Top 5 Morgan Freeman Performances: More Than Just a Perfect Voice

“I want to sleep in a bed made out of your voice,” Ted (Seth MacFarlane) tells lawyer Patrick Meighan (Morgan Freeman) in Ted 2. If he just wanted to do voiceover work for the rest of his career, Freeman could easily get away with narrating every documentary and commercial available. But he’s so much more than just his famous voice. Having worked as an actor for over 50 years, Freeman has turned in a slew of memorable performances over the course of his career.

It wasn’t easy to choose, but here are the Top 5 performances from Morgan Freeman.

5. Bruce Almighty

To be clear, Bruce Almighty is a bad film. Its central character is selfish, conceited, and you know you’re in a bad place when it’s trying to get a catchphrase started. But casting Morgan Freeman as God is brilliant. While it’s not the most complex depiction of the almighty, it’s perfect casting for a friendly comedy, and it shows the reassuring value of Freeman’s presence. While Jim Carrey constantly mugs for the spotlight, all Freeman has to do is flash a little grin and he completely owns the screen.

4. Glory

Let’s be honest: Glory has the same problem as other Edward Zwick films like Blood Diamond and The Last Samurai in that a white guy (in this case, Matthew Broderick’s Colonel Robert Gould Shaw) is the entry point to the story about people of color. That being said, it’s still filled with strong performances, among them Freeman’s turn as Sergeant Major John Rawlins. Although Denzel Washington earned an Oscar for his performance, Freeman is equally effective with his determined, even-keeled approach as Rawlins.

3. Invictus

While Freeman has played his fair share of villains, his heroes tend to shine more brightly, perhaps none more so than his turn as Nelson Mandela. While Clint Eastwood’s movie is largely unremarkable, Freeman is perfect as Mandela. While the character on the page is pretty much a hagiography, Freeman nevertheless imbues Mandela with humanity and constantly conveying the power of forgiveness. He brings Mandela back from a saint and back to a person who’s trying to hold his country together with both hands. It’s not easy to play icons, but Freeman made it look easy here.

2. Million Dollar Baby

The film that finally nabbed Freeman an Oscar, his performance as Eddie “Scrap-Iron” Dupris is the gritty heart of Eastwood’s boxing film. Yet again, his quiet dignity is always at the surface, but is always ready to explode with something more fierce. You never look at Freeman and see a pushover, and it’s because you know he’s harboring something deep and intense. In Million Dollar Baby, Freeman shows off his intensity and kindness in equal measure.

1. The Shawshank Redemption

Although Freeman had worked as an actor for decades, this was arguably the role that took his career to the next level. And while Tim Robbins’ Andy Dufresne may be the focal point of the story, the real main character is Freeman’s Red, the guy who thinks he has everything figured out and wired and discovers that there’s more to life than simply being the provider of prison contraband. The movie takes full advantage of both Freeman’s gifts, not only his ability to provide powerful narration, but also his screen presence. The Shawshank Redemption lets Freeman be funny, wistful, depressed, thoughtful, and so much more as he completely owns every moment of the movie.

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