The Greatest Actors of All Time

Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando / Reg Burkett/GettyImages

Making a list of the greatest actors of all time is a tough job. The factors to consider are aplenty, but as film lovers, we will gladly do this to pay our respects where it's due. Here are our top 5 picks:

Marlon Brando

With the release of A Streetcar Named Desire in 1951, Marlon Brando became an upcoming star and changed the world of acting forever by making method acting mainstream in American cinema. The actor despised acting for the sake of acting and ushered in the era of bringing realism into the characters. Even with his notorious reputation on set and not memorizing lines, he was a bewitching presence on screen with his improvisatory skills. 

Brando had consecutive Academy nominations for best actor till 1954, ultimately winning it for On the Waterfront. His stardom continued well into the ‘70s fetching another Oscars win for Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather. He was one of those actors who turned acting into art, and he has set the bar so high he has remained unparalleled even after decades.

Robert DeNiro

It's fascinating to see how one of the greatest actors and one of the most critically-acclaimed directors propelled each other to stardom. Robert De Niro's collaboration with Martin Scorsese began with the 1973 movie Mean Streets which paved the way for his role in Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather II, earning him an Academy win for best-supporting actor. Two years later, DeNiro won his first best actor at the Oscars with Scorsese's cult classic Taxi Driver

His filmography boasted of diverse roles, from the 1980 biographical sports drama Raging Bull to the black comedy The King of Comedy. One of the few actors with method acting down pat, DeNiro gained 27kgs and learned to box for his role as an overweight former boxer in Raging Bull. The movie rightfully earned him another Oscars win, and he succeeded with another stellar career run in the '90s with films like Goodfellas, Awakenings, and Cape Fear.

Jack Nicholson

Jack Nicholson was an enigma on screen. The man loved straying away from conventional roles and giving you something unexpected. It was always a guessing game with him- what did that smile hold? He was a daredevil among actors, with no inhibitions in playing characters that would repulse you. In doing so, Nicholson showcased his remarkable ability to portray manifold emotions and gave them the intricacies that justified them. While The Shining didn't receive any nominations, the actor has managed to stay in people's consciousness with his terrifying performance.

 It's not a surprise he is one of only three male actors to receive three Oscars, and apart from Michael Caine, the only actor to get Academy Award nominations in every decade from the 1960s to the 2000s. Among his twelve Oscar nominations, the most for any male actor, Nicholson bagged his first one for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in 1975.

Al Pacino

Seeing Al Pacino play an aging rock star in the 2015 movie Danny Collins, it was easy to momentarily forget the hard-core roles which made the man one of Hollywood's most prolific actors. Another star of method acting, Pacino's carried a vivid sense of realism in his work and brought a special charisma with his intense characters. 

With the 1972 film The Godfather, Pacino broke into the critic's list and stardom. He received an Oscars nomination for supporting actor and continued the success with several other nominated performances. After the '70s, the actor revived his career in the '90s by finally getting an Academy Award for Scent of a Woman. During this time, he packed his filmography with excellent movies like  Heat, The Insider, and Donnie Brasco.

Daniel Day-Lewis

A compact filmography and yet, three Oscars win, one of only three male actors to do so, are already enough to prove the acting prowess of Daniel Day-Lewis. Like a chameleon, the actor took the roles he played right under his skin, making them believable. His range varied from a subdued and romantic lawyer in The Age of Innocence to the domineering and cold fashion designer in Phantom Thread. A character that demonstrated his remarkable versatility and is often cited as his best was his Oscar-winning performance There Will Be Bl*od.

The stories of Day-Lewis’ method of acting are countless. Some are merely rumors, while others tell us what has made him a legend today. For My Left Foot which got him his first Oscars, the actor regularly visited cerebral palsy clinics and made the staff on the set treat him like the character he played on screen.

While the silver screen has gifted us with many other legendary actors, we believe the above artists created an impact that has inspired generations and will continue to do so in the future. Their talent offered us an experience we couldn’t refuse, and what to say? We’re bribed.