Top 10 Favorite Scottish Actors

Today’s Gerry Butler’s birthday. For the past three years I’ve been making all kinds of tribute posts to my former crush. But y’know what, I don’t think any of you would be surprised that I won’t be doing a tribute for him this year, instead, I figure I’d finish the list that’s been sitting dormant in my draft folder for some time. I was originally going to post this shortly after I posted my picks of Top 10 Favorite Irish Actors which was three years ago!


As you know, I have a penchant for the Scots. But really, can you blame me? There’s got to be something in the water in Scotland that churn out an endless supply of talented, AND handsome blokes. To top it off, they seem to have a charming personality to go with ’em too, and of course, there’s the irresistible Scottish burr. I’d say there aren’t enough Scots working in Hollywood right now, especially since Connery’s been out of the game for some time. In any case, here are my current faves right now in alphabetical order [Yes Gerry, you’re still on the list… for now] 😀

Billy Connoly


I’ve only seen him in a few movies but some have become my favorites. Love him in Mrs. Brown alongside Judi Dench, in Dustin Hoffman’s debut Quartet, as well as his voice work in the recent Pixar feature film BRAVE. He’s got such a charming but mischievous personality that I often associate with Scottish men.

Brian Cox


Brian Cox is easily of the most underrated actors working today. It’s one of those actors you wonder why he hasn’t gotten an Oscar yet given his consistently excellent performance. Even in small roles, it’s hard not to be impressed by the Dundee-born actor, i.e. The Bourne Supremacy, Rob Roy, X-Men 2Red, etc. I even like his performance as Hannibal Lecter in Manhunter more than Anthony Hopkins’ in The Silence of the Lambs.

Craig Ferguson


Ok so now he’s switched to be a talk show host on CBS, but Ferguson is quite a great comic and voice actor. He was a hoot in Saving Grace with Brenda Blethyn, a hilarious British crime comedy. I also enjoy his voice work in How To Train Your Dragon as well as Brave, and once in a while I’d tune in to The Late, Late Show and watch his gregarious monologue and hysterical interviews!

Dougray Scott


I think a lot of moviegoers probably only know him from Mission Impossible II or as the actor who missed out on the role of Wolverine in the X-Men franchise. But he’s actually a pretty good actor. I like him as the Handsome Prince in Ever After, as well as in smaller movies like Enigma and Ripley’s Game. Who knows, his breakthrough role could be just around the corner.

Ewan McGregor


Perhaps the most prolific Scottish actor in Hollywood today, McGregor is as hard working as he is talented. He’s quite versatile as well, playing different types of roles and moving from one genre to the next. Just this year alone he was in The Impossible, Jack The Giant Slayer and August: Osage County, which couldn’t be more different from each other. He’s also got a beautiful singing voice too, as displayed in Moulin Rouge! I’d totally buy his album if he ever decide to be a recording artist!

Gerard Butler


Ok Gerry, I guess I still have a smidgen of hope that you’d star in something I REALLY want to see again. The ‘Die Hard in the White House’ movie sequel London Has Fallen and that video game movie based on Kane & Lynch aren’t likely to top my must-see list 😦 He did impress me in Coriolanus and Machine Gun Preacher, both of which are grossly overlooked, so he’s still got it in him if the role calls for it. I think he ought to take a page from Matthew McConaughey’s book of career re-invention. I wrote this role for him in an espionage drama with Timothy Dalton as his dad and James McAvoy as his half brother. I’d SO love to see him in an ensemble cast like that by a stellar director, even if he’s only doing a supporting part.

James McAvoy


I always think that he looks so much like Gerry Butler’s younger brother, but the one with the better acting chops. The first time I saw this Glaswegian native was in The Chronicles of Narnia as Mr. Tumnus, but since then he’s had been on a roll in Hollywood, balancing small/medium indies (The Last Station, Atonement, The Last King of Scotland) to big blockbuster movies like Wanted and X-Men: First Class. He’s also not afraid to take on unsympathetic anti-hero roles, Trance, Welcome to The Punch and Filth, all of which are released this year alone.

Robert Carlyle


Yet another great but underrated Scot. Mr. Carlyle has had an illustrious career since the early 90s. His breakthrough role in Trainspotting got him noticed, and since he’s juggling a TV and film career, some of which don’t seem to deserve his talent [*cough World is Not Enough *cough]. He’s also the best thing in the ABC show Once Upon a Time as Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin. Let’s hope he gets more meaty film roles in the near future!

Peter Mullan


I think I’ve noticed Mr. Mullan in his supporting role in Braveheart, but it was his role in Boy A as a surrogate father to Andrew Garfield that really made me a fan. He’s also memorable in War Horse though his performance is easily overlooked by the younger supporting cast the likes of Tom Hiddleston and Benedict Cumberbatch. I still need to see On a Clear Day and Sunshine on Leith that my Scottish friend Mark Walker highly recommends.

Sean Connery

Ok so technically he’s retired, but really you can’t have a Favorite Scot list and not mention THE most iconic of them all. Yes the Edinburgh-born actor is the first and to most people, he’s still the best James Bond, but I also like his roles post 007. The Hunt for Red October, Finding Forrester, Rising Sun, Just Cause, The Rock, to name a few, as well as two of my personal favorites: The Untouchables and Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade. He’s not only a distinguished actor, but he’s also got one of the most recognizable accent in all Hollywood.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Billy Boyd
  • David Tennant
  • Iain Glen
  • John Hannah
  • Robbie Coltrane

Now, these five men are talented Scots as well, I just haven’t seen enough of their work to put them on my list. I’d love to see all these actors get more work in Hollywood, especially David Tennant who obviously has got quite a career in British TV. Perhaps that Broadchurch remake would be his American breakthrough. As for Iain Glen, I first saw him in the first Tomb Raider movie and I thought he made a charming villain. He’s also very memorable in BBC’s Spooks, love all his episodes with my Brit crush Richard Armitage! I’ve been slow going catching up with Downton Abbey, but I’m looking forward to seeing Glen’s performance in it, too!

Hope you enjoy my list of great Scots! Who’s YOUR favorite Scottish actor?

75 thoughts on “Top 10 Favorite Scottish Actors

    1. Yeah, if only Tennant had the career of Benedict Cumberbatch who also got his big break from BBC.

      Ahah, Neeson did play a famous Scot Rob Roy so I totally understand the confusion. He is in my top 10 Irish Actors list though 😀

  1. Ha! You just knew I was going to love this post didn’t you, Ruth? Great work and it’s a list I’d very much agree on. There are some great supporting actors around as well but overall this is where it’s at, in terms of the main players.

    Really enjoyed reading this one and it’s great to see my mate Bobby make an appearance too. I must give him a call soon 😉

    1. Tee hee! I even mentioned you in it, did you notice? 😀 I just added the link to your review but I can’t possibly do this post and not make a reference to my personal Glaswegian friend.

      I’m glad you like the list here Mark, we need more Scottish actors!! Yes of course I have to mention Bobby Carlyle, I mean he’s often too good for the roles he’s getting. Btw, do you have a knack for actors named Robert? 😉

      1. I did see the mention, Ruth. Thank you very much!! I was actually chatting to Eric earlier on today about how good it is to see so many Scottish actors breaking through. For ages it was predominantly Connery (and Cox) with the occasional supporting role for a Scot but now there are quite a few leads and doing very well into the bargain. It’s great to see.

        Now all I need is for Carlyle to get back in the game. He is without doubt mg personal favourite and the one with the most range.

        And, yes, I do seem to have a penchant for actors named Robert 😉

        1. That’s awesome Mark! I think that’s great there are more Scots breaking through, I remember hearing a lot of Irish/Scottish actors saying how tough it is for them as Hollywood seems so unreachable for a lot of them. But man there are SO many talented Scots, I wish there are more!

          I really hope there are still movie offers for Carlyle, though the money is probably good for him to do Once Upon a Time as he’s one of the main cast.

          1. I think Hollywood was unreachable for a good while and, if memory serves, I think Ewan McGregor was one of the first to crack it since Connery. After him, though, the floodgates seemed to open but like you say, I’d still love to see more.

            Yeah, I doubt Carlyle is grumbling too much about his paycheck these days. Apparently tv shows pay a healthy coin.

  2. Some great names on this list Ruth. I’ll always connect you to Gerry Butler! I remember when I first started reading your blog he was your fav. Then I slowly watched as your appreciation turned to disappointment as one bad flick free another came out. Good to see you’re still holding out hope for Butler. He has too much talent to waste.

    1. Ahah yeah, for a while people associate Gerry w/ me, I guess I brought that on myself! Yeah, it’s really too bad about his role choices of late, but I haven’t given up hope… yet 😀

  3. PrairieGirl

    Hey Flixy, fantastic list… I concur! And so glad to see my new fav Robert Carlyle as Gold/Rumple in Once Upon a Time on the list.

    1. Hi Becky! Oh of course I have to include Carlyle, he’s awesome as Rumple. I haven’t been able to see more episodes but surely he’s STILL the best thing about that show.

    1. I absolutely agree! I thought McAvoy was outstanding in filth. Such a brave performance and the best I’ve seen all year so far. Glad to hear there are more fans of his role in this. 🙂

    1. Hello Caz, nice to see you stop by! Yeah I think I will, Mark’s glowing review sold me. Nice to see a jovial Scottish film as we have enough dark movies as it is!

  4. Ted S.

    I didn’t know McGregor and McAvoy are Scots, I always thought they’re Brits, guess their names should’ve given me a clue. I like most of the actors on your list there, Brian Cox definitely deserves some kind of acting awards but since he’s been known as the character actor for years now, I don’t think he’ll ever get the recognition he deserves.

    1. Have you heard them in interviews Ted? Their accents are VERY thick, esp. McAvoy, sometimes it’s hard to understand him. Yeah, bummer about Brian Cox, he’s just as good as his peers like Anthony Hopkins, Ian McKellen, etc. if not better.

      1. Ted S.

        Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve seen those two in interviews before, I saw McGregor in behind the scenes stuff for Star Wars prequel but he sounded British to me. Guess he stayed in character during those interviews too, ha ha.

  5. I totally agree w/ this list though there’s one actor I would definitely get rid of in that list. It’s Gerard Buttwad. The new name that Mark Kermode has given him. He just made too many bad movies for me to dislike him along w/ that smug face of his. If I ever come across him w/ that smug look on his face. I’d beat the shit out of him for making those bad movies.

    1. Ahah, Gerard Buttwad!! Y’know, I don’t blame you Steven, he has made some truly sh*ty movies the past few years. I was initially a fan but I can’t possibly support him anymore w/ his poor choices. I

  6. Hi, Ruth:

    An excellent listing and photos.

    Though you should have gone back farther to a favorite of mine. Who started in UK cinema in the 1950s. Graduated to a cozy spot under John Sturgis’ wing for ‘The Great Escape’. Played a decent undercover agent, post ‘The Man from UNCLE’ and the UK’s ‘Sapphire & Steele’. In a meat and potatoes, ‘Sol Madrid’. Before returning to television to be “re-discovered” as Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard in ‘JAG’ and later, ‘NCIS’.

    I speak of none other than one of Glasgow’s early favorite sons, David McCallum.

    1. Hi Kevin! Glad to see you shine a light on a classic actor that I missed out on. I only knew him from a few episodes of ‘The Man from UNCLE’ so pardon me for not including him on the list. That’s interesting you said he’s “re-discovered” in contemporary TV, I hardly recognize him in NCIS!

      1. Hi, Ruth:

        I should have filled out my “re-discovered” sentence to include a new generation of viewers. Both ‘The Man from UNCLE’ and ‘I Spy’ never did well in syndication. Though, I really don’t know why. And considering his many contemporaries, Mr. McCallum has aged quite well.

        Very pleased to see Mr. Butler make your list. And Brian Cox has been one for me to watch since Michael Mann’s ‘Manhunter’. Still think he’s a better, scarier and more smooth Hannibal Lecter than Sir Anthony Hopkins.

        Kudos as well for David Tennant!

      1. There’s something so adorable about him. Not the hunk like Butler, but I trust the guy. Loved him ‘The Island’ and ‘Salmon Fishing on Yemen’ and even though he couldn’t sing in ‘Moulin Rouge’, I loved him in it anyway.

        1. I’m not into depressing movies so that’s why I’m drawn to Sunshine on Leith more than Tyrannosaur. I kind of like to see a Scottish film that isn’t so dark and dour, ahah, that’s what I told Mark in his review 😀

  7. Brittani Burnham

    Mmmmm James McAvoy and Ewan McGregor. I’m bias towards Richard Madden’s gorgeous face, so I’d throw him in there too despite only seeing him in Game of Thrones. That man is just perfect and the Scottish accents are so so sexy.

    1. Y’know, even though I haven’t seen GoT, I’m well aware of Madden’s gorgeous-ness, ahah. I didn’t realize he’s Scottish until I did this post, then I went, ‘Oh no wonder!’ I hope he gets more movie or TV roles!

  8. This is a GREAT topic, Ruth!
    I didn’t know Connery is a Scottish! I love Ewan McGregor.
    You know…everytime someone mentions Brian Cox, I always imagine Brian Cox the professor (he is the physicist that inspires Cillian in Sunshine) …I like professor Brian Cox, so ‘gaul’ for a smart person.

    Tennnant should get more recognition

    1. Ahah I think you might be the only one who doesn’t know Connery is Scottish! His accent is so famous and has almost become the butt of jokes, ahah. Ah right, I think I remember about the physicist Brian Cox, so another talented guy w/ the same name. I so agree w/ Tennant, I’d love for him (and Richard Armitage) to get the same career as Benny!

      1. I never see Connery in his original accent…always in a movie.

        I really Brian Cox, smart and cool…what else can you ask for? 😉

        Benny is so lucky, his Sherlock really makes him famous (even more famous than my Cillian 😉 ) …Armitage is more famous than Tennant 😉

        1. Ahah well his Scottish accent is always present even when he’s supposedly playing other nationalities 😀

          Yeah, I think luck certainly plays a part in regards to actors. I think all three British actors are equally talented, let’s hope they’d get their chance to shine soon!

  9. I have to throw Peter Capaldi out there especially for The Thick of It and In The Loop. In those he gives the most profanely humorous performance as cabinet minister Malcolm Tucker since R. Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket.

    He’s also going to be the new Dr Who..

    1. He was good in In The Loop though my ears are burning after watching that from all the swearing! I should’ve included him in Honorable Mentions come to think of it.

  10. Awesome post! Scottish actors are all a bit crazy which makes them so much fun to love. Ferguson and Connoly have to be at the top of my list. Hopefully if Gerard makes better movies my doubt in his career will vanish. 🙂

    1. Hi Katy! Ahah yeah, they’re crazy in a good way! Yeah let’s hope GB REALLY takes a look at what he’s done w/ his career, I mean his role choices are getting ridiculous.

  11. Terrific list! If I had to pick one, I’d go with Ewan McGregor. Oh, I love watching Craig Ferguson on The Late Late Show! His interviews are great, especially his ones with fellow Scots. 🙂

    1. Great pick right there, he’s quite a versatile actor and so prolific too, lucky for us. Yeah Ferguson is a hoot, he sometimes go overboard w/ the jokes but it’s never boring!

  12. Brilliant list 😀 Is it me, or does Ewan McGregor just not age!? Seriously, that guy looks amazing!

    Kevin McKid gets my vote too. Ok, he’s in Grey’s Anatomy and Rome and not much else, but … daaaayum. lol

    1. I know, isn’t it? He seems to get more and more handsome and he’s got such gorgeous hair!

      I love McKidd in ROME, haven’t seen him in anything in a while though.

  13. I really feel like you could have done an alternate post centered around who wears the kilt the best.

    My vote: James McAvoy. His kilt seems a little less fancy, like an everyday kilt, and he doesn’t seem to be showing off. He’s just like: I’m wearing a kilt. What’s the big deal here?

    1. Hello Nick! Ahah very true, McAvoy wears his kilt well indeed, it’s almost like second nature to him, like he’s just wearing a pair of jeans.

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  16. I applaud all your choices, Ruth…again! We must have similar taste. I love Brian Cox, and if you haven’t, you should catch some of his delightfully dangerous charm on display as the Irish (I think) Captain Hogan in Sharpe’s Rifles, and Sharpe’s Eagle. A television series, yes, but it has some of the best cameos ever (Paul Bettany, James Purefoy, etc) along with a young and dishy Sean Bean and his Yorkshire accent.

    And I didn’t even have Paul Mullan on my radar until I caught his crazy turn as the villain (yet somehow, a sympathetic guy), in The Top of the Lake that you mentioned in another post recently. Made me hunt him down in a few more films, my favorite so far being On a Clear Day (2005) with Brenda Blethyn and Billy Boyd, one of those sweet, uplifting films that the UK puts out so well without becoming maudlin.

    I do think Craig Ferguson is underrated as an actor, and not just a comedian. I loved Saving Grace, but have you seen Born Romantic (2000)? Hysterically good cast: Craig opposite Olivia Williams, Jane Horrocks opposite David Morrisey, and Catherine McCormack with Jimi Mistry…and then, sigh, Adrian Lester…himself…alone…what a waste!

    1. Hi Jenny, we must be kindred spirits then 😉 Oh I’ve been meaning to see the Sharpe’s series. I have however seen clips of Sharpe’s Challenge miniseries ( as Toby Stephens plays Dodd. I LOVE Sean but I have an undying love for Toby now 😉

      It’s PETER Mullan but yeah he’s a great actor. I haven’t seen On A Clear Day but that sounds delightful! I like Brenda Blethyn in Saving Grace w/ Ferguson. Now I want to check out Born Romantic. Oh my, I LOVE Olivia Williams and David Morrisey, both are so grossly underrated. I’d say most of my faves are so underrated, I mean Toby Stephens & Timothy Dalton should’ve been far more famous & won every award there ever were.

  17. If you’re a David Morrissey fan, and you have a region free dvd player, I should loan you my copy of Blackpool. David Tennant and David Morrissey face off as rumpled detective and local gaming boss in a rather weird but wonderful karaoke version of a detective series. Bought my $50 region-free on amazon just for this viewing purpose. A really memorable turn by Sarah Parish, too, in that one.

    Also, Netflix is showing an interesting film called United with two of your Scots, Dougray (looking very non-Princely these days) and David T. A sad film but a memorable one about a soccer team that crashed coming home to Britain and it’s aftermath. Thanks for correcting the Peter Mullan thing…I should always proof before posting!

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