Here is a list of my twenty favorite living movie stars. Why the rule they must be alive? To be honest, so I can be more playful. If one tries to create a list based on the entire history of cinema, there are so many titans one can't ignore, from Chaplin and Keaton to Bogart to Brando, and it just becomes a staid recreation of the American Film Institute's 100 Stars list (a good list, though ignoring Steve McQueen was criminal).
My original plan was to justify each inclusion with a paragraph or two, but it became tedious, and I found I was often repeating myself. Most of them I consider dramatic actors of the highest order. A few comic geniuses, too. And the list begins with the man I would dub the reigning king of the modern action film. In general, the words "movie star," in my mind, indicate talent, of course, but also mystique, a certain fiery, larger-than-life x factor.
I tried to be very honest with the list. For examle, Clint Eastwood is not on it because, at the end of the day, he is not among my twenty favorite male movie stars. It would be foolish and dishonest to push actors I find more fascinating, engaging, and/or entertaining from the list just to include him on the grounds he is a veteran and an icon.
Please feel free to leave comments: agree, disagree, post your own personal favorites, angrily point out the list needs more actors of color, etc.
20. Jason Statham
Two Essential Films Snatch, The Transporter
Next Movie The Expendables 2
19. Christian Bale
Two Essential Films American Psycho, The Fighter
Next Movie The Dark Knight Rises
18. Edward Norton
Two Essential Films American History X, Fight Club
Next Movie The Bourne Legacy
17. Benicio Del Toro
Two Essential Films 21 Grams, Che
Next Movie Savages
16. Michael Fassbender
Two Essential Films Jane Eyre, Shame
Next Movie Prometheus
15. Jude Law
Two Essential Films The Talented Mr. Ripley, A.I. Artificial Intelligence
Next Movie 360
14. Sean Connery
Two Essential Films From Russia with Love, The Name of the Rose
Next Movie - (Retired, though it is hard not to wish he could play one more fantastic role and not end his iconic screen career with LXG)
13. George Clooney
Two Essential Films O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Syriana
Next Movie Gravity
12. Javier Bardem
Two Essential Films The Sea Inside, No Country for Old Men
Next Movie Skyfall
11. Robert Redford
Two Essential Films The Sting, Out of Africa
Next Movie The Company You Keep
10. Michael Caine
Two Essential Films the original Get Carter, Hannah and Her Sisters
Next Movie The Dark Knight Rises
9. Bill Murray
Two Essential Films Ghostbusters, Lost in Translation
Next Movie Hyde Park on Hudson
8. Jim Carrey
Two Essential Films The Truman Show, A Christmas Carol
Next Movie The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
7. Tom Cruise
Two Essential Films Born on the Fourth of July, Collateral
Next Movie Rock of Ages
6. Clive Owen
Two Essential Films Closer, Children of Men
Next Movie Shadow Dancer
5. Russell Crowe
Two Essential Films The Insider, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Next Movie Les Misérables
4. Ewan McGregor
Two Essential Films Trainspotting, Beginners
Next Movie The Impossible
3. Leonardo DiCaprio
Two Essential Films Catch Me If You Can, Inception
Next Movie Django Unchained
2. Colin Farrell
Two Essential Films The New World, In Bruges
Next Movie Total Recall
1. Nicolas Cage
Two Essential Films Leaving Las Vegas, Adaptation.
Next Movie Stolen
No, you have not entered the Twilight Zone. Or perhaps you have. Either way, yes, I have placed Nicolas Cage at no. 1 on this list. Yes, he has done several bad films. When Russell Crowe does a bad film, it tends to be along the lines of Proof of Life or Body of Lies, admirable failures by respected directors. When Cage does a bad film, it's THE BEES! But when Cage is good, in particular when he's good and in a film by a director willing to push the envelope and experiment (such as David Lynch in Wild at Heart or Joel and Ethan Coen in Raising Arizona), there is a magic I'm not sure the other men on this list can generate. A mad, mystical, and electric magic, the acting equivalent of Hunter S. Thompson's writing or the Beatles recording "I Am the Walrus." Even in mediocre B movies (Next, for example, or Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance), there are brief moments of wild-eyed genius which indicate you the moviegoer are in the presence of a man with a significant and unique talent, even if it is a talent he often fails to control or concentrate the way we wish he would.
The average age of the actors on this list is 49. They range in age from the 35-year-old Fassbender to the 81-year-old Connery.
Seven are American. Four are English. Two are Scottish. Two are Irish, though Fassbender was born in Germany. One is Welsh, though identifies as English (Bale). One is Canadian. One is a New Zealand born Australian. One is Spanish. One is Puerto Rican.
Fifteen have been nominated for at least one Oscar. Cage, Crowe, Caine, Redford, Bardem, Clooney, Connery, Del Toro, and Bale have won an Oscar. Only Caine has won twice, both for Best Supporting Actor. Jim Carrey has won two Golden Globes, for The Truman Show and Man on the Moon, in addition to five other nominations, but has not yet been nominated for an Oscar.
Three of the top ten highest grossing films in history include at least one of these actors. DiCaprio is in Titanic. Bale and Caine are in The Dark Knight. McGregor is in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace. Every actor on the list had been in at least one $100 million hit. Bardem, Del Toro, and Owen only once: Collateral, Traffic, and The Bourne Identity, respectively. Cruise has been in seventeen: Top Gun, Rain Man, A Few Good Men, The Firm, Interview with the Vampire, Mission: Impossible, Jerry Maguire, Mission: Impossible II, Vanilla Sky, Minority Report, Austin Powers in Goldmember, The Last Samurai, Collateral, War of the Worlds, Mission: Impossible III, Tropic Thunder, and Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol.