Australia’s 50 greatest actors (50 to 41): From Georgie Parker to Jacob Elordi and Chris Hemsworth

Headshot of Wenlei Ma
Wenlei Ma
The Nightly
6 Min Read
Hugely talented, these actors are the best of the best.
Hugely talented, these actors are the best of the best. Credit: Olivia Desianti

Australia has been blessed with countless talented actors who have made us cry, laugh and rage.

Whether they’re thespians who grace our local TV screens or big stars punching above their weight in Hollywood, their gifts for evoking an emotion or a reaction through a visceral performance puts them at the top of their game.

Here are The Nightly’s top 50 Australian actors — some are up-and-comers, some are legends but what they all have in common is their skill in making us feel a part of their characters’ stories.

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We’ll reveal 10 names each day, so come back throughout the week to see who took out the top spot.

50. GEORGIE PARKER

One of the grand dames of Australian television, Georgie Parker has proved she can easily move between dramas and soaps.

The two-time Gold Logie winner has been a mainstay on local telly since she first appeared on A Country Practice in 1989. She went on to do 266 episodes of the classic series.

It speaks to Parker’s screen presence that she would then inhabit two more iconic characters, Terri Sullivan in beloved medical drama All Saints, and Roo Stewart in Home and Away. And don’t forget about her 32 episodes of presenting Play School.

Must watch: All Saints (7Plus), Home and Away (7Plus), A Country Practice (7Plus)

Georgie Parker in All Saints.
Georgie Parker in All Saints. Credit: Supplied

49. CHARLOTTE NICDAO

Small in physical stature but big in screen presence, Charlotte Nicdao has seriously impressive comedy chops.

Behind her cheery countenance is a wicked sense of humour, and you only have to hear how she weaponises Australian insults on American workplace comedy Mythic Quest to know her timing is pitch-perfect.

With a resume that also includes Please Like Me, web series Content (in which she portrays a thoroughly narcissistic wannabe-influencer who whiffed some attention) and voice roles in Adventure Time and Star Trek: Lower Decks, Nicdao is setting herself up as a formidable force.

Must watch: Mythic Quest (Apple TV+), Content (YouTube), Get Krack!n (digital purchase)

Charlotte Nicdao in Mythic Quest.
Charlotte Nicdao has seriously impressive comedy chops.  Credit: Apple TV+

48. THOMAS WEATHERALL

In an exciting cast of the Heartbreak High remake’s Bright Young Things, Thomas Weatherall stood out from his peers.

His performance as Malakai looked easy but beneath the breezy exterior was a character with emotional complexity.

That he made it seem effortless while being so affecting is part of Weatherall’s power – and he was rewarded with an AACTA Award for his effort.

Also a playwright who mounted a one-person show at the Belvoir Theatre, he will soon star in Narrow Road to the Deep North.

Must watch: Heartbreak High (Netflix), RFDS (7Plus) and Troppo (View)

Thomas Weatherall stars in Netflix's new series of Heartbreak High
Thomas Weatherall in Heartbreak High. Credit: Netflix

47. MICHELLE LIM DAVIDSON

Michelle Lim Davidson’s The Newsreader co-stars Anna Torv and Sam Reid may have the showier, more dramatic parts but Davidson’s Noelene is the heart and soul of the 1980s-set Australian series.

And that’s in large part because Davidson has imbued so much compassion into a character whose stoic ambition to have purpose in this vivid and crazy world is so relatable.

Maybe that’s Davidson’s Play School training kicking in, this knack for making an unbreakable connection with her audience.

Must watch: The Newsreader (iView), Utopia (Netflix, iView, Stan), After the Verdict (9Now)

Sam Reid and Michelle Lim Davidson in The Newsreader.
Sam Reid and Michelle Lim Davidson in The Newsreader. Credit: Supplied

46. MIRANDA TAPSELL

A pocket rocket of feisty energy, since her breakout in The Sapphires Miranda Tapsell has enlivened any project she’s in with her warmth and generous spirit, including Love Child, Doctor Doctor and The Dry.

She also happens to be a double talent as an actor and writer, working behind the scenes on Artful Dodger, Get Krack!n and Summer Love, while she wrote and starred in her most personal project to date, Top End Wedding, filmed in the Northern Territory and the Tiwi Islands.

Must watch: The Sapphires (7Plus), Top End Wedding (digital rental) and Secret City (Netflix, Binge, Foxtel)

Miranda Tapsell and Gwilym Lee in Top End Wedding.
Miranda Tapsell with Gwilym Lee in Top End Wedding. Credit: John Platt/Methode

45. JACOB ELORDI

The six-foot-five heartthrob captured many a teen girl’s heart in the streaming rom-com trilogy The Kissing Booth, and he could’ve remained one of those Netflix stars who was hot for about six minutes on social media. However, the actor had the creative ambition to do more and strove to emulate his acting idols Steve McQueen and Marlon Brando.

He had a bumper 2023 with featured roles in Emerald Fennell’s zeitgeisty Saltburn and in Sophia Coppola’s Priscilla.

With a screen presence that can switch between charm and unknowability, he will soon be seen in the series adaptation of The Narrow Road to the Deep North where he’ll portray a prisoner of war.

Must watch: Saltburn (Prime), Euphoria (Binge, Foxtel), Priscilla (cinemas)

Jacob Elordi arrives at the premiere of "Saltburn" on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023, at The Theatre at Ace Hotel in Los Angeles. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
Jacob Elordi. Credit: Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

44. MATT DAY

There was a 15-year stretch from the mid-1990s when it seemed Matt Day was in everything — the embodiment of the Australian everyman who is often underestimated and overlooked.

There’s something charming about Day’s laid-back but awkward also-ran characters who aren’t, but should be, the guy the girls go for.

A journeyman actor with a steady career that has included the likes of Dating the Enemy, Tangle and Rake, he has embodied the on-screen version of the reliable good guy.

Must watch: Love and Other Catastrophes (DVDs on eBay), In Our Blood (iView), Rake (Netflix, Stan, iView, 7Plus)

Wolf Creek - Matt Day. Picture: Sam Oster
Matt Day specialises in laid-back but awkward also-ran characters. Credit: Sam Oster

43. LEAH PURCELL

A multi-hyphenate talent, Leah Purcell’s most potent role is one she created for herself, as the tough and vulnerable Molly Johnson, a reimagined version of the unnamed drover’s wife in Henry Lawson’s short story.

The Molly Johnson that Purcell wrote first for a stage play, then a novel and then a feature film is as gritty as any hero in a western and that’s only due to Purcell’s ability to infuse the character with the lived experience of her culture and history.

It’s a standout in a career that has also included the likes of Wentworth, The Proposition and The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart.

Must watch: The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson (Netflix, SBS, iView, Foxtel), Redfern Now (Netflix, Stan, iView) and Wentworth (Binge, Foxtel)

Leah Purcell as Molly Johnson in The Drovers Wife: Legend of Molly Johnson.
Leah Purcell in The Drovers Wife. Credit: Supplied

42. WENDY HUGHES

As one of the leading creative figures of the Australian New Wave cinema renaissance, Wendy Hughes was a mainstay on Australian screens throughout the 1970s and 1980s including in Lonely Hearts, My Brilliant Career and Phillip Noyce films Newsfront and Echoes of Paradise. There’s also her appearances on Australian TV shows such as Power Without Glory, Number 96 and Return to Eden.

After a spell in the US on seminal crime drama Homicide: Life on the Street, Hughes brought her dignified screen presence back home as the star of State Coroner.

Must watch: Careful, He Might Hear You (Netflix, Prime, Brollie), Return to Eden (7Plus, Prime) and Lonely Hearts (DVDs on eBay)

Leading Australian actor Wendy Hughes takes a break from rehearsals for the Four Deadly Sinners at Masonic Hall, Nedlands. Mogens Johansen, The West Australian 6 October 2009.
Wendy Hughes. Credit: Mogens Johansen

41. CHRIS HEMSWORTH

With a playful twinkle in his eye and impeccable comedic timing, Chris Hemsworth’s big personality and dominant screen presence has landed him on the Hollywood A-list.

For many, Hemsworth is who you think of when you think of modern Australian masculinity, a reputation cultivated in part due to his role as Marvel’s Thor and as a series of action heroes in films such as in Extraction and 12 Strong.

If you’re looking for a hint of what Hemsworth can do that’s not quippy or flexing muscles, just look to his dramatic performance as adrenaline junkie and F1 driver James Hunt in Rush.

Must watch: Thor: Ragnarok (Disney), The Cabin in the Woods (Prime, Stan), Rush (SBS)

"Marvel's Thor: The Dark World"..Thor (Chris Hemsworth)..Ph: Jay Maidment..© 2013 MVLFFLLC. TM & © 2013 Marvel. All Rights Reserved. 14/09/2012
Chris Hemsworth as Thor. Credit: Jay Maidment/Marvel

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