*One of the highlights of the recent rather bland Golden Globes telecast was the presentation of the honorary Cecil B. DeMille Award to the great Morgan Freeman (joining fellow winners including Robert DeNiro, Robin Williams, Anthony Hopkins, Jack Nicholson and dozens of others). The Globes also showed an excellent mash-up of Freeman’s career (including an amusing clip from The Electric Company). So, all this attention got us to thinking … what are Freeman’s five greatest roles? Here’s our list:
5) Street Smart – Freeman earned his first Academy Award nomination for his vicious, stunning performance as a pimp named “Fast Black” in this sadly overlooked film from 1987. Freeman is a revelation as he menaces a journalist (Christopher Reeve) who has fabricated a story on prostitution. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLN05rG7G44)
4) Glory – Denzel Washington won the Oscar for his incredible role as freed slave “Trip,” in this sprawling, noble 1989 Civil War epic but Freeman’s understated performance as Sgt. Maj. John Rawlins still echoes. His campfire prayer is unforgettable (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cp8r5lyRlOQ&feature=related).
3) The Shawshank Redemption – It’s arguably the most beloved modern movie (check out its rankings on the IMDB top 250 here) and Freeman is right at the heart of it. Freeman, as resourceful convict Ellis “Red” Redding, and Tim Robbins (as Andy Dufresne) deliver a tender look at friendship, courage and determination, all while marooned inside the stone walls of a Maine prison. His parole scene is something to behold (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KtwXlIwozog).
2) Invictus – Freeman perfectly captures the spirit and soul of Nelson Mandela in this 2009 feature, which chronicles the story of South Africa’s 1995 Rugby World Cup victory and his relationship with the team’s captain (Matt Damon). He earned another Oscar nomination for his role.
1) Driving Miss Daisy and Million Dollar Baby (tie) – OK, it’s a cop out. But it’s impossible to choose between these two performances. Freeman finally won his first Oscar for his role as weary boxing-gym employee Eddie “Scrap Iron” Dupuis in Clint Eastwood’s devastating 2004 Best Picture Winner; he earned his first Best Actor nomination playing Hoke Coburn, the chauffeur of Miss Daisy (Jessica Tandy) in Bruce Beresford’s crowd-pleasing 1989 Best Picture Winner.