- Morgan Freeman’s breakout role in “Street Smart” showcased his ability to portray a darker character and explore the nuances of his performances.
- Freeman’s role in “Glory” highlighted his skills as a moving and emotional actor, solidifying his reputation as a great talent in Hollywood.
- In “The Shawshank Redemption,” Freeman delivers a career-defining performance, showcasing his charisma, charm, and intelligence in a powerful story of friendship.
Morgan Freeman is a remarkable talent in Hollywood, with around 150 acting credits, but several of his films are a cut above the rest. Freeman’s first acting roles came back in the 1960s in multiple uncredited roles. It wasn’t until 1969, when Freeman appeared in a single episode of New York Television Theatre, that he received his first official acting credit, and decades later, in 1987, when he landed his breakout role in Street Smart. Freeman then continued to build a successful career, appearing in major motion pictures, directed by the biggest names like Christopher Nolan and Clint Eastwood.
Freeman is widely recognized for his distinctive deep voice, and his ability to deliver commanding and authoritative performances. Throughout his career, Freeman has earned an impressive number of accolades, including an Oscar for his performance in Million Dollar Baby, with a further four nominations for some of his other most notable projects. His reputation and body of work speak for themselves, with his best performances of all time having a wide range throughout his career since his breakout.
Freeman played John Rawlins in Glory, a powerful film that depicts an all-Black volunteer group of soldiers who fought in the U.S. Civil War. The movie is important historically as it conveys the true story of this regiment and their contributions to the wider War, despite opposition from both sides bearing down on them. Freeman is one of the men recruited into this troop alongside Denzel Washington, and his performance is moving and emotional throughout, further cementing his reputation as a great actor.
9 Gone Baby Gone
Gone Baby Gone is a complex crime mystery movie directed by Ben Affleck in his directorial debut. The film unpacks the disappearance of a young girl which shakes the community. Freeman plays the police captain, Jack Doyle, who is ultimately revealed to be one of the individuals behind the young girl’s disappearance. While it may seem like a cut-and-dry villain pretending to be the good guy, Freeman adds layers of nuance that are vital for this role considering the movie’s ambiguous ending, which questions whether the kidnapped girl would have been better off with her captor.
Morgan Freeman: His 5 Best & 5 Worst Roles (According To IMDB)
Morgan Freeman has been a top actor for most of our lives. He’s been part of some fantastic movies but he’s also starred in some bad ones.
8 Street Smart
Freeman’s breakout role was Street Smart, a film starring Christopher Reeve as a journalist who needs a big story to secure his future. When he accidentally writes a scandalous story that appears to have a lot in common with a dangerous criminal, he’s hunted by the police to learn what he knows and how. Freeman plays the notorious Leo “Fast Black” Smalls, a pimp who isn’t afraid to exercise violence to get his way. In more recent projects, Freeman often plays a good guy, but exploring his roots and the darker side of his performances is a must for fans.
7 The Dark Knight
Freeman played a significant part in the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy as Lucius Fox, the man responsible for much of Bruce Wayne’s tech and vehicles. During the second entry in the series, The Dark Knight, Fox is the acting CEO of Wayne Enterprises and continues to be a part of the team providing support and guidance to Batman. Freeman delivers this role perfectly, even when Fox is presented with a morally questionable surveillance device created by Bruce to track down and apprehend the Joker.
6 Lean On Me
Another film based on a true story, Lean on Me, sees Freeman take on the role of Joe Clark, a principal with a unique approach to getting his school under control. Freeman’s ability to deliver an emotionally charged performance and wrap it up in a strong, authoritative exterior comes into play in major ways for this film. When the school he once taught in is rapidly falling apart, Clark returns to get things under control. Despite his strange methodology, Clark’s love and care for the kids come out in powerful ways that make this film one of Freeman’s best.
Morgan Freeman adopts the role of the more experienced detective in Se7en alongside Brad Pitt’s young Mills. When the pair attempt to track down a killer, they both use distinctive approaches to try and apprehend the criminal. While Pitt’s character is impulsive and energetic, Freeman delivers a more methodical and intentional performance as Detective Somerset. His trademark voice lends weight to everything he says in this film and, combined with the religious elements, Freeman becomes the voice of reason and hope in the face of brutality and suffering.
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4 Million Dollar Baby
Million Dollar Baby follows a story that revolves around Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) and Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank), with Freeman playing a supporting character and the narrator for the movie. Freeman’s impressive voice almost certainly shaped his role in the film and, while he acts as the quiet and loyal friend who helps out at Frankie’s gym, he frames the story for the audience. Freeman again delivers a powerful performance as he shapes the story in its overview, and also as a player on the board.
3 Driving Miss Daisy
Driving Miss Daisy is without doubt one of Morgan Freeman’s best performances as the driver, Hoke Colburn, to an old Jewish widow, Daisy Werthan (Jessica Tandy). Just a few years after his breakout role as a dastardly villain, Freeman proves his range by acting as the delightful and charming hired driver to a stubborn old woman. The movie covers 20 years of events, as the relationship grows from resistance and contempt to a genuine and moving friendship.
Another collaboration between Freeman and Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven sees Eastwood hunt down some troublemakers in 1880s Wyoming. Eastwood’s character is a retired gunslinger, who recruits his old friend Ned Logan (Freeman) for one last job. Freeman’s role in the film is quiet but powerful. With few lines of dialogue and not a great deal of screen time, Freeman delivers a performance that helps to propel the events of the movie forward. Freeman manages to deliver something special and add to Unforgiven with his actions and physical performance, making him one of the unsung heroes of this critically acclaimed picture.
1 The Shawshank Redemption
Despite being nominated for seven Oscars, The Shawshank Redemption didn’t win any, but that doesn’t mean the film is any less outstanding. Starring Tim Robbins and Freeman as two convicts who form a close bond over their years in prison. The film is extremely emotional and both Freeman and Robbins deliver career-defining performances as men who seek to find hope in the darkest spots. Morgan Freeman’s charisma, charm, and intelligence come in full force and add to this powerful story of friendship, which is easily his best movie.