Every Morgan Freeman Movie Ranked Worst To Best

Morgan Freeman is a national treasure: If we see him in a movie trailer — or if we catch a single bit of narration in his distinctive, sonorous voice — we instantly perk right up. Luckily for us, Freeman has spent decades as an incredibly prolific actor, so he's given us a lot of these mood lifts over the years. He has an inimitable screen presence, radiating an unbeatable combination of charisma, controlled power, and geniality that makes him a perfect fit for nearly any kind of role. He's done some of his finest work as a supporting actor — often a scene-stealing one — but he also has the kind of effortless, commanding vibe that lets him literally play God. Whether he's in charge or in the wings, doing comedy or breaking our hearts, he's phenomenal.

If you work as much as Freeman does, however, you're inevitably going to have some duds in your filmography. Not every Freeman movie is a classic: In fact, he's done more than his fair share of disposable, direct-to-video flops. We're still willing to say that all of his movies are better for having him in them.

Guided by critics' and audiences' opinions, we've ranked Freeman's movies from worst to best. Our rule of thumb is that we were only including movies we would think of as "Morgan Freeman movies," so if his role boils down to a cameo or narration, you won't find it here. Trust us, that still leaves you with a lot — so let's get started.

70. The Poison Rose

Here we go: "The Poison Rose" is arguably the worst Morgan Freeman movie of all time. This noir film features John Travolta as a weary private eye who slogs through a cliché-ridden investigation in 1970s Galveston; Morgan Freeman appears as a local mover-and-shaker with a grudge.

Energy and imagination are hard to find here. As Variety put it, "For everyone involved, 'The Poison Rose' looks like an easy paycheck they don't have to break a sweat for. For the rest of us, it's just a sad, unimaginative affair in which an impressive lineup of talented names goes to waste before our eyes."

It's always particularly frustrating when a bad film has so many good ingredients; "The Poison Rose" has a star-studded cast, an interesting setting, and a co-director who penned "Midnight Run," one of our favorite comic crime movies. It just can't bring all of that together into something worth watching, and that disappoints us enough to put this one right at the bottom.

69. The Contract

"The Contract" was a 2006 direct-to-video flop starring Morgan Freeman as a professional assassin and John Cusack as the high school teacher who turns into his unlikely opponent.

While the writing was on the wall from the beginning — director Bruce Beresford's memoir, "Josh Hartnett Definitely Wants to Do This," reports that even he didn't like the script — the production was also plagued with mishaps that would have made it hard to wring a good movie out of even the best material. Chief among them is undoubtedly, as The Sidney Morning Herald recounts, the fact that "the producers [had] such a slippery grip on the finances that they let Beresford shoot the final six days only if he [paid] for it himself." It's almost impressive that "The Contract" even managed to become a weak and somewhat incoherent thriller; it could have easily never gotten released at all.

68. Guilty by Association

2003's "Guilty by Association" barely registered as a blip on anyone's cinematic radar — and that's just as well, because this by-the-numbers drug dealer film doesn't have much to recommend it. Regrettably, that includes Morgan Freeman, who gets top billing but almost nothing to do: IGN speculates (convincingly) that Freeman "wanted to lend a hand and his considerable gravitas to a crew of aspiring black filmmakers and actors," adding that such a motive "says a lot about his character." 

We're very happy to recognize this movie as an example of Morgan Freeman doing something nice. We just wish we could recommend actually watching it.

67. Just Getting Started

"Just Getting Started" wastes the substantial talent of its three leads — Morgan Freeman, Tommy Lee Jones, and Rene Russo — with its damp squib of a comedy. Freeman plays Duke Diver — the movie's one virtue is having the decency to acknowledge that this is an obviously fake name — who struts around his luxurious retirement community with peacock-like vanity and confidence — until Tommy Lee Jones' character, Leo McKay, arrives to rival him on the golf course and the dance floor. 

This could all be charming under the right circumstances, but the humor here falls utterly flat, and the eventual Mob angle introduces more than the movie can handle.

66. Vanquish

"Vanquish" — an object lesson in a film trying way too hard and still going nowhere — has a ludicrous, overly complicated setup and then only gets worse from there. Ruby Rose stars as Victoria, a single mother who provides at-home care for disabled former cop Damon (Morgan Freeman). Victoria's dark past comes in handy when Damon holds her sick daughter hostage in exchange for Victoria running a series of dangerous and violent errands. The movie mistakes twists and "big moments" for actual substance: It never earns the audience's emotional investment, so it never generates any real suspense.

As film critic Peter Sobczynski noted, "This is a rehash of genre cliches that is so dull, threadbare, and bereft of thrills that the one time that its one moment of genuine excitement comes when ... the television in the background is showing curling" (via RogerEbert.com). That's a nice alternative. Sure, we'll watch some curling.

65. Edison

The crime drama "Edison" takes on a journalist's investigation into police violence and corruption without ever mustering much emotional realism, social importance, or excitement. The movie's worst crime is how it passes up every chance to make the most of its cast, which includes not only Morgan Freeman but also Kevin Spacey, LL Cool J, Justin Timberlake, Dylan McDermott, John Heard, Cary Elwes, and Piper Perabo.

The story isn't without its share of weaknesses either, as Eye on Film explains: "Every cliché is present here: the fresh young journalist on the trail of a story; the veteran newspaper editor with advice to pass on; the cop who's in over his head and wants to get out; the corrupt politician overseeing everything." When you can predict where almost every beat will fall, it's hard to stay engaged.

64. The Maiden Heist

"The Maiden Heist" is an inoffensive but inconsequential (and unmemorable) film about an art museum heist carried out by three amateur thieves. Morgan Freeman, Christopher Walken, and William H. Macy all play museum guards who have developed consuming obsessions with particular works of art in the museum's collection. They decide to steal their favorite pieces — two paintings and a sculpture — and replace them with replicas.

The movie ultimately falls flat by being a little too slight — it's hard to shake the feeling that this doesn't matter all that much — and by some ill-advised casting against type. As Eye for Film points out, these particular actors might be better at offering dramatic heft than light humor.

63. The Big Bounce

"The Big Bounce" is a feather-light comic crime thriller: It's not all that funny or all that thrilling, but it's at least breezy enough that watching it isn't unpleasant. Owen Wilson stars as Jack Ryan, an amiable thief who drifts his way into a high-stakes plot involving theft, murder, and betrayal. When he gets into some hot water and might have to leave the film's Hawaiian paradise, a local judge (Morgan Freeman) sets him up with a new opportunity — one that turns out to have all kinds of criminal complications.

This milquetoast adaptation earned a particularly ouch-worthy criticism when Elmore Leonard, the author of the novel it's based on, deemed it "the second-worst movie ever made" (via Los Angeles Times). We obviously wouldn't go that far — but it's not good.

62. The Bonfire of the Vanities

Hollywood has always had a tough time with genuinely acerbic, cynical projects: Feel-good tends to make a lot more money than feel-bad. On the way to the box office, then, a lot of adaptations of challenging and viciously satirical novels tend to tone down their material.

That's certainly the case with "The Bonfire of the Vanities." Here, Tom Wolfe's bitter comic inferno of a book becomes a social drama with stilted moral lectures and plenty of hand-holding for the targets of Wolfe's satire — as long as they fall within a demographic Hollywood doesn't want to risk offending. The Washington Post brutally dismissed the film as "a morality romp, not a comedy of errors. In Wolfe's story, all of New York was held accountable, but [director Brian] De Palma and [screenwriter Michael] Cristofer seem to blame the woes of the '80s mostly on the press, black rabble-rousers and women. As usual, the white male floats like fat to the top of the melting pot." He has to — he's played by Tom Hanks, and it's almost physically impossible to dislike a Hanks character.

"The Bonfire of the Vanities" is alternately weak and a little enraging, but even The Washington Post's negative review gave credit where credit was due, observing that Freeman, despite being stuck in a narrow and stiflingly earnest role, gives "one of the film's finest performances."

61. Last Knights

"Last Knights" is a sluggish historical action-adventure film that never really comes to life. It should be thrilling to see Morgan Freeman as an embattled nobleman and Clive Owen as his loyal and vengeful knight — that's good casting, and both of them imbue their characters with dignity and presence — who rebel against a tyrannical emperor. "Thrilling" isn't a word that comes to mind during "Last Knights," however. This is a movie that has been drained of everything from color to wit to energy, leaving it with nothing but some solid acting and a lot of wasted potential.

IGN viewed the film more favorably than many outlets, but even its review concludes that "'Last Knights' fails to carve out the niche it desperately needs to stick out from other, similar films. Between the boring plot, humorless characters and only passable set pieces, Owen and Freeman's performances can only do so much to elevate the material ... Ultimately, it's all too bloated and emotionally distant to get too invested." We hereby consign it to history.

60. Marie

"Marie" is based on the true story of Marie Ragghianti, who took a stand against the rampant corruption that led to pardons and parole agreements basically being bought and sold out of her office. 

The story suffers a little from the predictability of the inspirational crusader biopic format, but Sissy Spacek turns in a luminous and committed performance in the lead role, and she's ably supported by a cast that includes Morgan Freeman and Jeff Daniels. Despite good acting, "Marie" now feels more educational than entertaining; its biggest virtue is highlighting an important bit of political history, not keeping its audience glued to their seats.

59. Chain Reaction

A scientific discovery that upset a profitable status quo causes a lot of danger in "Chain Reaction." Keanu Reeves stars as Eddie, a low-level member of a research team that finds a safe way to generate clean energy: It's a game-changing discovery — which is exactly what concerns the people currently winning the game. Eddie and physicist Lily Sinclair (Rachel Weisz) wind up on the run when an attempt to stifle their project leads to the two of them being framed for murder and espionage. Morgan Freeman appears as Paul Shannon, a behind-the-scenes man with more than a few cards up his sleeve.

"Chain Reaction" has its virtues, including some neatly handled action sequences, but if you want conspiracy thrillers, you have plenty of better (and better-plotted) options.

58. Transcendence

In "Transcendence," a groundbreaking scientist played by Johnny Depp has his consciousness uploaded into a computer network. The process infinitely expands his intelligence and capabilities — his nano-particles can work infinite wonders, even curing diseases and restoring the environment — but it also makes it incredibly easy for him to manipulate people and treat them like puppets. Gradually, even his loyal wife and co-researcher (Rebecca Hall) starts to fear and doubt him.

Morgan Freeman plays Joseph Tagger, who mentored both Depp's and Hall's characters; he works to help contain and destroy this self-aware and all-too-human bit of coding.

"Transcendence" is visually engaging — director Wally Pfister is also a well-regarded cinematographer — and it boasts an impressive cast, most of whom are doing their best. There's only so far they can take a weak script filled with jumbled ideas, though.

57. Thick as Thieves

Heist movies love the story of "one last job." In "Thick as Thieves," Morgan Freeman's professional thief Keith Ripley is all set to pull off one last job of his own — purloining smuggled artifacts from a Russian museum — but he needs a little bit of help. He brings in Antonio Banderas' Gabriel Martin, who's a rookie crook in comparison to Ripley — and who has exactly the kind of secret that can make these last jobs so eventful.

"Thick as Thieves" provides a reasonably fun heist but not a whole lot else, and it can't make Ripley's smoothly planned and bumpily executed exploits take up the whole 104 minutes. That leaves the movie with a whole lot of downtime. Reel Film viewed it as yet another bargain bin thriller from the lower tier of Freeman's filmography: "The end result is a hopelessly uneven endeavor that's consistently buoyed by Freeman's mere presence, yet there's little doubt that the actor deserves so, so much better than this."

56. Evan Almighty

Morgan Freeman's God was stunningly cavalier about doling out his powers back in "Bruce Almighty," and in the sequel "Evan Almighty," he apparently decides to stage a reenactment of Noah's Ark, divinely insisting that his chosen prophet confront an impending flood with a proper beard and robe. The costuming is just that important, apparently.

There are a lot of competing theologies in the world, but thankfully not too many of them feature God as a kindly but eccentric uncle who burdens humans with way too much responsibility one minute, and micromanages the life out of them the next. No one in Hollywood gives a greater sense of warm, affable dignity than Morgan Freeman, but not even he can sell "Evan Almighty" as any kind of feel-good spiritual experience. On top of that, not even his co-star Steve Carell can make it especially funny. The movie defeats them both.

55. Momentum

The action-laced crime thriller "Momentum" may offer appropriately good pacing, but that's not enough to make up for how mindless, shallow, and sordid it is. Olga Kurylenko plays a thief whose diamond heist contains a pivotal bonus: a flash drive that could create a political firestorm. She's happy to focus on the diamonds — but the villainous Mr. Washington (James Purefoy) will stop at nothing to get at the flash drive. In fact, he'll even enjoy all the torture and murder.

Morgan Freeman rounds out the cast as a shadowy string-puller whose role is pivotal but small. IndieWire's review speculated: "I doubt he's even aware of the film's plot beyond what he was paid to say during the couple of hours the production could utilize his talents, of which he understandably gives the barest of bare minimums." Viewers are likely to care just as little, at least once they get beneath the movie's flashy surface.

54. Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard

The movie "The Hitman's Bodyguard" was far from a critical success, but it stands head and shoulders above its sequel, "Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard." This one is likely to leave you with the impression that the "The" fell off the title and everyone involved was just too listless to notice.

Ryan Reynolds returns as bodyguard Michael Bryce, who is at loose ends when he's tasked with first rescuing his hitman buddy Darius (Samuel L. Jackson) and then taking down a deadly terrorist. Morgan Freeman plays Bryce's ultimately untrustworthy stepfather. As with most action comedies, the plot isn't really the point — a decent number of laughs will get you to forgive a weak story. You won't find those here, however. As The Wrap put it, "'Hitman's Wife Bodyguard' is a comedy with not one legitimate laugh, and an action movie where cars keep blowing up while the A-listers yell at each other, as though that were inherently amusing or entertaining." This has to coast on star-power alone, because it's got nothing else to give.

53. Ben-Hur

"Ben-Hur" is, of course, a famous film — but this isn't that "Ben-Hur," which came out in 1959. This "Ben-Hur" is a separate 2016 adaptation of the original novel. Regrettably, it's not destined to have as much critical or popular longevity.

The film tells the epic story of Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston), a Jewish man whose eventful life in the Roman Empire includes years of slavery, a fraught falling-out with his Roman best friend, an encounter with Jesus, and a climactic chariot race. His transition from slave to charioteer comes via Morgan Freeman's Sheik Ilderim, who shelters and trains Ben-Hur (and eventually makes money off him, like all good sports sponsors).

This "Ben-Hur" is thoroughly average. While it musters a few interesting touches — like Freeman — and offers an appropriately grand sweep, it never provides the same spectacle or overall quality of its more famous predecessor.

52. London Has Fallen

Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) goes across the pond in this "Olympus Has Fallen" sequel, escorting President Asher (Aaron Eckhart) to London for a major state funeral — but the body in the casket turns out to only be the first movement in a ludicrous but deadly chess-game played by Barkawi (Alon Moni Aboutboul), an arms dealer and grieving father out for revenge. Banning has to protect the President while Vice President Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) steps up to the reigns to handle the international crisis as it unfolds.

"London Has Fallen" offers some superficial action thrills and rousing performances, but none of them are worth the price of sitting through the movie Variety rightly called "cruddily crafted, grimacingly performed and effortlessly racist." Its predecessor can give you the same effect with only a fraction of the problems.

51. Dreamcatcher

"Dreamcatcher" isn't entertaining enough to get away with making as little sense as it does. For starters, there's a little too much going on.

Four men — childhood friends with a shared psychic connection (Thomas Jane, Damian Lewis, Timothy Olyphant, and Jason Lee) — find themselves at the center of an exceptionally gross alien invasion (let's just say that this movie spends more time in the bathroom than most alien invasion flicks). The aliens aren't all they have to worry about, either, because Colonel Curtis (Morgan Freeman), the man sent to contain all this, is almost as dangerous. Then there's the possession — and let's not forget that initial psychic connection, which stems from rescuing "Duddits," a boy with an intellectual disability.

"Dreamcatcher" has a good cast and a nice, wintry sense of place, but it can't keep all these balls in the air. We respect its weirdness, but it's still thoroughly skippable.

50. The Magic of Belle Isle

Gentle and undemanding: "The Magic of Belle Isle" makes for a good comfort movie, and there's nothing wrong with that. Morgan Freeman stars as a grizzled retired Western writer who plans on spending his whole summer at a lakeside paradise staying as drunk as possible — right up until he unexpectedly starts falling in love with his sweet neighbor Charlotte (Virginia Madsen) and rediscovering the joys of ordinary life. He even manages to get back to writing.

Freeman and Madsen ground the movie, which could otherwise seem too nice or too sentimental: In their hands, it instead feels honest and warm. The New York Times particularly praised Freeman's performance, saying that even if "[Freeman] strikes no new notes, he hits the familiar ones with an unerring authority and grace. Through the tiniest movements of his face, he registers a complicated mixture of love, empathy, gentle humor and resignation, along with an underlying cunning that prevents him from becoming saccharine."

49. High Crimes

"High Crimes" is a grim and slightly grinding legal thriller. Ashley Judd plays Claire Kubik, an attorney who has to watch in stunned horror as her husband is arrested for committing mass murder in El Salvador, back when he was in the Marines. He's literally not the man she thought he was — "Tom's" real name is Ronald Chapman — but she holds onto the belief that maybe he only lied about his name, not his character. She hires jaded lawyer Charlie Grimes to help defend Tom-or-Ronald against the charges, and the two of them wind up finding out that this case may just be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to crimes and military conspiracy.

The thriller part of "High Crimes" succeeds via some good twists and one particularly nice bit of dramatic payoff, and Freeman and Judd's on-screen partnership offers its usual charms.

48. Hard Rain

An ill-conceived armored car heist in a rapidly flooding Indiana town forms the spine of "Hard Rain," where Morgan Freeman plays the robber — whom we like for at least being an honest crook, rather than the corrupt and backstabbing sheriff and his men, who turn out to be the movie's real villains. It's a crime that starts out as a bad idea and keeps turning into a worse one, but the escalation doesn't really succeed at feeling tense or seeming plausible, let alone evoking any real experience of comedy or drama.

The film does have some strong and unique setpieces, however, and sometimes that's enough to make an action movie worth watching. If you have a soft spot for boats, "Hard Rain" is probably worth a look.

47. Along Came a Spider

"Along Came a Spider" follows the adventures of forensic psychologist Alex Cross (Morgan Freeman), whom we first met in "Kiss the Girls." The first movie didn't really rise above "decent," and "Along Came a Spider" may stop just short of it. The creepy, compulsive serial abductor mystery of "Kiss the Girls" becomes a less-creepy high-profile kidnapper mystery with a political thriller edge, and the movie can't make that genre shift work.

Freeman makes all this watchable, however. If you just pay attention to him, you'll think you're watching a smarter movie than you actually are. As Roger Ebert said, "The focus of [Freeman's] gaze, the quiet authority of his voice, make Dr. Cross an interesting character even in scenes where all common sense has fled ... Maybe actors should be given Oscars not for the good films they triumph in, but for the weak films they survive." We'd add an Oscar for the weak films they help us endure, too.

46. The Comeback Trail

Movie man Max Barber (Robert De Niro) owes a hefty sum to Reggie Fontaine (Morgan Freeman), and he decides to use his career as a bottom-feeding producer in a clever scheme to pay him off. He'll bring back a washed-up Western star — Duke Montana (Tommy Lee Jones), whose glory days as a movie cowboy are far behind him — under the pretense of reviving his career. Really, he's just on Max's set to die, "ruin" the movie, and result in a huge insurance payout.

De Niro, Freeman, and Jones give the film an appealing center, but the film's tepid comedy and halfhearted drama don't let them hit their usual heights. The standout here isn't Freeman but Jones, whom reviews repeatedly singled out as a highlight. Richard Crouse said it best: "Of the three Oscar winners who headline 'The Comeback Trail,' only Jones appears invested in creating a memorable character. His take on the 'broke-down-over-the-hill-has been' Montana has enough flashes of pathos to hint at what this movie could have been, a bittersweet comedy about the dreamers who live and breathe celluloid, but the movie's silly tone lets him down."

45. Kiss the Girls

Forensic psychologist Alex Cross (Morgan Freeman) investigates a series of missing women (including his own niece) in "Kiss the Girls." A few bodies have turned up, but not enough: Cross recognizes that their killer is a "collector," who likes to hold onto his victims until they offend him in some way. One of the kidnapped women, Kate McKiernan (Ashley Judd), even manages to escape and join the investigation.

"Kiss the Girls" is a satisfying middle-of-the-road thriller that generates some solid suspense and makes Cross and Kate characters you actually care about. Freeman's performance is a big draw: He does so much supporting work that we're always happy to see him take the lead, even if the movie isn't exactly grade-A material.

44. Now You See Me 2

The master-thief magicians, the Four Horsemen, return for "Now You See Me 2," where they're tasked with taking on a villainous tech world CEO. Morgan Freeman returns as magic debunker Thaddeus Bradley, currently ensconced in a luxurious prison cell but still with a few tricks and surprises up his sleeve.

"Now You See Me 2" has the benefit of not being a simple retread of its predecessor, and Thaddeus' arc is one of its strengths. Its decision to up the ante doesn't come without its own price tag, though: Keeping all this feeling fresh and surprising means loading the movie with more twists and over-the-top spectacle than it can really handle. As The AV Club review points out, the first movie at least gestured towards explaining how all this Robin Hood-meets-stage-magic stuff worked, but this one abandons that pretense entirely — and that makes it all feel less like magic and more like cheating.

43. Levity

"Levity" stars Billy Bob Thornton as a recently released prisoner haunted by the enormity of his crime: Years ago, he was robbing a convenience store and shot and killed the clerk, a teenage boy. Now he's on a dour moral journey towards living with the weight of taking another life. He doesn't necessarily believe he can ever come back from what he's done, but he gets a contrived second chance when he befriends his victim's sister — without telling her who he really is — and finds out that her son, whom she named after her late brother, is now in trouble.

Morgan Freeman shows up as an off-kilter pastor who runs a youth center, joining a cast that, in addition to Thornton, includes Kirsten Dunst and Holly Hunter. When we look at that line-up of stars, we have to tip our hats to Roger Ebert's blistering review: "For a director to assemble such a cast and then maroon them in such a witless enterprise gives him more to redeem than his hero. The hero has merely killed a fictional character. Ed Solomon, who wrote and directed, has stolen two hours from the lives of everyone who sees the film, and weeks from the careers of these valuable actors." Don't become another victim: Pick a different Morgan Freeman movie.

42. The Power of One

"The Power of One" attempts to present a kind of distillation of apartheid, but there's just no effective way to boil that story down to one white English boy's coming-of-age in South Africa. PK (portrayed by different actors at different ages, but finally by Stephen Dorff) does get an unusually kaleidoscopic look at the racism around him and the different cultures and worldviews in South Africa — but the film is still biting off more than it can chew here.

Morgan Freeman plays Geel Piet, a prisoner who teaches PK how to box and who also serves as a profound influence in shaping the boy's character. It's a typically good Freeman performance, but Freeman himself admits to being disappointed with how the film turned out, telling IGN: "I think that movie was one of those things where ... well, the script read so well and it looked so wonderful. I had a beautiful expectation for it, but it didn't evolve to be what it was supposed to be ... I can't say particularly why, but I wasn't as moved as when I was reading the script."

41. Feast of Love

There's both too much and too little going on in "Feast of Love," which mashes up several poignant-but-slight stories of love, divorce, grief, and general emotional tumult by having the characters all pop in and out of the same café. It's a busy film, but it still feels insubstantial and — worse — insignificant. As the Seattle Post-Intelligencer said, "This cornucopia of foibles, with its penny portraits of treachery and innocence amounts to little more than high-class soap opera." The movie flirts with the idea of giving us a nuanced, realistic look at love, but it can't resist falling into exaggeration and schmaltz.

Its use of Morgan Freeman as a kind, privately grieving professor who dispenses sage advice does give the film one of its best (if unintentional) comedic touches, as the Post-Intelligencer notes: "[Freeman] is such a font of cosmic wisdom that young women he doesn't know approach him for sexual advice." We're willing to bet the real-life Freeman actually has this problem sometimes.

40. The Bucket List

"The Bucket List" is a tearjerker of a buddy comedy that should rest on the odd couple chemistry between Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson — both playing their usual types here — but instead jams in too many set-pieces and way too much sentiment. Thoughtful, down-to-earth family man Carter Chambers (Freeman) meets irascible playboy billionaire Edward Cole (Nicholson) when the two are forced to share a hospital room. They both have terminal cancer, and Cole winds up bankrolling their attempt to check off everything on a combined "bucket list" of things to do before they die. It will probably not surprise you that these activities start out as adventures and end as odes to family and friendship. It's shamelessly manipulative — but it's at least occasionally likable.

Roger Ebert — who was dealing with cancer treatment himself at the time the movie was released — nailed both the film's emotional cheapness and its biggest virtue: "'The Bucket List' thinks dying of cancer is a laff riot followed by a dime-store epiphany. The sole redeeming merit of the film is the steady work by Morgan Freeman, who has appeared in more than one embarrassing movie, but never embarrassed himself." Freeman gives the movie a much-needed sense of real humanity.

39. Moll Flanders

"Moll Flanders" is a well-cast, small-scale historical drama that you can enjoy and then immediately forget about — unless you're a fan of Daniel Defoe's original novel. Then you might find this loose adaptation memorable — and maybe a little enraging.

"Hollywood has skinned another literary classic and left the carcass behind," Maclean's Brian D. Johnson bemoaned upon the movie's release: The original Moll Flanders was a bit of an antihero, "shrewd, conniving ... [and] roguish," but her movie equivalent is an innocent tragic figure, which sucks a lot of the fun out of watching her get into trouble and scheme her way back out of it.

Still, Robin Wright turns in an unsurprisingly strong performance in the lead role, and she's well-supported by Morgan Freeman as the loyal Hibble, who befriends Moll and eventually relates her story to her daughter.

38. Deep Impact

It's easy to get "Deep Impact" and "Armageddon" confused — they both came out the same summer, and they both feature Hail Mary attempts to save Earth from impending science-fictional doom — but we like to give "Deep Impact" the edge. It tones down the pyrotechnics for the sake of including a little more characterization and nuance: It's a disaster movie that succeeds in giving you an unusually broad sense of what we all stand to lose. As The New York Times reviewer Janet Maslin said, "Within the end-of-the-world action genre, it's rare to find attention paid to rescuing art, antiques, elephants and flamingos. Or to see the day-care center at the television station, a peaceful counterpart to the frenzied newsroom." You get a wider swathe of humanity here.

We're also not immune to that wide swathe of humanity, including President Morgan Freeman (okay: President Tom Beck, played by Morgan Freeman). Freeman gives the role so much natural gravitas that he makes it easy for us to take the movie seriously. In a way, he embodies the spirit of the whole endeavor. This may be a fun, run-of-the-mill disaster flick, but the Freeman-like touches of sober humanity help class it up and make it more memorable.

37. Last Vegas

"Last Vegas" gives the world a Vegas bachelor party where relationships are shaken up and secrets are revealed. It's a familiar story, but this movie's twist is that the characters in question are all men of a certain age: Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline, and Michael Douglas all circa 2013. 

This comedy doesn't take many risks. The jokes are predictable, and most of the performances are comfortable rather than inspired. Still, the older characters can't help but give the film stakes that feel higher — and more intriguingly melancholy — than most movies in this same mold. These guys don't have a lot of time left to figure their lives out, so we care a little more about them getting it right.

36. 5 Flights Up

Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton play Alex and Ruth Carver, who are growing comfortably old together in their New York apartment. It's been their home for decades — but it's on the fifth floor, and there's no elevator. They're getting to the age where that matters more than it used to. How much does their sense of home matter? How should you best acknowledge and live with the passage of time? This wistful film explores those questions from several different angles.

"5 Flights Up" is a small-scale film that's easy to like. If some viewers will find it easy to forget, that's partly because of how successful it is at feeling like ordinary life. As The Los Angeles Times put it, "[The film] nails the big and small details of life, love and city dwelling with humor, charm and grace, if also the occasional broad stroke. It's all anchored by Keaton's and Freeman's lived-in performances that, for about 90 captivating minutes, make you forget the actors haven't truly been married forever."

35. Going in Style

Everyone loves a good heist, and the 2017 version of "Going in Style" is at least a decent heist. Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, and Michael Caine co-star as three older men who, all pressed by circumstance and up against an uncaring system, decide to rob a bank to get back the pensions they'd always been promised. The movie is more lighthearted than outright funny, but the cathartic wish fulfillment it offers has its charms. Obviously, it's also just a pleasure to spend time with these three leads: Flavorwire hated the movie but still conceded that its stars are "wonderful individually and even better together, with a relaxed, lived-in chemistry."

Chances are, though, history will only remember one iteration of "Going in Style," and it won't be this one.

34. Angel Has Fallen

"Angel Has Fallen" follows "Olympus Has Fallen" and "London Has Fallen" in a series of films about heroic Secret Service Agent Mike Banning and his efforts to protect or rescue his regularly imperiled president. Morgan Freeman rises steadily through the political ranks in these movies, and in "Angel Has Fallen," it's his turn to be the president in distress. His fishing trip is hit by a drone strike, leaving him temporarily comatose and unable to defend Banning, who is framed for coordinating the attack.

This third installment thankfully tones down some of the xenophobia present in "London Has Fallen," and it settles into a more familiar and welcome groove: pure unfussy action thriller not burdened by any particular demands for plausibility. Sometimes, you just want some cheesy fun.

33. Bruce Almighty

Morgan Freeman is definitely on the short list of people we would trust to play God, and 2003's "Bruce Almighty" takes us up on that. Sure, we might question the supposed wisdom of turning cosmic omnipotence over to any character played by Jim Carrey — let alone the childish Bruce, who is deeply in need of all the lessons he learns over the course of the movie — but Freeman, crucially, just has the right vibe. We'll overlook anything else.

With madcap energy and a trite but pleasing arc of one guy becoming a better person, "Bruce Almighty" manages to edge into being downright endearing. If you can forgive a few moments that have aged badly, this movie still provides some light entertainment — even if it doesn't answer any prayers.

32. Under Suspicion

Dark and complex, "Under Suspicion" is a psychological thriller that isn't afraid to open up some particularly nasty cans of worms. Henry Hearst (Gene Hackman) is a successful tax attorney with plenty of money and social clout — and Police Captain Victor Benezet (Morgan Freeman) and Detective Felix Owens (Thomas Jane) think he's behind a sickening case involving two dead girls. Hearst acts like he has nothing to fear, but his wife, Chantal (Monica Bellucci), isn't so sure. As Hearst's fantasies and predilections come to light, everyone involved grapples with their suspicions.

"Under Suspicion" doesn't always fire on all cylinders, but it has enough grim ambiguity to keep most psychological suspense fans happy, especially with two world-class actors like Hackman and Freeman taking center stage.

31. Olympus Has Fallen

The White House itself is under attack in "Olympus Has Fallen," which — despite being a little too serious for its own good — serves up an engaging riff on "Die Hard." Former Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) saved President Asher (Aaron Eckhart) from a potentially fatal car crash, but he couldn't rescue Asher's wife. He gets pushed off the Secret Service front lines — which means, as any movie fan can guess, that he's exactly the person Asher needs when North Korean terrorists capture the White House and hold Asher hostage.

Morgan Freeman plays Speaker of the House Allan Trumbull, who — with the President a hostage and the Vice President dead — has to take up the country's reins and manage the crisis the best he can.

Some of the violence in "Olympus Has Fallen" is more stomach-churning than exciting, and the ideas behind the action aren't necessarily that coherent. Still, the tension ratchets up nicely, and the setup is an instant hook.

30. Now You See Me

"Now You See Me" introduces a team of thieving magicians (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, and Dave Franco) who seemingly pull off impressive bank robberies in the middle of their stage shows. FBI Agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) consults Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), who can debunk almost any trick and show how it's done.

This inventive heist movie has a great cast and offers up its fair share of fun, even if we'd have a hard time explaining how and why it all works out the way it does. Screen Anarchy said it best: "The cast is charismatic, and they all seem fully committed to the nonsense placed before them. The story moves jauntily toward its destination; the destination, unfortunately, is a disappointing wreck. But hey, the journey isn't so bad, if you don't expect it to make sense or be satisfying."

29. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

"Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" has the outline of an effective adventure film — Robin (Kevin Costner) returns home to England to find that the wicked Sheriff of Nottingham (Alan Rickman) has seized power in the king's absence and is ruling the land like a tyrant, killing anyone who stands up to him, and so Robin's rebellion begins — but it's ultimately just a little too colorless. In trying to have it all — fantasy, history, contemporary impact — it winds up spreading itself too thin, feeling wishy-washy rather than nuanced.

Despite the tonal problems, however, the film musters some good sequences that will scratch your itch for swashbuckling, and since that's not an action subgenre many movies aim for anymore, we're willing to cut it whatever slack it needs. Besides, "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" features two terrific supporting performances: Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham and Morgan Freeman as Azeem, who joins up with Robin after Robin helps him escape from a Jerusalem prison. In particular, The New York Times noted that Freeman's performance brings "a wit and humor that are otherwise not to be found in the film." These doses of charisma help keep the movie feeling fun.

28. An Unfinished Life

Two older men confront their pasts in "An Unfinished Life." Robert Redford's Einar faces his in the form of his estranged daughter-in-law, Jean (Jennifer Lopez), who comes to town with Einar's granddaughter and a revelation about his son's death. Morgan Freeman's Mitch, on the other hand, faces down his past in the form of a literal bear who once mauled him. No offense, Robert Redford, but we know which part of the movie we automatically like better.

"An Unfinished Life" is a quiet, well-crafted character piece that focuses on people healing, reconnecting, and putting their lives back together. If you're looking for plot, excitement, or even a lot of intensity, you won't find it here — but fans of these actors will find that the familial and spiritual drama here gives them plenty to play.

27. Oblivion

It's difficult to discuss the twisty science fiction film "Oblivion" without risking giving too much away. Entertaining, suspenseful, and beautifully shot, the movie begins with Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) — sent alongside his partner Vika (Andrea Riseborough) to a mostly-abandoned Earth to repair and safeguard key bits of tech — and then starts to unpeel layers of mystery. Morgan Freeman plays Malcolm Beech, one of Earth's holdouts who has some important revelations to share with Jack.

Once the film reveals more of its secrets, a little of its appeal seeps away. Part of the fun here is that "Oblivion" presents a slickly crafted world with the sense of an uglier truth just beneath the surface: The movie is at its best when it has that ambiguity and unease. The Hollywood Reporter noted that it's "an absolutely gorgeous film dramatically caught between its aspirations for poetic romanticism and the demands of heavy sci-fi action." Maybe it doesn't succeed at everything it sets out to accomplish — but it succeeds at enough for us to thoroughly recommend it.

26. Lucky Number Slevin

"Lucky Number Slevin" draws viewers into a gambit called a Kansas City Shuffle, a game of misdirection and rigged coincidences. It all leads to Slevin Kelevra (Josh Hartnett), a young man who is dragged to go see the urbane gangster The Boss (Morgan Freeman); The Boss thinks Slevin is Nick Fisher, whose apartment Slevin is staying in, and Nick Fisher owes The Boss a lot of money. The trick to getting Nick's debt canceled? Kill the son of a rival gangster, The Rabbi (Ben Kingsley), who soon is also dragging Slevin into his penthouse for a little chat. As Slevin works his way through this thicket of complications with surprising nonchalance — he explains to avid bystander Lindsey (Lucy Liu) that he has a condition that makes it impossible for him to worry — it's hard to sort out who's playing who and what exactly the enigmatic assassin Mr. Goodkat (Bruce Willis) wants out of it all.

The movie is unapologetically stylized — in particular, while the dialogue is funny, sharp, and quotable, it's usually excessive and not remotely realistic — so it will annoy anyone looking for naturalism. If you want a genre movie that leans into its ridiculousness and has a good time doing it, however, this offbeat crime movie might prove an unexpected delight.

25. Clean and Sober

1988's "Clean and Sober" stars Michael Keaton as a real estate agent with a severe cocaine addiction that's aiding and abetting all his worst impulses. Not even embezzling thousands of dollars and then losing almost as much can make him hit rock bottom — that honor is reserved for waking up in bed beside a dead woman and then having the world make it clear to him that there's nowhere to go. Even then, he initially only plans to use rehab as a way to lay low. He doesn't count on having a genuine recovery arc brought on partly by the steady presence of counselor Craig (Morgan Freeman), who helps him turn his life around.

"Clean and Sober" knows that its biggest strength is its realism. It keeps everything believable, and it watches with compassion but detachment as Keaton's character stumbles through his recovery in fits and starts. This can be difficult viewing, but it's a very human film grounded in nuanced performances.

24. The Sum of All Fears

The threat of nuclear war looms in "The Sum of All Fears," where a wealthy neo-Nazi (Alan Bates) plans to covertly provoke a standoff between Russia and the United States — one that will leave a global power vacuum he can waltz right into it once the dust clears. When a stadium in Baltimore is bombed, most of the world is more than ready to take the bait. The biggest holdout is sharp-eyed, tough-minded CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Ben Affleck), who loses one of his key allies — CIA Director Bill Cabot (Morgan Freeman) — in the bombing and must spend the rest of the movie working without much of a safety net.

"The Sum of All Fears" wrapped up filming in June 2001, but it wasn't released until 2002, after the 9/11 attacks. That initial timing may have put too much somber weight on the movie: Despite the title, this isn't an intense examination of America's national fears, it's a propulsive high-stakes thriller. The passing of time has made it easier to judge the film on its own terms, and it still holds up as solid entertainment with a particularly strong supporting cast.

23. Johnny Handsome

The 1989 noir "Johnny Handsome" is as gripping as it is bleak. Mickey Rourke — unrecognizable at first — plays the title role. He's a disfigured criminal whose "Johnny Handsome" nickname is a cruel, ironic joke — at least until a strange twist of fate dooms and saves him at the same time. Johnny's partners in crime kill his closest friend and sell him out, but his prison sentence is shaken up by a plastic surgeon who gives him a new face.

Is that enough to give him a new life? Not in the gritty world of film noir. Johnny is hounded by Detective Lieutenant Drones (Morgan Freeman), who is convinced Johnny's going to fall from his newfound grace. If Johnny wants to prove him wrong, he'll have to walk away from his chance to get revenge on his one-time partners — and revenge is a hard thing to give up.

Roger Ebert praised "Johnny Handsome" for leaning into its pitch-black noir tropes and handling them as classically as possible: "'Johnny Handsome' comes out of the film noir atmosphere of the 1940s, out of movies with dark streets and bitter laughter, with characters who live in cold-water flats and treat saloons as their living rooms." That should probably be enough to sell any noir fan on the experience: We know it would be enough for us.

22. 10 Items or Less

Morgan Freeman plays himself (sort of) in the quirky indie film "10 Items or Less," and that alone would be enough to make us like it. Freeman's unnamed actor character is considering a project where he'd play a supermarket manager, and that means doing some old-fashioned personal research — soaking up the experience of watching one L.A. grocery store in action. It gives him an unexpected amount of time to bond with Scarlet (Paz Vega), a disillusioned cashier.

"10 Items or Less" is intimate and casual, and Vega and Freeman do an excellent job establishing a rapport between their characters that quickly feels natural: Variety credited them with keeping their characters' bond from feeling "calculated and pre-ordained," adding, "Both actors feel genuinely attached to the kind of roles that studio-based screenwriters have simply forgotten exist." This is a beautifully handled "hangout film," one where the biggest pleasure is feeling like you're just spending time with the characters.

21. Street Smart

Even though Morgan Freeman can seem almost effortlessly genial, he's played his fair share of villains — but they're usually classy villains, upscale and controlled. One of his breakout roles, however, shows that Freeman can go petty, ugly, and terrifying when the occasion calls for it. In 1987's "Street Smart," he plays the ruthless pimp "Fast Black" Smalls. Smalls is clever and superficially charming, but underneath it all, he's capable of any kind of self-serving sadism you could think of.

That makes him the perfect match for the resourceful but less "street smart" reporter, Jonathan Fisher (Christopher Reeve), who winds up entangled in Smalls' murder trial when his made-up news story hews too close to the real details of Smalls' life.

At its best, the movie is a slick, intense study of schemes and power games. Even though the Fast Black role is far from what we now think of as a "Morgan Freeman character," Freeman nails the role, and it got him early attention from The New York Times, who called him "extremely good."

20. Lucy

Sci-fi action thriller "Lucy" offers truly ridiculous science but amazingly entertaining action and thrills, delivering plenty of high-octane fun. Scarlett Johansson takes the lead as Lucy, whose unwilling stint as a drug mule goes catastrophically wrong when the drug gets into her system and gives her an incredible array of superpowers (kids, don't try this at home). Her new amped-up existence comes with a side effect of physical deterioration, however; she consults Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) for help.

To put it gently, "Lucy" is a divisive movie. Its flaws were memorably savaged in an article by The Atlantic called: "'Lucy': The Dumbest Movie Ever Made About Brain Capacity," which begins: "Every now and then a movie comes along that's so beyond-the-pale sloppy, so disastrous in both conceit and execution, that it simply defies conventional analysis." Ouch. The review makes a lot of perfectly good points, but in the great "Lucy" debate, we side more with The Guardian, where reviewer Jordan Hoffman eventually concluded, "There's an authenticity to [the director's] overreaching that adds a sparkle not seen in typical comic-book movie fare. Even with only 10% of my brain I can see that while this movie isn't what I'd typically call good, it is, undeniably, enjoyable mindlessness." Silly as it is, it's also visually entracing, over-the-top fun: a kinetic daydream we really enjoy having.

19. Lean on Me

Eastside High School is in trouble. Low test scores mean the school may come under state control, something the administration is anxious to avoid; drugs, violence, chaos, and apathy all run rampant at Eastside High, and it's hard to see how anything can change. Enter Joe Clark (Morgan Freeman), who — through a tough and unorthodox crackdown — starts to slowly turn the school's fortunes around.

An in-depth biopic of the real-life Joe Clark might be more complex, but "Lean on Me" is content to be an unusual inspirational teacher drama — and while that subgenre can be hackneyed, Freeman's charismatic and sometimes blistering performance here gives the film real power. Even if we're ambivalent about how that power is used — Roger Ebert disliked Freeman's character intensely, calling him "a grownup example of the very troublemakers he hates so much, still unable even in adulthood to doubt his right to do what he wants, when he wants, as he wants" — we can still fall under its crackling spell. Simply put, Freeman makes the movie riveting.

18. Unleashed

"Unleashed" is an inventive, no-holds-barred action movie with an unusual premise: loan shark Bart (Bob Hoskins) has raised Danny (Jet Li) to be an attack dog first and a person only as a distant second. Bart treats Danny cruelly, and he's ingrained violence in him, training him to reflexively attack when Bart takes the collar off his neck.

Danny's life only really begins when he gets the chance to be away from Bart. Injured, he's taken in by Sam (Morgan Freeman) and his stepdaughter (Kerry Condon), who give him his first real taste of kindness. They don't just treat him as human, they treat him as family. Unfortunately, Bart isn't gone for good.

Freeman is as impeccable as ever in "Unleashed," but center stage here belongs to Li, who excels at this particular feral vulnerability and plays Danny's arc perfectly. Coming Soon concluded, "'Unleashed' is an affecting and fun action film, featuring a terrific character and a career best performance from its star."

17. Dolphin Tale 2

This sequel to "Dolphin Tale" keeps up a winning formula of sweetness and simplicity while also giving its characters additional chances to grow. Winter the dolphin — who, in the previous movie, received an incredible prosthetic tail designed by Dr. McCarthy (Morgan Freeman) — is in urgent need of a new companion. Dolphins are social animals, and with Winter's previous pool mate now dead, the clock is ticking to find her some company. Meanwhile, young Sawyer — who saved Winter once before and is determined to do so again — has to make a difficult personal call on spending a semester at sea.

The film is unassuming, and its decision to stay low-key — ordinary and likable rather than groundbreaking and loud — is part of what makes it work. Vulture's review admitted that the film is thoroughly predictable but ultimately came down in favor of its simple pleasures: "In a world full of cheapened, bombastic entertainment aimed at children, this modest, honest little movie feels special in its own way." It's rare to find these kinds of family films anymore, and plenty of parents probably welcome something like "Dolphin 2" with a sense of real relief.

16. Wanted

"Wanted" is a stylish superhero thriller with a twist — unless it's really a supervillain thriller. Put-upon Wesley (James MacAvoy) lives a life full of mundane humiliations, but then his life gets turned upside-down by revelation after revelation. Finding out his father was an assassin would be jarring enough, but soon Wesley is shooting the wings off flies with the skills he inherited from his late dad and finding out he essentially has superpowers and being recruited into a legion of mystical assassins who get their targets' names from the "Loom of Fate." He gets personal training from Angelina Jolie's Fox and additional mentoring from Morgan Freeman's Sloan.

That sounds like a lot, and it is a lot — but through great pacing and sheer audacity, "Wanted" pulls it all off and turns it into propulsive entertainment. Even when critics felt guilty for enjoying it, most of them still did enjoy it: "'Wanted' is kind of unintelligible and idiotic. Also kind of nasty and brutish. And also undeniably kind of fun," confessed Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum.

Mean-spirited though it may be, "Wanted" also keeps its energy lean and mean. In an action movie, that makes up for a lot.

15. Red

In "Red," spies can get out of the game, but they never really leave it behind. Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is classified as RED — Retired, Extremely Dangerous — and when someone puts a hit out on him, he proves exactly how much he deserves that label. With the help of his former mentor, Joe (Morgan Freeman), and a motley team of ex-associates of all stripes, Frank finds out that someone is cleaning up loose ends from an old mission ... and uncovering the conspiracy could leave a huge body count behind.

"Red" promises fun, and fun is exactly what it delivers — sometimes with its tongue in its cheek and sometimes just with the gas pedal pressed to the floor. The Hollywood Reporter summed up the movie's appeal nicely: "Even the more cartoonish performances ... fit the movie's vision of the vanished, wild-and-wooly heyday of spycraft. The actual mechanics of the plot might eventually get so convoluted they have to be accepted on faith, but the spirit of 'Red' rarely falters." Hey, if we're getting movie stars, action, and a killer premise, we can forgive a few plot snags.

14. Invictus

Clint Eastwood's "Invictus" is a sports film with unusual weight behind it: In telling the story of the reinvigorated South African rugby team, the movie also shows new President Nelson Mandela's (Morgan Freeman) attempts to unify a country damaged and divided by apartheid. Mandela believes that if he can get South Africa to come together behind their national team, the Springboks, then the shared emotions during the games — especially when it's time for the World Cup — can help the country bond and heal. He gains the cooperation and loyalty of Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon), the team's captain, and their quest begins.

The film keeps its story straightforward but allows it all its natural richness, complexity, and political weight. Freeman's Oscar-nominated lead performance is a big part of that, as this kind of unshowy greatness has always been one of his strengths. Variety's review praised his subtly layered Mandela: "Freeman, a beautiful fit for the part even if he doesn't go all the way with the accent ... is a constant delight; gradually, one comes to grasp Mandela's political calculations, certitudes and risks, the troubled personal life he keeps mostly out of sight, and his extraordinary talent for bringing people around to his point of view." It can be hard to portray real-life heroes, but Freeman is more than up for the task.

13. Amistad

The historical courtroom drama "Amistad" takes on the fraught and horrifying case where enslaved Africans gained control of a ship taking them to Cuba and instead found themselves in the United States, standing trial to determine whether the government would view them as free people or runaway slaves. The movie has a powerful ensemble, and Morgan Freeman plays a key part as Theodore Joadson, who works with abolitionist Lewis Tappan (Stellan Skarsgård) to help the African refugees.

Morgan Freeman would go on to speak highly of "Amistad" — and even more highly of its director, Steven Spielberg. In a 2000 interview with The Guardian, he expressed a few reservations about "Amistad" — mostly loving it but believing a few moments risked being over-the-top — but had nothing but praise for Spielberg: "He knows precisely what he's doing, he's attentive, he's so knowledgeable, he's quick and if you've got an idea, he's nothing but ears. If you want to say something, you have his total attention. He's all he's cracked up to be." This is the kind of collaboration we love to see, and we're willing to bet "Amistad" benefited from Spielberg's willingness to listen to his actors' ideas — including Freeman's.

12. Driving Miss Daisy

To some extent, time has passed "Driving Miss Daisy" by. In fact, it was passing it by even at the time of the movie's release: Then and now, as a Vanity Fair profile outlines, it was implicitly pitted against the riskier and more challenging "Do the Right Thing" and seen as the "safer" Black-centric film Hollywood was willing to stand behind. Still, while "Driving Miss Daisy" hasn't achieved a lasting critical reputation, it remains a warm, well-crafted, and highly watchable film that shines because of strong work from Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman.

Tandy plays the titular Miss Daisy, a wealthy older Jewish woman who — as an embarrassing car crash makes clear — is no longer able to safely drive. Her son gets her a chauffeur: Freeman's Hoke Colburn. Over the years, Hoke and Miss Daisy grow old together and gradually develop a nuanced friendship that, though strong, isn't always enough to bridge the social gap between them.

The film collected its fair share of awards and nominations, with Tandy winning the Academy Award for Best Actress and Freeman nominated for Best Actor.

11. Nurse Betty

The dark and unpredictable "Nurse Betty" is a hard film to summarize because it sounds ridiculous. It is ridiculous, in fact — knowingly so — but it's also entertaining, tonally complex, and beautifully weird.

Betty (Renée Zellweger) is a small town waitress with a no-good, drug-dealing husband whose biggest contribution to her life is getting brutally murdered in front of her, landing her trauma so severe Betty can only retreat from reality, burrowing into the life of a soap opera character. She goes off to find her character's one true love — but complications from her real life follow along behind her in the form of hitmen Charlie (Morgan Freeman) and Wesley (Chris Rock), who are after the drugs she unknowingly lifted from her husband. Betty is so sweet and innocent that Charlie, who's looking forward to getting out of the job for good, can't help but fall in love with her, making this a kind of wistful, strangely funny romance on top of everything else.

Roger Ebert singled Freeman out for praise, writing, "As for Charlie, his final scene, his only real scene with Betty, contains some of Freeman's best work ... He is given an almost impossible assignment (heartfelt wistfulness in the midst of a gunfight) and pulls it off, remaining attentive even to the comic subtext." That's the film in miniature.

10. Dolphin Tale

A dolphin rescue takes center stage in this lovely little family film. When 11-year-old Sawyer (Nathan Gamble) finds an injured dolphin, he gets drawn into the process of her rehabilitation at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The dolphin — now named Winter — needs a prosthetic tail, and Sawyer winds up meeting exactly the right person for the job: Dr. Cameron McCarthy (Morgan Freeman), who works to make prosthetic limbs for veterans and agrees to take on the task of making a new tail for Winter.

With well-used 3D and a strong sense of wonder, "Dolphin Tale" is good enough to make us all flash back to our old childhood wish for an animal companion of our own. We know we're here to talk about Freeman, but Winter is the performer who really steals the show here.

9. The Dark Knight Rises

"The Dark Knight Rises" concludes Christopher Nolan's genre-redefining Batman Trilogy, and it ushers the series out in good form. Batman and Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) have both dropped off the grid, but it seems like Gotham is soldiering on their absence — at least until revolutionary terrorist Bane (Tom Hardy) comes to town to shake things up, bringing an old and deadly vendetta along with him. Morgan Freeman again returns as the stalwart genius Lucius Fox, who never met a piece of bat-themed tech he couldn't invent.

Tough, bleak, powerful, and thematically rich, "The Dark Knight Rises" is the finale this iteration of Batman deserved. The Telegraph's Robbie Collin thoroughly agreed, saying, "Nolan's sheer formal audacity means the stakes feel skin-pricklingly high at all times: If he is prepared to go this far, I found myself often wondering, just how far is he prepared to go? Well, the answer is further than any other superhero film I can think of: After a breathless, bravura final act, a nuclear payload of catharsis brings 'The Dark Knight Rises,' and Nolan's trilogy, to a ferociously satisfying close."

8. Batman Begins

The gritty "Batman Begins" shook up superhero movies by adding more psychological realism and stripping away anything that might make you giggle: It may have kicked off a wave of too-grim genre filmmaking, but you can't blame it for the failings of its successors. This is still a highly effective, distinctive film that reinvents Batman in style.

One of the movie's biggest strengths is its casting. While it would take until "The Dark Knight" to get to the series' most iconic villain, Batman and many of his key allies are in place right from the start — and they instantly feel recognizable in their roles. We would especially single out Michael Caine as the incomparably dry-witted Alfred Pennyworth (our second-favorite Alfred of all time!), Morgan Freeman as the brilliant and sly Lucius Fox, Gary Oldman as the wearily righteous Jim Gordon, and Cillian Murphy as the gleefully malevolent Scarecrow.

"Batman Begins" hits hard enough and skillfully enough that it talked Roger Ebert into believing in the franchise for the first time: "I said this is the 'Batman' movie I've been waiting for; more correctly, this is the movie I did not realize I was waiting for, because I didn't realize that more emphasis on story and character and less emphasis on high-tech action was just what was needed. The movie works dramatically in addition to being an entertainment."

7. Seven

Detective William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) is looking forward to leaving his job behind. He's exhausted with the grime, depravity, and despair he faces day in and day out; everything that bounces off his new, younger partner David Mills (Brad Pitt) hits Somerset hard. Naturally, the two of them draw one of the darkest cases in movie history: a series of brutal murders where the victims are chosen to represent the seven deadly sins. Their killer is preaching, Somerset says, and whether they like it or not, they're his audience.

The nightmarish deaths in "Seven" are seared into our minds: This is a psychological crime thriller that's as visceral and disturbing as any horror movie. None of it would have the same weight without Pitt and Freeman, however, who provide a perfect human counterbalance to all the sadism they have to confront. They give us something to hold onto in the midst of all the sickening turbulence, and that only makes the movie's terrors more effective.

The gritty and deeply felt "Seven" quickly established David Fincher as a major director with a particular talent for handling dark material — and all these years later, we remain die-hard Fincher fans.

6. Million Dollar Baby

"Million Dollar Baby" focuses on the close, complex relationship between boxer Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) and her trainer, the brusque Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood). At first, Frankie doesn't want to train Maggie at all — her only source of support in the gym is former boxer "Scrap" Dupris (Morgan Freeman), who's known Frankie long enough to be able to interpret him for her — but the two soon form a close bond. That emotional anchor keeps us in place when the movie's tone slowly evolves, switching from inspirational to downright wrenching.

Equal parts sports story, rich character drama, and heartfelt tragedy, "Million Dollar Baby" hits as hard as its heroine and leaves you feeling bruised by the time you reach the credits. We mean that as a compliment — and we're not the only ones who enjoy a little well-crafted agony, since the film swept the Oscars, scoring wins for Best Picture, Best Actress (Swank), Best Supporting Actor (Freeman), and Best Director (Eastwood).

As hard as they are to take, the emotions are what make the movie work. As Newsweek's review put it: "'In his clean, unhurried, unblinking fashion, Eastwood takes the audience to raw, profoundly moving places. If you fear strong emotions, this is not for you. But if you want to see Hollywood filmmaking at its most potent, Eastwood has delivered the real deal."

5. Glory

The Civil War film "Glory" dramatizes the true story of a Black regiment in the Union Army. The film's characters — played by an impressive cast that includes Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, and Andre Braugher — have to fight on and off the battlefield: This isn't just war, it's also a day-to-day struggle for dignity, fair treatment, and respect. Slowly, however, they start to win the camaraderie of the white Union soldiers, who can't help being swayed by the regiment's obvious bravery. Morgan Freeman plays Sergeant Major John Rawlins, whose steady presence and skill makes him an invaluable leader to the men.

"Glory" was an important movie back in 1989, especially since it brought an important sliver of history to wider public attention, but it's also just a great movie. It does an exceptional job with its ensemble cast, making all the characters vivid and richly textured. Best of all, it achieves a complex tonal balance: As The New York Times noted, "'Glory' is celebratory, but it celebrates in a manner that insists on acknowledging the sorrow. This is a good, moving, complicated film." It deserves the cheers we give it, and it deserves the lingering presence it has in our memory.

4. Gone Baby Gone

"Gone Baby Gone" confronts viewers with a gritty, well-realized Boston and an even grittier and better-realized moral dilemma. Private eyes Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) and Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan) are hired to look for a missing little girl named Amanda, and they quickly find out that Amanda's home life was defined by the casual neglect and constant drug use of her mother, Helene (Amy Ryan). Was Amanda kidnapped? Sold for drugs? Does her disappearance have anything to do with the money her mother stole from a drug lord? Patrick and Angie follow these questions down a dark rabbit hole of confusion, depravity, and moral ambiguity.

They're assisted by a stunning supporting cast, including Ed Harris as Detective Sergeant Remy Bressant and Morgan Freeman as the dedicated Captain Jack Doyle, who is haunted by his own daughter's death. All the background figures are more human and more unpredictable than Patrick and Angie expect at first.

"Gone Baby Gone" takes the structure of a gripping thriller and imbues it with immense weight. It's a dark, complex, and unforgettable film.

3. The Shawshank Redemption

"The Shawshank Redemption" stands as one of the most beloved films of all time. It has an elusive "it" factor that, for a lot of viewers, can overcome almost any fault. The Washington Post analyzed the movie's long-lasting popularity and summed it up thusly: "It's too sappy, some might say. It's too neat ... It somehow found the right alchemy of hope and friendship and, of course, redemption — with an ending so cathartic that, yes, this story still requires a spoiler alert." If you're anything like us, even thinking about that cathartic ending can bring tears to your eyes.

The movie focuses on Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) and "Red" Redding (Morgan Freeman), two inmates in the dour and corrupt Shawshank State Prison. Both have life sentences — but the quiet and composed Andy, we gradually find out, didn't actually commit the murder that destroyed his life. Despite that huge injustice, he spends years managing to hold onto a sense of hope and dignity. He gets enormous solace from his close friendship with Red, and their relationship forms the film's emotional core.

While Red is the narrator — and this movie may have done more than any other to make Freeman's calm narration a film staple — Andy is the real protagonist. Still, Freeman's performance shines, and a 1994 Variety review praised his work: "[He has] a grace and dignity that come naturally. It's a testament to his craft that the performance is never banal."

2. The Dark Knight

Christopher Nolan's "Batman Begins" already touched greatness, but the sequel "The Dark Knight" seals the deal. This second film in Nolan's Batman Trilogy brings in Heath Ledger's unforgettable Joker, a manic nihilist who wants to spread chaos, horror, and depravity wherever he goes. He is, the movie posits, maybe the natural consequence to Batman himself: Once you have a superhero, you need a supervillain. Once you've beaten back organized crime, the gangsters look to someone even worse for help. The film handles all this darkness gracefully and isn't afraid to ask big questions.

Morgan Freeman's Lucius Fox even winds up responsible for answering one of those questions, which provides him with one of his best arcs in the trilogy. Usually Fox is the one behind Batman's innovative tech, but here he's surprised by one of Bruce's own projects: a disturbing mass-surveillance network that essentially hacks all of Gotham's phones. Batman wants to use it to catch the Joker — but Fox wants to know that if they risk opening this Pandora's box, they can close it again. He doesn't want this kind of power. As "The Dark Knight" shows, it's all too easy for heroes to turn into villains — and Fox wants to make sure that doesn't happen to him.

1. Unforgiven

Clint Eastwood's "Unforgiven" takes a dark and stark look at the American West, portraying it as a landscape both founded on and troubled by profound violence. Its main gunslinger, Eastwood's Will Munny, isn't a white-hat hero: The best thing he ever did was walk away from his outlaw life for his wife's sake. Now, widowed and left with two children and a failing farm, Will has to fall back into old habits to scrape by — and that's a defeat, not a victory. "Unforgiven" does an excellent job capturing the weight of killing.

Morgan Freeman plays Ned Logan, an old friend of Will's whose life has followed a similar trajectory. Ned realizes that he doesn't want to step back into a gunfighter's life — but by the time he has that epiphany, he and Will have already made powerful new enemies.

The Hollywood Reporter's review pegged Freeman as offering one of the standout performances, and it also praised the film as a whole: "'Unforgiven' is both a dark look into a bad man's soul and a hard reckoning over a growing country's bloody innards ... director Eastwood's big picture is suredly calibrated: He points your eye to the tiniest specs, the most telling and powerful parts of this moral panorama." That combination of scope and detail help make "Unforgiven" both epic and painfully, movingly human, which puts it at number one on our list.