The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Irish Actors of all time. This list of famous Irish 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 Irish Actors.
With an HPI of 78.93, Michael Gambon is the most famous Irish Actor. His biography has been translated into 51 different languages on wikipedia.
Sir Michael John Gambon (; born 19 October 1940) is an Irish-English actor. Regarded as one of Ireland and Britain's most distinguished actors, he is known for his work on stage and screen. Gambon started his professional acting career training under Laurence Olivier as one of the original members of the Royal National Theatre. Over his six decade career in film, television and the theatre, Gambon has garnered multiple accolades including three Olivier Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, and four BAFTA Awards. Gambon gained international prominence for his portrayal of Professor Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter film series from 2004 to 2011, replacing the late Richard Harris. Having begun his career in the theatre with Olivier with the National Theatre Company at the Old Vic, Gambon appeared in many productions of works by William Shakespeare such as Othello, Hamlet, Macbeth and Coriolanus. Gambon has been nominated for thirteen Olivier Awards for his work on the London stage. He won three awards including for his performance as Eddie Carbone in Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge in 1987. He also won for his performances in Alan Ayckbourn's plays A Chorus of Disapproval and Man of the Moment. For his work on the Broadway stage, he received a Tony Award nomination for Best Actor in a Play for his role as Tom Sergeant in David Hare's Skylight in 1997. He also received a Drama Desk Award, and Olivier Award nomination. In 2013, Gambon took part in the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the National Theatre.Gambon made his film debut in Othello (1965) alongside Laurence Olivier and Maggie Smith. Gambon's other films include Peter Greenaway's The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989), Iain Softley's The Wings of the Dove (1997), Michael Mann's The Insider (1999), Robert Altman's Gosford Park (2001), Michael Apted's Amazing Grace (2006), Tom Hooper's The King's Speech (2010), Dustin Hoffman's Quartet (2012), and Stephen Frears' Victoria & Abdul (2017). Gambon has also appeared in the Wes Anderson films The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), and Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009). He is known for his performances in television programmes such as The Singing Detective (1986), Wives and Daughters (1999), Path to War (2002), Cranford (2007), Emma (2009), The Casual Vacancy (2015), Churchill's Secret (2016), and Little Women (2017). Gambon was knighted in 1998 for services to drama. He has received four BAFTA TV Awards, three Olivier Awards (a thirteen-time nominee), and the 2017 Irish Film & Television Academy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2020, he was listed at No. 28 on The Irish Times' list of Ireland's greatest film actors. He retired from stage acting in 2015 due to memory loss, but continues to act on screen.
With an HPI of 77.21, Peter O'Toole is the 2nd most famous Irish Actor. His biography has been translated into 92 different languages.
Peter Seamus O'Toole (; 2 August 1932 – 14 December 2013) was a British stage and film actor. He attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and began working in the theatre, gaining recognition as a Shakespearean actor at the Bristol Old Vic and with the English Stage Company. In 1959 he made his West End debut in The Long and the Short and the Tall, and played the title role in Hamlet in the National Theatre's first production in 1963. Excelling on the London stage, O'Toole was known for his "hellraiser" lifestyle off it.Making his film debut in 1959, O'Toole achieved international recognition playing T. E. Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) for which he received his first nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor. He was nominated for this award another seven times – for playing King Henry II in both Becket (1964) and The Lion in Winter (1968), Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969), The Ruling Class (1972), The Stunt Man (1980), My Favorite Year (1982), and Venus (2006) – and holds the record for the most Oscar nominations for acting without a win (tied with Glenn Close). In 2002, he was awarded the Academy Honorary Award for his career achievements.O'Toole was the recipient of four Golden Globe Awards, one BAFTA Award for Best British Actor and one Primetime Emmy Award. Other performances include What's New Pussycat? (1965), How to Steal a Million (1966), Supergirl (1984), and minor roles in The Last Emperor (1987) and Troy (2004). He also voiced Anton Ego, the restaurant critic in Pixar's Ratatouille (2007).
With an HPI of 76.88, Pierce Brosnan is the 3rd most famous Irish Actor. His biography has been translated into 81 different languages.
Pierce Brendan Brosnan (; born 16 May 1953) is an Irish actor and film producer. He is best known as the fifth actor to play secret agent James Bond in the Bond film series, starring in four films from 1995 to 2002 (GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, and Die Another Day) and in multiple video games. After leaving school at age 16, Brosnan began training in commercial illustration and went on to attend the Drama Centre in London for three years. Following a stage acting career, he rose to popularity in the television series Remington Steele (1982–1987). After the conclusion of the series, Brosnan appeared in films such as the Cold War spy film The Fourth Protocol (1987) and the comedy Mrs. Doubtfire (1993). After achieving worldwide fame for his role as James Bond, Brosnan took the lead in other major films including the epic disaster adventure film Dante's Peak (1997) and the remake of the heist film The Thomas Crown Affair (1999). Since leaving the role of Bond, he has starred in films such as the musical comedy Mamma Mia! (2008), the political thriller The Ghost Writer (2010), the action fantasy Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010), the action spy thriller The November Man (2014) and the Mamma Mia! sequel Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018). Brosnan has received two Golden Globe Award nominations, first for the miniseries Nancy Astor (1982) and next for the dark comedy film The Matador (2005). In 1996, along with American film producer Beau St. Clair, he formed a Los Angeles-based production company called Irish DreamTime. He has also become known for his charitable work and environmental activism. In 1997, Brosnan received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to the film industry. In 2020, he was listed at No. 15 on The Irish Times' list of greatest Irish film actors.
With an HPI of 76.36, Richard Harris is the 4th most famous Irish Actor. His biography has been translated into 57 different languages.
Richard St John Francis Harris (1 October 1930 – 25 October 2002) was an Irish actor and singer. He appeared on stage and in many films, notably as Corrado Zeller in Michelangelo Antonioni's Red Desert, Frank Machin in This Sporting Life, for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor, and as King Arthur in the 1967 film Camelot, as well as the 1981 revival of the stage musical. He played an English aristocrat captured by the Sioux in A Man Called Horse (1970), Oliver Cromwell in Cromwell (1970), English Bob in Clint Eastwood's Western film Unforgiven (1992), Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius in Gladiator (2000), The Count of Monte Cristo (2002) as Abbé Faria, and Albus Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter films: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002), the latter of which was his final film role. Harris had a number-one singing hit in Australia, Jamaica and Canada, and a top-ten hit in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and United States with his 1968 recording of Jimmy Webb's song "MacArthur Park". In 2020, he was listed at number 3 on The Irish Times list of Ireland's greatest film actors.
With an HPI of 72.78, Katie McGrath is the 5th most famous Irish Actor. Her biography has been translated into 33 different languages.
Katie McGrath () is an Irish actress. In television, she is best known for portraying Morgana Pendragon in the BBC One series Merlin (2008–2012), Lucy Westenra on the British-American series Dracula (2013–2014), and Sarah Bennett in the first season of the Canadian horror anthology series Slasher (2016), and for her role as Lena Luthor on the American superhero series Supergirl (2016–2021). Her film roles include Lady Thelma Furness in the drama film W.E. and Jules Daly in the Christmas movie A Princess for Christmas (2011), Zara Young in the science fiction adventure film Jurassic World (2015), and Elsa in the epic fantasy film King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017).
With an HPI of 71.72, Lola Montez is the 6th most famous Irish Actor. Her biography has been translated into 32 different languages.
Eliza Rosanna Gilbert, Countess of Landsfeld (17 February 1821 – 17 January 1861), better known by the stage name Lola Montez (), was an Irish dancer and actress who became famous as a Spanish dancer, courtesan, and mistress of King Ludwig I of Bavaria, who made her Gräfin von Landsfeld (Countess of Landsfeld). At the start of the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states, she was forced to flee. She proceeded to the United States via Austria, Switzerland, France and London, returning to her work as an entertainer and lecturer.
With an HPI of 71.70, Gabriel Byrne is the 7th most famous Irish Actor. His biography has been translated into 41 different languages.
Gabriel James Byrne (born 12 May 1950) is an Irish actor, film director, film producer, screenwriter, audiobook narrator, and author. His acting career began in the Focus Theatre before he joined London's Royal Court Theatre in 1979. Byrne's screen debut came in the Irish drama serial The Riordans and the spin-off show Bracken. He has starred in more than 70 films for some of cinema's best known directors. For his Broadway work, he has received three Tony nominations for roles in the work of Eugene O'Neill as well as the Outer Critics Circle Award for A Touch of the Poet. For his television work, Byrne has been nominated for three Emmys. For his performance in HBO's American drama In Treatment (2008–2010) in the role of Paul Weston, one of his most identifiable roles, he won a Golden Globe Award and was nominated for two Emmy Awards and two Satellite Awards. He has starred in many films, including: Excalibur (1981), Miller's Crossing (1990), The Usual Suspects (1995), Stigmata (1999), End of Days (1999), Spider (2002), Jindabyne (2006), Vampire Academy (2014), The 33 (2015), and Hereditary (2018), and co-wrote The Last of the High Kings (1996). Byrne has also produced several films, including the Academy Award–nominated In the Name of the Father (1993). Since 2019, he has starred in a TV series adaptation of War of the Worlds. In 2018, Byrne was awarded the Irish Film and Television Academy Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to Irish cinema. In 2020, he was listed at number 17 on The Irish Times list of Ireland's greatest film actors.
With an HPI of 71.27, Cillian Murphy is the 8th most famous Irish Actor. His biography has been translated into 61 different languages.
Cillian Murphy (; born 25 May 1976) is an Irish actor. He was the lead singer, guitarist, and lyricist of the rock band The Sons of Mr. Green Genes. He turned down a record deal in the late 1990s and began acting on stage and in short and independent films. His first notable film roles include Darren in the drama Disco Pigs (2001), Jim in the zombie horror 28 Days Later (2002), John in the dark comedy Intermission (2003), Jackson Rippner in the action thriller Red Eye (2005), and Patrick "Kitten" Braden in the comedy-drama Breakfast on Pluto (2005). For the last performance, he was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy and won an Irish Film and Television Award for Best Actor. Murphy is known for his collaborations with director Christopher Nolan, playing the Scarecrow in The Dark Knight Trilogy of superhero films (2005–2012) and appearing in the sci-fi action thriller Inception (2010), the war drama Dunkirk (2017), and in the upcoming biopic Oppenheimer (2023) as the titular physicist. Other films in which he has appeared include the war drama The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006), the sci-fi thriller Sunshine (2007), the sci-fi action thriller In Time (2011), Jozef Gabčík in the war drama Anthropoid (2016), and Emmett in the horror A Quiet Place Part II (2021). Since 2013, he has starred as Tommy Shelby in the BBC crime drama series Peaky Blinders, for which he won the Irish Film and Television Award for Best Actor in 2017 and 2018. In 2011, Murphy won the Irish Times Theatre Award for Best Actor and Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Solo Performance for the one-man play Misterman. In 2020, he was ranked No. 12 on The Irish Times' list of greatest Irish film actors. He is married to Irish visual artist Yvonne McGuinness, with whom he has two sons; they reside in Dublin.
With an HPI of 70.96, Maureen O'Hara is the 9th most famous Irish Actor. Her biography has been translated into 52 different languages.
Maureen O'Hara (born Maureen FitzSimons; 17 August 1920 – 24 October 2015) was an Irish actress and singer, who became successful in Hollywood throughout the 1940s to 1960s. She was a natural redhead who was known for playing passionate but sensible heroines, often in Westerns and adventure films. She worked with director John Ford and longtime friend John Wayne on numerous occasions. O'Hara was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, in a Catholic family, and aspired to become an actress from a very young age. She trained with the Rathmines Theatre Company from the age of 10 and at the Abbey Theatre from the age of 14. She was given a screen test, which was deemed unsatisfactory, but Charles Laughton saw potential in her, and arranged for her to co-star with him in Alfred Hitchcock's Jamaica Inn in 1939. She moved to Hollywood the same year to appear with him in the production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and was given a contract by RKO Pictures. From there, she went on to enjoy a long and highly successful career, and acquired the nickname "the Queen of Technicolor". She appeared in films such as How Green Was My Valley (1941) (her first collaboration with John Ford), The Black Swan with Tyrone Power (1942), The Spanish Main (1945), Sinbad the Sailor (1947), the Christmas classic Miracle on 34th Street (1947) with John Payne and Natalie Wood, and Comanche Territory (1950). O'Hara made her first film with John Wayne, the actor with whom she is most closely associated, in Rio Grande (1950); this was followed by The Quiet Man (1952), The Wings of Eagles (1957), McLintock! (1963), and Big Jake (1971). Such was her strong chemistry with Wayne that many assumed they were married or in a relationship. In the 1960s, O'Hara increasingly turned to more motherly roles as she aged, appearing in films such as The Deadly Companions (1961), The Parent Trap (1961), and The Rare Breed (1966). She retired from the industry in 1971, but returned 20 years later to appear with John Candy in Only the Lonely (1991). In the late 1970s, O'Hara helped run her third husband Charles F. Blair Jr.'s flying business in Saint Croix in the United States Virgin Islands, and edited a magazine, but later sold them to spend more time in Glengarriff in Ireland. She was married three times, and had one daughter, Bronwyn, with her second husband. Her autobiography, 'Tis Herself, published in 2004, became a New York Times bestseller. In November 2014, she was presented with an Honorary Academy Award with the inscription "To Maureen O'Hara, one of Hollywood's brightest stars, whose inspiring performances glowed with passion, warmth and strength". In 2020, she was ranked number one on The Irish Times list of Ireland's greatest film actors.
With an HPI of 69.15, Bernard Lee is the 10th most famous Irish Actor. His biography has been translated into 27 different languages.
John Bernard Lee (10 January 1908 – 16 January 1981), known as Bernard Lee, was an English actor, best known for his role as M in the first eleven Eon-produced James Bond films. Lee's film career spanned the years 1934 to 1979, though he had appeared on stage from the age of six. He was trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Lee appeared in over one hundred films, as well as on stage and in television dramatisations. He was known for his roles as authority figures, often playing military characters or policemen in films such as The Third Man, The Blue Lamp, The Battle of the River Plate, and Whistle Down the Wind. He died of stomach cancer in 1981, aged 73.
Pantheon has 69 people classified as actors born between 1761 and 2001. Of these 69, 49 (71.01%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living actors include Michael Gambon, Pierce Brosnan, and Katie McGrath. The most famous deceased actors include Peter O'Toole, Richard Harris, and Lola Montez. As of October 2020, 8 new actors have been added to Pantheon including Colm Wilkinson, Milo O'Shea, and Amybeth McNulty.
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Which Actors were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 20 most globally memorable Actors since 1700.