The Sopranos

The 10 Best TV Actors Of All Time, According To Ranker

While film actors usually get more recognition, some TV actors go above and beyond. These are the 10 best TV actors of all time, according to Ranker.

While film actors usually get more recognition, some TV actors go above and beyond. These are the 10 best TV actors of all time, according to Ranker.

With the era of prestige TV in full effect, some shows are shining brighter than their big screen counterparts, and it has a lot to do with the quality of the acting. While a lot of TV actors are overlooked, some give performances that are so strong that they are impossible to ignore.

Whether its beloved comedic performers like Robin Williams or dramatic juggernauts like James Gandolfini, some TV actors have carved a spot for themselves in the annals of history. Though there are many great TV actors, users on Ranker took to the site to vote for their favorite small screen performers.

Lucille Ball

Lucille Ball on the phone in I Love Lucy

As illustrated in the recent film Being The Ricardos, the legacy of Lucille Ball is impossible to ignore. Being a pioneering woman in a mostly male-dominated television world was difficult enough, but she backed it up with hilarious comedic performances in many classic television shows and movies.

Mostly remembered for her turn in I Love Lucy, Ball and her husband Desi Arnaz were also important figures in the production side of television as well. Ball’s career made her a household name and it was due in large part to her likable comedic performances and her talk show appearances. While she may have appeared in several hit films, she is synonymous with the golden age of television.

Steve Carell

Michael Scott looks on in The Office

With the rise of binge worthy television, and with streaming services making re-watching easier, few actors have gotten as much attention as Steve Carell. Mostly known for his turn as Michael Scott on the immensely popular sitcom The Office, Carell’s career has taken him to both the big and small screens almost evenly.

Proving himself to be excellent at both comedy and drama, Carell is frequently side-splitting and compelling from role to role. While The Office may have been his most famous television role, he has continued to flesh out his legacy with a plethora of different parts since the show ended.

Carol Burnett

Carol Burnett looks on from Law and Order SVU

When it comes to important female figures in the world of comedy, few names come to mind quite like that of Carol Burnett. The triple threat performer was the host of her own variety show for many years and it was there that most viewers fell in love with her goofy comedic characters.

While she was mostly known as a performer, Burnett’s creativity was one of the biggest reasons that The Carol Burnett Show is considered to be one of the most well written shows of all time. Outside of her TV show, Burnett also got several opportunities to flash her other skills by performing in stage musicals as well.

Patrick Stewart

Captain Picard on the bridge of the enterprise

The world of science fiction was forever changed when British actor Patrick Stewart was tapped to play Captain Jean-Luc Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Being a classically trained performer, Stewart brought a level of prestige to the series that had rarely been seen in television before.

RELATED:The Best Character In Each Season Of Star Trek: TNG

As Picard, Stewart was able to bring out the best elements of his performance and apply it to the fascinating world of Star Trek. Reprising the role several times in movies and TV, Stewarts legacy was forever linked with TV. However, he has had several successful stints in stage plays in the United States as well as in his native Great Britain.

Carroll O’Connor

Archie Bunker speaks angrily from All in the Family

When it comes to being remembered for one role, Carroll O’Connor’s famous stint as Archie Bunker in All In The Family summarized his entire career. Flexing his comedic muscles, O’Connor’s foul-mouthed Bunker was cantankerous and also delivered the best quotes from the show. While he wasn’t always PC, Bunker was one of the most iconic characters in TV history.

O’Connor would work mostly in television for his entire career, and would land several successful sitcom roles even after All In The Family ended. As time has gone by, viewers have only come to appreciate O’Connor’s performance more, and he is still one of the most beloved sitcom performers of all time.

Peter Dinklage

Cyrano looks grim while leaning against a wall from Cyrano

Starting his career in indie film roles like The Station Agent, Peter Dinklage’s big break actually came on the small screen. Appearing in all seasons of Game of Thrones as the witty and intelligent Tyrion Lannister, Dinklage completely reinvented himself and got a chance to show off his skills in front of a larger audience.

While he has mostly left TV behind since GoT‘s ending, Dinklage has continued to grow as a performer in roles like Cyrano. With his career still in its heyday, it is impossible to say what he will do next, but there is no doubting that Dinklage will always be remembered for his memorable years as Tyrion Lannister.

Betty White

Rose stands with her arms open from Golden Girls

The late great Betty White left an indelible legacy with her performances, but also with her well publicized philanthropic efforts. While she may be most known for her role in The Golden Girls, White’s career was already decades long by that point, and she had made her mark on the TV landscape.

By being one of the most consistent performers in TV history, White appeared in dozens of one off appearance over the decades, and her reputation grew. In White’s best TV guest appearances, she was both witty and sincere, and became a recognizable TV icon for every decade that she worked in.

Robin Williams

Robin Williams looks on in Good Will Hunting

Some performers become so big that their great years on TV are overshadowed by larger projects that they starred in. Not only was Robin Williams a successful stand-up act, but his early years in television helped to launch him into superstardom on shows like Mork and Mindy.

RELATED:10 Robin Williams Films That Prove His Versatility As An Actor 

Williams’ later film roles would further elevate his status, but it is important to remember that his TV parts were where most audience members first met the iconic comedian. His untimely passing really helped to put into focus just how important Williams’ impact was on the general public, and his legacy lives on in his various film and TV roles.

Bryan Cranston

Bryan Cranston reaches out towards the camera in Malcolm in the Middle

Occasionally, an actor can make a dramatic turn that completely reinvents the way that viewers see them. Bryan Cranston’s years on the hit sitcom Malcolm in the Middle made him a household name, but his turn as Walter White on Breaking Bad was what put him over the top.

Always a reliable actor, Cranston was given a chance to shine in Breaking Bad and he ran with the opportunity. Though the show was written brilliantly, Cranston’s performance was one of the biggest reasons that the show is beloved, and it has launched him into other dramatic roles in TV shows and movies.

James Gandolfini

Tony looking sad in The Sopranos

It was a bold move for veteran actor James Gandolfini to make the leap from the big screen to the small in the series The Sopranos, but it paid off for him in spades. At that time, television wasn’t as prestigious as film, but The Sopranos was one of the first series to change that perception with its strong writing, direction, and performances.

While he had played a variety of parts through the years, it was as Tony Soprano that Gandolfini came into his own, and he began to get the recognition that he deserved. After the series ended, Gandolfini continued to play in a variety of film and television roles, but the shadow of The Sopranos hung over him, and he will always be remembered as the notorious gangster.


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