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The popular video players include (you can use google, to find their website, although you should install them via your package manager if they are available in your distro's repositories):
VLC (VideoLan Client) - claims to play the most formats. DOes fiarly well in my experience, but not perfect. Nice integrated transcoding features.
mplayer - in my experience the fastest, smoothest player around, and supports oodles of formats. There is a GUI for it, but I prefer the keyboard interface for it's simplicity.
xine - front end for xine lib. Also pretty fast. GUI interface is ugly, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder I guess. There is a GUIless version like mplayer, which slightly different keys.
Totem - not so hot in my experience, but YMMV.
Others - There are several others, but they are generally different interfaces to the same engines. The main engines are libxine and gstreamer.
Something to note is that a lot of the actual codes are a separate install from the main player applications. If you're in Ubuntu, I'd recommend searching your package manager for everything with "codec", and going through the many packages that search will return, and install anything and everything which looks like a video codec.
Some of the player engines will use Windows .dll files which contains video codecs, so if you've got a licensed copy of Windows, you might get some joy with obscure codecs by making these available to your chosen player engine. - see the documentation for the individual players for instructions on how to do this.
It doesn't exist the "BEST"!!!
Because VLC can be nice, but if the O.S gets away from working... the best would be GEEXBOX, Cause it is a boot CD, with around 10 MB, and u don't even need your hard drive.
Playing media without codecs? How would it do that?
As for the other ones, totem is pretty good, actually - providing you use the gstreamer version and you make sure that you have ALL gstreamer-plugins installed (including - and especially - the third party supplied ones). Even so, I prefer mplayer with the smplayer front-end (which makes it easy to take screenshots and do other stuff that would otherwise need to be done from the command line). And it has played everything for the last months - even though I haven't got win32codecs installed (64 bit system).