The 10 Best Indigenous Actors of All Time

Sharing is caring!

Hollywood’s history with Native Americans has always been extremely complicated. As with many races depicted in the early days of film, Indigenous Peoples would see racist depictions of themselves projected onto the silver screen, subjected to performances by either white men in brownface or Italian actors who’ve tanned themselves enough to fool white Hollywood producers into believing that they’re Indigenous. 

The rampant racism is a real shame, as there’s an entire community of Indigenous actors just itching to represent themselves on screen. With that in mind, it stands to reason that these actors should be lauded for their work. For today’s list, we’ll count down ten of the greatest Indigenous actors to ever grace the silver screen.

1. Graham Greene

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Known for his roles in Dances with Wolves, of which he was nominated for an Oscar, and the Stephen King adaptation, The Green Mile, Greene is a seasoned actor with a diverse body of work. For an underrated gem among Greene’s vast array of work, check out 1992’s Clearcut, a low-budget Canadian exploitation film about a white lawyer whose loyalty is tested when an angry Native American activist seeks to kidnap the head of a logging company.

2. Wes Studi

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

A member of the Cherokee tribe, Wes Studi is recognized for the gravitas and dignity he brings to his performances in films such as Michael Mann’s big-budget historical drama, The Last of the Mohicans, and Kevin Costner’s Oscar-winning Dances with Wolves. One of Studi’s most underrated films is Walter Hill’s 1993 opus Geronimo: An American Legend, a fictionalized retelling of the Apache Wars.

3. Adam Beach

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Beach splashed on the indie film circuit in the late 1990s with his versatility and strong screen presence, winning numerous awards for films like Smoke Signals and My Indian Summer. He has since appeared in numerous films and TV shows, including the second part of Clint Eastwood’s World War II saga Flags of Our Fathers and John Woo’s Windtalkers.

4. Tantoo Cardinal

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

With a five-decade career, Tantoo Cardinal has appeared in films, including the Peter Hunt actioner Death Hunt and the 1994 Brad Pitt drama Legends of the Fall. She’s admired for her powerful performances and advocacy for Indigenous rights, going so far as to establish the Saskatchewan Native Theatre Company to try and get more Indigenous people into the arts.

Follow us on MSN to see more of our exclusive entertainment content.

5. Gil Birmingham

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Known for his role as Thomas Rainwater in the Paramount+ series Yellowstone, Comanche actor Gil Birmingham brings depth and authenticity to his characters, even when playing characters as innocuous as Billy Black in the Twilight Saga.

6. Q’orianka Kilcher

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Though of mixed heritage, Q’orianka Kilcher’s portrayal of Pocahontas in Terence Malick’s 2005 opus, The New World, showcased her talent and helped her to shine a spotlight on all of the charitable work she does, including volunteer work with Amnesty International.

7. Gary Farmer

Photo Credit: AMC Holdings.

Gary Farmer’s significant contribution to the film world is starring in Jim Jarmusch’s neo-acid Western Dead Man. The film follows William Blake, a banker living on the lamb after killing a man in cold blood. Farmer’s work on this film and the critically acclaimed Smoke Signals have netted him several well-deserved Independent Spirit Awards.

Follow us on MSN to see more of our exclusive entertainment content.

8. Tinsel Korey

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Best known for her role as Emily Young in the Twilight Saga, First Nations actress Tinsel Korey has made it her mission to accurately and carefully represent Indigenous peoples in mainstream media.

9. Julia Jones

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Though Julia Jones first gained prominence as Leah Clearwater in the Twilight saga, she would continue gaining traction through her work in Taylor Sheridan’s Wind River and Frank Coraci’s The Ridiculous 6. She plays Angela Bishop in the Paramount+ revival of Dexter: New Blood.

10. Michael Greyeyes

Photo Credit: Studio Seven Pro.

Getting his start in films like Dance Me Outside and Smoke Signals, Greyeyes has always maintained dignity and nuance in his portrayal of Indigenous peoples on screen. He would later branch out into action choreography, offering stunt work for television shows like Fear the Walking Dead and True Detective.

Follow us on MSN to see more of our exclusive entertainment content.

7 Celebrities Who Are Genuinely Good

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

We’ve all heard the famous adage that “no publicity is bad publicity,” and while it tends to be accurate, there are certainly exceptions. We expect celebrities to have at least some controversy associated with their name, be it an old scandal or a fresh feud. But what about those few stars who stay out of the limelight and get along without a hint of trouble?

7 Celebrities Who Are Genuinely Goo

10 Celebrities That Made the Big Times Then Disappeared off the Face of the Earth

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Some celebrities definitely seem to enjoy the limelight and keep working to stay in the public eye. While others quickly move out of the spotlight. Many of these actors and actresses stepped out of the spotlight to live a more private life without constant media pressures.

10 Celebrities That Made the Big Times Then Disappeared Off The Face of the Earth

Similar Posts