Hollywood’s film industry began as early as 1908. Since then, countless filmmakers, actors, and actresses have graced Hollywood’s spotlight delivering films, movies, musicals, and television series to our enjoyment.
What drives an actor to act in a film – Is it the promises of fame and fortune? Or the love and passion for the art itself? Some actors are seen in hundreds of films while others might just appear in a few. Here we focus on the former as we narrow down 20 of Hollywood’s most prolific actors, who have been in the most movies.
1. Eric Roberts – 455 movies
If the name is unfamiliar to you, you would know him as the brother and father of Julia Roberts and Emma Roberts respectively.
Hailing from Biloxi, Mississippi, USA, Roberts began his career in Broadway where he won the Theatre World Award for his role in Burn This. His big break came in 1976 when he was cast in the soap opera Another World. He would go on to appear in films such as King of the Gypsies (1978), Raggedy Man (1981), and Runaway Train (1985).
Roberts is an acclaimed actor who has been nominated for several awards over the span of his career. He has nods from the Academy Award, Golden Globe, and numerous film festivals.
Robert’s mainstream film credits involve blockbusters such as DOA: Dead or Alive (2006), The Dark Knight Trilogy (2005-2012), and The Expendables (2010). An accomplished actor, he has over 638 acting credits on IMDB.
2. Gertrude Astor – 250 movies
Born in Ohio, Gertrude Astor was part of a female musical group where she played the trombone. With the band, she toured the United States as far as New York: there she left the group to go to work in the cinema, where she got her at the beginning of the extra roles.
The first time her name appears in her titles, it’s in a Biograph short film. Her film career, which lasted from 1915 to 1962, was very prolific. Her name appears in 285 films, often in character roles. You have often worked with Hal Roach and the Laurel & Hardy couple.
She died on her 90th birthday on November 9, 1977 in Woodland Hills from a stroke.
3. John Carradine – 227 movies
John Carradine (originally Peter Richmond Carradine) was an American actor from Poughkeepsie, New York, USA. He was born into a rich, well-connected family where his father was a journalist and his mother a surgeon. A gifted artist, he studied sculpture and art at the Graphics Art Institute in Philadelphia.
Carradine made his debut acting career in Tol’able David (1930) under the name John Peter Richmond. “John Carradine” was a stage name that he adopted and owned in 1935. His career in Hollywood grew and prospered as he appeared in well-known films such as Johnny Guitar (1954), The Ten Commandments (1956), and Around the World in Eighty Days (1956).
He continued to appear in films after films until his death in 1988, at the age of 82. Two of his films released posthumously were Buried Alive (1990) and Jack-O (1995).
4. Danny Glover – 219 movies
Danny Glover is an actor, producer, and social activist from San Francisco, California, USA. He plays a diverse range of characters but was best known for his role in the action blockbuster Lethal Weapon (1987) and its sequels.
His Broadway debut in Fugard’s Master Harold…and the Boys (1982), brought him national recognition. Soon after, director Robert Benton cast him in his first leading role in Best Picture Places in the Heart (1984). In 1987, Glover partnered with Mel Gibson in the first Lethal Weapon film, which produced three hugely successful sequels in (1989), (1992) and (1998).
Apart from acting, he has invested his talent in projects as an executive producer or director in films such as To Sleep With Anger (1990) and Just a Dream (2002). Outside of acting, Glover is a philanthropy and community activist in issues such as economic justice and healthcare.
5. Danny Trejo – 215 movies
Los Angeles-born Hollywood film star, Danny Trejo’s journey to being an actor is an interesting one. Back then Trejo was involved in drug and criminal activities and was in and out of prison from the 1960s up until 1972.
His life made a turnaround when he was in solitary confinement, where he completed a 12-step rehabilitation program and was released in 1972. He broke into acting in 1984 when he was spotted by director Andrei Konchalovsky, who cast him as a boxer, acting with Eric Roberts in Runaway Train (1985). Trejo would go on to play minor roles which are mostly typecast roles of the prison inmate or gang member for years to come.
His role in Spy Kids (2001) earned him global recognition, which led to him being the lead actor in the film Machete. Now at the age of 77, Trejo has appeared in numerous blockbuster films such as Con Air (1997), XXX (2002), and Death Race 2 (2010).
6. Christopher Lee – 211 movies
Sir Christopher Frank Carandini is an English actor best known for playing Count Dracula (Hammer Horror films), Saruman (Lord of the Rings), and Count Dooku (Star Wars). Before pursuing an acting career, Lee joined the Royal Air Force and even achieved the rank of flight lieutenant in the Second World War.
Lee would struggle early in his career as he was rejected often due to his imposing stature and height. His role as the titular character in The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) garnered him attention in the industry and led to him acting in more Hammer Horror films.
In an effort to extend his acting chops further, Lee would star in numerous films such as The Hound of Baskervilles (1959), The Face of Fu Manchu (1965), The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970) as well as the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun (1974).
Lee lived until the age of 93, where he passed away in June 2015. His final posthumous role in The Time War was released in 2018.
7. Richard Riehle – 209 movies
Born in 1948 in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, Richard Riehle started his acting career in the Meadow Brooke Theatre when he got cast as an extra in the John Wayne film Rooster Cogburn (1975).
Since then, he has found himself to be hot property for casting directors whenever there is a vacancy for a heavy-set, mustachioed man for their film or television projects. Riehle is the actor whom you recognize in films instantly even though he only plays a small role. He has made many films and television appearances over the years.
With his signature short mustache, he can be recognizable in films such as The West Wing (2001), The Young and The Restless (2007), and Psych (2009) among others. He is also well known for appearing in television series such as Star Trek: The Next Generation (1992), Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1998), and Boston Legal (2005).
8. Jackie Chan – 190 movies
Jackie Chan (originally Chan Kong-sang) is a Hong Kong-born Chinese stuntman, actor, and director, whose perilous acrobatic stunts and engaging physical humor made him an action star in Asian and American cinema.
In the 1970s, Chan appeared in minor roles in two films starring Bruce Lee in Fist of Fury (1972) and Enter the Dragon (1973). Chan’s breakthrough in American Cinema was during the 1990s where his blockbuster Rumble in the Bronx (1995) was released in the United States. Chan would then star in American action-comedies such as Rush Hour (1998), The Tuxedo (2002), and Karate Kid (2010).
Chan has shown no signs of slowing down. Still active in the movie industry producing, directing, and coordinating stunts, Chan has become one of the industry’s beloved actors and has since come a long way from his humble beginnings.
9. Mickey Rooney – 190 movies
Mickey Rooney is an American actor and musical star. Born in 1920 in Brooklyn, New York, USA, was a popular teenage actor known for his role in the Andy Hardy film series, A Family Affair (1937).
His musical efforts include Babes in Arms (1939), Strike Up the Band (1940), and Babes on Broadway (1941) among others. By the late 1930’s he was already an acclaimed actor, being one of the top ten box-office stars from 1938 to 1943. He was also awarded a juvenile Oscar in 1939 for his contributions to the film industry.
In The Black Stallion (1979), Rooney was nominated by the Academy Award for his acting chops. He also received an honorary Academy Award for lifetime achievement in 1983. He had appeared in popular modern films such as Night at the Museum (2006) and The Muppets (2011). Rooney passed away in April 2014.
10. Samuel L Jackson – 174 movies
Samuel Leroy Jackson, born in Washington, was an early film enthusiast. Jackson frequently watched films at the local theater, being exposed to the sensitive themes surrounding Black presence on screen. In the 1970s, he joined the Negro Ensemble Company, which inspired him to embark in acting.
In 1991, Jackson won multiple awards for playing an on-screen drug addict in the movie Jungle Fever (1991). Around that time, Jackson himself was battling alcoholism and drug addiction. His breakout role came in 1994 when he chanced an opportunity to work with Quentin Tarantino in Pulp Fiction (1994). The film became a cult classic and Jackson received an Academy Award nomination for his role.
Jackson continued to solidify his position as a highly prolific actor, starring in multiple blockbusters and franchises such as Jurassic Park, the Star Wars trilogy, and multiple Marvel movies.
11. Susan Sarandon – 168 movies
Susan Sarandon is a highly acclaimed American actress. Hailing from New York City, USA, Sarandon made her on-screen debut in Joe (1970) and thereafter, landed a role in the cult classic, The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975).
She received Academy Award nominations for her roles in Atlantic City (1980), Thelma and Louise (1991), Lorenzo’s Oil (1992), and The Client (1994). She won her first Academy Award for her role in the gritty drama Dead Man Walking (1995).
Her work in the late 2000s would continue to dazzle the audience as she stars in various film and television series. In 2017, she received Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for her role in the television series Feud (2017).
12. Donald Sutherland – 156 movies
Donald McNichol Sutherland is a well-known actor from Canada. He is also the father of film star Kiefer Sutherland. In 1958, Sutherland graduated from the University of Toronto with dual degrees in engineering and drama – due to his parents’ insistence on him studying the former.
Sutherland’s initial roles in his career consisted of bit parts and films and television shows such as Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965), The Saint (1966), and Court Martial (1965). His big break would come in the form of an action-war film, The Dirty Dozen (1967) which became an instant success. He also starred in the classic war-comedy film M*A*S*H (1970) which would be the highlight of his career.
The new millennium would see Sutherland in various roles in popular films such as Space Cowboys (2000), The Italian Job (2003), and the Hunger Games franchise (2013-2015).
13. Anthony Quinn – 152 movies
Anthony Quinn (originally Anthony Ruldolph Oaxaca Quinn) was an Oscar-winning Mexican American actor known for his roles in Viva Zapata! (1952) and Lust for Life (1956). He was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, and eventually, his family settled in Los Angeles, California, USA.
Originally studying architecture Frank Lloyd Wright, Quinn was encouraged by Wright to make a leap into acting. He then made his film debut in Parole! (1936). This paved the way to many other minor film roles, often playing a villain with an ethnic background.
In the 1950s and 1960s, he was awarded the Academy Award for Actor in a Supporting Role for his role in Viva Zapata! and Lust for Life. He had also starred in La Strada (1956), which won the Foreign Language Film Oscar. His popular starring roles include The Guns of Navarone (1961) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962). Quinn passed away in June 2001.
14. Michael Caine – 147 movies
Michael Caine (originally Maurice Joseph Micklewhite) is a British actor renowned for his versatility in numerous leading and supporting roles. In the early years, Caine joined the British Army and upon his return to England, he worked as an assistant stage manager and adopted the name “Caine”.
Caine would struggle financially by acting in small film roles and television bit parts. His big break came in 1960 when he met director John Mcgrath, who would then become a friend of his. The result of that friendship would see Caine being cast in the successful television drama The Compartment (1961) along with many other television roles.
Caine would go on to star in a variety of films. He won his first and second Academy Award for Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) and The Cider House Rules (1999), for his supporting roles.
In recognition of his contribution to cinema, Caine was knighted as Sir Maurice Micklewhite CBE in 2000. He would continue to star in box office hits such as Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002), the Dark Knight Trilogy (2005-2012), and Interstellar (2014).
15. James Hong – 133 films
James Hong is an American actor from Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. Before embarking on an acting career, he studied and practiced as an engineer.
Hong was noticed in the industry when he was invited to Groucho Marx’s radio and television game show You Bet Your Life. There, he made a name for himself as an impressionist – performing spot-on impressions of famous personalities.
A versatile actor, his work has spanned hundreds of films, TV shows and even video games. He was also accredited to voice-acting in famous movies-animations such as Mulan (1998), Kung Fu Panda (2008), and Tom and Jerry: Spy Quest (2015).
Outside of acting, Hong is an advocate for Asian Actors. Still active in the industry, he has plans on producing and directing his own films.
16. Ray Milland – 132 movies
Alfred Reginald Jones was born in the Welsh town of Neath, Glamorgan. He first appeared in British films as Spike Milland and later changed his name to Raymond Milland. Milland was signed by MGM and went to Hollywood to expand his career. However, he was given very little to work with and returned to England after the contract expired.
His breakthrough came in 1934 after he joined Paramount. He served as an apprentice playing the second lead in romantic comedies such as Burns and Allen in Many Happy Returns (1934), The Gilded Lily (1935), and the sentimental drama Alias Mary Dow (1935). He had graduated and was raised to a starring role in The Jungle Princess (1936) as an injured British hunter.
He received an Academy Award for the critically acclaimed film The Lost Weekend (1945). He saw some success in films like The Big Clock (1948), Something to Live For (1952), and Dial M for Murder (1954). He continued to work with Paramount Pictures for the next 20 years where he directed films and television series and would generally play only minor roles.
17. James Earl Jones – 106 movies
James Earl Jones is an American actor from Arkabutla, Mississippi who is known for his deep resonant voice. He suffered from an incapacitating stutter when young and was able to recover with the help of his English teacher.
Jones soon found himself drawn toward acting while pursuing medicine at the University of Michigan and Jones’ performance in the American premiere of Jean Genet’s absurdist drama, The Blacks (1959) has gained him the attention he needed to kick start his film career.
Jones’ voice acting for Darth Vader in Star Wars: A New Hope was a big hit and has captured many audiences hearts and soon he reprised his role in the sequels. He also voice acted in the Disney animated film The Lion King (1994).
He earned an Academy Award nomination in the film The Great White Hope (1969). He continued starring in popular films such as The Hunt for Red October (1990), Patriot Games (1992), and Clear and Present Danger (1994).
18. Robert Duvall – 106 movies
Robert Seldon Duvall born in San Diego, California, U.S. was an actor noted for his ability to inhabit any characters, especially the average working people by bringing them to life. In 1955 Duvall attended The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre In New York City studying under Sanford Meisner.
Duvall got his first major breakthrough as he played the mentally disabled Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) by Horton Foote. Duvall started to make a name for himself in New York stage shows, and won an Obie Award in 1965 playing in a Broadway revival of Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge”.
Although he had appeared in many films. His role in The Godfather (1972) where he played Tom Hagen is his biggest breakthrough in the film industry as this has cemented his place among one of the most popular figures in Hollywood.
19. Eli Wallach – 100 movies
Eli Wallach was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Jewish parents who emigrated from Poland. He trained at the Actors Studio and Neighborhood Playhouse actor Sanford Meisner. And has worked alongside some of Hollywood’s biggest names such as Marilyn Monroe, Clint Eastwood, and Al Pacino.
His first debut was in the film Baby Doll (1956) by Tennessee Williams, and have since starred in many other movies such as The Lineup (1958) directed by Don Siegel, The Magnificent Seven (1960) by John Sturges, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) directed by Sergio Leone.
Although Wallach has been in many critically acclaimed films, he has not won an Academy Award. In November 2010, he was awarded the honorary Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his contributions to cinema.
20. Anthony Hopkins – 99 movies (tie)
Sir Philip Anthony Hopkins is an actor known for his stage and film performance. The Welsh actor from Margam, Port Talbot, Wales was inspired by fellow Welsh actor Richard Burton, to take up acting. Hopkins was trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1957.
During a production called Dance of Death, the acclaimed Laurence Olivier was struck by appendicitis. Hopkins then stepped in and started making waves with his performance. His role as Lionheart in the film The Lion in Winter (1968) earned him a BAFTA Award nomination.
He would continue to star in several roles in hit films such as The White Bus (1967), and The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case (1976). However, his portrayal of Hanibal Lector in The Silence of the Lambs (1991) was his big breakthrough and won him an Academy Award for Best Actor.
20. Bette Davis – 99 movies (tie)
Bette Davis (originally Ruth Elizabeth Davis) was born on April 5, 1908, in Lowell, Massachusetts, U.S. She holds the title of “The First Lady of the American Screen,” as she was a liberated woman in an industry dominated by men. Known for her versatility in filling most roles, she has set a new standard for women on the big screen.
Davis enrolled in John Murray Anderson’s Dramatic School after graduating from Cushing Academy. Davis made her first Broadway debut in the Broken Dishes, which led to a movie contract with Universal Pictures. She later moved on to Warner Brothers in 1932, after starring in The Man Who Played God (1932).
Although Davis has a reputation of being hard to work with. Her tenacity and commitment toward acting would eventually win her first Academy Award as Best Actress in the film Dangerous (1935) followed by Jezebel (1938). She passed away in October 1989.