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10 Movies & TV Shows That Helped Define Louis Gossett Jr.’s Storied Career

10 Movies & TV Shows That Helped Define Louis Gossett Jr.'s Storied Career

When he passed, Louis Gossett Jr. had a gargantuan 200 credits (exactly) under his belt. And, with a literal dozen posthumous projects on the way, the beloved actor’s fans will have plenty of chances to say goodbye. And, the thing is, of those 12 movies, quite a few of them have the potential to be fairly lucrative (AKA widely seen) swan songs.



For instance, John Krasinski’s IF, which will feature Gossett Jr. in a vocal-only capacity. That film is likely to be one of 2024’s most financially successful, just looking at how accessible the trailer makes it appear to be on a macro-scale (and who wouldn’t trust John Krasinski’s handling of heartfelt material?).

Just as it’s appealing to everyone with a heartbeat and memories of childhood, it’s also star-studded. And, to show how much of an impact Gossett Jr. had on the cinema world for decades, he’s one of the ensemble cast’s top-billed players (his name’s even on the poster). So, if, well, IF, is to be his last major project (it’s easily the most high-profile of his 12 impending projects), what about those that came before?

10 A Raisin in the Sun (1961)

This film, based on Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 play, is every bit as stunning as the work that inspired it. And, when it comes to film debuts, it doesn’t get much better than debuting with A Raisin in the Sun. But, that’s what happened with Gossett Jr., and his work here makes it crystal clear why Hollywood (and the television world) kept seeing him as a performer with serious range.

A Poignant Early Film for Gossett Jr.

Gossett Jr. manages to own his scenes with Sidney Poitier (and Ruby Dee, for that matter)…which is nothing short of impressive. Both Poitier and Dee were top-of-the-line performers, and for Gossett Jr. to steal scenes in his debut is noteworthy. Especially when he’s playing a character as difficult as George Murchison, a suitor for Beneatha Younger (Diana Sands) who, because of his affluence, doesn’t quite understand the struggles faced by his own race in his own time. Rent on Apple TV.

9 Roots (1977)

It’s impossible to overstate the importance of Roots. Not just what it meant to those who watched it, but what it meant for the television industry. In other words, this thing was massive when it first aired. Like M*A*S*H or Friends finale massive.

His Emmy Win (Out of a Whopping Eight Nominations)

A big part of that, besides the unfortunately quite American subject matter, is the quality of the performances. And, even with the presence of Maya Angelou, John Amos, Ed Asner, Lloyd Bridges, and, especially, LeVar Burton, it’s Gossett Jr. who delivers the best performance. He plays Fiddler, the mentor to Kunta Kinte, and no one could have better conveyed the resilient heart the role required. Buy on Apple TV.

RELATED: Blumhouse Boss Recounts Tense Encounter with IF’s John Krasinski

8 An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)

If there’s one role that’s inextricably linked to Gossett Jr., it’s Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley in An Officer and a Gentleman. Even with Richard Gere and Debra Winger in the film’s lead roles, it’s a project absolutely dominated by Gossett Jr. Few performances have been so adept at conveying believable tough love.

One Oscar Nomination, One Win

An Officer and a Gentleman was the one and only film for which Gossett Jr. received an Oscar nomination. And, by extension, it was his only win. And what a deserved win it was. As much as this is a romance, it’s also a coming-of-age (or, rather, maturity) tale, and Sgt. Foley is the catalyst for change. Stream on Max.

7 Jaws 3-D (1983)

Over the years, Gossett Jr. nabbed roles in some big theatrical ventures, but perhaps none so mainstream as Jaws 3. Unfortunately, what could have been an incredible experience with a neat core concept (having a big Great White in Seaworld) utterly misses the mark. And, considering the special effects looked rough back in the early ’80s, they certainly do now. But, as Calvin Bouchard, the film’s resident ‘Ignore the shark, we have money to make’ character, Gossett Jr.’s blatantly having a ball.

For All its Faults, it Was a Major Role in a Major Movie

In fact, even with his Razzie nomination for the role, Gossett literally looks to be the only individual having fun. It helps, while the writing and performance behind Dennis Quaid’s Mike Brody does not. It’s debatable whether Jaws 3 is better or equal to the subsequent Jaws: The Revenge, but one thing’s for sure, it’s more cheesily entertaining. Rent on Apple TV.

6 Sadat (1983)

Sadat, the 1983 two-part, three-hour and 15 minute miniseries, has mostly flown off the radar by now. But, it stands as one of the better displays of Gossett Jr.’s talent. His Emmy nomination was well deserved (as was his Golden Globe win), because the whole project hinges on how well he can naturally convey the mannerisms of Anwar al-Sadat, the third president of Egypt.

His Fifth Emmy Nomination

Does he look a heck of a lot like Anwar al-Sadat? Not really, but Gossett’s heart is clearly devoted to this thing, and he’s magnetic. That’s important, because when watching in a single sitting, one really gets the sense of how his performance was the crux to Sadat thriving or diving. And, save for in Egypt, it thrived.

5 Enemy Mine (1985)

Wolfgang Petersen’s Enemy Mine is a sneakily beautiful film that paired the talents of Gossett Jr. and Quaid far better than Jaws 3. Though, it’s not as if that was too hard. But, that’s not to detract from the power of this narrative of a human and alien moving past their differences to survive on a planet that’s almost actively trying to kill them both.

His Second-Best Performance in a Film

Quaid is solid in Enemy Mine and Petersen’s direction is, per usual, stellar. But, this is Gossett Jr.’s movie all the way. Even through what looks to be 40 pounds of latex (which looks great to this day), his acting is the film’s peak. It’s a performance that, quite understandably, has brought tears to our eyes. Rent on Apple TV.

4 Iron Eagle (1986)

Not many movies bomb critically and commercially, then get three sequels. But, such was the case with Iron Eagle. Even still, by the time Top Gun hit theaters four months later, Iron Eagle was all but forgotten. The narrative follows Jason Gedrick’s Doug Masters as he attempts to follow in his hotshot pilot father’s footsteps. And, then, after his father is kidnapped, Masters Jr. has to stage an impromptu rescue mission.

Gossett Jr. Got His Franchise

So, why the three sequels if it came and went? For one, its financial reception wasn’t as poor as the critical one and, two, like Tremors, it did exceedingly well on the home video market. The same could be said of Iron Eagle II which, like the two sequels that followed, also featured Gossett Jr. as Colonel “Chappy” Sinclair, the high-ranking officer who facilitates the rescue in the first film. Buy on Apple TV.

RELATED: Top Gun & 9 Other Movies Backed By The Department of Defense

3 Toy Soldiers (1991)

Toy Soldiers isn’t the best movie to take a bit from Die Hard, but it’s one of the more memorable. The narrative takes place at an all-boys boarding school that now finds itself under the thumb of a terrorist. And, while not tasked with doing so, it’s the boys of Regis High School who must take these terrorists down.

A Little-Seen Gem

Gossett Jr.’s role is fairly substantial in Toy Soldiers. He’s the stern dean of Regis High School, but the personality of his Dean Parker isn’t relegated to being the disciplinarian. Parker is, at his core, a caregiver, and now that those he’s in charge of are in danger, he’ll stop at absolutely nothing to secure their safety. Rent on Apple TV.

2 Watchmen (2019)

Like the film from a decade prior, HBO’s Watchmen came and went. And, also like what happened with the film (opened respectably then plummeted), that’s a shame. But, for those looking for a straightforward adaptation of the Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons classic, this just wasn’t it.

His Final Emmy Nomination

However, it’s a stellar work with a ridiculously talented cast. Regina King dominates it, but Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Tim Blake Nelson, Jeremy Irons, Jean Smart, Hong Chau, and, yes, Louis Gossett Jr. are all scene-stealers in their own right.

As for the latter, he portrays Will Reeves, the grandfather to King’s character who, like she is now, once suited up and protected the streets (under the name Hooded Justice). Gossett Jr. received his final Emmy nomination for his work (in seven of the total nine episodes). Stream on Max.

1 The Color Purple (2023)

A musical retelling of Steven Spielberg’s ’80s heartstrings-tugging classic, 2023’s The Color Purple is every bit as beautiful. And, as it stands, it’s important for several reasons. For one, it made a ton of money on Christmas Day (even if it did drop a bit from there). Two, it will now always be one of Gossett Jr.’s final roles in a major motion picture.

A Touching Remake

The late actor portrayed Ol’ Mister, the father of Colman Domingo’s Mister. Does he (or Domingo, for that matter) play the nicest character on Earth? Not in the slightest, but the chemistry shared by the two performers is one of the retelling’s strongest elements. Stream on Max.

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