He is one of the most recognizable faces and voices in modern film history. His movies have made more money combined than almost any other actor. If you hear the word “motherf—-r” uttered in a film, there’s a strong chance he is the one who said it. His name is Samuel L. Jackson, and he is the baddest of cinema’s bad dudes.
While his career began with small roles, including working as a stand-in for Bill Cosby on The Cosby Show, it didn’t take long for him to cultivate great relationships with talented filmmakers, such as Spike Lee and Quentin Tarantino, and forge his way into movie history.
He beat a severe addiction early in his career and turned a series of memorable small performances into a powerhouse résumé with movies from Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, and a recurring role in the Marvel universe. Without a doubt, Jackson is one of the coolest actors working, and his tough screen personas are as fun as they are memorable.
With that said, here are the Most WTF Things Samuel L. Jackson Has Ever Battled.
15. Supreme Chancellor Palpatine in Star Wars: Episode III- Revenge of the Sith
There is no shortage of powerful characters in the Star Wars universe: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Darth Maul. However, few would dispute the fact that Supreme Chancellor Palpatine is one of the most powerful.
Insidiously working his way up through a political system to a position of ultimate power, Palpatine was equally as devastating with direct attacks as he was with manipulation (just ask Anakin). Palpatine ended the lives of nearly all the Jedi, but none gave him more trouble than Jackson’s Mace Windu.
In their confrontation, Windu overpowers Palapatine and causes him severe disfiguration, giving Palpatine the distinctive look audiences remember from his earlier appearance in Return of the Jedi.
Had the fight been between only Windu and Palpatine, Windu would likely have won, but a dismayed Anakin intervened and ultimately cost Windu the fight and his life. Death couldn’t stop Windu, though, and Jackson returned to voice him two years later in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
14. Snakes in Snakes on a Plane
Indiana Jones once memorably said “snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?” Jackson, however, one-upped him with “I have had it with these motherf—ing snakes on this motherf—ing plane!”
Jackson signed onto the film based solely on the ludicrous title, and, when the studio tried to hide its blatant exploitation roots behind the generic title Pacific Air Flight 121, Jackson fought to get the original title back. The original title remained, and the film delivered exactly what it promised.
There’s a snake biting someone in the crotch, crawling down someone’s throat, a giant snake swallowing a man, as well as a cockpit decompression that sends the snakes hurtling out through the broken windows into the sky. Jackson even shoots a snake with a gun to save a murder witness/extreme sports fanatic.
13. A Giant Rampaging Robot in The Incredibles
It is no secret that Jackson has long been a vocal comic book fan. Before he even played a superhero figure on-screen, his love of comics was so well-known that Marvel sought out his permission to model the Ultimate Marvel version of Nick Fury after him. So it came as no surprise when Jackson was announced as the voice of Frozone, the superhero friend of Mr. Incredible, in The Incredibles.
When the story proper begins, Frozone and Incredible are retired everyday men who secretly relive their better days by telling their wives they’re bowling so they can go do vigilante heroics.
Though Frozone is content in his civilian life, he doesn’t hesitate to show up alongside the whole Incredibles family to do battle with the ultra-powerful Omnidroid that supervillain Syndrome has been perfecting. As the only hero who joins the family, Frozone is integral in defeating the machine, and he was so popular that Jackson has already announced his return in the upcoming sequel.
12. King Kong in Kong: Skull Island
A look back at previous film versions of the King Kong story bring about memories of the giant and dynamic Kong himself, but it’s hard to remember his adversaries. It’s not that there haven’t been great actors in Kong films, but Jeff Bridges, Charles Grodin, Bruce Cabot, Jack Black, and Adrien Brody aren’t the kind of action stars you imagine being a worthy adversary for a giant ape. Samuel L. Jackson, though? Now he is an adversary.
In what might be the coolest name/job combination in film history, Jackson plays Preston Packard, head of the Vietnam era helicopter squadron Sky Devils. His first decision after reaching Skull Island? Bomb all of it.
Even after Kong demolishes the air fleet, it doesn’t deter Jackson from hunting across the island to try and kill Kong. Using gas bombs and napalm, Jackson nearly delivers Kong a crippling deathblow before being killed in spectacular fashion by a two-limbed lizard monster called a Skull Crawler.
11. A Giant Squid in Sphere
In 1993, Jackson appeared in a small but pivotal role in Jurassic Park, uttering few lines but still saying the memorable “hold onto your butts.” Five years later, he appeared in another science fiction film by Jurassic Park author Michael Crichton, the underwater thriller Sphere. Playing mathematician Harry Adams, Jackson is one of four scientists recruited to investigate an unidentified spacecraft hidden at the bottom of the ocean.
During the undersea investigation, strange events threaten the scientists’s lives, such as hundreds of jellyfish eggs swamping their submerged base. The worst of all is the giant squid heading towards them, something all the more dangerous for Jackson due to his character’s childhood fear of squid.
However, it is Jackson’s fear that helps them solve the mystery of the attacking creatures, the mechanical problems, and the strange visions they’re all having: the unidentified spacecraft is manifesting their dreams into the real world.
10. The Spirit in The Spirit
In 2008, Jackson played two characters from comic books. The first was a cameo as Nick Fury in Iron Man, while the second one was the Octopus in The Spirit. Iron Man made over $300 million in the U.S. alone and launched the Marvel cinematic universe; The Spirit made less than $20 million (a third of its budget) and had terrible critical reception. It was the first modern big-budget superhero bomb, directed by comic artist Frank Miller after the successful adaptations of his other works 300 and Sin City.
Jackson’s performance, however, is fun and totally committed to the bizarre tone of the film. At turns menacing and goofy, with oddly funny lines like “I’m the Octopus, I got eight of everything,”
Jackson battles the chiseled hero The Spirit, nearly defeating him and ultimately killing his pet cat Muffin. Jackson’s character is blown to smithereens by a grenade strapped to his chest, but even that doesn’t completely kill him, as a single still-living finger makes it to the end of the film, ready to be cloned…
9. Racism And A Blizzard In The Hateful Eight
The most recent collaboration with director Quentin Tarantino found Jackson playing bounty hunter Marquis Warren, one of the many killers and ruffians stranded in a remote hat shop in the post-Civil War West during a driving blizzard. Claustrophobic, violent, and darkly hilarious, the film is a chamber piece mystery filed with familiar faces, but none of them command the screen more strongly than Jackson.
Jackson holds his own against the harsh weather and the harsher language (there is an extremely offensive sign hanging in the hat shop, and the n-word is tossed around like it’s a nickname). However, Jackson somehow survives being shot in the crotch, getting in a gunfight with a Confederate general, seeing numerous people around him shot, poisoned, and having their limbs hacked off.
8. A Voodoo Curse in Eve’s Bayou
This may seem like a strange film to add to a list consisting of such action-packed and crazy films. Eve’s Bayou is a quiet, moody independent film about 10-year-old Eve whose life is upended when she starts to discover dark secrets about her family.
Jackson, however, has some of his greatest challenges in this film. First, he served as a producer, and was the first movie he made with director Kasi Lemmons (followed by the mystery The Caveman’s Valentine). Second, he has some tough scenes to play.
As a seemingly loving father who is cheating on his wife, Jackson has a delicate balance to play, but it becomes even more complicated when Eve discovers that something inappropriate might be happening between Jackson and Eve’s older sister. That’s when Eve decides to seek out a witch in their Louisiana town to put a Voodoo death curse on her father.
7. “The Man” in Shaft
Director John Singleton may have wanted Don Cheadle for the lead role, but as soon as the idea of a remake of Shaft came to public awareness, there was only one actor who immediately came to mind who was sufficiently cool, funny, sexy, and dangerous enough to play that iconic role. That man was Jackson, who is “one bad mother” just like Shaft. However, Jackson had some heavy competition in the movie.
The first villain on the scene is spoiled rich kid Walter Wade, who kills an innocent black man and goes on the run. Then, when Shaft finds him and brings him to trial, Wade recruits unstable drug dealer Peoples Hernandez to take Shaft out.
Jackson handles them as you would expect, with maximum coolness, but the worst villain is yet to come: The Man. The corrupt judicial system fails the mother of the slain black man and frees Wade, so she kills him herself and is arrested. There are some things even Shaft can’t defeat.
6. Global Warming in Kingsman: The Secret Service
Kingsman: The Secret Service is a clever, ultra-violent action movie that subverts several elements of the classic spy movie. The first is the working-class hero who becomes a super-spy, and the second is the rich tech-genius villain, who has an aversion to blood and a pronounced lisp. The film has a very specific sense of humor, and Jackson captures it perfectly as Valentine, the villain with the surprising motive.
In a brilliant play against the expected reasons that a megalomaniac would want to control the world, Jackson actually wants to save the planet, and the only way to do it is to get rid of the thing that is slowly but surely destroying it: people.
So Jackson invents a device that transmits a signal which causes people to go violently and indiscriminately homicidal. His invention makes for an intense climax, and his death is as hilarious as it is gruesome.
5. Fledgling Superhero David Dunn in Unbreakable
Jackson was such a comic book fan that he wasn’t happy simply to appear as superheroes in film; he wanted to give a little love to the darker half of the comic book equation. He did exactly this in M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable, playing an enigmatic mentor who calls himself Mr. Glass.
With a brilliant mind but a delicate bodily condition that causes his bones to be broken easily, Jackson’s character finds his polar opposite in a seemingly indestructible security guard named David Dunn.
Jackson’s art dealer is mysterious and a bit eccentric, but, with his help, David comes to realize that he does indeed have superpowers, and he starts using them to save people. He is appreciative of Jackson’s help, until he learns the truth: Jackson has been killing countless innocents in the search for a superhero. He is sent to jail, all the while claiming that, without him, there can be no David. Audiences haven’t seen the end of Mr. Glass, who will return in the Unbreakable/Split sequel Glass.
4. Django in Django Unchained
The iconic history of the western character Django builds him up to be a ruthless, cold-blooded killer bent on revenge, and his exploits have been seen in over 30 films with multiple actors playing the role.
The most recent incarnation was Jamie Foxx in Django Unchained, where he plays a freed slave in search of his wife. When he tracks her down to a plantation called Candieland, he rides in to find trouble in the form of Calvin Candie, the owner, and Stephen, the head house slave who bullies and intimidates Django’s wife.
Jackson’s role as Stephen is atypical of many of his other performances, playing a villain, but he still brings a gravitas and menace to his role. In fact, the film treats him as the ultimate villain, letting him live longer than Candie, and making him suffer the more painful and insulting defeat and death at the hands of Django. For anyone who thought Jackson could only play larger than life bad guys, look no further.
3. Terrorists in Big Game
He wasn’t the first black President of the United States in movie history (The Fifth Element and Deep Impact beat him to that). However, there might not be a more fun or action-packed Presidency in film than Jackson’s in Big Game. After being shot down in Air Force One by terrorists, Jackson lands in the wilderness in Finland, where his only ally is a 13-year old hunter boy.
As the young hunter and Jackson try to survive the attack and get to safety, they discover that the conspiracy goes deeper than they could have imagined: someone from Jackson’s inner circle has helped the terrorists find and attack him.
2. Super-Intelligent Sharks in Deep Blue Sea
An ocean-based facility has been turned into a research center for Alzheimer’s disease, where scientists are creating giant, super-intelligent sharks. What could possibly go wrong? The answer to this question is the over-the-top, but undeniably fun, Deep Blue Sea. Jackson is in fine form in this film as Russell Franklin, a corporate executive visiting the facility to investigate its viability.
In a twist everyone saw coming, the intelligent sharks conspire with a thunderstorm to isolate and shut down the facility, and the remaining survivors have to find a way out of the facility before it sinks and kills them all, freeing the sharks into the open ocean.
In a wonderfully inspired sequence, the survivors are discouraged, and Jackson begins a stirring monologue about an avalanche he once survived. The moment is powerful, and you can see the leadership potential in him bursting out. And then… well, it needs to be seen to be believed, but it is one of the greatest surprise moments in movie history.
1. The Winter Soldier in Captain America: The Winter Soldier
In recent years, Jackson has become most well-known for his role as Nick Fury in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Since his cameo in Iron Man, Jackson popped up in six more Marvel films and multiple episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as Fury. He has faced some formidable foes, but none more threatening than the Winter Soldier in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
After supposedly dying in World War II, Captain America’s friend Bucky Barnes was altered, enhanced, and turned into a mind-controlled assassin. Fury finds himself in Barnes’ sights when he tries to warn Captain America about a secret faction within S.H.I.E.L.D. threatening to take over.
Fury gets the message to Captain America, but is gunned down by the Winter Soldier in the process. Though he does actually survive the attack, he keeps his DOA status to work undercover. He returns briefly in Avengers: Age of Ultron, and will likely be back for the next Avengers movi and Captain Marvel. We haven’t seen the last of Nick Fury by a long shot. Nor have we seen the end of Jackson’s long list of crazy battles.
Can you think of any other insane things that Samuel L. Jackson has battled? Let us hear about it in the comments section!
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