Nominees and Winners

Greatest Film Star Legends

Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4


Greatest Film Star Legends: The American Film Institute (AFI) in Los Angeles, California selected and ranked the 50 greatest "American screen legends" (composed of the top 25 women and top 25 men - defined as actors or a team of actors with a significant screen presence in American feature-length films whose screen debut occurred in or before 1950, or whose screen debut occurred after 1950 but whose death marked a completed body of work).

Fifty of today's stars paid tribute to the 50 Screen Legends (hence, 100 stars) during a 3-hour CBS television broadcast in June of 1999. From an original list of 500 nominees (250 in each gender category) of film stars, as compiled by AFI historians, vote-casting was conducted by a jury of film artists (directors, screenwriters, actors, etc.), critics, historians, executives and other cultural leaders to select the 25 greatest men and 25 greatest women screen legends of all time.

AFI's 50 Screen Legends (25 men and 25 women) are identified by their rankings and this graphic symbol star .

Filmsite's Greatest Film Stars - Roles and Filmographies contains additional filmographies of stars that were excluded from AFI's list, such as Peter Sellers, Steve McQueen, Olivia DeHavilland, Deborah Kerr, Lana Turner, Greer Garson, Shelley Winters, Laurel & Hardy, Natalie Wood, Montgomery Clift, Paul Newman, Jack Lemmon, Doris Day, Rock Hudson, Myrna Loy, Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Fredric March, Burgess Meredith, Charlton Heston, Mickey Rooney, and many more.

Additionally Recommended:

Criteria for AFI's Star Legends Selection:

  • Star Quality: An actor's charisma and unique personal characteristics that create a strong on- and off-screen presence which is often embraced by audiences as a separate, mythic persona.
  • Craft: An actor's ability to embody distinctly different characters through the use of strong acting techniques and other creative methods.
  • Legacy: An actor's body of work that enriches American film heritage and continues to inspire artists and audiences today.
  • Popularity: An actor's public following over time.
  • Historical Context: The role of world events, politics, and changing social mores in shaping, promoting or curtailing a legend's status and career.

  • A few of AFI's 50 Star Legends
    Humphrey Bogart
    Humphrey Bogart
    Grace Kelly
    Grace Kelly
    Spencer Tracy
    Spencer Tracy
    Burt Lancaster
    Burt Lancaster
    Charlie Chaplin
    Charlie Chaplin
    Katharine Hepburn
    Katharine Hepburn
    James Stewart
    James Stewart
    Vivien Leigh
    Vivien Leigh
    Fred Astaire
    Fred Astaire
    Judy Garland
    Judy Garland

    Greatest Film Star Legends
    The 50 Screen Legends
    (Winners, Identified by this Graphic Symbol star and Ranking
    Alphabetical Order )

    Male Legends

    Fred Astaire star #5
    Humphrey Bogart star #1
    Marlon Brando star #4
    James Cagney star #8
    Charles Chaplin star #10
    Gary Cooper star #11
    James Dean star #18
    Kirk Douglas star #17
    Henry Fonda star #6
    Clark Gable star #7
    Cary Grant star #2
    William Holden star #25
    Buster Keaton star #21
    Gene Kelly star #15
    Burt Lancaster star #19
    The Marx Brothers star #20
    Robert Mitchum star #23
    Sir Laurence Olivier star #14
    Gregory Peck star #12
    Sidney Poitier star #22
    Edward G. Robinson star #24
    James Stewart star #3
    Spencer Tracy star #9
    John Wayne star #13
    Orson Welles star #16
    Female Legends

    Lauren Bacall star #20
    Ingrid Bergman star #4
    Claudette Colbert star #12
    Joan Crawford star #10
    Bette Davis star #2
    Marlene Dietrich star #9
    Greta Garbo star #5
    Ava Gardner star #25
    Judy Garland star #8

    Lillian Gish star #17

    Jean Harlow star #22
    Rita Hayworth star #19
    Audrey Hepburn star #3
    Katharine Hepburn star #1
    Grace Kelly star #13
    Vivien Leigh star #16
    Carole Lombard star #23

    Sophia Loren star #21

    Marilyn Monroe star #6

    Mary Pickford star #24

    Ginger Rogers star #14

    Barbara Stanwyck star #11

    Elizabeth Taylor star #7

    Shirley Temple star #18

    Mae West star #15

Facts About the Choices of AFI's 50 Screen Legends:

The 50 screen legends were selected from an original list of 500 nominees (250 per gender).

  • Lillian Gish had the longest screen career of any legend, male or female – 75 years. And Laurence Olivier had the longest career span of any male legend – 59 years.

  • At the time of the polling, there were five living female legends: Katharine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Shirley Temple, Lauren Bacall and Sophia Loren, and there were four living male legends: Marlon Brando, Gregory Peck, Kirk Douglas and Sidney Poitier.

  • Legends Marlon Brando, Sidney Poitier and Sophia Loren all had screen debuts in the cut-off year of 1950.

  • Stars whose screen debuts occurred just after 1950, and therefore did not qualify as legends, included Jack Lemmon, Paul Newman, Shirley MacLaine, Walter Matthau and Clint Eastwood.

  • Eight of the screen legends also comprised four legendary romantic duos: Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and Clark Gable and Carole Lombard.

  • The Marx Brothers were the sole legendary team.

  • There were thirteen legends that made the transition from silent pictures to the "talkies": Joan Crawford, Barbara Stanwyck, Lillian Gish, Carole Lombard, Mary Pickford, Clark Gable, Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, Gary Cooper, John Wayne, the Marx Brothers, Buster Keaton and Edward G. Robinson.

  • Thirteen screen legends were born outside the United States: Elizabeth Taylor, Cary Grant, Charlie Chaplin, Laurence Olivier (England); Ingrid Bergman and Greta Garbo (Sweden); Marlene Dietrich (Germany); Audrey Hepburn (Belgium); Claudette Colbert (France); Vivien Leigh (India); Sophia Loren (Italy); Mary Pickford (Canada); and Edward G. Robinson (Romania)

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