Samuel L. Jackson is a cultural giant. His prolific career took off after his role in Jungle Fever resulted in the personalized creation of the "Supporting Actor" award at Cannes Film Festival. Since then, his versatile roles range from his most famous in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction to the dramatic Coach Carter and have made him a well-recognized star not to be trifle with.
Jackson's life experiences uphold the gritty realness he delivers on screen. As a child he went to segregated schools and later joined the Atlanta Black Power movement to demand racial equality alongside H. Rap Brown and Stokely Carmichael. As a theatre actor in New York Jackson dealt with drug addiction and completed rehab with the support of his wife. The passion and charisma he brings to his roles no doubt stem from much of the real sh*t he encountered in his personal life.
Jackson's characters are so realistic because they are not two-dimensional, they're complex and oftentimes you can't decide whether you hate him or love him. As recognized by The New York Times Magazine he has created his own genre: a vitriol-spewing moral epicenter.
But how many of Samuel L. Jackson's 100+ roles can you quote?
"Whoa. Y'all take a chill. You got to cool that shit off. And that's the double-truth, Ruth."
This movie was an 1980's success and began the potent collaboration of Spike Lee and Samuel L. Jackson. With a comedic lightness it explores difficult themes of racial tensions on a hot summer's day between Italian Americans and African Americans sharing a neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY. At the climax of the standoff, kids set off a fire hydrant which metaphorically signals the release of anger on both sides. The cast themselves bring this movie to life and Spike Lee himself plays a leading role.
"Do as I say, and you live"
This cheesy action film is an undeniable classic for its ridiculous scare tactics. A key witness is being transported into Los Angeles to testify against a serious crime ring. However a hired hit man does everything in his power to prevent the witness from reaching his destination. This includes releasing deadly animals onto the vehicle. What ensues is a frenzy of terrified passengers and lots of gore. Only Samuel L. Jackson is serious enough to pull off the role of FBI protector.
"What's your deepest fear?"
Based on a true story, this film is as touching and dramatic as any growing up narrative. Samuel L. Jackson plays the strict mentor that prevents an entire group of boys in a seemingly unfair way. However, by introducing discipline he teaches them to keep their word and that a good work ethic is the secret to success. Through all the trials and tribulations of growing up in a rough and poor area, Jackson's character becomes intimately connected with these boys.
"Mama, I smoked the tv."
Playing a tormented Gator Purify, Samuel L. Jackson had the category of "supporting actor" created for his performance at Cannes Film Festival. Though Gator only has a few lines, his role as the drug-addicted brother of a prominent black lawyer intensifies the drama. Many of his exchanges play on Gator's intimate relationship with his mother and the emotional stability she provides even when he relapses. Racial tensions are enflamed as Gator's married brother begins an affair with his white secretary.
"But when John Ruth the Hangman catches you...you hang!"
Two bounty hunters cross paths in a Wyoming blizzard and find shelter together with a host of characters in an old lodge. The Western style aesthetic is refreshingly different but Jackson retains his gritty bad*ss nature as Major Marquis Warren. He carries a forged letter addressed to himself from President Abraham Lincoln because he finds the symbolism warms white folks to him. As the blizzard wears on, the larger than life characters begin to disagree on a political and individual levels and violence ensues.
"Honey? Where's my super suit?"
Jackson plays the superhero sidekick to a secret superhero family of four. He voices over Frozone, the superhero dad's best friend. As hinted from his name, Frozone can create ice from humidity and uses it to stop fires and surf around quickly. Together at night they elope on city-saving escapades unbeknownst to their wives. The superhero family is then called to save the world from Syndrome an embittered fan with no superpowers. Directed by the same mastermind as the Iron Giant, this movie exposes
"What the f*ck happend to you, man? Sh*t, your ass used to be beautiful."
Lauded for smart dialogue and sharp humour, this Quentin Tarantino flick follows the adventure of an stewardess trying to make a little extra cash. It is a creative adaptation of Elmore Leonard's novel, filled with pithy exchanges and laugh out loud moments. The action takes place in LA and Jackson plays Ordell Robbie, an arms dealer and the mastermind behind the airhostess scam. But when the airhostess tries to outsmart Ordell she has to improvise to stay one step ahead of his wrath.
"Hey, hey, hey, I ain't your partner. I ain't your neighbor, your brother, or your friend. I'm your total stranger."
The film starts off fast with a car explosion in downtown Manhattan, providing a hint of the special effects to follow. Samuel L. Jackson plays alongside Bruce Willis as shop owner Zeus Carver in this action-loaded flick. Tied together by the intense and unflinching directions of a terrorist mastermind, the duo must follow a series of clues or risk the lives of New Yorkers. In an unexpected twist, Willis comes to understand that the terrorist is someone he wronged in an earlier episode of this franchise.
"I said, 'You said you ain't know him.'"
Jackson's chilling performance in this movie is unsettling as it touches on aspects of race, loyalty, and duty. His character is Stephan, the trusted house slave of a vast and ruthless Mississippi plantation. The obvious disconnect between Stephan's race and role as a slave paired with his inability to empathize and his unquestioning obedience to his master dramatize the action and make him the shadiest, most detestable figure. This character is an incarnation of Jackson's ability to embody incomprehensible roles that come with their own moral code.
"Ok but...you asked for it. Hold on to your butts!"
In this cult classic Jackson plays chief engineer John Arnold who often has a cigarette in hand. Unfortunately, Arnold is the very first of the casualties perpetuating the stereotype that black characters are always killed off first (even though he was essential to programming the island). Spielberg's sci-fi thriller follows dinosaur scientists who are invited to experience a Park created by an madman millionaire. A park where DNA of pre-historic dinosaurs has been discovered and cloned. A monsoon throws everything on the island into chaos and the humans have to prove their case for natural selection.
"You know me. It's my duty to please that booty."
This sequel of the 1970's epic blaxploitation film stars Jackson as the leading protagonist. He is tied into this previous narrative as the nephew of his earlier namesake, Richard Roundtree. Both plotlines are racially charged as the 70's original explores the institution of white supremacy from the perspective of New York's black demographic. The hybrid sequel follows the story of a prejudiced sociopath played by Christian Bale. It also produces themes of how African Americans are systematically overlooked by the American justice system.
"I was not going to stand by and see another Marine die just to live by those f*cking rules."
This movie unveils the unpredictability and havoc of war as soldiers and Colonials are pressured into spur of the moment decisions. Col. Terry Childers played by Jackson is court marshalled for military misconduct, a sacrifice the state department deemed necessary for diplomatic optics. Col. Childers turns to old military friend and lawyer Col. Hodges to defend him. If found guilty, Childers would be dismissed from Service and bear a murder charge. The movie explores themes of how ruthless a career in military service can be.
"You have the right to remain silent...but I want to hear you scream!"
Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell star opposite Dwayne Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson in this comedic police movie. While Wahlberg and Ferrell fumble to bring in a drug lord or solve a crime together, the Johnson and Jackson team are stylish and smooth in their successes. This stark contrast brings many laughs as Wahlberg and Ferrel are often assigned monotonous, small time cases while their counterparts bring in the sexy bad guys. There's an atmosphere of competition in the NYPD office as Wahlberg and Ferrell try to prove themselves.
"Anything lost can be found again, except for time wasted."
Jackson plays the an emotionally distant father to a young African American boy caught in the drug-dealing streets of Brooklyn. In this drama Jackson embodies one of his most complex roles as an alcoholic and absentee father who sometimes plays chess with his adolescent son. In these games he instills his wisdom and teaches the boy patience and goal-orientation. The boy is empowered by these lessons and as the plot takes a dramatic turn he must draw on them to save his family.
"Think I'll make this the boys' room"
An ill-timed car accident on FDR Drive brings Ben Affleck and Samuel Jackson into a bizarre and and mistrustful relationship. Affleck, a rich lawyer, leaves Jackson at the scene and offers him only financial compensation. Jackson, a recovering alcoholic was on the way to a custody hearing and his tardiness shifts the levers in his ex wife's favour. He does recover some of Affleck's compromising documents from the scene of the accident and the two men engage in a strategic battle of retribution.
"So that's what the little green men are saying now: 'Take me to your therapist'?"
A bunch of scientists are dispatched to the Pacific ocean floor where a mysterious aircraft has been discovered. In this psychological thriller the ship's technology is recognized as being American but from the far future. Through a series of encrypted messages the scientist team come to believe that a black hole or some type of "event" is anticipated by the future ship. As the characters ponder the possibility of their imminent deaths they explore dramatic themes like religion and human forgiveness.
"You must realize there are not enough Jedi to protect the Republic. We are the keepers of peace, not soldiers."
Appearing as Master of the Jedi Mace Windu, Jackson's character is the first who is wary about the commencement of Anakin's Jedi training. This foreshadowing establishes Windu as a wise character although his warning is not heeded due to extraneous circumstances. Windu also appears in the following episodes of this franchise, always as a grounded and experienced political advisor. Jackson requested a purple lightsaber to distinguish himself from other characters and that George Lucas give him a distinguished death should he be killed off.
"A Royale with cheese. What do they call a Big Mac?"
This cult classic was the film that boosted Samuel L. Jackson to his current stardom. Enacting Jules Winnfield, a part Quentin Tarantino wrote specifically for him, Jackson displays the conglomerate of traits he has acquired from his other characters- a brash and direct pistol-wielding moral compass. The drama merits its cult status from the poignant scenes that punctuate the timeline. Certain dialogues are unforgettable, it is aesthetically unique, and Tarantino draws on his favorite A-list actors to make the narrative come to life.
"Too bad Rudy, Danny Roman was *just* starting to like you."
Playing alongside Kevin Spacey, Jackson, as Danny Roman, is the primary suspect in a murder and embezzlement investigation. Roman, who is a decorated police officer, invades the precinct and holds other officers hostage to try to force the truth out of upper management. Since Spacey and Jackson hold the same job at separate precincts they are competing for dominance while Jackson is simultaneously trying to prove his innocence. This character shows the repeating motif of Jackson's hardline tactics in his search for justice and truth.
"Which one of you spice girls blew my partner away?"
As Special Agent Derrick Vann, Jackson is on a mission for retribution. His partner was killed and while he is following the murder's tracks he gets slowed down by talkative salesman Andy Fidler, played by Eugene Levy. As a policeman with a gun and a goal, Vann unquestionably holds the upper hand and is the most masculine of the two. Since Fidler is more of a well-intentioned hinderance than a malicious threat Vann keeps him along during the man hunt.
"Where the f*ck all these people come from? I have been drinking in this sh*thole all my life, I ain't never seen this many people in here at once."
In this Southern drama Samuel L. Jackson plays Lazarus, a retired country Blues singer. The story gets a little twisted and slightly problematic as Rae, played by Christina Ricci, a sex-addict shows up on Lazarus' front lawn. Since he is a God-fearing man he decides to take her in and try to help her instead of taking her to the nearby police station or hospital. This latter choice may actually have gotten him in trouble. Jackson actually learnt to play the guitar and sing for this piece.
"Yeah, you say 'peace'. I think you kind of mean the other thing."
As Jackson assumes the role of Nick Fury, the International Director of peacekeeping with the acronym S.H.I.E.L.D., he must contact Super Heros around the world to help combat this globe-threatening event. Nick Fury first appeared in Ultimate Universe and was a character in many Marvel comic books alongside Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye, and Black Widow. He is a genius-level strategist, has a halted aging form, came up with the Infinity Formula and is also known under the alias One-Eyed Eagle.
"My product is 51 times stronger than cocaine, 51 times more hallucinogenic than acid, and 51 times more explosive than ecstasy. It's like getting a personal visit...from God!"
Jackson accepted the part of Elmo McElroy from a first-time amateur screenwriter. He is a kilt-wearing, off-brand, LA native who, looking for a get rich quick scheme, came up with a new drug. However, when McElroy starts to make moves on his drug in England his buyers keep turning up dead. This movie is filled with linguistic and cultural differences between England and the U.S. because Elmo's sidekick Felix is a Brit who hates "yanks". It is light and not too action-packed, has an original premise and some off-the-wall humour.
"This is an art gallery, my friend, and this is a piece of art."
Jackson plays Elijah Price and rides the journey of someone whose life and abilities have been drastically altered. Bruce Willis is alongside as David Dunn, a working class man who escaped an otherwise fatal train accident completely unscathed. However, this event have tied the fates of Dunn and Price and as the two remain in contact Dunn discovers something unexpected about himself. Prince provides the unique perspective of someone who is on the fringe and sees life distilled in a different way.
"What do you do when the thing you most wanted, so perfect, just comes?"
Jackson's role in this transitory and open-space movie is as far from his typical his brash violent but moral persona. Instead, the film focuses on an object that transcends many lives and several continents before it reaches his. The film is certainly passionate, and ties romance with mystery. It is a minimalist Canadian film that is reminiscent of the style of another era, one without special effects. The main theme in this feature is how all of humanity is somehow connected.