Can you believe Morgan Freeman is now 73 years young? The man has been a staple on the screen throughout the past four decades, and despite some questionable role choices (like in Dreamcatcher), he’s been an incredibly solid player in a number of fantastic films.
Narrowing this list down was hard, simply due to the sheer number of movies and shows that Freeman has been a part of. I tried to pick roles where he played a significant part. For example, The Dark Knight didn’t qualify simply because Freeman’s role as Lucius Fox wasn’t particularly large within the film.
However, Freeman has played in a number of other really great movies where his role was significant, and choosing just six wasn’t easy. Nevertheless, here are the 6 Best Morgan Freeman Roles, in my humble opinion.
Count Dracula – The Electric Company
There are literally half a generation of adults out there who grew up learning numbers, phonetics, vocabulary and grammar from Morgan Freeman and Co. on the 1970s children’s show The Electric Company. For six seasons, from 1971 through 1977, Freeman starred in 780 episodes as Count Dracula – helping kids learn to read and improve grammar skills. Using skits, cartoons, songs and more, the Sesame Street sister show developed young minds and encouraged turning on the TV. A number of talented actors passed through the show (Bill Cosby, Gene Wilder, Carol Burnett), but Freeman was one of only seven cast members to appear in each episode.
Hoke Colburn – Driving Miss Daisy
This 1989 film won four Oscars, and earned Freeman a nomination for Best Leading Actor. Set in the south in the 50s, Freeman is hired as a driver for a wealthy, elderly, Jewish woman. A relationship develops over 25 years between the two as their differences fade away. Freeman’s voice and good-natured self helped sell his role and the incredible patience he has for Daisy. This truly is a masterpiece of a movie, and a must-see for anyone who likes Morgan Freeman’s work.
Ellis Boyd ‘Red’ Redding – The Shawshank Redemption
If you haven’t seen this movie yet, you should probably stop what you are doing and go watch it. It is, arguably, one of the best films ever made. In fact it is rated #1 on the IMDb.com Top 250 list, and has a 98% positive audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It also happens to be a personal favorite. Freeman stars alongside Tim Robbins (his best role) as the man who can “get things” in prison. Red becomes friends with Robbins’ character over the years and a strong bond develops. Freeman’s wizened, institutionalized character is forever changed after meeting Robbins and learning that acts of decency make life worth living.
Detective Lt. William Somerset – Se7en
This dramatic crime thriller featured Freeman alongside Brad Pitt and the results were superb! Again Freeman plays the older of the two main characters, wizened to the job with a level head. This contrasts to the rookie Pitt who loves to rush headlong into things. The serial killer they chase is picking his victims and their deaths based on the seven deadly sins as characterized by the Catholic Church. This David Fincher-helmed movie is relentless in its story-telling, and the twist at the end is so brilliant, even veteran detective Somerset never saw it coming.
Eddie Scrap-Iron Dupris – Million Dollar Baby
Admittedly we don’t see Freeman too much in this film. However his calm, peaceful-sounding voice carries the narration through the film and based on this alone deserves a spot on the list. Freeman has one of the voices and can lull you to sleep just as easily as it can leave you enraptured by the story. Freeman’s character is an ex-boxer who lost an eye in his final fight. He now works at the gym of his old trainer Frankie (Clint Eastwood) and watches as Maggie (Hilary Swank) begins her career. Scrap offers Swank boxing tidbits as she strives to become a better boxer and catch the eye of Frankie. Finally, at the end of the film, it’s Freeman’s soft voice that carries past the powerful conclusion to the film. Another must-see movie.
Nelson Mandela – Invictus
Although it struggled at the box office ($37.4M domestically), Invictus earned Freeman yet another Oscar nomination and is one of his best roles ever. Seriously, Freeman as Nelson Mandela? Plus Matt Damon (who was perhaps mis-cast)? How could people not flock to the theater? But they didn’t, and many missed out on a truly tremendous performance from Freeman. While in his first term as President of South Africa, Freeman tries to unite his post-Apartheid country through the sport of rugby. He believes that a win would unite the country and give both blacks and whites a sense of pride and nationalism. The film is based on actual events and is well-worth the watch.
Other great roles worth mentioning: Azeem in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Fast Black in Street Smart, Ned Logan in Unforgiven.