AFI's 100 Years...100 Stars

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AFI 100 Years... series
1998100 Movies
1999100 Stars
2000100 Laughs
2001100 Thrills
2002100 Passions
2003100 Heroes & Villains
2004100 Songs
2005100 Movie Quotes
200525 Scores
2006100 Cheers
200625 Musicals
2007100 Movies (Updated)
2008AFI's 10 Top 10

AFI's 100 Years...100 Stars is the American Film Institute's list ranking the top 25 male and 25 female greatest screen legends of American film history and is the second list of the AFI 100 Years... series. The list was unveiled on June 15, 1999, through a CBS special hosted by Shirley Temple (who is herself honored on the Female Legends list), with 50 current actors making the presentations.[1]

AFI defines an “American screen legend” as "an actor or a team of actors with a significant screen presence in American feature-length films [films of 40 minutes or more] whose screen debut occurred in or before 1950, or whose screen debut occurred after 1950 but whose death has marked a completed body of work." In other words, the list generally honors actors recognized for their contributions to classical Hollywood cinema.[1]

The top stars of their respective genders are Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. The two starred together in the classic adventure 1951 film The African Queen, for which Bogart won his only Academy Award. The full-length film that includes the most stars from this list is Tales of Manhattan (1942), which includes four: Henry Fonda, Ginger Rogers, Rita Hayworth, and Edward G. Robinson. Four stars from this list appeared in How the West Was Won (film) (1962), Henry Fonda, Gregory Peck, James Stewart, and John Wayne, although none of them shared any screen time. Spencer Tracy provided the narration for the film.[2] Five AFI legends are included in a 1931 short film titled The Stolen Jools (or The Slippery Pearls), which was made to benefit a Tuberculosis sanitarium. That film contains: Joan Crawford, Barbara Stanwyck, Gary Cooper, Buster Keaton, and Edward G. Robinson.[1]

As of 2021, Sidney Poitier and Sophia Loren are the list's only living honorees.[1]

List of 50 greatest screen legends[edit]

This AFI list consisted of 50 greatest screen legends, including 25 male and 25 female stars.

No Female legends Male legends
1 Katharine Hepburn
Katharine Hepburn promo pic.jpg Humphrey Bogart
Humphrey Bogart 1940.jpg
2 Bette Davis
Bette Davis - portrait.jpg Cary Grant
Grant, Cary (Suspicion) 01 Crisco edit.jpg
3 Audrey Hepburn
Audrey Hepburn 1956.jpg James Stewart
Annex - Stewart, James (Call Northside 777) 01.jpg
4 Ingrid Bergman
Ingrid Bergman, Gaslight 1944.jpg Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando in The Men.jpg
5 Greta Garbo
Greta Garbo - 1939.jpg Fred Astaire
Astaire, Fred - Never Get Rich.jpg
6 Marilyn Monroe
Monroe 1953 publicity.jpg Henry Fonda
Henry Fonda, 1940.jpg
7 Elizabeth Taylor
Studio publicity Elizabeth Taylor.jpg Clark Gable
Clark Gable - publicity.JPG
8 Judy Garland
Judy Garland The Harvey Girls MGM Publicity still.jpeg James Cagney
James cagney promo photo.jpg
9 Marlene Dietrich
Marlene Dietrich in No Highway (1951) (Cropped).png Spencer Tracy
Spencer tracy state of the union.jpg
10 Joan Crawford
Joan Crawford - 1936 - Hurrell.JPG Charlie Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin portrait.jpg
11 Barbara Stanwyck
Barbara Stanwyck - early still.JPG Gary Cooper
Gary Cooper (1952).jpg
12 Claudette Colbert
Claudette colbert.jpg Gregory Peck
Gregory Peck 1948.jpg
13 Grace Kelly
Grace Kelly MGM photo.jpg John Wayne
John Wayne 1940.jpg
14 Ginger Rogers
Ginger Rogers - Tender Comrade.jpg Laurence Olivier
Laurence Olivier - Rebecca.jpg
15 Mae West
Mae West LAT.jpg Gene Kelly
Gene kelly.jpg
16 Vivien Leigh
Vivien Leigh Scarlet.jpg Orson Welles
Orson Welles 1937.jpg
17 Lillian Gish
Lillian Gish-edit1.jpg Kirk Douglas
Kirk douglas photo signed.JPG
18 Shirley Temple
Shirley Temple 1949.jpg James Dean
James Dean - publicity - early.JPG
19 Rita Hayworth
Rita Hayworth-publicity.JPG Burt Lancaster
Burt Lancaster - publicity 1947.JPG
20 Lauren Bacall
Lauren Bacall 1945 (cropped).jpg Marx Brothers
Chico (1887–1961)
Harpo (1888–1964)
Groucho (1890–1977)
Marx Brothers 1931.jpg
21 Sophia Loren
(born 1934)
Sophia Loren - 1959.jpg Buster Keaton
Busterkeaton edit.jpg
22 Jean Harlow
Harlow-publicity.jpg Sidney Poitier
(born 1927)
Sidney Poitier 1968.jpg
23 Carole Lombard
Carole Lombard - Paramount.JPG Robert Mitchum
Robert Mitchum 1949 (no signature).jpg
24 Mary Pickford
Mary Pickford cph.3c17995u.jpg Edward G. Robinson
Edward G. Robinson 1948.jpg
25 Ava Gardner
Ava Gardner Show Boat 1951.jpg William Holden

Additional facts[edit]

Lillian Gish had the longest career span of all the legends (75 years). Starting in 1912, she was usually regarded as "The First Lady of America Cinema". Lillian Gish was awarded the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award at the age of 90 in 1984. Laurence Olivier had the longest of the male legends (59 years). James Dean and Grace Kelly are the only legends to have their screen debut after 1950. Marlon Brando, Sidney Poitier, and Sophia Loren all had screen debuts in the cut-off year of 1950; in contrast, stars who did not qualify due to their screen debuts occurring just after 1950, include Jack Lemmon, Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Shirley MacLaine, and Clint Eastwood.

There are 13 legends that made the transition from silent film to the 'talkies': Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, Barbara Stanwyck, Lillian Gish, Carole Lombard, Mary Pickford, Clark Gable, Charlie Chaplin, Gary Cooper, John Wayne, the Marx Brothers, Buster Keaton, and Edward G. Robinson. The Marx Brothers are the sole legendary 'team' among the legends, while 10 of the screen legends comprised 5 legendary duos: Katharine Hepburn & Spencer Tracy, Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers, Humphrey Bogart & Lauren Bacall, and Clark Gable & Jean Harlow.

A majority of the legends were born in the 20th century. The legends born in the 19th century were Fred Astaire, Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Charlie Chaplin, Lillian Gish, Buster Keaton, Mary Pickford, Edward G. Robinson, Mae West and all four Marx Brothers. (Gish was the last survivor among all those born in the 19th century.)

Eight legends were born in New York City: Bogart, Cagney, the Marx Brothers, Barbara Stanwyck, Mae West, Rita Hayworth, Lauren Bacall, and Burt Lancaster.

Thirteen legends were born outside the United States: Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant, Elizabeth Taylor, and Laurence Olivier were from England; Ingrid Bergman and Greta Garbo from Sweden; Audrey Hepburn, Belgium; Marlene Dietrich, Germany; Claudette Colbert, France; Vivien Leigh, British India; Sophia Loren, Italy; Mary Pickford, Canada; and Edward G. Robinson, Romania.

At the time of the polling, there were five living female legends: Katharine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Shirley Temple, Lauren Bacall and Sophia Loren, and there were four living male legends: Marlon Brando, Gregory Peck, Kirk Douglas and Sidney Poitier.

As of 2021, Poitier and Loren are the list's only living honorees.[1] The earliest female death was Jean Harlow in 1937, and earliest male death was James Dean in 1955. The most recent death was in 2020 with Kirk Douglas, who died at the age of 103. As of 2021, he remains the legend to have lived the longest. To surpass Douglas, Poitier would have to live until at least 2030 and Loren 2037.


The top 50 stars (25 males, 25 females) where chosen out of a list of a total of 500 stars who were nominated "Greatest Screen Legends" status, including 250 male and 250 female stars. The adjoining reference gives the lists of the original selection[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e "AFI's 100 Years...100 Stars: The 50 Greatest American Screen Legends". American Film Institute. Retrieved November 10, 2019.
  2. ^ "How the West Was Won". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  3. ^ List of the 500 nominated star legends (Archive)

External links[edit]