire, Con Air, The Man in the Iron Mask, Rounders, The Messenger: Story of Joan of Arc, Being John Malkovich, Shadow of the Vampire, The Libertine, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Beowulf, Burn After Reading, The Great Buck Howard, Jonah Hex, Red

34. Leonardo DiCaprio
Seen in 14 films, 1 TV show: “Growing Pains”, 1 season, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, The Basketball Diaries, Romeo + Juliet, Titanic, The Man in the Iron Mask, Catch Me if You Can, Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed, Blood Diamond, Revolutionary Road, Shutter Island, Inception, J. Edgar

33. Steve Carell
Seen in: “The Office”, 6 seasons, Bruce Almighty, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Sleepover, Melinda and Melinda, Bewitched, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Little Miss Sunshine, Evan Almighty, Horton Hears a Who! (voice), Crazy, Stupid, Love

32. Bill Murray
Seen in 25 films: Caddyshack, Stripes, Tootsie, Ghostbusters, Scrooged, Ghostbusters II, What About Bob?, Groundhog Day, Ed Wood, Larger than Life, Space Jam, Wild Things, Rushmore, Charlie’s Angels, Hamlet, The Royal Tenanbaums, Lost in Translation, Coffee and Cigarettes, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited, City of Ember, Fantastic Mr. Fox (voice), Zombieland, Get Low, Passion Play

Max von Sydow

29. Michael Stuhlbarg
Seen in: “Boardwalk Empire”, 2 seasons, Afterschool, A Serious Man, Hugo

28. Bill Nighy
Seen in 14 films: Fairy Tale: A True Story, Blow Dry, Love Actually, Shaun of the Dead, Enduring Love, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Constant Gardener, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Notes on a Scandal, Hot Fuzz, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Valkyrie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, Rango (voice)

27. Paddy Considine
Seen in 8 films: 24 Hour Party People, In America, Dead Man’s Shoes, My Summer of Love, Hot Fuzz, The Bourne Ultimatum, Red Riding: 1980, Submarine

Peter Capaldi


25. Alan Rickman
Seen in 18 films: Die Hard, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Sense and Sensibility, Dogma, Blow Dry, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Love Actually, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Sweeney Todd, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

24. Tom Hollander
Seen in 10 films: Bedrooms and Hallways, Gosford Park, Paparazzi, The Libertine, Pride and Prejudice, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Valkyrie, In the Loop, Hanna

22. Tony Leung Chiu-Wai
Seen in 5 films: Chungking Express, Happy Together, In the Mood for Love, Hero, 2046

21. John C. Reilly
Seen in 24 films: Days of Thunder, State of Grace, Out on a Limb, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, The River Wild, Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, The Thin Red Line, Never Been Kissed, Magnolia, The Perfect Storm, The Anniversary Party, Gangs of New York, The Hours, Chicago, The Aviator, A Prairie Home Companion, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Zombieland, Cyrus, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Cedar Rapids, Terri, Carnage

20. Michael Caine
Seen in 21 films: Alfie, The Italian Job, Get Carter, Dressed to Kill, Hannah and Her Sisters, Mona Lisa, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Noises Off!, The Muppet Christmas Carol, Little Voice, Quills, Miss Congeniality, Austin Powers in Goldmember, Batman Begins, Bewitched, Children of Men, The Prestige, Sleuth (2007), The Dark Knight, Inception, Cars 2 (voice)

19. Choi Min-sik
Seen in 5 films: The Quiet Family, Oldboy, Crying Fist, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, I Saw the Devil

17. John Hawkes
Seen in 10 films, 4 TV shows: From Dusk til Dawn, Rush Hour, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, The Perfect Storm, Identity, Me and You and Everyone We Know, American Gangster, Winter’s Bone, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Contagion, “Eastbound and Down”, 1 season, “Lost”, 3 episodes, “24”, 2 episodes, “Deadwood”, 3 seasons

16. Lee Byung-hun
Seen in 6 films: Joint Security Area, Three Extremes, A Bittersweet Life, The Good, the Bad, the Weird, G.I Joe: The Rise of Cobra, I Saw the Devil, “Iris”, 1 episode

15. Gary Oldman
Seen in 24 films: Sid and Nancy, Prick Up Your Ears, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, State of Grace, JFK, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, True Romance, Leon, Murder in the First, The Fifth Element, Air Force One, Lost in Space, The Contender, Hannibal, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Batman Begins, Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix, The Dark Knight, A Christmas Carol (voice), Red Riding Hood, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Kung Fu Panda 2 (voice), Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

14. Jack Nicholson
Seen in 12 films: Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, Chinatown, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Shining, Terms of Endearment, Broadcast News, Batman, A Few Good Men, Mars Attacks!, As Good as it Gets, The Departed

13. Peter Sarsgaard
Seen in 11 films: Dead Man Walking, The Man in the Iron Mask, Boys Don’t Cry, Shattered Glass, Garden State, Kinsey, The Dying Gaul, The Skeleton Key, Flightplan, An Education, Orphan

12. Steve Buscemi
Seen in 27 films: Miller’s Crossing, Barton Fink, Reservoir Dogs, “The Adventures of Pete and Pete“, Airheads, Pulp Fiction, Billy Madison, Living in Oblivion, Fargo, Con Air, The Big Lebowski, The Wedding Singer, Armageddon, Big Daddy, 28 Days, Ghost World, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (voice), Domestic Disturbance, Monsters Inc. (voice), Mr. Deeds, Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams, Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, Coffee and Cigarettes, Big Fish, Paris je t’aime, Interview, The Messenger, Rampart, “Boardwalk Empire”, 2 seasons

10. Willem Dafoe
Seen in 19 films: Platoon, The Last Temptation of Christ, Wild at Heart, The English Patient, eXistenZ, The Boondock Saints, American Psycho, Shadow of the Vampire, Spider Man, The Clearing, Spider Man 2, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Aviator, Auto Focus, Finding Nemo (voice), Inside Man, Paris je t’aime, Antichrist, Fantastic Mr. Fox (voice)


11. Vincent Cassel
Seen in: La Haine, Elizabeth, The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, Shrek (voice), Read My Lips, Irreversible, Ocean’s Twelve, Eastern Promises, Mesrine: Killer Instinct, Mesrine: Public Enemy Number 1, Black Swan, A Dangerous Method

10. Michael Fassbender
Seen in 11 films: 300, Hunger, Centurion, Fish Tank, Inglourious Basterds, Jonah Hex, Jane Eyre, X-Men: First Class, Shame, A Dangerous Method, Haywire

9. Cillian Murphy
Seen in 15 films: On the Edge, 28 Days Later, Intermission, Girl with a Pearl Earring, Cold Mountain, Batman Begins, Red Eye, Breakfast on Pluto, Sunshine, The Dark Knight, The Edge of Love, Peacock, Inception, Retreat, In Time

8. Denis Lavant
Seen in: Mauvais Sang, Lovers on the Bridge, Beau Travail, A Very Long Engagement, Holy Motors

7. Daniel Day-Lewis
Seen in 10 films: My Beautiful Launderette, Room with a View, The Last of the Mohicans, The Age of Innocence, In the Name of the Father, The Crucible, The Boxer, Gangs of New York, There Will Be Blood, Nine

6. Mathieu Amalric
Seen in 8 films: Late August, Early September, Munich, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, A Secret, A Christmas Tale, Mesrine: Killer Instinct, Mesrine: Public Enemy Number 1, Quantum of Solace

5. Michael Shannon
Seen in 12 films, 1 TV show: “Boardwalk Empire”, 2 seasons, Groundhog Day, Pearl Harbor, Vanilla Sky, Kangaroo Jack, Bug, Shotgun Stories, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, Revolutionary Road, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, The Runaways, Jonah Hex, Take Shelter

4. Mads Mikkelsen
Seen in: King Arthur, After the Wedding, Casino Royale, Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky, Valhalla Rising, Clash of the Titans, A Royal Affair, The Hunt, “Hannibal” 2 seasons

3. Song Kang-ho
Seen in 9 films: The Quiet Family, Joint Security Area, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Memories of Murder, Lady Vengeance, The Host, Secret Sunshine, The Good, the Bad, the Weird, Thirst

2. Joaquin Phoenix
Seen in: SpaceCamp, Parenthood, To Die For, Inventing the Abbots, Return to Paradise, The Yards, Quills, Gladiator, Signs, The Village, Hotel Rwanda, Walk the Line, We Own the Night, The Master, Her, The Immigrant

1. Philip Seymour Hoffman
Seen in 28 films: When a Man Loves a Woman, Hard Eight, Twister, Boogie Nights, The Big Lebowski, Happiness, Flawless, Magnolia, The Talented Mr. Ripley, State and Main, Almost Famous, Punch-Drunk Love, Red Dragon, The 25th Hour, Owning Mahowney, Cold Mountain, Empire Falls, Capote, Mission Impossible III, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, The Savages, Charlie Wilson’s War, Synecdoche, New York, Doubt, Mary and Max (voice), The Invention of Lying, Moneyball, The Ides of March

7 thoughts on “List: Top 50 Favorite Modern Actors

  1. Yooo, U really have a super good list here. There are tons that I soooo agree with (maybe not in same order but who cares) and there was some on the list tht I didn’t know of, so I will be sure to check them out and of course there were some that were left out. Thanx for showing me some new actors, I trust your judgement after seeing this list.

    P.S. How is Pete Postlethwaite not on here? LOL. Oh well, I have about 200 favorites! No females though?

  2. Lot of work put into compiling this list. Nice job. I think you have DiCaprio too far down the list, but stirring debate is the point of these lists, right? 😉

  3. Great list. However I know a TON of wonderful black / African American actors that would absolutely make it to the list. Unfortunate how you forgot about the like of: Forest Whitaker, Don Cheadle, Denzel Washington, Terrence Howard, Moragn Freeman, Samuel L Jackson, Lawrence Fishburne, Danny Glover, Eddie Murphy. Just to mention but a few.

    1. I didn’t forget. I am a fan of plenty of these actors, particularly Laurence Fishburne and Forest Whitaker. I also love Chiwetel Ejiofor Keith David, Tony Todd, Giancarlo Esposito and John Boyega to name a few. In my update, Idris Elba has gone on. But the 50 I’ve chosen happen to represent my current favorites

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