Electrical actuators were made from films of dielectric elastomers (such as silicones) coated on both sides with compliant electrode material. When voltage was applied, the resulting electrostatic forces compressed the film in thickness and expanded it in area, producing strains up to 30 to 40%. It is now shown that prestraining the film further improves the performance of these devices. Actuated strains up to 117% were demonstrated with silicone elastomers, and up to 215% with acrylic elastomers using biaxially and uniaxially prestrained films. The strain, pressure, and response time of silicone exceeded those of natural muscle; specific energy densities greatly exceeded those of other field-actuated materials. Because the actuation mechanism is faster than in other high-strain electroactive polymers, this technology may be suitable for diverse applications.