What great actors has America produced in the last 20 years? Who has emerged to unseat DeNiro, Pacino, Hackman, Duvall etc., the way they took the mantle from Brando, Tracy etc.? Which Americans are really pushing the envelope in a way that equals foreign contemporaries such as Daniel Day-Lewis and Javier Bardem?
I think many of the great American actors and actresses of the past 20 years haven't had (as much) the ubericonic roles in iconic/culturally popular movies that the De Niros, Pacinos, Streeps had. And many of my choices don't have great filmographies. Great acting talent, though, methinks.
My current first tier excluding the older generation: Jeff Bridges, Penn, Julianne Moore, Laura Linney, Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, and Viggo.
Current second tier: Jeffrey Wright, PSH, Matt Damon, Denzel, Holly Hunter, Forest Whitaker, Clooney
Very close/maybe should be in my second tier: Adrien Brody, Campbell Scott, Andre Braugher, Ruffalo, Farmiga, and Sam Rockwell.
Need to see more but will likely make the first 2 tiers in the future: Casey Affleck, Joaquin Phoenix, Kerry Washington
Missing some, definitely.