I think it goes without saying that Meryl Streep is one of the finest actresses to have ever lived, and certainly the greatest of our time. There are plenty of fine actresses who are phenomenal in their own right, but none so objectively lauded as Ms. Streep. Feel free to disagree with me if you want, but that’s not the point of this thread.
While Streep stands head and shoulders above her peers in the modern-day actresses category (or even all time category), I don’t think we have such a clear-cut case of a male actor who is so unanimously recognized as the greatest of our time. So, let’s bring it to the straight dope to decide once and for all, who is he? I’ve tried to include as many as possible in the poll, but of course, feel free to nominate your own.
I’ve done a bit of researching online to find lists of “greatest” “best” and “most awarded” actors of our time, and have come up with the following list, poll to follow shortly. I’m gonna make it multi-option so you don’t have to limit yourself to just one vote, but please don’t pick too many! Remember, this is only OF OUR TIME, not OF ALL TIME. So your classic favorites need not apply here. (They have to be living at the time of this post and done something in the last 20 years).
And please remember, vote for BEST, not your personal FAVORITE
Bryan Cranston. He hasn’t been in much, but he’s consistently excellent in everything he does. Walter White in breaking bad is probably the best acted character in television history. And he’s probably way underappreciated for comedic chops and the general range he displayed on Malcolm in the Middle.
Gary Oldman would make the short list; the man disappears into his roles so well that sometimes you don’t even realize that it’s Gary Oldman.
Jeff Bridges and Josh Brolin have also impessed me with their versatility and chameleon-like immersion into their roles as well.
Chris Hemsworth, while a relative newcomer, also has this ability, and he was able to actually make himself believeable as Thor, taking the role seriously, but not too seriously, at the same time to strike a decent balance.
Bryan Cranston definitely has the acting chops, and has done comedy and drama with equal aplomb.
For shear versatility, I’d maybe throw Stephen Root into the nomination pile; he’s a comedy, drama, and prolific voice-actor.
If I HAD to pick just one (I actually voted for multiple myself), I guess I would say Daniel Day-Lewis. I haven’t seen everything he’s done (and he hasn’t done nearly as much as most of the others), but he is a fascinatingly great actor.
My other picks were Tom Hanks, Robert De Niro, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt. Better at some things in their own ways.
I voted Gary Oldman. If I ran into him on the street, I wouldn’t recognize him. But he manages to steal every film scene he is in. Does he look like George Smiley/James Gordon? Those are the only two times he has looked the same.
When I posted, Oldman had 4 votes, as many as Daniel Day-Lewis. I don’t think Day-Lewis is as good, but I really enjoy his work and versatility.
As for actresses, Vanessa Redgrave is better than Streep. But she doesn’t get much work. Mind you, I think Streep is wonderful, but she is no Redgrave.
I voted for Morgan Freeman, then got all angry when Michael Caine wasn’t on the list. Then I noticed he was there, just under “sir”. Silly OP. I would have voted for Oldman too, but I didn’t think of him.
Robert Downey Jr. deserves a spot on there I think. It’s hard to pick, because it really depends on the role and their range.
That said, I went with Daniel Day-Lewis. He’s got amazing range, talent, and presence. He’d be my first choice to cast as Roland Deschain of the Dark Tower saga (along with Aaron Paul as Eddie).
Speaking of Aaron Paul, Bryan Cranston I love to death. His portrayal as Walter White should win an Oscar, not an Emmy. However, the few times I’ve caught him on the silver screen, his characters aren’t nearly as interesting, or particularly as well acted (granted, his roles are particularly small).
Why should they be the same? Just because a particular movie or actor pleases me, individually, doesn’t mean that I can’t recognize that overall there are better movies or actors. I like Contact despite all its flaws, hence why it’s a personal favorite but not a “best.”
Daniel Day-Lewis would never make my list of “favorite actors” because I have only seen a couple things with him in it, and he’s not in a lot of my favorite movies. But, I consider him to be one of the best based on what I’ve seen.
Interesting to see Gary Oldman is kind of running away with it here (with DDL a few votes behind). Honestly, I didn’t even know who he was or what he had been in until I made this thread! Of course, now looking back at the movies he has been in that I have seen, I agree he is tremendous. But why he doesn’t get better billing surprises me.
Is this just an artifact of The Dark Knight movie being out recently?
Depending on your definition of “our time”, my vote would be for John Cazale. If he hadn’t died tragically young, he would be spoken of with De Niro or Pacino. As it is, the 5 films he was in - The Godfather, The Conversation, The Godfather Part 2, Dog Day Afternoon, and The Deer Hunter, are 5 all-time greats, and he was integral to the greatness of all of them.
If he doesn’t count, I’d be inclined to rule out De Niro and Pacino, as their best work comes from that period, and vote for either Brad Pitt or Leonardo DiCaprio. Both have played a wide variety of roles, and been both distinctive and believable in all of them.