Who were the top actors of the 2000s?

The cinematic landscape of the 2000s marked a significant departure from that of the 1990s. The musical made a triumphant return, and the modern blockbuster consolidated, taking over the box office, leaving no survivors.

Due to their many leading roles in some of the highest-grossing films, a few actors became synonymous with the decade. Some were seasoned veterans still going strong, while others were newcomers who achieved enormous success, but they all defined the 2000s by securing a place among cinema’s brightest stars.

1. Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt

William Bradley Pitt is an American actor and film director who was born on December 18, 1963. He has won many awards, including two Academy Awards, two British Academy Film Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, and a Primetime Emmy Award. People say that Pitt is one of the most powerful and important people in the American entertainment industry because he is a public figure.

Pitt first became known when he played a cowboy hitchhiker in Ridley Scott’s road movie Thelma & Louise. In the dramas A River Runs Through It and Legends of the Fall, he had his first lead parts in big-budget movies. He was also in the scary movie Interview with the Vampire. He did well in both the crime thriller Seven by David Fincher and the science fiction movie 12 Monkeys. He won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor and was nominated for his first Academy Award for this role.

Brad Pitt became a “serious” actor in the 2000s. The actor had several significant successes under his belt, including Seven and Fight Club, but in the new millennium he took on increasingly difficult and varied roles. He played supporting roles in Guy Ritchie’s Snatch, the Ocean’s franchise, and Burn After Reading, an ensemble film by the Coen siblings.

Pitt’s roles in Babel, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and Inglourious Basterds have added to his renown. However, the actor did not forget his stature as a leading man and also starred in the box office hits Troy and Mr. & Mrs. Smith.

2. Orlando Bloom

Orlando Bloon

Orlando Jonathan Blanchard Copeland Bloom came into the world on January 13, 1977.He is an actor from England. He became famous when he was cast as Legolas in The Lord of the Rings movie series. He played the same part in all three of The Hobbit movies. Some people thought of him as the Errol Flynn of his time and he became more well-known for his roles in epic fantasy, historical, and adventure films, such as Will Turner in the Pirates of the Caribbean series, Paris in Troy (2004), Balian de Ibelin in Kingdom of Heaven (2005), and the Duke of Buckingham in The Three Musketeers (2011).

With the roles of Legolas and Will Turner, Orlando Bloom became the franchise monarch of the 2000s. His roles in The Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean established him as a global sensation and one of the most iconic actors of the new millennium.

Bloom diversified his resume by working with renowned directors, such as Cameron Crowe and Ridley Scott in Elizabethtown and Kingdom of Heaven, respectively. After the release of the third Pirates film in 2007, his career declined, and while he is still a ubiquitous name, he no longer commands the same level of attention he did in the early 2000s.

3. Will Smith

Will Smith

Willard Carroll Smith II is an American actor, lyricist, and film producer; he was born on September 25, 1968. He is the recipient of numerous honors, including an Academy Award, a BAFTA Award, and four Grammy Awards. His films have grossed more than $9.3 billion worldwide as of 2023, making him one of Hollywood’s most bankable actors.

Smith received the Academy Award, BAFTA Award, Golden Globe Award, and Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Richard Williams in the biographical sports drama King Richard (2021). 

Throughout his musical career and as a television and film actor, Smith has frequently been lauded for attaining groundbreaking success. Several publications have cited him as one of the “greatest actors” of his generation. According to Forbes, he has been recognized as the most prominent film actor during the period following the September 11 attacks. Complex cites him as a pioneer for rappers transferring over into acting. His transition from music to acting has influenced a number of rappers to follow suit. In 2006, Time named him one of the world’s 100 most influential persons; in 2008, Esquire named him one of the 21st century’s 75 most influential people.

He has secured a spot on the list of the world’s highest-paid actors on numerous occasions, thanks to his substantial earnings.

4. Samuel L. Jackson 

Samuel Jackson

Samuel Leroy Jackson, an American actor, was born on December 21, 1948. His films have generated over $27 billion worldwide, making him the second-highest-grossing actor of all time. He is one of the most recognizable actors of his generation. A more recent rating places him as the highest-earning actor of all time. He received the Academy Honorary Award in 2022 as “a cultural icon whose dynamic work has resonated across genres, generations, and audiences.”

By 2011, the films featuring Jackson as a prominent actor or supporting co-star had grossed between $2.81 billion and $4.91 billion in North America. This made him the seventh highest-grossing principal actor and the second highest-grossing actor, only behind voice actor Frank Welker. According to the 2009 edition of The Guinness World Records, which employs a different formula to calculate film grosses, Jackson is the highest-grossing actor in the world, with $7.42 billion generated from 68 films.  As of 2022, according to data compiled by the Golden Globes, this figure has risen to more than $27 billion grossed across 152 films, cementing him as the highest-grossing actor and the second-highest grossing person in film, behind Stan Lee, who is best known for his cameo roles.

Samuel L. Jackson, an actor and producer, is widely regarded as one of the most prominent actors of his generation. In addition to acting, he has provided his voice for a number of animated films, television series, and video games.

5. Robert Downey, Jr.

Robert Downey, Jr.

Robert John Downey Jr. was born in Manhattan, New York City, on April 4, 1965, as the youngest of two children. His father, Robert Downey Sr., was an actor and director, and his mother, Elsie Ann (née Ford), appeared in his father’s films. The paternal grandfather of Downey was of half Lithuanian Jewish, one-quarter Hungarian Jewish, and one-quarter Irish ancestry, respectively. While Downey’s mother had Scottish, German, and Swiss ancestry, he however was raised in Greenwich Village.

American actor Robert John Downey Jr. career has been marked by early critical acclaim, a period of substance addiction and legal issues, and a surge in popular and commercial success later in his career. Time magazine named Downey one of the 100 most influential persons in the world in 2008, and from 2013 to 2015, Forbes ranked him as Hollywood’s highest-paid actor.

In the first decade of the twenty-first century, this individual mounted a comeback to stardom. In 2000, he was frequently incarcerated and in rehab, combating addictions to a variety of substances. In 2010, however, he was a prominent face of the Marvel franchise and a global blockbuster hero. Downey, Jr.’s credentials have always been apparent – he was nominated for an Oscar for his performance as Charlie Chaplin in 1992, after all – but this decade has seen him truly flourish. First “Iron Man,” then “Tropic Thunder,” then “Sherlock Holmes” and now he’s an inspirational triumph.

6. George Clooney 

George Clooney

George Timothy Clooney was born on May 6, 1961 and is an American actor and director. Numerous honors have been bestowed upon him, including a British Academy Film Award, four Golden Globe Awards, and two Academy Awards, one for his acting and the other for his work as a producer. The Cecil B. DeMille Award was bestowed upon him in 2015, the Honorary César in 2017, the AFI Life Achievement Award in 2018, and the Kennedy Center Honors in 2022.

George Clooney’s birth date is May 6, 1961. His mother, Nina Bruce served as a city councilwoman and beauty queen. His father, Nick Clooney, was a television anchor and presenter for five years on the AMC network. Clooney’s ancestry is Irish, German, and English.  Mary Ann Sparrow, his maternal great-great-great-great-grandmother, was the half-sister of Nancy Lincoln, the mother of President Abraham Lincoln, making George Clooney and President Lincoln five-times-removed half-first cousins. Rosemary Clooney, cabaret vocalist and actress, was an aunt. His cousins include actors Miguel Ferrer, Rafael Ferrer, and Gabriel Ferrer, who is married to vocalist Debby Boone, through Rosemary.

He made this list based solely on his acting ability, but in reality he is a cinematic master! George Clooney was a well-known figure prior to the turn of the century, but he rose to even greater prominence during the first decade of this century. “Ocean’s 11” provided him a leading role in a film that grossed $450 million and spawned sequels, “Michael Clayton” garnered him an Oscar nomination, and “Syriana” won him the award! Since then, he has expanded into writing, directing, producing, and everything else! He is slick, seductive, and wildly successful!

7. Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonardo DiCaprio with co- stars from Gangs of New York

Leonardo Wilhelm DiCaprio born November 11, 1974 is an actor and film producer from the United States. He has received numerous accolades for his performance in biographical and period films, including an Academy Award, a British Academy Film Award, and three Golden Globe Awards. His films have grossed over $7.2 billion worldwide as of 2019, and he has appeared eight times in annual lists of the highest-paid actors in the globe.

DiCaprio is the proprietor of Appian Way Productions, which has produced several of his films and the documentary series Greensburg (2008–2010), as well as the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting environmental awareness. As a Messenger of Peace for the United Nations, he regularly supports charitable causes. In recognition of his contributions to the arts, he was named a Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2005, and he was listed among Time magazine’s 100 most influential individuals in 2016. Empire readers voted Leonardo DiCaprio as one of the 50 finest actors of all time in a 2022 poll.

In the first decade of the 2000s, he amassed more critically acclaimed, commercially successful films than most actors do in their entire careers. In 2002, after debuting in “The Beach,” he portrayed serial-fraudster Frank Abagnale and formed a lasting partnership with director Martin Scorsese. His depiction of aviation pioneer Howard Hughes earned him a Golden Globe, “The Departed” garnered him another nomination, and in 2008 he received even more praise for his performance in “Revolutionary Road.” His generation looks up to him as a role model because he is both traditional and progressive.

8. Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow

John Christopher Depp II was born in America on June 9, 1963. He has won multiple awards, including a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award, and been nominated for three Academy Awards and two BAFTAs.

Through his role as Captain Jack Sparrow in the 2003–2017 Walt Disney swashbuckler film series Pirates of the Caribbean, Depp became one of the most commercially successful actors of the 2000s. In addition to Chocolat (2000), Finding Neverland (2004), and Public Enemies (2009), he continued his commercially successful collaboration with Burton with the films Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), Corpse Bride (2005), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007), and Alice in Wonderland (2010).

In 2012, Depp was one of the world’s greatest film stars and the highest-paid actor, according to the Guinness World Records, with annual earnings of US$75 million. In the 2010s, Depp launched the film production business Infinitum Nihil. Black Mass (2015) and co-founding rock super group Hollywood Vampires with Alice Cooper and Joe Perry before his role as Gellert Grindelwald in the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018) movie set in the Wizarding World.

9. Jason Statham

Jason Statham

Jason Statham is an English actor. In numerous action-thriller films, he is known for portraying typically rugged, hardboiled, gritty, or violent characters.

Statham began practicing Chinese martial arts, kickboxing, and karate while working at local market stalls during his adolescence. He competed for England in the 1990 Commonwealth Games as a member of the British national diving team and as an ardent footballer and diver. Soon after, he was asked to participate in advertising campaigns for French Connection, Tommy Hilfiger, and Levi’s. 

This tough man owes his big break to director man Ritchie, who cast Statham as ‘Bacon’ in ‘Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels’ and ‘Turkish’ in ‘Snatch,’ both violent films he directed. The latter was published in 2000, and Statham quickly became the face and voice of action films of the 21st century. He played the title role of “The Transporter” three times, starred in another film directed by Guy Ritchie, “Revolver,” and even displayed a humorous side in “Crank.” He is a singing, dancing, and beating us up action superstar!

Statham’s acting has been criticized for lacking depth and variety, but he has been praised for heading the resurgence of action movies in the 2000s and 2010s. His film career from 2002 to 2017 reportedly generated $1.5 billion (£1.1 billion) in ticket sales, making him one of the film industry’s most bankable personalities.

10. Daniel Radcliffe 

Daniel Radcliffe

Harry Potter and Daniel Radcliffe are now synonymous with 21st-century film franchises and actors. The juvenile actor spent a decade as the protagonist of the magical saga, maturing before the audience’s very eyes.

Radcliffe made few films outside of the Harry Potter series, but he didn’t need to. Since 2001, when Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone debuted, the series has cemented his legacy, transforming him into the ultimate role model for every preteen who has grown alongside him. Since the conclusion of the Harry Potter series, Radcliffe has taken on increasingly daring and difficult roles, but audiences will always remember him as the Boy Who Lived.

Radcliffe has supported numerous nonprofit organizations. He designed the Cu-Bed for Habitat’s VIP Kids collection (a cube formed of eight smaller ones which can be turned into a bed, chaise-longue or chair with all the royalties from the sale of the bed going directly to his chosen charity, Demelza House Children’s Hospice in Sittingbourne, Kent. Radcliffe has asked his admirers to donate to the Candle for Care program instead of giving him Christmas gifts. In 2008, he was one of several celebrities who donated their old eyeglasses to an exhibit commemorating Holocaust victims. During the run of Equus on Broadway, he auctioned off a pair of denim and other show-worn items to benefit the New York-based Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS organization. She was a host for the 2011 Gypsy of the Year competition. He has also contributed to Get Connected UK, a free, confidential national helpline for troubled youth based in London.

To summarize

As long as there have been movies, there have been movie stars, and to become one of the world’s finest actors, you must be able to juggle multiple roles. To begin with, you must be able to act – to truly embody a character’s deepest emotions, to inhabit their epidermis so that the words on the page appear alive and felt. In addition, you must be able to employ your technical expertise to a variety of genres, from intimate character dramas to epic action blockbusters. Also, you must possess an intangible quality that cannot be taught or learned: charisma, command of the camera, and an energy that animates even the most brilliant script and drives audiences to the multiplex in droves. Moreover, these actors starred in the box office hits of the 2000s.