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The Most Famous

ACTORS from United Kingdom

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This page contains a list of the greatest British Actors. The pantheon dataset contains 9,996 Actors, 1,309 of which were born in United Kingdom. This makes United Kingdom the birth place of the 2nd most number of Actors.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary British Actors of all time. This list of famous British 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 British Actors.

Photo of Charlie Chaplin

1. Charlie Chaplin (1889 - 1977)

With an HPI of 86.83, Charlie Chaplin is the most famous British Actor.  His biography has been translated into 187 different languages on wikipedia.

Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin Jr. (16 April 1889 – 25 December 1977) was an English comic actor, filmmaker, and composer who rose to fame in the era of silent film. He became a worldwide icon through his screen persona, the Tramp, and is considered one of the film industry's most important figures. His career spanned more than 75 years, from childhood in the Victorian era until a year before his death in 1977, and encompassed both adulation and controversy. Chaplin's childhood in London was one of poverty and hardship. His father was absent and his mother struggled financially — he was sent to a workhouse twice before age nine. When he was 14, his mother was committed to a mental asylum. Chaplin began performing at an early age, touring music halls and later working as a stage actor and comedian. At 19, he was signed to the Fred Karno company, which took him to the United States. He was scouted for the film industry and began appearing in 1914 for Keystone Studios. He soon developed the Tramp persona and attracted a large fan base. He directed his own films and continued to hone his craft as he moved to the Essanay, Mutual, and First National corporations. By 1918, he was one of the world's best-known figures. In 1919, Chaplin co-founded distribution company United Artists, which gave him complete control over his films. His first feature-length film was The Kid (1921), followed by A Woman of Paris (1923), The Gold Rush (1925), and The Circus (1928). He initially refused to move to sound films in the 1930s, instead producing City Lights (1931) and Modern Times (1936) without dialogue. His first sound film was The Great Dictator (1940), which satirised Adolf Hitler. The 1940s were marked with controversy for Chaplin, and his popularity declined rapidly. He was accused of communist sympathies, and some members of the press and public were scandalised by his involvement in a paternity suit and marriages to much younger women. An FBI investigation was opened, and Chaplin was forced to leave the U.S. and settle in Switzerland. He abandoned the Tramp in his later films, which include Monsieur Verdoux (1947), Limelight (1952), A King in New York (1957), and A Countess from Hong Kong (1967). Chaplin wrote, directed, produced, edited, starred in, and composed the music for most of his films. He was a perfectionist, and his financial independence enabled him to spend years on the development and production of a picture. His films are characterised by slapstick combined with pathos, typified in the Tramp's struggles against adversity. Many contain social and political themes, as well as autobiographical elements. He received an Honorary Academy Award for "the incalculable effect he has had in making motion pictures the art form of this century" in 1972, as part of a renewed appreciation for his work. He continues to be held in high regard, with The Gold Rush, City Lights, Modern Times, and The Great Dictator often ranked on lists of the greatest films.

Photo of Anthony Hopkins

2. Anthony Hopkins (1937 - )

With an HPI of 80.04, Anthony Hopkins is the 2nd most famous British Actor.  His biography has been translated into 94 different languages.

Sir Philip Anthony Hopkins (born 31 December 1937) is a Welsh actor, director, and producer. One of Britain's most recognisable and prolific actors, he is known for his performances on the screen and stage. Hopkins has received many awards and nominations during his career, including two Academy Awards, four BAFTA Awards, two Primetime Emmy Awards and a Olivier Award. He has also received the Cecil B. DeMille Award in 2005 and the BAFTA Fellowship for lifetime achievement in 2008. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to drama in 1993.After graduating from the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama in 1957, Hopkins trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. He was then spotted by Laurence Olivier who invited him to join the Royal National Theatre in 1965. Productions at the National included King Lear (his favourite Shakespeare play), Coriolanus, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra. In 1985, he received great acclaim and a Laurence Olivier Award for his performance in the David Hare play Pravda. His last stage play was a West End production of M. Butterfly in 1989. Hopkins' early films include The Lion in Winter (1968), A Bridge Too Far (1977), and The Elephant Man (1980). He received two Academy Awards for Best Actor for The Silence of the Lambs (1991) and The Father (2020), becoming the oldest Best Actor Oscar winner to date. His other Oscar-nominated films include The Remains of the Day (1993), Nixon (1995), Amistad (1997) and The Two Popes (2019). Other notable films include 84 Charing Cross Road (1987), Howards End (1992), Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992), Shadowlands (1993), Legends of the Fall (1994), The Mask of Zorro (1998), and MCU's Thor franchise (2011–2017). He reprised the role as Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal (2001) and Red Dragon (2002). Since making his television debut with the BBC in 1967, Hopkins has continued to appear on television. In 1973, he received a British Academy Television Award for Best Actor for his performance in War and Peace. He received two Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series for The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case (1976) and The Bunker (1981). Other notable projects include the BBC film The Dresser (2015), PBS's King Lear (2018) and the HBO series Westworld (2016-2018), for which he received another Primetime Emmy nomination.

Photo of Sean Connery

3. Sean Connery (1930 - 2020)

With an HPI of 79.73, Sean Connery is the 3rd most famous British Actor.  His biography has been translated into 123 different languages.

Sir Sean Connery (born Thomas Connery; 25 August 1930 – 31 October 2020) was a Scottish actor. He was the first actor to portray fictional British secret agent James Bond on film, starring in seven Bond films between 1962 and 1983. Originating the role in Dr. No, Connery played Bond in six of Eon Productions' entries and made his final appearance in Never Say Never Again. Following his third appearance as Bond in Goldfinger (1964), in June 1965 Time magazine observed "James Bond has developed into the biggest mass-cult hero of the decade".Connery began acting in smaller theatre and television productions until his break-out role as Bond. Although he did not enjoy the off-screen attention the role gave him, the success of the Bond films brought Connery offers from notable directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, Sidney Lumet and John Huston. Their films in which Connery appeared included Marnie (1964), The Hill (1965), Murder on the Orient Express (1974), and The Man Who Would Be King (1975). He also appeared in A Bridge Too Far (1977), Highlander (1986), The Name of the Rose (1986), The Untouchables (1987), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), The Hunt for Red October (1990), Dragonheart (1996), The Rock (1996), Finding Forrester (2000), and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003). Connery officially retired from acting in 2006, although he briefly returned for voice-over roles in 2012. His achievements in film were recognised with an Academy Award, two BAFTA Awards (including the BAFTA Fellowship), and three Golden Globes, including the Cecil B. DeMille Award and a Henrietta Award. In 1987, he was made a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters in France, and he received the US Kennedy Center Honors lifetime achievement award in 1999. Connery was knighted in the 2000 New Year Honours for services to film drama.

Photo of Richard Burton

4. Richard Burton (1925 - 1984)

With an HPI of 78.57, Richard Burton is the 4th most famous British Actor.  His biography has been translated into 71 different languages.

Richard Burton (; born Richard Walter Jenkins Jr.; 10 November 1925 – 5 August 1984) was a Welsh actor. Noted for his mellifluous baritone voice, Burton established himself as a formidable Shakespearean actor in the 1950s, and gave a memorable performance as Hamlet in 1964. He was called "the natural successor to Olivier" by critic Kenneth Tynan. Burton's perceived failure to live up to those expectations disappointed some critics and colleagues; his heavy drinking added to his image as a great performer who had wasted his talent. Nevertheless, he is widely regarded as one of the finest actors of his generation.Burton was nominated for an Academy Award seven times, but never won. He received BAFTAs, Golden Globes, and Tony Awards for Best Actor. In the mid-1960s, Burton became a top box office star. By the late 1960s, he was one of the highest-paid actors in the world, receiving fees of $1 million or more plus a share of the gross receipts. Burton remained closely associated in the public mind with his second wife, Elizabeth Taylor. The couple's turbulent relationship, married twice and divorced twice, was rarely out of the news.

Photo of Roger Moore

5. Roger Moore (1927 - 2017)

With an HPI of 75.87, Roger Moore is the 5th most famous British Actor.  His biography has been translated into 84 different languages.

Sir Roger George Moore (14 October 1927 – 23 May 2017) was an English actor. He was the third actor to portray fictional British secret agent James Bond in the Eon Productions film series, playing the character in seven feature films between 1973 and 1985. Moore's seven appearances as Bond, from Live and Let Die to A View to a Kill, are the most of any actor in the Eon-produced entries.On television, Moore played the lead role of Simon Templar, the title character in the British mystery thriller series The Saint (1962–1969). He also had roles in American series, including Beau Maverick on the Western Maverick (1960–1961), in which he replaced James Garner as the lead, and a co-lead, with Tony Curtis, in the action-comedy The Persuaders! (1971–1972). Continuing to act on screen in the decades after his retirement from the Bond franchise, Moore's final appearance was in a pilot for a new Saint series that became a 2017 television film. Moore was appointed a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 1991 and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2003 for services to charity. In 2007, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to the film industry. He was made a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government in 2008.

Photo of Maggie Smith

6. Maggie Smith (1934 - )

With an HPI of 75.86, Maggie Smith is the 6th most famous British Actor.  Her biography has been translated into 80 different languages.

Dame Margaret Natalie Smith (born 28 December 1934) is an English actress. With an extensive career on screen and stage beginning in the mid-1950s, Smith has appeared in more than sixty films and seventy plays. She is one of the few performers to achieve the Triple Crown of Acting, having received highest achievement for film, television and theatre, winning two Academy Awards, a Tony Award and four Primetime Emmy Awards. Hailed as one of Britain's most recognisable and prolific actresses, she was made a Dame by Queen Elizabeth II in 1990 for contributions to the Arts, and a Companion of Honour in 2014 for services to Drama.Smith began her career on stage as a student, performing at the Oxford Playhouse in 1952, and made her professional debut on Broadway in New Faces of '56. Over the following decades, Smith established herself alongside Judi Dench as one of the most significant British theatre performers, working for the National Theatre Company and the Royal Shakespeare Company. On the Broadway stage she received Tony Award nominations for Noël Coward's Private Lives (1975) and David Hare's Night and Day (1979), winning Best Actress in a Play for Lettice and Lovage (1990). Smith's breakout film role was in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969) for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress. For her comedic role as an Oscar loser in California Suite (1978) she received her second Academy Award this time for Best Supporting Actress. Her other Oscar-nominated roles were in Othello (1965), Travels with My Aunt (1972), A Room with a View (1985), and Gosford Park (2001). She rose to popular fame portraying Minerva McGonagall in the Harry Potter film series (2001–2011). Other notable films include Death on the Nile (1978), Hook (1991), Sister Act (1992), The Secret Garden (1993), The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012), Quartet (2012) and The Lady in the Van (2015). On television she gained newfound attention and international fame for her role as Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, on Julian Fellowes's period series Downton Abbey (2010–2015) as well as the 2019 film and the 2022 film. The role earned her three Primetime Emmy Awards. She also won for the HBO film My House in Umbria (2003). She is the recipient of several honorary awards including the Society of London Theatre Special Award, the BAFTA Fellowship and the British Film Institute Fellowship.

Photo of Alan Rickman

7. Alan Rickman (1946 - 2016)

With an HPI of 75.48, Alan Rickman is the 7th most famous British Actor.  His biography has been translated into 80 different languages.

Alan Sidney Patrick Rickman (21 February 1946 – 14 January 2016) was a British actor and director. Known for his deep, languid voice, he trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and became a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), performing in modern and classical theatre productions. He played the Vicomte de Valmont in the RSC stage production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses in 1985, and after the production transferred to the West End in 1986 and Broadway in 1987, he was nominated for a Tony Award. Rickman's first cinema role came when he was cast as the German terrorist leader Hans Gruber in Die Hard (1988). He appeared as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991), for which he received the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. He earned critical attention for his leading roles in Truly, Madly, Deeply (1991) and An Awfully Big Adventure (1995) before gaining acclaim for his supporting roles as Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility (1995), and Éamon de Valera in Michael Collins (1996). He is also known for his comedic roles in Dogma (1999), Galaxy Quest (1999), and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005). He played Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series (2001–2011). During this time he also appeared in Love Actually (2003), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007), and Alice in Wonderland (2010). His final film roles were Eye in the Sky (2015), and Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016). Rickman made his television acting debut playing Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet (1978) as part of the BBC's Shakespeare series. His breakthrough role was Obadiah Slope in the BBC television adaptation of The Barchester Chronicles (1982). He later starred in television films, playing the title character in Rasputin: Dark Servant of Destiny (1996), which won him a Golden Globe Award, an Emmy Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award, and Alfred Blalock in Something the Lord Made (2004). In 2009, The Guardian named him one of the best actors never to have received an Academy Award nomination. Rickman died of pancreatic cancer on 14 January 2016 at age 69.

Photo of Ian McKellen

8. Ian McKellen (1939 - )

With an HPI of 74.80, Ian McKellen is the 8th most famous British Actor.  His biography has been translated into 74 different languages.

Sir Ian Murray McKellen (born 25 May 1939) is an English actor. His career spans seven decades, having performed in genres ranging from Shakespearean and modern theatre to popular fantasy and science fiction. Regarded as a British cultural icon, he has received various accolades, including six Laurence Olivier Awards, a Tony Award, and a Golden Globe Award. The BBC states that his "performances have guaranteed him a place in the canon of English stage and film actors".McKellen began his professional career in 1961 at the Belgrade Theatre as a member of their highly regarded repertory company. In 1965, McKellen made his first West End appearance. In 1969, he was invited to join the Prospect Theatre Company to play the lead parts in Shakespeare's Richard II and Marlowe's Edward II, and he firmly established himself as one of the country's foremost classical actors. In the 1970s, McKellen became a stalwart of the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre of Great Britain. In 1981 he received his first Tony Award nomination and win for Best Actor in a Play for his role as Antonio Salieri in Amadeus. He achieved worldwide fame for his film roles, including the titular King in Richard III (1995), James Whale in Gods and Monsters (1998), Magneto in the X-Men films, and Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. McKellen was knighted in 1991 for services to the performing arts, and made a Companion of Honour for services to drama and to equality in the 2008 New Year Honours. He came out as gay in 1988, and has since championed LGBT social movements worldwide. He was awarded the Freedom of the City of London in October 2014.

Photo of Liam Neeson

9. Liam Neeson (1952 - )

With an HPI of 74.79, Liam Neeson is the 9th most famous British Actor.  His biography has been translated into 83 different languages.

William John Neeson (born 7 June 1952) is an actor from Northern Ireland. He has received several accolades, including nominations for an Academy Award, a British Academy Film Award, and two Tony Awards. In 2020, he was placed 7th on The Irish Times list of Ireland's 50 Greatest Film Actors. Neeson was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2000.In 1976, Neeson joined the Lyric Players' Theatre in Belfast for two years. His early film roles include Excalibur (1981), The Bounty (1984), The Mission (1986), and Husbands and Wives (1992). He rose to prominence portraying Oskar Schindler in Steven Spielberg's holocaust drama Schindler's List (1993) for which he earned a Academy Award for Best Actor nomination. He followed by starring in Nell (1994), Rob Roy (1995), Michael Collins (1996), and Les Misérables (1998). He took blockbuster roles portraying Qui-Gon Jinn in George Lucas' space opera Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999), Ra's al Ghul in Batman Begins (2005) and Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia trilogy (2005–2010). He also starred in Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York (2002), the romantic comedy Love Actually (2003), and the drama Kinsey (2004). Beginning in 2009, Neeson cemented himself as an action star with the action thriller series Taken (2008–2014), The A-Team (2010), Unknown (2011), The Grey (2011), Wrath of the Titans (2012), Non-Stop (2013), A Walk Among the Tombstones (2014), and The Commuter (2018). He also starred in Martin Scorsese's religious epic Silence (2016), the fantasy drama A Monster Calls (2016), Steve McQueen's heist drama Widows (2018), the Coen brothers' western The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018), and the romantic drama Ordinary Love (2019). Neeson is also known for his work on stage. He made his Broadway debut in 1993 with his performance as Matt Burke in the revival of Eugene O'Neill's Anna Christie earning a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play nomination. He then starred as Oscar Wilde in David Hare's The Judas Kiss in 1998. He received his second Tony Award nomination for his performance in the 2002 Broadway revival of Arthur Miller's The Crucible.

Photo of Elizabeth Taylor

10. Elizabeth Taylor (1932 - 2011)

With an HPI of 74.78, Elizabeth Taylor is the 10th most famous British Actor.  Her biography has been translated into 109 different languages.

Dame Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor (February 27, 1932 – March 23, 2011) was a British and American actress. She began her career as a child actress in the early 1940s and was one of the most popular stars of classical Hollywood cinema in the 1950s. She then became the world's highest paid movie star in the 1960s, remaining a well-known public figure for the rest of her life. In 1999, the American Film Institute named her the seventh-greatest female screen legend of Classic Hollywood cinema. Born in London to socially prominent American parents, Taylor moved with her family to Los Angeles in 1939. She made her acting debut with a minor role in the Universal Pictures film There's One Born Every Minute (1942), but the studio ended her contract after a year. She was then signed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and became a popular teen star after appearing in National Velvet (1944). She transitioned to mature roles in the 1950s, when she starred in the comedy Father of the Bride (1950) and received critical acclaim for her performance in the drama A Place in the Sun (1951). Despite being one of MGM's most bankable stars, Taylor wished to end her career in the early 1950s. She resented the studio's control and disliked many of the films to which she was assigned. She began receiving more enjoyable roles in the mid-1950s, beginning with the epic drama Giant (1956), and starred in several critically and commercially successful films in the following years. These included two film adaptations of plays by Tennessee Williams: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), and Suddenly, Last Summer (1959); Taylor won a Golden Globe for Best Actress for the latter. Although she disliked her role as a call girl in BUtterfield 8 (1960), her last film for MGM, she won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance. During the production of the film Cleopatra in 1961, Taylor and co-star Richard Burton began an extramarital affair, which caused a scandal. Despite public disapproval, they continued their relationship and were married in 1964. Dubbed "Liz and Dick" by the media, they starred in 11 films together, including The V.I.P.s (1963), The Sandpiper (1965), The Taming of the Shrew (1967), and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966). Taylor received the best reviews of her career for Woolf, winning her second Academy Award and several other awards for her performance. She and Burton divorced in 1974 but reconciled soon after, remarrying in 1975. The second marriage ended in divorce in 1976. Taylor's acting career began to decline in the late 1960s, although she continued starring in films until the mid-1970s, after which she focused on supporting the career of her sixth husband, United States Senator John Warner (R-Virginia). In the 1980s, she acted in her first substantial stage roles and in several television films and series. She became the second celebrity to launch a perfume brand, after Sophia Loren. Taylor was one of the first celebrities to take part in HIV/AIDS activism. She co-founded the American Foundation for AIDS Research in 1985 and the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation in 1991. From the early 1990s until her death, she dedicated her time to philanthropy, for which she received several accolades, including the Presidential Citizens Medal. Throughout her career, Taylor's personal life was the subject of constant media attention. She was married eight times to seven men, converted to Judaism, endured several serious illnesses, and led a jet set lifestyle, including assembling one of the most expensive private collections of jewelry in the world. After many years of ill health, Taylor died from congestive heart failure in 2011, at the age of 79.

Pantheon has 1,309 people classified as actors born between 1566 and 2007. Of these 1,309, 949 (72.50%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living actors include Anthony Hopkins, Maggie Smith, and Ian McKellen. The most famous deceased actors include Charlie Chaplin, Sean Connery, and Richard Burton. As of April 2022, 175 new actors have been added to Pantheon including Philip Stone, Jeremy Bulloch, and John Shrapnel.

Living Actors

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Deceased Actors

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Newly Added Actors (2022)

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Which Actors were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Actors since 1700.