When it comes to arts and in particular film industry, there is no religion or race which is superior to the other. All of them are equal when it comes to the big screen. But as we all know how the Jews have been treated in the past and it took this community quite some time to get back on their feet and get a respectful place in the community.
They have contributed immensely when it comes to arts, culture and especially the film industry. They have embraced the reality and proudly took their place among the pioneers of the film industry. Therefore, as a tribute to such amazing talents, we have decided to prepare a list of some of the greatest Jewish film actors to have ever graced the big screen.
This list is based solely for appreciation of the accomplishments achieved by the Jews in the film industry. This list consists of Jews who are incredibly talented at what they do, the level or Jewish practice or their “Jewish-ness” doesn’t count unless they have contributed significantly to the industry. Here are the top 10 Best Jewish actors of all time.
10. Daniel Radcliffe
We start off this list with someone who is adored and absolutely loved by millions around the world; he is someone who is more synonymous with the name Harry Potter than his real name Daniel Radcliffe. This highly talented actor started out his career with a role in the two-part BBC television adaptation of David Copperfield by Dickens. Having starred in that role, Radcliffe had no idea about the heights his career would soon head to. After his amazing performance in his first role, he was selected to play the lead role in the movie “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”. This movie turned out to be a huge hit and would lead to several sequels which were equally or more successful.
In 2009, Radcliffe was ranked as the wealthiest teenager in the UK and his 2011 figures revealed his wealth at an estimated £28.5 million which made him wealthier than Prince Harry of Wales, Duke of Cambridge and Prince Williams.
9. Gene Wilder
Born by the name Jerome Silberman in 1933, Gene Wilder began his career with relatively smaller roles, with his role in “Bonnie & Clyde” bringing him critical acclaim. Within the next year, he managed to land the role of Leo Bloom in “The Producers” which turned out to be a comedic masterpiece by Mel Brooks. It became so successful that Wilder managed to earn a nomination for an Academy Award.
He has had several successful collaborations with legendary comedians like Mel Brooks and Richard Pryor that have resulted in nominations for two Golden Globes and two Oscars. The comedy films in which he collaborated with Brooks have been specially selected for preservation by Library of Congress for their historical, cultural and aesthetic significance.
8. Harvey Keitel
According to many, Harvey Keitel was responsible for jump-starting careers of many of the great film directors of the 20th century. He has starred in the debuts of legendary directors like Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese and has even worked with them later in their careers which solidified his reputation of having a unique eye and impeccable taste for great directors.
Having being born in 1939, Keitel played roles of a Jew in many popular movies such as The Wolf in “Pulp Fiction”, Mickey Cohen in “Bugsy” and Harry Houdini in “Fairy Tale: A True Story”. He had already been an underappreciated actor as his biggest recognition came for his movie “Bugsy”, for which he received Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations.
7. Kirk Douglas
Having been born as Issur Danielovitch in 1916, this legendary actor’s film career has spanned more than six decades. Having been nominated for the Academy Awards a staggering three times, he has been an absolute legend for his generation as well as for generations-to-come. His contribution to the industry was so huge that in 1996 he was given an Honorary Oscar for “50 years as a creative and moral force in the motion picture community”.
He even received the American Film Institute Life Achievement Award in 1991 for his lifetime contribution towards American culture through motion pictures. He is also ranked as number 17 on American Film Institute’s list of Greatest American Screen Legends (male).
6. Richard Dreyfuss
Next on the list is the legendary Richard Dreyfuss. Having been born in Brooklyn, NY in 1947 to a Jewish family, he burst onto the scene with starring roles in “American Graffiti”, “Jaws” and “Close Encounter of the Third Kind”. His role in American Graffiti helped him earn a nomination for Golden Globe while his role in Jaws managed to land him a nomination for BAFTA award. He created history in 1977, as at the age of just 30 he managed to earn the Academy Award for Best Actor while being the youngest to do so.
5. Harrison Ford
Starting the top 5 countdown is Harrison Ford. He was born in 1942 to a Jewish mother and a Catholic father in Chicago. He began his career with hits like “American Graffiti” before managing to land and star in the role of arguably cinema’s most revered characters Han Solo, in George Lucas’ “Star Wars”.
A few years later, he starred as one of the greatest fictional characters of all time, Indiana Jones in the super hit “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. Five of the movies in which Ford has starred have been preserved in the Library of Congress. His success and contribution to the industry can be summed up by the fact that his films have managed to gross more than $6 billion worldwide.
4. Adrian Brody
Number 4 on the list is Adrian Brody. He was born in 1973 in Queens, NY to Jewish parents. He started his film career in 1988 and didn’t quite get the praise or recognition thanks to the string of forgettable roles in numerous independent films. It was hit amazing performance in Roman Polanski’s 2002 Holocaust film “The Pianist” which managed to gain the attention of critics and masses alike.
For his role in “The Pianist”, he managed to land the Academy Award for Best Actor and in doing so the 29 year old became the youngest Actor to do so.
3. Woody Allen
Number 3 on the countdown is arguably one of the biggest and most famous superstars to ever grace the film industry. He is one of the most decorated stars in the industry as he has been nominated for Academy Awards a staggering 21 times out of which he has managed to win three. He has also won 11 BAFTA awards which is quite an achievement.
Having been born as Allen Steward Konigsberg to Jewish Parents, he has had a long and glittering film career. He has directed 41 motion pictures in 45 years and is currently working on his 42nd.
Initially, he started out as a stand-up comedian in NYC clubs and became well-known for his sketch-comedy films. He then moved into narrating films and won two Oscars for “Annie Hall”.
2. Dustin Hoffman
Next on the list is the legendary Dustin Hoffman. This legendary actor was born in 1937 in Los Angeles and studied at the esteemed Actors Studio in NY. He managed to land his first major role in 1966, with Mike Nichols’ iconic hit “The Graduate”. His earned critical acclaim from critics and fans alike and managed to receive the first of his seven Oscars nominations.
His next big role, of a single father fighting for his son’s custody in “Kramer vs. Kramer” managed to earn him his first Academy Award for Best Actor. His next mesmerizing performance was as an autistic Raymond in Barry Levinson’s “Rainman” which helped him earn his second Academy Award for Best Actor.
In 1999, Hoffman was honoured with the American Film Institute Life Achievement Award for his contribution to the art. Another huge honour for him was that four of his films were selected for preservation by the Library of Congress.
1. Daniel Day-Lewis
Number one on this list is arguably the most talented Jew to ever grace the big screen. That legendary actor is none other than Daniel Day-Lewis. He is an Irish Jew of relentless talent who has managed to establish himself as a Hollywood eccentric and a living legend. He is one of the most devoted actors ever seen as he rarely breaks character even between takes.
He didn’t find instant success early in his career but managed to grab everyone’s attention with his role as Christie Brown in “My Left Foot” who was a legendary Irishman who unfortunately suffered from cerebral palsy. His performance in the movie managed to earn him his first Oscar for Best Actor. He then went on to feature in several blockbuster movies among which was the 2007 super hit “There Will be Blood”, which landed him his second Oscar for Best Actor.
Here were some of the most talented and hardworking Jew actors whose contribution to the film industry is beyond explainable in words. These dedicated and hardworking superstars have shown that if you work hard and follow your dreams, anything is possible. I’m sure they are a source of inspiration for this generation as well as generations to come.