America's favorite actors in 2020, ranked – CBS News

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By Bennington Grant
September 25, 2020 / 1:32 PM / CBS NEWS
The COVID-19 pandemic, and resulting isolation, has led to more Americans spending time with their favorite TV shows and movies … or discovering new ones.
Now, the analytics firm YouGov has used polling data and analysis to determine exactly who our favorite actors are. YouGov surveyed a roughly 7,000-person sample about which actors inspire positive opinions. YouGov then balanced this score with in-house data from similar surveys that showed neutral or negative opinions toward these same actors, before finally assigning a percentage of favorability. 
So here they are: the 50 most popular actors of 2020, according to data collected over the past year.
Robert Duvall had his breakout role as Boo Radley in the 1962 adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” 
He followed that with more than six decades of memorable performances, including Tom Hagen in “The Godfather” and Mac Sledge in “Tender Mercies,” the latter earning him an Academy Award for best actor. 
In 2014, he became the oldest actor to be nominated for best supporting actor for his role as Judge Joseph Palmer in “The Judge” (this record was surpassed by Christopher Plummer in 2018).
Tom Selleck is perhaps most recognized for his mustachioed macho-ness as Thomas Magnum in “Magnum, P.I.”, a show that ran on CBS from 1980 to 1988 and has since been rebooted. 
Recently, he has appeared as New York City Police Commissioner Frank Reagan on the CBS police procedural “Blue Bloods,” which has been renewed for an 11th season. 
Antonio Banderas, originally from Spain, entered the American spotlight when he played Tom Hanks’s lover in the 1993 movie “Philadelphia.” His other roles in the ’90s included the leads in “Desperado” and “The Mask of Zorro.”
Since then, he has appeared in the family film “Spy Kids” and as the voice of Puss in Boots in the “Shrek” series and its spinoffs. 
Kurt Russell has appeared in more than 50 films, including the Western “Tombstone,” the sports drama “Miracle” and the romantic comedy “Overboard.”
He appeared in several John Carpenter films that are considered cult classics, including “Escape from New York,” “The Thing” and “Big Trouble in Little China.”
In recent years, he has been in supporting roles for the blockbuster films “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and “The Fate of the Furious.”
Diane Keaton had a great start early in her Hollywood career when she landed the role of Kay Adams in “The Godfather.” She would go on to win an Academy Award for best actress for her titular role in the 1977 romantic comedy “Annie Hall.”
Since then she has appeared in a number of films, including “The First Wives Club,” “Something’s Gotta Give” and “Book Club.”
After his breakout role in “The Untouchables,” Kevin Costner solidified his star status with “Bull Durham,” “Field of Dreams,” “Dances with Wolves,” “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” and “The Bodyguard.”
Recent roles include playing Superman’s adoptive father, Jonathan Kent, in “Man of Steel” and Al Harrison in “Hidden Figures.” Costner has also starred in the Western series “Yellowstone” since 2018. 
Who can forget Sigourney Weaver’s iconic turn as Ellen Ripley in the “Alien” franchise?
She earned Oscar nominations for “Alien” as well as “Gorillas in the Mist” and “Working Girl,” the latter two receiving Golden Globes for best actress and best supporting actress, respectively. 
Other prominent film roles include Dana Barrett in “Ghostbusters,” Gwen DiMarco in “Galaxy Quest” and Dr. Grace Augustine in “Avatar.”
Jennifer Garner entered the public eye in 2001 when she played CIA agent Sydney Bristow in the television series “Alias.” 
Garner transitioned to the super-assassin Elektra for the movies “Daredevil” and “Elektra.” She has also appeared in romantic comedies and family dramas, including “13 Going on 30,” “Juno” and “Valentine’s Day.”
Brad Pitt gained recognition in 1991 when he played an attractive young drifter in “Thelma & Louise.” He followed that with roles in “Interview with the Vampire,” “Seven” and “12 Monkeys.” 
In the early 2000s, he starred in some of his most lucrative films, including “Ocean’s Eleven,” “Troy” and “Mr. & Mrs. Smith.”
Pitt has also earned success behind the camera, producing “The Departed” and “12 Years a Slave,” both of which won the Academy Award for best picture. Recently, he won best supporting actor for his role as Cliff Booth in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.”
Reese Witherspoon’s first major hit was the 1999 film “Cruel Intentions,” but she became a superstar after her role as sorority girl-turned-law student Elle Woods in 2001’s “Legally Blonde.”
She has won an Academy Award for best actress (“Walk the Line”) and an Emmy Award for outstanding limited series (for executive producing “Big Little Lies”).
In 2019, Forbes named her one of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.
Michael J. Fox rose to fame when he played the young Republican Alex P. Keaton in the show “Family Ties,” which started in 1982. 
In 1985, he starred in “Back to the Future,” which was No. 1 at the box office for 8 consecutive weeks and grossed more than $380 million worldwide. 
Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1991 and has since founded the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which has funded more than $900 million in research programs in search of a cure. 
Jamie Lee Curtis made her film debut as Laurie Strode in the 1978 horror film “Halloween.” She’s now a beloved scream queen, having starred in more horror films through the early ’80s, including “The Fog” and “Prom Night.”
She transitioned into the comedy films “Trading Places” and “A Fish Called Wanda.” Since then, her most successful projects have included “Freaky Friday” in 2003 and “Knives Out” in 2019. 
In 1978, Walken won the Academy Award for best supporting actor for his role as Cpl. Nick Chevotarivich in “The Deer Hunter.” He would go on to play the villain in “A View to a Kill” and “Batman Returns.”
Walken has appeared on “Saturday Night Live” several times, most notably as Bruce Dickinson, the producer who begs the band Blue Oyster Cult to give him “more cowbell.”
Australia’s Hugh Jackman won international attention as Wolverine in the “X-Men” franchise. He played the snarling, loner mutant from 2000-2018. 
Jackman has also appeared in romantic comedies including “Kate & Leopold,” thrillers such as “The Prestige” and “Prisoners,” and musicals like “Les Miserables” and “The Greatest Showman.”
In 1991, Sir Phillip Anthony Hopkins won the Academy Award for best actor for his role as Hannibal Lecter in “The Silence of the Lambs.” His other films in the 90s included “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” and “Legends of the Fall.”
Recently, he has appeared as Odin in the “Thor” film series, Pope Benedict XVI in “The Two Popes” and Dr. Robert Ford in the streaming series “Westworld.”
Laurence Fishburne got his start as Josh Hall in the soap opera “One Life to Live.” One of his first major film roles was in the 1979 Vietnam War epic “Apocalypse Now.”
He also appeared in the film “Boyz n the Hood,” and his portrayal of Ike Turner in “What’s Love Got to Do with It” earned him an Academy Award nomination.
Fishburne was Morpheus in the “Matrix” trilogy, a franchise that earned more than $1 billion at the box office. Recently, Fishburne has appeared as The Bowery King in the “John Wick” film franchise. 
Matthew McConaughey had his breakout role when Richard Linklater cast him in “Dazed and Confused” after the actor approached casting director Don Phillips at a bar. 
He would go on to star in “A Time to Kill” and “Contact” in the 1990s. In the 2000s, McConaughey mostly appeared in romantic comedies including “The Wedding Planner” and “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.”
In the 2010s, McConaughey pivoted to star in several critically acclaimed, high-profile dramas in what culturally became known as “The McConaissance.” These projects included “The Lincoln Lawyer,” “True Detective” and “Dallas Buyers Club,” for which he received an Academy Award for best actor. 
Sally Field won her first Emmy Award in 1977 for her role in the miniseries “Sybil.” She then starred in films including “Smokey and the Bandit” and “Hooper.”
Field won two Academy Awards for best actress around that time for “Norma Rae” and “Places in the Heart.”
She has appeared in many other projects since then, including “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Forrest Gump,” “Brothers and Sisters” and “Lincoln.”
One of Halle Berry’s first film roles was opposite Eddie Murphy in the romantic comedy “Boomerang.”
Her next major step was as the mutant Storm in the “X-Men” film series that began releasing in 2000. The following year, she became the first woman of color to win the Academy Award for best actress for her role in “Monster’s Ball.” She followed this by playing Giacinta “Jinx” Johnson, the Bond girl in “Die Another Day.”
Recently, she has appeared in action films such as “Kidnap” and “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum.”
Nicolas Cage began starring in movies in the 1980s, two standouts being “Raising Arizona” and “Moonstruck.”
In 1995, he won the Academy Award for best actor for “Leaving Las Vegas.” From there, he began appearing in blockbusters including “Face/Off,” “Con Air” and “National Treasure.”
Cage is a prolific actor who has appeared in more than 100 films and is known for his “outside the box” delivery. Recently, he has appeared in movies such as “Mandy” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.”
Clint Eastwood has been a working actor since the 1950s. One of his first prominent roles was as Rowdy Yates on the CBS Western “Rawhide.”
He continued playing gritty, no-nonsense gunmen in the spaghetti Western “Dollars” trilogy and as Dirty Harry in a series of five films. 
Eastwood has also earned acclaim behind the camera, winning best director at the Academy Awards for his films “Unforgiven” and “Million Dollar Baby,” both of which also won best picture. Recently, he has directed such films as “American Sniper” and “Richard Jewell.”
Dick Van Dyke has had an entertainment career that spans back to the 1940s, but he became a household name in 1961 when he began starring in the CBS sitcom “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”
He also appeared in notable musical films during this time including “Mary Poppins” and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.”
Van Dyke has received numerous awards during his career including five Primetime Emmys, a Tony and the SAG Life Achievement Award. 
Jodie Foster earned an Academy Award nomination for her role in “Taxi Driver” when she was just 12.
She would go on to win two best actress awards as an adult for her roles in “The Accused” and “The Silence of the Lambs.”
In the 2000s, she appeared in thrillers such as “Panic Room” and “Inside Man.” In recent years, she has focused on directing films and television shows including “Money Monster” and “Black Mirror.” 
Will Smith began his career as a hip-hop artist in the 1980s. He branched out into acting in the 1990s with the sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
Smith proved to be a bankable action star when he appeared in Michael Bay’s “Bad Boys.” He became the first and only actor to appear in eight consecutive films that grossed more than $100 million at the domestic box office. This streak started with “Men in Black II” and ended with “Hancock.”
Recently, Smith has starred in such films as “Suicide Squad” and Disney’s “Aladdin” remake.
Jack Nicholson got his big break in the independent film “Easy Rider” in 1969. Six years later, he won his first Academy Award for his role as Randle McMurphy in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” 
Nicholson has been nominated for 12 Academy Awards in total, winning a second and third for “Terms of Endearment” and “As Good as It Gets.”
His other famous films include “Chinatown,” “The Shining” and “The Departed.”
Al Pacino became one of Hollywood’s most sought-after actors after appearing as Michael Corleone in “The Godfather.” He followed that with roles in “The Godfather, Part II,” “Serpico,” “Dog Day Afternoon” and “…And Justice for All,” all of which earned him Academy Award nominations.
He would go on to win best actor in 1992 for his role in “Scent of a Woman.” That same year he received a best supporting actor nod for “Glengarry Glen Ross.”
His other most prominent roles include “Scarface,” “Donnie Brasco” and “Heat.” Recently, he had a supporting role in Scorsese’s “The Irishman” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.”
Jennifer Aniston had her official film debut in the horror-comedy “Leprechaun” in 1993. A year later, she began appearing as Rachel Green in the sitcom “Friends” — a role that earned her a Primetime Emmy, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award. 
She has appeared in numerous successful films including “Office Space,” “Bruce Almighty” and “Marley & Me.”
She currently produces and stars in the Apple TV+ series “The Morning Show.”
Bill Murray rose to prominence on “Saturday Night Live.” He would go on to star in many comedy classics including “Caddyshack,” “Ghostbusters” and “Groundhog Day.”
He frequently collaborates with director Wes Anderson, appearing in such films as “Rushmore” and “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.” He has also appeared in serious dramas, including “Lost in Translation” and “Broken Flowers.”
In 2016, he received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. 
Samuel L. Jackson steadily rose as a recognizable actor in the 1990s, appearing in films like “Goodfellas,” “Patriot Games” and “Jurassic Park.”
He broke out into wider renown as Jules Winnfield in Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction.” He would go on to collaborate with Tarantino in “Jackie Brown,” “Django Unchained” and “The Hateful Eight.”
Jackson has appeared in more than 120 films and is one of the highest-grossing actors of all time. Recently, he is most known for playing Nick Fury in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 
Eddie Murphy rose to fame when he joined the cast of “Saturday Night Live” in 1980. Two years later, he had his first starring role, opposite Nick Nolte in the buddy cop action comedy “48 Hrs.”
Murphy would go on to star in tremendously popular films, including “Beverly Hills Cop” and “The Nutty Professor.” He also contributed his voice for the animated films “Shrek” and “Mulan.”
Murphy was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 2015. Recently, he starred in the film “Dolemite Is My Name.”
Forest Whitaker received national recognition when he appeared in the Vietnam War films “Platoon” and “Good Morning, Vietnam” in 1986 and 1987, respectively. 
Arguably his biggest role to date was as Idi Amin in “The Last King of Scotland,” for which he won an Academy Award for best actor. He also received considerable acclaim for starring in “The Butler.” 
Recently, he has appeared in films such as “Arrival,” “Rogue One” and “Black Panther.”
Julia Roberts became a household name when she starred in the 1990 Garry Marshall film “Pretty Woman,” which became one of the highest-grossing romantic comedies of all time. 
She would go on to appear in the legal dramas “The Pelican Brief” and “Erin Brockovich,” the latter winning her an Academy Award for best actress. 
Other projects include “Ocean’s Eleven” and “Eat Pray Love.” Recently, she appeared in season one of the Amazon series “Homecoming.”
Danny DeVito first gained national notoriety in 1978 when he began playing Louie De Palma in the television show “Taxi.” He appeared in supporting roles in films throughout the 1980s, including “Terms of Endearment” and “Romancing the Stone.” This culminated in a starring role opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Twins.”
In the 1990s, he appeared in films such as “Batman Returns” and “Space Jam.”
Since 2006, he has appeared as Frank Reynolds in the sitcom “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”
In 1967, Carol Burnett became the first woman to host a variety sketch show on network television when she starred in CBS’s “The Carol Burnett Show.” In 2002, TV Guide named it the 16th greatest television show of all time. 
In 2013, she received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Recently, she appeared in the Netflix series “A Little Help with Carol Burnett.”
Matt Damon had been chipping away at a Hollywood career for almost a decade before his breakout role in “Good Will Hunting,” which he co-wrote with his friend and co-star Ben Affleck.
Damon would go on to appear in “Saving Private Ryan” and “The Bourne Identity,” solidifying himself as one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars. 
His recent film work includes starring in “The Martian” and “Ford v Ferrari,” and co-producing “Manchester by the Sea.”
Steve Martin first built success as a stand-up comic. This led to appearing on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” and “The Gong Show,” as well as hosting “Saturday Night Live” multiple times. His stand-up albums “Let’s Get Small” and “A Wild and Crazy Guy” both went platinum and won Grammy Awards for best comedy album. 
Martin transitioned into a successful film career with hits like “The Jerk,” “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” and “Parenthood.”
Martin is also an accomplished touring banjo player, winning three Grammy Awards for his country and bluegrass music. 
Leonardo DiCaprio caught attention when he received an Academy Award at 19 for his role in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.” He became an international superstar in “Titanic,” which held the record for the highest-grossing film ever for several years. 
DiCaprio would go on star in “Catch Me If You Can” and several Martin Scorsese films, including “The Aviator” and “The Departed.” He also worked with Quentin Tarintino in “Django Unchained” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.”
After several nominations, he finally won an Academy Award for his performance in “The Revenant.”
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson rose to prominence as a wrestler for the World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment). During this time, he appeared in his first leading film role for “The Scorpion King.”
Johnson would go on to star in more action and comedy films, including “Tooth Fairy” and “Hercules.”
Recently, Johnson has been starring in films from the lucrative “Fast & Furious” franchise, contributing to his status as Hollywood’s highest-paid actor two years in a row. 
Sir Sean Connery became a household name when he appeared as James Bond in seven films including “Dr. No” and “Thunderball.”
Since then, he has been in several other films, including “Murder on the Orient Express,” “The Untouchables” (for which he won an Academy Award), “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” and “The Rock.”
Connery announced he was retiring from acting after accepting a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.
Tom Hanks broke into movie stardom with his roles in the fantasy romantic comedies “Splash” and “Big.” He won consecutive Academy Awards in 1993 and 1994 for his roles in “Philadelphia” and “Forrest Gump.”
Hanks starred opposite Meg Ryan in the two romantic comedies, “Sleepless in Seattle” and “You’ve Got Mail.” He has frequently collaborated with Steven Spielberg, making such films as “Saving Private Ryan” and “Catch Me If You Can.”
He has recently appeared in “Sully” and “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” and reprised his role as Woody for “Toy Story 4.”
Jackie Chan had a successful career in China for many years, making martial arts films such as “Drunken Master” and “Police Story.” He dabbled in Hollywood but didn’t have his big breakthrough until “Rumble in the Bronx” became an international hit in 1995. 
He would go on to star in action-comedy films like “Rush Hour” and “Shanghai Noon,” and family action films like “The Tuxedo” and the remake of “The Karate Kid.” 
To date, Chan has worked on more than 200 films. He was given an honorary Academy Award in 2016.
James Earl Jones made his debut as a lead actor in a film in “The Great White Hope,” which earned him an Academy Award nomination. 
He is perhaps most recognizable by his voice, which has given life to characters such as Darth Vader and Mufasa.
Jones is also an accomplished stage actor, winning three Tony Awards — two for “The Great White Hope” and “Fences,” and recently, a Lifetime Achievement Award. 
Harrison Ford was able to secure a small role in George Lucas’s 1973 film “American Graffiti.” This led to his starring role as Han Solo in “Star Wars.” 
Since then he has become one of Hollywood’s most financially successful actors, starring in numerous projects including the “Indiana Jones” franchise, “The Fugitive,” “Clear and Present Danger” and “Air Force One.”
Recently, he appeared in the adventure film “The Call of the Wild.”
Robert Downey Jr. was let go after one season of “Saturday Night Live,” but in that same year, 1985, he managed to book roles in “Tuff Turf” and “Weird Science.” Two years later, he starred opposite Molly Ringwald in “The Pick-up Artist.” He was nominated for an Academy Award in 1992 for “Chaplin.”
Downey Jr. struggled with drug addiction during parts of his life, but following a court-ordered rehab, he was able to resurrect his career with roles in “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” “Zodiac” and “Tropic Thunder.” 
He then landed the role of Tony Stark in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He has participated in more than 10 films for the franchise and is currently one of Hollywood’s highest-paid actors. 
Sandra Bullock gained momentum in a supporting role in “Demolition Man” and broke out into the mainstream starring opposite Keanu Reeves in the summer blockbuster “Speed.”
She followed that with projects such as “While You Were Sleeping” and “A Time to Kill.” Two of her bigger hits have been the comedies “Miss Congeniality” and “The Proposal.”
In 2009, she won the Academy Award for best actress for her role in “The Blind Side.” In 2013, she starred in the critically acclaimed “Gravity.” Recent she appeared in the Netflix film “Bird Box,” which she also executive produced. 
Keanu Reeves broke out in the science fiction comedy “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.” He then appeared in the action films “Point Break” and “Speed.”
In 1999, he began starring in the ultra-successful “Matrix” franchise. In the 2000s, he starred in “Constantine” and reunited with Sandra Bullock for the romantic drama “The Lake House.”
Recently, he has appeared in the movie “John Wick” and its two sequels. 
Bruce Willis gained fame on the television show “Moonlighting.” Near the end of its run, in 1988, he raised his profile by starring in the action hit “Die Hard.”
In the 1990s, Willis starred in “Pulp Fiction,” “12 Monkeys,” “The Fifth Element,” “Armageddon” and “The Sixth Sense.”
Since then he has starred in successful films such as “Looper” and “G.I. Joe: Retaliation.”
Betty White holds the Guinness World Record for the longest television career by an entertainer. She reportedly made her “debut” in 1939, when she sang songs for an “experimental broadcast.”
In 1951, she was nominated for best actress at the 3rd Primetime Emmy Awards. White is perhaps best known for her roles in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “The Golden Girls.” In total, White has been nominated for 21 Emmy Awards and has received five. 
White is still active, recently starring in the television series “Hot in Cleveland” and lending her voice to “Toy Story 4.”
Morgan Freeman earned his first Academy Award nomination for his role in 1987’s “Street Smart.” He got his second, and more national attention, for “Driving Miss Daisy.” 
In the 1990s, he appeared in the acclaimed films “The Shawshank Redemption” and “Seven.” The following decade he played God in “Bruce Almighty,” Lucius Fox in “Batman Begins” and narrated “March of the Penguins.”
Recently, he has played Allan Trumbull in the “Fallen” series with Gerald Butler and Thaddeus Bradley in “Now You See Me” and its sequel. 
Denzel Washington was nominated for his first Academy Award in 1988 for his work on “Cry Freedom” and won best supporting actor two years later for his role in “Glory.”
In the 1990s, he starred in films such as “Malcolm X,” “Philadelphia” and “The Pelican Brief.” The next decade he won best actor for “Training Day.” He also starred in several thrillers and the popular biopic “American Gangster.”
Recently, Washington has starred in “Fences” and “The Equalizer.”
First published on September 25, 2020 / 1:32 PM
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