The 7 best Samuel L. Jackson performances

Samuel L. Jackson is practically peerless and one of our most prolific living actors. He’s brought his signature brand of charisma to films spanning a number of genres. While he may have peaked somewhat later in his life, Jackson has remained a reliable screen presence for the last 30-plus years. He’s a master of every aspect of a given actor’s toolkit — he can be fierce, steely, comforting, conflicted, intimidating, righteous, and more. His cinematic presence is indelible, and some of his most beloved roles almost outshine the man himself. He is one of the most quotable and recognizable actors alive, and has worked with some of the best filmmakers to have ever walked this earth (he also happens to be one of the highest-grossing actors of all time). Though it wasn’t broadcast, Jackson was finally recognized by the Academy of Motion Pictures with an honorary award in 2021.

1.The Avengers

This list would be risible without an acknowledgement of Samuel L. Jackson’s contributions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as S.H.I.E.L.D. head honcho Nick Fury. For the purposes of this list, we’ve selected one of the franchises’ high points, 2012’s “The Avengers” (not for nothing, it’s also one of the few MCU pictures that gives him a decent chunk of screen time). Jackson opens the film in an exposition-dense and somewhat underwhelming action sequence, but he shines in his moments aboard the helicarrier as he manipulates the rag tag group of heroes into abating their bickering and unite as a team.

2.Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Is “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace” the best Star Wars prequel that Samuel L. Jackson features in? Absolutely not. But it remains a landmark in cinematic history, and marks the debut of his instantly-iconic Jedi Councilmember Mace Windu. We hardly ever see Windu get out of his chair in this movie, but he electrifies nonetheless as the stern, dogmatic warrior. Jackson would get plenty to do in later entries–including his own custom lightsaber in his trademark purple. George Lucas’ first prequel remains unfairly reviled and underappreciated, so it’s making this list. The film is not without its problems, but Jackson is far from one of them.

3.Django Unchained

tephen is right up there with Samuel L. Jackson’s most terrifying and despicable characters. The house slave is fiercely loyal to Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio, also eschewing any semblance of empathy or dignity) to the point of being a race traitor. As Jackson is wont to do, in “Django Unchained” he undergoes a dramatic physical transformation, glowering under old age prosthetics and a white wig.

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