Updated On: November 06, 2023 by   Aya Radwan   Aya Radwan  

What makes an actor successful? Is it the critics’ choice, the people’s choice, or the box office’s response? Perhaps a combination of all these factors, an actor well-received by the critics is not necessarily well-received by the audience. However, the audience considers the critics’ opinions when giving an actor a chance to prove themselves.

There was a significant number of film releases during the last decade, the 2010s, which saw a rise in superhero movies that is still ongoing. Actors have diversified their work as well; after strictly performing in films, many started to take on roles for Television and act in miniseries.

To determine the most successful actors of the decade, we need to look at several factors. These include the number of the actor’s projects during the decade, their financial success, received or nominated awards, performance quality and whether they had a positive media presence or not.

With these factors in mind, we bring you the most successful actors of the decade.

1.    Hugh Jackman

successful actors

Hugh Jackman started to creep into people’s hearts as one of their favourite mutants; Wolverine. He reprised this role in all the following X-Men films with great success, and he also had a new spin-off from the series in Logan in 2017. However, when Hugh started singing and performing in Les Misérables in 2012 and The Greatest Showman in 2017, more people began to fall in love with the actor. In between these films, Jackman took us on a bone-chilling journey where a father was looking for his daughter and her friend in the film Prisoners in 2013. Hugh Jackman proved he could excel in both action-packed films and heartwarming musical films.

2.    Benedict Cumberbatch

successful actors

Before many knew Benedict Cumberbatch as the superhero who could practice magic and bend time and place dimensions; Doctor Strange, many knew him as Sherlock Holmes in the TV show Sherlock, which ran from 2010 to 2017. Cumberbatch presented many memorable roles besides the sarcastic Doctor Strange, such as his flawless performance in The Imitation Game in 2014. Benedict also reprised his role as Doctor Strange in all the Avengers Franchise and his own spin-off films.

3.    Ryan Gosling

successful actors

In 2011, Ryan Gosling’s role as the driver in the film Drive earned him great support from the independent film industry. Gosling’s performance in two different films in the same year, The Ides of March and Crazy, Stupid, Love, pushed him up the list in the audience’s hearts. Ryan’s varied roles in these films proved he could also excel in action and thriller films, not just romantic ones such as The Notebook. One more skill Gosling added to his repertoire was dancing and singing in the 2016’s multi-Academy Award-winning film, La La Land.

4.    Robert Downey Jr.

successful actors

The multi-talented actor Robert Downey Jr. has cemented his place in people’s hearts and the film industry over his impressive acting years. He is known as the witty and sarcastic Sherlock Holmes, the superhero who continuously and tirelessly saves humanity; Iron Man, and he even impressed us all with his performance as Peter Highman in Due Date, Dr John Dolittle in Dolittle and Hank Palmer in The Judge. Robert Downey Jr. will always be known as the superhero who saved humanity, and generations still grow up watching and loving his character Iron Man.

5.    Gary Oldman

successful actors

Gary Oldman has been long known for his complex film roles. Still, his performance as Commissioner Gordon in The Dark Knight franchise and Sirius Black in the Harry Potter films echoed differently in the audience’s hearts. Oldman continued his diverse roles as the mad scientist Dr Dennett Norton in RoboCop, Dreyfus in the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Winston Churchill in the Darkest Hour, which won him an Academy Award for the best leading role.

6.    Leonardo DiCaprio

successful actors

Leonardo DiCaprio is one the hardest working actors in the film industry. He managed to be in several successful films in consecutive years, starting from 2010’s Shutter Island, followed by Inception also in 2010, in 2013, he starred in The Great Gatsby and the punching-film, The Wolf of Wall Street. DiCaprio finally ended the jokes about winning an Oscar with his 2015 thriller film, The Revenant. His role in Quentin Tarantino’s tangy film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood earned him another Oscar nomination.

7.    Matthew McConaughey

successful actors

Matthew McConaughey’s journey through the past decade is the definition of success. He starred in major blockbusters that went on to collect prestigious awards. The actor’s leading role in the biography film, Dallas Buyers Club in 2013, won him an Academy Award in the next Oscar ceremony. McConaughey’s list of outstanding works kept getting longer; his role as Detective Rust Cohle in True Detective and Cooper in Interstellar will live on in the audience’s memories for years to come.

8.    Tom Hardy

successful actors

There’s one rule about Tom Hardy’s films, “If Tom Hardy is in it, then it’s going to be a success”, and all of Hardy’s films through the past decade have proven this to be true. His heroic roles in Warrior and Mad Max: Fury Road greatly contradict with the evil-spawning character he played in The Dark Knight Rises. Furthermore, he pulled off the idea of a blood-thirsty alien who preys on humans in Venom so well that he became the people’s new favourite good guy/bad alien. We have to mention his roles as Tuck in This Means War and Alfie in Peaky Blinders. I mean, those parts show the multi-talents Hardy has.

9.    Keanu Reeves

successful actors

Just when we thought Keanu Reeves would forever be an iconic dystopian hero, he hits us with a new irresistible series; John Wick. During the past decade, Reeves gave us three gory films in the John Wick series, and there’s even more to come. Wick’s character put all Reeves’ fans at the edge of their seats, asking for more. However, that’s not all our beloved Reeves presented us; other of his major roles include Man of Tai Chi, 47 Ronin, Siberia, Replicas and even the voice of Duke Caboom in Toy Story 4.

10. Joaquin Phoenix

successful actors

Joaquin turned the world’s eyes to his performance of the psychotic Arthur Fleck, known as the Joker, which earned him an Academy Award. But Phoenix’s career has been nothing less extraordinary. He perfected Freddie Quell’s character in The Master, earning an Academy Award nomination, and Theodore’s character in Her earned him a nomination from the American Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films in the USA.

11. Christian Bale

successful actors
English actor Christian Bale arrives at the Los Angeles Premiere Of Netflix’s ‘The Pale Blue Eye’ held at the Directors Guild of America Theater Complex on December 14, 2022 in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Xavier Collin/Image Press Agency)

Many people see Christian Bale as the actor who can do it all; Bale can change how he looks by following strict diets to best fit his film characters. For a lot of people, Christian will always be Batman, which is one character Christian nailed. However, the massive change Christian Bale made to his looks to fit different roles won him an Oscar and three Academy Award nominations in The Fighter, American Hustle, The Big Short and Vice, respectively. 

12. Johnny Depp

successful actors

Speaking of changing one’s appearance, Johnny Depp is known as The Chameleon. Depp’s 2010s journey began with Alice in Wonderland, another sequel of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, moving on to Dark Shadows, Transcendence, Alice Through the Looking Glass, The Professor and how can we forget his epic performance as Grindelwald in the Fantastic Beasts films. Throughout his career, Johnny Depp has proven he doesn’t act; he becomes the character, hence the nickname.

13. Tom Hanks

successful actors

Tom Hanks’ success through the 1990s and the 2000s continues for the new decade. He is at a stage in his career where he can make any role great just by assuming it. Hanks delighted us in a diverse array of parts that prove he is one the greatest actors of all time, not just the past decade. From Hanks’ roles as Fred Rogers in the capturing film, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Captain Richard Phillips in Captain Phillips, Chesley Sullenberger in Sully, Professor Robert Langdon in Dan Brown’s Inferno and the voice of our beloved Sheriff Woody in the Toy Story franchise. Tom Hanks’s films delighted and will continue to delight generations to come.

14. Brad Pitt

successful actors

Brad Pitt’s success through the past decade has been on the rise. He kicked off the decade as Billy Beane in the biography film Moneyball, Jackie in the crime-thriller Killing Them Softly, Gerry Lane in the futuristic epidemic world of World War Z up to the role that got him his first Oscar in 12 Years A Slave. Pitt didn’t back down and got his second Academy Award, for Best Supporting Actor Role, when he starred alongside DiCaprio in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. He finished off the decade with a thrilling space adventure in Ad Astra.

15. Bradley Cooper

successful actors

It wouldn’t be right not to include Bradley Cooper on our list of the most successful actors in the past decade. He started off with the enjoyable action-adventure film The A-Team, followed it with two sequels to The Hangover franchise, some drama and mystery in The Words and not to forget his roles in the Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. Perhaps Cooper’s fame skyrocketed when he starred alongside Lady Gaga in A Star is Born, where not only his acing but also the singing that got him more Oscar nominations. Soon enough, we’ll hear how Bradley Cooper finally won his first Oscar.

Which of these actors are you excited to have seen on our list? Do you think we’ve missed someone’s name? Let us know in the comments below!

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