When I ask people to name a few of the greatest actors – and I mean those that have such a grand presence on screen that everyone watching them stops whatever they’re doing and pays attention – most of the time that list is comprised of men. Checking out top actors and actresses lists online too, again the top thespians are usually male. Names such as Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, Paul Newman etc are always in the top ten and, probably deserve to be.
Personally, three names always come to my mind when this question is asked. Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart and Morgan Freeman.
Be it their age, I’m not sure, but they always own the screen in whatever scenes they are in and completely steel the show. They seem to radiate authority, respect and general brilliance. There are many, many other great actors that are almost at that level for me – but fall just short of that extra something. I do believe it is an age thing. When other actors that I think are brilliant, such as Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender and Christian Bale, reach the age of McKellen, Stewart and Freeman, perhaps they will also be as grand on screen.
So there are many male actors who have that special something on screen, and many that are almost there. So my question is… where are all the women? Generally, the actresses that are still alive and working today, that regularly appear in the top lists are the likes of Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren and Judi Dench. Once again, they are older, wiser and prove time after time that they know their craft. They are undoubtedly amazing actresses, but still, for me anyway, they just don’t reach that next level in everything I see them in – some films yes, but not everything.
Is this just because I’m a man and I feel more of a connection with males? True, when I’ve asked this question to males they always give a list full of men. When asked to females the list varies between the sexes a little more. I don’t think this is a sexist thing. I, and all the guys I’ve asked, can all give examples of great actresses and amazing roles that they have played, but rarely are they in our top ten. Maybe it is that men don’t connect as well with leading ladies, or perhaps, and I think more likely, it’s that actresses aren’t given the opportunities to shine as much as the men.
I’m putting the question forward – who are the greatest onscreen actors in your opinion? And please don’t just pick your favourite because some of my favourite actors are not BRILLIANT – just very good. I’m talking about the screen stealers, those that you believe every word they say, every move they make, those who’s every breath has been carefully planned.
So… who are the greatest actors and… where are all the AMAZING actresses? And why aren’t these actresses usually in a man’s top list? Let me know in the comments below! Let’s have the discussion!
Written by Joseph Monahan – writer/director at Berry Productions
Download Joe’s comedy sci-fi book, Intergalactic Terrorist.