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 71.82, Michael Gambon is the most famous Irish Actor. His biography has been translated into 54 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 acting career with Laurence Olivier as one of the original members of the Royal National Theatre. Over his six decade long career he's received three Olivier Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, and four BAFTA Awards. In 1999 he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for services to drama. Having begun his professional career in the theatre with Olivier at 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 winning three times for A Chorus of Disapproval (1985), A View from the Bridge (1987), and Man of the Moment (1990). In 1997 Gambon made his Broadway debut in David Hare's Skylight earning a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play nomination. Gambon made his film debut in Othello (1965). Other notable films include The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989), The Wings of the Dove (1997), The Insider (1999), Gosford Park (2001), Amazing Grace (2006), The King's Speech (2010), Quartet (2012), and Victoria & Abdul (2017). Gambon has also appeared in the Wes Anderson films The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), and Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009). Gambon gained stardom for his role of Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter film series from 2004 to 2011, replacing the late Richard Harris. For his work on television he received four BAFTA Awards for The Singing Detective (1986), Wives and Daughters (1999), Longitude (2000), and Perfect Strangers (2001). He also received two Primetime Emmy Award nominations for Path to War (2002), and Emma (2009). Other notable projects include Cranford (2007), and The Casual Vacancy (2015). In 2017 he received the 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.
With an HPI of 71.81, Pierce Brosnan is the 2nd 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). In 2022, Brosnan played Kent Nelson / Doctor Fate in the DC Extended Universe film Black Adam. Brosnan has received two Golden Globe Award nominations, for the miniseries Nancy Astor (1982) and 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 is also 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 68.74, Richard Harris is the 3rd most famous Irish Actor. His biography has been translated into 61 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), an embattled Irish farmer in Jim Sheridan's The Field (which earned him a second Academy Award nomination for Best Actor), English Bob in Clint Eastwood's revisionist Western 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 the 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's list of Ireland's greatest film actors.
With an HPI of 63.19, Lola Montez is the 4th most famous Irish Actor. Her biography has been translated into 37 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 62.35, Cillian Murphy is the 5th most famous Irish Actor. His biography has been translated into 63 different languages.
Cillian Murphy (; born 25 May 1976) is an Irish actor. Originally 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 credits include Jim in the zombie horror 28 Days Later (2002), the dark comedy Intermission (2003), and the action thriller Red Eye (2005). He played a transgender Irish woman in the comedy-drama Breakfast on Pluto (2005), which earned him a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy. Murphy is also 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 starring 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 the horror A Quiet Place Part II (2021). From 2013 to 2022, he 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, The Irish Times named him one of the greatest Irish film actors.
With an HPI of 62.13, Gabriel Byrne is the 6th most famous Irish Actor. His biography has been translated into 42 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 two 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. The Guardian named him one of the best actors never to have received an Academy Award nomination.
With an HPI of 60.43, Brendan Gleeson is the 7th most famous Irish Actor. His biography has been translated into 46 different languages.
Brendan Gleeson (born 29 March 1955) is an Irish actor and film director. He is the recipient of three IFTA Awards, two BIFA's, and a Primetime Emmy Award and has been nominated twice for a BAFTA Award, five times for a Golden Globe Award and once for an Academy Award. In 2020, he was listed at number 18 on The Irish Times list of Ireland's greatest film actors. He is the father of actors Domhnall Gleeson and Brian Gleeson. He is best known for his performance as Alastor Moody in the Harry Potter films (2005–2010). He is also known for his supporting roles in films such as Braveheart (1995), Michael Collins (1996), 28 Days Later (2002), Gangs of New York (2002), Cold Mountain (2003), Troy (2004), Suffragette (2015), Paddington 2 (2017), The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018), and The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021). He is also known for his leading roles in films such as The General (1998), In Bruges (2008), The Guard (2011), Calvary (2014), Frankie (2019), and The Banshees of Inisherin (2022). He received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the lattermost film. He won an Primetime Emmy Award in 2009 for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in the television film Into the Storm. He also received a Golden Globe Award nomination for his performance as Donald Trump in the Showtime series The Comey Rule (2020). From 2017 to 2019 he starred in the crime series Mr. Mercedes. He received an Emmy Award nomination for Stephen Frears' Sundance TV series State of the Union (2022).
With an HPI of 60.00, Maureen O'Hara is the 8th most famous Irish Actor. Her biography has been translated into 53 different languages.
Maureen O'Hara (née FitzSimons; 17 August 1920 – 24 October 2015) was a native Irish and naturalized American actress and singer, who became successful in Hollywood from the 1940s through to the 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 long-time friend John Wayne on numerous projects. O'Hara was born into a Catholic family and raised in Dublin, Ireland. She 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". O'Hara 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 2009, The Guardian named her one of the best actors never to have received an Academy Award nomination. 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 58.30, David Kelly is the 9th most famous Irish Actor. His biography has been translated into 25 different languages.
David Kelly (11 July 1929 – 12 February 2012) was an Irish actor who had regular roles in several film and television works from the 1950s onwards. One of the most recognisable voices and faces of Irish stage and screen, Kelly was known for his roles as Rashers Tierney in Strumpet City, Cousin Enda in Me Mammy, the builder Mr O'Reilly in Fawlty Towers, Albert Riddle in Robin's Nest, and Grandpa Joe in the film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005). Another notable role was as Michael O'Sullivan in Waking Ned.
With an HPI of 57.64, Colin Farrell is the 10th most famous Irish Actor. His biography has been translated into 59 different languages.
Colin James Farrell (; born 31 May 1976) is an Irish actor. A leading man in blockbusters and independent films since the 2000s, he has received numerous accolades, including two Golden Globe Awards and a nomination for an Academy Award. The Irish Times' named him Ireland's fifth-greatest film actor in 2020.Farrell began acting in the BBC drama series Ballykissangel (1998) and had his film debut in the drama The War Zone (1999). His first lead film role was in the war drama Tigerland (2000), and he had his breakthrough with Steven Spielberg's science fiction film Minority Report (2002). He took on high-profile roles as Bullseye in Daredevil (2003) and Alexander the Great in Alexander (2004), and further starring roles in Michael Mann's Miami Vice (2006) and Woody Allen's Cassandra's Dream (2007). Farrell earned acclaim for playing a rookie hitman in Martin McDonagh's comedy In Bruges (2008), winning a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor. He went on to play a variety of leading and character roles in the comedy Horrible Bosses (2011), the science fiction film Total Recall (2012), the black comedy Seven Psychopaths (2012), the drama Saving Mr. Banks (2013), the dark comedies The Lobster (2015) and The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017), the gothic thriller The Beguiled (2017), and the fantasy film Dumbo (2019). He also starred in the second season of HBO's thriller series True Detective (2015).Farrell has also played Percival Graves in the fantasy film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) and Penguin in the superhero film The Batman (2022). Also in 2022, Farrell gained acclaim for his roles in the science fiction drama After Yang, the survival film Thirteen Lives, and McDonagh's drama The Banshees of Inisherin. For playing a naive Irishman in the lattermost, he won the Volpi Cup for Best Actor and another Golden Globe, in addition to a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor.
Pantheon has 75 people classified as actors born between 1761 and 2001. Of these 75, 54 (72.00%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living actors include Michael Gambon, Pierce Brosnan, and Cillian Murphy. The most famous deceased actors include Richard Harris, Lola Montez, and Maureen O'Hara. As of April 2022, 8 new actors have been added to Pantheon including Tom Moore, Sinéad Cusack, and John Lynch.
1940 - Present
1953 - Present
1976 - Present
1950 - Present
1955 - Present
1976 - Present
1941 - Present
1945 - Present
1968 - Present
1958 - Present
1977 - Present
1961 - Present
1930 - 2002
1821 - 1861
1920 - 2015
1929 - 2012
1911 - 1998
1923 - 1997
1919 - 2005
1888 - 1961
1883 - 1955
1913 - 2005
1919 - 2009
1761 - 1816
Which Actors were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 21 most globally memorable Actors since 1700.