Jamie Foxx movies are almost always good. It's just his performances. They're always something special. And it can be any role. Whether it's Jamie Foxx smiling and laughing at a piano, or it's Jamie Foxx talking about how he's going to rid the world of Spider-Man. It doesn't matter. If he's in it, I'll see it.
In fact, I think have seen him in pretty much everything he's been in. From his days on In Living Color and The Jamie Foxx Show to his first film role in Toys, to his most recent role in Project Power, Jamie Foxx is one of my favorite actors, and I can’t get enough of him. But what are his best performances? Well, you’re about to find out.
12. Dean “MF” Jones – Horrible Bosses
For Dean “MF” Jones, the Dean is silent. That’s because the “MF” he goes by in Horrible Bosses is… well, it’s what you’d think the MF would stand for. In the role, Mr. Foxx plays a “murder consultant” who’s not very good at negotiating. He also has some of the best lines in the entire movie, which is saying a lot when you have such a great ensemble cast.
While not a major role in the film, I’ll always remember the story as to how he actually got his moniker. And would you believe that he was originally going to be called “Cocksucker Jones”? I can only imagine the reason he would have gotten that name, but I’m sure it would have been hilarious, just like the character himself.
11. Bats – Baby Driver
Honestly, Bats and Dean “MF” Jones are almost the same character, except one is played purely for comedy (Dean), while the other is played only partially for comedy (the “Michael Myers” scene in Baby Driver is evidence that the movie isn’t meant to be taken too seriously). But Bats is actually really scary, killing undercover cops and anybody else who crosses him. Jamie Foxx sometimes plays tough guys, and sometimes plays quite the opposite. But in Baby Driver, he’s the baddest “MF” on the planet, and you don’t want to cross his path.
Baby Driver is a weird film in that its tone fluctuates on a dime. And Bats is probably the main reason for that. Here you have this silly movie, and then you have this homicidal creep that Jamie Foxx just plays so well. I’m surprised he hasn’t played more menacing characters. He’s really good at it!
10. Drew Bundini Brown – Ali
Yes, Ali is pretty much all Will Smith all the time in this pretty decent biopic from Michael Mann. But Jamie Foxx shouldn’t be forgotten for his role as assistant trainer, Drew Bundini Brown, either. It doesn’t matter that he’s Jewish and that Ali’s Muslim. They still get along.
Until they don’t. Because Bundini has a pretty big fall into alcohol and depression, and Jamie Foxx plays this role impeccably. Yes, I love when Mr. Foxx plays tough guys, but I like him even more when he plays deeply flawed characters. And Ali is one of Jamie Foxx's best performances to date in that regard.
9. Walter McMillian – Just Mercy
As I mentioned earlier, I’m more into the dramatic Jamie Foxx performances than the badass ones. But as Walter McMillian, a real death row inmate who was wrongly convicted of murder, Jamie Foxx knocks it out the park as a man who has already given up hope and thinks he’s done for until a young lawyer (played by Michael B. Jordan) fights for his rights. Like Ali, Jamie Foxx is more of a background character to the events that follow (even though it’s his trial!), but he’s such a strong background character that you never forget his presence, which is the sign of a great actor.
Just Mercy has many opportunities to be hokey, but it never is, and Jamie Foxx’s performance is a large reason why. He was nominated for best Male Actor in a Supporting Role for the Screen Actors Guild and he deserved it. He’s excellent in this.
8. Nathaniel Ayers – The Soloist
In The Soloist, Jamie Foxx plays another real person in Nathaniel Ayers, a former student at Julliard who had to drop out because of his mental illness. But his role as Nathaniel is a lot more complex than Walter McMillian, since Jamie Foxx has to pull off having schizophrenia as well as being a musical prodigy. It’s a tough tight rope to walk across, but, yep, you guessed it, Jamie Foxx pulls it off.
Honestly, The Soloist isn’t the greatest movie in the world. And unlike Just Mercy, it actually is a little hokey. But Jamie Foxx has a standout performance, so at the least the acting is very good. If only the movie could live up to that performance.
7. “Steamin’” Willie Beamen – Any Given Sunday
Playing a third string quarterback, Jamie Foxx kills it as "Steamin’" Willie Beamen, who seems to have excuses for everything. Willie Beamen is an interesting character because you kind of see where he’s coming from, but he’s blaming a lot of his problems on things that he could probably just solve himself, especially when it comes to Al Pacino’s character, as head coach, Anthony “Tony” D’Amato. D’Amato believes that Willie can be great, but only if he’s willing to step up and take responsibility. And thankfully, he does by the end.
Jamie Foxx is great in this role because he’s both a showboat, but also sympathetic. Any Given Sunday has a lot of tremendous performances, but the one that really sticks out for me is Jamie Foxx’s character. He believes every last thing that comes out of his mouth, even when you, the viewer, know it’s not true.
6. Art/The Major – Project Power
The most recent film on this list, Jamie Foxx plays a tough guy who will do anything to find his daughter. Even if it means roughing up some super-powered cretins in the process. And let’s be frank, the other superhero movie that Jamie Foxx was in, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, was pretty bad. But Project Power is pretty good, and he’s the “hero” this time around, so how can you go wrong?
In Project Power, Jamie Foxx is blasting supervillains and putting people in the trunk of his car. But his best moments are when he’s quiet and listening to his costar, Robin (Played by Dominique Fishback). And the fact that Jamie Foxx can coexist in a role that has be both quiet and loud is just another reason why we’re so lucky to have him as an actor.
5. President James Sawyer – White House Down
In Roland Emmerich’s best movie (fight me), Jamie Foxx basically plays Obama. And it’s not even subtle, either. Because in this action-thriller, Jamie Foxx has to get out of the White House during a terrorist attack, and he definitely channels his inner politician since he acts very Presidential in the role.
But he also channels his inner comedian, since White House Down is also really funny. And Jamie Foxx is such a good actor that he can pull off playing a young, urbane President, but also versatile enough to play a semi-tough action hero with comedic chops to boot. What’s not to love?
4. Curtis Taylor Jr. - Dreamgirls
Semi-playing a real person in Curtis’s character (he’s apparently based off of Motown founder, Berry Gordy Jr.), Curtis will do anything to get black music to white audiences—Even making it disco! And throughout the film, you get a sense that Curtis’s ambition will get the best of him, and it kind of does, but not in the way you might expect. Jamie Foxx plays a cruel character, shuffling a great singer to the side if he feels a slimmer singer will appeal more to white audiences. And you kind of hate his character, but that’s intentional.
But you also kind of appreciate his drive. And I feel that only somebody with a range like Jamie Foxx can make such a detestable character admirable. That’s the Jamie Foxx magic!
3. Max – Collateral
In a role that earned Jamie Foxx an Academy Award nomination, Jamie Foxx plays Max, an L.A. taxi driver who just so happens to pick up the wrong passenger in Tom Cruise’s character, Vincent, the hitman. Max is the quintessential can-you-just-leave-me-alone, character who is in the wrong place at the wrong time. But he steps up because he has to, and it’s surprisingly believable throughout. His character arc is huge, and it happens right before your eyes without you even realizing it’s happening. Again, that’s that Jamie Foxx magic.
Jamie Foxx can play tough people, no problem, but the fact that he can also play meek average Joe’s with aplomb is pretty mind-blowing. Again, what range! And this is the best of those roles, by far.
2. Django – Django Unchained
Django just wants his wife back. But he’s a slave... until he’s set free, of course. Then, he’s a bounty hunter who likes the way you die, boy. And in Quentin Tarantino’s epic revisionist Western, Django Unchained, Jamie Foxx proves that he can play an illiterate slave who can rise up and shoot plantation owners to Hell. Because why not?
Django Unchained is one of my least favorite Tarantino movies, but probably my favorite Jamie Foxx movie. How can that be, you ask? Well, it’s because Jamie Foxx is tremendous in it, even though I think the movie itself isn’t all that special. From the very first scene where he’s cold and afraid, to the very last scene where he’s walking with swagger, Jamie Foxx owns this role. And to think, Django could have been Will Smith. And while look, I love my Will, he’s already been in a western. And I’ll tell you what. It was no Django.
1. Ray Charles - Ray
Come on now, what else could be number 1? He won Best Actor for his role as Ray Charles and he definitely deserved it. At times, Jamie Foxx is unrecognizable and you totally believe that Ray Charles is actually on that screen, and not Jamie. From his mannerisms, to the way he walks, to the way he sings, Jamie Foxx is Ray Charles. And that’s all there is to it.
Really, I can’t think of another actor who has fully become the person that they’re mimicking. Even to the extent that Jamie Foxx had his eyes glued shut just so he would be “blind” for the role. Now that’s dedication!
Fact is, Jamie Foxx is one of the greatest actors that we have, no question. But what’s your favorite role of his? Any Booty Call fans out there? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.