The 50 Best Actors of All Time
Actors: Windows to our souls, mirrors to our lives, basically they're shiny, blank surfaces. When the world dies and they send a rocket to the moon full of hand-picked survivors, I hope they fill it full of actors. Here is the shortlist for salvation, although some of them are already dead. Unless they're playing dead. These guys are so good they could pull that off you know?
50. Sir Ian McKellen
Stratford-Upon-Avon, 2007, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of King Lear, with this country’s finest actor in the lead part. The curtain comes up, the silence is reverential… Whatever, I was at the Holloway Road Odeon with a double bill of Gandalf/Magneto.
49. Marilyn Monroe
It’s a good thing Elton John wrote "Candle in the Wind" after she died. Otherwise the drugs, the pain and bumming Arthur Miller, Babe Ruth, JFK, and Prince Charles might have disappeared into history.
48. Matt Damon
You like Apples? Well I got Jason Bourne. How’d you like them Apples?
47. Ed Wood
Writer, actor, director: the triple threat, the devil's trident. What you ever write Depp? Nothing! So stop taking the piss.
46. Simon Callow
Being an actor. Ah yes, to wear the ruff and go beneath the Promethean arch, to feel the heat rise from the lights. Enjoy it, but don’t you dare upstage Callow.
45. Jonathan Pryce
All I need is a stout pair of boots and a stage. Enter, magic…
44. Molly Ringwald
At least you’ll always have the '80s Molly.
43. Oliver Reed
Oi! O’Toole! I’m a bigger drunk than you! Look, I’ll get my cock out. I’ll arm-wrestle a fisherman. Then I’ll fight myself. Then I’ll drink some more. Then I’ll do some fucking acting.
42. William McGonagall
Scotland’s “worst poet” was also a limelight loving actor. When he played Macbeth he became convinced that the actor playing Macduff was trying to upstage him, so he refused to die.
41. Shaquille O’Neal
Larry David begged and begged but “Big Aristotle”, as Shaq likes to call himself, just wouldn’t agree to play one-on-one basketball with the famously brilliant Jason Alexander to celebrate Curb’s 100th episode.
40. Sarah Michelle Gellar
What, you mean there isn’t a place at the Top Fifty table for Buffy?
39. Will Oldham
Before Palace/ Bonnie Prince fame Will was quite the young actor. You’d think he’d probably play a troubled teen preacher in a dark film about an Appalachian mining community, wouldn’t you? You’d be right.
38. Morgan Freeman
I could be telling you your mum fucked a dog round at my ranch the other night, or that the burger you were eating was made of your Granny's thigh, but you wouldn’t know it because my voice, so dulcet and dignified, would have lulled you into blissful slumber.
37. Meryl Streep
I am Meryl Streep. Boudicca of the silver screen. All you little tarts better step back in line.
36. Robert Pattinson
Eat me Rob! Devour me! I want to feel your vampire teeth on my neck! I want to hear your solo music project on my iPod.
35. James Lipton
Gere, my God, I understand you. I too was a star of stage and screen. My “Shipping Clerk” in The Big Break was so very widely admired. When I gaze at you, resplendent in your tux, I see an equal, an equal who I worship and adore, an equal whose artistry astounds me. Bless you for coming inside my studio, you and your kind make this tawdry world a better place, you have cracked open my heart and filled it with serious, intense joy. Oh, to sup with De Niro! Oh, to dance with Dionysus in the penthouse of Kevin Spacey.
34. Matt Robinson
That’s right; it’s the kid who played Gordon in Sesame Street. He’s not a kid anymore. In fact, he’s dead.
33. Brigitte Bardot
You may know her as a sex symbol but I know her as the pioneering French director who brought an all-female version of The Kingdom to the Parisian stage.
32. Tracy Jordan
“This round, Texas Doozy. Face cards are wild, three's a jinx, fives are twos.” That’s what acting’s about, playing cards.
31. Woody Allen
Yes, that’s right; he married his “daughter.” Yes, he’s a “practitioner of incest.” I’m fucking sick of hearing it. What did you ever do? Well, not your daughter, obviously. But you didn’t make any great films either.
30. Max Von Sydow
Have you played chess with Death himself? Max has. The sea churned, the skies parted and Death won in four moves.
29. Yasmine Bleeth
Pam got all the Baywatch plaudits, but Yasmine still did a lot of photo shoots during the '90s.
28. Edmund Kean
The 18th century British actor used to have his head held under jets of cold water to sober him up for performances. When that didn’t work he sat in the audience and heckled his understudy.
27. John McEnroe
Because acting is the show off’s tennis. And no-one’s a bigger show off than John “King of the Cameo” McEnroe.
26. Jodie Foster
She may be Hollywood’s number one power lesbian, but she’s still got an inexplicable voice.
25. Mark Ruffalo
For his breakout role in Kenneth Lonergan’s You Can Count on Me, the Brando loving Ruffalo actually spent a year drifting around the country getting into fights and trying to ruin his nephew's self-image.
24. Robert Newton
During a 1930s tour of Richard II, Newton went out at lunchtime and got hammered. Passing a fishmonger’s, he stared into the window, looked up at his drinking buddy Wilfred Lawson, and exclaimed: “Dear God, Wilfried. We’ve got a matinee!” Newton lurched onto stage as John of Gaunt and told the audience: “If you think I’m pissed, wait till you see the Duke of York.” Now run off and tell that one at the Garrick.
23. Klaus Kinski
Kinski was so intense that while he was filming Fitzcarraldo, local Indians came and told director Werner Herzog they’d kill the German actor if Herzog gave them the word.
Beautiful, talented, good at ice hockey. She must have a vagina like a silk ballet shoe.
20. Robert De Niro
Because I know that you’re going to get really mad if old method man isn’t in it. He’s very, very important. More important than hospitals and wheels.
19. Tina Fey
Even more politically significant than Rory Bremner.
18. Franka Potente
Run, Franka, run! Matt Damon’s behind you and he isn’t going to give up the chase until you’ve got taught him to decline all irregular German verbs.
17. The Rebuilt Titanic
Biggest film of all time? It’s down to this thing. What a handsome beast. Not you Di Caprio, you floppy-haired fucko. This marvelous boat.
Actors like to lie on their CVs, but Due South’s deaf wolf could actually lip read in English and Inuktitut. Think about that next time your auditioning for “Eskimo Hunter 3.”
15. Sidney Poitier
Apparently all the critics who accused Poitier of being an Uncle Tom meant it in affectionate way. Like, “Hey, it’s my Uncle Tom, he drinks a bit, but he’s a really nice guy and one hell of an actor.”
14. Judi Dench
If you ever leave the “Dame” out of my name again, and I mean ever, I will fuck you in the eye with a frozen turd.
13. Bob Dylan
When your life is an act, how can you fail to succeed? This fall, meet Bob, a young guy with a pocket full of dreams and a head full of characters…
12. Catherine Deneuve
Who needs an Oscar or a BAFTA when you’re a two time César award-winner? Fuck the Anglo-Hollywood oligarchy. Those guys are worse than the KGB. Vive la Catherine!
11. Daniel Day Lewis
That’s right, I cobble. I’m a cobbler. I learnt it in a small Etruscan village with a man named Bernetto. We would go down into the village of an evening, the scent of dried penne filling the air as Bernetto slobbered all over his third gelato cioccolato, his polio-ridden body struggling to keep up with my Segway. After our promenade I’d return to the late Etruscan villa I was renting and Bernetto would go back to sleep on the floor of his workshop, his legs carefully suspended in a hoist above him.
10. Parker Posey
Listening to Sonic Youth while jerking off? You’re a Parker Posey fan.
Run Seabiscuit! Find the open ground! Make Tobey Maguire look heroic!
8. Tobey Maguire
Ride, Tobey Maguire, ride! Lose those pounds! Make Seabiscuit look good!
7. Norma Desmond
The silent movies! Darling, they really knew how to make them then. Who wants to hear anythin? Noise is so horribly vulgar. Now come and join me for tea, you can sit between the stuffed gecko and Erich von Stroheim.
6. Robert Mitchum
Aside from being a brilliant actor, Mitchum released a calypso album entitled Calypso — Is Like So… Puts your sideline as a DJ into perspective doesn’t it, Matthew Horne?
5. Gerard Depardieu
There’s no better site than Depardieu in flight. A man who doesn’t let his personal appearance hold him back is more than a man, he’s an ugly man. But God damn, that voice, it could tame a hord of Sarkozy's rabid sex orcs.
4. Angela Bassett
Having risen to prominence playing historical figures like Tina Turner, Betty Shabazz, and Voletta Wallace, Bassett is now set to play John Updike in I, Updike: the John Updike Story. Brave, brave casting.
3. Bette Davis
You want to go get yourself a Laserdisc of All About Eve and check out the way Bette evils Anne Baxter. She’s one step away from punching holes in her womb.
2. Marlon Brando
Don’t film me! Don’t look at me, I’m so fat. Fuck it, look at me. And bring me a plate of burgers. Not because I’m greedy. Because it’s what my character would eat.
1. Robert Coates
Known as “Curricle” Coates, he was widely derided as the worst actor ever to have lived. His lack of skill was obvious to one and all and he had to bribe theatre managers to let him perform. He forgot lines and invented new dialogue on the spot, thereby inventing the concept of improvisation. While playing Romeo, he once came back onstage at the end of the play and tried to prize Juliet’s coffin open with a crowbar. But he put the bums on the seats. And that’s what it’s about baby. It’s entertainment. And that’s why “Diamond” Coates, the man who wore furs in winter and who used to crawl onstage looking for his props while other scenes were being played, is the greatest actor ever to have graced the stage.