This has been a very fun list to put together but it was much more difficult then I thought it would be. It kills me to leave certain actors off the list but I’m definitely pleased with the result. I cheated a little with having two actors tied at number 8 (Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe) but I thought they were at very similar points in their career.
10. Forrest Whitaker – If you want to talk about an actor who has done a lot with a little, you have to talk about Forrest Whitaker. Always the likable sidekick (Good Morning Vietnam) but also with the range of being a cold blooded killer (Ghost Dog). When given the opportunity in lead roles he has blown us away as the brutal Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland and as Charlie Parker in Bird.
9. Paul Newman – There are moments in The Hustler when paul newman is the coolest man alive. But there are also moments when he is the biggest loser and therein lies Newman’s brilliance. His charm and good looks were only a smoke screen to many of his characters tragic flaws. You can vividly see this in Cool Hand Luke and The Verdict.
8A. Russell Crowe – To understand the range of Russell Crowe consider these contradictions. He played a brutal skin head gang leader in Romper Stomper and followed it by playing a gay man on an Australian television show. He gained a ton of weight to play a tobacco industry whistle blower in The Insider only to follow it by playing the buff Spanish General in Gladiator. Other highlights include A Beautiful Mind and Cinderella Man.
8B. Denzel Washington – As we watched Denzel stare at Matthew Broderick and cry as he was whipped in Glory, it was obvious we were witnessing true talent. Denzel demands attention on screen and he is always believable whether it be eating breakfast or reading a newspaper. While his resume of films might be on the weaker side of this list, it speaks more to the state of Hollywood then his talents. I do think Denzel will age well as an actor and that some of his best performances are yet to come. Highlights in his carrer include Malcolm X, Philadelphia, The Hurricane and Training Day.
7. Dustin Hoffman – Hoffman is one of the most quirky actors in history and he’s done it all. From a neurotic homeless man in Midnight Cowboy to a cross dresser in Tootsie and an autistic in Rain Man to a struggling single father in Kramer vs. Kramer, Hoffman has been disappearing in his roles for decades. Other highlights include Little Big Man and Marathon Man.
6. Jack Nicholson – Nicholson has been making quality films since 1958 and to this day is still a powerhouse in Hollywood. His films have been influential (Easy Rider, One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest), larger than life (The Shining, Batman, A Few Good Men) and lots of fun (As Good As it Gets, The Departed).
Please click the following link to view my numbers 1-5 for top working actors.