Morgan Freeman was born in Memphis. Tennessee. As a young man, Freeman attended Los Angeles City College before serving in the US Air Force as a mechanic between 1955 and 1959. His first exposure to acting was on the stage when he appeared in an all-African American production of Hello, Dolly! Freeman continued his stage work throughout the 1970s, receiving numerous awards and even being nominated for a Tony Award for his performance in the 1978 production of The Mighty Gents. Freeman has won four Obie Awards, one for creating the role of Hoke Coleburn in Alfred Uhry’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Driving Miss Daisy. Freeman first appeared on television as several characters including “Easy Reader”, “Mel Mounds” and “Count Dracula” on the 1971 Children’s Television Workshop (now Sesame Workshop) show The Electric Company. For most of the 1980s, Freeman appeared in many films and was gifted with an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of a hoodlum in the 1987 thriller Street Smart. He earned a second Academy Award nomination for his astounding performance in the 1989 film version of Driving Miss Daisy opposite the late Jessica Tandy. The same year, he starred in the war drama Glory, alongside Denzel Washington and Matthew Broderick. In the 1990s, Freeman’s star rose as he starred in successful movies such as 1991’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves with Kevin Costner and Alan Rickman, the 1992 Clint Eastwood-directed Western The Unforgiven and 1994’s The Shawshank Redemption, which earned Freeman his third Academy Award nomination. He’s even shown his penchant for comedy playing G-d opposite Jim Carrey and Jennifer Aniston in 2003’s Bruce Almighty. In honor of his 77th birthday, here is the Top 10 Morgan Freeman movies.
10. Kiss the Girls: – This 1997 crime drama was based on the best-selling novel by James Patterson of the same name. Freeman played detective and forensic pathologist Alex Cross, who is investigating the disappearance of his niece and finds that she’s part of a series of young women who have recently vanished. Co-starring Naomi Judd and Cary Elwes, this movie is a riveting thriller and Freeman played a man desperate to save his niece as well as the other young women extremely well.
9. Outbreak: – This 1995 action drama had Freeman co-starring with other Hollywood A-listers like Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo, Kevin Spacey, Donald Sutherland, a pre-Grey’s Anatomy Patrick Dempsey and Cuba Gooding, Jr. The movie’s plot focused on an outbreak of a fictional Ebola-like virus that comes from Zaire to the United States. Freeman played General Billy Ford, who discovered the virus in the African jungle in the late 1960s and to keep it a secret he and General Donald McClintock (Sutherland) destroy the camp where it was found. Fast-forward to 1995, the virus resurfaces in Zaire and a host animal of the virus is illegally brought the US, thus facilitating a deadly outbreak that starts killing people. Freeman held his own alongside Hollywood heavy hitters in this pulse-pounding actioner that left moviegoers on the edges of their seats.
8. Se7en: – This 1995 thriller had Freeman teaming up with Brad Pitt. Freeman played soon to retire police detective William Somerset. He’s paired with the newly transferred David Mills (Pitt) to investigate a case involving a sadistic serial killer, whose murders correspond with the seven deadly sins. Co-starring Kevin Spacey and Gwyneth Paltrow, Freeman and Pitt worked well off each other as they tried to track down the identity of this merciless killer. The movie’s jolt of an ending allowed Freeman’s character to show that he cared for Pitt’s character and didn’t want him to see the serial killer’s latest victim.
7. Glory: – This 1989 war drama had Freeman co-starring with Denzel Washington, Mathew Broderick, Cary Elwes and Andre Braugher. Its screenplay was based on the personal letters of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (Broderick’s character in the movie,) the novel One Gallant Rush by Peter Burchard and Lincoln Kirstein’s compilation of photos of the monument to the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry on Boston Common. The film was about the first formal unit of the US Army during the American Civil War to be made up entirely of African-American men, as told from the point of view of Colonel Shaw, its white commanding officer. They were the first unit of what became known as the United States Colored Troops and known for their heroic actions at Fort Wagner. Freeman played Sgt. Mjr. John Rawlins, Freeman’s camaraderie with the other members of the cast made the movie work and it won three Academy Awards.
6. Driving Miss Daisy: – This 1989 dramedy was adapted from the Alfred Uhry play of the same name. Freeman reprised the role of Hoke Coleburn, which he played in the play version. Co-starring with the late Jessica Tandy, Dan Aykroyd, Patti LuPone and the late Esther Rolle, the film followed a wealthy 72-year old Jewish white woman, Daisy Werthan (Tandy) and her relationship with her black chauffeur, Coleburn (Freeman.) Werthan teaches Coleburn how to read and they form a friendship that comes to define them both. Tandy and Freeman’s on-screen connection came through to moviegoers, it garnered nine Academy award nominations and won for Best Picture, Tandy won for Best Actress and for Best Adapted Screenplay.
5. Along Came a Spider: – This 2001 thriller was adapted from the 1993 novel of the same name by James Patterson. Freeman reprised his role as Forensic Pathologist Alex Cross, who is in mourning for his murdered partner and on the verge of retirement when he is called in to investigate the disappearance of a United States Congressman’s daughter. Co-starring Monica Potter, Michael Wincott, Dylan Baker, a pre-Terminator: Salvation Anton Yelchin, Jay O. Sanders and Penelope Ann Miller, Freeman’s portrayal of the broken Cross comes through as he weaves through clues and betrayals until he finds the truth behind the girl’s kidnapping.
4. Deep Impact: – This 1998 science fiction drama had Freeman playing the President of the United States at a time when a comet threatened to destroy all life on Earth. Co-starring Téa Leoni, a pre-Lord of the Rings Elijah Wood, Robert Duvall, Vanessa Redgrave, James Cromwell, Jon Favreau, Mary McCormack, Richard Schiff, Leelee Sobieski, Blair Underwood and Dougray Scott, Freeman played a calm and collected President amidst worldwide disaster.
3. Bruce Almighty: – This 2003 fantasy comedy had Freeman co-starring with funnyman Jim Carrey. Carrey’s character, Buffalo , New York television field reporter Bruce Nolan, wants to be an anchorman, but is passed over and becomes frustrated when other things in his life just aren’t going the way he wants and complains to G-d. Nolan then gets paged by G-d (Freeman,) who offers to give Bruce his powers to prove that he is doing the job correctly. What ensues are hysterical hijinks as Carrey’s character uses the powers to aid his own situation not knowing how it’s hurting others. Co-starring Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell, Catherine Bell, Lisa Ann Walter and Paul Satterfield, Freeman’s carefree and joyful portrayal of the Almighty was a departure from his usual dramatic roles and gave the film an additional comedic jolt.
2. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves: – This 1991 action adventure drama had Freeman co-starring with Kevin Costner, Alan Rickman, Christian Slater, Michael Wincott and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. Freeman played Azeem, who befriends Robin of Locksley (Costner) while they are imprisoned during the Crusades in Jerusalem. Azeem vows to stay with Robin until he can save his life as he did his by freeing him during his own escape. Freeman’s staunch yet playful at times portrayal of the religious Azeem worked well with Costner’s bravado as the main character.
1. The Shawshank Redemption: – This 1994 crime drama was adapted from Stephen King’s novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. Co-starring with Tim Robbins, William Sadler, Gil Bellows, Freeman played Otis “Red” Redding, a fellow inmate in the fictional Shawshank State Prison in Maine with Andy Dufresne (Robbins,) a banker, who was unjustly imprisoned for 19 years for murdering his wife and her golf pro lover. Freeman and Robbins on-screen friendship came across to audiences amidst the turmoil of the story as Andy faces attacks from other inmates and realizing the truth behind his wife’s murder. Freeman played the “only guilty man in Shawshank” perfectly with a cool demeanor which culminate in an unforgettable performance.