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Best Morgan Freeman Films
Although Freeman had been acting for over 15 years, 1989 was the year that he really broke through on a major scale and he has never looked back from there. In a twelve month period in 1989, three outstanding Morgan Freeman movies made a lasting impression on audiences; Lean on Me, Driving Miss Daisy and Glory. Driving Miss Daisy received 9 Oscar nominations, won the Best Picture Oscar and Freeman was nominated for Best Actor. Glory received 5 Oscar nominations and won 3 Oscars. Finally, Lean on Me was a critically acclaimed independent film that did not receive any Oscar nominations but was a tremendous film.
Freeman has been nominated for a total of 5 Oscars, which is actually fewer than deserved given his amazing career. He won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in Million Dollar Baby. Maybe an even more important measure of his skill is the fact that 3 of his over 60 feature films have won the Best Picture Oscar including, Driving Miss Daisy, Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby.
In addition to acting accolades, Freeman is also known for his distinctive, authoritative voice. He has narrated parts of many of his best movies because he has a such a soothing likeable voice. Movies such as Shawshank Redemption, Million Dollar Baby and Lean on Me benefited greatly from Morgan Freeman's narration in parts of the film. With narration, we are given a feeling of getting inside the protagonists head. If done seamlessly, narration can really enhance a film
This top ten list of the best Morgan Freeman movies is based on the rankings of movie bloggers and other fans at Rankography movies. If you enjoyed this list of Freeman film, you might also want to check out our list of the best Robert De Niro movies at Rankography.
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11. Lean on Me (1989)
Discipline and Empowerment Turn Around a Difficult High School
I remember seeing Lean on Me when it first came out in 1989 and being completely blown away by Morgan Freeman as an actor. It was immediately obvious that this guy was incredibly talented and likely going to be a huge, award-winning actor. Lean on Me was not Freeman's first film, in fact he had been acting for more than 15 years at this point, but this film was the first lead role in an impactful movie that made you say wow, what a powerful actor.
I absolutely loved this film. It is based on the true story of a down and out high school in Paterson, NJ. It is a troubled school in a poor, mostly black neighborhood, with unmotivated children that see no way out of the ghetto. Joe Clark (Morgan Freeman) is appointed as the new principal of fictional East Side High and proceeds to institute dramatic changes in discipline, teaching style and the rewards system.
His goal is to increase the test scores for the children at the schools so they will have increased options of going to colleges and universities. This is an incredibly powerful and inspirational story. You won't always like Joe Clark as a person, at times you will not like his methods but by the end of the film you definitely know that he cared deeply about the students and helping them bootstrap themselves out of a terrible situation.
Morgan Freeman is brilliant in this film and it is one of my all time favorite Freeman roles.
If you liked Lean on Me, you should also see Stand and Deliver
10. The Bucket List (2007)
"You Measure Yourself, by the People Who Measure Themselves by You"
And thus the wisdom of Carter (Morgan Freeman) begins. The Bucket List is a beautifully poignant film about two terminally ill older men that decide to escape their hospital ward and do several things on their "before we kick the bucket" list. What really makes this movie is the brilliance of Rob Reiner, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. What a triumvirate!
Edward (Jack Nicholson) is a cynical billionaire who has chased money at the expense of all the relationships in his life. Carter is a mechanic who has always valued relationships over money. They both start out scared and lonely in their diagnosis, but together they are able to grow together and prepare themselves for the inevitable.
Because of Edward's wealth, they are able to escape the hospital, spare no expense and travel the world in pursuit of checking off their 'bucket lists'. Because of Carter's simple, yet astute philosophy on life, Edward is able to repair some of the relationships. This film is both funny and touching, often at the same time. You will cry, but they are good tears and it is hard not to watch this film without growing as a person.
9. Invictus (2009)
"I thank whatever Gods may be, For my unconquerable soul"
Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman have teamed up on three films (Clint directed all three and acted in two) and all of them were some of the best films ever made. In fact, two of them won Best Picture Oscars. Unfortunately, Invictus was the one that did not win any Academy Awards, despite being an excellent film.
While it did not win any Academy Awards, this is an inspiring film based on a true story. After taking office in 1995, Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) tried to unite his country by making a concerted effort to win a World Championship in Rugby. He partners with Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon), the captain of the team, to try to change the animosity of the mostly white players and mostly black fans.
Ultimately, the South African Springboks make it to the Championship Game of the 1995 World Cup and I will not spoil what happens from there. But the quote in the title frame gives you a sense of the spirit of this film and why everyone should include this Morgan Freeman movie on their viewing list.
8. Batman Begins (2005)
Nolan Blows us Away with a Whole New Look at Batman
Christopher Nolan directed this outstanding rebirth of the Batman saga and wisely created a role for Morgan Freeman in the film. Freeman plays Luscious Fox who was a key associate of Bruce Wayne's (Christian Bale) father and is Head of Research and Development of Wayne Enterprises at the start of the film. He is a highly moral family man and a confidant of Wayne's.
Freeman's character is a very likable anchor for Wayne's mission. I think this was probably a very easy role for Freeman to assume. While it is a fantastic film and a likeable character for Freeman, it was not one of his more challenging roles, but the film is a must see for so many reasons.
7. Bruce Almighty (2003)
Now Freeman is not Just a God of an Actor...
No offense to a funny movie, but I was very surprised to see Bruce Almighty in this top ten list of the best Morgan Freeman films. While an enjoyable movie, it is by no means worthy of being in his top ten. He has so many films that leave a lasting impression and possible change your perspective about an issue. In my mind, those are the types of films that should be included in this top ten.
As a result, I have added an eleventh film to the list in Lean on Me which I would include as a stand-in for this film.
Having said all that, if you are looking for laughs from a simple film, then Bruce Almighty is quite entertaining. Jim Carrey and Morgan Freeman are quite funny together and the plot leaves a lot of room for Carrey's comedic antics.
6. Million Dollar Baby (2004)
A Touching Story and Amazing Movie
I have never been a big fan of boxing movies and as such, I put off watching Million Dollar Baby far too long. While a mistake, this is definitely one of the best movies I have ever seen. While fundamentally about female boxing, this is not a boxing movie. There are not a lot of violent scenes in the ring. Rather, this is a movie about perseverance, relationships, overcoming incredible hardships and loyalty.
Morgan Freeman is outstanding in this film as Eddie "Scrap Iron" Dupris, a former top boxer who stayed in the game for one too many fights and lost his right eye in the process. His relationship with Frank (Clint Eastwood), his former trainer and manager, is highly complex but deeply loyal from both sides.
Hilary Swank as Maggie Fitzgerald and Clint are both excellent in this movie, but I really felt that Freeman's role really sets this film apart. He is the bridge between the three characters that lets them all develop the lasting bond that ultimately makes all three of them stronger.
If you have not yet seen this Eastwood and Morgan Freeman film, please make it the next movie you watch. It is so good that everyone should see it at least once.
If you loved Million Dollar Baby, you should also see Gran Torino
5. Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
Simple Homespun Philosphy wins over A Grizzled Elderly Woman
In one of his first of many films in which he plays a character whose zen-like philosophical outlook have a profound positive impact on those around him, Morgan Freeman portrays Hoke Colburn in Driving Miss Daisy. The film won the Best Picture Oscar and Freeman was nominated for a Best Actor for his role. It was an outstanding portrayal and a touching film.
This was the first of three movies that Morgan Freeman has starred in that have won the Best Picture Oscar. That is really quite an amazing statistic when so many other great actors have been shut out of any Best Picture films.
This is a heartwarming film and both Morgan Freeman and Jessica Tandy were exceptional in their roles.
4. Unforgiven (1992)
Eastwood and Freeman Team up to Win the Best Picture Oscar
As I previously mentioned, Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman have only teamed up twice as actors and both of those films won the Best Picture Oscar. That is a real testament to these two great actors and Unforgiven deserved all of the accolades that it received. It is certainly one of the best Western films ever made and an exceptional film.
Bill Munny (Eastwood) is a retired gunslinger who has settled down to a family farm and raising two children. He is widowed and admits he is not a very good farmer. However, he was a very good bounty hunter and decides to take one more job with a big payday to track down two outlaws that cut up a local prostitute. Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) his long-time bounty-hunting partner reluctantly agrees to join him on the hunt.
Eastwood and Freeman are superb together both in this film and Million Dollar Baby and I hope more films will follow. They have great on screen repartee and it certainly seems like they genuinely like each other.
This is my favorite Morgan Freeman movie and an Oscar winning film that you should definitely check out.
3. The Dark Knight (2008)
Freeman Reprises his Role as the Likable Fox
The Dark Knight is the second installment in Christopher Nolan's of the Batman series. Morgan Freeman reappears as Luscious Fox, who has been promoted to run the entire Wayne Enterprises at the end of Batman Begins. He continues to play an instrumental role in equipping Batman with all the tools he needs to transform from a mere mortal into a superhero crime fighter.
This is a widely acclaimed superhero movie that tops many of the action rankings at Rankography. It is an exciting film and Freeman continues to play a valuable role in the film. Like Batman Begins this role is not a stretch for Freeman's acting abilities but he continues to portray a very likable character with a strong moral compass that is easy to identify with
2. Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Freeman and Robbins are Excellent Together
Shawshank Redemption was both an exceptional book and movie. It is the story of two convicts, Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) and Ellis "Red" Redding (Freeman), that become the most unlikely of friends. But they develop a very strong bond and confide their interesting back-stories in life.
Andy turns out to be a highly unusual prisoner who changes many of the inmates in profound ways, not the least of which is Red. The plot takes many twists and turns throughout but these two friends, Andy in particular, perseveres against tremendous odds.
It is a story about endurance, one's moral compass, deep friendship and the law. It is both heartwarming and shocking at times but it will keep you deeply entertained. I really like his role in this Morgan Freeman Film and Shawshank Redemption is one of my all time favorite films.
If you loved Shawshank Redemption, then you should also see Papillon
1. Se7en (1995)
Possibly the Best Psychological Thriller since Silence of the Lambs
In one of the creepiest films that Morgan Freeman has starred in, he plays Lt. William Somerset, a veteran detective chasing down a serial killer that is using the Seven Deadly Sins as a backdrop for his murders. Somerset is paired with rookie David Mills (Brad Pitt). The age and experience differences lead to tension between the two detectives as they race against time to stop this murdering madman.
This is one of David Fincher's early films and yet he does an outstanding job framing the action and dialogue in this psychotic thriller. Freeman, Pitt and Kevin Spacey as John Doe (killer) are all excellent.
If you like psychological thrillers like Silence of the Lambs, The Shining or Zodiac, you will definitely want to check out Se7en.