The Greatest British Actors Of All Time, According To Ranker (2023)

The winter box office season means thatthe cineplexes are filled withwould-be blockbusters and awards contenders alike. This year is no different as Tom Holland’s Spider-man swings back into theaters alongside Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange.

Related: 10 Best British Heroes Fans Would Love to See in the MCU

While British actors are certainly in their fair share of big-budget Hollywood entertainment, they are also some of the most highly sought performers for prestige projects. As these actors trade in their superheroes trade in their tights for period costume dramas, biopics, and more character-driven work, who among them is the most valued? Rankergives users the option to upvote and downvote individual actors, leading to a collective understanding of current popularity. No list is definitive, but there is no denying the collective charisma and charm of these actors.


Benedict Cumberbatch

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The varied credits from Doctor Strangeto the Grinch to Alan Turing show that Cumberbatch isn't an actor that fits easily into one box. He is widely respected amongst his peers while also being a crowd favorite. His depth of characterizationhas led to him being an Academy Award nominee.

Currently, he appears in Jane Campion'sThe Power of the Dog,where it would seem he is all but destined to receive his second Academy Award nomination for his work. After that, he will be in Spider-Man: No Way Homeas Doctor Strange, before being in Sam Raimi’s return to the genre with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

Michael Caine

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Just 18 months shy of his 90th birthday, Caine is the oldest member of the list. He was a British sex symbol in films likeAlfiebut he was never pigeonholed by the constraints that might entail and has since gone on to have a career almost seventy years in the making.


Through his collaborations with Christopher Nolan, Caine has reintroduced himself to another generation. The six-time Academy Award nominee (and winner of two) has crafted a body of work that is truly remarkable.Even at 88, he is still actively working, continuing to amass a career that is coveted by many as one of the most prominent movie stars in history. If anything, nine seems to be too low a spot for Mr. Caine.

Tom Hiddleston

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Hiddleston is a true chameleon that has garnered much of his fame for being the playful trickster of the MCU. He has also worked with renowned directors like Guillermo del Toro, Jim Jarmusch, Steven Spielberg, and Terrence Davies.

Hiddleston has shown that he is a wide-ranging talent appealing to many. His power as an actor isn't limited to playing the jester of the MCU, but to his ability to slide into a variety of characters.With several projects in the work, and recently completing the Loki TV series, Hiddleston proves he is game for nearly everything that is thrown at him as a performer. His spot makes sense from a popularity standpoint.

Colin Firth

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From his early work in the much reveredBBCPride and Prejudiceto his Academy Award-winning work inThe King’s Speech,he is one of the most reliable screen presences around.Firth is an actor that easily vacillates between high and low status. He has the kind of low-key sex appeal that lets him pass for an everyman while having a ruthless charm that affords him the ability to disappear into comedies and dramas alike.

Recently, he has been popping up in small roles in big movies to lend an aura of calm and respectability in things like1917.Up next, he is re-teaming with hisShakespeare in Lovedirector, John Madden, and the retelling of the true-crime docuseries of the same name,The Staircase.He is still relatively young, soAcademy Award winnerColin Firth has many rolesleft to cement his standing as one of the great British performers.

David Tennant

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Tennant is most known for being the 10th Doctor in the long-running BBC series,Doctor Who.In addition, he is well known for the crossover success ofBroadchurch.

The Scottish actor is a prolific voiceover actor and a well-known stage legend. While he isn’t as widely known in America, he is considered one of the finest contemporary performers out of Britain. This placement does show that talent aside, having a large cadre of fans is crucial to scoring a high spot on the list.

Patrick Stewart

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The Captain of the USS Enterprise and Professor Xavier, these towering pop culture figures alone would make Stewart one of the most recognized thespians of today. With over two decades in both of these franchises, there is a tenderness to his presenceand a genuine sense of time.

Recently, his icy and pragmatic turn in the relentlessly tenseGreen Roomis yet another reminder that he is a versatile treasure that is impossible to box in. Stewart is more renowned as a stage actor but outside of his two franchises, he isn’t a particularly prolific film actor. A spot this high shows just how beloved his characterizations in theStar Trekfranchise and theX-Menfilms are.

Ian McKellen

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Gandalf is one of the two or three most instantly recognizable characters of all time. McKellen doesn't just embody the character physically, but he brings true pathos to a role that could've been merely surface. It is a beautiful piece of acting that stands alongside theLord of the Ringsfilms as a marker of timelessness.

Apart from this though, McKellen has amassed a body of work that is truly exceptional. From his work as James Whale inGods and Monstersto his long-running portrayal of Magneto in theX-Menfilms, he is an actor of tremendous generosity. His portrayal of an aging Sherlock Holmes is a fine example of an actor effortlessly embracing their age.

Gary Oldman

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His portrayal of perhaps the most British figure of all time, Winston Churchill, is the rare work of makeup artistry that doesn't overshadow the performance. Oldman finds the humanity of Churchill like he does all of his characters. His work as George Smiley inTinker Tailor Soldier Spy isanother renowned British icon, this time from the mind of the famed novelist John le Carré.

His spot on this list is probably secured by playing Sirius Black in theHarry Potterseriesas well as Commissioner Gordon in Nolan'sBatmansaga. He grounds each of those roles with distinct humanity that shines through even in the weight of those franchises. Though it is his more challenging work in films likeMankand The Darkest Hourthat will secure his legacy moving forward.

Anthony Hopkins

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Hopkins commands authority in every role while having a perfect understanding of what the material calls for. He is an actor who fits into mannered British period dramas and pulpy crime thrillers with the same level of ease.

Related: 10 Actors Considered to Play Oscar-Winning Roles

Hopkins, as of earlier this year for the film The FatherbyFlorian Zeller, is the oldest person to win the Academy Award for acting. His career dates back to his screen debut in 1968’sThe Lion in Winteralongside screen legends, Katharine Hepburn and Peter O’Toole. Most famously, he won his first Academy Award for his chilling portrayal of Hannibal Lecter in the Best Picture-winningSilence of the Lambs.Even at number two, that could be too low of a spot to put Mr. Hopkins on this list.

Alan Rickman

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Rickman crafted a career playing one of the most memorable villains in history with Hans Gruber inDie Hardto the mercurial Professor Snape in theHarry Potterfilms. Outside of this, he was able to show his softer side in a Christmas favorite,Love Actually,and his deft comedic touch inGalaxy Quest.

Rickman was a renowned Tony-nominated stage actor. His work on stage, film, and his portrayal of two of the most famous characters in cinematic history, make it easy to see how he would be crowned with the number one spot on this list. Sadly, as the only performer on the list who is no longer with us, his tragically cut short career is allthere is to remember him by, and truly, what a career he left behind.

NEXT: 10 Best British Gangster Films Of All Time

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