Illustration by June Le for an article on Chadwick Boseman, featuring drawings on Black Panther, Jackie Robinson and Thurgood Marshall
Chadwick Boseman has given many landmark performances. (Illustration by June Le, Minneapolis College of Art and Design)

The 5 Best Chadwick Boseman Movie Roles

The late actor was not only an inspiration, but an incredibly skilled actor as well. Here are the top performances from his iconic career.

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Illustration by June Le for an article on Chadwick Boseman, featuring drawings on Black Panther, Jackie Robinson and Thurgood Marshall

The late actor was not only an inspiration, but an incredibly skilled actor as well. Here are the top performances from his iconic career.

The year 2020 has been one of countless ups and downs. With every month, a new threat or catastrophe seems to occur. Last month brought yet another unpleasant surprise: the death of the beloved 43-year-old actor Chadwick Boseman on Aug. 28. While his death may come as a shock to many, a statement on his Instagram account revealed that he had been battling with colon cancer since 2016. Throughout that time, however, he continued acting, and as if that wasn’t impressive enough, even delivered some of his best roles yet. Without further ado, a quick look into some of Boseman’s finest performances.

1. Jackie Robinson in “42”

One of Boseman’s first films, “42” is a biographical film about the first Black athlete in Major League Baseball, Jackie Robinson. Boseman himself plays Robinson, and although it’s not easy to portray someone as iconic as Jackie Robinson, he does an incredible job of doing so. Robinson’s widow, Rachel Robinson, praised Boseman and the film’s historical accuracy.

“It was important to me because I wanted it to be an authentic piece,” Robinson remarked. “I wanted to get it right. I didn’t want them to make him an angry black man or some stereotype, so it was important for me to be in there. … I love the movie. I’m pleased with it. It’s authentic and it’s also very powerful.” The film is available on Amazon Prime, however, AMC will also be screening the film at 300 select locations in Boseman’s honor.

2. Thurgood Marshall in “Marshall”

Boseman’s portrayal of the first Black Supreme Court judge, Thurgood Marshall, in “Marshall” is yet another stellar performance on his part. The film focuses on one of Marshall’s first cases, State of Connecticut v. Joseph Spell, and features many other Hollywood big names such as Kate Hudson and Josh Gad. Although Boseman made his mark in his role as Marshall, he also clearly impacted the movie‘s cast, evident by fellow cast member Josh Gad’s touching tribute to Boseman following his death. “You come upon people in your life who are next-level good,” Gad remarked in a tearful Instagram video. “This was a man who was beyond talented and was so unbelievably giving not only as a performer but as a human being.” The film is available on Amazon Prime and Showtime.

3. Stormin Norman in “Da 5 Bloods”

Spike Lee’s latest film, “Da 5 Bloods,” is yet another work that exhibits Boseman’s amazing acting abilities. The film, which takes place during the Vietnam War, centers around a squad of Black U.S. Army soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division. The squad, nicknamed the “Bloods,” is led by Boseman’s character, “Stormin'” Norman Earl Holloway. While Boseman’s character — spoiler alert — dies early in the movie, Boseman is still present throughout the film in visions of Norman or scenes of his dead body. Many have likened Norman to Boseman’s other film roles. As renowned journalist and cultural critic A.O Scott wrote in a New York Times Review, “[Boseman is] a casting choice that underlines the heroism of the character, who is stamped with the likeness of Jackie Robinson and T’Challa.” The film, which was released quite recently on Netflix, is still available on the platform for the foreseeable future.

4. James Brown in “Get On Up”

Another biographical film, “Get On Up” stars Boseman as renowned singer and songwriter James Brown. In this role, Boseman demonstrates not only his pure acting talent but his ability to sing and dance. Boseman’s performance won him Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture from the NAACP Image Awards, an award given to honor outstanding Black people in the arts. Not to mention, he received many glowing reviews: “Incarnating James Brown in all his ornery uniqueness, he [Boseman] deserves a Pulitzer, a Nobel and instant election to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” film critic Richard Corliss wrote in a Times Review. “Get On Up” is currently available on Amazon Prime and HBO Max.

5. King T’Challa in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) franchise

Perhaps one of Boseman’s most celebrated roles is T’Challa. T’Challa, also known by his alter ego Black Panther, is king of the fictional nation Wakanda. First introduced in Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War,” where he assumes the throne after his father’s death, T’Challa really comes into his own in “Black Panther.” Boseman brings a certain poise to the role, evident in “Black Panther” and the subsequent Marvel films “Infinity War” and “Endgame.” As one of the first Black superheroes and protagonists on the big screen, T’Challa, and Boseman himself, have become an inspiration to many Black children across the world. Boseman also received countless awards –– MTV Movie & TV Awards, Teen Choice Awards, People’s Choice Awards, and more –– for his performance in “Black Panther.” All four movies are available on DisneyPlus and Amazon Prime.

From playing historical figures like Jackie Robinson and Thurgood Marshall, to the iconic King T’Challa, Boseman has truly made his mark on the film industry and the world. Luckily, one of the films he was working on, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” was able to complete filming and will be released later in the year. However, Boseman’s untimely death puts a wrench in all and any plans for “Black Panther 2,” which was slated for May 2022 as part of Marvel’s Phase Four. Regardless of what Disney and Marvel Studios decide to do, there are some big shoes, and hearts, that need to be filled.

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Hannah Docter-Loeb

Wesleyan University
Biology, Psychology, Education Studies Minor

Passionate about science, education, the environment, and journalism!

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