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Every great actor has one role that most critics and audiences would consider to be their strongest, most profound, and career defining performance. For my “money,” the definitive Cuba Gooding Jr. performance is his portrayal of football player Rod Tidwell in Jerry Maguire, the inspirational 1996 classic from writer and director Cameron Crowe. Then again, arguments could also be made for Boyz n the Hood, A Few Good Men, or the title role in American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson - the last of which is one example of some of the actor’s best work since giving his Academy Award-winning performance.
As Good As It Gets (1997)
A grouchy, bigoted, elderly writer (Academy Award winner Jack Nicholson), a waitress raising a boy on her own (Academy Award winner Helen Hunt), and a gay artist who recently suffered a violent assault (Academy Award nominee Greg Kinnear) begin to form an unlikely friendship.
Why it’s a great Cuba Gooding Jr. movie: Cuba Gooding Jr. followed up his Oscar win by sharing the screen with several Oscar darlings in one of the best romantic comedies of all time, James L. Brooks’ As Good as It Gets, as an art dealer who gives Nicholson’s character a piece of his mind after he disrespects Kinnear.
Men Of Honor (2000)
Determined to become the U.S. Navy’s first Black diver, Carl Brashear (Cuba Gooding Jr.) endures the bigotry of his mentor (Robert De Niro) in the 1960s.
Why it’s a great Cuba Gooding Jr. movie: Once again proving how effortlessly he can hold his own opposite the most acclaimed Hollywood heavies, Cuba Gooding Jr. make a perfect, often adversarial, team with Robert De Niro in Men of Honor - an inspirational biopic that sheds light on injustices that occur among those who fight for peace.
Rat Race (2001)
A diverse group of Las Vegas casino patrons become randomly selected to participate in a hunt for $2 million promised to the first person who can reach the loot.
Why it’s a great Cuba Gooding Jr. movie: Cuba Gooding Jr. is also not the only Oscar-winner (see Whoopi Goldberg) in the hilarious ensemble cast of Rat Race, a ridiculous (and ridiculously fun) 21st century update of It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.
Home On The Range (2004)
A group of farm animals band together and try to prevent their ranch from being bought out by capturing a wanted cattle rustler and collecting the reward.
Why it’s a great Cuba Gooding Jr. movie: The ensemble voice cast of Home on the Range (including Roseanne Barr, Dame Judi Dench, and Cuba Gooding Jr. as a horse who aspires to be a hero - unlike his owner) also make this animated Disney flick a fun time for the whole family.
The Fighting Temptations (2003)
A selfish New York City ad executive (Cuba Gooding Jr.) is forced to put together a successful gospel choir in his Atlanta hometown’s local church in order to received a $150,000 inheritance.
Why it’s a great Cuba Gooding Jr. movie: In one of his more heartfelt, romantic, and overall best comedies, Cuba Gooding Jr. got to work with pop-star Beyoncé Knowles in The Fighting Temptations, which is worth checking out for the soundtrack alone.
Big Time In Hollywood, FL (2015)
After their parents finally decide to kick them out, two man-child brothers (Lenny Jacobson and co-creator Alex Anfanger) set out to achieve their dreams of becoming successful filmmakers, only to fall prey to their own ambitions in the most disastrous of ways.
Why it’s a great Cuba Gooding Jr. TV show: Speaking of comedy, Cuba Gooding Jr. appears to be having a blast poking fun at himself by playing an exaggerated version of himself in Big Time in Hollywood, FL - a Comedy Central original miniseries for people who prefer their show biz satires as dark as they come.
Machete Kills (2013)
A tough, retired federale (Danny Trejo) is called back into action (again) by the President of the United States (Charlie Sheen) to stop a ruthless arms dealer (Mel Gibson) from launching a deadly weapon into space.
Why it’s a great Cuba Gooding Jr. movie: In one of his more tongue-in-cheek comedic efforts, Cuba Gooding Jr. plays one of the many disguises very convincingly worn by the villainous El Chameleón (originally seen as Walton Goggins) in Machete Kills, the second chapter of writer and director Robert Rodriguez’s brilliantly bizarre tribute to the grindhouse movie era (which, itself, began as a fake trailer in Grindhouse from 2007).
American Gangster (2007)
Why it’s a great Cuba Gooding Jr. movie: Cuba Gooding Jr. is one of the few people to address the great Denzel Washington with one of his own signature catchphrases, “My man,” as a drug dealing rival of Frank Lucas in American Gangster - one of the best Ridley Scott movies, especially of the filmmaker’s fact-based stories.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (David Oyelowo) leads a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in an effort to secure the right for Black people to vote in 1965.
Why it’s a great Cuba Gooding Jr. movie: Speaking of fact-based stories, Cuba Gooding Jr. plays influential civil rights lawyer Fred Gray in Selma, director Ava DuVernay’s stunning and surprisingly honest biopic about one of the most important figures in the fight for racial equality.
American Crime Story: The People Vs. O.J. Simpson (2016)
Retired star athlete and actor O.J. Simpson stands trial for the murder of his wife, Nicole, and her friend, Ron Goldman, in 1994 Los Angeles.
Why it’s a great Cuba Gooding Jr. TV show: Speaking of stunning and honest biopics, Cuba Gooding Jr. received an Emmy nomination for playing the titular disgraced NFL Hall of Famer in American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson - the first and most stirring of FX’s anthology series retelling the most famous court cases in recent history.
If you really want Cuba Gooding Jr. to show you the money, try out these movies and TV shows.
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Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.