Just like many kids of the ’90s, the first time I truly noticed Samuel L. Jackson as the acting powerhouse and all around bastion of badassery was when he took a bite out of Brett’s burger before delivering, with great vengeance and furious anger, one of cinema’s most iconic monologues. As much of a star-making turn as Jackson’s amateur monk/hit man in Pulp Fiction was, I gradually realized at the time that his genius has been brewing in many a supporting or even background role for pretty much a decade up to that point. He was the smooth-talking voice of reason DJ in Do the Right Thing, the tragic crackhead brother in Jungle Fever—even in a bit part as a robber in Coming to America he managed to make this mark.
Since Pulp Fiction, Jackson has been a staple of pop culture: He’s the consummate definition of a versatile actor, delivering countless different types of characters with incredible attention to detail and work ethic. Not only is he the go-to guy when you need a quick injection of effortless charisma into your blockbuster, but he’s proven himself to be invaluable when it comes to subtle and delicate dramatic performances as well.
He’s such an important part of our lives—every baby born after the mid-’90s has to learn speech, gross motor skills and Samuel L. Jackson quotes to survive in this world. So we thought, with the upcoming release of the Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds vehicle The Hitman’s Bodyguard, we’d revisit the best performances of this great actor and greater employer of curse words. As you might guess, there are a lot of memorable Samuel L. Jackson performances from which to choose. Hell, the man currently has a whopping 175 acting credits on IMDB. It’s hard to pick just ten when it comes to the purple lightsaber master.
So hold onto your butts, here are the 10 best Samuel L. Jackson performances: