The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Chinese Actors of all time. This list of famous Chinese Actors is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Chinese Actors.
With an HPI of 79.49, Toshiro Mifune is the most famous Chinese Actor. His biography has been translated into 119 different languages on wikipedia.
Toshiro Mifune (三船敏郎, Mifune Toshirō, April 1, 1920 – December 24, 1997) was a Japanese actor who appeared in over 150 feature films. He is best known for his 16-film collaboration (1948–1965) with Akira Kurosawa in such works as Rashomon, Seven Samurai, The Hidden Fortress, Throne of Blood, and Yojimbo. He also portrayed Miyamoto Musashi in Hiroshi Inagaki's Samurai Trilogy and one earlier Inagaki film, Lord Toranaga in the NBC television miniseries Shōgun, and Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto in three different films.
With an HPI of 76.25, Jet Li is the 2nd most famous Chinese Actor. His biography has been translated into 107 different languages.
Li Lianjie (courtesy name Yangzhong; born 26 April 1963), better known by his stage name Jet Li, is a Chinese film actor, film producer, martial artist, and retired Wushu champion. He is a naturalized Singaporean citizen.After three years of training with acclaimed Wushu teacher Wu Bin, Li won his first national championship for the Beijing Wushu Team. After retiring from competitive Wushu at age 19, he went on to win great acclaim in China as an actor, making his debut with the film Shaolin Temple (1982). He went on to star in many critically acclaimed martial arts epic films, most notably as the lead in Zhang Yimou's Hero (2002), Fist of Legend (1994), and the first three films in the Once Upon a Time in China series (1991–1993), in which he portrayed folk hero Wong Fei-hung. Li's first role in a non-Chinese film was as a villain in Lethal Weapon 4 (1998), and his first leading role in a Hollywood film was as Han Sing in Romeo Must Die (2000). He has gone on to star in many international action films, including in French cinema with the Luc Besson-produced films Kiss of the Dragon (2001) and Unleashed (2005). He co-starred in The One (2001) and War (2007) with Jason Statham, The Forbidden Kingdom (2008) with Jackie Chan, all three of The Expendables films with Sylvester Stallone, and as the title character villain in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008).
With an HPI of 71.65, Donnie Yen is the 3rd most famous Chinese Actor. His biography has been translated into 54 different languages.
Donnie Yen Ji-dan (Chinese: 甄子丹; born 27 July 1963) is a Hong Kong actor, martial artist, film director, producer, action choreographer, and multiple-time world wushu tournament champion.Yen is one of Hong Kong's top action stars. Yen is widely credited for bringing mixed martial arts (MMA) into the mainstream Asian cinema by choreographing MMA in many of his films since the early 2000s. The first Chinese UFC champion Zhang Weili states that Yen's films introduced her to MMA. Yen has displayed skill in an array of martial arts, being well-versed in Tai Chi, Boxing, Kickboxing, Jeet Kune Do, Hapkido, Taekwondo, Karate, Muay Thai, Wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Wing Chun, and Wushu. One of the most popular film stars in Asia of the early 2000s, Yen is consistently one of the highest-paid actors in Asia. Yen earned HK$220 million (US$28.4 million) from four films and six advertisements in 2013.Yen is credited by many for contributing to the popularisation of Wing Chun in China. He played Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man in the 2008 film Ip Man, which was a box office success. This has led to an increase in the number of people taking up Wing Chun, leading to hundreds of new Wing Chun schools being opened up in mainland China and other parts of Asia. Ip Chun, the eldest son of Ip Man, even mentioned that he is grateful to Yen for making his family's art popular and allowing his father's legacy to be remembered. He has also gained international recognition for playing Chirrut Îmwe in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), Xiang in xXx: Return of Xander Cage (2017) and Commander Tung in Disney's live-action Mulan (2020).
With an HPI of 71.17, Yoshiko Yamaguchi is the 4th most famous Chinese Actor. Her biography has been translated into 29 different languages.
Yoshiko Yamaguchi (山口 淑子, Yamaguchi Yoshiko, February 12, 1920 – September 7, 2014) was a Japanese singer, actress, journalist, and politician. Born in China, she made an international career in film in China, Hong Kong, Japan and the United States. Early in her career, the Manchukuo Film Association concealed her Japanese origin and she went by the Chinese name Li Hsiang-lan (李香蘭), rendered in Japanese as Ri Kōran. This allowed her to represent China in Japanese propaganda movies. After the war, she appeared in Japanese movies under her real name, Yamaguchi Yoshiko, as well as in several English language movies under the stage name, Shirley Yamaguchi. After becoming a journalist in the 1950s under the name Yoshiko Otaka, she was elected as a member of the Japanese parliament in 1974, and served for 18 years. After retiring from politics, she served as vice president of the Asian Women's Fund.
With an HPI of 71.04, Bolo Yeung is the 5th most famous Chinese Actor. His biography has been translated into 28 different languages.
Yang Sze (simplified Chinese: 杨斯; traditional Chinese: 楊斯; pinyin: Yáng Sī; Jyutping: Yeung4 Si1; born 3 July 1946), better known as Bolo Yeung, is a Hong Kong former competitive bodybuilder, martial artist and a martial arts film actor. Primarily cast as the villain in the movies in which he stars, he is best known for his performances as Bolo in Enter the Dragon (starring Bruce Lee), as Chong Li in Bloodsport (starring Jean-Claude Van Damme), Chang Lee in Bloodfight (starring Yasuaki Kurata and Simon Yam) and for his numerous appearances and long career in Hong Kong martial arts films.
With an HPI of 69.31, Gong Li is the 6th most famous Chinese Actor. Her biography has been translated into 60 different languages.
Gong Li (Chinese: 巩俐; born 31 December 1965) is a Chinese-born Singaporean actress. She starred in three of the four Chinese-language films that were nominated for the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film. Gong was born in Shenyang, Liaoning, and grew up in Jinan, Shandong. She enrolled at the Central Academy of Drama in Beijing, from where she graduated in 1989. While a student at the Academy, she was spotted by director Zhang Yimou and debuted in Zhang's Red Sorghum in 1987. Gong and Zhang's professional and personal relationship received much media attention in the Chinese-speaking world, as they continued to collaborate on a string of critically acclaimed movies, including the Oscar-nominated features Ju Dou (1990) and Raise the Red Lantern (1991). For her role in the Zhang-directed The Story of Qiu Ju (1992), Gong won the Volpi Cup for Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival. Gong also starred in the Chen Kaige-directed Oscar-nominated Farewell My Concubine (1993), for which she won Best Supporting Actress at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards. In English-language films, she won the National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actress for her Memoirs of a Geisha (2005), directed by Rob Marshall. Other notable appearances include Flirting Scholar (1993), To Live (1994), Chinese Box (1997), The Emperor and the Assassin (1998), Breaking the Silence (2000), Zhou Yu's Train (2003), 2046 (2004), Miami Vice (2006), Curse of the Golden Flower (2006), and Coming Home (2014). Gong was head of jury at the 2000 Berlin Film Festival and the 2002 Venice Film Festival, the first Asian to hold such position at both events. Throughout her career, Gong has won three Hundred Flowers Awards, two Golden Rooster Awards, a Hong Kong Film Award, and honorary awards at the Berlin and Cannes film festivals. She was appointed a Commander (Commandeur) of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the government of France in 2010.
With an HPI of 67.66, Run Run Shaw is the 7th most famous Chinese Actor. His biography has been translated into 35 different languages.
Sir Run Run Shaw (23 November 1907 – 7 January 2014), also known as Shao Yifu and Siu Yat-fu, was a Hong Kong entertainment mogul and philanthropist. He was one of the most influential figures in the Asian entertainment industry. He founded the Shaw Brothers Studio, one of the largest film production companies in Hong Kong, and TVB, the dominant television company in Hong Kong. A well-known philanthropist, Shaw donated billions of Hong Kong dollars to educational institutions in Hong Kong and mainland China. More than 5,000 buildings on Chinese college campuses bear his name, as does Shaw College of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He also established the Shaw Prize for Astronomy, Life Science & Medicine and Mathematical Sciences.
With an HPI of 67.14, Shih Kien is the 8th most famous Chinese Actor. Her biography has been translated into 17 different languages.
Shek Wing-cheung (1 January 1913 – 3 June 2009), better known by his stage name Shih Kien, Sek Kin, or Sek Gin (Cantonese: Shek Kin; Mandarin: Shi Jian), was a Hong Kong–based Chinese actor. Shih is best known for playing antagonists and villains in several early Hong Kong wuxia and martial arts films that dated back to the black-and-white period, and is most familiar to Western audiences for his portrayal of the primary villain, Han, in the 1973 martial arts film Enter the Dragon, which starred Bruce Lee.
With an HPI of 67.01, Yuen Siu-tien is the 9th most famous Chinese Actor. His biography has been translated into 15 different languages.
Yuen Siu-tien (Chinese: 袁小田) (27 November 1912 – 8 January 1979) (also known as Yuan Xiaotian, Simon Yuen, Sam Seed or "Ol' Dirty") was a Hong Kong martial arts film actor in the late 1970s. Yuen is perhaps best known as Beggar So (a.k.a. Sam Seed) in three films: Drunken Master, Story of Drunken Master and his final film Dance of the Drunk Mantis. He starred in several films with film actors like Jackie Chan and under the direction of his real life son Yuen Woo-ping.
With an HPI of 66.70, Hou Hsiao-hsien is the 10th most famous Chinese Actor. His biography has been translated into 26 different languages.
Hou Hsiao-hsien (Chinese: 侯孝賢; born 8 April 1947) is a Mainland Chinese-born Taiwanese film director, screenwriter, producer and actor. He is a leading figure in world cinema and in Taiwan's New Wave cinema movement. He won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1989 for his film A City of Sadness (1989), and the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015 for The Assassin (2015). Other highly regarded works of his include The Puppetmaster (1993) and Flowers of Shanghai (1998).Hou was voted "Director of the Decade" for the 1990s in a poll of American and international critics by The Village Voice and Film Comment. In a 1998 New York Film Festival worldwide critics' poll, Hou was named "one of the three directors most crucial to the future of cinema." A City of Sadness ranked 117th in the British Film Institute's 2012 Sight & Sound critics' poll of the greatest films ever made. In 2017, Metacritic ranked Hsiao-hsien 16th on its list of the 25 best film directors of the 21st century.
Pantheon has 68 people classified as actors born between 1904 and 1997. Of these 68, 55 (80.88%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living actors include Jet Li, Donnie Yen, and Bolo Yeung. The most famous deceased actors include Toshiro Mifune, Yoshiko Yamaguchi, and Run Run Shaw. As of October 2020, 15 new actors have been added to Pantheon including Yuen Siu-tien, David Chiang, and Wu Ma.
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Which Actors were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 8 most globally memorable Actors since 1700.