The Most Handsome Actors In Hollywood History

Although some people in the industry don’t like to admit it, Hollywood is a place where image is everything. Ever since the beginning of filmmaking, the roles of leading men went to those who looked the part. That usually meant they had to be universally handsome, charming, and very talented in their craft.

Some became crime-fighting superheroes, others were talented song and dance men, and there were some who were born to make audiences laugh and cry. Finding the perfect actor is never easy, but these men sure made it look that way. Read on to discover what made these actors the most sought after men on the silver screen.

Gary Cooper Got Everyone’s Attention In Silent Movies

gary cooper wearing a cowboy hat in the early 20s
Sunset Boulevard/Corbis/Getty Images
Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

When Gary Cooper was first starting out in Hollywood he found himself starring in several silent films. During the mid to late 1920s, Cooper was considered to be one of the most popular and handsome silent movie actors. He didn’t appear in his first talkie until the age of 28 in 1929’s The Virginian.

Even as he started to mature in age, he didn’t seem to go without work for too long. He was nominated and won several Academy Awards for roles in Sergeant York, High Noon, and more. His legacy still lives on whether it be through a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame or a shout-out in JD Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye.

Errol Flynn Led A Life Of Destruction

errol flynn posing for a photo in black and white
George Hurrell/John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images
George Hurrell/John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images

Errol Flynn was one of Hollywood’s most handsome men due to the many romantic leading film roles he took on throughout his career. His heyday was during the 1930s in movies such as The Adventures of Robin Hood, Captain Blood, and Dodge City.

He did have a reputation for being a womanizer and was publicly called out for his behavior multiple times. His reckless attitude towards his personal life eventually led him to make a lot of thoughtless decisions. Some of his fans may remember he had a trained Schnauzer dog named Arlo who would accompany him everywhere in order to protect him.

How Sir Laurence Olivier Became A Royal

laurence olivier holding a dog and wearing a striped shirt
John Springer Collection/Corbis via Getty Images
John Springer Collection/Corbis via Getty Images

One of Sir Laurence Olivier’s biggest accomplishments was becoming the youngest actor to be knighted by the British monarchy. As a young boy, he learned the art of acting at a drama school in London and was a part of numerous esteemed plays on the West End by the time he was in his early 20s.

By the end of the 1930s, he was an established film actor with roles in Wuthering Heights, Rebecca, and movie versions of Shakespeare plays. His name continues to live on through The Olivier Awards, a life peerage, and the Order of Merit.

Gene Kelly Did A Whole Lot More Than Acting

gene kelly posing for a portrait in a suit
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

Someone who wore many hats throughout his Hollywood career was Gene Kelly. He dipped his toes in the acting world when he was about 26-years-old and soon became an established actor, dancer, singer, director, producer, screenwriter, comedian, and choreographer. During the Golden Age of Hollywood, he was known for his good looks, likable characters, and overall professional performing style.

He starred in several film productions including On the Town, An American in Paris, and Singin’ in the Rain. Not only did he win several Academy Awards, but was posthumously ranked the 15th greatest male screen legend of Classic Hollywood Cinema by the American Film Institute.

Early Fans Of Frank Sinatra Called Him This Nickname

frank sinatra singing into a retro microphone
MPI/Getty Images
MPI/Getty Images

There were a lot of nicknames given to legendary performer Frank Sinatra, but the one that really stuck was “Ol’ Blue Eyes.” When Sinatra was just starting out in the entertainment industry it was hard not to notice his striking blue eyes and smiling dimples.

Although he was mainly known for his golden voice, he was also an accomplished actor. He appeared in almost 70 movies and TV shows including Guys and Dolls, From Here to Eternity, Pal Joey, and Some Came Running. Sinatra was easily the most famous singer of the 1940s with adoring fans of mainly young women.

James Dean: The All-American Teenager

james dean with the red bomber jacket in a scene from rebel without a cause
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

In the 50s, American teenagers were looking for characters that resonated with them. One actor who did just that was James Dean. He played a teenager who felt that no one understood him in Rebel Without a Cause, which is a type of character commonly seen in teen-centered content.

His overall image of a good-looking all-American teen with slick-backed hair and a cool car has been imprinted into the minds of millions. Unfortunately, his life ended shortly after the filming of Rebel Without a Cause, but he remains one of the most talented actors of the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Elvis Presley Had To Be Censored On TV

elvis presley black and white headshot
RB/Redferns/Getty Images
RB/Redferns/Getty Images

As the world shifted into the 1950s Hollywood started to predominantly focus on the teen market. They were considered to be the rock and roll generation who were turned off by the nostalgia of their parents’ era. Films, television shows, and music reflected this switch.

Elvis Presley became a music icon in the 50s mainly due to his appeal to teenagers. Songs such as “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Hound Dog,” and “Tutti Frutti” were blasted on jukeboxes and record players everywhere. At the time he was considered to be quite risque. His energetic performances were censored and had to be shot from above the waist.

Marlon Brando Mastered His Craft Early In His Career

marlon brando in a costume for the wild one
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Something that set Marlon Brando apart from his peers was his studies at the Actors Studio. He, along with Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Paul Newman, Jane Fonda, and Al Pacino learned the techniques needed for method acting. Brando quickly shot to stardom when his performances and handsome features started to be noticed by audiences across the country.

He didn’t always play the good guy, but he made sure to be the good looking one. His career spanned across four decades including leading roles in A Streetcar Named Desire and The Godfather.

The Hilarious Story Behind Rock Hudson’s First Role

rock hudson reclining in a chair
Herbert Dorfman/Corbis via Getty Images
Herbert Dorfman/Corbis via Getty Images

Rock Hudson was born Roy Fitzgerald in Winnetka, Illinois on November 17, 1925. He was considered to be one of the Golden Age of Hollywood’s most famous heartthrobs and achieved stardom in movies such as Magnificent Obsession, Giant, and Pillow Talk.

During the filming of his first movie, Fighter Squadron, it took him 38 takes to successfully deliver his one and only line in the film. Toward the end of his life, he became one of the first stars of his era to come out and disclose his AIDS diagnosis.

Paul Newman Studied Acting For Years

paul newman wearing a tank top
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Paul Newman knew early on he wanted to be an actor after appearing in a few plays as a child. He studied at the Yale School of Drama and the Actors Studio before booking his first professional role on Broadway. He soon received small roles on TV and eventually got his breakout role in 1956’s Somebody Up There Likes Me.

While his charming personality and outward appearance helped him get acting roles, he credited the years he spent studying the craft to what made him a serious actor. Outside of acting, Newman was an active philanthropist, activist, racing enthusiast, and an ordained minister.

Robert Redford Didn’t Want To Be A Stereotype

robert redford wearing a brown jacket
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Archive Photos/Getty Images

When Robert Redford was first starting out in Hollywood in the 1960s, he was usually cast as the romantic lead in movies such as Barefoot in the Park and Inside Daisy Clover. His most famous role is as one of the leads in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Even early on in his film career, he knew he didn’t want to be typecast as the “blonde male stereotype image,” so he turned down several roles including The Graduate and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. When he’s not acting, Redford is an accomplished director, environmentalist, and activist.

How Steve McQueen Became The “King Of Cool”

steve mcqueen looking off in the distance
Herbert Dorfman/Corbis via Getty Images
Herbert Dorfman/Corbis via Getty Images

One of the aspects of what made Steve McQueen a handsome Hollywood leading actor was his sense of style. Whether he was spotted behind the wheel of one of his many collectible cars or sporting a pair of his signature sunglasses, there was a reason he was called the “King of Cool.”

His persona was best described as being an antihero. During the height of the counterculture movement of the 1960s, his antihero persona made him a top box office success. McQueen was the highest-paid actor of 1974 and was in high demand for the majority of his career.

Ryan O’Neal Has Some Talented Kids

ryan o'neal black and white portrait
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Before becoming a 1970’s heartthrob, Ryan O’Neal trained as an amateur boxer. He got his start on a soap opera called Peyton Place, but his real breakthrough role was the romantic lead in Love Story. The part earned him several awards including an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.

By the 1980s his demand as an actor declined, but he was kept in the tabloids for his many relationships. He has been linked to Farrah Fawcett, Bianca Jagger, Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, Anjelica Huston, Melanie Griffith, and many more. His daughter, Tatum O’Neal, became the youngest person to ever win an Oscar at 10-years-old from their joint movie Paper Moon.

Christopher Reeve Fought For Human Rights Both On And Off Camera

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Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis via Getty Images
Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis via Getty Images

Those who were fans of Christopher Reeve most likely know him for his portrayal of Superman in the 1978 film of the same name. He could fight crime in tights and a cape and still make it look as though he was barely breaking a sweat.

His other film roles included The Bostonians, Street Smart, and The Remains of the Day. Unfortunately, in 1995 Reeves was thrown from a horse causing him to become a quadriplegic. He needed a wheelchair and portable ventilator for the rest of his life and advocated on behalf of others with spinal cord injuries before his life ended in 2004.

Tom Cruise Was The Top Breakout Star Of The 80s

Tom Cruise laughs in a scene from the film 'Risky Business', 1983.
Warner Brothers/Getty Images
Warner Brothers/Getty Images

A breakout star of the 1980s who still has a successful acting career is Tom Cruise. As of 2020, his net worth is estimated to be at $570 million and his movies have grossed over $10 billion worldwide. The film that put him on the map was 1983’s Risky Business, but he jumped to A-list status after appearing in 1986’s Top Gun.

His charismatic persona combined with suave, preppy looks put him on the cover of almost every teen magazine in the 1980s. His film career continued to skyrocket with roles in Rain Man, Jerry Maguire, the Mission: Impossible franchise, and more.

Denzel Washington Mostly Played Real-Life Figures

denzel washington posing for a publicity still for St. Elsewhere
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Denzel Washington’s smoldering good looks were first seen in the 1980’s TV show, St. Elsewhere, when he played Dr. Philip Chandler. His film career started to pick up shortly after and he gained critical acclaim for portraying real-life figures in movies such as Cry Freedom, Malcolm X, The Hurricane, Remember the Titans, The Great Debaters, and American Gangster.

He considers himself to be a spiritual and religious person and almost became a preacher. Washington is also a national spokesman for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and earned an honorary doctorate from Fordham University.

Leonardo DiCaprio Turned His Privilege Into Something Good

leonardo dicaprio posing for a photo in 1993
Rose Hartman/Archive Photos/Getty Images
Rose Hartman/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Similar to many actors, Leonardo DiCaprio got his start in acting by appearing in commercials as a teenager. By the early 1990s, he was cast in some sitcoms and received notoriety for his impeccable acting in 1993’s What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. He soon had millions of admirers after he starred in Romeo + Juliet and Titanic.

DiCaprio realized his immense privilege as a top actor in Hollywood and turned it into something positive. He is an active environmentalist and philanthropist with a heavy focus on climate, wildlife, and human rights.

Usher Hasn’t Slowed Down In Decades

usher singing with headphones
Al Pereira/Getty Images
Al Pereira/Getty Images

During the 1990s tons of young people had hip-hop and R&B in their music collection. Usher took the world by storm after the release of his sophomore album, My Way, in 1997. His voice was both smooth and powerful and he had the impressive dancing skills to match.

His swift popularity during this decade also led to a minor acting career in movies such as The Faculty, She’s All That, and Light It Up. He continues to make successful hits and has collaborated with singers such as Alicia Keys and Jennifer Lopez. Before becoming a judge on The Voice, he helped discover Justin Bieber.

Brad Pitt Is One Of The Most Influential People In Entertainment

brad pitt posing for a photo in a leather jacket
Michael Putland/Getty Images
Michael Putland/Getty Images

Currently, Brad Pitt is thought of as one of the most influential people in the entertainment industry. He has been labeled “the world’s most attractive man” by several media outlets and that certainly helped him when he was at the beginning of his movie career.

Pitt first gained recognition for playing a cowboy hitchhiker in 1991’s Thelma & Louise, but he has gone on to lead numerous productions including 12 Monkeys, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Moneyball, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. His personal life is almost always in the media, but Pitt prefers to focus on his humanitarian causes.

George Clooney Didn’t Let His Good Looks Go To His Head

george clooney wearing a white tank top and posing for a photo
Ron Galella/Getty Images
Ron Galella/Getty Images

George Clooney was born on May 6, 1961, in Lexington, Kentucky, and got his first professional acting role at age 17. He started to gain a following in the mid to late 1990s for his role as Dr. Doug Ross on ER. This led to many lead roles including in the Ocean’s franchise, Syriana, Up in the Air, The Descendants, and more.

In 2009 Clooney was included in Time’s list of the 100 “Most Influential People in the World.” He is also is passionate about making a difference in the world through economic activism and has served as one of the United Nations Messengers of Peace and is on the Council on Foreign Affairs.