My Top 10 Actors of the Last 20 Years – Inspired by The Great Gatsby


This past week I went to see The Great Gatsby. This is the second movie in my 10 week run of new releases I plan to see. I won’t get into a review of the movie other than to say that it was decent, but Leonardo Dicaprio was excellent. It got me thinking about all the terrific roles he has had over the years which logically lead me to think if there have been others that would eclipse his run of classic characters.

The following is a list of my favorite 10 actors over the past 20 or so years. The criteria I used includes 1) Star power 2) Movie recognition 3) Breadth of characters 4) Overall likability. I want to be clear. These are my favorite actors and this should not be confused with any Oscar Award Winner list as you will see.

Honorable mentions: Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Bruce Willis, Russell Crowe, Kevin Bacon, Ben Affleck, Will Ferrell, and John Travolta.

#11 Robert Downey Jr. – Iron Man, Sherlock Holmes
Given that Iron Man may be my favorite character of all time, I had to find room for him on this list. However, his portfolio of solid movies and characters is weak compared to the rest to crack my top 10. So I added #11….it’s my list and I can do what I want.

#10 Matt Damon – Rounders, Good Will Hunting, Oceans 11-13, Bourne Identity
One of my favorite movies is Rounders. Most poker players can recite dozens of lines and Damon nailed his scenes with John Malkovich though Ed Norton gave the movie some life. Throw in his versatility to pull off both action and comedy roles and you have a well rounded entertainer.

#9 Mark Wahlberg – Boogie Nights, Four Brothers, Invincible, The Fighter, Ted, Broken City, Pain and Gain
When Hollywood needs a thug from Boston, he’s the man. He’s not extremely versatile but the one thing he does well…he’s great at it. His more recent movies have made me appreciate him more now than years ago. His venture into comedy may pay off again as they will be shooting Ted 2 soon.

#8 Will Smith – Bad Boys, MIB, Independence Day, Ali, I Robot, Hitch, Fresh Prince
He’s the definition of consistency with a unique flare for combining comedy with action, but can take on the serious roles when needed. He’s great with one liners and has rolled out several big budget flicks through the years. He obviously recognizes the path to success through sequels with 3 more in the works now…I Robot 2, Hancock 2, and Bad Boys 3.

#7 Vince Vaughn – Old School, Dodgeball, Wedding Crashers, The Break Up, Couples Retreat
The guy just makes me laugh. He’s the guy everyone would want as a friend. His roles are not a big stretch, but he’s good at what he does. He can deliver one-liners that are quoted forever with the best of em. I can’t wait to see The Internship on June 7th.

#6 Jim Carrey – Ace Ventura, The Mask, Dumb and Dumber, Liar Liar, The Truman Show, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Bruce Almighty, Fun With Dick and Jane
There was a time not so long ago that Carrey was the hottest commodity in Hollywood. You might not know it these days, but in the late ’90s he was the putting out hit after hit. He’s the king of slapstick comedy and a chameleon when it comes to creating characters. Somewhere along the way he got too serious and he would have been higher on my list years ago, but he’s filming Dumb And Dumber Two soon and it should be another classic.

#5 Tom Cruise – A Few Good Men, Jerry Maguire, Mission Impossible, War of the Worlds, Oblivion
Admittedly, my inclusion of Cruise this high on my list is in partly due to his run of hits in the ’80s  that included Top Gun, Color of Money, Cocktail and Days of Thunder. He has been nominated for 3 Oscars but amazingly he has never won. He is the king of big budget films along with Kevin Costner who I couldn’t find room for on my list. At only 5’7″ he somehow is the go to leading man with an edge actor in the business, this according to IMDB. As crazy as he may be in real life, he is equally as cool in all of his roles.

#4 Adam Sandler – Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer, The Waterboy, Big Daddy, 50 First Dates, The Longest Yard, Grown Ups
Like Jim Carrey, Sandler could do no wrong in the ’90s. So many memorable quotes from his movies that I still recite early 20 years later. He’s still producing hits and Grown Ups 2 will be one of the 2 best comedies this summer along with The Internship. I am not a fan of his serious roles and he should just stick to comedy. When he does, I am guaranteed to go see it.

#3 Tom Hanks – A League of Their Own, Philadelphia, Forrest Gump, Apollo 13, Toy Story(s), Saving Private Ryan, Cast Away, The Polar Express, The Da Vinci Code
A 5 time Oscar nominee and 2 time winner, he was just voted Reader’s Digest Most Trusted Person. I haven’t liked all his movies, see Cloud Atlas, but he has delivered several memorable roles and you almost always get your money’s worth. Unlike many of the others, Hanks makes you feel what his character is about. There are probably only 2 actors that could make me shed a tear if I did that sort of thing. Hanks and my #1 actor.

#2 Leonardo Dicaprio – Titanic, Man in the Iron Mask, Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed, Shutter Island, Django Unchained, The Great Gatsby
He can play any role as a leading man, aside from comedy. He seems to be thriving on period pieces lately and crushing it. His last 2 movies were what put him this high. As Calvin Candie in Django, there is a scene where he cuts his hand and he rubs it on Django’s wife…the story behind it is that he really did cut his hand, it wasn’t scripted, and never missed a beat. His portrayal of Jay Gatsby is an instant classic. He has never won an Oscar but I think that could change this year. I can’t wait to see what epic movie comes next.

#1 Denzel Washington – Malcolm X, Philadelphia, Courage Under Fire, He Got Game, The Hurricane, Remember The Titans, Training Day, Out of Time, The Taking of Pelham 123, The Book of Eli, Unstoppable, Flight
The definition of a movie star, “Denzel” is synonymous with any reference to being a great actor. It seems like every movie he is in is worthy of an Oscar, of which he personally has 6 nominations and 2 wins. It seems that everyone wants Denzel to play them in the story of their life. For me, he is the most believable actor I have ever seen. Who else could pull off a whole movie on a subway only to follow it with another movie on a train? His inclusion of sports-themed movies is icing on the cake. If you don’t appreciate Denzel then you’re just un-American.

That’s my list. Feel free to agree, disagree and debate. We all have our favorites for various reasons, but the one thing these guys all have in common is they make me love movies even more.


3 thoughts on “My Top 10 Actors of the Last 20 Years – Inspired by The Great Gatsby

  1. Lori Ballard

    I like that Denzel got the #1 spot.. I agree. I dislike that Vince got #7 AND you left of one of the best movies of all time – Swingers. He’s so money.

  2. Trisha Leathers

    I love all but 2 of your picks. Where I love Tom Cruise as an actor, I think the quality of his work has go downhill over the years. Even though he was cast a Jack Reacher by some big studio head, he was anything but believable. As for Adam Sandler I have to disagree with you on serious roles, Reign over me was one of his best. As for his most recent comedies Jack and Jill; That’s my boy it seems like he is trying to hard and it falls flat.


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