On His 72nd Birthday, Ranking the Top 5 Samuel L. Jackson Roles of All Time

I cannot believe Samuel L. Jackson is 72-years-old, the man doesn’t look a day over 55. Granted, Samuel L. has been around forever and has been in pretty much everything (IMDB calls him a “highly prolific actor”) having appeared in over 100 films in his career. With that being said what are his Top 5 roles ever? A couple of rules here, I’m obviously only including the movies I’ve personally seen, but I must admit I am not a completionist so I have not seen every single one of Jackson’s movies. Also, I left off any roles where he is barely in the movie, as much as I wanted to include the smooth piano player Rufus from Kill Bill 2 who gets 43 seconds of screen time… Jackson talked about his favorite roles a couple years back, but let’s break down what we think his Top 5 roles of all time are below.

No. 5 – Coach Carter
Ken Carter

Before these kinds of sad sack sports flicks turned into a genre of Made For TV movies, Jackson took a film that probably would have went straight to DVD if not for his performance. The biggest name in this movie besides him was Ashanti and a pre-“Step Up” Channing Tatum. So yea this movie was destined to be an MTV2 rerun, but Jackson turns it into a pretty legit movie about redemption, work ethic (or at the very least doing the bare minimum in school to pass), and triumph in the face of adversity.

No. 4 – Star Wars
Mace Windu

Mace Windu is on this list almost entirely because of the story that the only reason he randomly has a purple light saber is because Samuel L. Jackson told George Lucas to do it. But seriously, Jackson brought an aura of cool that Star Wars, specifically the Jedi, lacked before him. Star Wars created groundbreaking characters like Darth Vader that became literal film archetypes, but aside from Han Solo who could you say was actually cool? Samuel L. Jackson reminded people that oh yea not every Jedi is a goodie two shoes, some of them are badass warriors. It’s just a shame Lucas didn’t let him drop some MF-bombs on Emperor Palpatine.

No. 3 – Django Unchained

Django Unchained is another excellent Tarantino movie in a long line of them, but it’s one that is absolutely gobbled up by the likes of Christoph Waltz, Jamie Foxx, and Leonardo DiCaprio. I wouldn’t fault you for forgetting Samuel L. Jackson was even in this movie if you haven’t seen it in a while. But upon closer review, I found Jackson’s role of Stephen higher on my list than I would have originally thought and it’s because he plays, as Entertainment Weekly dubbed it, an “unrepentant monster.” Something you don’t see Jackson, or any actor really, do a lot of. Back when the movie came out EW asked him about potential Academy Award hype and Jackson’s answer is why this role is so high on my list.

Well, the point of that award is that you were an actor in a film who made a dynamic impact on the story with a memorable character. And would anyone else playing the part have been as impactful? That should be the question — did you do your job? Yes. Did I make you hate me? Yes. Did I inhabit the character full enough to make you believe that, and make you uncomfortable enough to make you hate me? Yes. And you feel guilty because then you want to see me die. I did what I was supposed to do for that film, which should be the criteria for voting or not voting.

No. 2 – The Avengers (and every other Marvel movie)
Nick Fury

You could argue that Nick Fury was basically just Samuel L. Jackson playing himself with an eye patch and a leather duster jacket, but that ignores the fact that he helped tie together the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe before the first movie was even off the ground. When he appears after the credits of Iron Man 1 it’s a complete shock that draws you in and gave you a sense that something very big was happening, even if you didn’t know what that was. Nick Fury has acted as the godfather of the whole Avengers team and the bonding agent in movies with lesser known characters and story lines like Captain Marvel. Nick Fury is the constant in the largest example of cinematic world building ever created.

No. 1 – Pulp Fiction
Jules Winnfield

Jules Winnfield is one of the most quotable characters in any movie ever. Period. Full stop. Jules’ is so memorable for his unique internal conflict of being a gangster’s muscle/hitman while also having recently found God and trying to walk the righteous path. Jackson’s work here provides some all time acting like the diner standoff where he legitimately spawned an entire generation of Etsy businesses creating Bad Ass Motherfucker leather wallets. Then of course there’s the Bonnie Situation scene with Quentin Tarantino dropping in for a cameo before they call The Wolf, but most notably the biblical speech Jackson gives quoting Ezekiel 25:17 right before blowing some poor guy’s head off with his hand cannon. That’s why Pulp Fiction is our No. 1.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Jurassic Park
  • Die Hard: With a Vengeance
  • Jackie Brown
  • Snakes on a Plane (iconic)
  • XXX (an all-time great bad movie)
  • The Incredibles
  • S.W.A.T.
  • Deep Blue Sea
  • Goodfellas (poor Stacks)

What do you think Samuel L. Jackson’s best role of all time is? Tweet us @The300sBoston

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