Total Recall: Laurence Fishburne's Best Movies

We count down the best-reviewed work of the Predators star.

Laurence Fishburne

When Predators arrives in theaters this weekend, it'll mark a renewal for a film franchise that has thrilled action fans for almost 25 years -- and it'll also be the latest chapter in the long and distinguished film career of Laurence Fishburne. Since making his film debut with Cornbread, Earl and Me 35 years ago, Fishburne has appeared in an incredibly diverse collection of projects, on stage (Thurgood, Two Trains Running), on television (CSI, Pee-Wee's Playhouse), and, of course, the big screen. And while you probably remember many of his showiest roles, chances are you've forgotten just how many great movies he's been in -- so we decided now would be the perfect time to celebrate his biggest critical hits with a Laurence Fishburne Total Recall!


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10. King of New York

There's nothing quite like a Christopher Walken movie, and the idiosyncratic actor found a kindred spirit in Abel Ferrara for 1990's King of New York, a cult classic in which Walken plays Frank White, a fresh-out-of-prison drug lord who decides he wants to build a children's hospital -- and is willing to slay anyone who stands in his way. Helping him achieve his goal by any means necessary, Fishburne plays Jimmy Jump, a ruthless lieutenant who enters the film by handing one of White's rivals a suitcase full of tampons ("for the bullet holes") before pumping him full of lead. (Steve Buscemi is the second gunman, because it's just that kind of movie.) It only grossed a little over $2.5 million during its brief theatrical run, but King of New York has enjoyed a healthy second life on home video, as well as the appreciation of critics like Combustible Celluloid's Jeffrey M. Anderson, who wrote, "Ferrara's dangerous vision of the city at night goes beyond what most creampuff directors are capable of; he gets to the core of everything from the silent, dark windows of towering penthouses to the vicious rattling of crime-ridden subways."


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9. The Matrix Reloaded

One of the most eagerly anticipated sequels in recent memory, The Matrix Reloaded faced almost impossible expectations -- and even if it fell short of meeting them, it still did a pretty good job of continuing the saga the Wachowski brothers started with The Matrix, not to mention earning plenty of money at the box office. While it may be bogged down with elaborate Matrix mythology, puffed-up drama, and straight-faced sci-fi silliness from characters with names like the Merovingian, the Architect, and the Keymaker, Reloaded also did what sequels are supposed to do: Use the framework established in the first chapter to tell a deeper, broader story. It also provided plenty of eye-popping action set pieces, lots more of Hugo Weaving's sneering Agent Smith, and a crisis of faith for Fishburne's Morpheus, who discovers that everything he's believed about the Matrix might be wrong. "On balance," argued James Berardinelli of ReelViews, "The Matrix Reloaded does an admirable job of filling the niche it's supposed to -- that of an action-oriented science fiction adventure."


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8. Akeelah and the Bee

From the instant you look at the poster, you know Akeelah and the Bee is going to be another one of those feel-good pictures about someone (in this case, a cute little girl) overcoming the odds to achieve an unlikely triumph in the final act. But as Roger Ebert is fond of pointing out, it isn't a formula unless it works, and this is a perfect example of familiar ingredients being used in all the right ways. The story of Akeelah Anderson (Keke Palmer), an 11-year-old girl whose gift for spelling earns her a shot at national acclaim -- but places stress on her relationship with her widowed mom (Angela Bassett)! -- Bee gave Fishburne a chance to play the wise-but-mysteriously-reluctant mentor role as her coach, an English professor with a tragic past. We probably don't need to tell you how it all turns out, but what it lacks in surprises, it more than makes up in a smart script, some sensitive direction from Doug Atchison, and typically strong work from its cast. As the Denver Post's Michael Booth put it, "Akeelah and the Bee carefully diagrams every cliche we've absorbed from sports movies, urban dramas, mentor flicks and precocious-children portraits. Yet it works."


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7. Deep Cover

Fishburne followed up his profile-enhancing role in Boyz N the Hood with a rare starring project: Deep Cover, a Bill Duke-directed crime thriller that pitted Fishburne's undercover cop character against Jeff Goldblum as a sleazy, drug-dealing lawyer. It's the kind of storyline setup that leads direct to video these days, but in the early 1990s, the genre still had a few fresh rounds to fire -- and with Fishburne and Goldblum locking horns on the screen, and Dr. Dre (with a young Snoop Dogg in tow) making his solo debut on the soundtrack, this is a movie you want to reach for the next time you're feeling tempted to watch a late-period Steven Seagal flick. As James Rocchi summed it up for Netflix, "Deep Cover was probably conceived as a quickie crime film, but thanks to Fishburne's and Goldblum's performances, it became much more."


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6. The Matrix

Head shorn, resplendent in shades and a black leather trenchcoat, Fishburne reached action deity status with his role as the formidable resistance leader Morpheus in The Matrix. Though Keanu Reeves -- and, perhaps more importantly, the film's cutting-edge special effects -- gave The Matrix its marquee draw, the movie got its dramatic heft from Fishburne's grim portrayal of Morpheus. After all, this is a character who not only led a long war against the sentient machines that took over the planet and reduced humanity to unwitting energy sources, but also snuck into the Matrix's power plant and cracked open the pod containing Neo (Keanu Reeves), the "chosen one" prophesied to lead humans to victory. It's a role requiring a certain amount of gravitas, which Fishburne supplied in spades. In later installments, Morpheus would travel his own storyline arc; here, he exists mainly to help set up the trilogy's dizzying blend of sci-fi, martial arts, and pure visual wizardry. Declaring that "Dimension-hopping has never been so exhilarating and breathlessly lyrical," Mark Halverson of the Sacramento News & Review applauded the way The Matrix's "brilliant visuals and bracing Hong Kong action stunts punch through lengthy streams of technobabble."

Comments

Luke Jones

Luke Jones

good career you can tell

Jul 7 - 05:07 PM

Phillip K.

Phillip Kissell

A Nightmare on Elm Street is a 71%, shouldn't that be his number 9?

Jul 7 - 05:19 PM

mattman6886

Matthew Cohen

Philip K, he wasn't A Nightmare on Elm Street. He was in the third movie.

Jul 9 - 04:13 PM

THEREWOLF

Markus Arbutina

Sorry RT, but Event Horizon was his best movie. Great movie.

Jul 7 - 05:45 PM

tomwaitsjrHAPPYICONOCLAST

Greg Guro

Heh heh. Thanks, I needed the laugh.

Jul 7 - 07:28 PM

THEREWOLF

Markus Arbutina

Actually I really enjoyed Event Horizon, and I thought Fishburne was pretty good in it.

Jul 8 - 04:26 PM

Johnny F.

Johnny Foster

Event Horizon is pretty sweet.. out of true respect for actors I will bow and say yeah he's pretty good.. no further comment

Jul 9 - 02:44 PM

anil k.

anil kumar

Rightly said taylor
Event horizon is his best movie

Jul 7 - 10:28 PM

The Vile

mazyar goodarz

Nope

Jul 8 - 04:33 AM

Sam Chism

Sam Chism

Cherry 2000 was his best

Nov 30 - 02:55 PM

Theresa V.

Theresa Velazquez

Wow! Never picked up Deep Cover. Adding it to my netflix.

Jul 7 - 05:52 PM

Alan Smithee

Alan Smithee

Apocalypse Now is just about the greatest movie ever made so of course it deserves number uno.

Jul 7 - 05:52 PM

King Crunk

King Crunk

It was number 2.....

Jul 7 - 06:57 PM

Alan Smithee

Alan Smithee

But you do understand what "deserves" means?

Jul 8 - 02:20 AM

Brendon D.

Brendon Day

Some people cannot read what is right in front of them :(

Jul 8 - 05:48 AM

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Jul 7 - 06:18 PM

Chris A.

Chris Akley

Wow, 1-5 is a great list. The Matrix was so different and mesmerizing when it came out. It makes my top 10 of all time list. This guy can act.

Jul 7 - 06:55 PM

Andy C.

Andy Coffill

Matrix is fantastic, but not that original... see Dark City which came out the year before, pretty much The Matrix without the fancy martial arts, but superior in my opinion!

Jul 9 - 07:11 AM

King Crunk

King Crunk

It was number 2.....

Jul 7 - 06:57 PM

Alan Smithee

Alan Smithee

But you do understand what "deserves" means?

Jul 8 - 02:20 AM

Brendon D.

Brendon Day

Some people cannot read what is right in front of them :(

Jul 8 - 05:48 AM

King Crunk

King Crunk

Need to see King of New York. Mr. Fishburne has had a pretty fine career.

Jul 7 - 06:58 PM

tomwaitsjrHAPPYICONOCLAST

Greg Guro

Heh heh. Thanks, I needed the laugh.

Jul 7 - 07:28 PM

THEREWOLF

Markus Arbutina

Actually I really enjoyed Event Horizon, and I thought Fishburne was pretty good in it.

Jul 8 - 04:26 PM

Johnny F.

Johnny Foster

Event Horizon is pretty sweet.. out of true respect for actors I will bow and say yeah he's pretty good.. no further comment

Jul 9 - 02:44 PM

tomwaitsjrHAPPYICONOCLAST

Greg Guro

I like him. He's been in a lot of good films, but how many was he the main actor? Not many. . . I mean, he was barely in Apocolypse Now. . . bigger role than Harrison Ford, granted. . .

That said, I wouldn't mind seeing him cast more often with more expanded roles. The few times he's had the chance, he has shined.

[and Mystic River was over-rated. Kevin Bacon did a better job acting than Tim Robbins AND Sean Penn. Further, neither of those two deserved an oscar for it. Holly wood just has been in a bend-over for Eastwood phase.]

Jul 7 - 07:31 PM

Cory

Cory B

Really? Then why did Gran Torino not get a single nomination?

Jul 7 - 08:50 PM

tomwaitsjrHAPPYICONOCLAST

Greg Guro

The phase has ended!

Jul 8 - 12:06 PM

Bye bye

Steven Bailey

I agree that Mystic River was overrated. And I can't stand the sight of Kevin Bacon.

Laurence Fishburne has had a very productive career. Can't wait to see Predators.

Jul 8 - 12:20 AM

Dave J

Dave J

I agree "Mystic River" is a overrated straight forward mess which shouldn't even be on this list at all!

Jul 8 - 10:29 AM

Rash Hunt

Rash Hunt

Kevin Bacon is awesome, wtf

Jul 8 - 12:09 PM

Riz Kid

Shari Lofton

here here. hated HATED! the ending

Jul 8 - 01:37 PM

Aurora B.

Aurora Bellard

Fishburne embodies what it means to have a great career in film and be well-respected among critics and audiences everywhere. The Matrix remains in my top 5 for him, maybe even #1. and he is definitely deserving of an Oscar pretty soon. So keep going Fishbourne!! This is an awesome collection of movies and he actually deserved a Total Recall, unlike some recent actors (Stewart).

Jul 7 - 07:31 PM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

He's the Black Kevin Spacey. Now he just needs his American Beauty.

Jul 8 - 05:26 AM

Bye bye

Steven Bailey

I wouldn't mind another American Beauty. That was a great movie.

Jul 8 - 03:26 PM

Andrew I.

Andrew Imrie

Searching for Bobby Fischer is one of my absolute favorites.

Jul 7 - 08:03 PM

Matt L.

Matt Lubisich

mine too. it's one of the best movies that not many people have seen. i can't even get my wife to watch it because to her Chess is boring. so sad.

Jul 8 - 09:57 AM

Taylor A.

Taylor Agnew

Mystic River is definitely in my top Five faves!

Jul 7 - 08:12 PM

Mark C.

Mark Coonan

Mystic River has its weaknesses in the form of practical implausibilities, but those are what also allow for the film's uncommonly deep inquiry into the psychology of post-traumatic stress disorder in survivors (both victims and other innocents who experience the victimization vicariously) of childhood sexual abuse.

Many who fancy themselves qualified film critics don't get it, even after repeated explanations.

Jul 9 - 12:55 PM

Cory

Cory B

Really? Then why did Gran Torino not get a single nomination?

Jul 7 - 08:50 PM

tomwaitsjrHAPPYICONOCLAST

Greg Guro

The phase has ended!

Jul 8 - 12:06 PM

Cory

Cory B

Fishburne is such a great actor. He also has an epic voice. If I had to choose someone to narrate my life, he'd easily be in the top 10. Maybe top 5.

Jul 7 - 08:51 PM

algreen99

AL Green

He'd be i my top 10 also. Other actors with epic voices are Keith David, Sam Elliot, Christopher Lee, Liam Neeson, Agent Smith haha, can anyone else help me out? I know there's a few more actors with epic voices.

Jul 8 - 05:07 AM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

Morgan Freeman, James Earl Jones and Sean Connery just off the top of my head. Oh and I'd probably include Sir Ian McKellen.

Jul 8 - 05:27 AM

algreen99

AL Green

Wow, how the hell could i have forgotten Morgan Freeman and especially James Earl Jones?!?! I know theres a few more. And youre right about connery and Ian.

Jul 8 - 05:35 AM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

and I think John Gielgud was universally recognized as the king of voicework in British theater.

Jul 9 - 06:06 AM

EclecticBoogaloo

johnny silvestry

Patrick Stewart, Sigourney Weaver

Jul 8 - 09:33 AM

Mr. F

Michael Yunez

Donald Sutherland and Will Arnett

Jul 8 - 10:16 AM

Rash Hunt

Rash Hunt

Kermit the Frog

Jul 8 - 12:07 PM

algreen99

AL Green

Ah yes. donald does have an epic voice.

Jul 9 - 08:30 AM

Riz Kid

Shari Lofton

Hugo Weaving. Agent Smith's real name is Hugo Weaving. See V for Vendetta and Lord of the Rings as well

Jul 8 - 01:39 PM

Riz Kid

Shari Lofton

the late James Coburn and Peter Graves and Deep Roy from Tim Burton movie Fame

Jul 8 - 01:40 PM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin as well for the gravelly voices. For the ladies gotta go with Kathleen Turner and Lauren Bacall.

Jul 9 - 06:05 AM

dryguy05

Nathaniel Phillips

I like Garry Oldman's voice. It is unique in the sense that isn't soothing but scratchy.

Jul 9 - 01:41 PM

Cory

Cory B

Wow, I'm surprised my comment sparked such a great discussion. Lots of good input, guys. Nice job!

Jul 9 - 03:32 PM

CObsession

Matt Kimberlin

For me this has to be Peter Faulk, because I could only dream of my life being as awesome as The Princess Bride.

Jul 9 - 08:52 PM

CObsession

Matt Kimberlin

Falk^

Jul 9 - 08:54 PM

Tristan

tristan Wheeler

malcolm mcdowell's voice is very interesting specially with the accent

Jul 9 - 09:16 PM

King David

King David

Laurence has had an excellent career. For those of you who have not seen "what's love got to do with it" Fishburne in my opinion gives probably his best performance portraying Ike Turner, I know women who still dislike him for that role. Classic film and great career.

Jul 7 - 08:52 PM

Riz Kid

Shari Lofton

Definitely on of those roles that makes it hard to distinguish the actor from that role after you watch the movie i.e Danny Glover in The Color Purple

Jul 8 - 01:42 PM

King David

King David

Exactly

Jul 8 - 03:29 PM

Brendon D.

Brendon Day

He was really good in the Predators movie, i watched it this morning (AUS) and was not expecting a lot going into the film, but i was pleasantly surprised, a short review is in my profile

Jul 7 - 09:48 PM

anil k.

anil kumar

Rightly said taylor
Event horizon is his best movie

Jul 7 - 10:28 PM

The Vile

mazyar goodarz

Nope

Jul 8 - 04:33 AM

Will H.

Will Hitch

Event Horizon!!!!!!!

Jul 7 - 10:45 PM

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