The Top 10 Best Samuel L. Jackson Movies Ranked

As ‘Spiral’ hits theaters, we look back on ‘Pulp Fiction,’ ‘Jackie Brown’ and ‘Django Unchained.’


Following a year-long delay, Spiral: From the Book of Saw finally hits theaters Friday to satiate the bloodlust of gorehounds everywhere, and while the Rube Goldberg-esque traps return, the evil genius Jigsaw is nowhere to be found. Instead, Chris Rock takes over the franchise as Detective Zeke Banks, while Samuel L. Jackson plays his father, a former police chief himself. The film finds a new psychopath targeting corrupt cops, and as the bodies mount, the Banks boys find themselves in the crosshairs of a cunning killer.

Spiral may not make the highlight reel of Jackson’s long career but it did prompt me to examine the actor’s extensive filmography and come up with a list of his 10 best movies. Now, before I defend my choices below, allow me some honorable mentions and other explanations. You should be warned up front that there are no Marvel movies on the list. I was very, very close to giving The MCU the 10-spot in recognition of Jackson’s contribution to the wildly successful superhero franchise, as he proved to be the perfect choice to play Nick Fury. However, there’s no one Marvel movie that defines the character. If you held my feet to the fire, I would’ve cited Jackson for his work in The Avengers, because his “There was an idea…” speech still gives Marvel fans the chills, but ultimately, I couldn’t justify its inclusion on this list, as Nick Fury hasn’t really evolved all that much as a character despite being in more MCU movies than anyone else.

Personally, I love Jackson’s performance as Abel Turner in Lakeview Terrace, but I was already putting a couple of pulpy B-movies on the list, and there was only so much room. Likewise, people will cry foul about the omission of The Hateful Eight, but I knew early on that Quentin Tarantino movies would occupy three of the top four spots on this list, and as I said before, there are only so many slots. I mean, Sam Jackson has been in a lot of movies! The joints he’s made with Spike Lee had to be represented, as did blockbuster franchises like Jurassic Park and Die Hard.

Speaking of blockbuster franchises, I may not be a Star Wars guy, but after checking with some Star Wars fans, it became clear that no one would really raise an eye if I left Jackson’s turn as Mace Windu off this list. If Nick Fury isn’t getting on, Mace Windu ain’t getting on. And as much as I enjoy Jackson’s voice work as Frozone in The Incredibles movies, the character never felt like a career-defining voice role for him in the way that Tom Hanks is Woody or Tim Allen is Buzz Lightyear. Some of those same Star Wars-loving friends of mine suggested the campy standout Snakes on a Plane, but I don’t even think that’s the best “snake” movie Jackson was in, as his ferocious turn in Black Snake Moan is straight fire.

If there’s one movie I really regret not including on this list, it’s Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever, in which Jackson plays a crackhead named Gator Purify who meets a tragic end after being a burden on his entire family. Jackson is very good in that film but I didn’t feel like I could put it over Do the Right Thing, considering that is one of the best films of the ’80s. I’m sure that fans of Jackson’s strong turns in Coach Carter and The Banker will be upset as well, but them’s the breaks. 

With worldwide grosses of more than $13 billion, Samuel L. Jackson is the world’s highest-grossing movie star and thus, one bad motherfucker. Without further ado, take a look at our list of Jackson’s 10 best movies below, and be sure to leave a comment with your own rankings. Once you’ve done that, check out our review of Spiral as well as the film’s opening scene… if you dare.