10) The Sandlot (1993)
Jones brought pathos to his role as a blind, aging ex-ballplayer in this popular children’s film. As you’ll see the deep-voiced virtuoso has a thing for baseball films.
9) Cry the Beloved Country (1995)
In this little seen, but critically acclaimed drama based on a classic book, Jones played South African preacher goes to searching for his son who has committed a crime in Johannesburg.
8) The Hunt for Red October (1990)
In this blockbuster film, Jones originated one of his signature roles — top level CIA man Admiral James Greer. He would appear in two more Jack Ryan movies as the lead character’s confidant.
7) Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings
James Earl Jones made a stellar stand in for a character inspired by Josh Gibson in this ode to Negro League baseball stars.
6) Field of Dreams (1989)
Another baseball movie and another classic. Jones plays a washed up 60s radical transformed by Kevin Costner’s magical baseball diamond.
5) The Lion King (1994)
As the voice of “Mufasa”, Jones played father figure to a whole generation of younger moviegoers. His character’s untimely demise still tugs on the heartstrings.
4) The Great White Hope (1970)
Jones scored his sole Academy Award nomination for bringing his Broadway role as an embattled boxer (inspired by Jack Johnson) to the big screen.
3) Claudine (1974)
In this beloved blaxploitation era film Jones gets to play a rare romantic leading man role opposite a beleaguered, working class woman played by the incomparable Diahann Carroll.
2) Coming to America (1988)
In his most hilarious movie role, James Earl Jones played the pompous and tactless king of the fictional country Zamunda, whose preference for walking on rose petals is the stuff of legend.
1) The Star Wars films (1977-1983)
Jones’ greatest role is ironically actually played by someone else. But Jones’ voice work is what really brought Darth Vader, one of film’s all-time greatest villains, to life.
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James Earl Jones, the 80-year-old, iconic film and stage star will be receiving an honorary Oscar at the upcoming Academy Awards. We here at theGrio decided to take this opportunity to look back on his illustrious career on the big screen.