Top 10 Decade Defining Actors: 2000s

Written by Sean Harris At the turn of the Millennium, the movies were big business! And over the next ten years, these actors really made the industry their own! Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the top 10 Decade Defining Actors of the 2000s! For our series on the Top 10 Decade Defining Male Actors Per Period, we’ve made our choices based on a combination of their commercial success, their box-office scores, their productivity, their awards and how they helped set the tone and raise the standard in Hollywood for the era. Special thanks to our users Ceione Pafford, movielover459, Sp3xyBe4st, Ultimarx87 and Andrew A. Dennison for submitting the idea through our Suggest Tool at WatchMojo.comSuggest
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Written by Sean Harris

Top 10 Decade Defining Actors of the 2000s


At the turn of the Millennium, the movies were big business! And over the next ten years, these actors really made the industry their own! Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 Decade Defining Actors of the 2000s!

For our series on the Top 10 Decade Defining Male Actors Per Period, we’ve made our choices based on a combination of their commercial success, their box-office scores, their productivity, their awards and how they helped set the tone and raise the standard in Hollywood for the era.

#10: Robert Downey, Jr.
1965 -

This man staged a rise back to superstardom across the first decade of this century. In 2000, he was in and out of jail and rehab, battling addictions to all manner of substances. But by 2010, he was a leading face of the Marvel franchise, and a blockbusting international hero. Downey, Jr.’s credentials have always been apparent – after all, he earned an Oscar nomination for his role as Charlie Chaplin in 1992; but this decade saw him really flourish. First “Iron Man,” then “Tropic Thunder,” then “Sherlock Holmes” and now he’s an inspirational success.

#9: Russell Crowe
1964 -

Much of Russell Crowe’s success came early in the 2000s, but he remained a much sought after actor throughout the decade and into the next. In “Gladiator,” his performance as Maximus gained maximum attention, as he picked up the Academy Award for Best Actor. The following year he starred in a slightly more subdued role, as troubled genius John Nash, and again received critical acclaim. He became a national hero, was awarded the Australian Centenary Medal, and is now honored with a place on our top ten.

#8: Jason Statham
1967 -

This tough guy owes his big break to director Guy Ritchie, who cast Statham first as ‘Bacon’ in “Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” and then as ‘Turkish’ in his violent flick “Snatch.” The latter was released in 2000, and Statham soon became the face, and voice, of 21st century action movies. He appeared in the title role of “The Transporter” three times, took the lead in another Ritchie film, “Revolver,” and even showed his funny side in “Crank.” He’s an all-singing, all-dancing, all-beating us up action star!

#7: Ian McKellen
1939 -

He’s one of the more mature actors in our countdown, and while it’s true that Ian McKellen’s career isn’t limited to the 2000s, it certainly was a decade in which he excelled. At the turn of the century he was cast as the villainous Magneto in “X-Men,” and one year after that he appeared as heroic Gandalf in “The Lord of the Rings.” Flitting between the very bad and the very good, he did so with versatility, style, and apparent ease!

#6: Seth Rogen
1982 -

Director Judd Apatow, and the ‘Frat Pack’ group of actors that dominated comedy during the 2000s, really pushed the genre into the future. People like Steve Carell, Paul Rudd and Owen Wilson deserve recognition, but Seth Rogen did more than most to set the sophomoric standard. Films like “Knocked Up” and “Pineapple Express” took everyday characters and situations, and turned them into sidesplitting hilarity. “Superbad” was also super-good(!), and just think: it’s a movie Rogen wrote in high-school! The guy’s a joking genius!

#5: George Clooney
1961 -

He made it onto this list through acting ability alone, though in truth he’s an all-round cinema supremo! George Clooney was a big name before this century, but he became even bigger within the first few years of it. “Ocean’s 11” gave him a lead-role in a film that grossed $450 million and spawned two sequels, “Michael Clayton” earned him an Oscar nomination, and “Syriana” earned him an Oscar victory! He’s since branched out into writing, directing, producing, everything! He’s smooth, sexy, and hugely successful!

#4: Will Ferrell
1967 -

The ‘Frat Pack’ has already been featured on this list, but their rowdiest representative has yet to be heard from! Will Ferrell’s impact on popular comedy movies cannot be understated. His screaming, screeching, mad, bad, honest and outrageous brand of humor has set the tone for everyone else. He’s someone who just can’t help being funny, and he must be a director’s dream! After his “Saturday Night Live” days, “Old School” set him in motion, and “Elf,” “Anchorman,” and countless others snowballed the guy to stardom. Accept no imitations, there is only one!

#3: Christian Bale
1974 -

This man’s rise to the top has been far from easy! Christian Bale does not shy away from a role when he believes the film is good enough! He has great acting ability, and has shown consistent dedication to his characters. For “American Psycho” he spent months honing the ‘Olympian physique’ of Patrick Bateman, four years later, he lost over 60lbs within months for “The Machinist,” before gaining 100lbs to play Batman! It’s a tremendous effort, they’re tremendous films, and he’s a tremendous actor!

#2: Daniel Day-Lewis
1957 -

Like Christian Bale, Daniel Day-Lewis has done more than most to meet the demands of his characters. An advocate of ‘method acting,’ in 2002 he lived the violent life of Bill ‘The Butcher’ for “Gangs of New York,” and in 2007, he was oil prospector Daniel Plainview in “There Will Be Blood.” Receiving numerous awards, including an Oscar, he barely came out of character for the duration of filming. For “Gangs of New York” he almost refused treatment for pneumonia because he believed it was ill fitting for the period! That’s hardcore!

Before we unveil our pick for Decade Defining Actor of the 2000s, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Vin Diesel
1967 -
- Steve Carell
1962 -
- Joaquin Phoenix
1974 - Heath Ledger
1979 - 2008
- Viggo Mortensen
1958 -
- Hugh Jackman
1968 -

#1: Leonardo DiCaprio
1974 -

The list of critically acclaimed, box-office hits that he racked up within the first decade of the 2000s is more than most actors achieve in a lifetime. Kicking things off with “The Beach,” he went on to play serial-fraudster, Frank Abagnale, and started a lasting partnership with Martin Scorsese in 2002. His portrayal of aviation pioneer Howard Hughes won him a Golden Globe award, “The Departed” earned him another nod and in 2008 he won even more acclaim for his role in “Revolutionary Road.” He’s the modern-day movie-star, classical and cutting-edge, and a role-model for his generation!

Do you agree with our list? Which 2000s actor do you think is the most iconic? For more classic Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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