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15 Handsome Native American Actors Of All Time

Entertainment15 Handsome Native American Actors Of All Time

15 handsome Native American actors like Zahn McClarnon, Rick Mora, and Rudy Youngblood are proudly embracing their indigenous backgrounds and ancestries through successful acting careers. Many talented and good-looking indigenous celebrities have become highly acclaimed for their memorable roles that celebrate Native identities.

Here is a list of the 15 most handsome Native American Actors Of All Time. 

1. Zahn McClarnon

Zahn McClarnon is an acclaimed Native American actor known for bringing complexity and depth to his Indigenous character roles across various genres.

McClarnon was born in Colorado to a Hunkpapa Lakota mother and Irish American father. He spent much of his childhood visiting family on reservations in Montana and identifies strongly with his Lakota heritage.

Zahn Mcclarnon
Image: Zahn Mcclarnon (Source: Hollywoods Times)

McClarnon is best known for his performances in the TV shows Longmire, Fargo, Westworld, and Reservation Dogs. He often plays strong Native lead roles that subvert stereotypes.

In 2022, McClarnon starred as the lead in the AMC series Dark Winds, playing a more mature patriarchal character. He will also appear in upcoming Marvel projects Hawkeye and Echo.

Despite his busy schedule, McClarnon frequently returns to his hometown to connect with his Native community and culture.

2. Rick Mora

Rick Mora is a Native American actor and model who has built a successful career representing indigenous identities in mainstream media. He embraces his Yaqui and Apache heritage through his work.

Born on January 22, 1975, in Los Angeles and raised on a remote 100-acre cattle ranch in rural California, Mora grew up without electricity or plumbing, learning invaluable lessons about resilience and connection to native lands from his mother.

Rick Mora
Image: Rick Mora (Source: Hollywoods Times)

Mora landed his major acting breakthrough playing an ancestor of Jacob Black in Twilight. Though unsuccessful in earlier auditions for major roles in films like Apocalypto and The Jungle Book, Mora persevered, going on to appear in numerous high-profile TV shows and films.

Mora has established a successful modeling career posing for major magazines and Native American calendars. He has hosted a docuseries on Native America, voiced an animated character in Turok, and released books sharing his life story and wisdom.

3. Rudy Youngblood

Rudy Youngblood is an acclaimed Native American actor who has built a successful entertainment career while remaining dedicated to his indigenous roots, though his exact lineage has been the subject of some confusion. Born in 1982 in Belton, Texas, Youngblood grew up moving frequently, with a mother identified as Comanche. However, according to statements on his website, his biological father was Yaqui. Youngblood legally took the surname Gonzales from his stepfather as a child.

The details surrounding Youngblood’s indigenous background have been ambiguous at times. His personal website states:

Rudy Youngblood
Image: Rudy Youngblood (Source: Hollywoods Times)

“Rudy is from the Tahchawwickah Comanche family, his father is the late Preston Tahchawwickah. He is adopted Cree…. Like many Native people, Rudy is an integral part of several Indian families throughout the United States — he is honored to be a part of each of them.”

However, in later interviews, Youngblood clarified that his biological mother is Comanche and father is Yaqui, declining to identify them by name due to privacy concerns.

When contacted, a woman identifying as Youngblood’s mother referred to the debate over his heritage as “hilarious,” underscoring the complexities of Native identity. Regardless, Youngblood remains proud of his roots, while acknowledging the diversity of families and tribes he descends from. After his breakout role in Apocalypto in 2006, he has portrayed Native American characters with depth and complexity across numerous films and shows.

4. Benjamin Bratt

Benjamin Bratt is a Peruvian-American actor who has built a successful career in films and television while remaining actively involved with Native American rights activism. Bratt was born in 1963 in San Francisco, California to a politically active mother, Eldy Banda, who was born in Peru and is of indigenous Quechua descent. His father, Peter Bratt Sr., is American with German ancestry, and a grandfather who was a Broadway actor.

Benjamin Bratt
Image: Benjamin Bratt (Source: Hollywoods Times)

Having grown up embracing his mother’s Quechua roots, Bratt has been a passionate activist for Native American rights from a young age. When he was just 6 years old, his mother brought him and his siblings to participate in the 1969 Native American occupation of Alcatraz, which raised awareness of indigenous issues and attracted activists nationwide.

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As an adult, Bratt has maintained his ties to his Native background and regularly participates in activism to support indigenous communities in California. Professionally, he is best known for roles in movies like Blood In, Blood Out and Demolition Man, as well as shows like Law & Order.

5. Michael Spears

Michael Spears is an Indigenous American actor who is proudly continuing his family’s Lakota heritage. Spears was born in 1977 in Chamberlain, South Dakota near the Lower Brulé Indian Reservation. Both of his parents are Sičangu Lakota from the Kul Wičaša Oyate community. Spears lived on the reservation until fifth grade, when his family relocated to Pierre, South Dakota. He later moved with his family to Aberdeen as a teenager, graduating high school there in 1995.

Michael Spears
Image: Michael Spears (Source: Hollywoods Times)

Throughout the frequent moves, Spears remained closely tied to his Native roots and Kul Wičaša Lakota community. As an adult actor, he is best known for portraying Indigenous characters on shows like Into the West and films like Skins.

6. David Midthunder

David Midthunder is an acclaimed 61-year-old Native American actor who has built his career portraying Indigenous characters while remaining connected to his own roots. Midthunder was born in 1962 and is an enrolled member of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana. After graduating from the Stewart Indian School in Nevada, Midthunder pursued a degree in Cultural Anthropology at the University of Utah.

David Midthunder
Image: David Midthunder (Source: Hollywoods Times)

As an actor, Midthunder is best known for major roles in the TV series Longmire and the mini-series Comanche Moon, where he compellingly played Native American characters. Despite his success, Midthunder has stayed humble, regularly returning to his home reservation and participating in ceremonies and cultural events there. He once stated that he views acting as a “sacred trust.”

7. Wes Studi

Wes Studi is a pioneering Cherokee actor and producer who has achieved monumental success in bringing authentic Native American representations to mainstream films. Born in 1947 in Oklahoma to Cherokee parents Maggie Studie, a housekeeper, and Andy Studie, a ranch hand, Studi grew up speaking only Cherokee until he attended elementary school. He later graduated high school at Chilocco Indian Agricultural School in 1964. After serving in the National Guard, Studi pursued acting.

Wes Studi
Image: Wes Studi played the Huron chief Magua in 1992’s The Last of the Mohicans. (Source: Hollywoods Times)

Studi gained critical acclaim for his portrayals of Native characters in films like Dances with Wolves, The Last of the Mohicans, and Geronimo, dispelling stereotypes through nuanced performances. In 2019, he made history as the first Native American actor to receive an Honorary Oscar from the Academy.

8. Tatanka Means

Tatanka Means is a successful Native American actor carrying on his family’s legacy of indigenous activism and storytelling. Born in 1985, Means is of Oglala Lakota, Omaha, Yankton Dakota, and Navajo descent. His father is prominent activist Russell Means, a leader in the 1970s American Indian Movement. Though Means grew up with his mother on the Navajo Nation reservation in Arizona, he now lives in New Mexico with his own family.

Tatanka Means
Image: Tatanka Means (Source: Hollywoods Times)

As an actor, Means is best known for major roles in Killers of the Flower Moon and The Son, where he compellingly portrays the complexity of Native American characters. Following in his father’s footsteps, he also uses his platform to advocate for indigenous rights and bring awareness to Native issues.

9. Forrest Goodluck

Forrest Goodluck is a rising young Native American actor who is proudly embracing his diverse indigenous roots at the start of his career. Born in 1998 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Goodluck has both Navajo heritage from his father and Hidatsa, Mandan, and Tsimshian heritage from his mother.

Forrest Goodluck
Image: Forrest Goodluck (Source: Hollywoods Times)

Even at his young age, Goodluck has already gained acclaim for his roles in major films like The Revenant and The Miseducation of Cameron Post. In these roles, he compellingly portrays the complexity of Native American characters and experiences.

10. Eddie Spears

Eddie Spears is a Native American actor who has been involved in Indigenous creative arts since childhood. Born in 1982 in South Dakota near the Lower Brulé Indian Reservation, Spears is a member of the Kul Wičaša Oyate Lakota community. Though his family moved around when he was young, Spears remained closely tied to his Native roots.

Eddie Spears
Image: Eddie Spears (Source: Hollywoods Times)

At just 10 years old, Spears landed his first acting role in a production of Geronimo, foreshadowing his future entertainment career. In 2005, he and his brother Michael modeled indigenous fashion designed by a Cochiti Pueblo artist. As an adult, Spears has gone on to act in numerous films and TV shows, while staying active in Lakota cultural events and causes.

11. Jason Momoa

Jason Momoa is a successful actor embracing his Native Hawaiian heritage and island roots. Born in 1979 in Hawaii, Momoa has a Native Hawaiian father and mother of German, Irish, and Native American descent. Though raised in Iowa by his mother, after high school Momoa returned to Hawaii where he landed a lead role on Baywatch Hawaii, beating thousands of hopefuls.

Jason Momoa
Image: Jason Momoa (Source: Hollywoods Times)

Momoa spent years traveling before getting his breakthrough playing Khal Drogo on Game of Thrones. He later starred as the title character in the Aquaman movies. Throughout his career, Momoa has honored his diverse Polynesian background, speaking Hawaiian in Aquaman and performing a Haka dance on talk shows.

Malo Controversy

Jason Momoa recently sparked heated debate about his public wearing of the malo, traditional Native Hawaiian loincloth clothing. In October 2022, Momoa posted photos of fishing while wearing a malo. While some online thirsted over the images, Native Hawaiians defended Momoa’s cultural attire.

However, on Jimmy Kimmel Live shortly after, Momoa created more controversy by stripping to reveal his malo, despite preparing for an acting role.

Jason Momoa Malo
Image: Jason Momoa Malo (Source: Hollywoods Times)

Momoa claimed wearing the malo daily was to get into character for an upcoming 18th-century Hawaiian series. But many in the Native community accused Momoa of using indigenous clothing for shock value.

The debate worsened when Momoa posted a video shimmying half-naked in the malo to promote his merch. Despite backlash from Pacific Islanders, Momoa has continued wearing the traditional garment publicly.

12. Tokala Clifford

Tokala Clifford is a Lakota actor and voice artist who uses his platform to promote his Native culture and language. Clifford grew up on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota as a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, also known as Lakota. He is a direct descendant of the revered Lakota holy man Black Elk on his mother’s side.

Tokala Clifford
Image: Tokala Clifford (Source: Hollywoods Times)

As an actor, Clifford has appeared in The Revenant and Westworld, as well as voicing a Lakota character in the video game Age of Empires III. He is also an accredited Lakota language teacher actively involved in preserving Lakota linguistic and cultural traditions.

13. Kalani Queypo

Kalani Queypo is a Native American actor utilizing his success to uplift indigenous voices across mediums. Born in Hawaii in 1986, Queypo has Indigenous American, Native Hawaiian, and Swedish ancestry. Raised by a single mother after his father’s passing, Queypo found his passion for acting after high school.

Kalani Queypo
Image: Kalani Queypo (Source: Hollywoods Times)

Queypo moved to New York City to pursue his career and soon landed roles in shows like Into the West, Mad Men, and Saints & Strangers. He also appeared in major films such as The New World. In addition to acting, Queypo is a dancer, writer, and producer who advocates for broader Native representation, partnering with the Native Voices theater company.

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With his impressive resume across stage, film, and television, Kalani Queypo has become an influential figure in expanding opportunities for Native artists. He states, “Through our art, we have such a great opportunity to enlighten.” Queypo takes pride in portraying Indigenous characters and stories with nuance and humanity.

14. Gregory Norman Cruz

Gregory Norman Cruz is an accomplished Native American actor with extensive experience spanning motion pictures, television, and theater. Cruz has both Mexican and Apache Chiricahua tribal heritage. Before becoming an actor, he worked varied jobs including construction and telemarketing.

Gregory Norman Cruz
Image: Gregory Norman Cruz (Source: Hollywoods Times)

Cruz went on to land recurring and guest starring roles in hit shows like Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, The X-Files, NYPD Blue, and Criminal Minds. He has also performed in acclaimed productions like Tecumseh and Vietnam War Story. One of Cruz’s most notable roles was portraying the serial killer Richard Ramirez in Manhunt: Search for the Night Stalker.

15. Gil Birmingham

Gil Birmingham is a prolific Native American actor of Comanche descent finding success across television and film. Born in 1953 in Texas to a Comanche father and mother of Spanish ancestry, Birmingham grew up frequently moving due to his father’s Army career.

Gil Birmingham
Image: Gil Birmingham (Source: Hollywoods Times)

During his childhood, Birmingham was not made aware of his indigenous roots, with his family passing as Spanish, Mexican, and English to avoid prejudice. It was not until his teens that he learned of his Comanche heritage.

As an adult actor, Birmingham has embraced his background, becoming known for roles like Thomas Rainwater on Yellowstone, Billy Black in the Twilight saga, and characters on Banshee and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

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