Top 20 Tamil actors

Tamil cinema’s lead actors have continued to impress with their performances and sheer star power. Some have turned experimental with interesting results whereas others have chosen to stick to their strengths.

Their offerings on the big screen have been lapped up by the audience. Here is a look at the top 20 lead actors in Tamil.

Ranking Based on:

  • Current Trade Value
  • Fans Following
  • Hits Since 2000
  • Upcoming Projects

20. Atharva

Mupozhudum Un Karpanaigal Top 20 Tamil actors

Atharva made an impact with his debut film, Bana Kathadi. This young man seems to have his head firmly on his shoulders and is being judicious with his career choices. As a result, he has the promising Mupphozhudum Un Karpanaigal and none other than Bala’s next film, Eriyum Thanal in his kitty.

19. Srikanth

Srikanth’s career has revived in a big way. He landed a part in the hugely awaited Vijay film, Nanban which is a remake of 3 Idiots and also has Edhiri En 3 and Paagan to look forward to.

Nanban Tamil Movie 2011 Stills1 Top 20 Tamil actors

18. Aadhi

Aadhi has shocked with the power and versatility of his performance in films like Mirugam and Eeram. Vasanthabalan’s Aravaan may just be the launch pad that is going to catapult him into the higher echelons of stardom.

17. Jai

Engeyum Eppothum Movie Stills1 Top 20 Tamil actors

The actor who played Vijay’s brother in Bhagavathi has come a long way since then. Having gotten himself noticed in Chennai 600028, he went on to prove his mettle as an actor with Subramaniapuram. This year Jai delivered another memorable performance in Engeyum Eppodhum. He will be back with Vettai Mannan with Simbu next year.

16. Vimal

vaagai sooda vaa vimal iniya stills Top 20 Tamil actors

Vimal will always be Kalavani in the hearts of Tamil cinema fans. This actor with the boy – next door looks is a wellspring of talent. This year, Thoonga Nagaram, Etthan, and Vaagai Sooda Vaa saw him in decent performances that proved he is here to stay. The future also looks bright for this young star as he will be seen next in Masala Café and Rendavadhu Padam.

15. Bharath

nepali220208 8 Top 20 Tamil actors

Bharath was part of the multi – starrer Vaanam and Yuvan Yuvathi. It was a lukewarm year for the actor but he has already proved himself with films like Veyil and Kaadhal. He will be looking to prove himself again with Thiruthani, Aravaan and 555.

14. Madhavan

vetta aaray madhavan posters 586x917 Top 20 Tamil actors

Madhavan is like the prodigal son of Tamil cinema as he is forever running off to make hit films in other languages. But he always returns to Tamil cinema and makes up with something extra special. He was last seen in Manmadhan Ambu where he gave a memorable performance and he is all set to rock with Vettai.

13. Vishal

avan ivan poster 2 Top 20 Tamil actors

Avan Ivan has done wonders for Vishal’s career as people are sitting up and taking note of this promising star. Vedi was his other release this year. Vishal’s next is Samaran with Trisha and there is a good buzz for this film.

12. Jeyam  Ravi

Jayam Ravi Top 20 Tamil actors

Jeyam Ravi’s only release this year was Engeyum Kaadhal. The actor seemed to have taken stock and made some key decisions regarding his career. Ameer’s film Aadhi Bhagawan promises to show Ravi in a new avatar and he will also be doing SP Jananadhan’s next film which will co – star Jeeva.

11. Jeeva

ko jeeva karthiga 4 Top 20 Tamil actors

There is no denying that Jeeva is a talented performer and films like Ram, Siva Manasula Sakthi, and Ee bear testament to this statement. Finally it all came together for this actor with Ko which is one of the biggest hits of the year. Singam Puli, Rowthiram and Vandhaan Vendraan were his other releases in 2011. Following the success of Ko, Jeeva was flooded with the crème de la crème of offers and consequently he is working on promising films like Gautham Menon’s Neethane En Ponvasantham and Mysskin’s Mugamoodi.

10. Aarya

vettai aarya amala paul photos 586x357 Top 20 Tamil actors

Aarya is the dark horse who usually proves to be a winner. With Boss Engira Baskaran going on to become a cult classic, Aarya proved that he had truly arrived. In 2011, he displayed his acting chops in films like Avan Ivan and Urumi. Vettai will be his next release and he will follow it up with Selvaraghavan’s Irandam Ulagam.

9. Karthi

Na Peru Siva karthi kajal agarwal Stills 001 586x978 Top 20 Tamil actors

Karthi proved that he was something special with his debut film, Paruthiveeran by delivering a performance that many consider to be among the finest in Tamil cinema. He is an endless reservoir of talent and has the X factor which sends fans into a frenzy when they see his magic on the big screen. His films like Paiyaa, Naan Mahan Alla and Siruthai have struck gold at the box office. With films like Saguni and All In All Azhagu Raja in the offing, Karthi seems poised to compete with the best in Tamil cinema.

8. Young superstar Simbu

simbu vettai mannan movie Top 20 Tamil actors

Simbu was on a roll and revealed hidden depths as an actor with Vaanam. There is no denying that Simbu has that elusive something called charisma. With Vetrimaaran’s film, Vada Chennai and Nelson’s Vettai Mannan on the anvil, it seems likely that Simbu will continue to scale new heights.

7. Dhanush

Aadukalam Top 20 Tamil actors

Dhanush had the kind of year that most people can only dream about. Aadukalam saw him in the performance of a lifetime and he bagged the national award for it. He flexed his muscles as a commercially viable star with films like Maapillai and Vengai and then followed it up with another hard – hitting film, Mayakkam Enna. If all this were not enough, the phenomenon called Kolaveri Di happened and will help him maintain his momentum for the year ahead which will see him in wife, Aishwarya’s film, 3 and Mareesan.

6. Chiyaan Vikram

rajapattai vikram stills Top 20 Tamil actors

Vikram remains one of the gutsiest actors in Tamil cinema. Deiva Thirumagal saw him deliver yet another finely nuanced performance. The best part is he followed it up with a diametrically opposite Rajapattai.

5. Surya

7am Arivu Review bothi dharman Top 20 Tamil actors

People expect Surya to surprise them and he keep reinventing himself. And that is exactly what he did with 7am Arivu. And his vaunted six pack abs serves as his USP. Surya’s next film is Maatraan and word is that he is all set to push the envelope again.

4. Ultimate star Ajith

Mankatha HQ Stills027 586x390 Top 20 Tamil actors

Ajith’s Mankatha was one of the landmark films of his career. The star went against the tide in his inimitable style playing a negative character in his 50th film and the film smashed records at the box office. And his legion of fans continues to grow and there is a fever of anticipation surrounding his next release – Billa 2.

3. Ilayathalapathy Vijay

vijay1 Top 20 Tamil actors

Vijay had a memorable year as he notched up two of the biggest hits in a career that has seen many such box office gems. The strength of his fan following was evident when their loyalty kept Kavalan afloat even as vested interests worked against the film. Velayudham released later in the year has also been declared a smash hit. With Nanban, Thuppakki and Yohan: Adhyayam Ondru forming his line – up it seems that

2. Padma Shri Kamal Hassan

Kamal Hassan Top 20 Tamil actors

Kamal Hassan’s Manmadhan Ambu was released towards the end of 2010 and it has given the fans something to tide them over till his next delectable cinematic offering. Viswaroopam will hit the screens sometime next year and as always the expectations are sky high.

1. Superstar Rajnikanth

Rajnikanth Top 20 Tamil actors

Rajnikanth remains number one the way he was yesterday, is today and will be tomorrow, the day after, always and forever. A personal health crisis played out like the heart stopping drama in one of his films and when he recovered the fans got their happy ending. Kochadaiyan is superstar’s next film and 2012 is going to witness Rajnikanth hysteria all over again.

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  1. SA Ravikumar says

    So the latest top hero list currently featured on Tamil Cinema has changed the number from 10 to 20… guess they had a tough time making up their minds! Anyway, I found the descriptions and future projects lists really helpful. What do you think of the order of the lists or films/actors? And um… Vikram fans? You really, really need to see his picture… *MinaiMinai now completely converted to the world of Vikram-fandom!* ETA: I moved the pictures in between the listings- easier to scroll and read.


    This is the most exciting rating that we can have in the industry. Who is the biggest star of the trade? Tough question, lots of candidates. We based our ranking based on the below three crucial factors:

    1. Box office successes from 2005 to 2010
    2. Present trade value
    3. Future projects

    In short, who are the men on whom producers are willing to put their money and audiences are willing to pay to watch. Watch out for few surprises in the list, an indication of changing times in Tamil cinema.

    20. MADHAVAN – It is a bit surprising to see Maddy occupy this spot, he was one of the most promising prospects not a long time ago. But hits seem to have dried up for him and the boyish charm is not working the magic like before. Though, there is reason to believe that he has shifted his focus from fully commercial cinema to the more meaningful variety like Evano Oruvan. He has also split his time between Tamil and Hindi. Lack of regular releases is hurting him in Kollywood. Maybe, he is being successful on his own terms.
    Box Office Successes: Thambi – 2006 – Average, Rendu – 2006 – Average
    Future Projects: Guru En Aalu, Naan Aval Adhu, Yaavarum Nalam

    19. NARAIN – Three films old and he already has got a reputation of being a fairly good actor. The three films don’t tell us that he has been around for nearly 3 years now, which means that he is the kind who is willing to wait for the right opportunities to come his way. Seems to have earned himself a place in the good books of directors which will serve him well. But, commitments in Malayalam keep him from getting regular releases in Kollywood.
    Box Office Successes: Anjaathe – 2008 – Hit, Chithiram Pesuthadi – 2006 – Average
    Future Projects: Pookadai Ravi

    18. SARATH KUMAR – Iron Man of Tamil cinema. He has seen all the ups and downs of tinsel town and has stuck on, surviving every time and coming back strong. More than 100 movies is no mean thing. Though action is his forte, he can handle other genres too. His luck at the box office has not been much reason for cheer over the recent past, but he has got back with reliable ally K.S. Ravikumar and fortunes might change for the better.
    Box Office Successes: Ayya – 2005 – Average, Pachaikili Muthucharam – 2007 – Average
    Future Projects: 1977, Pazhassi Raja, Jaggubhai

    17. PRASANNA – The most soft spoken hero of our times, so we thought until he sprung a surprise by playing a downright mean villain in 2008. We woke up to the multifaceted actor in Prasanna only after 6 years of his presence as a loving, caring, smiling boy next door. He may not be able to generate huge expectations or big openings, but he has got a quality tag attached to him which makes us feel sure if we walk in to a theater to watch his film. His choices have defined him pretty well.
    Box Office Successes: Anjathe – 2008 – Hit, Kanda Naal Mudhal – 2005 – Average
    Future Projects: Achachamundu! Achachamundu!, Manjal Veyil, Bale Pandiya

    16. PRITHVIRAJ – Tall, handsome, well built with a generous endowment of acting talent. Prithviraj has got it all to make it big in the film industry. With just a few films, he has proved that he can handle just about any genre with the same ease. Also, close to 7 years of experience in the Malayalam industry have taught him many things about making the right choices, which prevents him from repeating the usual mistakes that newcomers make. But, if he wants to go higher in Tamil he has got to concentrate fully in Kollywood. At the moment, he seems more interested in his home industry.
    Box Office Successes: Mozhi – 2007 – Hit, Kana Kandaen – 2005 – Average
    Future Projects: Ashokavanam

    15. JEEVA – For all his promise and redoubtable talent, this spot might look a bit unworthy of Jeeva. But this rating is based purely on trade value. His choices have been pleasantly and pleasingly diverse from the regular fare, he has shown the courage to be different. Of course, he too delivers the occasional commercial flick. In spite of all this, lady luck is yet to give him that huge hit which can push him up a notch. His line up of movies is promising.
    Box Office Successes: Raam – 2005 – Hit, E – 2006 – Hit, Dishyum – 2006 – Average
    Future Projects: Siva Manasula Sakthi

    14. BHARATH – The young rural guy of Kollywood, somehow this image seems to have stuck to Bharath due to his consecutive releases with rural flavor. Too early in his career to be developing an image, needs to try more variety. His credentials are no longer in doubt, but there has been a shadow cast over his choices. The hit register is not consistent, though occasionally satisfactory. Given his potential, he should be doing much better. May the times ahead see a better Bharath.
    Box Office Successes: Veyil – 2006 – Hit, Pattiyal – 2006 – Average, Em Magan – 2006 – Average, Pazhani – 2008 – Average
    Future Projects: Arumugam, Thiruthani

    13. JAI – First real big surprise of the list. The new guy on the block has made a head start. Just a couple of movies old, but he has managed to grab attention like few others have been able to. The choices that he made definitely played as big a part as his performances. Has got the spine to defy stereotypes. Has got quite a few lined up that can decide whether he continues at the same spot.
    Box Office Successes: Chennai 600028 – 2007 – Super hit – Supportive role, Subramaniapuram – 2008 – Super hit
    Future Projects: Adhe Neram Adhe Idam, Aval Peyar Thamizharasi, Arjunan Kadhali, Rakkozhi, Vamanan

    12. SILAMBARASAN – Screen writer and director at a very young age besides being a flamboyant actor. Wonder whether he has inherited all his dad’s talents. His dance skills and dialogue delivery are his USP and work for him more often than not. But, he seems dangerously close to walking into an image warp too early in his career. Needs to caution himself against redundancy. Thoroughly capable of making it big if he strikes the right balance. His current trade value seems to have not been affected instead of just two average fares over the last four years.
    Box Office Successes: Vallavan – 2006 – Average, Silambattam – 2008 – Average
    Future Projects: Podaa Podi, Kettavan

    11. ARYA – For a young actor who is yet to touch the 10 movie mark, being at this position is an endorsement of his abilities. Without having regular releases over the past couple of years, thanks to the prolonged Naan Kadavul, he has somehow managed to stay in the fray without being overrun by the crowd. Has proved that he can judge good scripts and is in the good books of a few top directors. 2009 is going to be crucial to his standing as his 3 year penance is up for judgment. His next after Naan Kadavul, Vishnuvardhan directed Sarvam is much expected.
    Box Office Successes: Arinthum Ariyamalum – 2005 – Hit, Ullam Ketkumae – 2005 – Average, Pattiyal – 2006 – Average
    Future Projects: Naan Kadavul, Sarvam

    10. KARTHI – This is not the place where you expect to find a one movie old actor to be, even Karthi would be very, very surprised. But, when the only movie he has done happens to be Paruthiveeran, this position becomes believable. Seldom has an actor proved himself so thoroughly with just one film. Already wanted by many leading directors, his future depends on how he handles his immense talent and the headiness that it can bring into his life.
    Box Office Successes: Paruthiveeran – 2007 – Blockbuster
    Future Projects: Aayirathil Oruvan, Paiyya

    9. JAYAM RAVI – He must be the family man of Tamil cinema, almost all his movies to date have been clean family entertainers with the exception of Dhaam Dhoom which was his attempt at diversifying into action. While family stories are his bread and butter, which he does effortlessly, he has also shown the intent to try different things. His association with Ameer will be a key point.
    Box Office Successes: Something Something – 2006 – Hit, Santosh Subramaniam – 2008 – Hit
    Future Projects: Peranmai, Kannabiran

    8. VISHAL – Is this another action specialist in the making? One can be forgiven for thinking in this manner because Vishal has tried precious little outside his comfort zone – action. Even within this limited domain, he has managed to pull the crowds. But needs to prove his versatility in performances and choices. With the backing of a home production company, he should feel confident to explore.
    Box Office Successes: Sandakozhi – 2005 – Hit, Thimiru – 2006 – Hit, Thamiraparani – 2007 – Average, Malaikottai – 2007 – Average
    Future Projects: Thoranai

    7. DHANUSH – Has made the transition from boy to man and comfortably settled into a mould that seems to suit him exceedingly well. Revels in playing the careless youngster type of roles, playing the fool on screen comes naturally to him. The best thing that Dhanush seems to have done is to identify what can work for him, he is playing exclusively to his strengths. Very much in the process of evolving as an actor, but is on the right path.
    Box Office Successes: Thiruvilayadal Arambam – 2006 – Hit, Polladhavan – 2007 – Hit, Yaaradi Nee Mohini – 2008 – Hit
    Future Projects: Maalai Nerathu Mayakkam

    6. VIKRAM – You can be forgiven for not thinking about Vikram all this while, he has been off screen for quite some time. It took more than 2 years for Bheema to make it to theaters and that too was a disappointment. But, he is still on the charts which is testimony to his lasting appeal. More often than not, he manages to deliver goods that keep everyone happy. Goes to any length to get into the character and highly versatile, a director’s dream. Kandaswamy with Susi Ganesan and Ashokavanam with Mani Ratnam are hotcakes in the trade.
    Box Office Successes: Anniyan – 2005 – Super hit
    Future Projects: Kanthaswamy, Ashokavanam

    5. AJITH – Ultimate Star. The title sits so beautifully on him, because of the fans he can pull into theaters with his mere presence. He belongs to the breed of stars for whom hits or flops matter little, they remain stars irrespective of what happens at the box office. His fans absolutely adore him and his first priority is to satisfy them, his charm is as enduring as ever. However, there have been calls for him to be more conscious about the scripts that he selects, that’s perhaps the only thing that is ailing him at the moment.
    Box Office Successes: Billa – 2007 – Super hit, Varalaru – 2006 – Hit
    Future Projects: Asal, Movie with Venkat Prabhu

    4. SURIYA – One of the most conscientious and quality conscious actor in the industry, it is his choices that have set him apart from others. Not afraid to go down the rarely trodden path, does not have a set image, amazingly flexible and very committed are attributes that constitute Suriya. Has worked with almost all leading directors, tried out almost all genres and is getting better with every movie. Great going.
    Box Office Successes: Ghajini – 2005 – Hit, Vel – 2007 – Hit, Vaaranam Aayiram – 2008 – Hit, Aaru – 2005 – Average
    Future Projects: Ayan, Singam, Movie with K.S.Ravikumar, Movie with Mysskin

    3. VIJAY – His solid fan base is his biggest strength, seemingly unshakeable. Ilaiya Thalapathi keeps the people who matter happy and that is the key to his near iconic status. Though there have been critics who have taken digs at his one dimensional choice of scripts, he remains unfazed, knowing best what to do. Playing to the galleries comes naturally to him, being the mass hero is second nature to him. Add to that his feet of quicksilver that are a delight to watch when in motion, you have a star who can delight.
    Box Office Successes: Pokkiri – 2007 – Superhit, Thirupachi – 2005 – Hit, Sivakasi – 2005 – Average
    Future Projects: Vettaikaran, Movie with Jayam Raja

    2. KAMAL HAASAN – What more can one say about this man? He continues to hold us in awe with his efforts, as much as his unmatched talent. He has scaled all conceivable peaks of cinematic excellence and yet seems to be searching for newer heights to conquer. He has reached a stage where every further step that he takes is a new milestone in Indian cinema. Cinema would be much poorer without this unparalleled genius.
    Box Office Successes: Dasavatharam – 2008 – Blockbuster, Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu – 2006 – Super hit
    Future Projects: Remake of Wednesday, Marma Yogi, Thalaivan Irukiraan

    1. RAJNIKANTH – Superstar, the one and only. Rarely has cinema seen men who have captured the imagination of more than two generations of audiences, cutting across all barriers. Rajinikanth is a phenomenon, something that all of us are enthralled by. Words are wasted in describing the effect that he can have on screen, it has to be seen to be believed. Still eager and enthusiastic to give his best, he is enlarging the scale and canvas of Tamil cinema. The undisputed King.
    Box Office Successes: Sivaji – 2007 – Blockbuster, Chandramukhi – 2005 – Blockbuster
    Future Projects: Endhiran

  2. ananya says

    surya- he is a awesome actor he must in the 3rd position and he looks awesome dazing hero i like him veryyyyyyyyy much

  3. Aadhi Bhagawan says

    Where is National Award Winner Prakash Raj???? Chellam!! He shoud be number 3. That fella in number 3 should be number 99999999999…..hahaha Vijay sucks… i laugh very very hard when see Thuppaki trailer! Vijay seriously dunno how to act.. he do better for comedy oni..

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