From Big Screen to TV: 20 Actors Who Nailed Both

Dan Pratt

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While not all actors are able to thrive in both TV and film, some stars seem to have no problem transitioning seamlessly between the big and small screens. Here, I shall share 20 actors who have found success, not just in either film or TV but in both:

Denzel Washington

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Denzel Washington started his acting career in off-Broadway theaters. The actor would then rise to prominence when he was featured in the medical drama St. Elsewhere. Washington’s defining performances as an actor have, however, been in movies such as Glory (1989) and Man on Fire (2004).

Mila Kunis

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Mila Kunis has certainly had her fair share of TV show success, from That ‘70s Show, in which she starred as a teenage actor, to Family Guy, where she voices the character of Meg. Her journey into movies was not so smooth, but the actress eventually found her feet with superb performances in Friends with Benefits (2011) and Bad Moms (2016).

George Clooney

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After a successful stint as Dr. Doug Ross in the medical drama ER, George Clooney expanded into movies. With appearances in major films like From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), Batman & Robin (1997), and the Ocean’s film series, Clooney has proven that he can thrive in both worlds.


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Zendaya is, in my opinion, one of the most talented actresses on the scene currently. The former Disney star has maintained an incredible track record in both TV and film. Having starred in Shake It Up and K.C. Undercover, Zendaya made her feature film debut as M.J. in the blockbuster Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017).

Dakota Fanning

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Since starring as Lucy Dawson in I Am Sam at the age of 7, Dakota Fanning has had a great run in movies, appearing in The Runaways (2010) and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019). In 2018, the actress made her TV debut in the period drama series The Alienist.

Jude Law

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Jude Law came into the spotlight thanks to a stunning performance in The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999). This was followed by appearances in other successful movies, such as A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001). The English actor has also ventured into TV, portraying Lenny Belardo in The Young Pope and its sequel, The New Pope.

Penélope Cruz

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I always enjoy Penélope Cruz’s performances, whether she is starring in films like Pain and Glory (2019) and Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) or in a TV series like The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story. The Spanish actress has accumulated numerous accolades, including an Academy Award.

Amy Adams

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Before Amy Adams’s critically acclaimed portrayal of Camille Preaker in the HBO series Sharp Objects, she had already attained immense success on the big screen. The actress rose to fame after impressing in movies such as Catch Me If You Can (2002), Enchanted (2007), and American Hustle (2013).

Kiefer Sutherland

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The talented actor gained fame as Jack Bauer in 24, displaying his acting prowess on television. Beyond the small screen, Sutherland has proven his acting chops in a variety of films, including The Lost Boys (1987) and The Sentinel (2006).

Bruce Willis

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Bruce Willis has built a reputation as Hollywood’s quintessential action film leading man with roles in The Expendables, Pulp Fiction (1994), and of course, the Die Hard film series. However, Willis actually gained recognition earlier in his career as the lead in a TV series called  Moonlighting, a role that earned him an Emmy and a Golden Globe.

Nicole Kidman

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Nicole Kidman has no problem killing it in both TV and film. The American-Australian actress initially gained recognition for her performances in films like Batman Forever (1995) and The Hours (2002). She has since made a successful transition into TV with roles in Big Little Lies and Nine Perfect Strangers.

Tom Hanks

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The two-time Academy Award winner is best known for his comedic and dramatic roles in films, starring in blockbusters such as Philadelphia (1993). However, Tom Hanks is equally at home in television shows, making memorable appearances in Bosom Buddies and Electric City.

Meryl Streep

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Undoubtedly one of the most iconic actresses of her generation, Meryl Streep graced both television and cinema in her career of over six decades. Streep was featured in several successful movies, including the Oscar-winning Sophie’s Choice (1982). She also received critical acclaim for her roles in the miniseries Holocaust and Angels in America.

Viola Davis

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You don’t become an EGOT winner if you are not versatile, and versatile is exactly what Viola Davis is. In addition to her highly acclaimed portrayal of  Annalise in the hit crime drama How to Get Away With Murder, Davis has had a winning streak at the cinema with movies like The Help (2011), Suicide Squad (2016), and The Woman King (2022).

Bryan Cranston

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The Emmy-winning actor gained widespread acclaim for his role as Walter White in Breaking Bad, showcasing his remarkable talent on television. Cranston seamlessly transitioned to the big screen, earning critical praise for his performances in films like Trumbo (2015) and Argo (2012).

Ellen Pompeo

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Best known for her role as Dr. Meredith Grey on Grey’s Anatomy, Ellen Pompeo’s success in television is complemented by a great track record in film. The actress has delivered outstanding performances in films like Daredevil (2003) and Old School (2003), solidifying her status as a prominent figure in both mediums.

Jennifer Aniston

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Jennifer Aniston is mostly known for her role as Rachel in Friends, which is understandable given how big the show was. However, the actress’s filmography is also very impressive. It includes box office hits such as Bruce Almighty (2003) and Horrible Bosses (2011).

Steve Carell

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Thanks to his versatility, Steve Carell has never really been limited to either TV or film. In 2005, just as Carell was starting his iconic role as Michael Scott in the hit series The Office, he also starred as the lead in the $177 million-grossing romcom, The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

Jon Hamm

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Jon Hamm won a Golden Globe and a Primetime Emmy for his performance as Don Draper in the critically acclaimed TV series Mad Men. Beyond this, the actor has shown the breadth of his acting range in several film projects, including Baby Diver (2017) and Top Gun: Maverick (2022).

Idris Elba

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With his commanding presence, Elba has made a significant impact in both film and television. From his breakout role in the TV series The Wire to memorable performances in blockbuster films like Thor (2011) and The Harder They Fall (2021), Elba has shown an ability to seamlessly navigate between mediums.