16 of the Greatest Australian Actors and Actresses of All Time
Australia is famous for many things. It has golden beaches, bustling metropolises, incredible nature, all sorts of weird and wonderful creatures, and a great wine culture. It’s also home to some of the greatest Australian actors and actresses ever to grace the big screen.
There must be something in the water, as every year more and more Aussies are breaking into Hollywood and making a name for themselves. Although Australia is halfway around the world, the country has a strong film culture that continues to nurture up-and-coming talent. Many of them are so good that you can’t even tell that they are from Down Under when on screen.
To celebrate these great actors and actresses, here are 16 of our favorite Australians to make it big in the movies.
16 of the Greatest Australian Actors and Actresses of All Time
1. Chris Hemsworth
The mighty Thor is one of Australia’s best exports in recent years. Like many Aussie actors, Chris Hemsworth got his start on a soap opera. He was in Home and Away for three years before the bright lights of Hollywood called. While it took him a few years, the blonde-haired Hemsworth eventually broke through after being cast as Thor. The Marvel movie was a huge hit and Hemsworth quickly found his schedule booked up.
Some of his best movies include the horror The Cabin in the Woods, the racing drama Rush, and the action film Extraction. Hemsworth also recently ditched Hollywood life for Australia, moving to Byron Bay in New South Wales with his actress wife Elsa Pataky, and their three kids.
2. Toni Collette
Born and raised in Sydney, New South Wales, Toni Collette is an award-winning actress with a diverse filmography. She’s started in everything from period dramas (The Hours) and action thrillers (Shaft, XXX: Return of Xander Cage) to psychological horror (Hereditary, The Sixth Sense) and comedies (Muriel’s Wedding, Madame, Fun Mom Dinner).
It’s not just the big screen where Collette has proven herself, having also been the star of the hit television series United States of Tara. She’s also been commended for her performances in crime dramas The Staircase and Unbelievable.
3. Guy Pearce
Although he was born in the United Kingdom, Guy Pearce moved to Australia at age three and spent his formative years here. Growing up in rural Geelong, Pearce’s first role was as Mike Young in the hit soap Neighbours, a role he played for three years. He followed this with some smaller roles in other TV shows and movies before getting noticed for his performance in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. This led to Pearce heading to America where he landed juicy roles in movies such as L.A. Confidential (alongside New Zealand actor Russell Crowe), Memento, The Rover, and Iron Man 3.
While undoubtedly a big star, Pearce often chooses unusual roles and is just as happy in a small indie flick as in a Hollywood blockbuster. He also loves returning to Australia to shoot, where he has starred in movies like Animal Kingdom, The Proposition, and the Jack Irish series of movies and the spin-off TV series.
4. Hugh Jackman
When it comes to Australian actors that can do it all, Hugh Jackman is top of the list. The Aussie is a triple threat who can sing, dance, and act. He’s also Wolverine, which is a pretty big deal, especially to Marvel fans who have enjoyed his performances and are looking forward to him returning to the character in the recently announced Deadpool 3.
As well as playing the Marvel anti-hero, Jackman’s done it all throughout his illustrious career. He’s been in the musical Les Misérables, the thriller Prisoners, the horror Van Helsing, and the animated flick Happy Feet. He’s a great Australian actor who also performs regularly on stage in many big productions.
5. Geoffrey Rush
Geoffrey Rush had been acting for almost two decades before he finally got recognition from across the pond after his performance in the 1996 movie Shine. In the movie Rush plays talented pianist David Helfgott, who suffered mental illness throughout his life. The movie was a smash hit and Rush won an Academy Award, a Primetime Emmy Award, and a Tony Award for his performance, thrusting him into the spotlight in his early 40s.
Since then he has been working steadily and appeared in movies such as Shakespeare in Love, House on Haunted Hill, Frida, The King’s Speech, and the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
6. Heath Ledger
The late, great Heath Ledger may have passed away at 27 but he will forever be one of Australia’s great actors. Appearing in several local movies and TV shows, Ledger moved to Los Angeles in the late 90s to carve out his career in the movie business. 10 Things I Hate About You turned Ledger into a teen heartthrob as roles in Monster’s Ball, Ned Kelly, The Lords of Dogtown, and Brokeback Mountain solidified his celebrity status.
Ledger’s best performance would come just a few months after his death when The Dark Knight hit cinemas. The Aussies’ take on classic bad guy The Joker is like nothing anyone had ever seen and earned Ledger several posthumous awards, including an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor, and a BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor.
7. Sam Worthington
Similar to Guy Pearce, Sam Worthington was born in the UK but moved to Australia when he was six months old with his parents. He attended an art school in Perth but failed to graduate, eventually earning a scholarship to the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney. After a few small Australian movies, Worthington got lucky when cast as Jake Sully in James Cameron’s Avatar. The movie blew up and so did Worthington’s career.
Terminator Salvation, Clash of the Titans, Wrath of the Titans, Everest, and Hacksaw Ridge are just some of the blockbusters he’s appeared in. Worthington has also voiced the character Alex Mason in three Call of Duty video games and will next be seen in the long-awaited Avatar sequel that he’s been filming for several years.
8. Nicole Kidman
There isn’t much Nicole Kidman hasn’t done in her career. The Australian is one of the world’s highest-paid actresses who has won just about every award there is. The former wife of Tom Cruise has a filmography that is second to none and littered with incredible performances and movies. Highlights include Dead Calm, Days of Thunder, The Hours, Moulin Rouge!, Dogville, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and Practical Magic.
Kidman currently splits her time between Sydney in New South Wales and Los Angeles with her country rock star husband Keith Urban and their brood of children.
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9. David Gulpilil
When it comes to Australian actors who are great, you have to mention David Gulpilil. He was one of the first Indigenous Australians to make a career as an actor, appearing in over 60 movies and TV series during his life. Some of his most notable performances came in the movies Storm Boy, Charlie’s Country, The Proposition, Rabbit-Proof Fence, and Ten Canoes.
As well as being dynamite on-screen, Gulpilil also performed on stage and was a renowned traditional dancer who was always doing his bit to expose more people to Indigenous culture. Sadly Gulpilil was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in 2017, although he kept working until 2019 when he retired. He passed away at his home in South Australia in 2021 and leaves behind a legacy that will live on forever.
10. Margot Robbie
Seemingly coming out of nowhere, Margot Robbie is a force to be reckoned with. The Aussie starlet is another who got her start on the soap Neighbours before scoring the role of a lifetime in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, playing Leonardo DiCaprio’s wife. The movie propelled Robbie into the Hollywood system and she soon began popping up everywhere, playing Harley Quinn in a slew of DC movies, Sharon Tate in Quinten Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and Tonya Harding in biographical flick I, Tonya.
As well as acting, Robbie runs a production company with her filmmaker husband, with their biggest release being the surprise hit Promising Young Woman. Robbie will next be seen in Barbie, a movie based on the iconic doll.
11. Eric Bana
It’s hard to believe Eric Bana was a comedian after you see him in the crime classic Chopper. The Melbourne-born Bana got his start as a stand-up and appeared on several skit shows during the 90s before his portrayal of famous Australian criminal Mark “Chopper” Read got the attention of American casting directors.
Bana ditched comedy for drama, appearing in the war flick Black Hawk Down, terrorist drama Munich, and even playing the Hulk in the 2003 adaptation of the character. Some of his other great movies include Romulus, My Father, Hanna, and The Dry. Similar to Chris Hemsworth, Bana still lives in Australia with his family, not buying into the Hollywood lifestyle.
12. Jai Courtney
Jai Courtney has only been acting for just over a decade but is already making an impact. Although his first movie, Stoned Bros., wasn’t greatly received, it did give Courtney his big break, with the actor then being cast in the big-budget adaption of the Jack Reacher novels. He then played John McClane’s son in the fifth Die Hard movie, A Good Day to Die Hard, and Kyle Reese in the latest Terminator movie, Terminator Genisys.
Courtney has also appeared in both Suicide Squad movies and seems to be carving out a career in action movies, appearing in Honest Theif, Jolt, and Black Site these past couple of years.
13. Liam Hemsworth
Finally stepping out of the shadow of his big brother, Liam Hemsworth is on the path to superstardom, if he’s not there already. While most people know him for his on-again-off-again relationship with Miley Cyrus and his appearance in the Hunger Games franchise, there is much more to Hemsworth than that.
He’s been able to show off his acting chops in movies such as the action thriller Killerman, Western The Duel, and crime caper Arkansas. It’s also just been announced that he will take over from Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia in Netflix’s highly successful The Witcher series. It’s all coming up Millhouse.
14. Cate Blanchett
Cate Blanchett is another fine Australian actress who is widely regarded as one of the best in the business. Her acting career spans over three decades during which she has honed her craft and become a favorite of audiences around the globe. She won all the big awards and has played everyone from Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator to Queen Elizabeth I in Elizabeth: The Golden Age.
With nearly 100 credits to her name, it’s hard to choose Blanchett’s best movies, but if you want to get an idea of what she brings, check out these movies; The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Missing, Little Fish, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Oh yeah, and don’t forget the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
15. Rose Byrne
While she might not be spoken about in as high regard as many of her Australian contemporaries, Rose Byrne has been kicking ass on screen for almost three decades. Her best-known role came in the hit legal drama Damages, but Byrne has also appeared in a great deal of other fantastic movies, including Bridesmaids, the Insidious franchise, a couple of X-Men movies, and two animated Peter Rabbit features.
While she might not be perceived to be on the level of other actresses, Bryne is more than worthy of being added to the list of great Australian actresses who have made it in the movie business.
16. Simon Baker
Australian actor Simon Baker has a varied career that includes Hollywood blockbusters, indie Australian movies, and a stint on Australian TV in Home and Away. Baker is best known for playing Patrick Jane over seven seasons in the crime drama The Mentalist. He’s also had notable roles in movies Red Planet, The Ring 2, The Devil Wears Prada, and Margin Call.
He might not be a familiar name to everyone, but Baker is certainly well respected in the industry, having been asked to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2012 and honored with his own Hollywood Walk of Fame star in 2013.
See more about - 17 Best Australian Actresses Of All Time