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, staring and supporting roles. No matter whether a movie is good or bad, you can count on Jackson 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 movies of all time. You’ll find violent Tarantino movies, Pixar classics, and even some science fiction work as a purple lightsaber-wielding Jedi.
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.
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.
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 around 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 staring Wesley Snipes and Annabella Sciorra, Jackson plays Cyrus, a man who tries to help Snipes character, Flipper, with his interracial affair.
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.
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’s some great genre tropes that are split wide open in this film.
Pixar’s famous superhero family is at the center of this truly incredible (yes, pun intended) story of love, loyalty, and betrayal. The Parrs’ biggest power is their camaraderie with each other, and we can’t forget Frozone (voiced by Jackson), the calm and cool friend of the family. Frozone unleashes the power of ice and wintry weather to combat the forces of evil, but he can’t do it without his super suit! (You remember that line. I know it.)
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. 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.
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 must face the consequences of his actions. Matthew McConaughey and Sandra Bullock star in supporting roles.
By box office sales and word of mouth, Marvel’s The Avengers franchise is most likely the series with the most eyes that have ever been on Samuel L. Jackson. In this first film featuring the all-stars of the MCU, Jackson’s Nick Fury recruits many of the most famous heroes in the world to prevent catastrophic destruction from overtaking the planet. This role is a little less humorous than some of Jackson’s other work, but it shows his willingness to venture into mainstream movies, something other big name actors sometimes dread doing when they’re pursuing acclaim. This film was famously the springboard for dozens of Marvel projects in the decade-plus since its release.
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 makes it one of the most important movies of the 1990s.
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