Samuel L. Jackson is fantastic and enigmatic, badass and splendid, in unimaginable ways. Vocal about his political beliefs and about the systemic racism that pervades American society as well as the rest of the world, Jackson has been involved in the Black Power movement which, in turn, empowered him. He has always stressed how “we’ve come a long way in our thinking, but also in our moral decay”.
Having had a somewhat tragic and traumatic childhood, Jackson developed a stutter which he initially overcame on-screen by using the word “motherfucker”. Mentored by the legendary Morgan Freeman, Jackson got his first big break in Martin Scorsese film Goodfellas in which he starred alongside a heavyweight ensemble in a small yet significant role.
After Jackson had emerged sober from rehab in New York following a battle against addiction, he played the role of a severe crack addict, and the role was termed “cathartic” by the actor himself. His role in Jungle Fever prompted the creation of a special Supporting Actor award and the emergence of a Hollywood icon. “It was a funny kind of thing. By the time I was out of rehab, about a week or so later I was on set and we were ready to start shooting,” he later commented.
Shortly after, Jackson caught Quentin Tarantino’s attention as Big Don in True Romance after which the director wrote the character of Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction just for Jackson which was overwhelming at the time. Thus began their legendary friendship which has resulted in many brilliant films in which Jackson was “overwhelmed, thankful, arrogant” at this opportunity. The actor has starred in various other roles that made him the legend too.
Below, we’ve picked out his five best films currently streaming on Netflix.
The 5 best Samuel L. Jackson films on Netflix:
Snakes on a Plane (David R. Ellis, 2006)
Historically relevant as one of the only films to have created a huge pre-release buzz that even led to a lot of fan theories and comments being incorporated into the script, David R. Ellis’ 2006 action film Snakes on a Plane has finally arrived on Netflix to take the world by a storm. Starring Samuel L. Jackson as a foul-mouthed badass FBI agent, the film is high on lowbrow comedy and mindless action, making it one of the actor’s finest outings.
The film is exactly what the title suggests. There are snakes. Lots of them. On a plane. Inspired by the story of brown vipers sticking to planes during the Second World War, this film starts off with a witness being escorted by two FBI agents onboard a plane. The witness is offered whiskey in first-class while the camera pans over the various kinds of passengers.
Available: Netflix UK
The Hateful Eight (Quentin Tarantino, 2015)
Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight was supposed to be a sequel to Django Unchained but became a standalone film with its own set of characters. The film revolves around a bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren who claims to be the sheriff when he meets The Hangman ad his prisoner. When a blizzard strikes, they meet four more strangers, and they soon learn that there is more to it than meets the eye, and they might not reach their destination at all.
Jackson plays Marquis Warren, the civil war veteran. In his sixth collaboration with Tarantino, Jackson has revealed how he is in close contact with all the castmates. Talking about Tarantino, he revealed: “People say a lot of things about Quentin, that he’s racist. But every character that he’s ever written for me has been a very intelligent, very driven person. I know I’m going to do it, there’s no question. He’s not calling me to say, ‘will you be in my movie?’ He’s just calling me to say, ‘this is the part that I just wrote for you,’ and I’m like, ‘okay, great.'”
Available: Netflix US
A Time to Kill (Joel Schumacher, 1996)
Adapted from John Grisham’s novel of the same name, this legal cliff-hanger is charged with the problems of racial discrimination. A ten-year-old African American child, Tonya, is abducted, brutally raped and beaten mercilessly by two local white men, before being killed. Enraged, her father, Carl Lee Hailey, seeks help from his friend, Jake Brigance, a just, white lawyer.
Realising how difficult it is for a black man to get justice for his young daughter, Carl takes matters into his own hands, revenge killing both rapists, and unwittingly injures the local Deputy. Carl is imprisoned and subjected to the death penalty; what follows is a gripping courtroom drama where Brigance fights relentlessly to bring justice to Carl and his family. Jackson delivers a moving, heartfelt performance as the bruised father who has nothing but vengeance for the monsters that have violated his young, innocent daughter.
Available on: Netflix US
Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino, 2012)
Rescued by a German travelling bounty hunter, Dr King Schultz, Black Slave and “the fastest gun in the South”, Django Freeman, sets out on a journey to free his wife, Broomhilda, from a despicable, narcissistic and malicious Mississippi plantation owner and brutal slave-fight enthusiast, Calvin Candie.
Jackson played Stephen, Candie’s chief slave. No other Tarantino character is as brutal and treacherous as Stephen, who has viciously taken advantage of the systemic oppression the slaves are subjected to by being an ally of the White Master. He actively partakes in subjugating his fellow black compatriots and derives pleasure from seeing them in disadvantageous situations. Despite his brief on-screen presence, he evokes hatred in our hearts and is one of the most wicked, sneaky and ruthless characters ever created by Tarantino. Watch the film to find out what happens to him and whether he deserves worse.
Available: Netflix US
Jackie Brown (Quentin Tarantino, 1997)
Although Elmore Leonard’s book Rum Punch had a white protagonist, Tarantino, in an attempt to be able to work with his favourite 1970s blaxploitation actress Pam Grier, changed the race of the character. Pam plays the eponymous character Jackie Brown who is a flight attendant for Cabo Air. She is caught between the cops and a gun runner as she helps smuggle drugs and money for Ordell Robbie, outdoing everybody with the help of a bail bondsman played by Robert Forster, whose career had been revived by Tarantino as well.
Jackson played Ordell Robbie and termed it as one of his most favourite roles. Although Tarantino was criticised for overusing the word ‘blaxploitation’ and “devaluating it and its significance”, Jackson sprung to his friend’s defence by stating, “Did they have another name to call the (black) people they were talking about at the time? If you’re going to deal with the language of the time, you deal with the language of the time. And that was the language of the time. I grew up in the South. I heard ‘n*****’ all my life. I’m not disturbed by it.”
Available: Netflix US