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Ranking the 10 best Samuel L. Jackson movies

With so many of his movies to watch, how do you choose the best ones? Here's a list to start

Pulp Fiction Jules Winnfield, Samuel L. Jackson
BFA / Alamy

Samuel L. Jackson absolutely loves to act. How can you argue otherwise? Jackson has appeared in nearly 200 movies in his career, a whopping total that demonstrates his willingness to take on small and large projects, starring and supporting roles. No matter whether Samuel L. Jackson movies are good or bad, you can count on him to make the viewing experience better.

More than just his signature expletives, Jackson is a talented dramatic performer and a witty jokester all in one. We want to celebrate his diverse filmography by ranking the 10 best Samuel L. Jackson films of all time. You’ll find violent Tarantino movies, some drama, and even science-fiction work as a purple lightsaber-wielding Jedi.

10. The Negotiator (1998)

10. The Negotiator
140m
Genre
Action, Crime, Drama, Thriller
Stars
Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacey, David Morse
Directed by
F. Gary Gray
Watch on Apple TV+
The Negotiator, an action-thriller film, revolves around a framed police officer and a tense hostage situation. Lieutenant Danny Roman (Samuel L. Jackson), a skilled hostage negotiator for the Chicago PD, is framed for murder and embezzlement. In a desperate attempt to clear his name, he takes hostages inside a government building. Another negotiator, Chris Sabian (Kevin Spacey), is called in to establish communication with Roman. The movie unfolds as Roman negotiates with Sabian, trying to expose the real culprits and prove his innocence. There are layers of deception and hidden agendas, making it a suspenseful game of cat and mouse.

9. Coach Carter (2005)

9. Coach Carter
136m
Genre
Drama, History
Stars
Samuel L. Jackson, Rob Brown, Robert Ri'chard
Directed by
Thomas Carter
Watch on Amazon
Coach Carter is a sports drama film based on a true story about Ken Carter, played by Samuel L. Jackson, who returns to his old high school in Richmond, California, to coach the basketball team. The team is undisciplined and has poor academic performance, so Coach Carter implements strict rules, including a contract requiring good grades, respectful behavior, and a dress code. The team thrives under this structure and becomes undefeated; however, their academics suffer, leading Coach Carter to take a drastic step. He locks the gym and suspends the team despite their undefeated record. This decision sparks controversy among parents and the community who prioritize winning. Jackson won an ESPY award for his role in the film, and the movie won a couple of awards, including a Black Movie Award in 2005.

8. Snakes on a Plane (2006)

8. Snakes on a Plane
105m
Genre
Action, Crime, Thriller, Adventure
Stars
Samuel L. Jackson, Julianna Margulies, Nathan Phillips
Directed by
David R. Ellis
Watch on Amazon
If you’re shocked to see this film on the list, so am I to be honest. It’s important to realize that movies aren’t always about what can win the most awards or get five stars from critics. Sometimes, going to the theater is just about having fun. Snakes on a Plane is exactly what it sounds like, and it’s most definitely fun! Jackson is in his comfort zone, screaming f-bombs and running around trying to save a flight from a swathe of the venomous animals. The movie is a cult classic, and one of the first pictures that comes to mind for longtime fans of Jackson.

7. Jackie Brown (1997)

7. Jackie Brown
154m
Genre
Crime, Thriller, Drama
Stars
Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro
Directed by
Quentin Tarantino
Watch on Amazon
One of the best crime dramas of the 1990s, Jackie Brown puts Samuel L. Jackson in the role of Ordell Robbie, a gun runner who tries to escape the grasp of the police after years of smuggling. Pam Grier stars alongside Jackson in the main role, a flight attendant who helped Ordell steal money. The chemistry between the two actors helps keep the movie entertaining from start to finish.

6. Jungle Fever (1991)

6. Jungle Fever
132m
Genre
Drama, Romance
Stars
Wesley Snipes, Annabella Sciorra, Spike Lee
Directed by
Spike Lee
Watch on Youtube
You would think that interracial marriage wouldn’t still be a subject that needs so much airtime in the 21st century, but it most certainly does. Racism and sexism fuel myths about Black people dating White people, and Jungle Fever is a relevant film that dissects some of these issues at a very high level. Directed by Spike Lee and starring Wesley Snipes and Annabella Sciorra, Jackson plays Cyrus, a man who tries to help Snipes’ character, Flipper, with his interracial affair.

5. Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005)

5. Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
140m
Genre
Adventure, Action, Science Fiction
Stars
Hayden Christensen, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman
Directed by
George Lucas
Watch on Disney+
The Star Wars prequel films of the 2000s get a lot of warranted, and sometimes unwarranted, hate, but Samuel L. Jackson forever became one of our favorite Jedi Masters by the end of the trilogy. This final film put Mace Windu (Jackson) in the spotlight as he tries to stop Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) from fulfilling his destiny as Darth Vader. George Lucas’ vision was always a little more than he could. execute, but Jackson fits in wonderfully in the world of lightsabers and the Force.

4. The Hateful Eight (2015)

4. The Hateful Eight
188m
Genre
Drama, Mystery, Western
Stars
Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Directed by
Quentin Tarantino
Watch on Netflix
Samuel L. Jackson has a long history playing historical figures with racial implications as part of the story. In The Hateful Eight, Jackson takes on the role of Marquis Warren, a bounty hunter who tries to find refuge after the American Civil War in the snowy Wyoming mountains. Chaos ensues with the help of supporting actors such as Kurt Russell and Channing Tatum. The movie was slightly overshadowed because it came out less than three years after Django Unchained, another Western film with Jackson, but there are some great genre tropes that are split wide open in this film.

3. Django Unchained (2012)

3. Django Unchained
165m
Genre
Drama, Western
Stars
Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio
Directed by
Quentin Tarantino
Watch on Hulu
Yet another Tarantino film for Samuel L. Jackson, Django Unchained is one of the most acclaimed, yet controversial movies of both men’s careers. Jackson plays a slave with an unrelenting devotion to his evil owner, a man whose encouragement of violence and gore to solve issues on his plantation may be almost too much for even the most hardened viewer. The use of racial slurs and blood is higher than ever in this one, so make sure you leave the kids in bed when watching it. Other stars include Leonardo DiCaprio, Jamie Foxx, and Christoph Waltz.

2. A Time to Kill (1996)

2. A Time to Kill
149m
Genre
Crime, Drama, Thriller
Stars
Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson
Directed by
Joel Schumacher
Watch on Amazon
One of the best dramatic offerings from Samuel L. Jackson outside of his work with Tarantino, A Time to Kill is a heavy piece of filmmaking that examines the lengths a father will go to when his daughter has been harmed. Jackson plays Carl Lee Hailey, a man who finds out his daughter has been sexually assaulted. He kills the perpetrators of the rape, and then must face the consequences of his actions. Matthew McConaughey and Sandra Bullock star in supporting roles.

1. Pulp Fiction (1994)

1. Pulp Fiction
154m
Genre
Thriller, Crime
Stars
John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman
Directed by
Quentin Tarantino
Watch on Amazon
Quentin Tarantino’s magnum opus is also Samuel L. Jackson’s shining performance, one that earned him an Academy Award nomination. Pulp Fiction is unlike anything that came before it, or really anything since. Jackson plays Jules Winnfield, the brash hitman opposite Vincent Vega (John Travolta). The unconventional plotting, use of irony, and influence in future Tarantino films make it one of the most important movies of the 1990s.

Editors' Recommendations

Movie images and data from:
Shawn Laib
Shawn Laib is a freelance writer with publications such as Den of Geek, Quote.com, Edge Media Network, diaTribe, SUPERJUMP…
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