0007: Best Modern Actors

  1. Julianne Moore - She's constantly challenging herself and confounding expectations. Perhaps the most important actress working today.
  2. Daniel Day-Lewis - The man certainly needs to work more, but when he does...it's amazing. His performance in Gangs of New York was merely a glimpse at his genius. Check it out.
  3. Kate Winslet - Scoff if you must, but her work is always wonderfully layered. She's one of the few big names who deserves the paycheck.
  4. Johnny Depp - The best actor of his generation. Has never let me down. If the movie is awful, he's still superb.
  5. Jim Broadbent - His work as Gilbert in Topsy-Turvy is the stuff that everybody playing real life figures should look up to.
  6. Denzel Washington - Two well earned Oscars, and he's still trying hard. He rises above whatever nonsense his films may throw at him. I sure haven't lost faith in him.
  7. Frances McDormand - She's got an Oscar, but she is always doing something interesting. Her roles in The Man Who Wasn't There, Almost Famous, and Wonder Boys stole their respective films.
  8. Ian McKellen - This man can do literally no wrong. Adding wit and drive to films like X2 or embodying Gandalf the Grey, he is brilliant. His work in Gods and Monsters is one of the great Oscar robberies.
  9. Jude Law - See The Talented Mr. Ripley and A.I., then perhaps you can try to disagree. he's magnetic and interesting at all times, even if the films aren't. He was robbed in 1999.
  10. Nicole Kidman - People just didn't seem to see this one coming. Her work in Moulin Rouge! is deceptively shallow, look deeper. Her performance in The Others is nearly perfect, and I even loved her in The Hours.
  11. Ewan McGregor - Went from diving into toilets to crooning Elton John and T. Rex. There is no limit for what he can do. Check out Velvet Goldmine while you're at it.
  12. Ed Harris - People have begun to take his magnificence for granted. Believe me Ed, we know that you are brillaint. You should have at least one Oscar on your shelf by now.
  13. Cate Blanchet - The second hardest working woman in film (see Nicole Kidman). Her work in Elizabeth was superb, but since then, Oscar has taken no notice of her more than impressive ouvre.
  14. Renee Zelwegger - A marvelous comedic talent that might be seen as a bit overexposed these days. I might agree, but she can be soooo good.
Author Comments: 

this is a list composed of actors who have made their first dents in our culture during the 90's or late 80's or even the 00's.

Honorable Mentions:
Emily Watson - I need to see more of her older stuff, but what I've seen makes me love her.
Catharine Keener - More variety, but she's still intense and absorbing.
Guy Pearce - He can be great, let's see him be amazing.
Marcia Gay Harden - I want to see more of her work before I completely love her.
Russel Crowe - Love him in LA Confidential and The Insider. He would be on this list if it weren't for my reservations with his newer work.
Kevin Spacey - see Russel Crowe.
Christian Bale - I need to see more.
Robert Downey Jr. - His supporting work in Wonder Boys made me miss him so much.
Bebe Neuwirth - She needs to work more...when she does, it's magical.
Samantha Morton - Somebody PLEASE put her in more stuff!
Gael Garcia Bernal - Amores Perros and Y Tu Mama Tambien proved him to be our best recent import.
Naomi Watts - Let's see if she fufills on her promise.
Billy Bob Thornton - He has done GREAT work, but I don't know if I love him yet.
Jennifer Connelly - Her work in Requiem for a Dream is intense and layered...her work in A Beautiful Mind, not.
Franka Potente - Wonderful work so far, let's see more.
Scarlett Johanssen - Please don't get caught in typecasting. Please follow up on the promise that Ghost World and The Man Who Wasn't There showed.
Hugh Grant - So wonderful when he's not sleepwalking. Wake up! Good, now stay that way.
Sarah Polley - Keep working and I'll keep watching. I do have some catching up to do, though.
Toni Collette - So wonderful, I need to seek out older stuff.
Parker Posey - Lordy this is a great comic talent.

Great list, and one I mostly agree with (greatness and my agreement do not always go hand-in-hand). I'm not a fan of Julianne Moore, but otherwise I like or love everybody here.

As much as I respect McDormand, I think Tony Shalhoub was the film-stealer of The Man Who Wasn't There (he and the cinematography being the only redeeming features of that movie, in my book). Nice comments on Russell Crowe and Kevin Spacey as well. Oh, and I've heard nothing but good things about Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean, which I hope I get a chance to see in the theater. The only movie of his I recall not liking was the aptly titled Blow.

Mmmm, Shaloub was indeed great. I would say that McDormand had a smaller and far less showy role, and she did great nuanced work.

Julianne Moore...I have heard that response before, but I still love her with all my cinematic heart.

I love this List!

Why thank you!

I completely agree with you about Nicole Kidman, one of the greatest of our time! Great choices.