Discovering the names of the ten best German actors frequently brings an American audience face to face with a known personality whom it has, nevertheless, a hard time placing. Due in part to the frequent international work that these television and movie personalities enjoy, it is not unheard of to recognize a familiar face in starring roles–only to learn that he is considered among the crème de la crème of the industry and included in the list of the ten best German actors.
A foray into the works of the ten best German actors covers contemporary faces as well as those who have made their marks on historic movie history.
- Götz Otto is a contemporary actor who impresses audiences by his imposing height of 6.6 feet. James Bond aficionados know him as Mr. Stamper in "Tomorrow Never Dies."
- Herbert Grönemeyer is another contemporary. Represented in the list of the ten best German actors and also crossing over into the list of musical acts, his role of Lieutenant Werner in "Das Boot" propelled him onto the international scene.
- Victor von Bülow starred in the German comedy "Pappa ante Portas," which went largely unnoticed in the U.S. Americans may, however, know the actor under his pseudonym of Loriot that identifies him as the Germans’ foremost humorist.
- Harald Juhnke was a member of the old guard whose work included acting and stage performances. In "The Captain of Köpenick," he stepped out of the role of comedian to play the character part of an alcoholic, revealing his own demons. Germans revere him as the German Frank Sinatra.
- Heinz Rühmann was the master of the mistaken identity. His 1930 role in "Those Three from the Gas Station" brought him wide acclaim but it was "Ship of Fools" that introduced him to an international audience.
- Peter Lawrence earned his spot among the ten best German actors by virtue of his brief but memorable career in the spaghetti western genre. Born as Karl Hirenbach, he did not live to enjoy the fame that his prolific movie appearances earned him. Memorable appearances include "For a Few Dollars More" and "Black Beauty."
- Gert Fröbe was another German character actor whom James Bond fans recognize. He played Auric Goldfinger in "Goldfinger."
- Willy Millowitsch loved stage acting but also appeared in a number of comedies. American audiences know him as a supporting actor in "National Lampoon's European Vacation."
- Michael Ande is famous for his work in the long-running detective drama "Der Alte" and his appearances in "Derrick" and "Treasure Island."
- Götz George brought to life the rumpled television detective and is Germany’s answer to Columbo. As Horst Schimanski, he starred in "Tatort," which now enjoys a dedicated cult following.
While this list of the ten best German actors is by no means exhaustive, it does showcase a mix of the old guard that came from the stage and also the modern actors that served to define various niches.