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My Favorite Living Actors, in No Particular Order

  • Mar 26, 2011
When I was younger, it was looks that counted. Now, for quite some time, it's acting chops. Not that looks aren't important, they're just not AS important. Good acting requires considerably more than sex appeal alone.
Harrison Ford
I wasn't impressed by his Han Solo, but that first Indiana Jones sold me. That voice, that sense of comedic timing, that ability to convey emotion without saying a word.... He hasn't aged as well as, say, Paul Newman, and he needs to ditch the comb over and earring. Ford has won many other awards, but never an Oscar (nominated only once for Witness). I think he's under-rated. One thing that hasn't changed a bit is that deep and dulcet voice.
Johnny Depp
Sometimes his predilection for going over the top, but in roles such as Roux in Chocolat, J. M. Barrie in Finding Neverland, or Sheldon Sands in Once Upon a Time in Mexico, he's hard to match. Ya gotta love an actor who thinks, and has reasons for choosing roles beyond $$$$.
Sean Penn
Yes, he was married to Madonna, who must have found him attractive, but it's not Penn's looks that garner my admiration. I'll never forget his performances in Mystic River, Dead Man Walking, and Milk. What a talent. He's also a humanitarian who's done much good in politics and in Haiti.
Sean Connery as James Bond
If there ever was a man who improved with age, it's Sean Connery. Many think he was the quintessential James Bond, but after the first in the series, it was same old, same old. Now, he's one the sexiest older actors, and his acting skills only keep getting better. He can do comedy, drama, classical, farcical - you name it. Among my faves are his performances in The Name of the Rose, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and Robin and Marion. 
Dustin Hoffman
Who can forget Benjamin in The Graduate? It's difficult for a man with ordinary looks to become a superstar, but Hoffman took the business by storm. Kramer vs Kramer, All the Presidents' Men, Rain Man, Tootsie,  Hook,  Last Chance Harvey - the list goes on and on. I'm not sure I've ever seen a Hoffman film I haven't liked, even the much maligned Ishtar. Always worth watching.
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Another guy who gets by on much more than looks, and another Hoffman. His portrayal of Truman Capote was awesome, winning him the Best Actor Academy Award, and he was outstanding as the priest/pedophile in Doubt, for which he was nominated for an Oscar. Hoffman can hold his own against such icons as Meryl Streep, and because he's not a pretty boy, he can pretty much select his roles based upon impact instead. Versatile and cerebral.
Tom Hanks
He was kind of a dweeb in his TV show, but the dweeb has developed into an everyman sort of actor. His early work is OK, but he really began to shine around 1992 in A League of Their Own. Sleepless in Seattle clinched it, and Philadelphia, Forest Gump, and  Saving Private Ryan established Hanks as one of America's most admired stars. Hanks has also begun establishing himself as a producer of quality kids' films. His two Oscars are well deserved, and we can expect many more outstanding efforts from this outstanding actor, who has a heart and is not afraid to show it.
He's classically trained and eminently professional, and it shows. It's hard to believe that the same man who portrayed Hannibal Lechter could also play C.S. Lewis. In 1981, he even did Hitler! Hopkins himself said his favorite role was that of Burt Munro, in The World's Fastest Indian. It's fun to watch his early work as well. Every time I think of his Richard the Lionheart in The Lion in Winter, I've gotta smile. But my favorite is his performance against Emma Thompson in Howard's End.

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December 20, 2011
Awesome choices..but if it was my list I would have to leave off Tom Hanks. He is one of my least favorites.
April 13, 2011
This is an amazing list of actors I truly admire and respect. Very nicely done.
April 14, 2011
Thanks, Lopez!
March 31, 2011
I would throw in De Niro, but I love all of these. Great list!
March 28, 2011
Interesting list, though I have to admit I've often been befuddled by anyone's praise of Sean Penn. Early in his career, I thought he did some very solid work, but, after the late 80's, I just don't see it. Hanks has, sadly, taken the "Tom Cruise" approach and essentially rolled a lotta characters into the same focus; I think, as of late, he's done much better work as a producer of work as opposed to acting. And while Depp truly has explored the highs (and lows) of his craft, I keep getting the feeling that he's pretty much phoning things in these days, a younger man's Michael Caine.
March 28, 2011
Well, they're my personal faves, not necessarily the best. Who are your favorites in this categaory, Trek?
March 28, 2011
What? A throwdown?! Nah, just kidding. It's an interesting question b/c there are an awful lotta actors whose work I admire despite the fact that I seriously don't see all that many craftsmen really stretching much these days. But, if you held a gun to my head, then I'd have to say I could offer up a few actors whom I think are worth watching:

While I haven't seen an awful lot of his rom/com stuff (mostly b/c I just don't care all that much for rom/coms, I think Aaron Eckhart is certainly "one to watch." He has a modest Gary Cooper quality to his work, and, when I think about bookended performances, I'd put his work from THANK YOU FOR SMOKING and BATTLE: LOS ANGELES up as demonstrating that the cat has some solid range.  (Yeah, I know what the critics have said about BATTLE: LOS ANGELES, but let me tell you that film was solid and was certainly my cup o'tea.)

Again, I wouldn't put up Bill Murray as an actor who has tremendous range, but I have to admit that I admire the hell out of his sublime work.  I saw GET LOW on DVD over the weekend, and it's hard to find another actor out there working today who can add so much to so little written on the page.  When you consider GROUNDHOG DAY and BROKEN FLOWERS and LOST IN TRANSLATION as being part of this guy's resume against his earlier works (CADDYSHACK and GHOSTBUSTERS), I just think the player's got serious game.

And, while we're on the note of GET LOW (strongly recommended), might I mention the always reliable Robert Duvall?  Again, this guy can act in just about anything.  Loved him in OPEN RANGE.  Loved him even in a bit role in SLING BLADE.  Massively loved what he brought to A FAMILY THING.  And, while I'm not a huge fan of the GODFATHER, I find it nearly impossible to imagine any other seasoned actor bringing what he does to his work.

In the ever reliable category, I'd also have to throw out the name Denzel Washington.  From JOHN Q to DEJA VU and even CRIMSON TIDE, the guy knows a thing or two about balancing the subtler moments up to the point of chewing scenery like he did in TRAINING DAY.  Again, while I may not have embraced everything he's done, I can't imagine another person tackling some of the roles that he has.

Also, I'm a sucker for a good Bruce Willis film.  Granted, he tends to gravitate toward far more mainstream projects (there's nothing wrong with that), but he can put his stamp on RED or GRINDHOUSE's PLANET TERROR and he can even elevate the mundane cop thriller 16 BLOCKS to the level where audiences can embrace it when another actor would've probably killed it.

Maybe that's my issue, too.  I see a lotta actors like Johnny Depp and Robert Downey Jr getting all of these "props" from critics when some genuine screen magic is happening in the subtler properties that don't get much mention.  Luke Wilson is a good example: I'd offer up the bookends of his work from HENRY POOLE IS HERE (a film I genuinely loved and critics lambasted b/c of the film's message) and MIDDLE MEN.  He's an underdog who may not have the greatest range, but if you go back and look at his work in BOTTLE ROCKET and follow it through to MIDDLE MEN you can see that he's explored his craft in the meantime, and he's someone definitely deserving a mention.

Now, if you wanna talk international cinema, that's a whole different ballgame, but I kept this to the American side of the box office.
March 27, 2011
This is a great list! I completely agree about #4- he's the best example of aging gracefully. I'd probably add DeNiro and DiCaprio onto my list. Thanks for sharing, Linda :)
March 27, 2011
Great list, Linda. Very good choices! I would've included most of these on my own list as well :)
March 27, 2011
very nice list! I was looking for Daniel Day-Lewis though...
March 27, 2011
He's a good actor, but not one of my favorites.
March 27, 2011
I love your # 6!
About the list creator
Linda ()
Ranked #53
After 21 years as a school psychologist, I now work part-time at two local historical museums, giving tours and teaching special programs. This leaves me more time to enjoy my little grandchildren, and … more
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