Samuel L. Jackson became a renowned star older than most. Even then, he took the opportunity and has never looked back, becoming one of our most iconic actors; someone with memorable performances. Here are the eight most essential Samuel L. Jackson moments in movies, ranked.
8 Killing One of the Heroes – Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
Kingsman: The Secret Service tells the story of Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and how, with the help of Harry (Colin Firth), he becomes a super spy that must save the world from the nefarious plan of billionaire Richmond Valentine (Jackson). One of the many reasons why this is the best film in the franchise is Jackson’s performance. His Valentine is pragmatic, yet scary, and he’s a one-of-a-kind villain. He has a lisp, bold clothing choices, loves McDonald’s, and faints at the sight of blood. His villain would make James Bond bad guys envious, and never more than in the most surprising moment in the whole movie when, after a crazy church scene, Valentine kills Harry. It’s unexpected, direct, and hard, showing how the villain with the lisp is deadlier than what might look at first sight.
7 The Revelation at the End – Unbreakable (2000)
David Dunn (Bruce Willis) is a security guard who becomes the only survivor of a train crash. It appears he has unbreakable powers, and that’s what makes him become a hero. Elijah (Jackson) is a comic-book dealer whose bones are made of glass and break at the minimum. Unbreakable might be M. Night Shyamalan’s best film, and it’s in big part due to Jackson’s character; he’s charismatic, obsessive, and mysterious. Everything gets explained in the chilling ending when the hero and Elijah meet, and it’s revealed Jackson’s character has been the villain all along, answering many of the questions his performance had made us ask.
About casting Willis and Jackson together, Shyamalan told Rotten Tomatoes: “One of my favorite movies is Pulp Fiction, and I really wanted that flavor that Sam and Bruce gave in Pulp Fiction for Unbreakable. Obviously, [it’s] a totally different story and all that stuff, but that kinda cool, edgy, grounded quality that they both had in that movie… I thought [Willis’] quietness versus [Jackson’s] pizazz could be really fun. It was really from Quentin that I grabbed that union.”
6 Killed by a Shark – Deep Blue Sea (1999)
A team of scientists has the “brilliant” idea to create genetically engineered sharks in Deep Blue Sea. Unsurprisingly, things end very badly for the scientists. Jackson plays corporate executive Russell Franklin, someone sent to the underwater facility to supervise what’s going on. As everyone is feeling down, Franklin gives an incredible speech, almost as good as the one the president on Independence Day gives, to get everyone to focus. It would’ve worked, but before he finishes, a shark comes from inside the water and eats him. It’s an incredibly surprising moment, the most remembered scene in the film, and it only works because of Jackson’s commitment to the character and his glorious speech.
5 AK-47 Speech – Jackie Brown (1997)
Samuel L. Jackson might be the villain in Jackie Brown, but the character thinks otherwise. While he doesn’t care about Jackie, and wouldn’t mind killing her, so the law doesn’t come for him, what’s important is selling his AK-47 guns while watching a video called Chicks Who Love Guns. Tarantino always gives Jackson great speeches because he knows the actor will deliver them incredibly well, making a meal out of them. This speech is no different. Not many actors can reveal so much about his character while talking about something else, and here Jackson lets us see who Ordell is: a salesman who doesn’t care about crime; he just does them because it pays better as, for him, it’s just another day at the office.
4 Speech – Snakes on a Plane (2006)
Snakes on a Plane is exactly what the title announces, a film with snakes on a plane. Jackson plays FBI agent Neville Flynn, who is escorting a murder witness on a flight to Los Angeles. This is a B-movie at its best, and Jackson has fun with it, shouting one of the most quotable lines in movie history: “I’ve had it with these motherf**king snakes on this motherf**king plane!”
Jackson told Entertainment Weekly about how he ended up doing the movie: “ I thought, ”Oh, s—, I need to be in that!” I saw that my friend Ronnie Yu [the Hong Kong action helmer who had directed Jackson in The 51st State] was directing it, so I immediately emailed him and said: ”Are you really directing a movie called Snakes on a Plane?” And he was like, ”Yeah. Why?” And I said, ”Because I want to be in it!” He said ”For real?!” I said ”Yeah! Hell yeah!””
3 Mace Windu’s Fight – Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith is still the best Star Wars prequel movie as it ends the story of how Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader. Although his turn to the dark side is rather quick, it becomes complete once he helps Palpatine kill Mace Windu. The Jedi played by Jackson had some good moments during the trilogy, but this fight is his best, as he almost beats the Emperor. If Anakin had arrived a couple of minutes later, Windu would’ve won, and the Sith wouldn’t have dominated the galaxy for decades.
2 Nick Fury Escapes – Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014)
Jackson’s Nick Fury had appeared in many movies, always leading SHIELD, and helping the different heroes. He always looked like a cool character but hadn’t had that much action himself. Until Captain America: Winter Soldier, where he’s almost killed in a car. Jackson’s Fury proves in this action scene how bad*ss, resourceful, and smart he is, as he fights all the villains with everything he has (not much), and escapes death by a hair, with all the probabilities against him. Fury always looked like someone who could defend himself, and in this scene, he proves why and how, thanks to the actors’ expressivity, and charisma.
1 Bible Speech – Pulp Fiction (1994)
Pulp Fiction is one of the best action movies of the ’90s and the film that changed Jackson’s career forever. As Jules, he proved he could headline a movie, that he was the perfect Quentin Tarantino collaborator, and that he could be as funny as menacing. All this is shown in one simple scene at the movie’s start, when Jules and Vincent (John Travolta) kill some guys to get back Marcellus Wallace’s briefcase. Jackson’s bible speech is as frightening as its righteous; the worst thing anyone could hear before getting killed. Jules is the character with the best and most evident arc in the film, but it’s still that first scene that everyone remembers from this Tarantino masterpiece.