While he has become a ubiquitous presence in film in recent years, Samuel L. Jackson struggled for many years to gain prominence as an actor.
While his film and television credits date all the way back to 1972, for the next two decades, his most regular and probably profitable job was being Bill Cosby’s stand in for his sitcom “The Cosby Show.” Jackson did have a small role in the acclaimed Milos Forman film “Ragtime” in 1981, and he worked a lot in the theater both in New York and in regional markets. His first New York Theater credit was in an all African-American production of “Mother Courage” at the Public Theater in New York. He also appeared frequently in the plays of August Wilson and was the understudy to Charles S. Dutton in the Broadway hit “The Piano Lesson” shortly before his film career hit high gear.
Jackson made headlines in 1991 when the Spike Lee film “Jungle Fever” played the Cannes film festival. The Cannes Jury was so impressed with the work of Jackson that they created a special supporting actor award for him even though that award usually isn’t even given. Jackson has had a rare career that includes work in all genres from comedy to drama and beyond. He has frequently collaborated with Lee and Quentin Tarantino for some of his best roles. The latter has offered him excellent roles in “Pulp Fiction” (for which he earned a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination), “Django Unchained” and “The Hateful Eight.”
Let’s take a tour in our photo gallery of Jackson’s Top 15 greatest performances, ranked from worst to best. In addition to the movies mentioned above, he has also been part of “The Avengers” and “Star Wars” universes. Where do your favorites rank? Did something terrific not even make our list?
– Original text and gallery published in June 2018.