Illustration: Lucien Waugh-Daly

The 136 Best Actors Working Today (According To Me)

In film and in TV, the biggest stars aren’t necessarily the most talented performers. As the ultimate authority on all culture, I’ve decided to list my 136 favourite actors working today. I may have forgotten some people. I have deliberately excluded others. Read, heed my recommendations and argue with me about who I did and didn’t include. (I also acknowledge an unfortunate gender disparity on this list; I hope this will improve in the future— more good roles for women = more women who make my list)

AMY ADAMS

Best role: Enchanted (2007) Honourable mention: Arrival (2016)

CASEY AFFLECK

Best role: Manchester by the Sea (2016)

RIZ AHMED

Best role: The Night Of (2016)

MAHERSHALA ALI

Best role: Moonlight (2016)

AZIZ ANSARI

Best role: Master of None (2015-)

WILL ARNETT

Best role: Bojack Horseman (2014-) Honourable mention: Arrested Development (2004-)

PATRICIA ARQUETTE

Best role: Boyhood (2014) Honourable mention: True Romance (1993)

ALEC BALDWIN

Best role: 30 Rock (2006–2013) Honourable mention: Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

JONATHAN BANKS

Best role: Better Call Saul (2015-)

JAVIER BARDEM

Best role: No Country for Old Men (2007) Honourable mention: Skyfall (2012)

JASON BATEMAN

Best role: Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium (2007) Honourable mention: Juno (2007)

MELISSA BENOIST

Best role: Whiplash (2014)

EMILY BLUNT

Best role: Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

ALISON BRIE

Best role: Community (2009–2015) Honourable mention: G.L.O.W. (2017-)

PIERCE BROSNAN

Best role: Mamma Mia! (2008)

STEVE BUSCEMI

Best role: Barton Fink (1991)

NICOLAS CAGE

Best role: Bringing Out The Dead (2001) Honourable mention: National Treasure (2004)

STEVE CARELL

Best role: Foxcatcher (2014) Honourable mention: Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

JIM CARREY

Best role: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) Honourable mention: A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)

MICHAEL CERA

Best role: Twin Peaks (2017) Honourable mention: Arrested Development (2003-)

JESSICA CHASTAIN

Best role: Interstellar (2014) Honourable mention: Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

GEORGE CLOONEY

Best role: The Descendants (2011)

ELLAR COLTRANE

Best role: Boyhood (2014)

CARRIE COON

Best role: The Leftovers (2014–2017)

CHRIS COOPER

Best role: American Beauty (1999) Honourable mention: Adaptation (2002)

BRYAN CRANSTON

Best role: Breaking Bad (2008–2013)

DAVID CROSS

Best role: The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret (2009–2016)

BILLY CRUDUP

Best role: Almost Famous (2000)

TOM CRUISE

Best role: Magnolia (1999) Honourable mention: Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol (2011)

WILLEM DAFOE

Best role: The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

JEFF DANIELS

Best role: The Newsroom (2012–2014) Honourable mention: Something Wild (1986)

PAUL DANO

Best role: There Will Be Blood (2007) Honourable mention: War & Peace (2016)

ROBERT DE NIRO

Best role: The King of Comedy (1983) Honourable mention: The Godfather Part II (1974)

JULIE DELPY

Best role: Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight (1995/2004/2013)

BRUCE DERN

Best role: Silent Running (1972)

LAURA DERN

Best role: Inland Empire (2006) Honourable mention: Twin Peaks (2017)

ANN DOWD

Best role: The Leftovers (2014–2017)

ADAM DRIVER

Best role: Paterson (2016)

ALDEN EHRENREICH

Best role: Hail, Caesar! (2016)

COLIN FARRELL

Best role: In Bruges (2008)

MICHAEL FASSBENDER

Best role: Steve Jobs (2015)

RALPH FIENNES

Best role: The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

TINA FEY

Best role: 30 Rock (2006–2013)

COLIN FIRTH

Best role: Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)

JANE FONDA

Best role: Barefoot in the Park (1967)

HARRISON FORD

Best role: Star Wars/The Empire Strikes Back/Return of the Jedi/The Force Awakens (1977/1981/1983/2015)

MACKENZIE FOY

Best role: Interstellar (2014)

JAMES FRANCO

Best role: The Deuce (2017-)

RICHARD GERE

Best role: Time Out of Mind (2015)

BRENDAN GLEESON

Best role: In Bruges (2008)

DOMHNALL GLEESON

Best role: About Time (2011)

DONALD GLOVER

Best role: Community (2009–2015) Honourable mention: Atlanta (2016-)

JEFF GOLDBLUM

Best role: Independence Day (1996)

JOHN GOODMAN

Best role: Barton Fink (1991)

RYAN GOSLING

Best role: La La Land (2016) Honourable mention: Drive (2011)

TOM HANKS

Best role: The Polar Express (2004) Honourable mention: Forrest Gump (1994)

WOODY HARRELSON

Best role: True Detective (2014)

NEIL PATRICK HARRIS

Best role: How I Met Your Mother (2005–2014)

ANNE HATHAWAY

Best role: The Dark Knight Rises (2012) Honourable mention: Les Miserables (2012)

ETHAN HAWKE

Best role: Boyhood (2014) Honourable mention: Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight (1995/2004/2013)

SALLY HAWKINS

Best role: Blue Jasmine (2013)

DUSTIN HOFFMAN

Best role: The Graduate (1967) Honourable mention: Tootsie (1982)

HOLLY HUNTER

Best role: The Incredibles (2004)

OSCAR ISAAC

Best role: A Most Violent Year (2014) Honourable mention: Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

HUGH JACKMAN

Best role: Les Miserables (2012) Honourable mention: The Wolverine/Logan (2013/2017)

LILY JAMES

Best role: War & Peace (2016)

ALISON JANNEY

Best role: The West Wing (1999–2006) Honourable mention: American Beauty (1999)

RICHARD JENKINS

Best role: Step Brothers (2008) Honourable mention: Olive Kitteridge (2014)

FELICITY JONES

Best role: Like Crazy (2011)

MICHAEL KEATON

Best role: Beetlejuice (1988)

RICHARD KIND

Best role: Inside Out (2015) Honourable mention: A Serious Man (2009)

PETER KRAUSE

Best role: Parenthood (2009–2015) Honourable mention: Six Feet Under (2001–2005)

ANGELA LANSBURY

Best role: Bedknobs & Broomsticks (1971)

BRIE LARSON

Best role: Room (2015)

JUDE LAW

Best role: The Young Pope (2016)

KYLE MACLACHLAN

Best role: Twin Peaks (2017)

TOBEY MAGUIRE

Best role: Spider-Man 2

JOHN MALKOVICH

Best role: Being John Malkovich (1999)

EDDIE MARSAN

Best role: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (2015)

JAMES MCAVOY

Best role: Split (2017)

MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY

Best role: Interstellar (2014)

FRANCES MCDORMAND

Best role: Olive Kitteridge (2014)

EWAN MCGREGOR

Best role: Trainspotting (1996)

MICHAEL MCKEAN

Best role: Better Call Saul (2015-)

BEN MENDELSOHN

Best role: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

T.J. MILLER

Best role: Silicon Valley (2014-)

TRACY MORGAN

Best role: 30 Rock (2006–2013)

BILL MURRAY

Best role: Lost in Translation (2003) Honourable mention: Groundhog Day (1993)

DEAN NORRIS

Best role: Breaking Bad (2008–2013)

EDWARD NORTON

Best role: Fight Club (1999) Honourable mention: Birdman (2014)

BOB ODENKIRK

Best role: Better Call Saul (2015-)

TERRY O’QUINN

Best role: Lost (2004–2010)

AL PACINO

Best role: The Godfather Part II (1974) Honourable mention: Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

SARAH PAULSON

Best role: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (2006–2007) Honourable mention: The People vs O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (2016)

AUBREY PLAZA

Best role: Parks & Recreation (2009–2015)

ZACHARY QUINTO

Best role: Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

JOSH RADNOR

Best role: How I Met Your Mother (2005–2014)

JIM RASH

Best role: Community (2009–2015)

ROBERT REDFORD

Best role: The Way We Were (1973) Honourable mention: Barefoot in the Park (1967)

JOHN C. REILLY

Best role: Magnolia (1999) Honourable mention: Step Brothers (2008)

BRITT ROBERTSON

Best role: Under the Dome (2013–2015)

SAM ROCKWELL

Best role: Moon (2009) Honourable mention: Iron Man 2 (2010)

RAY ROMANO

Best role: Parenthood (2009–2015)

MARK RUFFALO

Best role: Zodiac (2007) Honourable mention: The Avengers (2012)

MARK RYLANCE

Best role: Bridge of Spies (2015)

ADAM SANDLER

Best role: Funny People (2009) Honourable mention: Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

RICHARD SCHIFF

Best role: The West Wing (1999–2006)

JASON SCHWARTZMAN

Best role: Rushmore (1998)

ANDY SERKIS

Best role: The Lord of the Rings (2001/2002/2003) Honourable mention: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

MICHAEL SHANNON

Best role: Nocturnal Animals (2016)

MARTIN SHEEN

Best role: The West Wing (1999–2006) Honourable mention: Badlands (1973)

J.K. SIMMONS

Best role: Whiplash (2014)

STELLAN SKARSGARD

Best role: Good Will Hunting (1996)

COBIE SMULDERS

Best role: How I Met Your Mother (2005–2013)

SISSY SPACEK

Best role: Badlands (1973) Honourable mention: The Waltons (1971–1981)

KEVIN SPACEY

Best role: American Beauty (1999) Honourable mention: Se7en (1995)

TIMOTHY SPALL

Best role: Mr. Turner (2014) Honourable mention: Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

OCTAVIA SPENCER

Best role: The Help (2011)

HARRY DEAN STANTON

Best role: Paris, Texas (1984)

Harry Dean Stanton has died since this list was published.

EMMA STONE

Best role: La La Land (2016) Honourable mention: Easy A (2010)

MERYL STREEP

Best role: The Deer Hunter (1978)

MICHAEL STUHLBARG

Best role: A Serious Man (2009) Honourable mention: Steve Jobs (2015)

MILES TELLER

Best role: Whiplash (2014 Honourable mention: The Spectacular Now (2013)

CHARLIZE THERON

Best role: Young Adult (2011) Honourable mention: Atomic Blonde (2017)

JUSTIN THEROUX

Best role: The Leftovers (2014–2017) Honourable mention: Mulholland Dr. (2001)

RICHARD THOMAS

Best role: The Waltons (1971–1981)

EMMA THOMPSON

Best role: Saving Mr. Banks (2013)

STANLEY TUCCI

Best role: Easy A (2010) Honourable mention: The Hunger Games (2012)

JOHN TURTURRO

Best role: Barton Fink (1991) Honourable mention: The Night Of (2016)

DICK VAN DYKE

Best role: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) Honourable mention: Mary Poppins (1965)

SAM WATERSTON

Best role: The Newsroom (2012–2014)

BRADLEY WHITFORD

Best role: The West Wing (1999–2006) Honourable mention: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

MAE WHITMAN

Best role: Parenthood (2009–2015)

KRISTEN WIIG

Best role: Paul (2011)

BRUCE WILLIS

Best role: Moonrise Kingdom (2012) Honourable mention: Die Hard (1988)

SHAILENE WOODLEY

Best role: Big Little Lies (2016) Honourable mention: The Fault in Our Stars (2014)

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.