The Ten Best All-Time Actors Relay Race

The great Steve Honeywell from 1001 Plus has graciously invited me to join this series which looks at the best actors of all time. It functions like a relay race where each participant viciously cuts an earlier choice and then adds a worthy contender to the list. Amazingly, I will be the 30th person to contribute to this excellent list of actors. Many talented individuals have joined and left this group, and the current roster contains a remarkable group of all-time greats. Deciding which guy to cut is going to be torturous.

Here are the entries from the other participants so far:

My Film Views (created the original list: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Daniel Day-Lewis, Samuel L. Jackson, Charlie Chaplin, Gary Oldman, Anthony Hopkins, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall)
The Focused Filmographer (Removed Hopkins, added Christian Bale)
Front Room Cinema (Removed Pacino, added Paul Giammati)
I Love That Film (Removed Jackson, added Edward Norton)
Flixchatter (Removed Giammati, added Gregory Peck)
All Eyes on Screen (Removed Norton, added Tom Hanks)
Time Well Spent (Removed Hoffman, added Leonardo DiCaprio)
The Warning Sign (Removed Hanks, added Paul Newman)
Movies and Songs 365 (Removed Duvall, re-added Anthony Hopkins)
And So It Begins (Removed DiCaprio, added Max von Sydow)
Cinematic Corner (Removed Bale, added Ralph Fiennes)
The Film Emporium (Re-removed Hopkins, added Jack Nicholson)
Duke & the Movies (Removed Oldman, added Humphrey Bogart)
Southern Vision (Removed Fiennes, added Harry Dean Stanton)
Defiant Success (Removed Stanton, added Jack Lemmon)
Cinematic Paradox (Removed von Sydow, re-added Ralph Fiennes)
Encore's World of TV & Film (Removed Peck, added Richard Burton)
Okinawa Assault (Removed Lemmon, added Bruce Greenwood)
Amiresque (Removed Greenwood, added Peter Sellers)
Flickers (Removed Chaplin, added Jeff Bridges)
Aziza's Picks (Removed Sellers, re-added Gary Oldman)
...let's be splendid about this... (Removed Burton, added James Stewart)
Being Norma Jeane (Removed Bridges, added Johnny Depp)
U, Me, and Films (Re-removed Fiennes, re-added Tom Hanks)
Eternity of Dream (Re-removed Hanks, re-added Leonardo DiCaprio)
Lime Reviews and Strawberry Confessions (Re-removed Oldman, added Amitabh Bachchan)
Surrender to the Void (Removed Bachchan, added Gene Hackman)
Taste of Cinema (Removed Depp, added Marcello Mastroianni)

Nostra provided these original rules for this relay race way back at the start:

"I’ve created a list of what I think are the best actors. At the end of the post I, just like in a real relay race, hand over the baton to another blogger who will write his own post. This blogger will have to remove one actor (that is an obligation) and add his own choice and describe why he/she did this. At the end the blogger chooses another blogger to do the same. The idea is to make this a long race, so that enough bloggers get a chance to remove and add an actor. We will end up with a list (not ranked in order) which represents a common agreement of the best actors. It will also mean that those who follow this relay race will get to know new blogs as well!"

Here is the current list of 10 actors that arrived on my doorstep:

Humphrey Bogart

Daniel Day-Lewis

Robert De Niro

Leonardo DiCaprio

Gene Hackman

Marcello Mastroianni

Paul Newman

Jack Nicholson

James Stewart

Cary Grant

My Removal
Considering this remarkable list of talented actors, there were only a few possibilities for a removal. I'm not as familiar with Marcello Mastroianni, so he was an option. I've only seen two of his films (8 1/2 and La Dolce Vita), but that doesn't feel like a fair reason for removing him. There are actors like Jack Nicholson and Robert De Niro who have delivered forgettable performances in recent years, but their overall output is too strong to give them the boot. This leaves Leonardo DiCaprio, who I've enjoyed in most of his roles. However, he's the only guy that doesn't quickly come to mind when I think of the best actors of all time. DiCaprio may be one of the major talents of this generation, but he falls a bit short when looking at film history on the whole. Goodbye, Leo. I have a feeling you may return soon.

My Addition
Although this group includes legendary actors from older films (Stewart and Grant), it neglects the silent era. There are two undeniable artists that deserve to make this list, Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. Both have their own skills and crafted amazing movies, but I'm giving the slight edge to Chaplin and putting him back in there. This doesn't mean he has superior skills and relates more to his long-term impact on the medium. His genius expanded the possibilities of silent comedies during a remarkable run. City Lights is one of my favorite movies, and Modern Times and The Gold Rush are close behind. These films remain in the pop-culture consciousness, which is remarkable given the amount of time that has passed. Chaplin is an original who deserves a place in any list of the best actors of all time.

Who's Next?
I'm passing the torch into the capable hands of Max from Impassionedcinema, who provides movie news and excellent reviews on his well-designed site. Take it away, Max!


  1. This has to be the best blogathon ever. I'm so glad Jimmy Stewart is still in there :D Nice choice with Chaplin!

    1. Thanks Ruth! This has been a great blogathon, even though making a pick was very tricky.

  2. Sad to see Leo leave, but maybe you're right about him. So great you added Chaplin though, I completely forgot about him when I was writing my entry.

    1. I'd definitely have Leo on a list of the 10 best actors working today, but he seemed out of place in an all-time list. There are just too many good options!

  3. Good choices, sir.

    Also, I believe this is the first time in history my name has had the word "great" tacked in front of it.

    1. Steve, I find that hard to believe. I know you didn't campaign, but I still think you got snubbed in the "Best Classic Blog" category of the Lammys.

    2. I nominated him. Just saying. Wish more people had been that wise.

  4. I approve of your removal! Sadly Chaplin is not a personal favorite of mine, though I do understand that he deserves respect and probably should be on that list. I just don't like that kind of humor very much.

    1. Jessica, I think Chaplin is an expert physical comedian, but what really draws me to his work is the added touches like the satire, particularly in some of his later movies. I can understand how you feel, though. Thanks!

  5. Great to see Chaplin back on here. He is an absolute must. There's a few others I would have rather see go than Leo though! Looking forward to seeing what Max does with the list!

    1. Pete, I'm curious who you would remove instead of DiCaprio. Hackman? Mastroianni? Grant?

  6. I agree with your choice. Chaplin's facial performance just in that final scene from City Lights is one of the best things committed to film.

    1. Dave, that last scene is pitch-perfect. City Lights is one of my favorite movies.

  7. Very happy to see Chaplin return to the list. When I created this I just couldn't leave him out of there and I was sad to see him removed earlier. DiCaprio surely will return eventually, I'm sure of it.

    1. I think you're right about DiCaprio. He's already been removed twice, so I'm guessing he may return. I just couldn't see leaving him instead of Chaplin (and possibly a few others).

  8. Great choice, Dan! I am happy to see Chaplin make a return as he really is one of the all-time greats. Hopefully Keaton gets some time in the sun as well at some point.

    1. Eric, I also thought about Keaton, who deserves a lot more recognition. It was close, but I had to go with Chaplin because he's created some of my all-time favorites, especially City Lights. I hope he's able to stick around on this list!

  9. I never have seen what others apparently see in DiCaprio. He is a decent actor, and after working with Scorsese a few times, he has grown in so-called leaps and bounds, but there is no way he deserves inclusion on a list with De Niro, Newman, Stewart, Grant, Day-Lewis, Bogart, Mastroianni and (now) Chaplin. I guess what I am saying is, nice choice for a knock-off. I am currently doing my edition of the Best Actress wing of the series, and hopefully will soon be handed the baton for this one as well. I already have a few ideas for my inclusion.

    1. I like DiCaprio, but I agree with you about trying to compare him to those other guys. He seems like the odd man out. It's been interesting to see where these series have gone after me. My Actress pick of Ingrid Bergman is still in place, so that's good. It's not an easy task to make these picks.

  10. Well, my Best Actress edition will be up and running tomorrow, and you should have no worries about Ms. Bergman being kicked out.

    1. That's good. I'm looking forward to checking out your picks.


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