I don't think anyone comes close for me, as nearly every single movie he's made, I've enjoyed his character even if I didn't necesarrily enjoy the movie itself. No matter who or what he's portraying, I'm always interested and want to me more screen time for him. To me, that alone makes him worthy of the top of the list.
This is such a bittersweet spot for Heath, because I honestly do believe that if he were still around 10, 20 years from now, that he might be at the top of this list. His tragic death at such a young age does nothing to ruin the reputation he built over such a short time as an amazing and varied actor. One of the greats that could've been great for a really long time. I guess we'll just have to accept that we were lucky enough to see his greatness for the short time he was around.
There are few today who do it better than Leo for me. Sure, in his early days, for the most part he was just considered the next pretty boy in the pile. But even before Titanic and Romeo and Juliet, he was captivating as a mentally challenged boy in Gilbert Grape and has since had a solid stable of mindblowing and gritty movies such as Inception and The Departed to take that romantic edge off the earlier portion of his career. A personal favorite of mine was his character in The Beach, which is an extremely underrated movie.
Harrison doesn't really do much anymore though despite how bad the movie may or may have not been, running around as Indiana Jones again at his age 2 years ago show just how dedicated he is at his profession he still is and always has been. But he was the king of the blockbuster action movies for nearly 20 years. Han Solo and Indiana Jones are two of the most respected and beloved characters of all time and it's no coincidence that Ford was in the role of each.
Tom Hanks is able to do it all. Between his heartfelt but funny bone tickling roles in such movies as Forrest Gump and Big, he brings a certain every-man feel to other more true to life movies such as Apollo 13 and Castaway. Tom doesn't feel like an actor so much as someone who is lucky enough to be able to show us the emmotion he pours into the characters he portrays. You can almost see it in his eyes that he loves his career.
Russell is just a powerhouse actor who can stir the testerone in the most fickle of moviegoer's. Films such as Gladiator, American Gangster, and Robin Hood allow Russell to show just how much of a gruff badass he really is. But he's got the acting chops to hang with the big boys as he showed off in Cinderella Man and A Beautiful Mind as well. And in 3:10 To Yuma, he proved he can be just as likeable even when portraying a villian.
Most people were won-over by Phoenix when he so famously took on the role of the man in black Johnny Cash a few short years ago. Since then, things have gone a bit downhill for Joaquin, but noone can doubt that he is one of the most stirring actors in the world today. And he can do it in a number of ways as well, from subtle comedic roles such as in Signs, to being one of the most vile hated villians of all time in Gladiator, Joaquin can change it up at any moment. Here's hoping he gets his head on straight and gets back to doing what he does best.
Though a lot of his attempts at winning an oscar and going for the dramatic approach have not worked out so well, there are still the odd films where Carrey proves he's more than just something to laugh it. The Truman Show was an impressive range for the actor who made his name as one of the best comedic performers of all time back in the 90's with Ace Ventura, Dumb and Dumber and The Mask highlighting his resume. The fact that Jim still comes back to get the audience laughing again and succeeding time and time again shows he knows where his better traits lie, but don't let that fool you, he is a quality actor all around when he wants to be.
I know, I know.... so many people hate poor Tommy nowadays, but the fact is, he is still one of the biggest stars of the 80's and the 90's and still pulls in the audience pretty well today despite being so poorly received by most since his meltdown. This is no accident as Cruise has seen and done it all and is still only in his mid 40's. An actor who knows no limits and who studies the art of the job like no other, like him or not, there is no denying that he knows how to perform.
One of the craziest SOB's to ever end up on the silver screen, Jack knows how to make an audience sweat. His disturbing but amazing performances in classics like The Shining and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest have given way to great comedic, heartwarming and of course, the continuing badass performances of the last 2 decades. Recently, The Bucket List and The Departed have proven that old Jack plans on sticking around near the top for awhile yet.
Viggo will always be known to most as Aragorn (and rightfully so, as he was amazing in that role), but Viggo can do a lot more than swing a sword and make out with a hot elf princess. His steel gaze has served him well in some darker roles recently including A History of Violence, The Road, and Eastern Promises. He has chosen a lot of smaller roles both before his break in Lord of the Rings and subsequenly after as well ,but his talent has remained the same. An actor I would honestly like to see much more of in the future as he seems to disapear for long stretches of time.
Kevin Bacon will likely be remembered most for his teen flicks from the 80's that were so successful, which is unfortunate because he kind of flies under the radar at the moment. But he has delivered performance after performance and has gone a bit unnoticed since the early 90's. His portrayal as the outsider astronaut in Apollo 13 was very realistic and fun to watch, as was some of his roles in lesser known movies such as Trapped, Stir of Echoes, and The Woodsman. Let's not forget he was a player in the Oscar worthy Mystic River as well. One of the great supporting actors out there who does really well in the role of a tortured, torn person.
By far one of the coolest and most identifiable actors in all of Hollywood, Bruce seems like he's been winning audiences over for decades longer than he has been. He's remained fairly consistent over the years in the sense that he's managed to always keep himself relevant and flexible in whatever roles he chooses to play. Willis is at his best of course when he's sharing the screen with giant explosions and gunfire everywhere, but has an amazing comedic side and has of course done quite well with the mystery/thriller category over the years. His surprise (at the time of course) portrayal of a man who finds out he is dead and hangin around with ghosts is one of film's all time classic endings.
This is one of the more up and coming picks on the list simply due to his age obviously, but even being so young, Emile has been in a surprising amount of different roles over the years already. He really got noticed in the raunchy Girl Next Door and moved on rather easily to more dramatic and dark roles such as Alpha Dog and Lords of Dogtown. But the one performance so far in his young career that has earned him a spot on my list is his role as a runaway in Into the Wild. He ran the gamut with his acting skills in that film and I sense that Mr. Hirsh will continue to impress going forward.
Not an actor that the younger generation will really recognize so much anymore, Goldblum lets his real personality shine through on the screen and usually sets it free to great fanfare in most of his roles. Most will remember his funny yet intelligently interesting characters from Jurassic Park and Independence Day, but even dating back to The Fly and The Big Chill, Goldblum has always had something real about him. Hard to explain, but it seems like he's not even acting at all, it seems to all be very natural for him.
Marky Mark has gone from hilarious early 90's joke to one of the most well-liked and respected actors of the last 10-15 years. Switching from comedy, to action star, to show-stealing supporting roles constantly, whenver Wahlberg shows up, for the most part, it is very welcome to the audience. Strangely, Wahlberg is another one of those actor's whose natural personality seems to work well with his role whether he's laughing it up with Will Ferrell or Steve Carell in The Other Guys and Date Night, or playing the rugged tough, hotheaded fella in Rock Star, The Basketball Diaries, Italian Job and nearly everything else he does, Marky Mark does do it well. Thankfully he doesn't rap anymore.
I do believe that Will Ferrell simply has what most of us do not, the genuine gift of being funny as hell in almost anything he does. And few comedic actors have scored so many hits doing something so natural and improvised as Ferrell has in his career. That's the beauty of Will's comedy, he just makes most of it up as he goes along. And it works. Most of his drama roles however have not, so it's clearly a case of an actor being really talented in one genre of film, but he's so consistently good at it that he deserves a spot on this list for me.
Nick Cage has always been a personal favorite actor not so much because of anything that jumps out specifically, I've just always found him entertaining. Maybe it's the roles that he chooses, I don't know, but a lot of his movies in the 90's especially, have always left me happy in the end. Face/Off, ConAir, The Rock, Gone in 60 Seconds (I love cars so to me, this WAS a good movie haha), seemed to string together hit after hit for Cage. After those blockbuster's Nick showed that he can do more than the action role as he did a great job in Lord of War, Adaptation and The Weather Man as well as taking on a very rough, career endangering role in World Trade Center which he pulled off as good as anyone could have in such an unwanted film. Sure, he had a rough spell for a few years in the past decade where he seemed to be flopping, but his career is already more than solidified with the amount of classic movies he's starred in up to now.
Maybe more popular for his looks than his acting, the fact is Brad is a genuinely good actor trying to deal with the repuation he has to carry around. As much as women have always loved looking at him, guys have always wanted to have the smooth swagger of Pitt such as he displayed in Ocean's 11/12/13, Fight Club and Mr and Mrs. Smith. (Seriously, how many of us have dreamt of doing the things Brad has on and offscreen with Angelina). But Brad has always done well in any role he's had to step into. He has great far-reaching depth in both his classics (Se7en, Troy, Snatch) as well as some maybe forgotten films of his (The Devil's Own, Spy Game, Kalifornia). Good looks or not, the man can act.
Perhaps out of the 20 actors listed on here, none has been so far up and so far down as Travolta. A mega breakout star in the 70's and early 80's with Grease and Saturday Night Fever among others, the late 80's and early 90's were not as kind to the former superstar. Then came Pulp Fiction. Travolta brought it all back with his role as Vinny Vegas and would keep the momentum going by following that up with a great mix of equally savvy, suave roles (Face/Off, Get Shorty, Be Cool) and genuine, dramatic characters (Michael, Ladder 49). Here's hoping Johnny doesn't have to go through any more cold streaks in his career in order to pull off some more keepers.
Just a list of my personal favorite actors from the past 20 years or so.