Though it has been over two years since Chadwick Boseman passed away, his legacy has lived on through his works. This is especially true in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, which, though it doesn’t feature him, is filled with his spirit. The actor passed away on August 28, 2020, but not before he had left his indelible mark onscreen. Throughout his career, he portrayed historical figures Jackie Robinson, James Brown, and Thurgood Marshall; won an Academy Award nomination with his electric performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; and embodied the role of King T’Challa in the MCU in a way no one else could.
He had a charisma and passion that allowed him to jump into the roles of these historical and powerful characters. Whether he was portraying a famous musician, a baseball star, or a noble leader, his performances were powerful, emotional, and moving. Both his work in film and his philanthropy will be remembered for years to come. Here are Boseman’s 10 best films, ranked.
Boseman starred in and produced 21 Bridges, which premiered on November 22, 2019. The film follows NYPD Detective Andre Davis (Boseman) who begins to investigate two suspected cop killers. However, the search leads him to uncover a bigger conspiracy involving both criminals and corrupt cops. The situation eventually escalates to the point where all 21 bridges in Manhattan, NY, are closed in a bid to capture the perpetrators. 21 Bridges isn’t a particularly new or groundbreaking thriller, but it is entertaining nonetheless, and Boseman is compelling as a cop struggling with his father’s legacy and identifying who he wants to be.
Avengers: Infinity War premiered on April 27, 2018, and sees The Mad Titan, Thanos (Josh Brolin), rise up in a scheme to collect all the infinity stones and wipe out half of the population. All of Earth’s greatest heroes band together in a bid to stop their most powerful foe yet. Avengers: Infinity War was a grand spectacle and gloriously ambitious superhero crossover. It wasn’t without flaws and a bit of overstuffing, but it was thrilling, entertaining, and filled with superhero action. One of the best moments of the film is when T’Challa (Boseman) rallied Wakanda to save the rest of the world even when the isolated country could’ve chosen to protect themselves instead.
Get On Up premiered on August 1, 2014, and saw Boseman transformed into James Brown, the Godfather of Soul. The film tracks the incredible true story of Brown, who was raised in an impoverished home and went to jail as a teenager. However, he rose above his circumstances, establishing a career for himself starting with gospel singing. It was later jazz blues that propelled him into fame and would see him go down in history as a music legend. While Get On Up is a bit too condensed, it is a worthy and fitting homage to Brown’s life. Additionally, Boseman was a perfect fit for Brown and impeccably captured his trauma, charisma, energy, and soul with his performance.
Marshall is a biographical legal drama that premiered on October 13, 2017. The film follows Thurgood Marshall (Boseman), a young lawyer working for the NAACP. When a white socialite accuses a Black chauffeur, Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown), of sexual assault, Marshall employs the help of Sam Friedman (Josh Gad) and the two race to build a defense for Spelling while also dealing with racism and prejudice. Marshall is a solid film that shined a light on a lesser-known story. It did suffer a bit from feeling stiff and failing to encompass the full legacy of Thurgood. However, Boseman’s passion, charisma, and convictions are more than enough to hold the audience’s attention.
42 premiered on April 12, 2013, and is a poignant and inspiring biographical sports drama. The film follows Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman), a talented young baseball player, who makes history when he is the first Black man to be signed onto a major league baseball team, the Brooklyn Dodgers. Despite facing racism from all sides, he shows unbelievable restraint and poise as he continues to prove his incredible talent in the face of discrimination. 42 plays it safe and glosses over some history, but it still shines a light on Robinson, who was a truly courageous hero. Meanwhile, Boseman is believable as Robinson and offers an empathetic portrayal of an underdog struck with unimaginable adversity.
Captain America: Civil War premiered in 2016 and marked Boseman’s Black Panther debut in the MCU. The film follows the Avengers after the Sokovia Accords are passed to place restrictions on the doings of superheroes. A civil war is ignited among the Avengers as they choose sides between Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), who supports the accords, and Captain America (Chris Evans), who opposes them. Captain America: Civil War touches on sophisticated themes and boasts astounding performances and an exciting superhero crossover. Meanwhile, Boseman steals the show as the young and mysterious new player in the game who seeks to avenger his father.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever premiered on November 11, 2022. While Boseman wasn’t physically present, throwbacks of his footage from Black Panther were included, and so was his legacy. The Marvel Studios’ opening paid tribute to him, as did the mural and opening funeral procession scene of the film. Meanwhile, the film promised to carry on his legacy further by introducing T’Challa’s son. His passion and spirit could also be seen in the passion of Wakanda as they fought for their home and to honor their king. Even though he wasn’t physically present in the film, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever wouldn’t exist without him and his legacy, and it deserves to be labeled one of his best works.
Da 5 Bloods is a powerful and ambitious war drama that premiered on June 12, 2020. The film follows four aging Vietnam War veterans who return to Vietnam to retrieve the body of their deceased squad leader, Norman (Boseman), and the gold that they buried while serving there. Da 5 Bloods is an ambitious and remarkable war drama that tackles many mature themes, including the pain of America’s past, historical injustice, and PTSD. Meanwhile, these deep themes are covered in a surprisingly entertaining tale and with an enthralling lead cast whose chemistry is palpable.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is a drama based on the play of the same name by August Wilson and was released in 2020. The film was inspired by the career of blues singer, Ma Rainey. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom follows a turbulent recording session with Ma Rainey (Viola Davis), her band, and her producers. Tensions rise as Ma Rainey makes scrupulous and flamboyant demands and challenges her producers. Meanwhile, things are also unwell with the band as the ambitious Levee Green (Boseman) reaches out to Ma Rainey’s producers in hopes of gaining his own record deal. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom earned Boseman a posthumous Academy Awards nomination. The performances in the film were nothing short of electrifying as Boseman and Davis perfectly captured the impact of racism and the desperate measures a desire for respect will lead them to do.
Black Panther premiered in 2018 and gave Boseman’s T’Challa his solo film. The film follows T’Challa as he steps up to take on the mantle of the Black Panther and the King of Wakanda following his father’s death. However, he is soon faced with an enormous foe who threatens the safety of Wakanda and will have a drastic impact on its future. Black Panther was a historical and deeply moving film that celebrated Black culture in a beautiful and inspiring manner. Meanwhile, Boseman boasted one of the best performances of his career as a young but exceedingly noble king bearing the weight of a country on his shoulders.
(Featured image: Disney)
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Rachel Ulatowski is a Freelance Writer, blogger, and aspiring author. As a Freelancer Writer she hopes to give readers the same comfort and enjoyment that she finds in all things nerdy and noteworthy, as a blogger she enjoys snarking on YouTubers and reality stars, and as a future novelist she hopes to raise awareness for child abuse through literature.
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