Samuel L Jackson Picks His Top 5 Acting Performances

Samuel L Jackson

Samuel L Jackson is one of the most successful actors working today, working with everyone from Quentin Tarantino to George Lucas to numerous snakes on a plane. In a recent interview with Stephen Colbert when the host said a lot of actors tell him they don’t watch the films they’re in, Jackson said a lot of actors lied about not watching the films they’re in and said he does watch his own. Jackson then picked his favourite films that he has appeared in.

Samuel l Jackson - The Long Kiss Goodnight
Samuel L Jackson and Gina Davis in The Long Kiss Goodnight // Credit: New Line Cinema

The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)

Jackson co-starred with Gina Davis in this action blockbuster. Davis was the mild-mannered small-town teacher who found out she was really a CIA assassin with amnesia and hires private detective Mitch Hennessey (Jackson) to help her find out what happened to her. I love this film and should have seen Davis do more action films. Writer Shane Black (of Lethal Weapon fame) was paid a record $4,000,000 for the script but was a commercial failure. Jackson is a lot of fun in the film – he has a lot of jokes and his character trying to cope as he is wildly out of his depth dealing with CIA kill squads.

A Time To Kill (1996)

Jackson plays Carl Lee Hailey whose daughter is raped and who then goes on to murder the men who did it. What follows is a courtroom drama with Matthew McConaughy’s character defending Hailey while outside the trial the area is exploding with racial tension, with violence on the streets. Much of the film is concerned with can a black man get a fair trial in that part of America (or perhaps anywhere in America). A memorable scene is when Hailey challenges Brigance (McConaughy) after the lawyer says they’re friends, pointing out Brigance never came to his house and that for all Brigance is committed to opposing racism, it’s still part of him.

Smauel L Jackson - Jackie Brown
Samuel L Jackson in Jackie Brown // Credit: Miramax Films

Jackie Brown (1997)

Jackson’s second Tarantino film saw him co-star with Pam Grier as Ordell, a gun-runner and general criminal concerned that Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) is going to destroy his business after she is arrested. The film is a mix of plots, betrayals and quick-thinking as everyone tries to stay one step ahead of the law and/or the wrath of dangerous criminals. At the time the film split people – it was quite a departure from the huge success that had been Pulp Fiction, some disappointed but some loved it. Over time it’s certainly been recognised as a great film.

The Red Violin (1998)

A film I had never even heard of let alone seen, this is the story of a famous red violin, as it passes through history from the 1600s to the modern day. Jackson plays Charles Morritz in the “Montreal” section of the film, an appraiser sent to work out if it is the real red violin. Morritz unravels the secrets of this beautiful instrument, including its distinctive colour. It’s an unusual film for any actor and perhaps this is why it sticks out for Jackson.

187 (1997)

Another film I was unfamiliar with but having looked it up I learned it was Jackson’s first film where he received top billing and whatever else would obviously have a huge meaning for him. Jackson plays Trevor Garfield, a high school teacher recovering after being stabbed by a student, and his new job he soon finds himself in a similar position of tensions between gangs and the authorities, trying to teach students in extremely difficult circumstances and protect these students – sometimes from themselves.

Also Read: What Makes A Tarantino Film?

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Posted by
Richard Norton

Gentleman, podcaster and pop culture nerd, I love talking and writing about pretty much all pop culture.