Dick van Dyke recently named this generation of actors as the greatest ever, but is that true?

In his moving Screen Actors Guild speech, veteran actor Dick van Dyke called the actors of today ‘the greatest generation of actors in the history of acting’. However, lists of the ‘greatest actors of all time’ consistently rank actors from forty or fifty years ago in the top spots.
The ‘Golden Age of Cinema’ is the name given to the period of time spanning from the end of the silent movies and the release of The Jazz Singer in 1927 until the early 1960s.
However, today’s films are constantly breaking records, and technology is making them even more impressive. The American Film Institute’s ’100 Years, 100 Stars’ list ranks its choice of 100 males and females leading up to 1999, and heavily favoured stars of past decades. The top fifteen spots on each list are as follows:
1 Humphrey Bogart 1 Katharine Hepburn
2 Cary Grant 2 Bette Davis
3 James Stewart 3 Audrey Hepburn
4 Marlon Brando 4 Ingrid Bergman
5 Fred Astaire 5 Greta Garbo
6 Henry Fonda 6 Marilyn Monroe
7 Clark Gable 7 Elizabeth Taylor
8 James Cagney 8 Judy Garland
9 Spencer Tracy 9 Marlene Dietrich
10 Charlie Chaplin 10 Joan Crawford
11 Gary Cooper 11 Barbara Stanwyck
12 Gregory Peck 12 Claudette Colbert
13 John Wayne 13 Grace Kelly
14 Laurence Olivier 14 Ginger Rogers
15 Gene Kelly 15 Mae West

Lists voted for by the public are quite different.  On the American Multi-Cinema website, it is names such as Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Johnny Depp and Morgan Freeman that feature in the top spots – although Marlon Brandon again makes the top five.

Today’s celebrity culture is marred by scandal and gossip, with celebrities like Lindsay Lohan or Paris Hilton repeatedly making headlines for drug abuse and crime. Despite this, not all stars draw bad press. Jennifer Lawrence has experienced a surge in popularity and received commendation for her private demeanour, whilst Leonardo DiCaprio, a man whose career has spun over twenty years, has avoided major scandal and received praise for his environmental and charitable work.

Today at least, the most iconic names in acting are still those that drew crowds half a decade ago: Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, and Humphrey Bogart … the names of the great acting legends. Despite this, with today’s films constantly breaking records and setting the bar ever higher, the names we see today could easily be those that dominate the industry for decades to come.