Curious as to how Samuel L. Jackson is Hollywood’s highest grossing actor? None of Jackson’s films are ever complete without him delivering the movie’s most compelling lines and nailing them each time with complete conviction, reciting words to be memorized and quoted for years to come. His ubiquitous but necessary presence means he’s bound to be the biggest box office boss we’ve ever thus far.
In the pages that follow, we present to you 10 examples of why Sam Jack’s wallet does indeed have “Bad Motherf*cker” stamped on it and it’s stuffed with hundreds after almost 40 years of putting in heavy work.
Movie: Unbreakable [Touchstone Pictures, 2000]
Role: Elijah “Mr. Glass” Price, The Villain
Choice Quote: “Aaaaaaaaaah!”
In a career defined by macho, over-the-top action hero features, Unbreakable found Sam playing a physically weak criminal mastermind. One of the silliest villains in recent memory, one could argue that he succeeded in his plan of finding his polar opposite. All the success in the world couldn’t get him to conquer his ultimate adversary, though: a steep flight of stairs.
Box Office Take: $248,118,121
Movie: A Time To Kill [Warner Bros. 1996]
Role: Carl Lee Hailey, The Victim
Choice Quote: “Yes, they deserved to die and I hope they burn in Hell!!!”
The second movie that will have any Black person pissed at their Caucasian counterparts (Roots was the first) was home to one of Sam Jack’s most iconic quotes. On trial for the murder of two men who raped his 10-year-old daughter, Jackson speaks his mind in one brilliant, intense and moving scene. Any father–hell, any parent–would tell you they’d say the exact same thing. Anyone who rapes a little girl should be doused in a shower of bullets, no questions asked. In the courtroom, in front of the jury.
Box Office Take: $152,266,007
Movie: Jungle Fever [Forty Acres & A Mule, 1991]
Role: Gator, The Crackhead
Choice Quote: “Mama…I smoked the TV.”
And now for a salute to Marvin Gaye, Sr. Everybody in Hollywood pays dues before they nab those blockbuster roles and Spike Lee called on Jackson early in his career for a role he was tragically familiar with: a drug-addicted vagabond. It was their third movie together and Jackson used the experience to channel his personal demons, delivering a riveting and unintentional comedic performance.
Box Office Take: $43,882,682
Movie: Deep Blue Sea [Warner Bros., 1999]
Role: Russell Franklin, The Hero
Choice Quote: “First we’re gonna seal off this… *gets devoured by hyper-intelligent shark mid-sentence*”
Samuel L., as corporate executive and natural disaster survivor Russell Franklin, speechifies, as only he can, following the untimely death of a researcher at the teeth of a genetically-enhanced shark. In an attempt to quell dissension amongst his terrified group, he gets about halfway through a rousing tale of survival and the dangers of not sticking together before he is ripped to shreds by one of the mutant Great Whites. We’re not sure if it was supposed to be funny, but we never laughed so hard in our life.
Box Office Take: $165,048,228
Movie: Coming to America [Paramount Pictures, 1988]
Role: Robber, The…Robber
Choice Quote: “Who the FUCK is this asshole?”
What’s the soundtrack to a Samuel L. robbery? Quite simply enough yelling and cussing to shake the Soul Glo® out of Eriq La Salle’s jheri curl. Jackson definitely made the most of his minute and change in Coming to America. The botched McDowell’s heist stands as one of the legendary film’s many hilarious scenes.
Box Office Take: $288,752,301
Movie: Snakes on a Plane [New Line Cinema, 2006]
Role: Agent Neville Flynn, The Superhero
Choice Quote: Just push play on the video.
The film had a premise so bad, only a mother could pretend to love it. Yet and still, there was one damn good reason to sit through all the digital serpents slithering their way to a Razzie and it was a Samuel L. quote. Some speculate that it was a subliminal jab at deciding to shoot the movie in the first place but whatever the reason, it’s one of the most potent expletives to ever grace theaters.
Box Office Take: $62,022,014
Movie: School Daze [40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks, 1988]
Role: Leeds a.k.a. Jheri Curl #1, The Realist
Choice Quote: “Y’all niggas! And you gon’ be niggas forever, just like us! NIGGAS!”
Jackson and his crew square off with Dap Dunlap’s Mission College gang in a KFC parking lot. In a classic conflict between locals who don’t like outsiders encroaching on their territory, and brash college students who drain a small town’s resources from September to May, resentment boils over to the point that blows are nearly thrown. However, what begins as a proverbial pissing contest between two stubborn groups of men eventually uncovers something more insidious that lives in college classrooms and local hangouts alike: self-hatred.
Box Office Take: $14,545,844